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The wisdom of Solomon

Filed under: — gavin @ 29 January 2010

A quick post for commentary on the new Solomon et al paper in Science express. We’ll try and get around to discussing this over the weekend, but in the meantime I’ve moved some comments over. There is some commentary on this at DotEarth, and some media reports on the story – some good, some not so good. It seems like a topic that is ripe for confusion, and so here are a few quick clarifications that are worth making.

First of all, this is a paper about internal variability of the climate system in the last decade, not on additional factors that drive climate. Second, this is a discussion about stratospheric water vapour (10 to 15 km above the surface), not water vapour in general. Stratospheric water vapour comes from two sources – the uplift of tropospheric water through the very cold tropical tropopause (both as vapour and as condensate), and the oxidation of methane in the upper stratosphere (CH4+2O2 –> CO2 + 2H2O NB: this is just a schematic, the actual chemical pathways are more complicated). There isn’t very much of it (between 3 and 6 ppmv), and so small changes (~0.5 ppmv) are noticeable.

The decreases seen in this study are in the lower stratosphere and are likely dominated by a change in the flux of water through the tropopause. A change in stratospheric water vapour because of the increase in methane over the industrial period would be a forcing of the climate (and is one of the indirect effects of methane we discussed last year), but a change in the tropopause flux is a response to other factors in the climate system. These might include El Nino/La Nina events, increases in Asian aerosols, or solar impacts on near-tropopause ozone – but this is not addressed in the paper and will take a little more work to figure out.

Update: This last paragraph was probably not as clear as it should be. If the lower stratospheric water vapour (LSWV) is relaxing back to some norm after the 1997/1998 El Nino, then what we are seeing would be internal variability in the system which might have some implications for feedbacks to increasing GHGs, and my estimate of that would be that this would be an amplifying feedback (warmer SSTs leading to more LSWV). If we are seeing changes to the tropopause temperatures as an indirect impact from increased Asian aerosol emissions or solar-driven ozone changes, then this might be better thought of as impacting the efficacy of those forcings rather than implying some sensitivity change.

The study includes an estimate of the effect of the observed stratospheric water decadal decrease by calculating the radiation flux with and without the change, and comparing this to the increase in CO2 forcing over the same period. This implicitly assumes that the change can be regarded as a forcing. However, whether that is an appropriate calculation or not needs some careful consideration. Finally, no-one has yet looked at whether climate models (which have plenty of decadal variability too) have phenomena that resemble these observations that might provide some insight into the causes.


487 Responses to “The wisdom of Solomon”

  1. 151
    Steve Milesworthy says:

    Following from Ed Davies at 31 and 33, I calculated that 1ppm of stratosphere water vapour is roughly 2e10 kg of water which is closer to Ed’s calculations of jet emissions.

    Annual Concorde emissions at or near the troposphere were, perhaps, up to 1/3 of this (based on some more back of the envelope calculations). Flights stopped circa 2003. QED.

    Uncertainties are fuel usage while at cruising altitude and whether the altitude (roughly 17000 metres) is high enough.

    I found one or two relevant papers, but mostly they focused on NOx, and/or required subscriptions. Eg.

    Science 6 October 1995:
    Vol. 270. no. 5233, pp. 70 – 74
    DOI: 10.1126/science.270.5233.70
    Emission Measurements of the Concorde Supersonic Aircraft in the Lower Stratosphere
    D. W. Fahey et al

    Here’s a scan of the envelope:

    Mass of atmosphere 5e18kg
    Mass of stratosphere about 5e16kg (roughly 1% of atmosphere – based on tropopause being roughly
    at 18000 metres which is 2 times the scale height of the atmosphere)
    1ppm of H20 equivalent to about 2.5e10kg water (H20 is about half the mass of O2 and N2)

    Concorde flew 6 times per day between Europe (Paris/London) and New York.
    Estimate each flight has 2 hours, supersonic (~1000mph) at 18000 metres.
    Estimate fuel usage of 20kg/mile based on Wikipedia.
    Fuel usage = 40000kg near stratosphere per flight
    Assuming 10% hydrogen content, gives 40000*0.1*(18/2) = 36000kg water per flight.
    Six flights per day = 8e9 kg water per year.

  2. 152
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Gary Thompson says, ” it just seems that the AGW arguments are falling apart a little more every day.”

    Do tell, Gary, what parts of the consensus model of Earth’s climate have been overturned. I must have missed them. Silly me, looking in the peer-reviewed literature.

