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  1. You are quite right! There are at least two thriving vinyards within twenty miles of me in Dorset, southern England. Outside my previous home, in an adjacent street, the vine we planted 30 years ago, from the seedling we recieved from my father in law’s greenhous, is thriving!

    This year we have enjoyed the warmest spring and summer ever. The CET record will prove I am right.

    But this does not fit with the climate models, which predict a much cooler climate. Why?

    Comment by Alastair McDonald — 10 Nov 2006 @ 6:41 PM

  2. The earlier vineyard post notes that the expense of transporting wine and other such obstacles created an “artificial” demand for vineyards in England. I.e., holding people’s desire for wine constant, increasing the barriers to importing wine will encourage the production of domestic wines.

    This same argument works in reverse today. England has no problem getting cheap/good wine from France or South Africa, it doesn’t matter. They don’t *have* to produce to hold church on Sunday. If England is producing it today, it must be because they can and because people want it.

    That’s a roundabout way of saying that England growing grapes centuries ago may or may not be a strong signal about the suitability of the climate at that time. But relatively speaking, growing grapes today is a much stronger signal of the suitability of the climate today.

    Comment by mlmitton — 10 Nov 2006 @ 7:40 PM

  3. Sometimes I wonder about these deniers. Some of their mistakes are so jarringly obvious that it’s amazing these PR companies can’t find a better lobbyist. Heh, I guess they don’t need to though. The current misinformation campaign seems to be effective enough.

    Comment by Wacki — 10 Nov 2006 @ 8:02 PM

  4. Re #2

    Perhaps the key phrase is ceteris paribus – all other things equal.

    A big change in recent times would be changes in the technology of viticulture and agriculture in general. Many crops can now be grown in areas that would previously have been uneconomic. Thus, the presence or absence of wine growing in England today is pretty much immaterial if enough things have changed from Roman, Mediaeval or later times. However, provided viticultural techniques (et al) were broadly similar between Roman, Mediaeval and LIA times it could still be valid for comparisons between those periods.

    As always, it depends.

    Comment by JS — 10 Nov 2006 @ 8:07 PM

  5. This is the most strange post that I have ever made, but the reason that currently there is such a large increase in the mass of world-ocean jellyfish is that such a large mass of world-ocean phytoplankton have so recently died.

    Comment by Rob Miller — 10 Nov 2006 @ 10:09 PM

  6. so i post again. 900 ad, more or less, was a very good year in the isles de brittain, soon to be lief to a long spell of cold. the thing is our overshoot. all those great vineyards in south and center australia are taking their “lief” as we consume the last bottles of their very last production. drink on…

    Comment by Rob Miller — 11 Nov 2006 @ 12:12 AM

  7. This is off-topic for the particular topic, but quite relevant to the site overall.

    The pre-publication edition of the Stern Review Report on the Economics of Climate Change, can be found here:

    It covers a lot of science, from what I’ve read so far, particularly early on. For example, they have a side-bit on the “Hockey Stick debate” (page 6, Part 1):

    Much discussion has focused on whether the current trend in rising global temperatures is unprecedented or within the range expected from natural variations. This is commonly referred to as the “Hockey Stick” debate as it discusses the validity of figures that show sustained temperatures for around 1000 years and then a sharp increase since around 1800 (for example, Mann et al. 1999, shown as a purple line in the figure below).

    Some have interpreted the “Hockey Stick” as definitive proof of the human influence on climate. However, others have suggested that the data and methodologies used to produce this type of figure are questionable (e.g. von Storch et al. 2004), because widespread, accurate temperature records are only available for the past 150 years. Much of the temperature record is recreated from a range of “proxy” sources such as tree rings, historical records, ice cores, lake sediments and corals.

    Climate change arguments do not rest on “proving” that the warming trend is unprecedented over the past Millennium. Whether or not this debate is now settled, this is only one in a number of lines of evidence for human induced climate change. The key conclusion, that the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will lead to several degrees of warming, rests on the laws of physics and chemistry and a broad range of evidence beyond one particular graph.

    Recent research, for example from the Ad hoc detection and attribution group (IDAG), uses a wider range of proxy data to support the broad conclusion that the rate and scale of 20th century warming is greater than in the past 1000 years (at least for the Northern Hemisphere). Based on this kind of 11 analysis, the US National Research Council (2006) concluded that there is a high level of confidence that the global mean surface temperature during the past few decades is higher than at any time over the preceding four centuries. But there is less confidence beyond this. However, they state that in some regions the warming is unambiguously shown to be unprecedented over the past millennium.

    Looks pretty good if you ask me.

    Comment by Chris Rijk — 11 Nov 2006 @ 5:22 AM

  8. Over the past 20yrs there have been a number of vineyards along the South Downs, in Sussex & Hampshire, who have come on no end. And they are making damn good wines, & even here in Somerset, you can find a good Engilsh wine, some people even say better than the French. Certainly some very good organic wines, which I prefer. Drink on!

    Comment by Will Glenn — 11 Nov 2006 @ 8:05 AM

  9. Comparing like with like is not so straightforward as it might appear. There’s a vineyard just down the road which is actually on the site of a Roman predecessor, and it produces extremely good white and even an astonishing red. However, the Romans would have been unable to match these if their climate was identical to ours, as the white wines are from hybrids of old and new world varieties and the red is from a hybrid of a vine from the Amur River and one from Europe. Plant breeding has changed things — you might as well infer climate change from my childhood memories of the wheat harvest being in early September.

    I like measured, not inferred, data.

    Comment by Julian Flood — 11 Nov 2006 @ 9:44 AM

  10. The truth is that the present Urban Heat Island Effect is what allows some minuscule vineyards in Britain.

    Of course, with a 0.6º C increase in 150 years some vineyards might grow from one acre to perhaps 4 acres -if well inside the warmed area near London. I really would like to see vineyards covering 500 hectares as we normally have in Argentina -on the dry west side of the country. Same latitude, on the east side -no vineyards (commercial ones, I mean).

    Comment by Eduardo Ferreyra — 11 Nov 2006 @ 10:28 AM

  11. Climate change is accelerating, let’s face it. Hopefully the new Democratic Congress will propose solutions such as eliminating tax breaks for Big Oil & promoting wind, solar & plug-in hybrid vehicles. A toast to the new congress & to the human brain, which is capable of enlightenment as well as delusion.

    Comment by Bird Thompson — 11 Nov 2006 @ 11:19 AM

  12. Or the Norse name for North America, “Vinland”, and yet nobody in their right mind would try to grow grapes in that barren land today. What Singer is probably trying to say, and I would agree to this extent, that mankind’s perspective on climate in the scientific record-keeping sense ie with accuracy, from generation to generation, is grossly lacking. We do NOT have the data to be very adamant. We have the data only to suggest a worrisome trend which, if true, may mean that people at my latitude, 54 degrees north, may be “blessed” with a longer growing season which is not at all worrying for me personally. In fact, we Canadians cannot wait to get those vines and palm trees in the ground. We could really use some of that global warming. Bring it on.

    Comment by Vern Johnson — 11 Nov 2006 @ 1:29 PM

  13. I have three vines in my small garden in Bracknell, Berkshire (just west of London). I got enough grapes off them to keep me in eating grapes for a couple of months (about 40 bunches or rather small grapes). My garden is not ideal for growing grapes, it is shaded for part of the day.

    This doesn’t prove anything, except that modern varieties may now be grown in southern England in less than ideal conditions. A walled garden or south facing downland (chalk hills) slope will be much warmer and provide much better growing conditions.

