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  1. RE: Asia
    Are there any plans to do GCM and/or regional model runs that will include the findings of Ramanathan et al (RE: aerosols)?

    Ramanathan et al, Nature 448, 575-578 (2 August 2007) doi:10.1038/nature06019

    Comment by Ken — 27 Aug 2007 @ 10:54 AM

  2. I am wondering whether these regional models can explain the large difference in sea ice anomolies between the north and south poles.
    The north pole is showing what you’d expect from the temperature rise, with an alarming decrease in ice coverage, but the south pole seems to be unaffected.

    Comment by Alex Burton — 28 Aug 2007 @ 4:03 AM

  3. Thanks for the excellent info.

    I wish there a more explicit analysis in AR4 of the regional climate change in the Mediterannean region. As a resident of Greece, and a volunteer fire-fighter, I have the impression that we are dealing with a number of novel phenomena. The wildfires are spreading at an unprecedented speed, for example. They cross highways, and even residential areas, without any problem. The interactions between ecosystems, land-use change, regional climate change, forest fires and microclimate are very odd too; for example, we observed today that even without any wind the fire creates enough turbulence to prevent the helicopters and the waterbombers from acting effectively.

    Comment by George — 28 Aug 2007 @ 6:18 AM

  4. I was intrigued by the comments on Glomfjord precipitation. Does anyone have a link to the more recent Nordklim data?

    [Response: http://www.smhi.se/hfa_coord/nordklim/ -rasmus]

    Comment by bjc — 28 Aug 2007 @ 7:47 AM

  5. It seems that projecting ahead one century is so difficult and uncertain that projecting ahead more than one century is just too difficult to attempt right now. Is this true? I understand that there is an error buildup problem and an unforseeable consequences problem.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 28 Aug 2007 @ 8:41 AM

  6. Thanks for the link but this only gives the data to 2002. Is there nothing more uptodate?

    Comment by bjc — 28 Aug 2007 @ 8:47 AM

  7. Woops! I also see that some models may be “operating outside the range for which they were designed.” And there are always the computing and manpower problems. No wonder the projections don’t go beyond 2099.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 28 Aug 2007 @ 8:56 AM

  8. I’d answer Edward Greisch’s question (below) just by saying that, the further out you want to project, the larger the range of scenarios you must state. For example, issues such as the national number of homes retrofitted for reduced consumption is far from clear. So that variable alone would require a range of scenarios, maybe ranging from zero to 100%.

    # Edward Greisch Says:
    28 August 2007 at 8:41 AM

    It seems that projecting ahead one century is so difficult and uncertain that projecting ahead more than one century is just too difficult to attempt right now. Is this true? I understand that there is an error buildup problem and an unforseeable consequences problem.

    Comment by Lance Olsen — 28 Aug 2007 @ 9:58 AM

  9. Re #2:

    Antarctic amplification only occurs when models are run long enough so that heat uptake in the Southern Ocean does not damp the positive feedbacks and if stratospheric ozone do not cause compensatory cooling. Ozone is a significant greenhouse gas in the polar regions.

    There are also large differances between NH and SH land masses that can support seasonal snow. Another possible factor as is the existance of large ice shelves in the SH that are still capable of calving enormous amount of ice into the sea. In contrast, ice shelves in the NH are for the most part history.

    Comment by Andrew — 28 Aug 2007 @ 11:12 AM

  10. I think it’s good to keep in mind that these projections are mainly climatic projections (temps, precip, wind, etc), and there will likely be lots of other global warming impacts for each region — disease spread, crop failure, & some crop enhancement in a few areas, forest/brush fires, species extinctions & how that might affect ecosystems, etc.

    Just read about the bee collapse again today. They’re narrowing it down to some disease or organism, but some think that might be a result of lowered immunity. I’m not saying global warming is playing a role (tho it might, & they have to look at all things going on), but if it were, that would be an example of how effects can reverberate and cause harms in areas no one is thinking about today.

    And then there are all sorts of other harms from the very actions that produce AGW — e.g., the other pollution from driving cars or using synthetic fertilizers, etc.

    We have to thank the scientist for their very hard work in getting to today’s level of knowledge. And keep in mind there are many other things that could happen, which prudence and holistic thinking (as opposed to analytic/piece-meal thinking) requires us to keep in mind.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 28 Aug 2007 @ 11:41 AM

  11. One burning question on the Polar Regions

    Ice sheets are a dynamic system. What happens when you add weight (in the form of snow) to the top of the ice depends on the temperature. If the bottom of the ice is very cold then the ice is strong, and it will support a lot of weight. If there is (melted fresh) water at the bottom the ice, then that ice is near its melting point, and relatively weak. If you pile more weight on ice that is near its melting point – it will flow more rapidly.

    Piling more snow on top of Antarctica will not increase the amount of ice there, unless the base of the ice sheet stays cold. Some of those ice sheets are standing in seawater. If that seawater is getting warmer, than the ice at the base of the ice sheet will get weaker and the ice sheet will get thinner – regardless of how much snow falls on it.

    I am not saying that this is the answer. I am saying that the amount of snow falling in Antarctica or Greenland is not the complete answer to sea level issues.

    Comment by Aaron Lewis — 28 Aug 2007 @ 12:23 PM

  12. My apologies for this aside, but I would appreciate it one of you experts could answer a question for me. An acquaintance of mine is a skeptic and a metrologist. As you probably know, metrologists are in the business of calibrating instruments.

    He argues that the recorded temperature changes indicating global warming , which are generally in the .1 C degree range, are meaningless, because the best terrestrial recording devices we have can only record temperatures with a +/- accurace of .5 C degree.

    Assuming that’s true (maybe a big assumption!), would it be the case that this is overcoming by averaging the results of many stations? Or …?

    I’d be grateful if someone could address this in layman’s terms.

    [Response: When you take the average of many independent measurements, the errors will tend to cancel. So, for a single series, yes it’s true that it would be silly to state the figure to 0.1C precision if the errors are +-0.5C, but when taking the mean over thousands of series, then 0.1C signals are discernible. -rasmus]

    Comment by AdamT — 28 Aug 2007 @ 1:38 PM

  13. “Therefore, I was surprised to see such an extensive representation of the PRUDENCE project in this chapter”

    Given the fact that the lead author of the chapter 11 of AR4 is also the co-ordinator of the PRUDENCE project, it is not very surprising… ;-)

    Comment by Ignatus — 28 Aug 2007 @ 1:39 PM

  14. Very good point Aaron (post 11) about more weight on a weaker ice base. That didn’t come to mind when reading this.

    Although I must admit reading this blog entry is quite fustrating considering how much “uncertainities” there are in these GCM’s. I understand the planet is huge even though compared to the bigger picture it’s tiny, but it boggles my mind at times that we don’t have a better “geographical map” of the planet, or maybe I’m confused. When taking Geology last semester, the teacher never really indicated that the planet was so “unmapped” except when it came to the Ocean’s which I know NOAA and other intrests associated with them are working on mapping the sea floor. I for one, would think it would be better to work on incorporating better geographical data into these climate models before attempting to predict future climates under AGW. IMO, making such predictions with 50 uncertainities doesn’t offer much in the world of “reliability”.

    Hopefully one of the primary goals of the IPCC is to improve the models so that influences from local geography are better incorporated into the GCM’s. After reading this blog it seems like a very uncertain analysis, maybe one which should have been omitted untill the GCM’s had a better corelation with the geography. That’s what I got from this.

    Thanks for the nice review Gavin Rasmus.

    [Response: watch for the author name…. – gavin]

    Comment by Chris S — 28 Aug 2007 @ 2:27 PM

  15. Warm winter predicted for North America:
    http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/predictions/multi_season/13_seasonal_outlooks/color/churchill.html

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 28 Aug 2007 @ 2:29 PM

  16. Alex #2,

    The Antarctic Peninsular is warming (about 5 times the rate of global
    warming at present IIRC). But as you say most of Antarctica is not. Here’s
    a few reasons, not in order of importance.

    1) The Antarctic has a lot of ice well above sea level, as you get higher
    it gets colder.

    2) Sitting on water the Arctic gets a double hit – warming from the
    sea and from the air. Where the ice is broken up or melts, warmth from
    the ocean can cause local atmospheric warming even if the air mass above
    is cold.

    3) Both poles have air systems that are basically vortices spinning around
    the pole. In the North there are land masses bordering the Arctic Ocean, as
    the vortex swirls over this uneven surface it’s disturbed (Rossby waves)
    and allows warmer air to get into the polar region. In the South (Antartica)
    there’s ocean around the continent, which is often hellishly rough but does
    not cause as much disturbance to the vortex.
    Antarctic Oscillation: http://www.jisao.washington.edu/aao/slp/
    Arctic Oscillation: http://jisao.washington.edu/ao/

    4) In the southern hemisphere (SH) there’s a lot of ocean, and that damps the
    warming trend in the SH. Water has a high specific heat capacity, and unlike
    land it can circulate heat to lower levels. It also loses heat to evaporation.
    Evaporation also happens on land(where there’s water – and there’s no shortage
    of water in the ocean) but the land doesn’t circulate heat away from the
    atmosphere as water can. So the warming trend is more marked in the northern
    hemisphere.

    5) Storms can break up ice that sits on water, but they don’t have as dramatic
    an effect on land based ice.

    Current models that incorporate ocean dynamics do show the basic difference
    between Antarctic and Arctic, the latter is melting significantly while the
    former isn’t.

    #11 Aaron,

    I don’t think even a century of precipitation as snow will substantially
    affect melt by virtue of it’s weight. There’s hundreds of thousands of
    years of ice accumulated on Antarctica, in some regions over 600k years,
    e.g. Lake Vostok.

    More important for Greenland seems to be surface melt extent and it’s
    impact on glacier flow. The water percolates down through fisures in
    the ice (called “moulins”) and lubricates the boundary between the ice
    and the rock on which the glacier sits.
    e.g. http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Newsroom/NasaNews/2002/200206069411.html

    Don’t expect the bulk of Antarctica to melt any time soon, Greenland is
    however more interesting in that respect, although by “soon” in that context I
    mean “anytime this century”.

    Regards

    Cobbly(non-professional climate science hobbyist)

    Comment by CobblyWorlds — 28 Aug 2007 @ 2:54 PM

  17. Thanks for the post Rasmus,

    I understand the percieved need for science to provide guidance on the impacts
    of Global Warming. However on this issue I’m not so sure that the regional detail
    is more help than hindrance.

    The year in the UK has been odd, we’ve had an early “summer” of sorts in Spring,
    mainly April, and the Summer has on the whole been more like a traditional autumn.
    I understand that this is probably due to the recent El Nino (EN) and it’s
    impact on the Jet Stream, hence storm tracks.

    If we can’t be sure of the response of largescale systems like the EN to global
    warming then how can we know what regional effects will be? This summer, when
    considered with the possibility of a persistent EN, could feasibly become more
    of a normal event. That would blow a hole in projections of a likelihood (so
    far observed for the UK) of reduced summer precipitation.

    As far as I can see we can be sure of the warming and our causative role in it. We
    can be pretty sure that it’ll not be a positive process to go through (mainly due to
    the number of people and the complexity of our societies). There are general things
    that can be stated – such as likelihood of heavier precipitation (when it rains) in
    a warmer climate. But as far as regional effects for many areas, it seems to me that
    we can say little more than “Carry on as we are and we’ll find out”.

    What happens if we start adapting to a modelled regional outcome and reality goes
    the other way? Regional skill is crucial, but at this stage I think it’s crucial for
    improving the models further. Not for public presentation.

    Comment by CobblyWorlds — 28 Aug 2007 @ 4:08 PM

  18. I’ve noticed that despite floods, hydro power is considered less reliable at sites on every continent. That could of course be due to running down dam levels to meet demand peaks or to general demand growth. The shortfall in electrical generation is usually made up by coal. The double whammy will be natural water shortages and administrative carbon constraints at the same time.

    Comment by Johnno — 28 Aug 2007 @ 4:30 PM

  19. Hi Rasmus/all

    Thanks for the overview and talking points on regional effects and predictability based on current understandings.

    While the models are getting better I am assuming that climate zone shift will be a problem environmentally and economically and increasing as things progress requiring new solutions along the way for society.

    I am also assuming there will be larger climate momentums due to more weather energy agitated by more heat and moisture, and climate associated inputs. So on my web site I have a general consideration of more floods, droughts, heat waves, cold snaps as the earth continues to warm due to continued GHG accumulation in the atmosphere.

    I guess my question is, is this a fair assumption? Is there an easy way to put it in context to help people understand this in simple terms?

    Comment by John P. Reisman — 28 Aug 2007 @ 4:41 PM

  20. Slightly off topic, but not sure where else to ask this: according to various definitions “albedo” is simply the ratio of reflected to incident radiation. Is it therefore correct to say that increasing the greenhouse effect is reducing the Earth’s albedo? I’m not talking “surface albedo”, anthropogenic changes in which are also affecting the climate, but the albedo of the whole planet, if such a thing is meaningful. If so, is there publically available data for satellite measurements of “planetary” albedo?

    Comment by Dylan — 28 Aug 2007 @ 5:34 PM

  21. RE 16
    I was referring to plastic flow of nominally solid ice near its melting point.

    With the discovery of lakes of water under Antarctic ice, we can no longer assume that all Antarctic ice is very cold and very strong.

    Comment by Aaron Lewis — 28 Aug 2007 @ 5:39 PM

  22. Re my previous post, I think I found an answer to the first question: “albedo” only applies to radiation at visible wavelengths, whereas the greenhouse effect is affecting radiation at infrared wavelengths. However, I’m still looking for data that shows the trend in the Earth’s overall energy budget over the last few decades, as per satellite measurements.
    I’ve found http://eosweb.larc.nasa.gov/HPDOCS/projects/rad_budg.html, but I was hoping for something a bit more user-friendly.

    Comment by Dylan — 28 Aug 2007 @ 6:12 PM

  23. My apologies Rasmus! I’m “fairly” new to this blog, as I’ve begun to read it more frequently in the past few months. It didn’t even occur to me that different scientists were blogging here! I know, Shame on me. I just read the text and assume it’s Gavin.

    Well, Thank you Rasmus for the nice review. I’d rather restate it then have a “edited” thank you here.

    Comment by Chris S — 28 Aug 2007 @ 6:50 PM

  24. Thanks for a very interesting post. I too have complained about the difficulty in getting good regional projections vis-a-vis my focus region, Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). Given your interest in the subject, you might wish to check some of my posts on the issue:
    The Probable Impact of Climate Change on Chile
    Impact of Sea Level Rise on LAC
    Probable Impact of Climate Change on Brazil
    I would be interested in your take on them. If you spot more studies relevant to the region in your search, any chance you can let me know? Or maybe do a guest post on The Temas Blog? Climate change is not my only focus, but it has been one of the more popular topics on the blog.

    Comment by Keith R — 28 Aug 2007 @ 7:40 PM

  25. It would be interesting to know more about the physical mechanisms involved in the regional effects of climate change.

    (For example, my questions / speculations in comments 171 – 173 and 175 at http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/08/the-co2-problem-in-6-easy-steps/ (since those comments I’ve found a few papers on some of those points, for example –
    “On Baroclinic Instability as a Function of the Vertical Profile of the Zonal Wind”
    http://docs.lib.noaa.gov/rescue/mwr/095/mwr-095-11-0733.pdf
    – though I’d still like to know more) (also, if extratropical storm systems were larger in size horizontally (which would make sense with a higher tropopause, but setting aside other factors), then a smaller number of storms at a given time would cover the same area…))

    I suppose I’ll find more in the IPCC report of course, but how much more I don’t know, so I wanted to bring the matter up here.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 28 Aug 2007 @ 8:26 PM

  26. Re 22 (Dylan) – actually, the sun does emit significant IR (and some UV) – albedo encompasses all solar radiation (SW (short-wave) radiation), but solar IR is mostly in shorter IR wavelengths, whereas the IR emitted by the Earth and atmosphere is mostly longer wavelengths (it is LW (long-wave) radiation). There is some overlap, but an approximate cutoff between the two is around 4 microns. Rather than differentiating just between visible and IR, it is often handier to differentiate between SW and LW.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 28 Aug 2007 @ 8:39 PM

  27. Oh yeah same old thing over denierville. Murdoch taking over will be a big change. Yawn. Mann Won’t Disclose Algorithm. It’s odd, the deniers are the ultimate authority and the experts misguided. Well isn’t that the way with amateur opinions? Up is down baby!

    Comment by Mark A. York — 28 Aug 2007 @ 10:38 PM

  28. Re #14: [I for one, would think it would be better to work on incorporating better geographical data into these climate models…]

    I think you’re misunderstanding the reason for the lack of geographic resolution in the models. It’s not that the information isn’t readily available, it’s a question of the grid cell size that the model uses. Say you use a 100 km grid with 20 vertical levels, that gives you about a million (if my mental arithmetic is right) grid cells. Each of these needs to maintain a bunch of state variables, and have various complex calculations done on them, which takes computer time and memory. (Gavin or others could give you a better idea of how much is needed per cell.)

    Any geographic feature smaller than the grid size is going to be smoothed out, obviously. But if you cut the horizontal grid size in half, you multiply the resources needed by 4. Pretty soon you get to a point where you don’t have enough compute power to run the model in reasonable time.

    Comment by James — 28 Aug 2007 @ 11:41 PM

  29. [[Slightly off topic, but not sure where else to ask this: according to various definitions “albedo” is simply the ratio of reflected to incident radiation. Is it therefore correct to say that increasing the greenhouse effect is reducing the Earth’s albedo? I’m not talking “surface albedo”, anthropogenic changes in which are also affecting the climate, but the albedo of the whole planet, if such a thing is meaningful. If so, is there publically available data for satellite measurements of “planetary” albedo?]]

    Earth’s bolometric Bond albedo (the one used in temperature work) has been measured by Earth-orbiting satellites since at least 1966. Global warming shouldn’t have a very large effect on the albedo, although there might be some effect from melting of ice. Most of the Earth’s albedo (0.306 according to NASA) comes from clouds rather than the surface, because clouds cover a lot of area (62% of the globe according to one recent estimate) and are fairly bright.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 29 Aug 2007 @ 5:55 AM

  30. #21 Aaron,

    As I say I’m no expert, so I’m happy to be corrected, but here I go:

    I did understand you meant ice near 0degC, but my point is in Antarctica the
    bulk of the ice sheet’s surface is well below 0 degC year round.

    The discovery of the Antarctic sub-glacial lakes (well over 100 found so far
    and evidence of inter-connection) does not necessarily call into question ice
    sheet integrity. They seem to exist mainly due to geothermal activity, which is
    not subject to an increasing trend as a result of CO2 emissions (unlike the surface)
    Given that EPICA have ice core data going back over 750k years, and that these
    lakes could well be a permanent feature existing over that period, I don’t see
    them as a cause for immediate concern. Once the bulk of Antarctica warms enough
    for substantial ice loss, or if the peripheral glaciers retreat and aren’t there
    to butress glaciers higher up, then the lakes may become a factor. But if you’re
    looking for a rapid response to climate change over this century, Greenland looks
    like a better bet. That said, the West Antarctic ice sheet may also produce
    surprises.

    I’ll leave it there as this is off topic.

    Comment by CobblyWorlds — 29 Aug 2007 @ 6:32 AM

  31. Nice to see a general idea of what regional variation is currently predicted, and no doubt we can expect some of the uncertainty to be resolved in the next couple of years.

    PS couple of errors I noticed in the article: ‘singal-to-noise’ and ‘topical cyclones’ that might want to be fixed.

    [Response: Thanks! Fixed now!. -rasmus]

    Comment by stuart — 29 Aug 2007 @ 7:14 AM

  32. From the lack of responses to my #4 and #6, I assume that nobody has more recent Nordklim data than 2002? Doesn’t the absence of data make validating the models a bit difficult?

    [Response: No, I don’t have an updated version of the Nordklimadata, but the data are from the Norwegian Climate Archives, which is openly accessible from the met.no servide eKlima (currently, the page is in norwegian, but an English version is in progress). Thus the shown data are updated observations for Glomfjord from the Norwegian climate archive.

    -rasmus

    Comment by bjc — 29 Aug 2007 @ 7:22 AM

  33. A couple of months ago, there began a series of posts in the CS group with regard to Dr. Hansen. Similar discussions have been going on since then, with a general tone that Dr. Hansen has left science behind and has become an advocate, possibly influenced by a deep religious belief that we have a moral obligation to save the planet.

    I would rather stick to scrutiny of the science itself. In that vein, William Kininmonth replied to a question of mine with the following post. I ask for comment from others on this board to assist me in understanding Kininmonth’s general point, which seems to be that the warmer it gets, the more evaporation there will be, which will transfer heat energy away from the surface and thus keep surface temperatures from escalating to the extent that Dr. Hansen projects.

    Here is Kininmonth’s post in its entirety. I welcome all responses, and thank you in advance.

    ==========

    The blanket metaphor is quite inappropriate. A blanket slows the rate of conduction and stores heat in the medium but radiation flows at the speed of light. It is the processes that regulate energy flow that are important.

    [Response: When the atmosphere gets opaque, then the heat transfer start to resemble a diffusion process, as the photons get shorter free mean path. An example of the extreme is the the Sun with the outer convective zone is opaque and the outward energy transport is mostely due to convection – despite the individual photons with speeds of light. -rasmus]

    In addition, it is not retention of heat that is of concern because the heat content of the atmosphere is miniscule – equivalent to the top 30 cm of the ocean surface. It is often said that the oceans are the thermal and inertial flywheels of the climate system.

    The temperatures of the earth’s surface and the atmosphere are regulated by the energy flows, not by the actual retained heat. There is more heat in the mixed surface layer of the tropical oceans than in the surface layer of the hotter tropical deserts because of evaporative cooling. The temperature lapse rate of the tropical atmosphere is maintained by the need for convective overturning, not by radiation processes.

    [Response: The temperature is what is actually measured – the empirical data show an increase – and it is a measure of retained heat. The temperature for the oceans also sho a warming (see the IPCC AR4). Yes, the temperatures are affected by the radiative energy balance, as well as latent and sensible heat (convection). But the temperature is also related to the heat according to the first law of thermodynamics. Furthermore, the Stefan-Boltzmann law, diffusion, and evaporation affects the energy flows, so the temperature and the energy flow are closely coupled. But, I’m not sure I understand which points William Kininmonth wants to make with this statement. -rasmus]

    If you really want to understand what is going on then I urge you to read the Riehl and Malkus paper I referenced in my previous posting. In 1958 they accepted without argument (because of theory and supporting observations) that radiation processes associated with greenhouse gases and clouds cool the atmosphere. Their challenge was to explain how the heat accumulating at the surface from solar radiation was distributed through the troposphere to offset the radiation cooling of the troposphere.

    The final point relates to the temperature of the earth’s surface. Solar insolation absorbed by the surface is offset by net IR emission, conduction and evaporation from the surface. Increasing the back radiation through increased CO2 concentration will reduce the net emission from the surface and this must be offset by increased IR emission, increased evaporation and increased conduction. The rates of increase of IR emission and latent energy exchange (evaporation) are relatively large and provide a powerful brake against surface temperature rise. Tropical oceans are cooler than deserts at the same latitude because of evaporation.

    [Response: The whole point is that the IR-emission is reducted – not increased. Increased optical depth (more opaque) means that the IR escaping from the planet originates at higher levels with lower temperatures. And that the heat is redistributed within the system. -rasmus]

    Some ball-park numbers. The increase in back radiation from a doubling of CO2 is 3-4 W/m2. At 15C the rate of increase of blackbody IR emission is 5 W/m2/C. The rate of increase in latent heat exchange is 5-6 W/m2/C. Direct increase in back radiation by doubling CO2 will be offset by increased IR emission and latent energy exchange if the surface temperature rises by less than 0.4C.

    [Response: Any change in latent heat exchange will probably involve a change in the hydrological cycle, and is related to the most serious aspects of a climate change: floods and droughts. Thus excessive rainfall may be more problematic than high temperatures, at least in some parts of the world. -rasmus]

    The earth’s surface is 70 percent ocean and evaporation provides a powerful brake on further temperature rise.

    William Kininmonth

    Comment by Walt Bennett — 29 Aug 2007 @ 9:32 AM

  34. re #33

    Similar discussions have been going on since then, with a general tone that Dr. Hansen has left science behind and has become an advocate, possibly influenced by a deep religious belief that we have a moral obligation to save the planet.
    =====================

    How about just a healthy sense of self-preservation?

    Though I do believe, as do many, we have a moral obligation to our descendants, specifically our children and grandchildren, not to thoroughly muck up the world they’ll live in through our own greedy and short-sighted lifestyles. One does not need to be a scientist or a priest to comprehend this, and if Dr. Hanson does feel any moral obligation to the future, it is my SUPREME doubt this is affecting the manner in which he conducts himself as a scientist.

    If anything, instead of people attempting this rather obvious ad hominem attack on his motivations you report, perhaps they should be instead wondering why scientists, specifically climatologists but also professionals from many fields are becoming increasing vocal in their warnings regarding what we are facing.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 29 Aug 2007 @ 9:59 AM

  35. Walt,
    I’m not sure I understand Kininmonth’s point. Yes, water evaporation will increase, but 1)water vapor is itself a greenhouse gas, and 2)evaporation alone does nothing to significantly affect the energy balance of climate. That is, the only way we get rid of energy is still via LW radiation. Is it Kininmonth’s contention that evaporation will lift the energy above where the CO2 greenhouse effect is significant, allowing it to escape to space? This does not seem credible.

    Second, I strongly object to the use of “religious” to describe the impulse to save the planet. While religion may indeed be a motivation for a sentiment, I might argue that common sense is sufficient cause to preserve the only planet capable of supporting human life. The research Hansen has done has serious implications for public welfare. Given that most people do not understand that scientific studies are by their nature conservative, it is not inappropriate that Hansen explore the range of the possible outcomes as well as the probable. I would note that in addition to these outreach activities, Hansen et al. have continued to produce good science, so I would suggest your swipe is ad hominem and unfounded.
    Finally, might I point out that there are some for whom the word religious is not necessarily a pejorative and may object to your equation that religious = irrational.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 29 Aug 2007 @ 10:26 AM

  36. William, the only thing evaporating from Earth in any significant amount is a bit of hydrogen and helium gas from the top of the atmosphere. Evaporation and condensation of water in the lower atmosphere isn’t doing anything but rearranging the heat coming in from the sun. I think he’s confused because he’s not taking into account the slow process of heating the oceans, which has a lag time of centuries.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Aug 2007 @ 10:49 AM

  37. I would suggest your swipe is ad hominem and unfounded.

    Ray, I believe Walt was reporting the ad hom, not making it himself.

    Comment by dhogaza — 29 Aug 2007 @ 11:27 AM

  38. Re 30
    Off Topic? I cite Hansen 2007 as evidence that Sea – Ice interactions and ice dynamics are relevant to climate modeling and regional climate impacts. While sea level changes may not dramatically affect regional temperatures or precipitation; sea level changes will affect human infrastructure – and that is very much – a regional climate effect that SHOULD BE predictable from climate models.

