Good chance that this will be picked up by the next NIPCC report; they love hypothetical feedbacks (if they can somehow portray them as a negative feedback, eg the sheep getting smaller but fatter, so their effective surface area for reflecting sunlight increases).
How do weights at birth compare in the desert vs in Scandinavia? It is easy to conduct an experiment taking sheep to where the weather never drops below freezing and the highs hit over 100. I have raised sheep and find city folks have a lot of notions about them.
I’m sure this a cyclical variation, and that the poor new year’s lambs merely get worked harder during the years when their youth is spent working hard on a climate book. The current generation’s weight loss means another book is likely in the works, that’s all.
Check the weight records back a ways and I’m sure the association with their book production will be clear:
“Climate: present, past and future” by HH Lamb – 1977
“Weather, climate & human affairs: a book of essays and other papers” — HH Lamb – 1988
“Climate, history and the modern world” – HH Lamb – 1995
Suppose sheep are half the original mass. Their individual reflecting surface would then be reduced so you would need 2^(2/3) sheep to reflect the same amount of sunlight. While that is more sheep numerically (by a factor of 1.6) it is less sheep by mass (by a factor of 0.8) so that fewer resources are needed to get the same result.
While this feedback appears to be negative, one should not ignore the possibility of a heard mentality with a larger number of smaller sheep. Should they all turn together to the dark side and become black sheep, trying to get back to the “three-bags-full” standard of prior generations, one could hit a runaway tipping point that could be catastrophic.
This situation requires close monitoring, perhaps by requiring the sheep to follow Mary to school each day, something that may require an even greater change to the rules that make up our way of life than ending the use of coal for power generation. In short, our way of life is threatened by spherical sheep.
Aren’t you aware that sheep-measuring stations are far too often located right next to restaurants which serve lamb kebobs? That they’re often placed right next to barbecue grills? That the vast majority of observing stations don’t meet the siting recommendations set by the international sheep-weighing network?
Living too near heavily developed areas causes sheep to lose weight from the stress of urban life, and from watching too many diet programs on “Oprah.” The apparent decline in sheep weight is merely a reflection of the “urban sheep island” effect.
Lets remember the sad and epic tail of “The Tragedy of the Commons” by Garrett Hardin. It is the story of an heroic herd that meats its demise. These ruminates lead by humans acting in their own self interests – ultimately destroyed their shared limited resource. Hardin tells of the industrious herders sharing a common parcel of land (the commons), which is open to free grazing. Tragedy strikes despite all the herdsmen agreeing that they must not let it happen.
Harding wrote of cows, but it applies to sheep:
“In Hardin’s view, it is in each herder’s interest to put as many cows as possible onto the land, even if the commons are damaged as a result. The herder receives all of the benefits from the additional cows, while the damage to the commons is shared by the entire group. If all herders make this individually rational decision, however, the commons are destroyed and all herders suffer.”
Shortly after follows the story of the Braised Lamb Shanks with caramelized onions.
Hmmmm….Maybe repainting all of the black cars, white? And how ’bout those new ‘white asphalt’ shingles for the roof – why, next to those Japanese PV Tiles!!!
GM Lightning Bugs to cut down on Street Lighting?
And can’t you just see the ‘Climate Solution Found’ headlines that proclaim the unexpected “Global Cooling” windfall produced by the GM ‘upside-down leafed’ Japanese Maple albedo affect?
This is all extraneous stuff that distracts from important discussions of whether or not warming impacts the number of times an unladen swallow needs to beat its wings to maintain air-speed velocity.
If you weren’t so afraid of real climate discussions, Gavin, you would be aware that studies on this matter clearly demonstrate that warming is not happening and if it is, then it is not possibly impacted by the GHGs that algore emits.
How ’bout outlawing dark cows to offset their methane impact, or will then only outlaws have dark cows? James Staples does have a point about roofing—I was looking for 3 tab shingles, hoping to find some with greater then 80% ir reflectivity. No such luck. …and isn’t there a way to put a reflective agent into blacktop that would migrate to the surface to reflect? The McDonald near my house blacktopped their concrete parking lot; increasing the air temp around it by at least 20º
That would be a amplifying effect in general, but the actual population of sheep concerned come in many colours, so the overall affect is uncertain.
“Affect?” Hah! You backsliding “luke-coolers” are almost as linguistically challenged as we “hard-as-ice coolers” (not to be confused with “whine coolers”).
Please show a detailed chart of this “uncertain” effect (or “affect” or whatever) over at least the last six months.
I also demand that you immediately provide all code (that you have ever written) and all data (that you have ever seen), as well as library borrowing records, emails to shepherds and other incriminating evidence to be determined. The ridiculous assertion that the amplification of sheep albedo cooling is “uncertain” flies in the face of the plain evidence from the “Little Sheep Age”.
I have recently discovered a mysterious directory entitled “Black Sheep” on a laptop abandoned in a landfill in Pennsylvania and I hereby demand an immediate congressional inquiry into the entire matter.
[Response: Ah, yes. That was an experiment where the sheep were all shorn before the analysis was performed. Hansel van Crane has done some extensive GCM analyses using the “REVERBERATE-H” climate model which shows it makes no difference. They found this to be true both for their “JOHNNY” simulation where the GCM was accidentally initialized with Precambrian stratospheric ozone concentrations, and the “RUFUS” simulation wherein the initialization error was subsequently fixed. – mike]
Note also that the “shepherd’s crook” comes in several shapes. I will be breaking at least one of them, but I have yet to decide which one.
An increase in black sheep (a la melanic moths in the industrial north of England in the Industrial Revolution) might mean we had greenhouse sheep, absorbing UV and re-emitting it at longer wavelengths.