    Comment by Mike Atkinson — 11 Nov 2006 @ 3:26 PM

  14. Re #10 “The truth is that the present Urban Heat Island Effect is what allows some minuscule vineyards in Britain.”

    None of the vineyards I know off in England are within the London heat island, most are a fair distance away from any habitation.

    Comment by Mike Atkinson — 11 Nov 2006 @ 3:28 PM

  15. re: 12. As a Canadian, you owe it to yourself to read the following from the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society, composed of scientists, on climate change in Canada. And yes, you certainly can “wait” to get those vines and palm trees in view of the very serious consequences to a large portion of Canada.

    Comment by Dan — 11 Nov 2006 @ 3:31 PM

  16. People grow crops these days that are well outside of their range. I don’t find growing grapes in England to be nearly as odd as growing cotton in a desert. Still, why would a degree this way or that matter? All going outside of a crop’s range means is that it’s harder to grow (with the final limit being that artificial biospheres are needed for either really wild temperatures/pressures or really odd atmospheres). I’m sure that with modern agriculture, we can grow grapes in England whether or not it’s a tiny bit outside of the natural range of grapes, or their range with Medieval technology.

    What matters is economics. If England is granted a monopoly on grapes, they’ll be produced there even if they have be grown in greenhouses. If Macedonia is selling grapes for $0.01/pound (free shipping), then grapes won’t be grown in England, no matter how suitable the climate.

    Comment by yartrebo — 11 Nov 2006 @ 3:51 PM

  17. I was interested to learn (from comment No. 10) that Avon, Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, and Gloucestershire are part of “Urban Heat Island[s]”. Astonishing! A two-minute Google search might have avoided some embarrassment, however: However, some folks apparently do not believe anything they find using Google.
    This whole line of discussion does have me wondering if Leif Ericson really did find grapes growing in Newfoundland.

    Comment by Gene Hawkridge — 11 Nov 2006 @ 4:58 PM

  18. Re #12: Vern Johnson & #17: Gene Hawkridge — “Viinland” (long i) means meadowland, which is correct for the Newfoundland site. See Wikipedia under “Vinland”.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 11 Nov 2006 @ 5:23 PM

  19. I suspect that the development of wine production in England in recent years has more to do with culture than climate!

    It’s interesting you mentioned that an English wine had been awarded a top prize in the sparkling wine category over the last couple of years. This is the Nyetimber sparkling wine – and very good it is too. (We live only a few miles away from the vineyard in West Sussex.)

    Yet the vineyard was set up a couple of Americans in the 1980s, the Mosses. They set-up this award-winning vineyard against the advice of the locals

    You can read more of the story at:

    Here is an excerpt ..

    “Experts have been baffled by the success of this effervescent wine. Stuart Moss, who owns the vineyard with his wife, said: “We decided Britain could be the top country in the world for producing sparkling wine, and we were the only ones in the country who thought it. We’ve changed the whole course of viniculture.”

    The couple moved to England from Chicago in the late Eighties with an idyllic retirement in mind, but instead they have found themselves working up to 12 hours a day.

    They hit upon the idea of cultivating a vinery after spotting a vineyard in Suffolk. Following a career as a leading manufacturer of medical, dental and X-ray equipment, Stuart, now 62, was not one to do things by halves.

    Together with his wife, whose career as one of America’s top antique dealers was equally prestigious, Stuart went gung-ho into the new business of viniculture.

    The pair spent months searching for the right location. Stuart said: “We did extensive research and found that greensand was the best soil to grow the Champagne grapes. But in England the soil is very rare.”

    In a stroke of luck the couple found Nyetimber Manor, a spectacular oak-timbered mansion dating back to the Domesday Book.

    In the 16th Century the manor was given to Anne of Cleves, his fourth wife, by Henry VIII, when it was embellished with a bell tower, secret passages and cavernous fireplaces.

    But what interested the Mosses most was the soil – 100 per cent pure greensand. And although grapes had not been grown there for 700 years, brethren of the Priory of Lewes had cultivated vines there in the 12th Century. They snapped it up.

    Originally they were told by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food that they would be wise to stick to growing apples. But Sandy, now 51, said: “They should have realised we’re from Chicago. The more they told us not to do it, the more determined we were.”

    The vineyard is now owned by a Dutchman .. Eric Heerema

    Comment by Peter Winters — 11 Nov 2006 @ 5:37 PM

  20. RE #12:

    Cheering on global warming in the hope of growing palm trees in Canada is a bit like cheering a riot in the hope it will bring you free beer. If the science and plain common-sense on this site does not convince you that there is a serious problem then nothing short of having your house sink into the mud will.

    Politically and culturally Canada is often compared to where I live (Australia). An unusual frost has killed off alot of our grapes on the vine, also apples and pears. The frost came a couple of days after record high tempratures (Melbourne: 37C in October). The headlines here say we are in the worst drought for 1000yrs, the murray-darling basin has dried up, our grain harvest will be halved. Livestock are being sent to the slaughter house half starved in springtime, the national dairy herd has been culled by 20%, regional dairies don’t have enough water to process the milk and country towns are being abandoned due to lack of water. To top it all off a cyclone flattened our bannana crop earlier this year.

    Granted, our problems are not all due to climate change, bad land management has also played it’s part.

    Comment by Alan — 12 Nov 2006 @ 1:10 AM

  21. Now that Greenland has yielded its first barley crops since circa 1400, there is hope that high latitude vodka may become a reality as well as an Icelandic marketing ruse based on distilling imported grain from parts south .- details in the ‘Eric the Green’ post at my URL

    But first we must find some English cabernet to serve Dr. Singer following the thirsty work of answering questions at his November 22 appearance at Harvard.

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 12 Nov 2006 @ 2:24 AM

  22. Ha ha – nice one RC. I have a map of the vinyards of England and Wales of which there are 400 ot so at the present time. Sure most of them are in the south of the UK (I have visited quite a few) of which the most popular are Ridgeview, Nyetimber and Chapel Down. These Wines win awards and taste pretty good to. Another factor is that they are expanding to double production capacity due to their good quality.

    As per the Daily Telegraph article last week bemoanng the climate consensus and using the medieval warm period as some kind of reason why it cannot be happenning (again no mention of it being a local European phenomenon) with its stange interpretation of CO2 and temperature graphs etc ( I can see that the only truth in this whole debate now is RC.

    In the UK we have the stop climate chaos lobby (leftwingers) and the daily telegraph (right wingers) telling us doom or just plain wrong when the truth is somewhere in between. The left talk of abrupt climate change and the catastrophic consequences of it whilst the right deny it all. As we know from RC we are going to get warming and have some already but that does not mean the end of civilisation as we know it, just a toning down of it a bit more than likely.

    Great artciles RC, I have read everyone even if I do not pretend to understand it all I now understand your arguments quite well. Warming, yes but not the end of the world.

    Comment by pete best — 12 Nov 2006 @ 6:27 AM

  23. Re “We do NOT have the data to be very adamant. We have the data only to suggest a worrisome trend which, if true, may mean that people at my latitude, 54 degrees north, may be “blessed” with a longer growing season which is not at all worrying for me personally. In fact, we Canadians cannot wait to get those vines and palm trees in the ground. We could really use some of that global warming. Bring it on. ”

    1. We do have the data. We have direct measurements of temperature going back 120-150 years. We have ice cores going back 650,000 years. In between we have tree rings, lake and ocean sediments, coral reefs, and the O16/O18 ratio in seashells. Yes, we do have the data.

    2. Your rosy picture of global warming makes it look like it’s a nice, uniform rise in temperature everywhere. It isn’t. Local climates will change UNPREDICTABLY, including yours.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 12 Nov 2006 @ 7:39 AM

  24. Re #12

    Hey Vern, the latitude you mention means you’re probably near Edmonton. Haven’t you heard about how the glaciers that provide water to your city & mine have been retreating rather fast? The longer growing season won’t do Alberta farmers much good if there isn’t enough water.