    Infrastructure planning and budget have very long timelines. Planners need as much warning as they can get. They need to know what scientists are 98% certain of, and what we think has a 2% chance of happening. Flood planners routinely engineer and plan for storms and conditions that they expect to occur only once in 200 years. People die if the engineering is wrong.

    Pretend that you have the chief engineers for the transportation systems of the 5 largest cities in the world. Their mandate is to be 98% certain that their systems can withstand an event that would be expected only once in 200 years. What kind of storm surges do you tell them that they should expect once in the next 200 years? People’s lives and treasure are at stake. What do you tell them? What do you tell them so that they can have 100% confidence that their design standards have a reasonable and rational basis?

    Hansen is very correct. This is no time for reticence.

    Comment by Aaron Lewis — 29 Aug 2007 @ 11:37 AM

  39. re: #33 Walt
    Given that Kininmonth says firmly that:

    “Greenhouse gases emit more radiation than they absorb and their direct impact is to cool the atmosphere. More greenhouse gases will not cause the atmosphere to warm…”, what level of credibility do you ascribe to the rest of his opinions?
    http://www.theage.com.au/news/letters/telling-insight-into-immigrations-mindset/2005/10/09/1128796408597.html

    Comment by John Mashey — 29 Aug 2007 @ 12:36 PM

  40. While sea level changes may not dramatically affect regional temperatures or precipitation; sea level changes will affect human infrastructure – and that is very much – a regional climate effect that SHOULD BE predictable from climate models.

    Modeling global and regional warming is really risk assessment. We just do not have very good data.

    Infrastructure planning and budget have long timelines. Planners need as much warning as they can get. They need to know what scientists are 98% certain of, and what we think has a 2% chance of happening. Flood planners routinely engineer and plan for storms and conditions that they expect to occur only once in 200 years. People die if the engineering is wrong. Climate models will have to be the basis for that engineering.

    Pretend that you have the chief engineers for the transportation systems of the 5 largest cities in the world. Their mandate is to be 98% certain that their systems can withstand an event that would be expected only once in 200 years. What kind of storm surges do you tell them that they should expect once in the next 200 years? People’s lives and treasure are at stake. What do you tell them so that they can have 100% confidence that their design standards have a reasonable and rational basis?

    In the early days of human health risk assessment from hazardous waste sites, we did not have very good data either. Therefore, we made our best guess, and added a safety factor (usually 10 or 100) depending on the quality of the guess. The nature of the calculation resulted in all those safety factors being multiplied together, so the overall safety factor was often a thousand or even a hundred thousand. (See US EPA Guidance on Human Health Risk Assessment)

    Now, take everything that you know about sea level change and where there is poor data or a poorly understood process put in a safety factor of 10 or 100. Multiply all the safety factors together. Now estimate sea level change and multiply it by the combined safety factor. OUCH!! Something like THAT should be sea level change for engineering and public policy planning.

    Hansen is very correct. This is no time for reticence.

    Comment by Aaron Lewis — 29 Aug 2007 @ 12:37 PM

  41. #36, Hank R,

    Water evaporating at the surface converts sensible heat to latent heat that is convectively transferred to higher regions of the troposphere. When the water vapor condenses the latent heat is converted back into sensible heat, now high in the atmosphere rather than at the surface. The argument is that this high altitude heat can radiatively escape more efficiently than that at the surface. I’m not promoting or rejecting this argument.

    Perhaps you can explain something for me. This notion for the long lag times for heating the oceans escapes me. When the oceans absorb short wave radiation from the sun and internally converts (very short time scale, no more that milliseconds) it to sensible heat, then the heat is there in the ocean. It does go somewhere, undetectable, and the reappear a century later. What is meant, physically, by this lag time?
    Thanks

    Comment by Shoes — 29 Aug 2007 @ 12:43 PM

  42. Re #41: [What is meant, physically, by this lag time?]

    You might start with the concept of specific heat. Or do a simple experiment: Turn on your stove, let the burner get hot, then put a pot of water on it. The heat from the burner goes into the water immediately, just as solar heat goes into the ocean, but it still takes a long time to warm up. Now imagine the pot’s a couple of thousand feet deep, and you’re just heating the surface :-)

    Comment by James — 29 Aug 2007 @ 1:12 PM

  43. Re # 14 Chris S: “…it would be better to work on incorporating better geographical data into these climate models before attempting to predict future climates under AGW.”

    Without addressing the issue of how important the missing geographical data really are, I would ask: How do you know when you have sufficient geographical data? What criteria would you use?

    [In science, you never (or rarely) have all the data you might want – if you held off drawing any conclusions until “all” data are in, you will never draw any conclusions, never publish any papers, never make any progress. The best you can do is go with what you have, and recognize that over time your understanding will (usually) improve. Scientific knowledege is a work in progress.]

    Comment by Chuck Booth — 29 Aug 2007 @ 1:19 PM

  44. #42 James,

    I get it, but I thought #36 Hank was referring to something less blindingly obvious than the future short wave energy input to heat the oceans in the future. As it stands, then, Hank’s reference to the ocean lag time is completely irrelevant to Kininmonth’s argument (in post #33). Thanks.

    Comment by Shoes — 29 Aug 2007 @ 1:41 PM

  45. Shoes,
    I think the lag is just due to the thermal mass of the oceans. Sunlight only gets down to the first 30-100 meters or so. All the rest of the heat has to come from mixing warm surface waters with the huge thermal mass below–a very slow process if it occurs at all. Even the top 100 meters will warm very slowly.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 29 Aug 2007 @ 1:46 PM

  46. I think having any faith in GCMs to come anywhere near relatively small regional projections (rainfall, temperature, prevailing winds, cloudiness in outer Mongolia in 2075, e.g.) is just mind boggling and beyond the pale. The piddling caveats and uncertainty expressed are presented insignificantly. OTOH, I do not have any problem with IPCC or GCMs offering speculations based on the loose and tentative scientific projections in this area — in fact I think they should — but the caveats and speculative nature ought to be described very clearly and prominately. Otherwise it feeds us skeptics paranoia that GCMs are just making things up!

    Comment by Rod B — 29 Aug 2007 @ 2:03 PM

  47. #15) Hank:

    I have been observing the CPC model output for a number of years. However, I would start questioning how good the models are going to perform with the changes that are taking place in the Arctic since they are statistical models. (Yes, I think this winter will be late to start and will most likely be quite mild). With the ice cover less than 3 million sq km as of today and still dropping, I think the statistical models are going to become less reliable since they use past history. The same thing is true of the statistical models used by the NHC and Dr. Gray. I have a lot more faith in the dynamic mode from the UK Met office for hurricane forecasting.

    I think it would be great to have a discussion on this site of statistical models vs dynamic models.

    Comment by Jim Crabtree — 29 Aug 2007 @ 2:20 PM

  48. Re: #29 – but isn’t the whole point of global warming that the ever increasing greenhouse effect is causing the Earth’s total radiation budget to change with time? And how is the total radiation budget difference to “bond albedo”?
    I’ve got a little further trying to get hold of time-series data of satellite measurements of outgoing radiation, but it’s in a horribly arcane format that I don’t really have the time to process into a simple graph showing that the total amount of outgoing radiation has been decreasing since the measurements began (in the 80’s as it turns out).

    Comment by Dylan — 29 Aug 2007 @ 2:52 PM

  49. Rod, what does the PCMDI site lack? (link in top post; site’s down for power supply upgrade at the moment but will be back soon, per the Google Cache version of their page)

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Aug 2007 @ 2:55 PM

  50. Re: #41,

    “The argument is that this high altitude heat can radiatively escape more efficiently than that at the surface. I’m not promoting or rejecting this argument.”

    I think that is part of the point, as well as that the surface will in fact be cooled by the evaporation. Kininmonth proposes that increasing greenhouse gases have the effect of cooling the surface.

    Re: #39,

    “what level of credibility do you ascribe to the rest of his opinions?”

    It’s not his opinions I am seeking to understand; it is his analysis. Kininmonth is proposing that Hansen has missed something. I am hoping for some serious discourse on this. Consider this one of my occasional attempts to get each side to discuss the same point in the same way, so that a layman has half a chance to make sense of it.

    Comment by Walt Bennett — 29 Aug 2007 @ 4:13 PM

  51. Kininmonth is proposing that Hansen has missed something.

    Hansen? Try “a very, very large number of climate scientists including a bunch of physicists”.

    Comment by dhogaza — 29 Aug 2007 @ 4:48 PM

  52. More has come up in the blogospher about Dr. Hansen’s motives centered around an error in a Globe and Mail article about sea level rise. The error, a misreading of Hansen et al. (2007) Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 365 1925, is that 25 meters of sea level rise might be expected by the end of this century. Ad hominem on outlets like americanthinker are fairly extreme. I thought you might want to address this. My take can be found at the Real Energy blog.

    You all are doing great! Keep it up!

    Chris

    Comment by Chris Dudley — 29 Aug 2007 @ 5:09 PM

  53. James, (Post 25) Thanks for the clarification. That whole part really had me dumbfounded? I thought there were certain areas of the world that were not “implemented” into the models because of lack of data. Your clarifying helps me understand this better.

    And so, in return, to Chuck, I am completely aware of the scientific progress, and that (for me) goes without saying. I was under the impression that geological features weren’t well incorporated with the models, which made “predicting future climates” a bit unrealistic to me, especially under a AGW forcing scenario.

    So I stand corrected, I’d rather see technology build us much better supercomputers in the future (which will eventually come) to help imrpove the models, rather then say they should be incorporated better. From the sound of it, the issue seems miniscule enough that an overal “trend” can definitly be found then, just not precisly, which is proof of the process that Chuck noted in post 43. Thanks for the info guys! (love this site).

    In response to your question Chuck, about what criteria would I use, I would tend to think that the best way to “accurately” incorporate them is when we have a “fully developed” map of the entire planet, from the north pole to the south pole, from the top of the mountains to the bottom of the deepest oceans. Granted, that’s a massive project (which I did read the project was in the process of being started. Can’t remeber the name of the organization doing so, but I sent an article via email to my geology proffessor about this, in which she noted it’s a massive project and would help in all fields of the geosciences, especially Climatology.) but once you would have that along with computers powerful enough to process this information, then you would have a model that was much more effiecent in terms of predictions am I correct? Am I on the right path with this?

    Comment by Chris S — 29 Aug 2007 @ 5:15 PM

  54. One last time, how do you validate precipitation predictions when the GISS data appears to run through 1995 and the CRUT data runs through 2000? Are there are data sets available?

    Comment by bjc — 29 Aug 2007 @ 5:15 PM

  55. Re 50 – PART I:
    solar radiation = mainly shorter than 4 microns ~= SW radiation
    terrestrial radiation = mainly longer than 4 microns ~= LW radiation

    SW radiation absorption is distributed, a majority is at the surface (or within some distance underneath the surface, as in the ocean), the rest is distributed in the atmosphere, some heats the upper atmosphere.

    LW radiation is emitted thermally by materials as a function of their radiative properties, as a function of wavelength, and as a function of temperature, rising with increasing temperature. A limiting value exists for the total and at any given wavelength of the intensity and flux per unit area of LW radiation that can be emitted at a given temperature. A real object can emit a fraction of that limiting value between 0 and 1, this is it’s emissivity. At any given wavelength, if a material can emit LW radiation thermally, it can also absorb – the absorptivity is equal to the emissivity over a given layer thickness, unabsorbed radiation will pass through to the next layer unless scattering or reflection occurs, both of which are relatively unimportant for LW radiation.

    If a layer recieves more heat than it loses, it heats up (phase changes may occur, composition might change via chemical reactions, but otherwise the temperature rises; the reverse if a layer loses more than it gains).

    The temperature profile from the surface to the top of the atmosphere adjusts until the divergence of the LW flux matches the convergence of the SW flux. This results in a hot surface, temperature declining through the troposphere to some height, then rising again to the top of the stratosphere, falling again in the mesosphere, and rising again in the thermosphere (it is my understanding that without the ozone layer absorbing UV rays (portion of SW flux), the stratosphere and mesosphere divisions would not exist, so the troposphere would end where the thermosphere begins; the thermosphere exists because of absorption of a very small portion of the SW flux (the very shortest wavelengths) in the very very small mass uppermost atmosphere.

    Such a pure radiative equilibrium, however, leaves the lowermost portion of the atmosphere unstable to convective processes. Thus convection occurs, and there is a convective adjustment to the above temperature profile. Convection tends to maintain a lapse rate (rate of temperature decline with height) near a moist adiabat (due to latent heat release during ascent and cooling – otherwise the cooling would follow a dry adiabat, where temperature declines faster with height).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 29 Aug 2007 @ 5:26 PM

  56. Re 50 – PART II:

    Altering the greenhouse effect is changing the LW radiative properties. Doing so without changing the temperature profile of the surface and atmosphere results in imbalances where none existed before. The temperature profile must change in order to restore balance. This is setting aside feedbacks that may further alter the greenhouse effect (water vapor, clouds) or change the amount and distribution of SW absorption (water vapor, clouds, snow and ice, ozone, etc.)- such changes will again require changes in the temperature profile to balance the energy fluxes. (A layer will heat up or cool off until SW flux convergence is balanced by LW flux divergence + convective flux divergence, where convection is only nonzero in the troposphere).

    Because of the way convection works, the surface and the levels of the troposphere warm up or cool off together. (Temperature dependence of the moist adiabats affects this, so that in the tropics, the mid to upper troposphere warms up more than the surface and lower troposphere; however, in polar regions the greatest warming tends to be at the surface, and in winter, for reasons I’m skipping over).

    Within the atmosphere, LW radiation is going up and down, being emitted from all layers and the surface (in varying amounts depending on temperature, and clouds and water vapor and ozone). Some upward emission can go directly to space and is not accompanied by any significant downward emission; the exchange is one-way, and this is a cooling that balances all of the SW absorption within the atmosphere and surface. The distribution of direct radiation to space from within the atmosphere is concentrated upward at any given wavelength when measured along units of optical depth. Increasing the LW opacity (increasing the greenhouse effect) increases the total optical depth and redistributes the radiation to space upward, with less coming from the lower atmosphere if the optical depth was already sizable, and regardless of that, with less coming from the surface. Most emission to space comes from within the troposphere, so as the distribution of radiation to space moves upward with less from the surface, it is distributed at colder temperatures, so less radiation goes to space. This means that, if the LW flux to space had been in balance with the SW flux being absorbed, then there is now an imbalance, with more energy entering the climate system than leaving. The temperature distribution must change as a result – warming occurs until the temperature distribution ‘catches up’ to the distribution of radiation to space; the surface and troposphere both warm up in this process. (it is not the change in LW radiation at the surface which is primarily responsible for surface warming – the surface and lower troposphere must warm, and the climate changes until LW radiation, SW radiation, and convection on average tend to balance each other. Actually, I think the instantaneous radiative forcing (decrease in net upward LW flux) for a doubling of CO2 is greater at the tropopause than at the surface – this implies an instantaneous effect of decreased convection, and this decreased convection communicates the tropopause forcing downward. Once balance is achieved, however, there may be increased convection, if the increased LW opacity of the troposphere slows the net upward LW flux within the troposphere and if this effect is not entirely cancelled or reversed by increased LW flux by higher temperatures; I’ve read that at high enough temperature and relative humidity, water vapor feedback acts to reduce the net LW flux from the surface).

    In addition, while the total LW radiation to space was initially reduced, that from the upper atmosphere (above the troposphere) increases. Thus the upper atmosphere tends to cool until the fluxes are again balanced. In the process, the tropopause (top of the troposphere) rises a little, so the tropopause gets thicker at the expense of the upper atmosphere. Note that this implies that at least the deepest convection gets deeper.

    There is also LW flux exchanges within the atmosphere-surface system from hot layers to cold layers, depending on how well the layers can ‘see each other’ at a given wavelength. Increasing the opacity tends to increase the exchange at shorter distances (the net flow from hot to cold will decrease) but decrease the exchange at longer distances (the net flow from hot to cold will increase), with the distinction shifting to shorter distances as opacity increases. But any increase in LW opacity from any starting point will decrease how well the surface can be seen from any layer of atmosphere. As with shifting the distribution of radiation to space upward, the distribution of radiation from the troposphere and surface to the upper atmosphere will be shifted upward to colder parts, so the upper atmosphere recieves less LW radiation from below (at least until the temperature profile adjusts). The radiation from the upper atmosphere to the troposphere and below will shift downwards, where it is also colder (the base of the stratosphere). Etc…

    The net LW flux upward is the upward LW flux minus the downward LW flux. The flux convergence or divergence is a rate of change of flux with height and corresponds to a heating or cooling rate. The net SW flux convergence distribution does not match the net LW flux divergence distribution within the troposphere; this is allowed in equilibrium because of convection. The net convective flux must transport energy between the two. The amount of convection may change as a result of changing the greenhouse effect but it does not negate surface warming; surface and lower tropospheric warming may be smaller than mid-to-upper tropospheric warming in the tropics because of the temperature dependence of moist adiabatic convection, but this is taken into account in models.

    The above, except for a few parts, largely describes the situation for a single column of surface-atmosphere as if under globally averaged conditions; in such a case, there would be no convection at all above the troposphere and the troposphere itself would be at a moist adiabatic lapse rate. As conditions vary across the surface of the Earth, equilibrium, even averaged over diurnal cycles or over the year, will not be met locally just by vertical fluxes, but horizontal transports of energy will, over years, balance this, and the global averages of vertical fluxes will nearly balance when averaged over some number of years, except when the climate is changing. There will be surface albedo, water vapor, circulation and cloud feedbacks, so both SW and LW fluxes as well as convection is altered, … none of which supports Kininmonth’s conclusion of such a reduced climate sensitivity (I don’t think Hansen or the IPCC is missing anything that Kininmonth brings up).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 29 Aug 2007 @ 7:06 PM

  57. Re 50 PART III:

    Oh, on greenhouse components/agents (gasses and clouds) having a cooling effect:

    Yes, that’s one way to put it, but it can be misleading. By blocking a portion of the LW flux from below, greenhouse components must assume the role of radiative cooling to space, but they are generally cooler than what was below (at least within the troposphere, where most radiation to space is from), and so the LW flux is less than otherwise. Increasing the LW opacity decreases the LW flux to space… (See above).

    But also, the LW flux divergence corresponding to cooling to space + LW flux divergences and convergences due to exchanges within the atmosphere = net LW flux divergence profile – it balances the SW flux convergence in the upper atmosphere (at least in a column model that is under globally averaged conditions with no horizontal gradients, etc.), but within the troposphere, convection also plays a role. LW flux divergence + SW flux convergence leads to a net overall radiative divergence within the troposphere, which is balanced by convergence of convective fluxes, which come from the divergence of convection at the surface, which balances radiative flux convergence at the surface, which is the net downward radiaton at the surface, as all radiative transfer ceases at some depth. The net downward radiative flux is the downward SW flux – the net upward LW flux, the last of which is the LW flux from the surface – the downward LW flux to the surface from the atmosphere.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 29 Aug 2007 @ 7:22 PM

  58. In part II of Re 50, I wrote: “This is setting aside feedbacks that may further alter the greenhouse effect (water vapor, clouds) or change the amount and distribution of SW absorption (water vapor, clouds, snow and ice, ozone, etc.)”

    That would seem to imply that ozone does not play a role in the greenhouse effect; but it does.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 29 Aug 2007 @ 7:42 PM

  59. Hank (49) says, “…Rod, what does the PCMDI site lack?…” If you’re referring to the lead post of this thread (???), proper and acceptable emphasis of the caveats.

    Comment by Rod B — 29 Aug 2007 @ 8:44 PM

  60. This was a great post. I would like to see more reviews of other parts of the IPCC AR4. Its a great resource for busy laymen like myself who are eager to learn more about the report.

    Comment by Joseph O'Sullivan — 29 Aug 2007 @ 10:45 PM

  61. RRe # 53 Chris S. “Am I on the right path with this?”

    Sure, but you are living in a dream world. How long will that take – 5 years? 10 years? 20 years? In waiting for the ideal supercomputing capacity and perfect information to plug into the models, we might well miss a critical window of opportunity to forestall some of the more serious consequences of AGW.

    As I tell my students, there is no such thing as a perfect experiment (or,in this case, a perfect GCM)- you do the best you can with the resources and knowledge you have available at the moment. In science, he/she who hesitates is lost. And in this case, society might lose, as well.

    Comment by Chuck Booth — 29 Aug 2007 @ 11:07 PM

  62. Re #33
    Citing William Kininmonth “the heat content of the atmosphere is miniscule – equivalent to the top 30 cm of the ocean surface.

    When I make a calculation of this, based on simple physics, I get that the heat capacity of the air is equivalent to 170 cm of the ocean surface. The distribution of the temperature over the mass of air is of course not uniform, but I cannot see how the difference can be so big.
    Can somebody point out what is wrong here?

    Comment by Preben S — 30 Aug 2007 @ 7:39 AM

  63. Re: #55, #56

    Patrick,

    Thank you for that post. I am still working on what it means in layman’s terms, but would it be correct to say that more heat is transferred when there is greater evaporation, and that this trapped heat is then (not sure what the correct word is here) transferred by certain processes, such that heat which originates in the tropics finds its way to other regions? In other words, is it correct to say that the entire globe is a heat-producing entity, and the climate system (wind, rain) distributes this heat?

    If that is a correct picture, then what I gain from your response to Kininmonth is that higher evaporation must mean that the surface has warmed; this additional warmth is then transferred in all directions. LW escapes at higher elevations (less density), and the area between that new “boundary” and the surface becomes warmer.

    Is that an accurate layman’s summation? Is it correctly stated in scientific terms?

    Comment by Walt Bennett — 30 Aug 2007 @ 8:33 AM

  64. Here’s something I don’t understand:

    Furthermore, large inter-model differences make regional sea level projections more uncertain.

    Isn’t the sea level pretty constant across the globe? Is there some reason to expect that whatever differences do exist will be changed by climate change?

    Comment by Mitch Golden — 30 Aug 2007 @ 10:24 AM

  65. Re #64

    There are global warming related factors that can cause local changes in sea level.

    One is that when ice melts and is redistributed around the globe, the Earth’s gravitational field is changed. Areas near where the ice melted have the sea level go down (or rise less) while the other side of the globe gets larger than average rises.

    Another is that when water is less dense or in regions of low atmospheric pressure, it floats higher than dense water or water in areas of high pressure.

    Lastly, wind can pile up water or spread it out. Over the course of thousands of miles of fetch, this can add up to several feet of height.

    Since global warming can change all of these factors, one must put them into the models and one cannot assume that the sea level rise will be uniform.

    Comment by Robert — 30 Aug 2007 @ 12:04 PM

  66. Mitch. Short answer: NO. Sea level is determined not just by gravity, but also by Earth’s rotation, prevailing winds, etc. That was one of the marvels of the Panama canal–it took ships through locks to bring it to the proper level of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 30 Aug 2007 @ 12:09 PM

  67. I don’t know much about the models, but it seems to me that the potential for one of the biggest disruptions in climate comes from changes in ocean currents and surface temperatures (which I have heard played a large role in starting and stopping ice ages). Has anybody factored in how the disappearance of the arctic sea ice cover in summer would change ocean circulation patterns, or is this a wild card which could invalidate all the predictions listed above?

    Comment by PWS — 30 Aug 2007 @ 12:23 PM

  68. ‘we might well miss a critical window of opportunity to forestall some of the more serious consequences of AGW’

    Forestall how? Leading scientists have said that all of our efforts to reduce CO2 emissions won’t make a bit of difference. I don’t think you consider the practicality of what is proposed.

    Comment by Michael — 30 Aug 2007 @ 2:01 PM

  69. Jim Crabtree said…
    I think it would be great to have a discussion on this site of statistical models vs dynamic models.

    Good call, but I wondered how many of the members here in RealClimate who have a clue about dynamical systems modeling ? Climate is dynamic and therefore more discussion of climate dynamics is more appropriate.

    Comment by Falafulu Fisi — 30 Aug 2007 @ 2:14 PM

  70. Falafulu Fisi (#68) wrote:

    Good call, but I wondered how many of the members here in RealClimate who have a clue about dynamical systems modeling ? Climate is dynamic and therefore more discussion of climate dynamics is more appropriate.

    Well, one point that gets mentioned quite often is the fact that the climate models themselves are grounded in the actual physics. They aren’t statistical but based upon the principles of physics such as the equations describing radiation emission, fluid flow and partial pressures.

    And as far as climate dynamics is concerned, it is quite often the case that in one way or another the distinction will be made between the actual path of the weather through phase space and the evolution of the climate system as an attractor in which the weather state is embedded. The weather is largely chaotic (e.g., how hot will it be on 4 Jul 2039?), whereas the climate attractor is rarely chaotic (e.g., summers in Boston will tend to be so many degrees warmer in the 2050s than they were in the 1990s).

    I would hate to have to count how many times it has been necessary to make either of these two points over the past year. Recurring themes.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 30 Aug 2007 @ 2:42 PM

  71. Re 68 Michael: “Forestall how? Leading scientists have said that all of our efforts to reduce CO2 emissions won’t make a bit of difference.”

    We won’t make a bit of difference for the warming that is already in the pipeline as the climate seeks a new equilibrium caused by higher levels of CO2. The aim is to forestall even further warming by halting additional increases in atmospheric CO2 before some of the natural feedbacks take hold in earnest, at which point nothing we do will matter. The latter is not yet inevitable, unless we continue with business as usual, of course.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 30 Aug 2007 @ 2:44 PM

  72. Rasmus:
    Many thanks for the link to the Norwegian site. I have registered after having to learn 7 or 8 words in Norwegian – hopefully I will get access tomorrow.

    Comment by bjc — 30 Aug 2007 @ 3:06 PM

  73. Michael (#68) wrote:

    Forestall how? Leading scientists have said that all of our efforts to reduce CO2 emissions won’t make a bit of difference. I don’t think you consider the practicality of what is proposed.

    Given the rate at which we are accumulating carbon dioxide and the nature of the extended process through which the climate achieves radiative equilibrium, the evolution of the climate system is largely indifferent to our CO2 emissions until about 2040-50. After that the paths which we could take begin to diverge, and the more time that passes the greater the divergence.

    For example:

    Under the higher-emissions scenario, winters in the Northeast could warm by 8 F to 12 F and summers by 6 F to 14 F above historic levels by late this century. But under the lower-emission scenario, temperatures during Northeast winters are projected to warm only 5 F to 8 F above historic levels by late-century, and summers by just 3 F to 7 F.

    Global Warming Will Hit U.S. Northeast Hard Unless Action Taken Now;
    Long-term Severity Depends On Near-term Choices, Scientists Say
    July 11, 2007
    http://www.ucsusa.org/news/press_release/global-warming-to-hit-0044.html

    However, it is also worthwhile to keep in mind that the effects of black carbon are far more immediate than those of carbon dioxide. Reducing black carbon emissions could make a big difference with respect to the glaciers and greatly reduce the water shortages we are expecting under BAU in the latter part of this century and prolong the point at which the arctic becomes ice free during the summer as well reduce the ice-free seasons we will see in the future.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 30 Aug 2007 @ 3:06 PM

  74. What is this bull about Dr. Klaus-Martin Schulte doing a study of papers that proves a change in consensus. I knew there was an older study that overwhelmingly supported it. How could it change so much? Are these 528 papers legit or were they planted by the deniers and an overzealous writing campaign? Or are they just accurate and the papers that don’t endorse the theory don’t do so simply because that theory is beyond the scope of the specific study?

