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Adapting in Amsterdam

Filed under: — rasmus @ 9 October 2008

EMS/ECAC 2008 venue The theme of this year’s annual meeting of the European Meteorological Society (EMS) [European Congress on Applied Climatology (ECAC)] was adaptation to climate change. So what’s more appropriate then, than hosting the meeting in Amsterdam – on a building site?

Adaption may involve changes in both building practices and in being able to forecast adverse conditions. Thus under a global warming, there is a greater need for improved seasonal forecasts to be prepared for changes in seasonal variability, a likely consequence of a global warming.

One of the more interesting talks was delivered by Tim Palmer (from the ECMWF) on ‘seamless prediction’. This is one of the recent buzz words in the community. It refers to the idea of using one system to predict atmospheric conditions on time scales varying from hours to decades.

Due to historical and practical reasons, day-to-day weather forecasts tend to be performed on different systems than seasonal forecasts and climate change scenarios. Whereas the former can take the oceanic state to be approximately constant for the next few days, slow changes may have a greater impact for the latter two.

Numerical weather prediction (NWP – i.e. the daily operational weather forecast) and climatology communities have drifted apart for a while, but Palmer argued that there is a need to a convergence of the communities. He also proposed using global climate models (GCMs) the way NWP models are used for weather forecasting to test their quality. By looking at the initial part of their evolution, he reckoned it may be possible to get some idea of how good they are. Thus, he proposed a way to weigh the different GCMs up against each other. Time will show if this strategy will work.

As an illustration of how such a test may reveal the quality of the GCMs, Palmer used the model runs in the project that were responsible for the very high climate sensitivities (see previous post here). These high numbers had been identified with GCMs with low convective entrainment – meaning that they mixed in less of the ambient air from the side during convection than ‘normal’ models. The degree of mixing is described statistically and is set by parameterizations. A comparison of NWP models using low convective entrainment with ‘normal’ models revealed greater imbalances in the former (one caveat was that a different model was used in this case). Thus, low values for the convective entrainment parameterization are less realistic, and hence the high climate sensitivities derived in the project are therefore questionable.

One concern regarding the use of GCMs as NWP models is that the latter involve an initialization problem (predictability of the first kind) while climate modeling represent a boundary value problem (predictability of the second type; see more on this here and here). Furthermore, evaluation of the skill of weather and seasonal forecasts tend to imply regional or local scales, whereas climate modeling has focused more on the large-scale features (‘finger printing’, however, does take regional features into account). Seasonal forecasting may involve bias corrections referred to as ‘calibration’ – fixing the statistical distribution of the prognostic variables so that they are comparable with the observations – and they still struggle for places like northern Europe.

Despite the fact that the theme of the conference was on adaptation, there were also discussions about mitigation – which was seen as part of any real solution to the climate change problem. Woerkom talked about climate change communication and argued that people don’t act on their beliefs. Energy consumption associated with life styles is difficult to change, and social pressures and expectations are some of the obstacles. He suggested that people have to be supported in the implementation.

38 Responses to “Adapting in Amsterdam”

  1. 1
    Danny Bloom says:

    Does adaptation also involve buidling floating cities, like the Dutch propose, or polar cities, like I propose?

  2. 2

    Reply to 1. Danny Bloom: There will not be time for your polar cities. We go extinct too soon.

    Environmental policy = energy policy
    Energy policy = environmental policy
    because Global Warming
    can lead to Hydrogen Sulfide gas coming out of the oceans.

    Hydrogen Sulfide gas will Kill all people. Homo Sap will go
    EXTINCT unless drastic action is taken.

    October 2006 Scientific American

    Impact from the Deep
    Strangling heat and gases emanating from the earth and sea, not
    asteroids, most likely caused several ancient mass extinctions.
    Could the same killer-greenhouse conditions build once again?
    By Peter D. Ward
    downloaded from:
    ………………..Most of the article omitted………………….
    But with atmospheric carbon climbing at an annual rate of 2 ppm
    and expected to accelerate to 3 ppm, levels could approach 900
    ppm by the end of the next century, and conditions that bring
    about the beginnings of ocean anoxia may be in place. How soon
    after that could there be a new greenhouse extinction? That is
    something our society should never find out.”