    Also, even if natural sinks had been taking CO2 out of the air as fast as we put it in, it would still be wise to substitute uranium for coal for electricity generation & save the fossil fuels for running small mobile machinery like cars bulldozers & farm tractors, where we don’t have a good substitute.

    Jim 51° N 114° W

    Comment by Jim Baerg — 12 Nov 2006 @ 11:13 AM

  25. Are the owners of Chapel Down Wines global warming sceptics!? From the grapes section of their site:

    “Whether the climate is really improving due to global warming is a much-contested issue, and most meteorologists will not accept that there is other than a cycle of weather that has occurred many times before down the centuries.”

    Comment by SteveF — 12 Nov 2006 @ 12:59 PM

  26. When the Norse called northern Newfoundland “Vinland” or “Wineland,” they may not have been refering to “wild grapes.” They may have been refering to the astonishing variety of delicious wild berries found in that part of the world (bake-apples, etc., etc.), out of which, I suppose, you could make good wine. I am a historian who always wondered about the grapes story, until I visited and ate the berries.

    Comment by Bob Beal — 12 Nov 2006 @ 4:53 PM

  27. Re: #22.

    Pete, RC have covered last week’s Sunday Telegraph feature, see Cuckoo Science.

    I’d say also that Stop Climate Chaos is neither left-wing nor alarmist. The main differences in their description of the dangers compared with RealClimate are in communication style, and scope (e.g. predicting famine falls outside pure science).

    If anything, Stop Climate Chaos and many of its higher profile members are pulling their punches, for example calling for “at least 3%” annual CO2 cuts by the UK without mentioning that more like 9% annual cuts are needed, and lacking forthrightness over brown-coal electricity.

    Comment by Jim Roland — 12 Nov 2006 @ 7:53 PM

  28. Re #27 Jim, I have read the Cuckoo Science article and very good it is too, however in yesterdays Sunday Telegraph the guy resposted RC (mentioning then by name) and I just thought that it would be a good idea if RC wrote to the Daily Telegraph and put them right on the matter maybe.

    The Stop Climate Chaos lot are alarmist as they keep on postulating the idea of abrupt/sudden climate change and the idea of tipping points or the world suddenly coming unstuck. This smacks of being alarmist as RC have been at pains to point out that as nothing has really changed in terms of climate science then tipping points are unlikely.

    I know that they need to get out attention but it just makes the right push harder back when they are perceived as being alarmist which I believe that they are being myself. We can all speculate on droughts and famine and the like but what are the real projections of climate change and how trust worthy are they. We all agree (reasonable people anyway) that the world is slowly warming and that we have committed ourselves to some warming but that does not mean that the monsoons are going to stop, that all glaciers are going to disappear, that the permafrost is doomed to thaw and the rain forests are going to go up in flames. I personally reckon that all of this might happen but it is not a certainty as the STOP CLIMATE CHAOS people are very assure about.

    There was a recent phone in on national radio station in the UK to which I pointed out that it was dangerous to talk of tipping points and abrupt climate change because the science does not speak of it with any certainty as per the RC articles, the Stop climate Chaos bloke being interviewed refuted this claiming stating that GISS was being gagged by the white house and could not be trusted. I was aghast at his propoganda. Someone should tell the Stop Climate Chaos people about RC and what it is really saying about AGW.

    Comment by pete best — 13 Nov 2006 @ 7:20 AM

  29. Re #28 Pete Best.

    I tend to agree. Until we know with much greater certainty, it is wrong to talk too much about the risk of extremely dangerous unforseen consequences. That is not to say that they should be wholly dismissed. For various reasons I don’t think they can. A climate sensitvity of 3degC for 2xCO2 is irrelevant if unforseen novel feedbacks kick in, but I think that to ‘lead with that story’ would be poorly considered.

    If the projections of a reduction in solar activity around the end of the first quarter of this century prove to be correct. This could reduce not only the impacts but the risk of such unforseen climate responses. And if the public have been lead to expect a cataclyism they may conclude that AGW was like the 1970s media hyped ‘ice age’. For those seeking action to reduce CO2 emissions that could be very damaging. Had the recent findings of Bryden et al (re the MOC) been given the same prominence in the press as their original findings of a decrease (which arguably they should have been). Then we would have seen another very good reason for the partially-informed to be cynical.

    The more people concentrate on low-probability high-impact scenarios the more what they argue is open to question. I’m not sure if there really is a scientific ‘consensus on impacts’ in the way that there is on human involvement in the observed warming. And I really think we need to try to stick to the IPCC’s findings, keeping the extreme end of possible impacts where it should be. As a footnote, to be noted, but not concentrated on.

    I remain concerned not only about ‘tipping points’ and rapid non-linear responses. I also remain concerned about the implications of regional underprojections of change at such an early stage in ‘the game’. But that’s not the first issue I raise when discussing climate change with people. It remains an ‘NB’, an important caveat.

    Comment by CobblyWorlds — 13 Nov 2006 @ 9:28 AM

  30. Just reading through comments etc. Solar and wind – do they not present their own problems? The bottom line is consumption. We consume.

    Comment by Barbara J Gill — 13 Nov 2006 @ 9:41 AM

  31. It seems to me that unforseen tipping points are a matter of grave concern, because even if they’re of low probability, they’re of great consequence. It also seems to me that indeed, there’s no real scientific concensus on impacts (Gavin? Stefan?).

    It’s not unlike a woman finding a lump in a breast self-exam. The vast majority of such lumps turn out to be benign. But the fact that a lump has a very low probability of being cancerous doesn’t justify ignoring it or minimizing its significance. It’s not likely to be cancer, but *if it is* then it’s life-threatening. I’m reminded of a Royal Society webcast in which a climate scientist (from HadCRU, I think) pondered that if you’re boarding an aircraft, and the flight crew informed you that there’s a 10% chance the plane will crash, would you still get on the plane?

    This leaves us in something of a quandary. If we emphasize the danger then we risk being labelled “alarmist” and “unrealistic,” to the detriment of our cause. If we ignore the danger then we risk failing to alert the public to a genuine (albeit low-probability) extreme danger.

    Comment by Grant — 13 Nov 2006 @ 11:13 AM

  32. I was interested in the comment about English wine being about at the time of the romans (What have they ever done for us? Well there’s the wine!).

    Translations of tablets at vindolanda up near hadrian’s wall (admittedly nearly in scotland and therefore practically arctic) make it clear that the local commander got his wine imported from gaul, so that may be a comment on the quality of the local produce.

    Comment by john mann — 13 Nov 2006 @ 11:40 AM

  33. Tipping points are a bone of contention and whilst the right wing skeptics are droning on about climate change not even being real it is best not to go on about possible cataclasmic climate events of any probability. We need to win the political argument in the USA first (the EU is convinced I think) and get some action on AGW, not go on about the end of the world.

    Comment by Pete Best — 13 Nov 2006 @ 12:11 PM

  34. Ruseell Seitz- do you have a cite for this new crop of Barley in Greenland? I have a doubter that needs to be shown that things are at least like they were 1,00 years ago.

    Comment by guthrie — 13 Nov 2006 @ 1:36 PM

  35. Re #29:

    And I really think we need to try to stick to the IPCC’s findings, keeping the extreme end of possible impacts where it should be. As a footnote, to be noted, but not concentrated on.

    Unfortunately, while that may appear be good tactics at the current stage of the debate, it’s not good public policy. Consider designing a building in an earthquake zone. You don’t design it to withstand the “most likely” quake, you design it to withstand the strongest quake that could occur over a given – long – period. In other words, you design for a low probability, high impact event.