  3. 153
    Theo Kurten says:

    This is probably starting to be somewhat off-topic, but regarding the “oxidation vs combustion” issue it should be noted that the difference between the two is, on a fundamental level, not really that large. Combustion is just one form of oxidation, which happens to require higher reactant concentrations that what is found in the atmosphere. The reaction equation “CH4 + 2 O2 => CO2 + 2 H2O” is not an elementary reaction for either pathway; both atmospheric oxidation and combustion of methane proceed via free radical mechanisms. Both take several steps to get to the final products, and both can (in principle, and depending on the conditions) also lead to other products being formed (e.g. soot in incomplete combustion). Though methane tends to burn quite cleanly, so for combustion the conversion to CO2 and H2O is often close to perfect. While in the troposphere (though not the stratosphere) the oxidation pathways leading to “alternative end products” can sometimes have significant yields. I guess this was what Richard was trying to point out?

    A quick google finds this simplified example for the elementary reactions in methane combustion (combustion chemistry is not my core competence so I have no idea if the precise details are right or not):

    http://employees.csbsju.edu/hjakubowski/classes/ch331/oxphos/combustion_of_methane.htm

    (Note that this schematic presents free oxygen atoms as radicals, which is technically incorrect as they have an even number of electrons; I assume the O* is intended to represent O(1D), and the radical dot notation is used to emphasize reactivity.)

    As you can see some of the steps are actually similar (or identical) to those of atmospheric oxidation, but the different conditions (higher CH4 concentration, higher temperature) permit some other steps that don’t happen in the atmosphere. So in some technical sense, CO2 is not a *direct* product of CH4 combustion, either – several steps are needed to go from CH4 to CO2, just like in the atmosphere. (Though the intermediate products are certainly less stable, and the overall process is of course faster.)

    The issue of requiring an initial input of energy for the reaction to start is also the same for both combustion and atmospheric oxidation. In combustion, the initial energy is provided by e.g. a spark (which forms the initial free O atoms or H radicals in the schematic I linked to above), after which the heat liberated by the reaction itself keeps it going. In the atmosphere, this initial energy is provided by UV light from the sun, which allows the production of OH radicals (again via several intermediate steps, involving O3 photolysis, and the reaction of O(1D) with water). So in both cases the thermodynamically favorable but kinetically extremely limited CH4 + 2 O2 reaction is catalyzed by free radicals.

  4. 154
    Steve Milesworthy says:

    Oops. Major finger trouble with #151

    Six flights per day = 8e7 kg water per year. Suggestion withdrawn.

  5. 155
    Marcus says:

    Richard Steckis: You want a citation: Take Seinfeld & Pandis, “Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics”, 1998, one of the atmospheric chemistry bibles. Open to page 248 (chapter on “chemistry of the troposphere”, section on “methane oxidation”). Quote: “The overall reaction sequence leading to CO2 formation, through the HCHO and CO intermediate ‘stable’ products, is shown in Figure 5.2.”

    I recommend you go read it. Short summary: unsurprisingly, Gavin is right, and you are wrong, as anyone who has taken a grad-level atmospheric chemistry class could have told you.

    -Marcus

  6. 156
    flxible says:

    Gary@146
    “as far as evidence of the AGW theories falling apart (…) we haven’t continued to warm, hurricane activity has not increased, droughts and famine are not happening, north american/europe are in the grips of the worst winter in recent memory, etc”

    WE [the planet] have continued to warm, and WE [western Canada] are in the grips of the warmest winter in distant memory [the BC lower mainland just had the warmest January EVER], and there have been and continue to be areas of the world in drought and famine. The problem the grumps here are having with your take is myopia [theirs and yours both], what’s happening in your area doesn’t define climate any more than what’s happening in my back yard …. but I understand your frustration :)

  7. 157
    Bob says:

    gary, #146:

    as far as evidence of the AGW theories falling apart i point to observations over the past 10 years. we haven’t continued to warm, hurricane activity has not increased, droughts and famine are not happening, north american/europe are in the grips of the worst winter in recent memory, etc. i keep hearing that i can’t focus on a small time slice of 10 years to negate the trend over the past 30 years.

    1) Warming has slowed, not stopped. Look at the temperatures for this January, as a matter of fact… the GLOBAL temperatures, not the lower-48 of the USA (which is 1.5% of the globe). The best presentation of this that I’ve seen is here at Open Mind.

    I also like this graph, that I re-assembled from a similar one from NASA (GISS)… I think it tells the story nicely.

    Beware of tricksters. Some people like to start their graphs at 1998, a convenient peak, then shrink the vertical scale, so the differences are less obvious, then end around 2008, a convenient trough, then overlap a conveniently chosen average that accentuates the decline around 2008 while hiding the resurgence in temperatures.