    Press Release
    Pennsylvania State University
    Monday, Nov. 3, 2003
    downloaded from:
    “In the end-Permian, as the levels of atmospheric oxygen fell and
    the levels of hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide rose, the upper
    levels of the oceans could have become rich in hydrogen sulfide
    catastrophically. This would kill most of the oceanic plants and
    animals. The hydrogen sulfide dispersing in the atmosphere would
    kill most terrestrial life.” is a NASA web zine. See:

    These articles agree with the first 2. They all say 6 degrees C or
    1000 parts per million CO2 is the extinction point.

    The global warming is already 1.3 degree Farenheit. 11 degrees
    Farenheit is about 6 degrees Celsius. The book “Six Degrees” by
    Mark Lynas agrees. If the global warming is 6 degrees
    centigrade, we humans go extinct. See:

    “Under a Green Sky” by Peter D. Ward, Ph.D., 2007.
    Paleontologist discusses mass extinctions of the past and the one
    we are doing to ourselves.

    We have to convert to plug-in hybrid cars so that electricity made
    by low-CO2 methods powers most of our driving. Nuclear power
    produces the least CO2 of ANY source of electricity.
    32 countries have nuclear power plants. Only 9 have the bomb.
    The top 4 producers of CO2 all have nuclear power plants, coal
    fired power plants and nuclear bombs. They are the USA, China,
    India and Russia. Reducing CO2 production by 90% by 2050
    requires drastic action in the USA, China, India and Russia.
    Coal, oil shale and tar sands must be left untouched in the ground.

    I have no financial connection to the nuclear power industry.

  3. 3
    John Gribbin says:

    There is also the question of chaos — do model runs that start with slightly different parameters diverge or stabilise?

    [Response: The exact weather diverges, but the statistics stabilise. – gavin]

  4. 4
    Patrick Henry says:

    Question for Gavin. I attended a lecture a few weeks ago by IPCC lead author David Randall. He said that doubling CO2 would cause (without feedbacks) an increase in absolute temperature of 0.5%.

    By contrast, Wikipedia says that 25% of the greenhouse effect is caused by CO2. Obviously both can’t be true. Is it 25% or 0.5%?

    [Response: 0.5% of 288K is 1.4K which is close to the no-feedback estimate of 2xCO2. But this is a statement about climate sensitivity – not what the current GHE is. Wikipedia might not be exactly right (I estimate CO2 causes closer to 20% of current LW trapping – with water vapour as 50%, clouds at 25%, ozone and others make up the rest), but it is a completely different question. Because the forcing of CO2 is nonlinear, you wouldn’t expect taking away all CO2 to be the same as doubling it (the former is much larger than the latter). – gavin]

  5. 5
    Alexandre says:

    “[Woekom] suggested that people have to be supported in the implementation.”

    Whot does “supported” mean here? Subsidizing? Carbon taxes? Environmental Education? Information about the alternatives?

  6. 6
    Rod B says:

    Wouldn’t the initial/boundary differences and the geographic (and I would add time) granularity prohibit using one for the other, let alone using one to validate the other?

  7. 7
    Hank Roberts says:

    > David Randall lecture

    Streaming video and info links here:

    It’s #1 of a new series.

  8. 8
    Paul Harris says:

    re 7. I just read the pdf version, its an excellent resource, even for a non-scientist. Thanks Hank Roberts.

  9. 9
    Geno Canto del Halcon says:

    From a practical standpoint, one of the most important types of climate forecasts we need are regional forecasts with enough confidence in their accuracy that we who are involved in policy can make rational decisions about present-day investments in the infrastructure that will be needed in coming years. This is a very important aspect of the adaptation discussion: answering the “adapt to what conditions?”