    That’s exactly how we have to prepare to face the warming that’s inevitable (the “committed” warming), as well as the “expected” warming based on the emissions trajectory of your choice. Coastal communities shouldn’t assume sea level rise will be at the low end, or centre, of IPCC projections. They should reduce their vulnerability by planning for the worst case.

    Finally, a return to the topic of English wine. When I first drank the stuff in the ’70s, it was always white, made from grapes with unpronounceable German names (varieties selected for really cool climates), and often not very good. Now it looks as though the classic wine varieties of northern France (pinot noir, chardonnay etc) are being grown, and producing good wines. It’s not simply a matter of “new” varieties being better suited to the English climate. but that the English climate is becoming better suited to the good wine grapes from further south.

    Comment by Gareth — 13 Nov 2006 @ 2:55 PM

  36. Google:
    +Barley +Greenland +2006
    cites to the Economist and to Jerry Pournelle in the first few hits

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 13 Nov 2006 @ 3:00 PM

  37. Here in North America, our Marine West Coast climate zone is found from far Northern California up to the Southeastern panhandle of Alaska. From a general climate standpoint, Oregon is roughly equivalent to the southern half of France, Washington roughly equivalent to Northern France and the southern UK, British Columbia is on par with the Northern UK and those parts of Scandanavia having a Marine West Coast climate. Vinyards have been in place from southern BC southward since European settlement began. I recently read an article regarding how the PDO’s cold phase might be lengthening the period affected by frosts in the areas of BC where colder weather vines are grown for making dry white wines, which is actually considered a good thing by those growers, especially if they are striving to recreate German and Austrian style wines.

    Comment by Steve Sadlov — 13 Nov 2006 @ 4:23 PM

  38. I am surprised that so many of you are suprised and disturbed by a recovery from an Ice Age…!

    Good wine is a good thing…

    Comment by SlyWolf — 13 Nov 2006 @ 7:35 PM

  39. Steve Sadlov and I agree on one thing BC Rieslings (esp late harvest) are great. Too bad there are not more of them (and that you can’t get any on the US East Coast.

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 13 Nov 2006 @ 7:47 PM

  40. To add a little topical information to the “is wine a good proxy?” debate: A recent visit to a local vineyard (I’m from the Netherlands, which is currently cut in halves by the Northern wine border) learned me that experts in that field are working on mildew resistant types of grapes. An unforeseen side effect of these new breeds is that they flower and ripen faster, so that these new varieties can be cultivated at higher latitudes, with a shorter season of acceptable temperature and rainfall. This local farmer informed me that these new breeds were a far more important reason for the shift north of wine cultivation than (in his words) “that climate stuff” we’re discussing here.

    Comment by Onno Klinkenberg — 14 Nov 2006 @ 4:34 AM

  41. A history of English Wine is here:

    Comment by Paul Biggs — 14 Nov 2006 @ 4:35 AM

  42. Re “I am surprised that so many of you are suprised and disturbed by a recovery from an Ice Age…!”

    “Surprised.” In fact, by the Milankovic cycles which govern ice ages, the Earth should now be cooling, not warming. It’s not “recovering” from anything, nor does a climate “recover” from an extreme without a physical cause.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 14 Nov 2006 @ 5:36 AM

  43. Back to wine – surely part of the explanation for Roman viticulture in Britain was the lack of viable imports, climate notwithstanding. They liked wine, and made do with what they could grow here, since it doesnt travel well in badly sealed amphoras (wine hasn’t always been prized for it’s ageing potential). That British wines can now compete with readily available imports from Champagne, the Loire, Marlborough etc may well be testament to a warmer climate, but we have better evidence in support of global warming than wine production. It beggars belief that Singer has to propose it as an argument.

    Comment by matt — 14 Nov 2006 @ 7:23 AM

  44. Re 35, no we do not build the strongest building to withstand the strongest earthquake. That is uneconomic, foolish and simply incorrect. There is always the most economical way of doing things, this is why GW alarmists are wrong, they ask too much and will never be satisfied as their demands are simply too much based on too little. The advice to meet in some middle ground is far wiser and more economically viable in the short term at least. No one goes around preparing for the worst of anything, hospitals for example might run a screen test on cancer 2 times, if they run it 3 times then they might save 1 in a thousand cancer patients, do they run the test, no, that third test on the one patient effectively costs a thousand times more and is uneconomic, same for buildings, same for public policy.

    Comment by Matt — 14 Nov 2006 @ 10:15 AM

  45. What about california, how is there grape harvest changing (if it all)? Are there seasons getting longer or are the grapes ripening earlier. Surely changes in the growing season are potential indicators of climate change?

    The south of the UK has growing season thatis 1 month longer than at the start of the 20th century I have been told and the UK has had the longest 6 month period of warmth since records began.

    Comment by pete best — 14 Nov 2006 @ 10:56 AM

  46. THanks Hank- my own search did not find the same websites.

    Comment by guthrie — 14 Nov 2006 @ 11:11 AM

  47. Re #43, and wine in general: “Wine” can be made from many things, including grape varieties other than the standard European wine grape. Upstate New York, for instance, has (or had when I was a kid growing up there) vineyards that used the Concord-type grape (think Mogen David, for instance), while going in the other direction, I’ve seen Roman-era mentions of wine made from dates. And of course there’s dandilion wine…

    The point of this is that in Roman times wine seems to been a generic way of turning fruit (which would otherwise spoil) into a storable beverage, in an era when drinking water was not a healthy thing to do. Thus without more evidence as to how and from what the Romans in Britain were making their wine, it’s not really an accurate proxy for climate at all.

    Comment by James — 14 Nov 2006 @ 11:41 AM

  48. RE: #45 – Each season is unique. For example, the most recent crush was a result of a very late low elevation snow event (March!), and a dreary, winter like Spring where the rains continued into June. Early July was cool, followed by the now well noted heat wave of late July. August was normal to cool, September cool. As a result, especially of the early season cold, there were fewer viable blossoms and hence, fewer overall grapes. The grapes were stunted by the rain and cold, then they had their sugar spiked by the sudden heat wave. Should be an interesting year in terms of vintages.

    Comment by Steve Sadlov — 14 Nov 2006 @ 12:34 PM

  49. “What about california, how is there grape harvest changing (if it all)? Are there seasons getting longer or are the grapes ripening earlier. Surely changes in the growing season are potential indicators of climate change?”

    In Oregon, just north of California, our wineries are starting to look into the planting of warmer-weather grapes (after having put the state on the map with our fine pinot noir and pinot gris vintages).

    Observed warming has been cited as the reason why.

    Comment by dhogaza — 14 Nov 2006 @ 1:14 PM

  50. Re: 44

    “Re 35, no we do not build the strongest building to withstand the strongest earthquake. That is uneconomic, foolish and simply incorrect.”

    You need to read some building codes. Structures where the impact of failure is great – think dams, etc – are designed to withstand low probability events. Basic infrastructure – bridges, stormwater drains and so on – are designed to cope with low probability events (100 year or greater flood event, for example). As climate change shifts those probabilities, so we have to change the building standards. To ignore the change would be “uneconomic, foolish and simply incorrect.”

    Comment by Gareth — 14 Nov 2006 @ 2:40 PM

  51. Thinking for a moment, I don’t see why there’s such a big deal about growing wine grapes in cold climates. They grow wine grapes on an island in Lake Erie (Catawba), and the Finger Lakes region of New York State isn’t exactly noted for mild winters.

    Re: #22 and #28 — possibly THE Pete Best?