    To see that up close and personal, take a look at this January’s temperature (check the boxes for every year and hit the redraw button to see how it stacks up against the last 10 years, which were already the warmest decade on record).

    Or take a look at where we stand right now (here in sea ice extent versus previous years. Or look at the north pole in 1980 versus 2009 when ice is at its annual minimum here.

    2) As far as increased hurricane activity, droughts and famine… the globe has only warmed about 0.5 degrees so far. I wouldn’t expect to noticeably see the effects you describe until warming has reached a more dangerous point. It’s sort of like going to work with a cough and feeling run down but saying you’re just tired. Then by the end of the day you have a raging fever. Does that mean you weren’t sick before? No… you just have to wait for the worst of it, but by then it’s too late. Except for the planet, a few hours is a few decades, and if we wait that long, it’s too late to do anything meaningful.

    But I read a paper last week about the possible impact of drought in the Amazon. They had two severe droughts there last decade (2001, 2005). It seems that rain forests aren’t well adapted to dry conditions (go figure), so a forest fire there would be pretty nasty. Think we should wait until there’s a fire the size of Maine in Brazil to start to get concerned?

    3) As far as “grips of the worst winter in recent memory.” Well, first, that’s a huge, huge exaggeration. It’s winter, but last week was warm in Boston. I rather enjoyed walking the dog. It melted all the snow. I’ve barely had to shovel. Except for one bitter week, I’d call this a pretty mild winter. I remember very many being far, far worse (mostly in the seventies and early eighties).

    And no one said winter was going to completely go away with global warming.

    There was one huge cold snap that happens the way most do in North America, with polar air being pushed south and warm air dropping in up north to replace it (yes, Emily, when we get cold snaps here, Santa gets to wear his summer suit). The net effect is not a global change. It just feels colder here. There will be more cold snaps. It’s winter. The argument on a global basis is silly.

    To see it more graphically, look here.

    In general, I strongly recommend visiting Skeptical Science for good, layman level explanations of a lot of things. Use that as a foundation to learn more and more and more until you understand.

    Don’t trust anything anyone tells you… not “deniers” and not “alarmists”. Treat them all as if they’re wrong until you understand it well enough to know either that you actually understand it yourself, or else you know whom you can trust. But never, ever stop looking the moment you find something that tells you what you want to hear.

  8. 158
    Completely Fed Up says:

    gary, if you go back to 1995 and take those two points 15 years apart, you get a difference of 0.23C.

    Since the mean expectation is 0.17C per decade, one-and-a-half decades would mean 0.26C raise over that time.

    Really rather close, isn’t it?

    If it’s really been cooling for 12 years, wouldn’t that figure be a lot lower???

    That 0.23C in 15 years really doesn’t seem to gel with your “it’s been cooling for 12 years” meme.

  9. 159
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “148
    Neil says:
    1 February 2010 at 3:49 AM

    SO the correct take away message here is that it is unwise to make claims about planetary or regional climate and weather based on short term (<30 year) changes in the signal?"

    Yes, Neil.

    The shorter the sample period is, the less certain you can be your statement is the correct one.

    Note also it is not sufficient to take two samples 30 years apart either, since this is still just two figures and no trend can be asserted from two figures: the error in trend estimation is infinite.

    You have to take all 30 samples (or 40, 20, any number you'd like to use). This is yet another way those who continually parrot "it's been cooling for ($YEAR-1998) years": they're taking two numbers and making a trend from it.

    This is not a ($YEAR-1998)-year trend. It's the difference between two temperatures ($YEAR-1998) years apart. This isn't a trend. Never has been, never will be.

  10. 160
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “146
    gary thompson says:
    1 February 2010 at 12:11 AM

    #131 Doug Bostrom “How about a list? Anything specific?”

    as far as evidence of the AGW theories falling apart i point to observations over the past 10 years.”

    10 years cannot refute climate predictions because 10 years is not climate.

    Especially (as I’ve pointed out earlier) when you’re not using 10 years, you’re using two years 10 years apart to make a statement.

    “i can’t focus on a small time slice of 10 years to negate the trend over the past 30 years. ok, i agree with that. but just because the data doesn’t support the hypothesis is no reason to throw it out.”

    Yes it does.

    Just like when someone says “I like pumpkin” when you’re discussing the safety of the latest hybrid car.

    You can throw that data point out (no matter how true it may be: they may REALLY like pumpkins) because it has nothing to do with the discussion.

    “yes, i don’t understand fully our climate system on earth and i do admit my ignorance there.”

    Doesn’t stop you proclaiming something is true when you haven’t a clue, though, does it, gary?