  10. 10
    Ed Tredger says:

    On the relationship between the entrainment coefficient and high climate sensitivities:

    This a post-hoc (and ad-hoc) filter that is aimed specifically at ruling out high CS simulations.
    If we only look at the realism of simulations with a particular value for one parameter (with an known effect on CS) arent we biasing the constraining procedure?

    Other parameters also have an effect on CS – it seems we should look at these as well if we are to give high CS simulations a ‘fair’ chance.

  11. 11

    Re Paul Harris, #8–

    Thanks for pointing out the availability of the PDF; I saved a copy to my hard drive.

  12. 12
    Ike Solem says:

    There are some problems with how the IPCC uses language to convey the degree of scientific certainty regarding “adaptation” and “mitigation”. One example is the following, IPCC appendix 6:

    Compare the first three to the last.

    Robust findings:
    Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global
    average sea level. {WGI 3.9, SPM}

    Many natural systems, on all continents and in some oceans, are being affected by regional climate changes. Observed changes in many physical and biological systems are consistent with warming. As a result of uptake of anthropogenic CO2 since 1750, the acidity of the surface ocean has increased.
    {WGI 5.4, WGII 1.3}

    Global total annual anthropogenic GHG emissions, weighted by their 100-year GWPs, have grown by 70% between 1970 and 2004. As a result of anthropogenic emissions, atmospheric concentrations of N2O now far exceed pre-industrial values spanning many thousands of years, and CH4 and CO2 now far exceed the natural range over the last 650,000 years. {WGI SPM; WGIII 1.3}

    Most of the global average warming over the past 50 years is very likely due to anthropogenic GHG increases and it is likely that there is a discernible human-induced warming averaged over each
    continent (except Antarctica). {WGI 9.4, SPM}

    The 4th paragraph seems unable to connect the previous three. The use of “likely” and “very likely” don’t make much sense. For comparison, maybe IPCC scientists could use these phrases in other contexts.

    For example, is it “very likely” that the HIV virus is responsible for the development of AIDS?

    Is it “very likely” that solar and wind energy can be used to replace coal-fired electricity?

    Is it “very likely” that most of the extra CO2 in the atmosphere got there due to fossil fuel combustion? Is it also “very likely” that C14 radiocarbon dating is at all accurate?

    Is it “very likely” that the Earth is older than 5,000 years? A Supreme Deity might be trying to trick us by putting fossils in the ground, right?

    What does that phrase mean?

    Do we mean that it is “very likely” for the planet to continue to warm, thus allowing wiggle room for the possibility of a gigantic asteroid strike throwing up a massive dust cloud and wiping out most life on Earth?

    It’s not normal scientific language. It was forced into the IPCC report by the PR folks, who wanted to be able to continue to use such language to raise doubts about the issue. The purpose of the weasly “adaptation vs. mitigation” language is not so different – the real choice is between “do nothing but run for higher ground” vs. “halt the use of fossil fuels and end deforestation.”

    Language should be used to clarify concepts, not to shroud them in feel-good PR-speak.

  13. 13
    Dave Andrews says:


    AR4 might seem like a ‘bible’ now. In 50 years time it will be wierd historical document

  14. 14
    Ike Solem says:

    Dave, the Bible is a faith-based document, meaning it is not expected to change over time.

    Any scientific document becomes a historical document after 50 years. That’s why geology textbooks from the 50’s are not used in classrooms (they refer to “the discredited theory of plate tectonics”, for example). On the other hand, the versions of the works of Homer or of the Bible used in the 50s have not changed.

    Already, we can see that the IPCC will have to take into account the failure of the climate models to predict the rapid warming in the Arctic. Further, the low end of estimates of sea level rise included in the IPCC will have to be adjusted higher.

    Science doesn’t stop – it is a continually evolving process, which is why the textbooks all have to be re-written every decade or so.

    No scientist views the IPCC report as a “Bible”, in other words. Anyone who does has a basic mis-perception of what science is all about.