    Comment by Jack — 14 Nov 2006 @ 3:05 PM

  52. English vineyards – a view from one: Our vineyard in South-West England, Oatley Vineyard, Somerset, was planted in 1986 and has produced wine every year from 1989. For a small vineyard the wines have a good record of awards in the Wine Magazine International Wine Challenge, the largest international blind-tasting, with 13 awards in 15 years. This suggests vines are easily viable here now.

    The 2 varieties we grow are both vitis vinifera, the traditional european vine, so owe nothing to modern hybridisation for their reliable performance at these latitudes, as one of your respondents suggested. For the last three years we have harvested a week earlier than in the early 1990s.

    After strong English performance for the last few years in European champagne competitions, the most-planted vines recently in the rapidly-expanding English wine industry have been Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the traditional champagne grapes. We in the industry await results with interest.

    [Response: Thanks for dropping by! It’s always good to hear from people who are actually at the sharp end of these issues… – gavin]

    Comment by jane awty — 14 Nov 2006 @ 5:09 PM

  53. #50, You obviously don’t look out the window enough, when has a stormwater drain ever coped with a 100 year flood, they simply don’t. Granted dams etc are built up to spec, but houses quite often topple in the strongest earthquakes. Building codes are not up to scratch now and never will be because of the difficulty in meeting standards, this is no different for people who suggest we ‘eliminate’ carbon. I’m not saying you shouldn’t try, i’m just saying if you go overboard the recession that follows will make 1929 look like a fairground ride. You said “Consider designing a building in an earthquake zone. You don’t design it to withstand the “most likely” quake, you design it to withstand the strongest quake that could occur over a given – long – period. In other words, you design for a low probability, high impact event.” Well I live in New Zealand, most buildings in New Zealand are residential and a variety of ages. Most I would hazard are not particularly earthquake proof despite living on the rim of fire(pacific rim). You might think it costly to insure all these houses, but to reinforce all these houses against 1 in a million odds is foolish. Nobody aims to resist the far right of any bell curve, only the most likely results of global warming should be prepared for, otherwise I suggest we will be throwing good money after bad. I am not sayiing “don’t worry about it”. All i’m saying is don’t go over the top, moderation rather than maximum prevention. Back on topic, why would British wine growers want global warming to cease now? Surely if we go to extremes to cool the planet you will lose business back to the French, and we don’t want that do we.

    Comment by Matt — 15 Nov 2006 @ 1:10 AM

  54. #50, #44, #35 and risk

    Pretty soon the climate community may need to learn the fundamentals of risk analysis. It’s the product of probability and consequence that matters – the definition of engineering risk. Our world is everywhere engineered to keep that product acceptably small. That seldom means that we design for the worst case; but nor does it mean we use the expected value.

    What are the probabilities of +1, +2, +3, +10C at 2050? And what are the consequences that go with those (dollars, deaths, misery)? I’ll warrant that it isn’t going to be the probability x consequence near the expected value that governs the total risk. It rarely is – engineering is done at the tails of the distributions. Even is there’s only a one in million chance of +10C, it may be worth spending trillions to avoid the chance, because the consequence may well be annihilation.

    Comment by Glen Fergus — 15 Nov 2006 @ 3:47 AM

  55. Glen, re #54

    If you want a probability analysis of long term global mean temperature rise, try “Avoiding dangerous climate change” (2006)

    If you want the range of cost of the consequences, try The Stern Review, which is available online.

    Comment by James Davey — 15 Nov 2006 @ 6:29 AM

  56. #3, Indeed. China Mieville has written a good column about this recently:
    The Lies that aren’t Meant to Deceive Us

    It’s remarkable that, despite everything, these people are still successfully controlling the debate. There is still little or no mass media discussion of the steps required to avoid climate change. If they do mention it, they are still stuck on steps such as “turning lights off”, etc, or that debate has been hijacked by the pro-nuclear lobby.

    Comment by Timothy — 15 Nov 2006 @ 10:21 AM

  57. I am greatly indebted to the English Wine industry. An educational bonanza that started 10 years ago with Wine Studies at an agricultural college in Sussex, finished with a PhD in Environmental Change at UCL in London….don’t ask me how, but plenty of English wine helped me through it all!

    Comment by Patrick Austin — 15 Nov 2006 @ 11:51 AM

  58. Re 53

    You might think it costly to insure all these houses, but to reinforce all these houses against 1 in a million odds is foolish. Nobody aims to resist the far right of any bell curve, only the most likely results of global warming should be prepared for, otherwise I suggest we will be throwing good money after bad.

    I live in NZ too, Matt, and our housing stock is only insurable against earthquake damage because the government underwrites the business through the Earthquake Commission. The EQC also promotes taking cost-effective steps to reduce potential damage in the existing housing stock. But our building codes do insist that new buildings meet strict standards – and NZ is an important centre of excellence in designing to resist earthquake damage. Building codes are not sexy in political terms, but they are very important in terms of mitigating and adapting to climate change. In NZ, mandating solar hot water systems in new buildings would significantly reduce electricity demand. Promoting efficient design and building techniques can hugely reduce heating/cooling requirements, with the same effect.

    In insisting that “only the most likely results” should be taken into account, you are ignoring the reality of engineering for risk, as #54 points out. Governments both central and local have to factor this concept of risk into all the stuff they build. And doing it now will be a lot cheaper than rebuilding later.

    Comment by Gareth — 15 Nov 2006 @ 5:16 PM

  59. Re 34 $ 36, Barley returns to Greenland,

    I cite the September 7 2006 _Economist_ in my blog aricle,’Eric the green?’ at

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 15 Nov 2006 @ 6:47 PM

  60. Ok, here is my take. The real reason that, as a subset of agriculture, viticulture is so interesting, is that its success in any given latitude is so narrowly climate dependent. Do we take it for a barometer, a bellweather, or perhaps a canary in a coal mine? The fact of the matter is that the entire development of agriculture in the Holocene has been toward limited diversity and marginal to non-existent adaptability to changes outside of tightly limited climatic regimes. Now we are experiencing a change in climatic regimes outside the adaptable range of our god-forsakenly limited crops, and we are rightly anguished about the source of our next meal.

    Comment by Rob Miller — 15 Nov 2006 @ 7:46 PM

  61. Rob:
    Climate change may be a journey without maps, but whose ?
    To Gavin and Michael, moving isotherms spell alarm, but to an agronomist , migrating changes in crop limits are intrinsic to human history. Now that we have GIS software , it might be interesting to use the rubber graph paper to stretch the present whereabouts of major cities to fit the future isotherms outlined by the limting IPCC scenarios , to see how different the demographic fit to future climate looks.

    This obviously requires some mitigation, as latitude and average temperature do not monotonically map into each other- EG. Baltimore is a bit cooler than New York.

    Still, Humboldtian isotherms are getting a bit tired as a visual metaphor , and it would be nice to have some new metrics to think over- I cannot recall seeing here any dimensional analysis dealing with this problem in degrees per degree K

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 16 Nov 2006 @ 8:33 AM

  62. RE: #52 – Southwest England is excellent Pinot country. Some of the best Pinots I’ve had here in the US were from grapes grown west of Portland Oregon and just east of Seattle.