    What is going on?

    http://www.dailytech.com/Survey%2BLess%2BThan%2BHalf%2Bof%2Ball%2BPublished%2BScientists%2BEndorse%2BGlobal%2BWarming%2BTheory/article8641.htm

    Comment by FP — 30 Aug 2007 @ 3:08 PM

  75. What is this bull about Dr. Klaus-Martin Schulte doing a study of papers that proves a change in consensus. I knew there was an older study that overwhelmingly supported it. How could it change so much? Are these 528 papers legit or were they planted by the deniers and an overzealous writing campaign? Or are they just accurate and the papers that don’t endorse the theory don’t do so simply because that theory is beyond the scope of the specific study?

    What is going on?

    Comment by FP — 30 Aug 2007 @ 3:12 PM

  76. >Schulte

    “US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works–Minority … Medical researcher Dr. Klaus-Martin Schulte recently updated this research. … The results have been submitted to the journal Energy and Environment, …”

    http://n3xus6.blogspot.com/2007/08/bottom-of-barrel.html

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Aug 2007 @ 3:19 PM

  77. What is this bull about Dr. Klaus-Martin Schulte doing a study of papers that proves a change in consensus.

    It’s bull, indeed.

    Tim Lambert at Deltoid already has a debunk up.

    Comment by dhogaza — 30 Aug 2007 @ 3:25 PM

  78. #68 & “‘we might well miss a critical window of opportunity to forestall some of the more serious consequences of AGW’

    Forestall how? Leading scientists have said that all of our efforts to reduce CO2 emissions won’t make a bit of difference. I don’t think you consider the practicality of what is proposed.”

    Yes, it is possible that the critical window is closed and we are now in for a very devastating time. But it seems to me that even then our efforts to reduce our GHGs could help, even if a little. A person dying of thirst (our great great grandchild, perhaps) could really use that ounce of water — even tho it seems as nothing to us.

    And surely by arguing about whether or not the critical window is now closed and doing nothing to help the future victims (our own progeny) will all the more ensure that we will pass that runaway tipping point of no return.

    And it is eminently practical to reduce our GHGs through energy/resource conservation/efficiency. The father of practicality, Ben Franklin, used to say things like “a penny saved is a penny earned.” Are we so profligate and degenerate that we’re unable to understand what our fathers, mothers, and grandparents have taught us?

    Can someone explain to me how reducing GHGs costs money. It seems to me that increasing our GHGs entails greater expenditures.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 30 Aug 2007 @ 4:16 PM

  79. [edit]

    [Response: I leave this edited post up solely to make a point. Describing Bayesian inference as ‘blind faith’, calling other posters’ points ‘daft’ and using rhetorical condescension to belittle the commenters here is just not going to fly. You can make all the scientific points you want, but a certain modicum of respect for everyone else is required. Play by the rules or play elsewhere. – gavin]

    Comment by Falafulu Fisi — 30 Aug 2007 @ 5:23 PM

  80. The cost of reducing GHG’s is more apparent in developing countries such as China and India. As industry and population grow, and the average person moves away from poverty – toward using medical services, transportation, recreation, and land use is increased for food production, GHG levels increase dramatically. We can see it happening now, and they are gaining rapidly on the United States. The question: how do you avoid multiple US GHG scenarios across the globe without hindering the rise of millions from poverty?

    Comment by Michael — 30 Aug 2007 @ 5:32 PM

  81. “The question: how do you avoid multiple US GHG scenarios across the globe without hindering the rise of millions from poverty?”

    Why on earth do you think that carbon-based energy is going to lift the third world from poverty? The price of oil is only going to go up, and coal is likely to follow quickly. Wind and solar are going to be cheaper and more effective in the truly poor parts of the world, because renewable sources of energy do not depend on massive infrastructure investments. They only require incremental investments that start paying off right away.

    Comment by Tim McDermott — 30 Aug 2007 @ 6:57 PM

  82. Ok, I appologise to Timothy Chase for the daft comment. But, I stood by my comment regarding blind faith in statistics. Gavin, I specialize in the development in these algorithms including Bayesian Belief Network. In fact that is actually what they are, since you can never know for sure the causal relationships between the inputs & the outputs.

    Don’t get very defensive here Gavin, that is exactly what the definition of blind-faith is, no functional relationships between the inputs & the outputs.

    [Response: You misunderstand me. I am not intervening in whatever point you are trying to make, I am just trying to ensure a reasonable discussion. – gavin]

    Comment by Falafulu Fisi — 30 Aug 2007 @ 7:29 PM

  83. Re 50 correction:

    ORIGINAL: “There is also LW flux exchanges within the atmosphere-surface system from hot layers to cold layers, depending on how well the layers can ’see each other’ at a given wavelength. Increasing the opacity tends to increase the exchange at shorter distances (the net flow from hot to cold will decrease) but decrease the exchange at longer distances (the net flow from hot to cold will increase),”

    CORRECTION: swap the words ‘increase’ and ‘decrease’ in the paranthetical phrases near the end of the above.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 30 Aug 2007 @ 8:18 PM

  84. I’ve come across another place where a sea level rise of 25 meters in a century is attributed Hansen et al. (2007). Does anyone know if a statement like this has ever been made by the group? I could see this rate occuring if the final rise is on the order of 100 meters but I don’t see how deglaciation can go faster that the temperature rise which is moderated by the ocean mixing time scale. Thanks for the help.

    [Response: The last time the planet was 3 deg warmer than now was the Pliocene and sea level was 25 meters higher. But that is an equilibrium statement, has no information on timescales and certainly isn’t a near term forecast. But it should give pause to anyone who thinks that adapting to a 3 deg C+ climate change will be easy. – gavin]

    Comment by Chris Dudley — 30 Aug 2007 @ 9:57 PM

  85. The correction in my comment 83 was for the beginning portion of the third-to-last paragraph in my comment 56.

    On that note, this matter (rate of radiative exchange among different layers) can get a bit complicated when looking at different wavelengths.

    The effect of increasing LW opacity that is easier to grasp is that the source of LW radiation coming up at the tropopause (top of the troposphere) from below is shifted upward – away from the warmer surface and upward within the troposphere, where it is colder – therefore leads to the troposphere ‘looking colder and dimmer’ (less LW flux coming up from below at the tropopause) from above, causing it to be in a radiative disequilibrium where more LW + SW radiative energy is going down than the LW energy coming back up (reduced somewhat by changes in downward LW radiation at the tropopause from the upper atmosphere – mainly the stratosphere) that can only be restored (setting aside feedbacks for the moment) by warming the troposphere and surface (they must warm together because of convection).

    If the troposphere is relatively transparent at some LW wavelength initially, then increasing LW opacity initially may increase the radiation from all levels within the troposphere that reaches the tropopause; however, this still comes about with blocking radiation from the surface, which is warmer than the average of the troposphere, so the total LW flux upward at the tropopause from the surface and troposphere combined is still reduced.

    At wavelengths where the troposphere is more opaque initially, then increasing the LW opacity further will enhance the emission from the upper troposphere but at the expense of blocking brighter radiation both from the warmer lower troposphere and the warmer surface.

    At wavelengths where the troposphere is extremely opaque, then most of the LW radiation from below is from a rather short distance, thus further increases in opacity will have little direct effect on LW flux coming up from the troposphere. (One might imagine that the direct effect at such wavelengths could be a cooling of the troposphere and surface as the more rapid (per unit mass depth of atmosphere) changes in temperature in the upper atmosphere, particularly the mid-stratosphere, allow further increases in opacity to have an effect (saturation LW opacity is relative to vertical temperature gradient), and in that case, it would be reducing the downward LW radiation into the troposphere; HOWEVER, the base of the stratosphere tends to be more isothermal (as far as I know) – anyway, the temperature variation at the tropopause will not generally go immediately from slower temperature decline with height to an even faster temperature rise in the base of the stratosphere – and that means that as opacity gets so great in the troposphere that further increases have little effect on upward LW flux at the tropopause, there is also little effect at the tropopause on the downward LW flux as well, and thus little net effect.)

    (Note that in the last four paragraphs I have mostly been discussing a total upward LW flux – distinct from the net upward flux that is the upward LW flux minus the downward LW flux.)

    Any given greenhouse gas will have a significant effect over a range of wavelengths (some ranges larger than others). At high enough concentrations, there will be some wavelengths where the opacity is so great that there is little effect on net LW flux at the tropopause, but even when this occurs, there will still generally be a range of wavelengths where further increases in opacity do matter. (So some people claim that the effect of CO2 is already saturated and additional amounts won’t matter – well, that’s only for some wavelengths (and even at those wavelengths, there would still be an effect on the upper atmosphere, etc… although that may be a cooling effect that could eventually feedback to the troposphere in other wavelengths as a cooling effect, but for CO2 at least, the entirety of the upper atmospheric cooling only reduces the net effect at the tropopause by a little amount) – also, they may be thinking of saturation in terms of blocking radiation directly from the surface to space – this can occur at intermediate opacity where further increases still have a significant effect on radiation from the troposphere.)

    Okay, that was a bit of a tangent.

    ——–

    Re 63: I think you’re on the right track; I would try to clarify it this way:

    The sun heats the climate system directly; some of that heating is distributed among layers of the atmosphere (via water vapor (in the troposphere), ozone (in the upper atmosphere), clouds (they are not perfect reflectors), other gasses (even some other greenhouse gasses can absorb a little solar radiation, but in relatively small amounts – their effect in the LW is dominant, hence they are still called greenhouse gasses. That goes for water vapor, too.). But a majority is at the surface or just underneath it (in the oceans). Some of that heat goes into raising temperature – that’s sensible heat. Some goes into phase changes – such as evaporation of water vapor from wet surfaces – that’s latent heat. Some LW radiation is emitted directly to space from where SW absorption takes place, but some is not. The remaining heat can get back to space by muliple photon emissions and absorptions (LW exchanges among layers of the atmosphere, the net energy transfer necessarily being from warmer layers to colder layers, until radiation directly to space can occur from one of those colder layers). Within the troposphere, convection also transports heat, and in the net energy transfer rate, it is a majority of upward heat transfer at the surface, globally averaged. Some convection at the surface is of sensible heat. Some is of latent heat, which is converted to sensible heat upon condensation (and freezing, where that occurs). Some of that sensible heat is taken up again as evaporation and melting can occur within the atmosphere, but eventually, precipitation of water from the atmosphere to the surface occurs, and this leaves some once latent heat behind in the air as now sensible heat. Convection can transports this heat upward, to various levels of the troposphere by various amounts, and in various amounts, LW radiation can remove that heat and take it upward and eventually to space. In the vertical, convection goes from warmer levels below to cooler levels higher up, and air cools as it rises and expands, so convection takes heat down a temperature gradient, as does LW radiation. Convection also moves heat horizontally (horizontal transports are refered to as advection), and as a result, LW emission from the atmosphere to space is more evenly distributed from pole to equator than solar heating.

    So increasing the greenhouse effect reduces direct LW emission to space, and at any given wavelength, increases the number of levels LW radiation must be transfered to before escaping to space. Convection cannot go directly to space, so while convection may change, the surface and air still has to warm up within the troposphere in order for the LW emission to space to go back to what it was. And they will warm up because they will be recieving more heat then they lose until equilibrium is restored. They heat up together because they are coupled via convection – if only the top heats up first, this reduces convective and radiant heat loss from below, and so that heats up as well, etc.

    At higher temperatures, more water vapor can be held in the air at a given relative humidity. I think evaporation also tends to occur faster (right?) because the same wind blowing over a warmer wet surface will pick up a greater amount of moisture per unit air, and so at equilibrium, there will also be more precipitation, while the reservoir of water vapor in the atmosphere will tend to be greater. That is a positive feedback because water vapor is also a greenhouse gas (though it also has an effect on SW radiation as well).

    And then, there is enhanced warming near the surface in the polar regions due to loss of snow and ice, which increases solar heating. And then there are changes in circulation and cloud cover, etc…

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 30 Aug 2007 @ 10:33 PM

  86. Lynn (78). You are so pessimistic. Given that the average quality of life and life expectancy has never been better throughout the history of mankind – and getting better – the current trend is not bad. We (in the developed world) are doing this at the same time as doing a pretty good job of reducing air pollution, water pollution, etc and learning how to better manage our impact on our natural environment (but of course still have a long way to go). If we allow the non-developed world to develop, there is a good prospect they will follow suit, while learning from our own mistakes. We can not have zero impact on the environment unless we choose to live as Australian aborigines before Europeans arrived. Unless we want this, living on Earth has to be a balance between looking after the environment and maintaining a good quality of life and comfort for ourselves. The fact you are using a computer is proof that you at least partly agree with this.

    Comment by PHE — 30 Aug 2007 @ 11:58 PM

  87. PHE, I would say there was more cause for optimism about our species if we had demonstrated the ability to appreciate the risks associated with threats like climate change rather than falling prey to wishful thinking. As yet, there is little evidence of this on a mass scale. Indeed, I am seeing considerable backlash against even the words “sustainability” and “environmentalism”. To date I see no evidence that these large human brains we have give us any survival advantage over colonies of yeast or bacteria. We are still fouling our nests to the point where it will no longer sustain us.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 31 Aug 2007 @ 7:15 AM

  88. I have a question about tipping points.

    Given that tipping points have recently been stated as “wildcard” accelerators of GW, do we know how to identify them?

    As an example, complete loss of the Arctic Ice in Summer is stated as a significant tipping point.

    To me it would seem to be a 3 phase thing:
    1. Significant thinning of the ice allows a breakup of the ice and heat to penetrate to more and more areas of the sea, casing additional warming
    2. A sudden redcution in both summer and winter ice allows exponential warming to cause unparalleled ice loss
    3. A very quick switch from Ice field to Ice free happens over a period of 3-5 years due to the first two phases.

    If that is the case, we have passed phase1 and 2 and will go into phase3 over the next few years.

    Given that my scenario above is correct I have to ask:

    1. Do we understand what casuse the tipping points in the first place
    2. Do we know how to recognise them as they are happening
    3. Can we insert them into the models at ther right time to correctly forecast the “rapid change” events we observe which might give the public more faith in the models having some basis in their day to day reality.

    After all it would appear to me that unless we understand and can identify these tipping points clearly, then the models are going to be hopelessly optimistic.

    Hindsight is a wonderful thing. It appears to me that we are, this year, 50% of the way to the Summer Arctic Ice tipping point. Should we have been able to recognise and predict this?

    Comment by NeilT — 31 Aug 2007 @ 7:19 AM

  89. RE #86 [Given that the average quality of life and life expectancy has never been better throughout the history of mankind – and getting better – the current trend is not bad. We (in the developed world) are doing this at the same time as doing a pretty good job of reducing air pollution, water pollution, etc]
    While the claim in your first sentence is true, there are very serious grounds for doubting it will continue: climate change itself, groundwater depletion and contamination, soil erosion and salination, deforestation, spread of invasive species. All of these are well-established trends difficult to reverse, but their worst effects come only after long periods of cumulative damage, and have mostly not yet been felt. Rich countries have reduced certain kinds of pollution – those with obvious short-term and local effects – but much of this reduction has been achieved by exporting polluting industrial processes to poor countries; and for greenhouse gases, which do not have significant local effects, performance is way below what is needed to avoid dangerous climate change. Looking after the environment is perhaps the most essential component in maintaining a good quality of life and comfort for ourselves if we look beyond the short term – and we are manifestly failing to do so. Looking after the environment does not mean having no effect on it – it means ensuring that we do not do the ecological systems we depend on irreparable damage.

    Incidentally, the Australian aborigines had profound effects on their environment, mainly through the use of fire. Take a look at Tim Flannery’s “The Future Eaters”.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 31 Aug 2007 @ 7:35 AM

  90. #11: Or the water will freexe again. That is possible and how the glaciers grows.

    Comment by Magnus A — 31 Aug 2007 @ 8:58 AM

  91. #84: Gavins answer: No, the last time it was that hot wasn’t at least 2 million years ago. It was 120 000 years ago, at the last interglacier period when it was 5 degree warmer. See Eske Willerslev, here:
    sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/07/070705153019.htm

    [Response: No. The ‘5 deg’ is actually ‘3-5 deg C’ and is an estimate for Greenland only. Northern hemisphere as a whole was maybe 1 deg C warmer, and globally, it’s not clear if it was warmer at all. Orbital forcing would suggest warmer NH summer, but cooler tropics and stable SH. Plus, even with that sea level rise was 4-6 meters higher! – gavin]

    Comment by Magnus A — 31 Aug 2007 @ 9:03 AM

  92. Re #84

    Gavin,

    Thanks. To me, reading Hansen et al. (2007) what you are saying is pretty clearly there in the text. But, some people are misinterpreting I think.
    It might be worth an article here to discuss contraints on the possible rate
    of sea level rise that incoporates the use of the late spring insolation anomaly width. Maybe an expanded fig. 3 from Hansen et al. that also shows the timing mismatch with the early spring and summer curves which is given in table 1. would be something to include as well. An expanded scale for Termination I might help too.

    Chris

    Comment by Chris Dudley — 31 Aug 2007 @ 9:12 AM

  93. View #1:

    We are still fouling our nests to the point where it will no longer sustain us.

    It’s a pessimistic view, not invalid, but only one way of looking at it. And it’s not new, but a view repeated over and over through our history. Unfortunately the only solution to this view is the eradication of the human species.

    View #2:

    The human race is nothing short of miraculous. Around six billion and counting, and our worst impact is to raise CO2 levels (a naturally occurring atmospheric component); it is amazing to me that we have not had a worse impact. Evolution has finally produced a species with the future potential to save the planet from catastrophes such as GW, asteroid impacts, disease outbreaks, etc. A massive amount of time, energy and money is being spent on GW, and a solution will be found.

    It is also amazing that on a blog such as RC you see the comment:
    ‘I would say there was more cause for optimism about our species if we had demonstrated the ability to appreciate the risks associated with threats like climate change rather than falling prey to wishful thinking.’

    Comment by Michael — 31 Aug 2007 @ 10:22 AM

  94. Re 90
    Glaciers grow when their temperature significantly below 0 C. If there is liquid water present, then their temperature is 0C. When ice is at 0C you can watch it deform with your naked eye when stress is applied to the ice. In warmer conditions (0C), ice climbers often see significant deformation of the ice holding their body weight in a matter of two or three minutes. This can lend a certain urgency to climbing on. Ice is interesting stuff.

    If the base of a glacier is near 0C, and snow falls on it, the additional weight will tend to cause the ice at the base to be extruded horizontally. This is how you get rivers of ice.

    Comment by Aaron Lewis — 31 Aug 2007 @ 11:39 AM

  95. Re #80: [The question: how do you avoid multiple US GHG scenarios across the globe without hindering the rise of millions from poverty?]

    Maybe you’re asking the wrong question. A better one might be to consider whether it is better for those millions to continue living in “poverty”, or to die from the side effects of their attempt to secure “wealth”.

    I put the two terms in quotes because I believe the world needs to do some serious thinking about those two concepts. For instance, some of your millions are probably people living in the context of their cultures, much as their ancestors did. Because they don’t have a western lifestyle with access to lots of consumer goods, you adjudge them “poor” and seemingly think having them rise out of that poverty is important enough to risk severely damaging the ecosystem that supports us all. You’ll forgive me if I think your priorities need adjusting.

    Comment by James — 31 Aug 2007 @ 12:06 PM

  96. James,
    You sit in front of a computer knowing there is a hospital down the road, you have clothes on your back, one of your kids was not just killed by a roving band of looters, you’re not dying of aids with no treatment available, your not in some filthy immigration camp struggling day to day just to have your ill wife and kids die off one by one. And you talk of ‘western lifestyle’ as if it’s some kind of superfluous extravagancy. That’s fine and very easy of you to say, but don’t jump all over people showing true compassion for the poverty stricken.

    Comment by Michael — 31 Aug 2007 @ 12:41 PM

  97. James, In my travels in India, Africa, China and Latin America, I have encountered many who were poor by any definition you care to use. I would contend that those without access to adequate healthcare, nutrition or education could be termed poor. I would argue that if infrastructure is inadequate to supply access to these commodities for the majority of citizens, then the regions/nations where this is true might be called poor. People will always do whatever they can to escape poverty–and this includes burning coal or charcoal or wood or dung. It is not a question of development OR the environment. It is a question of how we achieve development while sustaining a livable environment. If we emphasize raising living standards at the expense of the environment, we will fail because the environment will deteriorate to the point where all living standards decrease. On the other hand if we try to preserve the environment for the privileged at the expense of alleviating poverty, the poor will do what they must to survive, with disastrous consequences for the global environment.
    Development need not lead inevitably to consumerism. It must improve opportunity. The poor are not an obstacle to preserving the environment. They are a resource whose creativity we will need to perserve the environment.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 31 Aug 2007 @ 12:43 PM

  98. Michael wrote in #96: “…And you talk of ‘western lifestyle’ as if it’s some kind of superfluous extravagancy. That’s fine and very easy of you to say, but don’t jump all over people showing true compassion for the poverty stricken.”

    Don’t you realise how wasteful we are in the west? We do live a sumptuous, extravagant lifestyle, which we achieved mostly by keeping other people poor. That dire poverty over there was largely caused by us over here. Not very compassionate.

    Michael, when you hear someone say: “The poor have no bread!: don’t reply: “Then let them eat cake!” It is not helpful, it shows a distressing lack of compassion, and it demonstrates that one is completely out of touch with reality.

    Comment by Holly Stick — 31 Aug 2007 @ 2:29 PM

  99. Re #84 and Gavin’s response: Hansen quotes Siddall’s Red Sea work quite a bit. The State of Florida recently commissioned a sea level reconstruction for the Gulf of Mexico (Balsillie and Donoghue 2004) that correlated other records with Siddall’s work. Balsillie concludes there were three periods in the last 6,000 years where the sea level was about a meter above today’s level in the Gulf. In the past it was thought a possible past high stand would have been a one time deal caused by isostatic rebound of the ocean floor, but this work makes it sound like the recent sea level (last 6,000 years) bounced up and down a few meters (above and below today’s level) over the matter of a few hundred years due to changes in global temperature of one degree C or so and nothing above today’s current global temp. This would seem to lend credence to the idea that the polar ice sheets could respond quickly to relatively small global temperature changes. I’d love to see updates on research as they become available, but I want to make the point that most geologists/biologists I speak to here on the Gulf coast believe that sea level has been relatively stable for 6,000 years now and doesn’t respond much at all to anything other than a full scale glaciation or deglaciation and then on the matter of millenia, not centuries. They believe Siddall and others citing a Holocene “bumps” are incorrect. I don’t know who to believe.

    [Response: As far as I can tell, there is no coherent evidence for global bumps of a meter or more during the Holocene. So my instinct would not be to believe Balsillie and Donoghue results are global. But I’m not very familiar with that paper or the rest of that literature, though I have seen plenty of long term SLR reconstructions that don’t show any such thing. – gavin]

    Comment by Andrew Sipocz — 31 Aug 2007 @ 4:13 PM

  100. This post is the first I accessed on RealScience. I applaud all of the author’s efforts and am really happy to see the excellent discussions going on.

    I think there is a mismatch, however, between some of the science-specific postings on RealScience and the stated mission of RealScience (as seen at “Welcome to RealScience”) — to reach journalists and the public. I am a fledgling climate science educator, and even I got frustrated with the use of undefined acronyms and jargon in this piece. And it was really long — I almost gave up before finding the “more” link that took me to the answer to the initial question (“what will happen regionally”).

    To keep your target audience paying attention, authors will continually have to write at their level. That doesn’t mean dumbing down, it means distilling the essence of your message.

    Perhaps there needs to be some direction of lay/teacher viewers to the best/shortest/most accessible pieces and allow the longer, more technical pieces occupy a separate space?

    Comment by Sarah Wise — 31 Aug 2007 @ 4:32 PM

  101. [[Isn’t the sea level pretty constant across the globe?]]

    Surprisingly, no. It varies locally depending on latitude (Earth’s differential rotation rate north and south), local gravitational anomalies, currents, differences in salinity and temperature, and occasionally exotic happenings like underwater earthquakes or volcanoes. The general sea level rises under global warming, but not uniformly in all places.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 31 Aug 2007 @ 7:30 PM

  102. [[Leading scientists have said that all of our efforts to reduce CO2 emissions won’t make a bit of difference. ]]

    WHAT leading scientists? The ones I’ve heard say we can mitigate the worst effects if we act now.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 31 Aug 2007 @ 7:31 PM

  103. Timothy Chase said…
    Well, one point that gets mentioned quite often is the fact that the climate models themselves are grounded in the actual physics.

    Tim, real physical systems are dynamical systems. The meaning of dynamical is quite broad, but basically they are all the same in that they mean time-dependent functions.

    They aren’t statistical but based upon the principles of physics such as the equations describing radiation emission, fluid flow and partial pressures.

    Yes, Physics principles are still applied. Dynamical systems with known structures (structural equations) are built using Physics principles. Here is an example.

    In the application of Newton’s laws of motion for an object moving horizontally on a surface which one end is attached to a wall with a spring is such:

    m*y”(t) = F(t) – a*y'(t) – b*y(t)

    y(t) = position
    y'(t) = velocity
    y”(t) = acceleration
    a = viscosity frictional coefficient constant
    b = spring constant
    m = mass of the object
    F(t) = applied force

    You can pretty much solve the above linear dynamical mass-spring-wall system to find a solution for “y(t)”. Once a solution is found, one can pretty much observe the behavior at any time instant, such as when t = t1, y(t1) = y1, etc.

    Note that the above dynamical system is a monovariable one, and not coupled. Climate systems are multi-coupled (nested coupled) and highly non-linear.

    Also note that if “a”, “b” and “m” are dynamical parameters, ie, “a(t)”, “b(t)” and “m(t)”, then the whole equation becomes non-linear:

    m(t)*y”(t) = F(t) – a(t)*y'(t) – b(t)*y(t)

    with this mono-variable non-linear dynamical system, you already facing difficulties in finding a numerical solutions.

    The climate sensitivity is a dynamical parameter and I don’t see why hooha here at RealClimate about Dr. Schwartz paper on sensitivity. Real climate is multi-variable as opposed to our simple mono-variable example above and also, it is also a multi-coupled (nested) feed-back dynamical systems. Note that you still involve some statistical algorithms is dynamical systems analysis.

    I am awaiting Gavin Schmidt’s reply to why he thinks that Schwartz’s AR(1) process with a single timescale is an over-simplification, which is issue that I have raised in the other thread.