  15. 15
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Dave Andrews, AR4 was a historical document by the time it was published–that does not mean its basic conclusions have been invalidated. Quite the contrary. In 50 years time, provided humans are still doing climate science rather than victims of it, our understanding of many things will undoubtedly improve greatly. I rather doubt that the role of CO2 will look significantly different.

  16. 16
    Barton Paul Levenson says:

    Ike writes:

    Already, we can see that the IPCC will have to take into account the failure of the climate models to predict the rapid warming in the Arctic.

    All the GCMs predicted rapid warming in the Arctic.

  17. 17

    Re: 16 (BPL)

    Qualitatively, yes–but quantitatively, they pretty much all underpredicted, didn’t they?

  18. 18
    Barton Paul Levenson says:

    Kevin McKinney writes:

    Qualitatively, yes–but quantitatively, they pretty much all underpredicted, didn’t they?

    Did they? Cite a source and give the figures, please.

  19. 19

    Honestly, I was asking, not arguing, just based on general impressions. But since you ask, here is one quote I turned up:

    “The team finds that, during episodes of rapid sea-ice loss, the rate of Arctic land warming is 3.5 times greater than the average 21st century warming rates predicted in global climate models.”

    Publication Info:

    AGU Release No. 08-22
    10 June 2008
    American Geophysical Union
    National Center for Atmospheric Research
    Joint Release


    (You can access the actual paper via links there.)

    More information welcomed. . .

  20. 20

    A bit OT, but from the same search, another paper:

    Plants emerging from beneath melting Canadian ice caps: A millennial perspective on Arctic warming
    Human-induced climate change has warmed global temperatures for at least the past 50 years, leaving Arctic areas particularly vulnerable. Noting that the plateau ice caps of Baffin Island, Arctic Canada, are sensitive indicators of climate, Anderson et al. analyze aerial imagery and find that ice cover has diminished by more than 50 percent since 1958. Linear projections suggest that all ice caps on the island’s plateau will disappear by 2070 A.D. From radiocarbon dating of dead vegetation that has emerged as ice margins have receded, the authors find that ice caps are now the smallest that they have been since at least 350 A.D. Cosmogenic radiocarbon accumulating in exposed rocks, which reveals their postglacial exposure history, shows that the plateau supported ice caps for most of the past 2800 years, accentuating the anomalous nature of twentieth-century warmth. Periods of widespread ice cap expansion during the Little Ice Age coincide with peak levels of volcanic aerosols in the stratosphere and reduced solar luminosity, suggesting a trigger mechanism for the Little Ice Age. The current warming exceeds any sustained warm episode in this area for at least the past 1600 years.

    “A millennial perspective on Arctic warming from 14C in quartz and plants emerging form beneath ice caps”

    Rebecca K. Anderson, Gifford H. Miller, and Stephen B. DeVogel, Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research and Department of Geological Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, U.S.A.
    Jason P Briner, Department of Geology, State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York, U.S.A.
    Nathaniel A. Lifton, Geosciences Department, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, U.S.A.

    Geophysical Research Letters (GRL) paper doi:10.1029/2007GL032057, 2007

  21. 21
    RichardC says:

    18 Barton said, “Cite a source” Remember the goose and gander, Barton! This one looks cool:
    Even with a negative global temperature trend as compared to model mean, arctic sea ice is way beyond a standard deviation too low. Kevin’s way right.

    An ice-free summer arctic is warmer, and the models still only predict a bit over 2/3rds reduction by 2100. The brackets for 100% reduction in real life appear to be 2013-2040. Climate models still suck.

  22. 22
    Barton Paul Levenson says:

    Kevin McKinney writes:

    “The team finds that, during episodes of rapid sea-ice loss, the rate of Arctic land warming is 3.5 times greater than the average 21st century warming rates predicted in global climate models.”

    Apples and oranges. The quote is comparing warming in the arctic with overall global warming, the phenomenon known as “polar amplification.” Which the models predicted. Again, your assertion that global climate models somehow missed polar amplification is just plain wrong.