    Comment by Steve Sadlov — 16 Nov 2006 @ 1:22 PM

  63. Doubtless we will discover, as so many times in history in the British Isles, some devout monk duly inscribed on parchment in miniscule detail the history of decades growing the vines in century X and beyond. The modern science at UC Davis using the Winkler heat summation model is very precise; in fact, reading the AVA appellation designation certifications on file at BATF for the new famous US CA winegrowing regions, one finds as part of the expert affidavits, testimony always includes the heat summation. And within each AVA local thermographs have registered yearly fluctuations; it commonly is one factor utilized by prospective purchasers of vineyard land, as many have preconceived selections of varietals which they wish to plant; though, as land buying has increased and viticultural and enologic sciences advanced, land buyers often have a flexible attitude, willing to opt for the varietal, clone and root stock combination best adapted for the terroir of the microclimate.
    Our place is in a highland zone between two certified AVAs; consider the following excerpt from the AVA document onfile with the government for the new pinot noir specialized zone called Yorkville Highlands, which commences approximately two miles from our homestead.
    Unofficial heat summation data collected at the Weir Vineyards within the area reflects a four year average of 3,060, compared to approximately 2,500 in Boonville and Philo to the northwest of the
    viticultural area and 3,650 reported by the University of California Agricultural Extension Service in Cloverdale, to the southeast.
    Average annual rainfall within the Yorkville Highlands area from 1961 through 1990, as measured by the Department of Water Resources, Eureka Flood Center at the Yorkville Station, was 50.55 inches. The Anderson Valley, to the northwest, receives an average of only 40.7 inches of rain per year.
    The preceding cite is written evidently by a chateau owner. Usual technical literature of the sort consultants utilize is more scientific, and the heat summation spreads are refined in increments as slight as 10-50 degree-days.
    I continue to think Gavin has discovered a trove of possible litmus information appropriate for refining climate science. Some of the comments upthread reminded me of the history of vinifera as a plant material often traced in parallel with tribe migrations. Some of this is seen in modern DNA research into varietal origins which seem to trace near prehistoric tribal progress in reverse chronology west eastward from Europe thru Mesopotamia, Caucasus, and to Indus. The vitaciae are in steamcourses and caves planetwide; though useful for breeding hybrids, NY state famous for that; Catawba in OH, also helpful for rootstocks, e.g. the infamous AxR1 which in monoculture soon succumbed to one specific phylloxera genotype, now most blocks replanted to other rootstocks. For the neophyte, AxR is a designer rootstock mix between France’s Aramon, a Mediterranean area known for table grapes not wine, or at least only bulk wine euphemistically called, and R for rupestris, a south central US rupestrian grape. I suspect own-rootedness was the way old English grapes were planted, as they were in France until the US pests were reexported accidentally in late century XIX, causing a pestilence among France’s best vineyards, forcing growers there to utilize rootstocks, or treat soil, or accept very brief lifespan vines, though the best beverate derives from plants with more longevity, i.e exceeding 50 years.

    And, Hank R., given Jerry Pournelle’s legion penchant for a certain potable barley byproduct, I would expect that searchstring to yield his name on page 1, among links 1-10.


    Comment by JohnLopresti — 16 Nov 2006 @ 3:31 PM

  64. Re #12, that’s pretty selfish, Vern. I just gave a presentation at my U on GW & the International Media. As usual most attendees knew squat about GW, so I spent some time explaining the basics, including a section on “consequences.”

    I started off by saying their would be some benefits, but that the harms would greatly outweigh those benefits. In fact they’re discussing this point in Nairobi now at the CC conference. Africa with some 900 million people will be most grossly harmed by severe droughts & such, as will much of Asia — when the Himalayan glaciers melt, it could put up to 40% of India and China at risk of starvation. They need the glaciers to stay put & accumulate snow in the winter, then have the summer melt-water feed their irrigation canals. Once the glaciers are gone, it’ll mean flooding in winter and zero water during the summer agriculture season.

    I think most people concerned about GW are concerned about the harms to others, in other places, in the future. It’s just not right to harm & kill other people willy nilly.

    OTOH, while I was in the north, I did enjoy some balmy winter days. So go ahead and enjoy whatever benefits there are from GW, but please do work like a dog to end it.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 17 Nov 2006 @ 10:31 AM

  65. Another point, it’s the cooler climates that make for the best wine grapes. Ergo, it must have been nice & cool during those Roman times.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 17 Nov 2006 @ 10:32 AM

  66. Re #64 I hope during your presentation you pointed out that recently professor Zhang Wenjing, glacier expert at the Chinese Acadeny of Science, called predictions of rapid melting of the Himalayan glaciers “excessively pessimistic” and stated “so far glaciers in the middle and eastern part of the Himalayas have not shrunk on any large scale” and “The glaciers in the region are melting comparatively slowly.” He suggested that the melting of these glaciers would take centuries not decades. I wonder if the people who attended your presentation still know squat about GW.

    Comment by Wang Dang Sweet — 18 Nov 2006 @ 12:12 AM

  67. Avery? Would that be Dennis Avery of the HUDSON INSTITUTE? this Dennis Avery:


    I swear (wiping away tear) these guys all go to the same school. Maybe it Kent Hovind’s Patriot University. I’m surprised nobody caught that.

    Comment by Ack! — 18 Nov 2006 @ 1:46 AM

  68. Just wondering…. For viking settlers to have settled on a greenland free of permafrost which would have had to have been the case around the area they settled. Wouldn’t the temperature back in this period around 900ad to 1400ad been significanly warmer than it is now???

    [Response: The greenland settlements are not in permafrost regions. See these photos etc. . But even if they were, Greenland is not the world and temperatures there are not necessarily representative of hemispheric or global anomalies. Estimating those hemispheric temperatures is difficult, but as Osborn and Briffa demonstrate the nature of the medieval climate is qualitatively different to current trends. – gavin]

    Comment by j hansford — 18 Nov 2006 @ 10:37 AM

  69. I was reading a paper by Dr Tim Patterson. I’ll try and link it.

    Also, what do you reckon about solar effects on weather compared to Atmospheric CO2 specially now the statisphere is cooling contrary to computor models

    Also there are observed warming trends on Mars, Only nine years of observations but there to see nontheless.

    Off topic I know… I’m filling my wine glass at this moment…. A sweet red Dolcetto & Syrah from Victoria Australia. LOL.

    [Response: Actually, stratospheric cooling is one of the most robust predictions of greenhouse gas forcing, in contrast to the warming one would expect from solar forcing. Ozone depletion also plays a role (something else that Patterson probably doesn’t believe either…). On Mars, see this post: -gavin]

    Comment by j hansford — 18 Nov 2006 @ 11:28 AM

  70. More on Dennis Avery

    More on the rightwing Hudson Institute

    Comment by Ack! — 18 Nov 2006 @ 12:04 PM

  71. >69, the link to TCS

    Dr. Patterson is on the faculty of the Geology Dep’t. at Carleton.

    From the TCS article — extensively illustrated, clearly written — he teaches his students that sunspots control climate.

    Interesting. Anyone from Carleton reading?

    He says nothing there about stratosphere temperatures.

    What’s your source for your claim that “the statisphere is cooling contrary to computor models” — somewhere else at TCS? where did you get it, why do you believe your source?

    TCS is published by DCI Group, a Republican public affairs consulting and lobbying firm based in Washington DC.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 18 Nov 2006 @ 1:15 PM

  72. Re 52:

    I doubt if your varieties are the same as the Roman ones. The oldest variety I grow is probably Apifolia, and that’s certainly been around since the 18th century, and that needs a good summer to be reliable. Purpurea is very old, but it does what you’d expect of an old variety, sour grapes which only ripen against a warm wall.

    I hope you’re trying Rondo: as red wine it’s good regardless of its provenance. For English red it’s amazing. And try Bacchus — buy a bottle and boggle.

    Darwin rules. Things have come on since the Romans — as Jan Ridd says, all I know is that wheat is better now than when I began to sow it.