Markus R: nah. You need to give tham a few months. Spring lamb is yak compared to yearlings.
This kind of post just rams it home to ewe how complex this whole OGW (Ovineogenic Global Warming) thing is.
Apparently RealClimate (and Al Goat) is ignorant to the fact that we can already see the Earth from space, meaning that it reflects light, which means that reflected light comes BEFORE sheep. Since sheep LAG reflected light (by maybe 800 years or so) it’s obvious that sheep can’t influence the surface albedo.
[Response: Equally problematic is the fact that this article ignores the compelling recent evidence provided for a new natural pattern of climate variability, unrelated to global warming, but instead related to the AMO, NAO, and PDO (the so-called “Ei-EIO”) that appears mostly, if not entirely, responsible for the observed changes in livestock characteristics (see McDonald, O., Reconstruction of the Ei-EIO from Bovine Organic Deposits, J. Bull. S., 42, 2009). -mike]
There’s more problems. Recent blogs, Watts up with the livestock, and Ovine audit have determined that large issues exist with the sheep number data, usually photos are taken too close to fences, among other more obvious problems outlined by tamino in #8.
Yes, good stuff Gavin, and great comments. But seriously folks, whether or not the actual example (smaller Soay sheep) is correct or not (and I have some doubts), it is a reminder that as well as seriously affecting populations of wild animals, climate change is going to have consequences for domesticated animals. And consequences which are going to often be unpredictable and counter-intuitive, and affect, in turn, the nature of agriculture around the world.
wont take this line of argument seriously until land cropped by sheep and land strewn with sheep dung have had irrefutable measurements of their albedo.
in my town, neighbors have hired goats to clear roadside margins of grass, weeds and poison ivy that mowers can not be bothered to clear…the matted remnants of vegetation are much darker than what was there when the goats were penned in to munch the weeds.
Gavin, you are being unkind to our dumb, woolly friends, who have no ability to reply. Criticism is better directed at more articulate bleaters such as Vaclav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic, who is on record complaining about the “scientific consensus on global warming”. Used to the dialectic of social sciences, Klausian sheep rail against the immutable laws of nature.
I have herd that the Heritage Foundation folks are to rename their annual get together as a “Muster of the Faithful”. Sheep farmers in my neighbourhood are being asked to retrain their Border Collies to round up people rather than quadrupeds.
And I recently met a chap, Carl Marks, who is working on a book, using Hegelian analytic tools, that ends with: “Climate Denialists of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your reputations.”
p.m. Carterton, New Zealand.
But surely we can engineer a solution to falling sheep albedo!
But we have to be careful that we don’t make things worse, eg. breeding white cows wouldn’t be a good idea due to increased methane production and the use of land.
Alternatively, maybe we can create a balance between white and black sheep and carefully change the balance to create a stable temperature.
However this might not be possible due to market fashions for wool. Unless black wool can be bleached and dyed??
I’ve been reading some on temperature analysis being done by various people and institutions. One area of interest has been the number of weather stations. I found a link at nasa: “http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/station_data/” which showed the number of weather stations over a period of time. From the middle graph (the number of reporting stations as a function of time), there exists sharp rises and falls. It appears that there was more measurements taken from the years 1950 to about 1990 with a decline beginning around 1980.
So my first question is: How exactly is this being handled? Obviously, some weather stations exist in warmer and colder climates. If you have a large number of stations being shutdown in warmer climates, would the trend not show colder figures?
Are those stations that dropped off the grid during the 1990 sharp decline still being used to create the figures? What happens if you drop them off and use only the ones that are still currently active? Does the same trend still occur? To what degree?
How good or bad is the quality control at the stations?
Are orbits or sun activity taken into account in the temperatures?
I think we’ve definitely uncovered some more known unknowns here. The theories flying around our office include a spectacular debate about blondes vs brunettes.
There’s so much potential for further research here. For example, what has been the impact on surface albedo during the summer months with Scouts and Guides moving away from green canvas ridge tents, to white bell tents?
If more sheep impact the albedo enough to cause a cooling effect, wouldn’t more solar panels (which absorb light–especially in high albedo deserts) cause a global warming impact.
I did some really back of the envelope math on this before (e.g. Ast 101 level greenhouse effect model),and converting all of the u.s.’s electricity production to solar, and assuming all panels were placed in the desert, would cause a small, but significant increase in equilibrium temperature.
“Climate change and sexual size dimorphism in an Arctic spider”
Abstract: Climate change is advancing the onset of the growing season and this is happening at a particularly fast rate in the High Arctic. However, in most species the relative fitness implications for males and females remain elusive. Here, we present data on 10 successive cohorts of the wolf spider Pardosa glac-ialis from Zackenberg in High-Arctic, northeast Greenland. We found marked inter-annual variation in adult body size (carapace width) and this variation was greater in females than in males. Earlier snowmelt during both years of its biennial maturation resulted in larger adult body sizes and a skew towards positive sexual size dimorphism (females bigger than males). These results illustrate the pervasive influence of climate on key life-history traits and indicate that male and female responses to climate should be investigated separately whenever possible.
This may mean a positive feedback, since they appear somewhat darker (than white snow or sheep), or at least they might cause an arctic amplification effect, and this might overwhelm the negative feedback of shrinking sheep.
And we’re not talking arctic wolf spiders in sheep’s clothing.
I’m all for further study of both blondes and brunettes. This is an area of scientific interest.
The examination of species differences and potentials regarding atmospheric/climate heating and cooling based on short and long term environmental changes combined with internal natural variation and external forcing could net important discoveries.