  23. 23
    Franko says:

    How soon can we have the Arctic Really warm ?
    More than just the Northwest Passage ?,9171,770864-2,00.html

  24. 24

    22. Hey, Barton, chill a bit–I’m not arguing here. (And I’m definitely not asserting that the models “missed polar amplification;” I’m well aware that that was consistently predicted in the models.) What I am saying is that my general impression, bolstered by sources such as the one I cited, leads me to think that Ike is correct in saying that there is (possibly) a *quantitative* underprediction of that amplification–in other words, that the Arctic is warming *even faster* than predicted by the models.

    I agree that the citation I posted is not clear on the point. It may even be that this point has not been thoroughly studied yet. I know my limited search time didn’t turn up anything close to conclusive; that’s why I ended with “more information welcomed.” And so it would be–I’m here to learn! Anyone?

  25. 25

    Thanks, Richard C., for the Maslowski presentation. I wasn’t able to pull it up via your link, but was here:

    (For other readers, it identifies discrepancies between observations and a couple of model runs and suggests mechanisms for these. The presentation suggests a seasonally ice-free Arctic may occur by 2113.)

    Of course, ice is only part of the Arctic picture, albeit a very significant part.

  26. 26
    Franko says:

    We want to create and maintain good Northern growing conditions. Which Green gas, to tipping point to ?

  27. 27
    RichardC says:

    25 Kevin, small typo. Using a linear trend from 1997-2004, the arctic ocean becomes seas-oonally ice-free in 2013.

    The prees.en-tation says that thicknness, not extent is the factor. It thins until it dies. A couple of warm years and the ice will be gone even soooner. This could be the last US pre.ssid.eential ele.ccti.on held where there is Septe.mber ice in the Arctic Ocean. Add addaa.pting to completely new weather pattt.erns to pe,aa-k oil, w.aar, and all the rest of the mess. Can you imagine trying to figure out when and what to plant where? It’s gonna be a craapshh-oot as the Jeet Strr.eam and eve-rything else adjusts to a brand new reggime. One thing the mo.dels seem to agree on is that if you live in the southww.est USA or along the Gulf, s-ee.l.l your h-oo.u-se. Can you wait for the ma.rr., to rec.o,,vver first? Well, tis a cr,aaps.h,ooo.t. (as is getting around s-pp,.a.m

  28. 28
    Franko says:

    People are adapted for Tropical Climates and Rain Forests
    Time for the climate to adopt to US
    Where are the thermostats.
    CO2, just a dummy display.
    Not the gate back to Paradise.

  29. 29
    Corbett says:

    This should be more accurately called “Adapting to Abnormality in Amsterdam.” That is to say to a more stressful environment. To comment #15, Homer and the bible do change in the class-room namely they disappear and are replaced by American Indian creationism and African folk stories. If Darwin and Newton were treated in a similar way the quality of science would degrade too. Then we wouldn’t even know that the evolution of technology is degrading the human environment.

  30. 30
    Franko says:

    CO2 blocks and radiates the same frequencies, some H2O overlapping.
    Near the ground, blocks, hugs the heat closer, a minor helper to H2O
    Above Tropopause, CO2 is the main actor, H2O is left below.

    Double the CO2, below, little extra blocking frequency help. Just gets swept away, convected, T^4, to the sky.

    Above, without the H2O to compete wih, the effect is extra

    CO2, the sum effect, not a cooling gas ?

  31. 31
    Luis says:

    Hello, I don’t know where to post this. I am discussing with a contrarian and he keeps bringing up the paleoclimate of the Cambrian, Ordovician and Jurassic-Cretaceous, with numerous ice ages and increased levels of CO2. In general, it seems, little correlation between CO2 and temperature.

    Intuitively I understand the climatic conditions were radically different, but is there a resource I can use to refute him?

    Many thanks.

  32. 32
    David B. Benson says:

    Luis (31) — Most introductory books about geology now show pictures of the varying distributiion of the continents; this makes a difference to the climate. The next, and a major point, is the Faint Young Sun; higher concentrations of CO2 kept conditions equitable for life despite less irradiance.