    Julian Flood

    Comment by Julian Flood — 18 Nov 2006 @ 4:17 PM

  73. Actually the stratosphere is cooling according to both observations AND computer models.

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 18 Nov 2006 @ 6:33 PM

  74. John Lopresti raises an interesting point. As I understand it (only from a brief Google), the Winkler heat summation index is a count of degree days in a year, and it is a good indicator of various stages in the flowering and harvesting from grape vines. Pfister’s Central Europe temperature and precipitation data base (1525-1979) has a large number of records about the dates of these events at various locations. Each event has been used as aseparate proxy for temperature HOWEVER I wonder if Winkler’s method could be inverted to get a better proxy measure of temperature?

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 18 Nov 2006 @ 6:52 PM

  75. RE #66, I didn’t mention when the glaciers might melt. (I figured in more than 100 years.) But does it matter when they melt (if indeed they do)? Are people of this century more valuable than people of later centuries? (I know some economist will jump in here and explain why they are…)

    David Archer in an earlier RC article said that up to one-fourth of our CO2 emissions could last up to 100,000 years in the atmosphere. That’s a lot of bang per molecule of emission (assuming we aren’t able to take CO2 out effectively). I think we need an accounting system that goes beyond 2100 and gives us some (very rough) idea about how much harm our emissions might have over their lifetime in the atmosphere. Then, perhaps as tech comes online, we might reduce that calculation. Maybe the glaciers won’t melt away entirely. But we do need to think about scenarios beyond 2100.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 18 Nov 2006 @ 8:22 PM

  76. Contrary to Fred Singer’s assertion in the November 4 issue of his newsletter The Week That Was my November 3 Wall Street Journal Europe Op-ed, “Nullius in verba” ( which text he links) makes no reference whatever to the Stern Report , which was released weeks after the op-was submitted. Not yet having read the Stern Report, I have written nothing discussing it

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 18 Nov 2006 @ 8:39 PM

  77. Thanks for responding Gavin, got more questions though….

    I read that link you gave me and the SPARC link,

    I read it and noted that computer models where at odds with observations in the tropical air masses above Indonesia. Yes I did have a few things cleared up.

    However the biggest surprise I got from the SPARC site was that Water Vapor plays a huge role in heat transfer, chemistry and mixing of air masses while CO2 seems to play rather a minor role…

    Considering that of the total green house gases in the atmosphere, water vapor makes up around 95% while CO2 makes up only 3.618% of all green house gases when all, INCLUDING Water Vapor, are factored in.

    So how significant IS water vapor and is it a more effective transporter of heat energy in the upper atmosphere. especially when it is so important in chemical reactions within the stratosphere?

    Why are we concentrating so much on CO2, when Water Vapor is so significant?

    Just a last point. I have read several times that CO2 concentrations seem to lag behind warming periods. As I understand it though this is still a matter of debate and ongoing study… Do you know anything more on this?

    [Response: -gavin]

    Comment by j hansford — 19 Nov 2006 @ 12:11 AM

  78. These may help; there’s both an adult version:

    and a version for primary school level:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 19 Nov 2006 @ 12:40 AM

  79. Why are we concentrating so much on CO2, when Water Vapor is so significant?

    Because CO2 is a forcing element while water vapor is a feedback element.

    Comment by caerbannog — 19 Nov 2006 @ 1:03 AM

  80. I think you’ll find that as a gas both have the same thermal properties….. Only difference being is that Water Vapor is much more efficient at storing heat energy than CO2… I’m pretty sure I’m correct in this…. I’ll go read something on Latent heat and the properties of gases…

    Comment by j hansford — 19 Nov 2006 @ 1:13 AM

  81. This site has an easy to read explaination for the Absorbtion of energy…. There are probably more technical ones but this’ll serve.

    This other site has some more info on energy absorbtion and transfer as well.

    Comment by j hansford — 19 Nov 2006 @ 2:12 AM

  82. Not much of an argument gavin. How was the British wine industry 100 years ago?I suspect Singers argument is more on the money here.

    Comment by Catastrophe — 19 Nov 2006 @ 6:13 AM

  83. This may help:
    H2O far outweighs any CO2 as a greenhouse gas

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 19 Nov 2006 @ 10:16 AM

  84. Re #66 & Tibetan glaciers, here’s something I just read re how fast they are melting:

    So it seems there’s some big discrepancy on this among the scientists.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 19 Nov 2006 @ 4:41 PM

  85. j hansford,

    My simple-minded view of the relative significance of water vapor and CO-2:

    – Nothing we are doing, to first order, affects the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere. Even if we were to generate lots of water, as long as the temperature conditions don’t change, it won’t affect the average amount of water vapor in the air. Why? Because this water vapor is ultimately in contact with a lot of liquid water. The presence of this liquid water puts a lower limit on how much water vapor will be in the air; and the atmospherics of temperature lapse rate, condensation points, etc. put an upper limit. To a first order of procedure, the amount of water vapor in the air is not on a secular trend (not heading upwards or downwards).
    – However, as global average temperature goes up, the atmosphere’s ability to hold water vapor increases. So an increase in GAT, for whatever reason, does result in an increase in the amount of water vapor in the air, and that will add to the greenhouse effect. This “second-order” effect adds a kicker to any driving influence that increases temperature. (It would work in the other direction as well: anything that would cause a decrease in GAT would get a kicker for further reduction.)
    – I believe this is what is meant by saying that water vapor is not a “driver”/”forcing element” but a “feedback”.
    – So the point is that even if we were creating lots of new water and dumping it into the ocean, it wouldn’t change much of anything. (And anyway, we aren’t.)
    – Whereas, however small the proportion of CO-2 is with respect to water vapor, that proportion is actually increasing.
    – You could say, “With all the variation in water vapor due to weather, it should swamp the effect of CO-2.” Yes, but the fact that it varies without a trend means that it doesn’t matter, for the issue of increase of the greenhouse effect. Analogy: You’re sitting in a bathtub, swirling around the water, and the water tap is on. If you consider the possibility of the tub overflowing, should you worry about your swirling around, or should you worry about the water coming from the taps? It should be the taps, because although the motion generated from the water flow is small compared to your swirling, it’s only the increase in water coming from the taps that is contributing to the possibility of tub-overflow.

    Comment by Neal J. King — 19 Nov 2006 @ 7:29 PM

  86. A comment at
    by The Rt. Hon. Lord Lawson former Chancellor of the Exchequer, while handsomly writ seems to suggest that the english wine industry is doing very well. At least he’s buying some!

    His summary dismissal of the likely impact of climate change over the coming century is a rather out of step with the noises being made here at RealClimate.

    Another interesing item at
    Seems to confirm that something of moment really is afoot..

    “Including 2006, September sea ice is declining at a rate of approximately 8.6 percent per decade, or 60,421 square kilometers (23,328 square miles) per year. The NSIDC science team reported that at this rate, the Arctic Ocean will have no ice in September by the year 2060. NSIDC scientist Mark Serreze said…”

    I imagine that we will be growing very fine warm-climate grapes at John O’Groats by then!

    Comment by Nigel Williams — 20 Nov 2006 @ 2:34 AM

  87. Is it true there was no ice at times in the 30’s in the Arctic? or is that another red herring.
    Hey Gareth, #54 actually said we do not meet the worst standards, this is true, leaky buildings anyone. The real world always finds economic realities are different from government and regulatory ideals. ie Builders take shortcuts. If the IPCC for example says 1.4 to 4.5 or whatever range then sure take that at face value, but bear in mind the 4.5 is unlikely till realisable, to take action before this will waste a lot of resources better served to, i dunno ….. research on carbon mitigation. Remember guys we are talking about 0.6C in 150 years, hitchhikers guide time…”Don’t panic”. Incidentally, #54, trillions to avoid destruction by an event of 1 in a million, maybe, sounds like good odds, question is, who’s trillions, which engineer, the GDPof the world is 60 trillion, how much of that are people willing to pay in advance. That really is my point, in advance. You may think forward thinking is best, and I agree, but the destruction scenario must be realised and inevitable before action will be taken so don’t hold your breath. Needless to say insurace companies wont be in business when there is no tomorrow!