    Comment by Falafulu Fisi — 31 Aug 2007 @ 8:47 PM

  104. Re 63 – I think there may be points I could better clarify, but that will have to wait a day or two – except for this:

    If you divide the climate system into a number of boxes, then you can define fluxes into and out of the boxes of various quanties, including SW and LW radiative fluxes and convective fluxes. There is also some quantity present in the box. A climatic equilibrium exists if, averaged over time (At least one year to average over all seasons, but several years would be better to average over interannual variabilities), the quantity present in each box is not changing, which means the combined effect of all fluxes is balanced. This will also imply that the average over time of each individual flux is not changing, because some variation in climate would be necessary to change a flux, except for the solar radiation flux (although it can be altered by climate via albedo, etc.), which would cause climate changes upon variation anyway.

    For local or regional boxes, there will be horizontal fluxes of heat. Radiation is not important in horizontal fluxes because temperature gradients in the horizontal are too weak for much net LW radiant flux. Winds are currents are the most important in horizonal fluxes (for heat transfer, also for momentum and kinetic energy, and angular momentum). Globally averaged, horizontal fluxes cancel out.

    If increased evaporation at the surface occurs, there will be a faster water cycle and the convective flux from the surface will increase – at equilibrium, this must be balanced by either an increase in downward SW or LW flux or a decrease in upward flux. This is in part determined by the lapse rate itself and also by the changes in atmospheric optical properties (which includes water vapor feedback and clouds as well as the initial change in greenhouse gasses). So the equilibrium evaporation rate is cannot be determined only by the surface temperature – the whole system changes.

    Water vapor also absorbs some SW flux, and a part of water vapor feedback would be to reduce the SW flux reaching the surface – this would tend to require a reduced convective flux at equilibrium. (However, this doesn’t affect the surface temperature so much because most of the SW flux removed from the surface is still being absorbed within the troposphere, and as mentioned before, the temperature changes at all levels in the troposphere and at the surface are coupled via the tendency of convection to maintain a particular lapse rate.) But the LW feedback from water vapor at the surface, which is, when warm enough and moist enough, a decrease in net upward LW flux from the surface (especially at tropical temperatures), is a stronger effect than the SW flux change, and that would tend to enhance convection. (PS see also http://www.gfdl.noaa.gov/reference/bibliography/2006/wdc0602.pdf – although keep in mind that much of that is not for globally averaged conditions) (See also “Global Physical Climatology”, Hartmann, 1994, especially p.246)

    In the tropics, the temperature dependence of the moist adiabatic lapse rate (which is the lapse rate the convection will tend to maintain in the troposphere) is such that surface warming is less than mid-to-upper tropospheric warming (PS that could tend to require greater convective fluxes from the surface via it’s effect on LW fluxes). However, it is the reverse in the polar regions – not because the moist adiabatic lapse rate behaves oppositely (although if I have this correctly, it should be less sensitive to temperature changes at lower temperatures – and for that matter, evaporation rates should also be less sensitive at lower temperatures). Rather, I think it is because the air in polar regions tends to be more stable to convection to begin with. Some heating of the poles comes from the lower latitudes through the atmosphere itself. So the positive feedback from greater solar radiation absorption (from decreases in snow and ice), because it occurs at the surface, should raise the temperature near the surface, and the stability of the air allows near surface temperature increases without strong convective coupling to the rest of the troposphere.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 31 Aug 2007 @ 9:36 PM

  105. Re #96: [You sit in front of a computer knowing there is a hospital down the road…]

    I think you’re conflating a lot of issues involving stable political & social systems into your definition of poverty. It’s certainly quite possible to be killed by a roving band of looters in the US or other wealthy countries, but unheard of in many “poor” countries. Likewise, being in an immigration camp is a matter of social systems and personal choices (and in any case, would be made far more likely by AGW).

    […but don’t jump all over people showing true compassion for the poverty stricken.]

    I had no slightest intention of jumping on people showing true compassion – not that I’ve seen many of those lately. It’s the hypocrites weeping crocodile tears about how they can’t change their precious lifestyles to help alleviate AGW because it might “hindering the rise of millions from poverty” that I was aiming at.

    And re #97: [I would contend that those without access to adequate healthcare, nutrition or education could be termed poor.]

    And I would agree. My point is that those can be had at a very small fraction of the cost – measured either in money or in energy – of maintaining a western consumerist lifestyle. Though I do see a certain irony in the fact that although most in the west have access to those, damned few choose to make use of them.

    Comment by James — 1 Sep 2007 @ 12:33 AM

  106. Re: #103 (Falafulu Fisi)

    Are you sure you know the difference between a linear and nonlinear differential equation?

    Also note that if “a”, “b” and “m” are dynamical parameters, ie, “a(t)”, “b(t)” and “m(t)”, then the whole equation becomes non-linear:

    m(t)*y”(t) = F(t) – a(t)*y’(t) – b(t)*y(t)

    On the contrary, this is a linear diff.eq., because its homogeneous part m(t)*y”(t) + a(t)*y’(t) + b(t)*y(t) = 0 has the property that if f(t) and g(t) are any two solutions, then so is c1*f(t) + c2*g(t) for any two constants c1 and c2.

    Comment by tamino — 1 Sep 2007 @ 8:37 AM

  107. re 93

    We are still fouling our nests to the point where it will no longer sustain us.

    It’s a pessimistic view, not invalid, but only one way of looking at it.
    ==================

    No.

    It is a realistic view. There is a difference.

    You continue: “The human race is nothing short of miraculous. Around six billion and counting, and our worst impact is to raise CO2 levels”

    I would again disagree. The rise of CO2 and like GHGs is a BIPRODUCT of the manner in which we have been conducting business, including the fouling of our nest.

    There is nothing “miraculous” to what we are doing, by the way, only the likely inevitable biproduct of how we’ve evolved as toolmakers.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 1 Sep 2007 @ 8:44 AM

  108. re 68

    Leading scientists have said that all of our efforts to reduce CO2 emissions won’t make a bit of difference. I don’t think you consider the practicality of what is proposed.
    ====================

    Not to belabor the obvious, but you might find this interesting:

    “Confronting Climate Change: Avoiding the Unmanageable and Managing the Unavoidable”

    http://www.unfoundation.org/SEG/

    See also

    http://www.sigmaxi.org/about/news/UNSEGReport.shtml

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 1 Sep 2007 @ 9:04 AM

  109. I (#70) wrote:

    Well, one point that gets mentioned quite often is the fact that the climate models themselves are grounded in the actual physics.

    Falafulu Fisi (#107) wrote:

    Tim, real physical systems are dynamical systems. The meaning of dynamical is quite broad, but basically they are all the same in that they mean time-dependent functions.

    I (#70) wrote:

    They aren’t statistical but based upon the principles of physics such as the equations describing radiation emission, fluid flow and partial pressures.

    Falafulu Fisi (#107) wrote:

    Yes, Physics principles are still applied. Dynamical systems with known structures (structural equations) are built using Physics principles. Here is an example….

    m*y”(t) = F(t) – a*y’(t) – b*y(t)

    Note that the above dynamical system is a monovariable one, and not coupled. Climate systems are multi-coupled (nested coupled) and highly non-linear.

    Also note that if “a”, “b” and “m” are dynamical parameters, ie, “a(t)”, “b(t)” and “m(t)”, then the whole equation becomes non-linear:

    m(t)*y”(t) = F(t) – a(t)*y’(t) – b(t)*y(t)

    If we were trying to predict the weather on a particular day in a particular place forty years from now your criticism might carry some weight. But we are not. The climate models are used to predict the climate forty years from now or a hundred years from now based on a given emissions scenario. They vary the initial conditions. The will have multiple runs. The will use different models. They may use as many as a thousand different runs.

    Based upon the similarities between the results they are able to determine what aspects of the results are robust – such as the average global temperature, the severity of the weather in Europe, the expansion of the Hadley cells and consequent drying out of the United States, the variability of the weather, the propensity and severity of heat waves, droughts, etc.. Not the weather on a given day or hour for a particular city, but the climate for a given latitude, region, and time of the year. However, climatologists are beginning to get confident that they can predict what will happen next year (for example, the Hadley Centre, when they initialize different runs with consecutive days of real world data) or for particular cities (Nasa is beginning to do this for some east coast cities).

    The weather is a largely unpredictable and chaotic moving point nested in an attractor which evolves in phase space over time in a fairly predictable manner. Ensembles of runs give them the chance to explore that attractor in a fairly systematic fashion. This has been explained quite often at RealClimate. In fact, we probably have to explain it several times a week to “newcomers.”

    And as a matter of fact, I had already explained as much to you in the post that you were responding to.

    I (#70) had written:

    And as far as climate dynamics is concerned, it is quite often the case that in one way or another the distinction will be made between the actual path of the weather through phase space and the evolution of the climate system as an attractor in which the weather state is embedded. The weather is largely chaotic (e.g., how hot will it be on 4 Jul 2039?), whereas the climate attractor is rarely chaotic (e.g., summers in Boston will tend to be so many degrees warmer in the 2050s than they were in the 1990s).

    I would hate to have to count how many times it has been necessary to make either of these two points over the past year. Recurring themes.

    However, you may wish to check:

    4 November 2005
    Chaos and Climate
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2005/11/chaos-and-climate/

    12 January 2005
    Is Climate Modelling Science?
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2005/01/is-climate-modelling-science/

    … and for some more recent posts which touch on this:

    20 August 2007
    Musings about models
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/08/musings-about-models/

    15 May 2007
    Hansen’s 1988 projections
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/05/hansens-1988-projections/

    Falafulu Fisi (#107) wrote:

    The climate sensitivity is a dynamical parameter and I don’t see why hooha here at RealClimate about Dr. Schwartz paper on sensitivity. Real climate is multi-variable as opposed to our simple mono-variable example above and also, it is also a multi-coupled (nested) feed-back dynamical systems. Note that you still involve some statistical algorithms is dynamical systems analysis.

    I am awaiting Gavin Schmidt’s reply to why he thinks that Schwartz’s AR(1) process with a single timescale is an over-simplification, which is issue that I have raised in the other thread.

    Schwartze’s highly oversimplified approach has been analyzed elsewhere. The Friday Roundup has a couple of links. So if you just can’t wait…

    Please see:

    Friday Roundup
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/08/friday-roundup-2/

    I would recommend, for example, James Annan’s:

    Sunday, August 19, 2007
    Schwartz’ sensitivity estimate
    http://julesandjames.blogspot.com/2007/08/schwartz-sensitivity-estimate.html

    You write, “The climate sensitivity is a dynamical parameter…”

    Climate sensitivity falls out of the models – it isn’t something which they assume.

    Please see:

    3 August 2006
    Climate Feedbacks
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/08/climate-feedbacks/

    With regard to realistic estimates of its value based upon empirical research, you might try:

    24 March 2006
    Climate sensitivity: Plus ça change…
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/03/climate-sensitivity-plus-a-change/

    … or James Annan’s:

    Thursday, March 02, 2006
    Climate sensitivity is 3C
    http://julesandjames.blogspot.com/2006/03/climate-sensitivity-is-3c.html

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 1 Sep 2007 @ 4:20 PM

  110. Re 63 –

    So as implied by discussion of polar tropospheric stability, the heat transported by the air to high latitudes obviously must come from lower latitudes, and that will affect tropical and subtropical heat energy budgets. Middle latitudes are in there too. So locally and regionally, even in the time average, climatic equilibrium will still allow that the vertical fluxes are not all balanced (that includes water vapor and it’s latent heat content, etc., and goes for momentum and angular momentum as well, etc.) That relaxes the constraint on regional convective fluxes I had discussed earlier – but globally averaged, the horizontal fluxes (of all conserved quantities) cancel (or for non-conserved quantities, rates of creation and destruction globally and time averaged will balance in equilibrium), and so the vertical fluxes must be balanced globally in an equilibrium state.

    ——–

    MORE ON ALBEDO FEEDBACKS

    The reason why near surface temperature increases at high latitudes will be greatest around wintertime:

    1. a conceivable reason would be that this is when the lapse rate is least conducive to vertical convection of heat away from the surface (remember the positive surface albedo feedback acts to increase SW heating of the surface). However, I’m guessing reason 2 is a bigger factor:

    2. SW heating at high latitudes occurs mainly in the sunny seasons, not winter. And the increase in SW heating from loss of snow and ice area would be stronger in the summer than in the winter. Another reason for that would occur in areas where snow and ice is present year-round to begin with and thus the feedback starts in summer only. However, over the ocean, the temperature will not change much because of the large heat capacity of the water that will be absorbing more SW radiation. But in winter, the water must lose heat to the air upon freezing, and after freezing over, the air is insulated from the water and can drop in temperature further; more summer heating means it will require greater loss of heat in winter to freeze and it will take a longer time to freeze, so the winter temperature of the air is increased. Now, it occurs to me that this mechanism does not apply so much to land – snow has some ability to insulate, of course, but the heat capacity is not the same as the ocean’s. However, it also occurs to me that a little equatorward, where snow and ice are mainly winter phenomena (except in the mountains), and where there is still some SW radiation in winter, this could explain a wintertime maximum in the temperature increase from the albedo feedback. However, albedo feedback will tend to be less on land because land itself has a higher albedo than water (although water at high latitudes will have a higher albedo than in the tropics because of the more glancing angle of the sun, but I think the water still has a relatively low albedo compared to many land surfaces) – this is not so much the case for forests, but forest trees tend to stick out above snow and so the snow’s effect on albedo is not so great (an idea I heard once for a possible ice age trigger, or at least a cooling initiator, is the spreading of bogs into high-latitude forests (which could be caused by some kind of climate change) – because they have a more flat surface that can be covered by snow in the winter).

    Of course, there will be some albedo feedbacks from climate effects on vegetation. And then there’s clouds.

    ——–

    Another visualization of LW radiation:

    Within the atmosphere, at any level, there is LW flux going up and LW flux going down. The net upward LW flux is the upward flux minus the downward flux – it is a net energy flow rate. One can subdivide the atmosphere into arbitrary layers for visualization and numerical modelling purposes, and on that note, at any given level within the atmosphere, the net upward LW flux is the sum of net LW fluxes between each pair of levels (in this case, counting only the fluxes which are emitted by one layer absorbed by the other layer in the pair) that has a member above and a member below (including pairs that include the surface and space as ‘layers’, where space ‘absorbs’ all LW flux that reaches it and emits essentially no LW back (like a very cold, very thick layer), and the surface also acts like a rather thick isothermal layer (absorbing most of the LW flux which reaches it)). The net LW flux for any such pair will be from the warmer layer to the colder layer, and will be greater for a greater temperature difference – this is because it is the difference between the LW flux from one to the other and the LW flux in the reverse. This is true even if the layers are of different thicknesses, optically speaking – because at any given wavelength, the ability to emit is proportional to the ability to absorb (a very thin hot layer may not emit much but then will not absorb much either). The net LW flux will be smaller for thinner layers in general, but then there will be more such layers so the sum will be the same (in numerical modelling, the sum may not be quite the same depending on the mathematical formulation, and the many thinner layers would generally give a more accurate result). The net LW flux will also be greater for a pair of layers that are closer together, with fewer intervening layers in between; this last point is key for increasing opacity – if one keeps the layers at a set optical thickness, then increasing opacity requires dividing the atmosphere into a greater number of such layers, and across the same distance between two such layers, there will be a greater number of intervening layers. For a given temperature profile, this results in reduced net LW flux within a region where the temperature varies sufficiently slowly with distance, because more of the net LW fluxes between pairs are between pairs that are closer together and thus at more similar temperatures. However, for any given pair, if the temperature of both layers is raised by some amount, then the net LW flux can increase from the warmer pair to the colder pair, because emission is not linearly proportional to temperature; this is especially true toward shorter LW wavelengths, less so at the longer wavelengths.

    ——–

    Visualization N (N=? I don’t remember now how many ways I’ve described it):

    For a given degree of opacity, you can (pretending you can see at LW wavelengths) see only so much at any distance, less and less going farther away. If everything you can see is at the same temperature, then the LW flux in any direction is the same, and so there is no net LW flux transporting a net amount of radiant energy. If there is a nonzero temperature gradient somewhere close enough to see, then there will be a nonzero net LW flux at your point of view; it will be larger the better the temperature variance can be seen – if it is closer in location or if it is a larger gradient, and the net flux will be from warmer to colder. For a given gradient, the net flux will be larger if the average temperature is raised, because the LW emission rises faster than a linear proportion to temperature – this is especially true at shorter wavelengths, not so much at the longer wavelengths.

    As opacity increases and reduces the amount of variation in temperature that can be seen, the general tendency (before the temperature distribution changes in response to the effect) is to reduce the net LW flux. However, if there is a relatively strong temperature variation within a small space relative to the distances one can see (an inline comment mentioned mean free paths of photons – this would be in proportion to visibility distances), then as opacity is increased:

    For an anomalously warm or cold region within otherwise isothermal field, the net LW fluxes out of or into that region will grow in size as the anomalous region becomes more opaque and thuse a more effective emitter and absorber.

    For a sharp gradient across a flat plane between two expansive regions of different temperatures extending as far as visibility limits, the net flux across the gradient will not change, but the region across which that net flux exists will shrink, as the distance from which the gradient can be seen shrinks. Because of that, while the net flux is unchanged across the gradient itself (for sufficiently sharp gradient relative to the amount of opacity), the rate of variance over space of the net flux must grow – that is, the convergence of the flux on one side and divergence of the flux on the other side of the gradient become concentrated in a smaller space close to the gradient, so that the trend is from complementary large spaces of small cooling and heating rates toward complementary small spaces of large cooling and heating rates (the volume integral of the heating rate or cooling rate on either side will stay constant until the visibility distance shrinks too much for the gradient to be considered relatively sharp in comparison).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 1 Sep 2007 @ 8:52 PM

  111. on my comment 25:

    I think I was wrong about a thicker tropopause causing horizontally larger sytems to be more likely; it is the increase in vertical static stability that would cause this (if that happens due to decreasing moist adiabatic lapse rate at warmer temperatures) – and I expect it to affect cyclones and anticyclones assymetrically… (because moist convection associated with cyclones would partly negate the effect of increased vertical static stability).

    Anyway, I’m now wondering if larger horizontal scale anticyclones might tend to exist, and if so, and if combined with thicker lower level thermal perturbations due to reduced lower level wind shear, and if those thicker layers decay more slowly by LW radiative fluxes, and if other factors (SW absorption, etc.) do not counteract the effect, then … would bringing in air masses from greater distances toward developing fronts allow the occurence of some frontal zones as strong as are found now even while the average thermal gradient in the lower troposphere is reduced?

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 1 Sep 2007 @ 9:15 PM

  112. Models of atmospheric heat capture have evolved until we can debate them in detail without looking at the big picture. If just the atmosphere warms, then farmers can substitute sorghum for wheat, and civilization can go on. In the big picture, we have to consider what the follow on effects to atmospheric warming are, and how fast they occur.

    Ice sheet modeling that really works, is critical to understanding how global climate change is going to affect us. For now, our ice sheet models do not work. (Start with the excellent RC post of 26 June 2006 by Michael Oppenheimer.) Why are we spending our time refining atmospheric models that have some functionality when our ice sheet dynamic models do not work?

    Consider for example, that melt water (or rain) can rapidly carry heat to the interior or to the base of an ice sheet – even during a brief polar summer. That heat facilitates deformation and lubrication processes that allow the ice to flow. However, the processes (mostly conduction and radiation) that can remove that heat operate at much lower rates. Then, once an ice sheet starts moving down hill, it converts potential energy to heat, which tends to facilitate the deformation and lubrication processes. The insulation provided by a huge thickness of ice tends to hold the heat within the body of the ice. In short, once a river of ice starts moving downhill, it takes a lot of very cold air to remove the heat and to slow it down. I just do not see a lot of chill coming down the pike to help us hold our ice sheets in place.

    Some of our ice sheets (Larson B & Ayles) started moving a few years ago; when we had less accumulated heat than we have today. While the current speeds of the ice sheets are low, the acceleration over the last 5 years has been huge. This year is warm, and the ice sheets will accelerate in response. Next year we will accumulate more heat, and the ice sheets will soften more and move faster. It is not a good trend.

    I think the guess of ice sheet melt in this century being equal to one meter of sea level change is just that – a guess, and one that will prove to be very wrong. I think it is a linear extrapolation of the last few years of observational data. These guesses do not seem to reflect quantitative estimates of known non-linear feedback loops in ice behavior. When such feedback loops in ice sheets are considered, then several and perhaps many meters of sea level change is possible in the next century.

    I wish you wizards of the air, and mavens of FORTRAN would put all of your formidable brainpower to work on getting some kind of a WORKING dynamic model of ice sheets. I would very much like you to prove me wrong on this.

    Comment by Aaron Lewis — 2 Sep 2007 @ 12:51 PM

  113. Timothy Chase said…
    If we were trying to predict the weather on a particular day in a particular place forty years from now your criticism might carry some weight. But we are not. The climate models are used to predict the climate forty years from now or a hundred years from now based on a given emissions scenario. They vary the initial conditions. They will have multiple runs.

    Tim I perfectly understood very well of having to start with different initial conditions. In fact if you run your MIMO (multiple inputs – multiple outputs) climate data thru a purely black box model such as artificial neural network (ANN) with different initial conditions, then you would be guaranteed to get different solutions. The question to ask is what initial conditions is the right one? This is the most difficult question and no one has been able to provide an answer. If someone has already worked out this difficulty, then he deserves a Nobel Prize.

    Timothy said…
    The will use different models.

    In Physical reality, there may exist only one true model, but in saying that, however different models would result in almost similar outcome, but all of them don’t correspond or to physical reality. Laws of Physics would be self-contradictory if different models describe the same Physical phenomena.

    Example: In early last century , Neil Bohr formulated his hydrogen atom model. His model worked perfectly in single electron atom, and it was hailed as a success because they (scientists) thought that they had nailed the model of the physical reality. Bohr’s model failed miserably when applied to spectra of multi-electron atoms. This problem wasn’t solved until the emergence of wave-mechanics (Quantum Mechanics), in the 1920s. Niel Bohr’s model is completely wrong, that it doesn’t correspond to any Physical reality at all. He assumed that electron as in hydrogen, circulates the nucleus in a Newtonian fashion, ie, planetary system. The model only works in single electron, since coupling effects (electron to electron), plus other dynamics were missing as to have any effect in actual observation. The main point here is to note that Bohr’s model or Schrodinger’s equation both different models could be used to analyze the spectra of single electron atom such as Hydrogen , the outcome (results) would be the same. However not both models correspond to physical reality, one must represent physical reality and the other one must be ditched, since Physics would be self-contradictory if we accept that same physical reality is represented by different models. Bohr’s model is ditched and Schrodinger’s equation is retained, since it is a more generalize into multi-electron models.

    So, history of science has taught us, that if we run different models and they seem to have similar outcome, don’t get carried away too soon, as there will be actually one model that could stood the test in comparison to others, where that model might come on top as the one that seemed fit to represent the approximate or true model of physical reality.

    So, I advise here Tim about too carried away with similar outcome of multi-models, since they don’t represent the same physical reality, only one of them does represent true physics, but are we getting closer to finding out which one? May be so, but I wouldn’t want to jump too early and declared we have, since science history has told us (Bohr’s case), not to do so. Physical reality and models that represent them must be generalizable and this is something that is still lacking in climate models. It doesn’t matter whether emergent behavior in complex systems such as climate, makes it unknowable to know the models that represent reality, however it doesn’t change the fact that emergent behavior or chaos itself is caused by physical laws in the first place. If we don’t accept that emergent behavior is physical in nature, then we have to accept that God (very unlikely) is the invisible hand in playing mind games with the citizens of this planet regarding climate systems.

    Timothy said…
    The weather is a largely unpredictable and chaotic moving point nested in an attractor which evolves in phase space over time in a fairly predictable manner.

    I already know that Tim, in fact this is something that I do in developing software to model economic/finance economic systems. Chaos frequently pops up economic systems analysis, such as in derivative market pricing and property markets. Some are still using the traditional and conventional chaos and bifurcation theory, but theory has advanced, where theories from other disciplines in computing and mathematics such as fuzzy logic have supplemented the shortfall in conventional chaos and bifurcation theory. Fuzzy logic is a universal function approximator (both linear & non-linear) .The analysis using chaotic-fuzzy-system algorithms are more robust than conventional chaos & bifurcation theory. The point here, even that we don’t fully understand or know the dynamics of of climate systems, it is still possible to know the unknowns, but this is an evolutionary process as things are discovered incrementally. I would highly recommend the following book if you are doing chaotic & bifurcation climate data analysis. The book is for general use, but the concepts are applicable in any chaotic dynamical system analysis.

    Title: “Fuzzy Chaotic Systems: Modeling, Control, and Applications”
    Author: Zhong Li.
    Publisher : Springer.

    Comment by Falafulu Fisi — 2 Sep 2007 @ 5:09 PM

  114. Timothy Chase said…
    it is quite often the case that in one way or another the distinction will be made between the actual path of the weather through phase space and the evolution of the climate system as an attractor in which the weather state is embedded.

    Tim, don’t get too hooked in word semantics. Let me ask you a question. Path analysis in dynamical system is time-dependent. It means that you can pretty much have a rough estimation of the system’s path that has been traversed. This is the case of brownian motion. One is tended to forget of how the particles traversed a path from A to B. All they are interested in its dynamics at point B and don’t care whether the the actual path is A->C->D->B or A->B or A->C->B, etc, etc. Now, since path traversal in brownian motion is time-dependent, you could take a snapshot of the path by making the time increment continuous, ie, analyse the system at E if it started from A. Suppose that I have the following hypothetical path:

    A->B->C->D->E

    Since, the segment B->C->D is unimportant, we’re only interested in the final destination E , point B , C or D could be made important by specifying that the end-time is t = B or t = C , etc. In this way, paths history could be analysed. In making time increment almost continuous, the traversed path becomes possible to give a rough estimation.

    So, in relation to climate systems modeling, the actual path traversed by a system is as important as the final destination. The behavior of a sytem at t=t1 is as important as when t=t_final.

    Now, this kind of analysis is still dominant in particle Physics, however the principles are still the same. Path analysis has been applied by Econo-physicists to the pricing of instruments in financial derivative markets.

    “Using path integrals to price interest rate derivatives”
    http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/cond-mat/pdf/9812/9812318v2.pdf

    This type of path analysis do use the Feynman Path Integral from Quantum Mechanics to analyse the path of an instrument’s price over a specific increment of time.

    “Feynman Path Integral of Quantum Electro Dyanmics theory”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Path_integral_formulation

    The main point of my post here, that path is important since one could arbitrarily, calculate the price of a derivative at any final time destination. You need to know the start time and the end time. The closer the end time to the start time, the model becomes continuous, therefore all the possible paths between the start time and the end time could be roughly approximated. Path analysis is climate is no different to path integral analysis in atomic systems or financial derivative pricings.

    Comment by Falafulu Fisi — 2 Sep 2007 @ 7:46 PM

  115. I lump together many different forms of human suffering under ‘poverty’ on purpose for this discussion. It doesn’t matter if you are sitting destitute and homeless in an immigration camp, or being overrun by looting, murdering, militias, or you’re a family of five living off of a refuse dump. The path away from human suffering almost always leads to generating more GHG’s.