    The physics of CO2 in the atmospheree is well understood; a summary is found in “The Discovery of Global Warming” by Spencer Weart:

    Review of above:

    which is certainly worth reading in any case. A briefer summary with some methematics is in “Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast” by David Archer;
    sample chapter 4 on greenhouse gases available as a pdf here:

    Finally, we need to restrict our attention to the modern climate. One defining event, IMHO, was the

    since it freshened the oceans to the current salinity. The next important event was the closure of the Isthmus of Panama about 4 +- 1 million years ago:

    ad this event might well be thought of as the beginning of the current ice age, broadly viewed.

    Hope this helps.

  33. 33
    Hank Roberts says:

    Luis, it probably will depend on what your friend is reading. If he’s relying on some of the PR sites out there you’re not likely to convince him. If he’s willing to look at the published science — instead of what bloggers claim about it — there are resources.

    Have you looked at the “Start Here” link at the top of the page, and the first link under Science on the right side?

    You might also look at these, and use the Search box at the top of the page for other suggestions.

    Remember there’s more going on that just the two things your friend mentions. Also look at the rate of change. Most of the paleo information is about changes that were much, much slower than what we’re living with now. Few events in nature match the rate of extraction and use of fossil fuels.

  34. 34
    Hank Roberts says:

    Oops, that last link to illconsidered is still a top hit in Google Search but the site has actually moved and it’s a bit hard to find. Start here:
    Page down through that and you’ll find it among much else.

  35. 35
    Chris Colose says:

    #31 Luis

    Both Temperatures and CO2 levels are not well constrained when you go back that far in time, so there’s substantial uncertainty associated with both that need to be first addressed. Dating issues may be something else. This paper mentions drawdown of CO2 being implicated in the ordovician glaciation, and also note that a fainter sun at the time helped. Here are some things going on.

    In a very broad picture, we see temperatures declining since the start of the Cambrian, we see the sun brightening, and GHG concentrations going down and a transition into an oxygen-rich atmosphere. Does this mean climate cools when the sun gets brighter? That wouldn’t be a good argument, would it? Given the quality of proxy data, given what proxies actually tell us (some may reflect bottom water conditions on the shelf and not open oceanic SSTs–Further on the dataset has only a very poor temporal
    resolution for many intervals). Given the long-term increase in solar luminosity, shifting plate tectonics and albedo, and the logarithmic effect of CO2 on greenhouse warming you might want to ask just what kind of “correlation” your correspondent expects to see? Some points are indisputable like “it used to be hotter, and ice free” and CO2 was also higher. Almost any deep-time climate problem involves CO2/CH4 in some way or another. The PETM and CO2 “spike” is also not a glitch in the data so you should explain that.

    Dana Royer has some papers here, here, and here which show that CO2 does in fact play a primary part in deep-time climate.

    My guess is your correspondent is just throwing up a smokescreen.

  36. 36

    Luis, have you already browsed the past articles found in the sidebar under paleoclimate? There’s quite a lot of information there. Perhaps others will have some suggestions from farther afield.

  37. 37
    Barton Paul Levenson says:


    Earth’s habitability is maintained by the carbonate-silicate cycle. When the temperature warms, there is more weathering, and CO2 is taken out of the air and put into the ocean, and eventually the rocks — and this brakes the warming. When the temperature cools, there is less weathering, and CO2 from volcanic outgassing and metamorphism builds up in the air — and this breaks the cooling.

    The system is not perfect. A few times (e.g. 2300, 800 and 600 million years ago) the Earth has gone into “snowball Earth” glaciations. When that happens, CO2 has to build up by a tremendous amount to warm the planet again. Thus for a while you get cold temperatures with high CO2 levels. But that doesn’t mean CO2 isn’t a greenhouse gas or isn’t presently warming the surface.

  38. 38
    Luis says:

    Thanks a lot for the answers!