    Comment by Matt — 20 Nov 2006 @ 5:51 AM

  88. #85, good call on the amount of water vapour, still i think we’ll find that the amont of precipitation will increase on the whole so I suspect that is the reason for the fixation with carbon dioxide. The temperature gradient will increase as surface temperatures increase so rain and clouds will still form when the vapour rises to the appropriate dew point temperature ‘wherever’ that is. So there will be vapour feedback at low altitude, but there will be negative feedback to and probably weird weather. We’ll find out one way or the other. However I diagree with your tub analogy in that isolated events do affect the whole, reflection by cloud effects the amount of light getting in. Every event isolated or not affects averages, that is what averages are all about. Interestingly has anyone researched the effect of an increasing temp gradient in the atmosphere, will there be an increase in high level radiant reflective clouds and a cooling feedback, ice age anyone? Nah just kidding, an ice age after a sudden temperature increase, whoever heard of such a thing, anyway if it cooled we would simply get the reverse effect with less high cloud. Go figure.

    Comment by Matt — 20 Nov 2006 @ 6:05 AM

  89. Sorry about getting off topic again

    Comment by Matt — 20 Nov 2006 @ 6:07 AM

  90. I note the greenpeace website blame receding glaciers in New Zealand on global warming, first i heard, Franz Joseph and Fox glaciers have been receding since 1750, global warming gases are the whipping boy of modern problems.

    Comment by Matt — 20 Nov 2006 @ 6:21 AM

  91. Re #89, Matt, Do you know the measurements of the rate of the receding glaciers throughout the period from 1750 that you mention? You seem very confident of your own opinions. When do you intend to publish the details of your analysis?

    Comment by Lawrence McLean — 20 Nov 2006 @ 6:33 AM

  92. Re “I note the greenpeace website blame receding glaciers in New Zealand on global warming, first i heard, Franz Joseph and Fox glaciers have been receding since 1750, global warming gases are the whipping boy of modern problems.”

    1750 was roughly when the industrial revolution started. Greenhouse gases are not a “whipping boy,” they are simply the major cause of the present global warming. And the 3% figure for CO2 is completely bogus; CO2 probably causes 26% of Earth’s present greenhouse effect.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 20 Nov 2006 @ 7:01 AM

  93. For the record, Singer and Avery in their article, The Physical Evidence of Earth’s Unstoppable 1,500-Year Climate Cycle, state the following:

    “Now that the Little Ice Age has given way to the Modern Warming, a few hardy Britons have again begun serious efforts to grow good wine grapes in England – but thus far with spotty success.”

    Now I suppose one might quarrel over the degree of success wine grower’s in England are having.

    Comment by Jim Cross — 20 Nov 2006 @ 4:32 PM

  94. Regarding the Fox and Franz Joseph glaciers; the catchments for these lie across the westerly circulation around the Antartic, so (as I understand it) GW is likely to increase the energy in that circulation leading to increased precipitation on that catchment, and a propensity to drought to the east of the Southern Alps. Over recent years they have been advancing a bit, but I think that there is some doubt as to whether this is due to increased lubrication of the base (they’re quite steep) or increased snow load. So Fox and Franz are not particularly good indicators of anything. Very handy ‘indicators’ for denialists and Canutists, ‘though!

    Comment by Nigel Williams — 20 Nov 2006 @ 5:16 PM

  95. #94 Yes. But NZ alpine glaciers in general show some of the fastest recent retreat on the planet. The largest, the Tasman Glacier, is a much slower moraine-covered valley glacier draining the eastern side of the alps, directly opposite Fox and FJ (which are on the western side). The recent retreat of the Tasman is startling.

    Comment by Glen Fergus — 22 Nov 2006 @ 2:57 AM

  96. This is a very interesting site and I am enjoying reading all the posts, but just for the record, grapes can and do grow in Newfoundland. I have 1800 vines in the ground, which includes vinifera and plant more every year. I have recentley heard from people here who have been growing grapes outside for as long as 30 years. I don’t attribute the fact we can grow grapes so much to climate change, but rather to the fact that some people, like myself, are no longer taking the advice of the “experts” when they tell us what we can and can’t grow. I have also planted bamboo and palm trees. A link to our website is included.

    CBC Radio Canada, The Current, did a short segment on climate change and wine in eastern Canada which may be of interest to some. Just scroll down to Part 2 Climate Change – Wine

    Comment by Glenda Baker — 23 Nov 2006 @ 9:55 AM

  97. Re #96: Grapes and bamboo aren’t so surprising, but palm trees? Do you have a substantial Gulf Stream effect there?

    Comment by Steve Bloom — 23 Nov 2006 @ 5:35 PM

  98. #95. Very true – other side of the same coin, as all affected by the same changes in weather systems, eh.

    Comment by Nigel Williams — 23 Nov 2006 @ 8:02 PM

  99. The Economist has a piquant discussion of Henry VIII and the modernization of the British wine industry.
    re: @74ERabett: I would enjoy a review of the new applications of the heat summation method, and will check with some people I know in academia. Several interesting researchers are highlighted in this halfpage interview with Gallet-Meredith protege Boursiquot. There are grape plant materials museums of sorts both in France and other countries, including the US; they are useful for the certification of disease free graftable rootstock, as well as for multiple other purposes outside the explicit range of the current discussion on climate; however, these troves of plant materials could serve as one venue to support research into paleoviticulture to the extent useful.

    Comment by JohnLopresti — 26 Nov 2006 @ 2:33 PM

  100. Gavin,

    I followed your link to the Chapel Down website. I have no doubt that they can produce good wine in the UK. I am also certain that the pick clones of the vareitals that they have chosen which are suited to the local climate. This is what all winemakers do these days.

    According to one local winemaker, there are more than 4,000 varieties of wine grapes grown around the world. Some of these are suited to cooler growing seasons such as we have here in the Edna Valley. Other varietals (such as cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel)require more and longer heat to ripen. Some varietals (such as viognier and syrah) grow well in both warmer and cooler climates. In each case, it is the clone selection which is the key to matching a grape to the local climate.

    1,000 years ago winemakers did not have access to 4,000 varietals and multiple clones from which they could carefully pick the right mixture for their vineyard. They did not have the technology to maximize grape output per acre. Wine making today is a blend of art and science, but it is the science of winemaking which has made it possible to grow wine grapes in places which would not have been possible using the techniques available to UK winemakers in 900 AD.

    The fact that the UK can once again grow wine grapes does not serve as a temperature proxy to show that it is now as warm or warmer than it was in the warm period of 1,000 years ago. By the way, the grapes grown by Chapel Down are all suited to cooler climates such as we have here in the Edna Valley.

    Comment by Brooks Hurd — 29 Nov 2006 @ 2:40 PM

  101. As a history buff I know the medaeval warm period was a fact. The irrefutable evidence is that Viking settlers established farms in southeast Greenland. Today the area is covered with permafrost. You can’t farm permafrost. All this talk about grapes is a distraction.
    I read that when the hockey stick was formulated scientists were specifiaclly told to get rid of the medaeval warm period. It is embarasing, but an undoubted fact.

    [Response: Funny stuff. Read the previous response (Comment #68). – gavin]

    Comment by David Price — 9 Dec 2006 @ 5:59 PM

  102. “Get rid of ….” — that would be David Deming in 1995.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 9 Dec 2006 @ 8:38 PM

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