    I have a roof over my head, good food on my table, a vehicle to drive, an education, a livelihood, and medical care – for myself and my child, in a relatively secure country. I will not begrudge a single person for wanting and striving for at least what I have. Most of the people on this planet barely have one of these things, but global living standards have been changing during my lifetime, and will continue to improve.

    Because of the population density of developing countries (ex. China, India and many others), the very least we can hope for is most countries leveling off at United States GHG levels, but most likely, many will surpass us. GHG’s are in our future. Groups such as SEG and Sigma Xi, as well as IPCC mean well, but none of them have a grip on reality and plan for things like ‘leveling off of CO2 emissions in 2020’. And if the global climate is as sensitive and dire as stated, the ‘reducing emissions’ campaign won’t make a bit of difference.

    Consider the practicality of what is proposed. I am surprised (and troubled) that ‘reducing emissions’ is the only tool on our workbench.

    Comment by Michael — 3 Sep 2007 @ 12:59 AM

  116. If you want to see perfect data on regional climate change look here. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/01/AR2007090101360.html?hpid=topnews

    Comment by Aaron Lewis — 3 Sep 2007 @ 2:16 AM

  117. re: #116 Aaron

    Yes, we have the same issue in California, another place that cares about wine.

    http://winebusiness.com/GrapeGrowing/webarticle.cfm?ref=rn&dataId=48583

    The good news in that article is that the wine around Lake Okanagan, BC (an area we visit 2-3 times/year) is getting better. Whether that would compensate for the eventual downturn of Napa and Sonoma remains to be seen.

    Also, according to The Winelands of Britain, we should expect to see fine vineyards on the North Shore of Loch Ness, producing great Scot wines.

    Comment by John Mashey — 3 Sep 2007 @ 2:36 AM

  118. I (#109) had written:

    If we were trying to predict the weather on a particular day in a particular place forty years from now your criticism might carry some weight. But we are not. The climate models are used to predict the climate forty years from now or a hundred years from now based on a given emissions scenario. They vary the initial conditions. They will have multiple runs.

    Falafulu Fisi (#113) responded:

    Tim I perfectly understood very well of having to start with different initial conditions.

    Then there wasn’t much point in your bringing up the nonlinear behavior of climate systems as if it were a criticism of climatology, was there? Varying the initial conditions a performing different runs is how climatology deals with the nonlinearity.

    Falafulu Fisi (#113) responded:

    In fact if you run your MIMO (multiple inputs – multiple outputs) climate data thru a purely black box model such as artificial neural network (ANN) with different initial conditions,…

    Wouldn’t be quite the same thing as a climate model, would it? Climate models are intended to help us understand the climate system, not simply attempt to make projections based upon past performance.

    I brought this up and even used the phrase “black box” on an earlier thread at one point:

    But since climate models are based upon our scientific understanding of the world, we have every reason to believe that the more detailed the analysis, the more factors we take into account, the better the models will do at forecasting the behavior of climate systems. Since it is based upon our scientific understanding of the world, it is not some sort of black box. If we see that the predictions are not matching up, we can investigate the phenomena more closely, whether it is in terms of fluid dynamics, spectral analysis, chemistry or what have you and see what we are leaving out.

    Green and Armstrong’s scientific forecast, comment 64

    I point this out because it really doesn’t make much sense to speak of running “climate data thru a purely black box model” given the complexity of the climate system – the fact that there as so many aspects which could be modeled. Whether you are speaking of genetic programming or neural networks, such approaches work best when the problems which they are applied to are fairly deliminated – or at least far more so than the earth’s climate system. The approach used by climatology permits us to cash-in on the theoretical advances of other branches of physics, and to both model the climate system to the best of our current ability while at the same time laying a rational foundation for future work. As it is done, there is no room for curve-fitting or black boxes. As far as I can see, the incorporation of either would undermine the foundation of the discipline itself.

    Falafulu Fisi (#113) responded:

    … then you would be guaranteed to get different solutions. The question to ask is what initial conditions is the right one? This is the most difficult question and no one has been able to provide an answer. If someone has already worked out this difficulty, then he deserves a Nobel Prize.

    In our study of chaos as it applies to weather, even a small difference will tend to become amplified until it redounds throughout the system. One image which I have of this is the Baker transformation (which you are no doubt familiar with – but for the sake of other readers…). If you have a block of dough and a small corner of it is a different color and you proceed to flatten the dough then fold it over and flatten it again, it doesn’t take very long before that color is evenly distributed throughout the dough. Twenty-five times should be about enough to distribute it evenly at the atomic scale if the dough were actually continuous.

    But just as small differences become amplified, large differences are reduced in size as they have no where else to go – such is the nature of the attractor – like two moving points moving in opposite directions on the surface of a globe only to meet on the other side. Thus the distance between two arbitrarily close points may grow to the point at which they are on opposite sides of the attractor and then at some later point may become arbitrarily close again. In this sense the initial conditions aren’t really all that important – since the actual object of study in climatology is the attractor (or by analogy, the globe) itself – which corresponds not to the exact state of the weather but to statistical properties, such as the average temperature of the summers for the globe or for a given region.

    However, as I said, the people at Hadley seem to be doing rather well with initializing their model with actual real-world data from consecutive days. However, if all that mattered was initializing the models with “the right data,” they would need the data from only a single day. But then at that point we would be attempting a simple weather forecast, wouldn’t we. The initial conditions from one day when run forward through the model 1001 days will not result in weather which is identical to that which one gets when running the same model with the initial conditions from the following day 1000 days. For example, the values for global average temperature will tend to dance around one-another, weather systems will form at different times and in different places, but statistical properties such as the average temperature or precipitation during the summer between two latitudes will tend to remain fairly close – especially when averaged out over a few years.

    I (#109) had written:

    If we were trying to predict the weather on a particular day in a particular place forty years from now your criticism might carry some weight. But we are not. The climate models are used to predict the climate forty years from now or a hundred years from now based on a given emissions scenario. They vary the initial conditions. They will have multiple runs. They will use different models. They may use as many as a thousand different runs.

    Falafulu Fisi (#113) responded:

    In Physical reality, there may exist only one true model, but in saying that, however different models would result in almost similar outcome, but all of them don’t correspond or to physical reality. Laws of Physics would be self-contradictory if different models describe the same Physical phenomena.

    In physical reality, independently of us, there is no model. A model is a construct, an approximation. Some approximations are better than others. However, when you have multiple models which, given the current state of our knowledge seem equally good approximations for modeling reality, it makes sense to use multiple models and determine what predictions are robust – more or less independent of any given model, of the approximations (e.g., grid size) that they employ – in much the same way that one determines what predictions are robust when one varies the initial conditions. Beyond this climatologists appear to be applying Bayesian logic to the projections being made by multiple models although certainly not across the board as of yet.

    Falafulu Fisi (#113) responded:

    Example: In early last century , Neil Bohr formulated his hydrogen atom model….

    So, history of science has taught us, that if we run different models and they seem to have similar outcome, don’t get carried away too soon, as there will be actually one model that could stood the test in comparison to others, where that model might come on top as the one that seemed fit to represent the approximate or true model of physical reality.

    Climate systems are a little more complicated than atoms, don’t you think?

    The models of climatology are not the same sort of thing as the models of the structures of atoms. In atomic physics, the model is essentially a way of conceptualizing the structure of the atom where the theory may be an exact mathematical description. However, an exact mathematical description of the climate system would seem to be well beyond our reach. Climate systems are simply too complex. Instead, climate models are built from physical theories. Some aspects of the physics will be left out – as some must be since no complete description is ever possible. But where climate models begin to do poorly, this is an indication that there is some important physics which has been left out, whether it happens to be in terms of aeorosols, the carbon cycle or the dynamics of ice. At that point we incorporate those aspects and the models will tend to do much better as a whole – and not simply in terms of the new aspects which we have just introduced.

    I (#109) had written:

    The weather is a largely unpredictable and chaotic moving point nested in an attractor which evolves in phase space over time in a fairly predictable manner.

    Falafulu Fisi (#113) responded:

    I already know that Tim, …

    Perhaps, but if so there wasn’t much reason for you to be talking about exact numerical solutions, then.

    Falafulu Fisi (#113) responded:

    … in fact this is something that I do in developing software to model economic/finance economic systems. Chaos frequently pops up economic systems analysis, such as in derivative market pricing and property markets. Some are still using the traditional and conventional chaos and bifurcation theory, but theory has advanced, where theories from other disciplines in computing and mathematics such as fuzzy logic have supplemented the shortfall in conventional chaos and bifurcation theory…

    Climatology isn’t chaos theory, deterministic or otherwise – although it does deal with a form of chaos, namely the weather. Climatology isn’t mathematics – although it employs mathematics. Climatology is physics.

    Anyway, fuzzy logic may or may not have a place in climatology at some point. I myself still tend to associate fuzzy logic with air conditioners – so I suppose there is already a connection even at this point. As temperatures rise, people will need more air conditioners, won’t they? But at least according to its advocates, fuzzy logic may be an alternative to Bayesian logic, or one may even speak of fuzzy Bayesian logic as a kind of hybrid of both approaches. If so, it would seem that the natural level at which to apply it would be in multi-model analysis – although it could conceivably be applied to multi-runs within a given model.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 3 Sep 2007 @ 3:20 AM

  119. [[The path away from human suffering almost always leads to generating more GHG’s. ]]

    Doesn’t have to, especially if we switch to renewable sources of energy.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 3 Sep 2007 @ 4:58 AM

  120. re #115 [Because of the population density of developing countries (ex. China, India and many others), the very least we can hope for is most countries leveling off at United States GHG levels, but most likely, many will surpass us.]

    You don’t seem to be distinguishing total GHGs from GHGs per capita, nor total population from population density. There is no obvious reason why population density should increase GHG levels per capita, and a small country could have a high population density without producing either high total GHGs or high per capita GHGs. Are you claiming that many countries will exceed US total GHG levels, or that many will exceed US per capita GHG levels? In either case, there is no reason to think you are right: the USA combines a large population (only China and India have larger ones), with high GDP and a high “carbon intensity” (GHGs produced per unit of GDP). Poor countries could get a lot richer without approaching the USA’s per capita GHG production, even without efforts to reduce carbon intensity. I think it may be you who does not “have a grip on reality”.

    [Consider the practicality of what is proposed. I am surprised (and troubled) that ‘reducing emissions’ is the only tool on our workbench.]
    What alternative are you suggesting? The two possibilities are the “heads in the sand” approach, and some form of geoengineering. The heads in the sand approach has two forms: hope the vast majority of climate scientists are wrong, and hope we can get by with adaptation only. The first is plain foolish, the second at best very risky, since we don’t know just where the boundaries between costly inconvenience and total disaster lie. It would be wrong to rule geoengineering out, but no approach suggested so far looks anywhere near good enough to bet the future of our civilisation on.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 3 Sep 2007 @ 7:23 AM

  121. Falufulu Fisi,
    Your analogies with early quantum mechanics are really stretching. Climate science is quite mature, while the difficulties encountered by the Bohr atom resided in the previously unknown physics of spin. Also note that it is “NIELS Bohr” not “NIEL Bohr” or “NEIL Bohr”.
    Your analogies with particle physics and path integrals are only slightly less strained. Realclimate is a wonderful resource for learning about the physics of climate change. I recommend it.

    Comment by ray ladbury — 3 Sep 2007 @ 8:58 AM

  122. RE GHG per person, we shouldn’t simply take the GDP and divide by a country’s population. Many of the products China produces end up consumed by Americans. We need to look at how much each person consumes and the GHGs entailed in that.

    And if companies making the products could in some way let us know the GHGs entailed in the product (from resource extraction/rainforest destruction (e.g., bauxite mining for aluminum), shipping/processing of raw materials, manufacturing, selling & distribution (incl overhead, such as refrigeration involved), etc. …..

    then consumers could buy the same product from a company that produced it with less GHG intensity.

    And I’m sure (considering subsidies for fossil fuels) those products would be cheaper on the whole. Though the company could command a higher price bec the product is “greener.”

    I know you’re thinking that if companies could make off like bandits so easily, then they would have been doing so. But from what I’ve read that’s often not the case. Some companies even go out of business bec their products cost too much to make because the company did not switch to less GHG intensive strategies (they just didn’t know there was such off-the-shelf solutions to their problems). Business mainly think of how to reduce labor costs, not how to have more efficient lighting. They think of how to evade enviro pollution laws, rather than recycling toxic wastes into useful resources (which often also reduces GHG emission).

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 3 Sep 2007 @ 9:02 AM

  123. Some companies go out of business because… the company did not switch to less GHG intensive strategies… They coulda had a V-8 but it just didn’t occur to them so they folded the enterprise??? Wow, Lynn. Seems a bit of a stretch, though a colorful one with a shade of truth, probably.

    Comment by Rod B — 3 Sep 2007 @ 10:13 AM

  124. Michael wrote in #115: “The path away from human suffering almost always leads to generating more GHG’s … I have a roof over my head, good food on my table, a vehicle to drive, an education, a livelihood, and medical care …”

    Most likely you could continue to have all of those things, and more and better, with dramatic reductions in the GHG emissions associated with them, through the application of appropriate energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies. Moreover, the development and application of those technologies is itself a highly productive and profitable sector of the economy through which many more people can reduce their suffering and increase their well-being.

    The path away from human suffering leads to phasing out the burning of fossil fuels and other unsustainable dead-end technologies that are degrading and destroying the capacity of the Earth to support life, and replacing them with energy efficiency, clean renewable energy, organic agriculture, and other sustainable technologies that will enable all of humanity — not just a tiny percentage of humanity in the industrialized world — to enjoy a high-quality material existence that is sustainable within the carrying capacity of the Earth’s biosphere.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 3 Sep 2007 @ 10:37 AM

  125. Hi Gavin

    do you know this new study concerning the iris effect?

    http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2007/2007GL029698.shtml

    can you give your comment about this?

    I think it’s important.

    [Response: Gavin is on vacation, but some others of us are still around. Well, first of all, we have often emphasized that one must be extremely skeptical any time a single paper claims to overthrow the consensus of scientific opinion. The IPCC report quite clearly takes Linden’s ‘iris hypothesis’ to task, noting (see upper right paragraph of page 48 of WG1 chapter 8 on climate model evaluation) that multiple independent studies have now refuted Lindzen’s arguments. Now all of a sudden, one study (by Roy Spencer et al) claims to reverse the consensus of the latest IPCC report on this? We’ll leave the technical points for later discussion, but suffice it to say that incredible claims (which these are) call for special scrutiny. First of all, what is the track record of the source (see also here)? What is the credibility of the source? We’ll let readers judge for themselves. -mike]

    Comment by pascal — 3 Sep 2007 @ 12:19 PM

  126. Re #115: [It doesn’t matter if you are sitting destitute and homeless in an immigration camp, or being overrun by looting, murdering, militias, or you’re a family of five living off of a refuse dump. The path away from human suffering almost always leads to generating more GHG’s.]

    How so? How, for instance, would dealing with those militias increase GHGs? They’re political & social issues, with at best tenuous connections to energy use. In the last century, we find instances of all those in high-energy countries, and low-energy countries where those problems were absent. Those problems will be solved by changed political systems and family planning, not by increasing energy use.

    [I have a roof over my head, good food on my table, a vehicle to drive, an education, a livelihood, and medical care – for myself and my child, in a relatively secure country.]

    It’s perfectly possible to have all those things (excepting the vehicle) if you’re say a nomadic herder in Mongolia, or a fisherman on the south coast of India. Does that roof over your head really need to include e.g. an electric heating system for your driveway, or several kW of outdoor lighting burning all night? How does having an education require significant energy? Printing isn’t an energy-intensive industry.

    Even the vehicle could use far less energy, and emit even fewer GHGs, than what’s typical of the US. Or we could re-think the concept entirely. Isn’t the purpose of a vehicle to get you from point A to point B with reasonable convenience?

    [Groups such as SEG and Sigma Xi, as well as IPCC mean well, but none of them have a grip on reality and plan for things like ‘leveling off of CO2 emissions in 2020’.]

    I’m afraid they have a far better grip on reality than you do, at least as regards the necessity of reducing GHGs. They may be unrealistic in thinking it’s possible, but there really aren’t any alternatives.

    [Consider the practicality of what is proposed. I am surprised (and troubled) that ‘reducing emissions’ is the only tool on our workbench.]

    Maybe it’s the only tool on the workbench because it’s the only thing that will work. Or at least the only one that most people would accept: certainly a medium-scale nuclear war would do the job, as would a bioengineered virus that kills off a large fraction of the human population, but I think either of those would be a pretty hard sell :-)

    Comment by James — 3 Sep 2007 @ 1:30 PM

  127. SecularAnimist (#123) wrote:

    Most likely you could continue to have all of those things, and more and better, with dramatic reductions in the GHG emissions associated with them, through the application of appropriate energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.

    I have said it before and undoubtedly I will say it again: we need an international “Manhattan Project.” If the economically-advanced countries became serious about developing renewable energy technologies and pooled their resources, we could develop renewable energy sources which would be cheaper in the long-run than what we have now, but spread the costs which will be incurred in the present while pooling our understanding of how to develop those technologies. Once you have cheap energy, desalination is cheap, recycling is cheap, etc.. Then you make available those technologies to all nations and raise the living standards of the third world without going through a period of high ghg-emissions.

    But even now we could improve agricultural production and reduce ghg-emissions in the third world through agrichar with relatively low investment. And if it meant that we could move away from using the phosphates which encourage large coastal algae blooms, this would mean a reduction in the widespread phenomena of dead zones which are cutting into fish harvests and threaten many of the richer ecosystems.

    PS

    Good grief!

    Here I am sounding like an environmentalist. Oh well, I guess you really can teach an old dog new tricks. In any case, it is time to develop a modern economy with high living standards which is environment-friendly. Its possible, and I strongly doubt that there is any rational alternative.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 3 Sep 2007 @ 1:32 PM

  128. Re #115: Michael — I recommend following

    http://biopact.com

    to see some of the practical efforts to reduce the use of fossil carbon and at the same time improve the lives of the world’s poorest.

    I am particular taken with the approach to carbon sequestration via biochar, AKA argichar…

    Comment by David B. Benson — 3 Sep 2007 @ 1:44 PM

  129. Re #80:
    “The question: how do you avoid multiple US GHG scenarios across the globe without hindering the rise of millions from poverty?”

    Poverty is primarily an issue of access and distribution of resources, not how much resources are available in all. It doesn’t take very much energy to make for a very happy society. Conversely, even countries inundated with wealth can be quite unhappy when social needs are not met.

    Comment by Robert — 3 Sep 2007 @ 3:48 PM

  130. Re 126

    I have many friends that have had long and profitable careers cleaning up hazardous waste sites left over from energy companies using pyrolysis processes similar to agrichar. See for example; http://www.clu-in.org/download/misc/mgp/chap1-4a.pdf and http://www.cluin.org/contaminantfocus/default.focus/sec/Persistent_Organic_Pollutants_(POPs)/cat/Characteristics_and_Behavior_of_POPs/ .These by-products can be unpleasant. A common bad actor is PAH, but agrichar will also produce dioxins and furans which will be in the product. Do we want to spread these across the world’s agricultural fields? We should think something like agrichar through very carefully. I do not see such thought in the current work.

    And, as we plan your big project, we should consider what infrastructure it requires, and how and when our current infrastructure will fail because it was not planned for the climate we will have at the time the big project is ready for implementation.

    Comment by Aaron Lewis — 3 Sep 2007 @ 4:01 PM

  131. Mike inlined (#125):

    Gavin is on vacation, but some others of us are still around.

    No doubt he deserves one. But plenty of us no doubt greatly appreciate the fact that you are looking after the place while he is gone.

    Mike inlined (#125):

    [Regarding the new 2007 Iris paper…]

    Well, first of all, we have often emphasized that one must be extremely skeptical any time a single paper claims to overthrow the consensus of scientific opinion. The IPCC report quite clearly takes Linden’s ‘iris hypothesis’ to task, noting (see upper right paragraph of page 48 of WG1 chapter 8 on climate model evaluation) that multiple independent studies have now refuted Lindzen’s arguments. Now all of a sudden, one study (by Roy Spencer et al) claims to reverse the consensus of the latest IPCC report on this? We’ll leave the technical points for later discussion, but suffice it to stay that incredible claims (which these are) call for special scrutiny. First of all, what is the track record of the source (see also here)? What is the credibility of the source? We’ll let readers judge for themselves.

    With papers like this I sometimes get the impression that they aren’t really intended to stand up to serious scrutiny – or perhaps I am being unfair? At some point there will be the critiques, and no doubt they will do a good job, but this essay will get plenty of mention in certain politically slanted media, especially the blogs, it may even make some mainstream. Although there isn’t really that much of a division between alternative and mainstream anymore given the internet, and before it, the more specialized cable channels, and before that the radio talk shows.

    “The center cannot hold,” I guess.

    In the longrun it will add to the short list of peer-reviewed articles which disagree with the consensus. At that point it really won’t matter how poorly-reasoned it was. Gotta wonder sometimes, though, what exactly the “long-run” means to some. What’s coming down the pike looks pretty serious, but it is might as well be “… in a galaxy far, far away” by their standards – as far as I can tell.

    Anyway, not trying to depress anyone: its just me crying out in despair. (My wife often tells me I should higher myself out as a demotivational speaker – get payed by one football team to speak to the opposing team just before a big game, for example…)

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 3 Sep 2007 @ 4:25 PM

  132. Re #130: Aaron Lewis — I am certainly under the impression that the pyrolysis used to make agrichar does not produce those nasty chemicals. First of all, the process begins with biological materials, not coal. Secondly, such pyrolysis units are currently installed at several locations around the world, in pilot study sizes, making a bio-oil comperable to #4 heating oil as well as char. With current awareness of the hazards you mention, I rather doubt that either the Canadian nor the German nor the Argentinian govenements would allow these project to go ahead.

    Besides the Biopact site, much more information about agrichar can be found at

    http://www.shimbir.demon.co.uk/biocharrefs.htm

    and other applications at

    http://terrapreta.bioenergylists.org

    Comment by David B. Benson — 3 Sep 2007 @ 5:03 PM

  133. Timothy Chase, I had responded to your message, however the admin didn’t post it. If you are interested in what I had to say (yep, some book references in feedback control theory), then please give your contact address, so I could forward you the message. I am starting to think that RealClimate regards me as either a pain in the ass or a threat in the debate here.

    Comment by Falafulu Fisi — 3 Sep 2007 @ 8:33 PM

  134. re #120 [[Consider the practicality of what is proposed. I am surprised (and troubled) that ‘reducing emissions’ is the only tool on our workbench.]
    What alternative are you suggesting? The two possibilities are the “heads in the sand” approach, and some form of geoengineering.]

    Overstatement on my part: tree-planting and biochar don’t fall under any of the headings “reducing emissions2, “heads in the sand”, or “bioengineering”.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 4 Sep 2007 @ 6:50 AM

  135. #133, if your post contained URL references to said books, your post is probably was held up by the spam filter. This filter hss no bias against people who don’t know anything about climate science yet imagine themselves to be a threat to the entire field.

    Comment by dhogaza — 4 Sep 2007 @ 8:21 AM

  136. David, I wouldn’t dismiss Aaron Lewis’s comments; combusion of anything beyond H2 is going to produce some problematic carbon compounds; the terra preta idea seems good as practiced by its inventors in the Amazon. Coming up with a modern industrial process for the same end result fast at high volume will have issues, no question. I think his cautions are smart ones.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 4 Sep 2007 @ 10:39 AM

  137. Falafulu Fisi (#133) wrote:

    Timothy Chase, I had responded to your message, however the admin didn’t post it. If you are interested in what I had to say (yep, some book references in feedback control theory), then please give your contact address, so I could forward you the message. I am starting to think that RealClimate regards me as either a pain in the ass or a threat in the debate here.

    It is of course up to the moderators when they might choose not to put up a post, but typically Gavin will not “censor” posts – although he may edit the rhetoric or less than civil remarks (as he has done with me) or repeated points which he regards as pointless repetition.. (Scare marks to indicate that as a classical liberal I believe only the government is able to censor since it is otherwise always possible to make oneself heard at different venues, and there is such a thing as private property.) However, those who are moderating in his absence may have different tastes. But in any case, “pain” would seem to be more likely than “threat” as the laws physics cannot be undone – although we may learn more about them where the learning is no threat at all.

    Anyway, I am not great with email – still belong to lists on malware, evolution, etc. and I do nearly all of my present online communication via this board. However, my email is timothychase at the gmail dottish com. But I focus almost entirely on climatology nowadays and will probably continue to do so. Plenty of different areas to learn about, and who knows? Maybe I will find some small way to make a difference. The field is an obsession for me, although not quite as much as evolution was.

    But if I had the time I might go back to the evolutionary biology, particularly gene and protein networks, retroelements, the role of viruses in cellular and multicellular evolution, the origin of life, quantum mechanics, general relativity, St. Augustine’s Confessions, Plato’s The Republic, Aristotle, The Critique of Pure Reason, epistemology, the philosophy of science – or just walking along the beach. Not sure how much time I will have for any of these other interests moving forward, though. Too much is at stake on our getting things right in the next decade or so.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 4 Sep 2007 @ 11:42 AM

  138. Re #127: […we could develop renewable energy sources which would be cheaper in the long-run than what we have now…]

    I think that’s approaching the problem from the wrong direction. Perhaps the biggest factor in the CO2 problem is that energy from fossil fuels is too cheap, which means that most people are inclined to use it almost as if it were free. For instance, how many people would leave outside lights burning all the time, if instead of a few dollars a month, it cost them a few hundred?

    If instead the price of energy increases, people will either find ways to accomplish the same ends with less – daylighting & LEDs will look much more attractive – or decide they don’t really need those decorative lights after all.

    There are many ways in which energy use can be reduced or eliminated without adversely affecting quality of life – sometimes even improving it. (For instance, I’ve read that “daylighting” stores (that is, replacing artificial light with natural) actually increases sales. Alternative energy doesn’t have to be cheap, just available.

    Comment by James — 4 Sep 2007 @ 12:34 PM

  139. When planning for disaster it is important to focus on what has happened, is happening, and probably will happen – not what could happen. Developing countries produce more GHG’s as they develop. A country that has a majority population without a decent roof over their head, good food on the table, transportation, education, medical services, etc, will produce more GHG’s as they acquire these things. And a more secure country means a stronger government, which means more industry and infrastructure. Not only is it logical to think this, you can see it as it is happening. Green technologies have a lot of potential, but right now they are a partial solution – separately or together, and total impact of these technologies has been very marginal.

    Good emissions strategies will be increasingly implemented, but not at the pace of the developing world, and not in time to cap emissions in 2020. Not by a long shot. Reducing emissions to combat global warming is a noble cause, but its potential for success is weak. Why is it touted as the answer?

    Comment by Michael — 4 Sep 2007 @ 1:47 PM

  140. Re #135

    That seems to imply that if I include a URL in my posts, they will take longer to appear than otherwise. If that is correct then this post could appear before the two others I have already posted! Let’s see.

    Comment by Alastair McDonald — 4 Sep 2007 @ 2:36 PM

  141. A good response to the article written by Spencer is vital. In Germany, people start to discuss it. And many people (in the community) think, this could have a serious impact on the discussion. If you do not, many arguments are lost and the credibility of the IPCC could vanish.

    Kind regards and thanks for the good work.

    Keep it up.

    Comment by PeterK — 4 Sep 2007 @ 3:10 PM

  142. My first statement in the last post was poorly formed. I guess another way of saying it is; when planning for global warming, it would be detrimental to assume humanity would suddenly mobilize like we’ve never mobilized in history.

    Comment by Michael — 4 Sep 2007 @ 4:48 PM

  143. Timothy Chase said…
    particularly gene and protein networks

    I have done algorithm implementation for software application in gene and DNA sequencing using HMM (hidden markov model) and SVM (support vector machines). I have also used SVD (singular value decomposition) for analysing protein folding to determine the best morphology of where drug molecules could bind effectively to the protein itself. This is to improve drug treatment. I have moved on from Bio-informatics, now to finance/economics, although the mathematics remain the same. I have come across some published papers where the authors have used HMM & SVM for climate modeling and data analysis.

    Comment by Falafulu Fisi — 4 Sep 2007 @ 5:38 PM

  144. Re #136: Hank Roberts — Ok, I certainly am no chemist. However, the DoE site doesn’t mention any problems, the four (bigger) companies that I know about are all installing pyrolysis units of some size, and there are many smaller units currently in use around the world.

    Here is another web site devoted to terra preta that I just found:

    http://forumsn.hypography.com/terra-preta.html

    This has a sub-forum to discuss problems with terra preta. It might be wise to raise your concerns there, not to mention an e-mail message to the DoE group working of pyrolysis. Far better to make adjustments for problems early on…

    Comment by David B. Benson — 4 Sep 2007 @ 5:50 PM

  145. Oops.

    http://forums.hypography.com/terra-preta.html

    Clumsy keyists, of which I am one, certainly miss the preview function…

    Comment by David B. Benson — 4 Sep 2007 @ 6:22 PM

  146. Re 50,63

    WHOOPS! I forgot something.

    Some heat is converted to kinetic energy during some kinds of overturning (convection, such as small scale mainly vertical motion as in low level convective turbulence (thermals) and cumulus convection, mesoscale convective systems, tropical cyclones, developing baroclinic waves (such as midlatitude cyclones), monsoons, Walker circulation, Hadley cells).

    Of course, kinetic energy cannot simply keep building up; some is dissipated by turbulent mixing and friction – thus becoming heat energy again; some is converted back into the kind of potential energy that can produce kinetic energy.

    Kinetic energy which is produced (from potential energy produced by gradients in radiative and latent heating and cooling) and dissipated within the troposphere returns the heat energy into the troposphere – in a different location, but the globally averaged balance of fluxes at the tropopause will still include that heat energy. However, some kinetic energy produced in the troposphere propogates up into the stratosphere and mesosphere, and at least some of that actually is converted into potential energy which causes gradients in radiative heating and cooling to occur. Some of the kinetic energy must become part of that thermal energy in the process, so this is a way that some of the heat energy from below can/could ‘leapfrog’ into the upper atmosphere and then radiate to space. But how big is that flux compared to the whole energy budget? My guess is it’s a small component. But how small? And how would it change with changes in climate? I’m not sure.

    (
    1. uneven distribution in radiative and latent heating
    2. available potential energy
    3. kinetic energy
    4. frictional dissipation into heat

    1 can go to 2, 3, 4, but 3 can go to 2 and then 1 as well)

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 4 Sep 2007 @ 7:03 PM

  147. The creation of terra preta soils as a means of carbon sequestation is fine on a domestic scale – bury the ashes from your fire-place. But for agrichar / terra preta to have any application in terms of global climate we are talking about burying what – 0.7kg of carbon for every kg of CO2 emitted by every fuel-burning source on the planet. For a start it will require huge amounts MORE fuel use to transport the carbon and even more to work it into the soil. If we then look at climate changes and the sites for furture growing of crops that will tollerate the climates we have huge haul distances from power stations to soil areas.

    Basically its a nice feel-good idea, but its rubbish. Move on.

    Comment by Nigel Williams — 4 Sep 2007 @ 8:36 PM

  148. Falafulu Fisi said…
    I have come across some published papers where the authors have used HMM & SVM for climate modeling and data analysis.

    Here is a paper (abstract only) that uses SVM for climate modeling and analysis. I haven’t read it yet.

    “Downscaling precipitation to river basin in India for IPCC SRES scenarios using support vector machine (SVM)”

    http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/abstract/114279108/ABSTRACT

    Comment by Falafulu Fisi — 4 Sep 2007 @ 10:00 PM

  149. David (144),

    You might be interested in Eprida, an agrichar company in Georgia.

    Comment by Chris Dudley — 4 Sep 2007 @ 10:35 PM

  150. Does anyone know if the General Circulation Models system use any dimensional reduction algorithm? Is the number of variables (dimensions) are in the million plus?

    Comment by Falafulu Fisi — 4 Sep 2007 @ 10:45 PM

  151. Re #139: [Reducing emissions to combat global warming is a noble cause, but its potential for success is weak. Why is it touted as the answer?]

    Err… Because it’s the only thing anyone knows about that A) might work; and B) doesn’t involve killing some billions of people. Why is this so hard to understand?

    Comment by James — 4 Sep 2007 @ 11:09 PM

  152. Falafulu Fisi (#148)

    Here is a paper (abstract only) that uses SVM for climate modeling and analysis. I haven’t read it yet.

    “Downscaling precipitation to river basin in India for IPCC SRES scenarios using support vector machine (SVM)”

    Support vector machine gets described as a feed-forward neural network in some articles, but others speak of neural network support vector machine hybrids.

    Interesting stuff.

    The downscaling of precipitation is to compensate for the coarsed-grained nature of climate models. However, support vector machine is also being used for six to nine month forecasts of airstream flow, classification of images (although it would appear cloud detection can use a simple quadratic function – no need to swat a fly with a hand grenade), tornado prediction and detection, soil moisture prediction, crop yield prediction, determining correlations between aerosols and their environment, etc.. A tool to consider wherever raw data exists in a great abundance, but we might otherwise lack the resources for integrating that data into what most concerns us.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 5 Sep 2007 @ 2:23 AM

  153. You will find a short section on statistical downscaling in Chapter 2 of Working Group II, thereby showing evidence there is more to the IPCC than Working Group I.

    Chapter 2 deals with the use of climate information in impact, adaptation and vulnerability (IAV) assessments. Severe space restrictions meant that an adequate discussion of the value of methods for specific purposes is not available.

    Chapter 2 also contains a useful figure (2.6) that shows that although the number of models has expanded appreciably (almost x3) the range of projected regional temperature has contracted. Rainfall is a more mixed bag.

    I’m only ok with using downscaling in IAV assessments where it is warranted. Unless there is a bias, or regional detail that is consistent across a cohort of models or reasonable theoretical or observational reasons for suspecting that is the case, one is better off to explore the broad range of uncertainties directly from model output, using Bayesian methods to assess how sensitivie the results are to underlying assumptions. Of course, downscaling can be testing within the same framework, and must be if your interest is extreme rainfall and flooding, for example.

    For further information on the application of different methods go here

    Comment by Roger Jones — 5 Sep 2007 @ 4:09 AM

  154. [[Reducing emissions to combat global warming is a noble cause, but its potential for success is weak. Why is it touted as the answer?]]

    Because there isn’t any other answer. Either we massively reduce CO2 emissions in the next 8-10 years, or we will trip geophysical feedbacks like seabed clathrates and permafrost GHGs that will make the problem bad enough to seriously affect human civilization.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 5 Sep 2007 @ 7:21 AM

  155. Re 139. Michael, You seem to be assuming that future development must follow the course of past development. This is demonstrably not the case. Communications used to be dependent on phone lines and on the companies that laid them. Now, in India, everything is wireless, and many villages are free of the corrupt and inefficient state telephone monopoly. Likewise, it would make much more sense for rural villages to be able to generate their own power from photovoltaics rather than waiting for the grid to reach out to them. In Brazil, which has a model rural electrification project, it made more sense to bring in deisel fuel by boat rather than string wires to remote villages. The main obstacle to using solar instead is the lack of good, inexpensive storage technologies–probably not an insurmountable technical obstacle.
    Even if they are very energy efficient, developing economies will likely increase energy consumption as they develop. It is largely up to the technologically advanced countries whether that increase will cause a rise in ghg emissions or whether we will assist developing nations in implementing carbon-neutral strategies.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 5 Sep 2007 @ 7:39 AM

  156. Barton,
    How likely is it that we would release the carbon in the clathrates? Since they are in the deep cold ocean, it would take quite awhile before they would become unstable, I would think. It is a huge heat reservoir and heat transport to the ocean depths is quite slow (one reason why the atmosphere heats up so quickly). I’m afraid the permafrost if probably a done deal, along with decreased solubility of CO2 in warmer surface waters.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 5 Sep 2007 @ 8:10 AM

  157. Re #142 Michael: [when planning for global warming, it would be detrimental to assume humanity would suddenly mobilize like we’ve never mobilized in history.]

    I’m not assuming it, nor have I seen anyone here doing so. I most certainly am saying we must do it, or risk catastrophe. Nor do I think it impossible: now is not like any other time in history, both because all those with an interest in what happens more than 20-30 years in the future now have, objectively, a vital common interest in cutting emissions; and because the institutional structures and communications technologies we have available for mobilisation are unparalleled. In fact, however, we have seen the intensity of mobilisation we need on transnational and “transideological” scales before – in World War 2.

    You seem strangely shy of bringing out your alternative to working for fast and deep emissions cuts. If it’s just “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” OK, there are plenty who will join you, but why waste your time on this board? If it’s something else, let us into the secret. We’d love to have a feasible alternative, or complementary strategy.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 5 Sep 2007 @ 8:57 AM

  158. Michael wrote:

    “Developing countries produce more GHG’s as they develop.”

    You assert this but offer no reason why it must be true. Certainly some developing countries are increasing their GHG emissions as they develop, notably China and India. But this is the result of their decisions to develop along environmentally unsound, unsustainable energy technology paths, eg. building large numbers of coal-fired electrical generation plants. But this development path not only threatens the entire world with climate change, it threatens the very economic development that it ostensibly enables. This is well understood in China, where the environmental effects of increased pollution from burning coal, and indeed from global warming, are already having severe negative effects on economic development.

    There are alternative climate-friendly energy development paths available to both China and India that don’t have these negative consequences for the Earth’s climate or for those countries’ long-term economic development that are the subject of much discussion in both countries, particularly in China where the central government is seriously engaged in promoting clean & sustainable economic development through energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.

    And in other parts of the developing world which have even greater need for energy, such as southern Africa, and for that matter rural areas of India and China, conventional GHG-intensive energy production, such as large scale electrical grids powered by large centralized coal or nuclear power plants, are not even a possibility. There is no money available to construct such systems. That’s why small-scale distributed photovoltaic electricity generation is growing exponentially in the developing world.

    Essentially, you are begging the questions of the extent to which improving human well-being in the developing world depends on increased energy production and consumption, and whether such increased energy production necessarily requires increased GHG emissions. You argue that it does, but the only evidence you offer to support that argument is the assertion that it does.

    Michael wrote:

    “A country that has a majority population without a decent roof over their head, good food on the table, transportation, education, medical services, etc, will produce more GHG’s as they acquire these things.”

    Again, you assert this but offer no reason why it must be true. As others have pointed out, the references to “education” and “medical services” are non sequiturs — there is no link between either education or medical services and increased energy use, let alone increased GHG emissions. And as others have also pointed out, much poverty in the developed world is rooted in inequitable distribution of existing resources, rather than an actual shortage of resources, and the solutions are social and political — neither of which produce more GHG emissions.

    Michael wrote:

    “Reducing emissions to combat global warming is a noble cause, but its potential for success is weak. Why is it touted as the answer?”

    What other answer is there? What other answer do you propose? It may be that the likelihood that humanity as a whole will actually reduce GHG emissions enough, soon enough, to avert a global climate cataclysm is small. I tend to think so, particularly given that GHG emissions continue to not only increase but are accelerating. But as others have pointed out, there is no other answer. If humanity chooses not to reduce emissions, that won’t make some other easier answer magically appear. It will lead to global catastrophe.

    One last comment about this line of argument. The argument that efforts to mitigate global warming by reducing GHG emissions will prevent economic growth in the developing world and thus harm millions of poor people is spurious. Every international body concerned with improving the well-being of poor people in the developing world, eg. the Millennium Development Goals, has said that such efforts will be undermined and thwarted by the effects of global warming. Regional climate projections (the topic of this thread) strongly suggest that billions of poor people in the developing world will suffer the most from the effects of global warming. Reducing GHG emissions is the ONLY available way to mitigate anthropogenic global warming and doing so is therefore essential to any hopes of improving the well being of people in the developing world, not a hindrance to it.

    But what is even MORE spurious is that this argument is often offered as a justification for rich countries to continue emitting GHGs. The argument seems to be that (1) poor people in the developing world need more energy in order to have more economic development and improve their well-being, and (2) producing this additional energy will necessarily entail increasing GHG emissions from developing countries, therefore (3) rich people in the USA and other rich countries should continue driving SUVs, living in poorly-insulated McMansions, etc.

    That is absurd. Anyone in the USA who really cares about the well-being of people in the developing world and accepts points (1) and (2) above — and I reject point (2) — should embrace the opposite of point (3), and insist that if economic growth in the developing world necessarily will result in increased GHG emissions, then people in the rich world have all the more reason to do whatever is necessary to reduce their own GHG emissions.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 5 Sep 2007 @ 10:21 AM

  159. Chris Dudley(149) — Thank you.

    Nigel Williams(147) — Use bio-fuels. The pyrolysis produces such as well as char. And actually, I am thinking of an even larger scale sequestration than you mention, about 2 Gt of carbon for every 1 Gt of fossil carbon burned.

    The char need not be worked into the soils. Bury it in abandoned mines, even open-pit ones.

    Anyway, I do encourage you to follow

    http://biopact.com

    Comment by David B. Benson — 5 Sep 2007 @ 11:49 AM

  160. Maybe even better is biocoal, via hydrothermal carbonisation:

    http://biopact.com/2007/05/green-designer-coal-more-on.html

    Comment by David B. Benson — 5 Sep 2007 @ 12:32 PM

  161. > clathrates? Since they are in the deep cold ocean,
    > it would take quite awhile before they would become unstable

    Til the oceans are about as warm as they were at the end of the last ice age, it appears. At which point if ocean pH hadn’t already killed off much of the plankton, the big jump in methane could. Large consequence event, as I read what’s available.

    http://ethomas.web.wesleyan.edu/ees123/clathrate199.htm

    As I read it, methane is bubbling out now, probably reached a peak rate of emission at the end of the last ice age and had started to simmer down as the ocean began to cool down and allow more clathrate to form than bubbled off — it’s a continuous process, with a rate reversal some 10,000 years ago — but as we warm the surface water and permafrost up past where it was 10k years ago, we can expect more emission. Look at the pages mentioning the Storegga slide.

    This is really new stuff.
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2005/12/methane-hydrates-and-global-warming/
    http://geosci.uchicago.edu/~archer/reprints/buffett.2004.clathrates.pdf

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 5 Sep 2007 @ 12:34 PM

  162. Here’s a nice paper showing how areas where methane is bubbling to the surface can be studied — a remotely operated vehicle visited pockmarks on the seafloor. Fig.6 shows sonar scans of the mud below show areas where columns of gas are rising through the sediment that haven’t yet broken the surface to create further pockmarks
    http://www.martech-institute.org/site/index.php?id=63

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 5 Sep 2007 @ 12:41 PM

  163. Ray Ladbury (#156) wrote:

    Barton,
    How likely is it that we would release the carbon in the clathrates? Since they are in the deep cold ocean, it would take quite awhile before they would become unstable, I would think. It is a huge heat reservoir and heat transport to the ocean depths is quite slow (one reason why the atmosphere heats up so quickly). I’m afraid the permafrost if probably a done deal, along with decreased solubility of CO2 in warmer surface waters.

    There are shallow water methane hydrates, particularly up north, Siberia for example. Some just below freezing. A degree will make a difference for some of it, but it should be gradual. And it is certainly worth keeping in mind that whatever gets leaked has a half-life of about 40 years before degrading to CO2.

    This has some on it:
    Rasslin’ swamp gas
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/10/rasslin-swamp-gas/

    However, some are showing up at much shallower depths than expected off of Canada:

    In the fall of 2005, the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) Expedition 311 established a transect (consisting of four deep research core holes) on the northern Cascadia margin off the west coast of Canada, which extends across the entire region of gas hydrate occurrence (Figure 1). In addition to the transect, a fifth site was cored within an active cold vent located along the transect.

    Among the most significant findings of the expedition was an increased understanding of how gas hydrate occurs in nature. Particularly, the occurrence at Sites U1326 and U1327 of up to 20-meter-thick sand-rich intervals with gas hydrate concentrations locally exceeding 50% of the pore space was unexpected (Figure 2). Moreover, these anomalous gas hydrate intervals occur at unexpectedly shallow depths of 50–120 meters below seafloor (mbsf), which is the opposite of what was expected from existing models of gas hydrate formation in accretionary complexes.

    Gas Hydrate Transect Across
    Northern Cascadia Margin
    M. Riedel, et al
    Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union, Vol. 87, No. 33, Page 325, 2006

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 5 Sep 2007 @ 1:48 PM

  164. Timothy Chase said…
    A tool to consider wherever raw data exists in a great abundance.

    That’s true. Support Vector Machine (SVM) is a very popular algorithm in the domain of Machine Learning (ML). It is widely adopted in different areas such as speech recognition, robotics, spam-filter, search engine, image processing, data classification (pattern recognition), data approximation (regression), computer network intrusion detection, data-mining, text-mining and many more. It is only recent that I have noted that the research communities in climate science have picked up on it and start using it for analysis. SVM has been around since the early 1990s. Also, the majority of the statistics community haven’t picked up on it yet.

    There are lots of different algorithms in ML that would be of interest to climate modeling, but I think that climate researchers have not picked up on some of those algorithms yet. Eg, PCA (principle component analysis) is a linear method and it is still the popular method for climate data analysis today, however there is a more robust version which is called k-PCA (kernel PCA), a non-linear method and this algorithm has been available in the journal of machine learning since 1998.

    The Journal of Machine Learning Research (JMLR) have made all their papers freely available online to download.

    “Journal of Machine Learning Research”
    http://jmlr.csail.mit.edu/papers/

    Here is another popular freely downloadable research papers in machine learning, from the “Neural Information Processing Systems” (NIPS). You can click on any volume from any year to download a title that might of interest.

    “Neural Information Processing Systems”
    http://books.nips.cc/

    Occasionally, I see some papers related to climate modeling and data-analysis that are being published in the machine learning literatures, prior to being picked up in climate research journals. Eg, a popular algorithm in machine learning called ICA (independent component analysis), a linear method that has been available in the machine learning literatures since the early 1990s, but researchers in climate had just picked up on it over recent years, such as the following paper (see link below). Again, ICA hasn’t penetrated the statistics literatures yet. It is still not widely known in the statistics community yet.

    “Rotation of EOFs by the Independent Component Analysis: Toward a Solution of the Mixing Problem in the Decomposition of Geophysical Time Series.”

    http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2002JAtS…59..111A

    The links for JMLR and NIPS free resources are useful links for climate researchers.

    Comment by Falafulu Fisi — 5 Sep 2007 @ 1:48 PM

  165. Re 132
    I have not gone through all agrichar/biochar info, but I am certainly not seeing anything like the kind of environmental impact statemant required for a rational consideration of broad public policy. I have not even been able to find a good analysis of the products.

    See http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/phs69.html and read on to sources of PAH

    Comment by Aaron Lewis — 5 Sep 2007 @ 2:40 PM

  166. Third world countries have an increasing GHG graph as they develop and decrease their poverty. I agree there are many cases where a developing society can cause a reduction in GHG emissions. But the rule is: less poverty equals in increase in GHG’s, by far. Less poverty leading to a decrease in GHG’s is the exception, by far.

    Education and medical facilities don’t need big industry, but as a rule they support and are supported by big industry. Facilities for a minor education can include water, sewer, electrical services, construction and architecture for the building, publishers for textbooks, equipment for clearing and grading land for playing fields, transportation for the students, fire and police services, sources for basic scientific instruments, etc.

    All you really need is a teacher, a student, and maybe a pad and pencil, find a spot under an oak tree in a field, and you could do the job. But this is not always reality. It is rarely the reality. And even if it starts out this way, it has the tendency toward more students, and a better, safer study environment. The worldwide average primary school is responsible for significant GHG’s. A secondary school even more so. Understand there are shining examples of how large schools can have very low GHG emissions. But this is how it SHOULD be done, not how it IS done.

    Before I say anything else, SecularAnimist, do you have any general objections to these generalities?

    Comment by Michael — 5 Sep 2007 @ 3:09 PM

  167. >>Falafulu Fisi Says:
    3 September 2007 at 8:33 PM

    >I am starting to think that RealClimate regards me as either a pain in the ass or a threat in the debate >here.

    Falafulu, please publish your work in peer-reviewed journals if you think you have new evidence.

    Otherwise, your arguments are specious (err, eg. speculative and unsubstantiated, and quite useless). This is not the place to bring up scientific debate (there’s no one here to referee for deliberate falsehoods or scientifically flawed, weak thinking)…my teen niece’s comments have as much value as yours on this subject in this medium.

    …And yes, contrary ideas are published (if they have merit) in the peer-reviewed literature such as Lindzen’s “iris effect” and Von Storch’s question about part of the “hockey stick” (both of which were
    found to be scientifically unviable).

    Comment by Richard Ordway — 5 Sep 2007 @ 3:28 PM

  168. Aaron Lewis(161) — Thank you. I have placed an inquiry with the DoE EERE (Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy) Biomass Program. Also, there is a bit of information together with some references into the supporting literature regarding aromatic carbon compounds in bio char to be found here:

    http://www.css.cornell.edu/faculty/lehmann/publ/MitAdaptStratGlobChange%2011,%20403-427,%20Lehmann,%202006.pdf

    I also have seen nothing like an EIS. (Before today or yesterday, I hadn’t realized that one ought to be generated.)

    Comment by David B. Benson — 5 Sep 2007 @ 3:49 PM

  169. Falafulu — remember, click “reload” or “refresh” in your browser — I’m still noticing (Firefox, Windows) that some threads (not all of them, strangely, but some) open missing the last few responses when viewed. Reloading the page makes sure you’re seeing the latest responses, possibly including those you think aren’t being allowed.

    Most everyone replying to you here is a reader like yourself, with no particular qualifications. Only the Contributors (listed in the right column) can make inline responses. Else it’s a conversation, not some institution you could be at odds with. You’re part of a crowd.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 5 Sep 2007 @ 5:05 PM

  170. BioChar, lumps of carbon, whatever, it still doesnt work. In every decent analysis of sequestation Ive seen, for every ky of fuel burned it takes about another half kg of energy to get the carbon into a form we can grab hold of. Then there is the issue of transporting it to where its to be disposed of and restraining it in that place, which – I suspect – will take almost another half a kg. So in the end nature has her way, and it costs us as much to get carbon back down the hole as it does to get it out. ie Energy extracted by cracking the carbon-based fuel is similar to the energy required to get the carbon out of the emissions back into lumps or liquids we can handle and then to put it down the hole (often the same hole it came out of!). So it becomes a zero game.

    We have to stop using GHG-impacting fuels at all. Its that simple. Just Stop It!

    Comment by Nigel Williams — 5 Sep 2007 @ 5:22 PM

  171. Nigel Williams(169) — Biopact states not so. Bioenergy is carbon-neutral. There is, potentially, an ample supply, over 4 times as much energy as mankind currently uses from all sources, according to them.

    The fact of ample photosynthesis means that responsible folk can sequester the fossil carbon that others have burned. The exact costs are unknown to me, but biocoal is competitive with fossil coal in West and East Frisia, The Netherlands and Germany, where a group is building a pilot facility to produce 70,000 tonnes of biocoal per year.

    If indeed it costs about the same amount to produce and sequester as fossil coal costs to mine and ship, then in the US the carbon tax for coal needs to be about $33 per ton. That covers the costs and also strongly encourages fossil coal consumers to convert to biocoal.

    Most of this comes from

    http://biopact.com

    and is not original…

    Comment by David B. Benson — 5 Sep 2007 @ 5:49 PM

  172. Ominous climate news for S.E. Australia…

    Source: http://www.bom.gov.au/announcements/media_releases/climate/drought/20070903.shtml

    Quote:

    “Despite the rapid demise of the 2006 El Niño event, the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) is still to see a sustained period of above average rainfall in the intervening period. This is the first time in the record dating from 1900 that an El Niño-drought in the MDB has not been followed by at least one three-month period with above normal rainfall (basin average) by the end of the following winter. Almost the entire basin shows well below average rainfall for periods starting in 2006.”

    Comment by Lawrence McLean — 5 Sep 2007 @ 8:15 PM

  173. Re: 166 Michael: ” I agree there are many cases where a developing society can cause a reduction in GHG emissions. But the rule is: less poverty equals in increase in GHG’s, by far. Less poverty leading to a decrease in GHG’s is the exception, by far.”

    Of course that’s been the rule so far, but then before now there has been no reason to even consider developing by any other route. Now there is a very pressing reason to do so. To argue that we are bound by how progress has been achieved in the past is to argue that there is no hope in finding a solution to anthropogenic climate change. Few here are willing to throw in the towel that easily.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 5 Sep 2007 @ 9:12 PM

  174. Michael, a couple of points. I agree that in an environment like W. Africa, India, etc., development will correlate with rising energy consumption–but that does not HAVE TO correlate with rising GHG emissions. Indeed, with Western assistance, we can ensure it does not.
    Second, having done science teacher training in W. Africa, your characterization is a bit simplistic. The type of education a country supports is critical to its development. China traditionally supported primary education, and this has led to a highly trained workforce. India emphasized higher education, and so has a very lopsided workforce. These choices have influenced the type of development the two countries have had. West African countries to date have tended to neglect both primary and higher education, leading to a severe brain drain. When I was in Africa, the governments were starting to try to improve science education–moving toward a more experiential model rather than “chalk and talk”. There is nothing in any of this that need necessarily lead to increased energy consumption.

    Comment by ray ladbury — 5 Sep 2007 @ 9:40 PM

  175. Ray–

    I’m not sure why you think western assistance can ensure that economic development in west africa does not result in vastly increased GHG emissions. I’m not trying to be critical, I’m just uninformed. What energy sources do we have in the west that can sustain development without GHG emissions?

    Comment by A.C. — 5 Sep 2007 @ 10:17 PM

  176. Hi A.C, Most Africans and Indians live in villages. African and some Indian villages are still several years away from any hope of being on their country’s grid. The choices made for supplying energy and transportation infrastructure to these people will have consequences into the indefinite future. If we can supply their needs with renewable energy sources (mainly solar and wind), we will help lift them out of poverty while actually reducing their carbon footprint (their main energy sources now are charcoal, which results in deforestation). However, the choices these countries and people make will be driven by availability, technical issues (especialy energy storage) and cost. These are all issues we could help them with and thereby tilt the balance in favor of renewables.

    Comment by ray ladbury — 6 Sep 2007 @ 4:46 AM

  177. Hank Roberts said…
    Else it’s a conversation, not some institution you could be at odds with. You’re part of a crowd.

    Yes, Hank, I know that I am part of the crowd, however the RealClimate admin has selectively published some of my comments (ones where I haven’t mentioned about climate feedback theory) and rejected most (ones where I have raised the feedback theory).

    I had responded to Richard Ordway’s (#167) post directed at me, but the admin didn’t choose to publish it. Now, the admin has a right not to publish my comments, but if the admin selectively published some and rejected some, with no reason at all given. The rejected ones were not personal attack at all. They were about science of feedback theory and yet they were rejected for no reasons.

    Comment by Falafulu Fisi — 6 Sep 2007 @ 6:16 AM

  178. [[I’m not sure why you think western assistance can ensure that economic development in west africa does not result in vastly increased GHG emissions. I’m not trying to be critical, I’m just uninformed. What energy sources do we have in the west that can sustain development without GHG emissions?]]

    Solar thermal power. Photovoltaics. Wind power. Geothermal power, both site-specific and Hot Dry Rock. Ocean thermal power. Wave and tidal power in specific locations. Biomass for liquid fuels.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 6 Sep 2007 @ 8:05 AM

  179. To amplify on my earlier comments and those of Barton, the isolated nature of many populations in the developing world makes renewable energy sources competitive with fossil fuels economically because it is cheaper to bring in solar panels, windmills, etc. than to bring wires in from more inhabited areas. Brazil’s rural electrification project resolved the issue of bringing power to remote areas by installing diesel generators and bringing in fuel by boat on the rivers and then over short road trips. However, renewables are more attractive now.
    A non-grid electric supply poses its own problems–chief among them reliability and energy storage. These need to be worked out if these approaches are to be viable. However, there is a possibility of making a huge dent in future ghg emissions if we act now. The advantage to the developing countries is considerable–cheap, clean power soon. The advantage to us is a more sustainable world in the future as we wean ourselves off of fossil fuels.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 6 Sep 2007 @ 8:47 AM

  180. Michael wrote: “Before I say anything else, SecularAnimist, do you have any general objections to these generalities?”

    Only the same objection that I already mentioned: you base your argument on various factual assertions — eg. “The worldwide average primary school is responsible for significant GHG’s” — without offering any evidence that these claims are, in fact, true. Where is your data on worldwide GHG emissions from primary schools on which you base that claim? Or is this something that you “just know” is true?

    Plus the other objections that I previously mentioned:

    1. You are begging the question of whether economic growth and the improvement of human well-being in the developing world necessarily requires increased GHG emissions from the developing world. You argue that it does, but all you offer in support of your argument is the assertion that it does.

    2. You ignore the implications of regional climate change projections which strongly indicate that economic growth in the developing world will be undermined, thwarted and reversed by climate change, suggesting that mitigating climate change is not a hindrance to, but absolutely essential to, any hopes of improving human well-being in the developing world.

    3. Regardless of whether increased energy production in developing countries necessarily leads to increased GHG emissions from developing countries, that is no argument against rich countries reducing their GHG emissions. To the contrary, it is an argument that people like you and me who are fortunate to live in the developed, industrialized world, should do everything we possibly can to reduce our GHG emissions, particularly since we — and our societies including both government and the private sector — have the technical and economic resources to do so, and since we are responsible for by far the vast majority of anthropogenic GHG emissions to date. Moreover, we should do everything we possibly can to assist the developing world to follow a climate-friendly and environmentally sustainable path to increased energy production and economic growth.

    In summary, my objections are that your argument is not grounded in fact, and is unsound. I suggest you should rethink it.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 6 Sep 2007 @ 8:53 AM

  181. Falafulu — I’m just a reader, but my suggestion is — put your ideas that aren’t obviously part of climate science on your own website (you can get one free lots of places including Google) and people will find them who are interested.

    Carefully read the guidelines from the main page, those seem very important to what appears. You might do better once you’ve established your reputation and expertise on your own page. If what you want to teach isn’t recognized as needed by climatology, it’d be even more important to establish what it is coherently in one place on your own.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 Sep 2007 @ 9:57 AM

  182. As western countries wean themselves from fossil fuels, fossil fuels will get cheaper and cheaper. It will be difficult to dissuade poorer countries from using them.

    The world is going to need some new rules.

    Comment by J.C.H. — 6 Sep 2007 @ 9:58 AM

  183. 177

    Yes, Hank, I know that I am part of the crowd, however the RealClimate admin has selectively published some of my comments (ones where I haven’t mentioned about climate feedback theory) and rejected most (ones where I have raised the feedback theory).
    ======================

    An observation

    That is an interesting accusation. I’ve been following this site for years now and I don’t recall anyone making this type of accusation. Historically, the moderators let pretty much everyone have their say so long as they play nice and follow the rules.

    Of course, if they really wanted you to be censored, I would assume they could simply cut you off, particularly if they didn’t want to deal with the ongoing embarrassment of being accused of the type of censorship you are complaining about.

    Yet here you are.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 6 Sep 2007 @ 10:05 AM

  184. J. C. H., what you are ignoring is the fact that energy infrastructure is more important (and costly) than fuel. If developing nations choose a renewable-energy infrastructure, this will pay dividends into the indefinite future, as they will be unlikely to abandon this infrastructure regardless of how cheap fossil fuel becomes. In any case, I think we are in no danger of seeing fossil fuel prices fall any time soon. Our own infrastructure will probably keep us using oil for transport if nothing else and coal-fired power plants are unlikely to be shut down short of their useful lifetime. My goal is to try to meet the growth in energy demand with renewables and conservation and make whatever cuts we can as this becomes feasible.
    My point is that for many applications non-ghg generating technologies are close to competitive, and small actions/gestures could tip the balance in their favor, with benefits to both us and developing countries.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 6 Sep 2007 @ 11:08 AM

  185. My argument is: Reducing emissions will not make a bit of difference.

    My argument is not: Reducing emissions is a bad idea, reducing emissions never helps, the guy with the air conditioned garages, heated driveways and three Escalades deserves a medal.

    SecularAnimist: My arguments here are an exercise in logic, based on personal experience, my observances of human nature, and common sense. If you want statistics, studies or data, do your own legwork. If your arguments can’t stand on their own, there is no sense in engaging me.

    I am not saying human development necessarily requires increased GHG emissions. On the contrary I offer my example of the teacher and student with nothing but a pad and paper and the blue sky. I am totally with you on the necessity argument; but my argument has to do with tendency.

    Jim Eager: I don’t offer another solution, I am here looking for answers. I would like someone disqualify the statement: if you want to solve our problem, don’t look to reducing emissions, if you want to reduce emissions, don’t expect it to solve our problem. The consequences of what we have done to the planet are far too gradual to activate the human ‘Oh ****’ response. (Insert lame frog in boiling water or leading a horse to water analogy) Our children will see the brunt. To get the vector on the graph to take a sharp right turn, it would take a catastrophic event on the order of an asteroid or a 9/11.

    Comment by Michael — 6 Sep 2007 @ 1:11 PM

  186. A.C.(175) and subsequent posters — Again I encourage you to follow the articles on

    http://biopact.com

    to obtain some conception of how bioenergy is already beginning to transform the lives of the world’s poorest, and in a carbon-neutral (and sometimes carbon-negative) manner.

    While it is true that this cylces more carbon dioxide through the atmosphere, it is being pulled out by photosynthesis at least as fast as it is being added.

    Bioenergy is not just liquid fuels for transportation. It is bio-methane and bio-coal for heating, bio-char for soil conditioning, etc. A primary advantage is that the processes of converting biomass into bioenergy forms are all rather low-tech, although often with some recent improvements.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 6 Sep 2007 @ 2:37 PM

  187. Hank Roberts said…
    put your ideas that aren’t obviously part of climate science on your own website

    Hank, I think that feedback control theory is pretty much part of climate science. See the following reference.

    “Inferring instantaneous, multivariate and nonlinear sensitivities for the analysis of feedback processes in a dynamical system: Lorenz model case-study”
    http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/docs/2003/2003_Aires_Rossow.pdf

    J.S.McIntyre said…
    Historically, the moderators let pretty much everyone have their say so long as they play nice and follow the rules.

    Yes, I do follow the rules. I am new here, but that is not the point. Gavin censored one of my post last week, and he explained why, so I learnt not to do that again.

    Comment by Falafulu Fisi — 6 Sep 2007 @ 3:36 PM

  188. Government Accountability Project (GAP)
    Free Speech for Climate Scientists – Free Conference Call

    Wednesday, September 12th, 6:00 – 7:00 PM.

    Featuring Rick Piltz, Director of Climate Science Watch and federal climate science whistleblower,
    & Tarek Maasarani, GAP staff Attorney and co-author of Atmosphere of Pressure and Redacting the Science of Climate Change.

    To register for this call, email Richard Kim-Solloway at richards@whistleblower.org
    To listen to our previous calls, visit http://www.whistleblower.org/template/page.cfm?page_id=188

    Background: As the second category 5 hurricane in as many weeks devastates Central America – the first time two such severe storms have made landfall in one season since 1886 – attention has sharply returned to questions over the imminent threat posed by climate change.

    But while scientific opinion has reached a strong consensus on the seriousness of the changes and the role of human emissions in causing them, scientists working for Agencies like NASA have reported having their views suppressed and altered by appointees with no scientific training and a brief to promote the policies of the Bush Administration.

    In 2005, GAP helped Rick Piltz – then a senior staffer in the U.S Climate Change Science Program – blow the whistle on the White House’s improper editing and censorship of scientific reports on global warming intended for the public and Congress.

    GAP helped Rick release two major reports to The New York Times that documented the actual hand-editing by Chief of Staff Philip Cooney – a lawyer and former climate team leader with the American Petroleum Institute – thereby launching a media frenzy that resulted in the resignation of the “former” lobbyist, who left to work for ExxonMobil.

    With Piltz’ leadership GAP has launched Climate Science Watch, a GAP program that reaches out to scientists, helps them fight off censorship, and brings to light the continued politicization of environmental science. He is also featured in the award-winning documentary, Everything’s Cool.

    GAP also represented Dr. James Hansen, one of the world’s top climate scientists, who blew the whistle on NASA’s attempts to silence him. Hansen’s disclosures led GAP Staff Attorney, Tarek Massarani, to conduct a year-long investigation that found objectionable and possibly illegal restrictions on the communication of scientific information to the media.

    His findings, summarized in Redacting the Science of Climate Change, included examples of the delaying, monitoring, screening, and denying of interviews, as well as the delay, denial, and inappropriate editing of press releases.

    GAP also released a joint Atmosphere of Pressure report with the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) that combined GAP’s investigative reporting and legal analysis with the results of a UCS survey of federal climate scientists. The reports received broad national attention and have already been presented in testimony at two congressional oversight hearings.

    Comment by Govt Accountability Project — 6 Sep 2007 @ 3:46 PM

  189. Re #185: [I would like someone disqualify the statement: if you want to solve our problem, don’t look to reducing emissions, if you want to reduce emissions, don’t expect it to solve our problem.]

    I don’t think anyone could honestly refute that statement. However, you can look at the situation from another direction. Take the statement “By reducing emissions sufficiently, and using other remediation techniques, it’s possible to reduce atmospheric CO2 to levels that will at least mitigate some of the worst effects of AGW. No other effective/acceptable mitigation techniques are known”. That is (AFAIK, anyway) very probably a true statement, no?

    Given that, you can either try to reduce emissions (and persuade others to do so), or do nothing. If you try, you may or may not succeed. If you don’t try, failure is guaranteed. Seems like a pretty easy choice to me.

    Comment by James — 6 Sep 2007 @ 4:53 PM

  190. re 185

    You wrote: My argument is: Reducing emissions will not make a bit of difference.

    My argument is not: Reducing emissions is a bad idea, reducing emissions never helps…

    (I cut off the last part of your sentence as it is superfluous and, in relation to the first part, a bit of a non sequitur.)

    Please explain how your claimed argument differs from the first two phrases of the argument you claim you are not making.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 6 Sep 2007 @ 4:57 PM

  191. Re 185 – well, you do have something of a point about human behavior with regards to a slow moving threat. But aren’t at least some people smart enough and motivated enought to eat an at least somewhat healty diet and get some exercise (even some who have not already had a heart attack or stroke) – if people can do that, maybe they can be moved to respond to the threat of anthropogenic global warming. (It doesn’t have to be entirely voluntary – ultimately people have to volunteer to initiate policy agreements, but under those agreements, we would have commitments to each other, so that person A would feel more secure knowing that his/her efforts would not be for naught as person B carries on bussiness as usual (this commitment could be in the form of an emissions tax (with some agreement about the revenue allocation), which would leave individuals free to decide how much they want to spend on any given good or service, etc.).)

    Reducing emissions, or at least reducing them from what they would otherwise grow to, will have an effect on climate.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 6 Sep 2007 @ 5:12 PM

  192. Michael, you might be interested in a new book by Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine about how it is easier to introduce wholesale change after a disaster. Unfortunately, it tends to be the bad guys who benefit from disasters.

    Comment by Holly Stick — 6 Sep 2007 @ 5:54 PM

  193. The link didn’t work for me, here it is:
    http://www.cbc.ca/cp/entertainment/070902/e090206A.html

    and a quote:

    “Instead, she says, societies made vulnerable by natural disasters, war or other traumatic upheavals are increasingly being exploited by predatory capitalists who use the dislocation for their own profit-making ends.

    The takeover of Iraq’s oil fields by western multinationals after the U.S.-led invasion, the sale of tsunami-wrecked beaches in Sri Lanka to luxury resort operators, the privatization of New Orleans public schools after the flood, and the establishment of a privatized homeland security apparatus after 9-11 are all examples, she says…”

    Comment by Holly Stick — 6 Sep 2007 @ 5:56 PM

  194. Michael said (#185): “My arguments here are an exercise in logic, based on personal experience, my observances of human nature, and common sense. If you want statistics, studies or data, do your own legwork. If your arguments can’t stand on their own, there is no sense in engaging me.”

    So is it unfair of me to translate this as “Well, I really haven’t done much research on this, but this is what I think and I’m a logical thinker, so it must be right?” Michael, could it be that maybe your experience could be incomplete. For instance, have you ever been to a developing country? Have you studied the cases of development in India, for instance, where the tech-heavy nature of the trend has produced large increases in the middle class with a smaller increase in energy consumption than, say, China, where development has been more industry intensive? Have you looked at issues of rural electrification in the face of increasing prices for not only fuel, but also copper, making a “wireless” energy solution much more appealing?
    So, you may be right that humans are incapable of engineering growth while reducing ghg emissions, but if you are it is because the bulge of neurons on the top of our spinal chord has made us no more fit for survival than a colony of bacteria in a bottle. I would prefer to hope otherwise.

    Comment by ray ladbury — 6 Sep 2007 @ 8:10 PM

  195. Re #186 – Biofuels

    David Benson:

    Biofuels are the worst idea people could think of as a real solution for our energy problems. The amount of land, water, fertilizers, pesticides, etc. required to produce large amounts of biofuels are staggering.

    Brazil is already the 3rd or 4th largest emitter of GHGs thanks to the rampant deforestation of the Amazon to plant crops, mainly soy. Planting larger amounts of sugar cane for its much-touted and rapidly expanding ethanol biofuels industry will surely lead to even greater deforestation. Nothing could be more counter-productive since deforestation already accounts for about 20% of all GHG emission worldwide (mainly from Brazil and Indonesia). In fact, a recent report in Science (Renton Righelato et al., Science, Vol. 317, 2007, pg. 902) shows that conversion of tropical forest to cropland releases much more carbon per hectare than what is saved by ethanol production.

    Do we want to accelerate deforestation in third world countries to plant biofuel crops? I’m already hearing rumors that back in my country (Colombia) there’s a huge push for expanding cultivation of sugar cane for ethanol and oil palms for biodiesel, all at the expense of native forests.

    And do we want to start expanding our already heavily polluting, energy-intensive agriculture to produce biofuels? It is very likely that with current technology, and with the exception of sugar cane ethanol, we would consume more energy to produce a gallon of biofuel than the energy contained in that gallon. Moreover, converting the whole US corn crop into ethanol will be enough to replace only a small fraction of all the gasoline the US consumes, while the price of all foodstuffs (now mostly based on corn) will skyrocket.

    We have already taken over ~40% of the worlds land surface for agriculture and cattle (Jonathan A. Foley et al., Science, Vol. 309. no. 5734, pp. 570 – 574, 2005) and a lot of that land is being rapidly degraded by unsustainable agricultural practices (deserts are growing at record speeds). Do we want to appropriate even more land to produce biofuels?

    Photosynthesis is a pretty inefficient process in terms of the amount of chemical energy that is produced per unit of input solar energy, and to that you have to add all the other inefficiencies in the process of converting the plant material into a fuel. So the amount of land required to produce a certain amount of energy is enormous compared to what would be needed by photovoltaics (solar cells) or solar-thermal systems.

    The current biofuels push is just a huge scam that only benefits the agri-business lobby.

    Comment by Rafael Gomez-Sjoberg — 6 Sep 2007 @ 9:30 PM

  196. Re #195

    I forgot to add a link to a good article about this issue of biofuels:

    http://feinstein.senate.gov/05speeches/ethanol-oped.htm

    Comment by Rafael Gomez-Sjoberg — 6 Sep 2007 @ 9:37 PM

  197. Re 185 Michael: “if you want to solve our problem, don’t look to reducing emissions, if you want to reduce emissions, don’t expect it to solve our problem.”

    Sorry, I see no point in tilting at your catch 22 conundrum. I don’t know about where you live, but where I live climate change consistently tops the polls of public concern; lately there is a news segment or program addressing it on television almost every night of the week; individual people and municipal governments are embracing conservation and energy reduction strategies, technologies and appliance; local grass roots groups are forming to make bulk purchases of residential solar voltaic and hot water systems and install shared ground-source heat pumps; local business consortiums have developed two large wind farms (60+ and 100+ turbines) with at least two more in the planning stage; the municipal government has constructed and is expanding a deep-water cooling and heating system in the urban core; higher government has committed to a multi-billion dollar program to expand public transit and implemented substantial tax rebates for the purchase of hybrids, flex-fuel and more fuel efficient conventional cars and people are buying them. While some people are still busy wringing their hands or even still dragging their feet the rest of us are busy getting on with it.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 6 Sep 2007 @ 10:04 PM

  198. Re 192 Holly Stick: “Michael, you might be interested in a new book by Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine about how it is easier to introduce wholesale change after a disaster.”

    Hey Holly, good to see you here at RC. I just came back from Naomi’s talk and launch of the book at the UofT. Unfortunately she doesn’t mention climate change in it at all, which is unfortunate since it could potentially be the mother of all shock disasters. – Transplant

    Comment by Jim Eager — 6 Sep 2007 @ 10:08 PM

  199. Re 179, Ray writes:

    A non-grid electric supply poses its own problems–chief among them reliability and energy storage. These need to be worked out if these approaches are to be viable.

    The grid is your friend. It provides the means by which the statistics get to work themselves out.

    What utilities talk about “grid instability” what they are talking about is having to work harder — not the impossibility of having a stable grid. And the cost, based on a variety of studies I’ve referenced here in the past, is pennies per kilowatt-hour. Compared to rising fuel prices, that’s, uh, free in a few more years.

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 7 Sep 2007 @ 12:48 AM

  200. [[My argument is: Reducing emissions will not make a bit of difference.]]

    Then your argument is wrong. Reducing emissions will make all the difference in the world. That is what the whole debate is about.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 7 Sep 2007 @ 5:29 AM

  201. Re #185 Michael: [My arguments here are an exercise in logic, based on personal experience, my observances of human nature, and common sense.]

    Well, given your earlier failure to distinguish (for example) total population from population density, and total GHG emissions from per capita GHG emissions, I’m somewhat sceptical of your logical credentials: if you want to undertake an “exercise in logic”, a key requirement is to be clear about what conclusions you are claiming to have reached from what premises. As for “personal experience, my observances of human nature, and common sense”, if, as appears to be the case, others have had different experiences, have made different observations of human nature, and differ about what constitutes “common sense”, where does that leave the argument? So far as I can see, it means we have to go to the trouble of looking at “statistics, studies or data”, rather than asserting that our own beliefs should simply be accepted.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 7 Sep 2007 @ 7:19 AM

  202. Furrycatherder,
    My comment was not an attack on the grid. The grid is indeed a tremendous friend–where it is available. What I realized in traveling in rural Brazil, is that gridding an entire country is prohibitively expensive for many developing nations–in part because the resources needed to do so have increased in price significantly. Moreover, solar, wind and other renewables are most competitive where the grid does not reach–especially if energy storage issues can be resolved. Batteries are not a particularly good solution in the tropics, since they are expensive and high humidity and heat shorten their life. If we can resolve this issue before developing countries start extending the grid to remote villages, then renewables become the best energy solution for these populations and we have a chance to reduce future ghg emissions as well as reliance on nuclear power.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 7 Sep 2007 @ 9:05 AM

  203. Michael wrote: “My arguments here are an exercise in logic, based on personal experience, my observances of human nature, and common sense. If you want statistics, studies or data, do your own legwork. If your arguments can’t stand on their own, there is no sense in engaging me.”

    With all due respect, there is no sense engaging with “arguments” that “stand on their own” without any factual basis in statistics, studies or data.

    Such highly subjective things as “personal experience, observances of human nature, and common sense” do not provide an adequate basis for such a sweeping, categorical proclamation as “Reducing emissions will not make a bit of difference” which is contrary to everything that science has to tell us about anthropogenic global warming, namely that large (80 to 90 percent) and rapid (within a decade or so) reductions in GHG emissions can significantly reduce future warming and may prevent the worst-case outcomes of climate change.

    Now, if you were to say that your “personal experience, observances of human nature, and common sense” have convinced you that humanity is unlikely to actually reduce emissions sufficiently, and soon enough, to make a bit of difference, that would be a statement of what you think people are likely to do, and unfortunately it is an opinion that I tend to share.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 7 Sep 2007 @ 12:00 PM

  204. Re. grid vs. renewables see also the article: “Nigeria Launches Solar Electrification Project”, which states:
    “The event … marked the kick-off of a rural electrification project by the country’s Lagos State government that will provide solar installations to a total of nineteen villages previously without power … It costs about 150 million naira (around 1.2 million dollars) to connect each village to the national grid, while the solar energy project costs only about 10 million naira (around 83,000 dollars) per village.”

    Comment by Dave Rado — 7 Sep 2007 @ 12:06 PM

  205. Ray Ladbury wrote: “Batteries are not a particularly good solution in the tropics, since they are expensive and high humidity and heat shorten their life. If we can resolve this issue before developing countries start extending the grid to remote villages …”

    Two comments.

    First, from what I have read recently about deployment of solar photovoltaic systems to remote rural villages in India — villages that have never had any form of electricity at all — even with very limited storage capacity, comparable to a car battery, the electricity provided by these systems makes an immediate and huge improvement in the quality of life for the people there. So deployment of these systems and the improvements in human well-being they provide need not wait for the development of better electrical storage solutions, which can be retrofitted later as they become available.

    Second, one electrical storage technology that I think has great promise but is seldom discussed is flywheel systems. Modern, high-tech flywheels offer excellent storage capacity at low cost — particularly for fixed systems where compact size and very low weight is not as critical as it is with vehicular storage. Flywheels also don’t have many of the drawbacks of batteries and fuel cells — no toxic chemicals as with batteries, no need for hydrogen fuel as with fuel cells. A sealed, “turnkey” flywheel device requires little or no maintenance and would tend to have a longer service life than a battery. I think they deserve a lot more attention.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 7 Sep 2007 @ 12:26 PM

  206. I suggest an electric generator powered by a biodiesel. Simple, reliable, and the biofuel can be produced locally.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 7 Sep 2007 @ 12:46 PM

  207. David, you’re very big on biodiesel, but you’re aware that we’re currently using more than a complete year’s photosynthesis budget for energy — plant-based energy is a nice additive but it’s not the only answer worth encouraging. It’s certainly not as efficient a way of _storing_ energy as a modern flywheel system promises to be.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 7 Sep 2007 @ 1:01 PM

  208. Hank Roberts(207) — No, I wasn’t aware of that claim, which is in direct contradiction to Biopact’s statement on the matter, and on the face of it, improbable.

    I’ve nothing against flywheels, but for applications in remote villages I suspect that the lower the tech, the better. Primarily it is due to cost and reliability.

    As for storing energy, I suspect that nothing matches the efficiency of biocoal when environmental, production and maintainance costs are included.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 7 Sep 2007 @ 3:37 PM

  209. My argument is: Reducing emissions will not make a bit of difference.
    My argument is not: Reducing emissions is a bad idea, reducing emissions never helps…

    Reducing emissions is a good idea. It is a good idea to take care of our environment, it is a good idea to stop pumping CO2 into the atmosphere, it is a good idea for us to be an example to the world (especially if we want to lead by example). Reducing emissions helps. If you modify your lifestyle to cut your emissions by half, there is no arguing that you have helped the overall picture by reducing your emissions.
    Reducing emissions will not make a bit of difference in the same way that your odds buying ten lotto tickets instead of one is still next to nothing if your overall odds are 1 in 80 million. Your chances are so small you could say buying ten instead of one won’t make a bit of difference.

    The main reason is humans rarely do what they are supposed to do; they do what they want to do. The world has had ample opportunity and ample warning, but the graph is ever increasing, and not making the sharp right turn we need to “cap emissions by 2020”. There is a tangible change in general attitudes, but it is gradual. This, I believe goes back to human nature, and hundreds of millions of people, some who just don’t care, and others in poverty wanting heated houses and upgrades to the pack mule.

    Please address me on the human nature point, because it is the basis for my argument.
    I have been to third world countries, but there are many with more experience, and a wider perspective such as Ray Ladbury. That is why I am here. I would like someone with experience tell me they have seen pockets of people on this planet where human nature is different from what I’ve seen in large enough numbers to turn the tide and mobilize 6 billion people by 2020.

    Comment by Michael — 7 Sep 2007 @ 4:55 PM

  210. re 197 Jim Eager, “Sorry, I see no point in tilting at your catch 22 conundrum. I don’t know about where you live, but where I live climate change consistently tops the polls of public concern; etc; etc; etc; etc….

    Admittedly a little orthogonal to the main point and maybe picky, but your citing all of the mass reaction (hysteria, maybe) as proof per se of global warming is akin to citing Chicken Little. When people act as a mass, even in a local situation or environment, it’s hardly ever because they know what’s going on. Credible “expert” witnesses they ain’t.

    Comment by Rod B — 7 Sep 2007 @ 6:03 PM

  211. David, the flywheel reference discusses storage in New York, as part of the national electric grid.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 7 Sep 2007 @ 6:51 PM

  212. Michael, nobody is interested in some vague logical fiddling and twiddling when we have a real world to deal with. You know, a really good way to get people to do things is by example. You act to reduce your emissions, and your friends will start thinking that maybe they should try that too. Act on your own understanding, and you’ll begin to meet people who have come to the same conclusions and are acting on them. Don’t sit around waiting for someone to lead you.

    Comment by Holly Stick — 7 Sep 2007 @ 7:53 PM

  213. David, here’s one of many references on overshooting primary productivity, you’ll recognize the authors’ names:

    10.1073/pnas.142033699 PNAS July 9, 2002, vol.99 no.14 9266-9271
    Tracking the ecological overshoot of the human economy
    “… According to this preliminary and exploratory assessment, humanity’s load corresponded to 70% of the capacity of the global biosphere in 1961, and grew to 120% in 1999.”
    http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/99/14/9266
    Articles citing that one track the idea forward in research work.

    Thoughtful, recent essay on the implications here:
    http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/007092.html

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 7 Sep 2007 @ 8:43 PM

  214. re 209.

    Okay, so we agree GHG reduction is a good idea.

    And we agree re your OPINION that human nature will likely prevent a timely reduction of those GHGs.

    Thing is, you still haven’t addressed my question to you re explain the difference between the two statements.

    “My argument is: Reducing emissions will not make a bit of difference.
    My argument is not: Reducing emissions is a bad idea, reducing emissions never helps…”

    Still waiting.

    Elsewhere, you have said 1) GHG reductions is not the answer and 2) there must be some other answer and you want to hear it.

    Here’s the inevitable truth: at the end of the day, nothing is going to fix this short of GHG reduction. Nothing. Expressing the opinion GHG reduction can’t be done is a non sequitur. It doesn’t MATTER that it can’t be done; what matters is that it is the only likely answer, the only way to get it done!

    Your opinions of the human animal and its behaviors are really not a new concept by any stretch of the imagination. Constantly spinning your figurative wheels regurgitating a view that pretty much everyone here already agrees with to vatying degrees and has expressed to one extent or another – the idea that getting the human animal to react to a crisis before it has a chance to do serious damage is an at best difficult proposition – is getting you nowhere and, frankly, rather tiresome.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 8 Sep 2007 @ 12:04 AM

  215. Michael, Have you ever read “The Plague” by Albert Camus? It represents the most advanced statement of his views on human nature. In the book, plague breaks out in an Algerian city and the city is quarantined. People respond in various ways: 1)Some attack the problem. 2)Some minister to the dying out of sympathy. 3)Some try to profit. 4)Some try to flee. And so on. Ultimately, however, enough people realize that their survival depends on cooperation and collective struggle, and at great cost, they bring the disease under control. No one would deny that shortsightedness, complacency, self-delusion and cowardice are all part of the human character. However, humans can and do transcend that character, and literature provides us with many authors with keen insight into this ability to transcend. I could have equally cited Shakespeare, Victor Hugo Karl Hiassen or even Michael Moore (author of “Bloodsucking Fiends–a Love Story”–great, funny book).

    Yes, I know that it is tempting to write off humanity when you have politicians at the APEC summit adopting “aspirational goals” of reducing carbon and when Pope Benny is calling on European countries to raise their birthrates… However, we gain nothing by cynicism.
    The fact of the matter is that every gram of carbon we do not put into the atmosphere delays the day where natural CO2 and CH4 sources really kick in. It buys time for humans to develop technical and economic solutions and to mitigate the damage that will occur. In fact, one could argue that when our leaders have feet of clay, hearts of stone and brains of questionable functionality, individual and community action becomes even more important.
    One of my favorite stories from the French Revolution concerns Robespierre discussing politics with his buddies from the Directorate when a mob goes by with torches and weapons of destruction. “There goes the mob,” said Robespierre. “I am their leader. I must get in front of them.”
    If the people lead, our “leaders” will eventually follow.

    Comment by ray ladbury — 8 Sep 2007 @ 6:54 AM

  216. re 210 Rod B: “your citing all of the mass reaction (hysteria, maybe) as proof per se of global warming is akin to citing Chicken Little”

    Rod, if you think that my post [197] in any way cited mass reaction as proof of global warming then perhaps you need to work on your reading comprehension skills. I would think it fairly obvious that my cites were intended to prove that individuals and governments are capable of addressing energy use and climate change, not prove it’s existence.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 8 Sep 2007 @ 8:37 AM

  217. Re: #215 (Ray Ladbury)

    Well said!

    Comment by tamino — 8 Sep 2007 @ 9:32 AM

  218. Jim (216) says, “…my cites were intended to prove that individuals and governments are capable of addressing energy use and climate change, not prove it’s existence.”

    Fair enough, though you might also be just so slightly overestimating your writing ability. And I agree — the same mass psyche I was negatively describing above can also get the action going as you describe, once you get past a very elusive and fuzzy trigger point.

    Comment by Rod B — 8 Sep 2007 @ 10:34 AM

  219. http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2007/2007GL030775.shtml
    GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 34, L17703, doi:10.1029/2007GL030775, 2007

    Present-day springtime high-latitude surface albedo as a predictor of simulated climate sensitivity

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 8 Sep 2007 @ 11:28 AM

  220. Re #205, Here’s a link to a recent article about high-speed flywheels: http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20070519/bob8.asp

    Comment by James — 8 Sep 2007 @ 12:39 PM

  221. Jim Eager Says:

    I would think it fairly obvious that my cites were intended to prove that individuals and governments are capable of addressing energy use …

    A few years ago the EPA determined that the Houston area had failed to meet air pollution goals, and they said it was finally time to implement lower speed limits (55 mph) in Harris and surrounding counties. That the local air is polluted came as a surprise to nobody.

    The people and local politicians were angered.

    They found a scientist who claimed the proper thing to do was to raise speed limits. He reasoned that air pollution would be lessened if drivers got to their destination quicker. His scam worked a bit. They settled on lowering the speed limit to 65 mph, which will do almost nothing to help reach the required levels of pollutants.

    And just like before, everbody drives 80 if congestion allows it.

    Comment by J.C.H. — 8 Sep 2007 @ 2:50 PM

  222. > a scientist … raise speed limits
    How did they decide this was a scientist? Did he know aerodynamic drag increases with the square of speed.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 8 Sep 2007 @ 4:52 PM

  223. Re 218 Rod B: “Fair enough, though you might also be just so slightly overestimating your writing ability.”

    Hmmm, my editors may quibble with you (two books, ~150 magazine articles). Granted, I did assume readers would have been following Michael’s posts and reader replies, and thus know what was being referred to.

    “And I agree — the same mass psyche I was negatively describing above can also get the action going as you describe, once you get past a very elusive and fuzzy trigger point.”

    So, individuals and corporate and government entities acting to reduce emissions and greenhouse gasses, and save both energy and dollars is mere mass hysteria now?

    Come on Rod, drive-bys like that are beneath you.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 8 Sep 2007 @ 4:53 PM

  224. JCH,
    On the other hand, if people have hybrid cars which alert them to how much fuel they are guzzling by doing 80 mph, they tend to slow down and maximize fuel economy. I’ve found this to be nearly universal. Without a way of alerting drivers to consequences of high speed, they tend to be aware mainly of the passage of time. Alert them and now you have competing drives–saving time (and illusion, as the drivetime depends almost exclusively on the slowest step) and savine fuel.

    Comment by ray ladbury — 8 Sep 2007 @ 5:13 PM

  225. Re 223 Ray Ladbry: “On the other hand, if people have hybrid cars which alert them to how much fuel they are guzzling by doing 80 mph, they tend to slow down and maximize fuel economy.”

    Ray, even some conventional cars now come with fuel consumption displays. I wonder if any non-hybrid drivers use them?

    Comment by Jim Eager — 8 Sep 2007 @ 6:45 PM

  226. JCH, and you think a 55MPH speed limit imposed by EPA is something better than assinine for reducing pollution in Houston??? What numerical effect would you (or the EPA) predict, using what magical assumptions? The others seem to be confusing CO2 emissions (directly related to fuel consumption) with pollutants that EPA is supposed to watch over which are loosely tied to consumption but also tied to engine operating and environment characteristics.

    Comment by Rod B — 8 Sep 2007 @ 8:40 PM

  227. I’ve had lots of Texans scream at me that their cars/trucks get better mileage at 80 than they do at 55.

    Comment by J.C.H. — 8 Sep 2007 @ 8:54 PM

  228. > fuel gauge
    http://www.lightner.net/lightner/bruce/Lightner-183.pdf
    Source info:
    Circuit Cellar, the Magazine for Computer Applications. Reprinted
    by permission. http://www.circuitcellar.com.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 8 Sep 2007 @ 9:33 PM

  229. Guys, better fuel economy at lower speed is simple physics. Drag increases as the square of the velocity. The fact that citizens of a certain state might disagree says more about the state’s educational system than it does about reality.

    As to whether drivers use fuel displays, some probably do not. Still, a visual display gives drivers something to think about other than the passage of time and the illusion that going faster on the highway will significantly impact one’s commute time.

    Comment by ray ladbury — 8 Sep 2007 @ 10:55 PM

  230. Rod B. (sigh) The lowered speed limits in Houston were not done to reduce CO2 and not done by the EPA. They were done by the Texas agency the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission in a package of several efforts to reduce the air pollution in Houston which is undeniably a problem. Cars and trucks are more efficient at lower speeds, and more efficient means less fuel burnt per mile traveled and therefore less air pollution.

    http://www.texnews.com/1998/2002/texas/speed0505.html
    http://www.driveandstayalive.com/articles%20and%20topics/speed/article_speed-limits_how-should-they-be-determined_by_Professor-P-Waller.htm

    Comment by Joseph O'Sullivan — 9 Sep 2007 @ 2:02 AM

  231. re 227

    MPG v MPH

    Secrets of Better Fuel Economy

    http://www.everytime.cummins.com/every/pdf/MPG_Secrets_Whitepaper.pdf

    Edmunds.com: What really saves gas?

    http://www.edmunds.com/advice/fueleconomy/articles/106842/article.html

    It’s pretty conclusive…lower speeds promote savings.

    Here’s another perspective: I used to drive delivery for a living for a 4-color spearation house in the San Francisco Bay Area for a couple of years, spending a lot of time running back and forth to the shop to deliver and pick up commercial art. Often we would have a series of pieces running at the same time and would have drivers leaving within minutes of each other for the same or nearby destinations. I learned early on no matter how fast I drove, trafiic conditions invariably slowed me down so that my average time from teh shop to, say, San Francisco would very – at most – by a few minutes, and that once I hit the city streets stop lights and traffic would not let you get there any faster than anyone else by more than a minute.

    Upshot: Driving the speed limit gets you there almost as quick as playing Speed Racer, saves wear and tear on the vehicle, and ends up making the experience of driving semi-relaxing (except for all the other idiots who pretend the road is their private speedway).

    Oh, and it saves gas.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 9 Sep 2007 @ 8:29 AM

  232. Rod B, I’ll make you a bet. Two identical garages equipped with dynamometers; two identical cars, one in each garage; me in one car and you in the other; we’ll close the garage doors and roll down all the car windows; I go 55 and you go 80; to avoid boring the hell out of the audience, we’ll simulate climbing a hill.

    I bet one of us is going to shut up before the other.

    Comment by J.C.H. — 9 Sep 2007 @ 11:32 AM

  233. Joseph says, “…Cars and trucks are more efficient at lower speeds, and more efficient means less fuel burnt per mile traveled and therefore less air pollution.”

    O.K., I can accept that. I’m just curious how much the NOx, CO, and HC is reduced by slowing cars/trucks from, say 63MPH to 55+mph. [from an objective scientific view; I’m sure the agencies predicted jiggatons.. Though I don’t know and am asking.]

    Comment by Rod B — 9 Sep 2007 @ 12:00 PM

  234. Re #229: [Guys, better fuel economy at lower speed is simple physics.]

    Perhaps too simple, though. What you may not be considering is the power/performance curves of internal combustion engines. I have one of those hybrid cars (Honda Insight) with a fuel consumption gauge, and I’ve found that when climbing hills, for instance, I generally get worse mpg at 55 than 65, and worse yet at 45, because I have to downshift to where the engine is running less efficiently.

    Comment by James — 9 Sep 2007 @ 12:00 PM

  235. re: Houston air quality and MPG v MPH

    The scientist, Dr.Ken Green, said that the impact to Houston air quality would be negligible if the automobile speed limit was changed from 70 to 55 or from 55 to 70. Of course you would get better mileage at the lower speed on a highway, but around a city there are idling and congestion factors which increase at lower speeds. The difference in mpg improvement and time on the road would not impact local air quality. There was no mention of GHG differences, just local air quality. Dr. Green did convince the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission and the EPA. The speed limit which had been reduced to 55 with no noticeable difference in air quality from this source was increased to 65 with, again, no noticeable difference in air quality from this source. The seemingly obvious choice didn’t have the expected outcome. Dr. Green did offer suggestions to improve air quality from on road sources such as incentives for newer cars, traffic light synchronization, mass transit, etc.

    Comment by jax — 9 Sep 2007 @ 1:10 PM

  236. James, try this guy’s technique:

    … And it turns out that I’m not alone in this mild obsession. Almost from the day the first hybrids came off the boat from Japan, drivers have found themselves pushing to get the maximum mileage. Their crowing fills one webpage after another. John Johnson in Michigan, for instance, bought his two-seater Honda Insight not for environmental reasons but simply because it was the latest cool thing. Now he calls himself “Insightman” and his vanity plate reads IGO ECO. He reports that on those days when other cars are scarce and he can really slow down going up hills, he can break 80 miles per gallon. “On the first leg of my 82 mpg personal record fifteen-mile round trip to work,” he writes, “I achieved an amazing 91.1 mpg!” …

    Comment by J.C.H. — 9 Sep 2007 @ 1:53 PM

  237. I have been a truck driver for thirty five years and am not really into the scientific aspect of the issues here. My main concern is the drastic reductions of co2 emissions and the methods some people wish to use to obtain them.

    I do not need to explain how much the world depends on trucks trains ships and aircraft to deliver all the goods and sevices you all use and life depends on. I also do not need to explain that this currently all depends on fossil fuel.

    I, and I am sure the rest of the transportation idustry would love to have another choice of fuel because after all we all want clean air water and earth. How do we do that? I have seen much debate on what must be done but nothing on how and when the scientific minds will do the one thing that will cut emissions more than any other give us the fuel.

    So far I get the impression that treaties and government mandates must be made to cut Co2 to solve the problem. This scares me because if the transition to clean is not done reasonably you could destroy the economy and my job with it and you might indeed cause more suffering than you propose to fix.

    I would also like to say I am no fan of oil we are getting shafted on the prices (that get passed on to you) and dependence on foreign oil makes me sick and I cannot help but think some of the proceeds go to fund terrorism.

    Give us the clean fuel we need to keep America the best and cleanest nation on earth and you will solve your problems without the fighting that divides us.

    Comment by Roy Simison — 9 Sep 2007 @ 6:29 PM

  238. Re #234: […on those days when other cars are scarce and he can really slow down going up hills, he can break 80 miles per gallon.]

    A piker, considering that he lives in Michigan, which is pretty flat. Much of my driving is on mountain roads, with passes over 8500 ft, and my average, for the four years I’ve owned my Insight, is 70.5 mpg. Driving into town, which is pretty flat and half freeway, I frequently get in the 90s.

    Comment by James — 9 Sep 2007 @ 6:48 PM

  239. Michigan has a few hills. (topography layer at http://www.nationalatlas.gov)

    Driving at high elevations should reduce the drag and increase mileage that way (assuming same wind speeds), but what might the effect of air pressure be on the engine (if any at all?)

    Ideally, energy savings going downhill would make up for the uphill effort.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 9 Sep 2007 @ 8:30 PM

  240. Patrick, altitude also decreases the amoung of oxygen to burn the fuel. Competing effects. You can tune the car to run leaner, but it’s not a complete fix.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 10 Sep 2007 @ 7:56 AM

  241. Re #239: [Michigan has a few hills.]

    The Sierra Nevada has more :-)

    [Ideally, energy savings going downhill would make up for the uphill effort.]

    But alas, we don’t live in an ideal world :-( Even though the Insight is better than most cars in this respect, it still burns fuel going downhill. Even when I’m using the MIMA system to apply full regenerative braking, it’s using about 0.2 gph according to the OBDI readout. (Which only displays one decimal place.) Then figure that on the steeper climbs you’re not running at the most efficient RPM – the Insight has a lean-burn system that allows a very efficient 22:1 air/fuel ratio, but only at lighter loads & a particular RPM range. On a flat road with a good surface and no headwinds, I can cruise at 90-100 mpg…

    Comment by James — 10 Sep 2007 @ 12:53 PM

  242. That’s 0.2 gallons per _hour_ going downhill?

    I imagine it’s fuel injected and has to keep some fuel moving through the system — but isn’t the internal combustion engine _off_ when it’s going downhill? Or does that engine run all the time on the Insight? Could it be using engine compression braking and so pulling some fuel through into the cylinders in the long downhill mode?

    The NYT today has an article on the new “sticker shock” — somewhat more realistic, lower, fuel economy ratings on most vehicles as of next year.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 10 Sep 2007 @ 1:05 PM

  243. Re #242: [Or does that engine run all the time on the Insight?]

    Yes, the engine runs all the time (unlike the Prius system, which can run electric-only for short distances). I imagine the rationale is to keep the engine at operating temperature. The Prius has a thermos system to retain heat, but of course that adds weight & complexity. Engineering tradeoffs…

    […somewhat more realistic, lower, fuel economy ratings on most vehicles as of next year.]

    I never thought the old ones were unrealistic, as I’ve usually gotten at or above rated mpg from my cars. I suspect that, as is so often the case, the problem lies in the nut holding the steering wheel :-)

    Comment by James — 10 Sep 2007 @ 6:17 PM

  244. Re 240 – Thanks, that’s what I was wondering.

    Re 241 – help me out, how fast were you going at 0.2 gph?

    (PS setting aside the elevation affect, my point with hills was going towards the slope – you might go up some grade for a few seconds (?) in MI vs a few minutes out west, (although don’t forget the UP of MI; PS I haven’t been in MI much myself, I’m just supposing – I do recall some slopes in WI) – of course, it’s easy to build a main road around a small hill or cut through a small hill – a different matter with a mountain range …)

    (PS I’m not going to argue that our world is ideal, but there is a theoretical limit that we can try to get a little closer to.)

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 10 Sep 2007 @ 6:45 PM

  245. Re 244: On a long, comparatively straight downhill (say US 50 west of Carson City) I might be going 55-65, while on a more winding road like the upper part of Nevada 431 I’ll probably do from 45 down to maybe 30 in the curves. The 0.2 GPH downhill seems independent of speed, but of course I only have one decimal digit of accuracy, so it might vary a little. (And of course this is with no throttle applied at all.) Works out to around 200-300 mpg, sometimes more :-)

    Comment by James — 11 Sep 2007 @ 1:06 PM

  246. And re 244 again (I sure wish we still had the edit function): {…you might go up some grade for a few seconds (?) in MI vs a few minutes out west…]

    There’s where momentum is your friend. On a short grade, you just let the speed drop a bit as you go up, and pick it back up on the downhill side. Another place where adjusting the wheel-holding nut would help: I see a lot of people who try to maintain constant speed: step on the gas going up a slight rise, then brake on the downside.

    Comment by James — 11 Sep 2007 @ 1:12 PM

  247. Re 246 “There’s where momentum is your friend” – good point.

    Okay, if going downhill at a grade A gives X mpg and going on a flat road gives Y mpg, and going uphill at grade A gives Z mpg, then if going downhill made up for going uphill, 1/X + 1/Z = 2/Y (based on averaging gallons per mile); Z = 1/(2/Y – 1/X).

    if Y = 90 and X = 250, then Z = about 54.9 would be adequate for the uphill and downhill portions to average to flat conditions. This formulation does ignore the increased distance from point A to point B on a map that results from a slope and would only generalize to any pathway if changes in the reciprocal of mpg were linearly proportional to grade, etc… but for the case given, 54.9 – Z (or perhaps better: 1/Z – 1/54.9 ) would be one measure of the reduced performance from slopes.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 11 Sep 2007 @ 8:59 PM

  248. I think you’re forgetting the non-linear nature of the internal combustion engine. Take a practical example: climbing Nevada 431 – IIRC about 12 miles, from 4600 ft to 8900 ft elevation). I need to be in 3rd for most of the climb, downshifting to 2nd in places. The engine is thus running at higher rpms to produce the power needed to climb the steep grade, so the VTEC system has shifted the valves into power mode & the engine management computers have presumably made similar changes… As a result, I get about 40 mpg in 3rd, 25 in 2nd – say 35 mpg overall. Assume 0 mpg for the downhill, and that’s about 70 mpg average.

    Now on a flat, smooth road I can cruise in 5th, at relatively low RPM, where I get a base 70-80 mpg. If the load’s light enough – slight downslopes, a bit of a tailwind, even a particularly smooth road surface – the lean-burn system system kicks in, pushing mpg into the 90-150 range.

    Comment by James — 12 Sep 2007 @ 12:52 PM

  249. Re 248 – well, you know more about about that than I do; but my point was about theoretical limits when technology is left unspecified.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 12 Sep 2007 @ 6:22 PM

  250. hi, im just an intrigated and concerned guy on this world controled by some corrupted means of communication ´(tv means , political means, etc).I tried to mail to realclimate but i couldnt because of an internet error; so the reason i write is just to sugest an unratified and interesting topic that i really would like to be analyzed. This issue is about the controversial climate change and global warming that to me is now really confusing because of the contradictions that are now emerging; as an ussual member of the society the first time i heard about “the global warming” was from the world known documentary movie “an inconvenient truth” from Al Gore, and i think the rest of the world got the issue of global warming from al Gore too. so my question is : should i believe all that is mentioned on the movie?, is the movie based on real and true facts, scientists, theories, etc? is this documentary fiable and can i tke it as a scientific statement?

    I have no political intensions and im not trying to make any type of disorder, just want to know the truth of the global warming issues and wich theory is the right.
    if you can answer my questions ill be really satisfied and thankfull.
    thanks a lot.

    Comment by george flores — 12 Sep 2007 @ 8:01 PM

  251. Re 250. Well, George, on the one hand, you have nearly every scientist who does climate research and publishes it in peer-reviewed journals–what scientists are supposed to do. These scientists are very concerned about the changing climate. They have a mature theory of why the climate is changing and all of the causes they cite can be shown to be happening. On the other hand, you have a bunch of “retired scientists”, engineers and people who have never done any climate research and do not publish their theories in peer reviewed journals but rather in the popular press or on websites. They either say that climate is not changing (very few) or that it is changing but they don’t know why, but they’re sure it’s not humans. Oh, and often they suggest that the entire scientific community is trying to take over the world. I leave it to you to decide which group is more credible.

    Al Gore did a pretty reasonable job with the science in “An Inconvenient Truth”.

    Comment by ray ladbury — 12 Sep 2007 @ 8:35 PM

  252. George, look at the the “Hilights” column (right side of page)
    — first item is “Al Gore’s Movie”

    Look at “Start Here” button at top of page, a good collection

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 12 Sep 2007 @ 8:43 PM

  253. George,

    In general, Gore’s movie got it right. You can quibble with some of the details, but the basic idea — human effects on the atmosphere are raising the Earth’s temperature — is correct.

    If you want a good popular explanation of how the climate system works, with very little math (except in appendices at the back of the book), try George S. Philander’s “Is the Temperature Rising?” (1998). For global warming in particular, you might try John Houghton’s “Global Warming: The Complete Briefing” (2004).

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 13 Sep 2007 @ 8:47 AM

  254. re 251

    “They either say that climate is not changing (very few) or that it is changing but they don’t know why, but they’re sure it’s not humans.”

    If they don’t know why, how can they be sure it’s not humans? (Yes, I know, I know. But I had to ask…)

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 13 Sep 2007 @ 9:33 AM

  255. #250, George:

    I first read about global warming in a certain UK popular science magazine back in the first half of the 1990’s, when I was still at school. Whilst some people will certainly have heard about global warming through Al Gore, the scientists involved have been looking at it for more than 20 years. Moreover, I do recall newspaper reports long before Gores film came out.

    Comment by guthrie — 13 Sep 2007 @ 1:18 PM

  256. > more than 20 years …
    More than that.

    35 years ago: http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2007/08/sawyer_prophetic_or_wot.php

    And I posted this excerpt in that thread (from 1946):

    ” … we didn’t change the Earth’s weather, but its climate. There’d be no point in trying to explain the difference to you, I guess. They stepped up the CO2 content of the atmosphere, producing an increased blanketing effect. At first the equatorial regions were uncomfortably hot as a result; but when the thing stabilized again a lot of the polar caps had melted, and a lot of formerly desert land in the torrid zones, which had been canalized for the purpose, had flooded in consequence. The net result was an increased evaporation surface and, through a lot of steps a little too technical for the present discussion, a shallower temperature drop toward the poles….”

    Hal Clement, “Cold Front”
    First published in _Astounding_ July 1946

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 14 Sep 2007 @ 7:53 PM

  257. A belated reply (and maybe close-out?) to Jim, 223. I was simply commenting on the psychology and reaction of masses, including mass hysteria. I didn’t imply that this is the only process that causes groups to do stuff. But it is one way, not uncommon, that can cause a “tidal wave of public opinion”, even if contrary to the truth of the matter.

    Comment by Rod B — 16 Sep 2007 @ 10:32 AM

  258. Apologies in advance if this is the wrong forum, but can anyone tell me if the GCMs predict nightime warming as well as daytime warming? I’m curious because Johnathan Lowe’s analysis of Australian temperatures shows the latter occurring, but not the former.

    Comment by Ralph Becket — 27 Sep 2007 @ 9:13 PM

  259. “Driving at high elevations should reduce the drag and increase mileage that way (assuming same wind speeds), but what might the effect of air pressure be on the engine (if any at all?)”

    Lower air pressure allows the engine to be run at a higher compression ratio and therefore at a higher combustion efficiency.

    Comment by Phil. Felton — 27 Sep 2007 @ 11:28 PM

  260. I was wondering how the future climate was looking for Paraguay~since Bush Sr. recently purchased 250,000 AC there.

    Comment by tree ocean — 23 Oct 2007 @ 10:24 PM

  261. Stratsopheric mean temperatures for 2006-2007 for 65N-25N seem to be running well below the average from ’79 to present, in some cases breaking the minimum values.
    http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/stratosphere/temperature/
    Yet mean surface temperatures for 45N are running way above normal (28 above normal yesterday, for example)
    This region has experienced numerous microbursts in the past year-one particular area had two microbursts (winds in excess of 100 mph that snapped mature 2 foot diameter oaks, three foot diameter pines like toothpicks) within the past 14 months.

    Correlation?

    Comment by tree ocean — 23 Oct 2007 @ 10:55 PM

  262. Re. #258, Ralph Becket:

    can anyone tell me if the GCMs predict nightime warming as well as daytime warming?

    Yes of course, they predict greater night time than day time warming – and that is one of the many reasons why the solar forcing cannot be a major factor in current warming, as that would not affect night-time temperatures, whereas GHG forcing does.

    Comment by Dave Rado — 24 Oct 2007 @ 2:07 AM

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