    “this was written over 2 years ago so i’m sure you guys have already seen this and debunked it”

    Have you read it?

    “but when i hear dire predictions about our planet and then observations
    don’t match ”

    May I refer you to your earlier comment re: your lack of knowledge of climate? If you don’t understand, how do you know the observations don’t match?

    NOTE: they do. The current observations, if anything, show that the IPCC prediction has not been dire *enough*.

    “so are you saying that the narrow IR absorption spectrum of CO2 can turn our planet into a venus-like atmosphere?”

    It did for Venus. Therefore if we have enough greenhouse gasses, it will.

    And this, in any case, is a strawman.

    Please show where this was one of the predictions made.

    You won’t be able to find it, kid. ‘cos you’re making s*t up. Again.

    “will try and keep the posts related to the science and not the politics”

    But all you’ve got is politics and wishful thinking. See again your assertion that you admit you don’t know the science and my comment that it doesn’t stop you from pretending to know the answers.

  11. 161
    Edward Greisch says:

    25 JohnRS: Uncertainty is a 2 edged sword. It cuts both ways. We can’t prove that we won’t be extinct in 5 years or that we will be extinct in 100 years.
    Would the extinction of Homo Sap have enough economic impact for you? A few $Trillion is nothing compared to what we are risking by continuing to make CO2.

  12. 162
    Pekka Kostamo says:

    # 44: yourmommycalled: That is in part what I referred to. Sensors have changed (improved) radically over the years, and the stratospheric humidity readings are not comparable over long periods of time. A lot of the old biases have been eliminated or reduced over the years, unfortunately not in a very orderly way. The some 1000 observation sites each have their individual operating histories. I waded knee deep in that matter for long enough.

    I can not access the entire Solomon paper, so it is not possible to say anything very specific. I.e. all quality controls and other post-processing of that raw data is unknown to me. Just a general warning on this particular type of data, in that special circumstance.

    Prior to the now extensively used Vaisala RS90 model (and its equivalents whatever they may be) these instruments were not stable and properly calibrated for use in the rather exotic conditions at the tropopause region or the stratosphere. They were designed and used for other purposes. Stratosphere is a special place and very demanding for a low cost consumable instrument package.

    The basic simple reason is that there were no requirements for such performance until very recently. The international recommendation used to be 15 %RH or better accuracy in relative humidity measurement, vaguely driven by weather forecasting minimum needs and deemed adequate to detect “significant change” as the message coding instructions put it. Some users and manufacturers tried to do better, and did at times.

    Climate scientists have to live with what data they can find from the past, originally collected for whatever purpose. Using such disparate data sets is their special skill that is greatly appreciated. They do a commendable job of it. It is fortunate indeed that estimates of our future climates do not rest on such flimsy foundations (as our host Gavin at times informs us).

    As Solomon mentions, there are many other independent data sets, obtained for research purposes even in-situ onboard research aircaft and using different methods of measurement.

    Probably the best reference temperature (and maybe humidity) fields available today (and for the past few tens of years) are ECMWF 6 hour forecasts. They ingest as inputs pretty much all available kinds of measurement data within a solid framework of atmospheric physics. Just my personal view, of course.

  13. 163
    gary thompson says:

    #156 flxible – “WE [the planet] have continued to warm, and WE [western Canada] are in the grips of the warmest winter in distant memory [the BC lower mainland just had the warmest January EVER], and there have been and continue to be areas of the world in drought and famine. The problem the grumps here are having with your take is myopia [theirs and yours both], what’s happening in your area doesn’t define climate any more than what’s happening in my back yard …. but I understand your frustration :)”

    When I go to the GISS website and punch in the December 2009 temp anomalies (250km smoothing) compared to the 1951-1980 baseline north American and yes, western Canada show dramatically cooler temps. Some parts of western Canada are 4C below the average. January data isn’t on there yet but I’ll check that out when it gets uploaded.

    #158 – CFU – “gary, if you go back to 1995 and take those two points 15 years apart, you get a difference of 0.23C.”

    Again, when I go to GISS and look at the trend from 1995-2009 (250km smoothing) I’d be hard pressed to convince anyone the globe is warming.

    [Response: Why? That map shows a 0.36 deg C trend (annual averages, no ocean data). What did you expect? – gavin]

    If you pay more attention to the yellow colors vs. the blue colors then you can make the case for around 0.23C increase in those 15 years but I’d say that graph shows stable temperatures over that time period. But let’s say the 0.23C is accurate and I’ll take you at your word on that. I remember reading the document that accompanied the HADCRUT3 data and the variation of the BEST temperature devices (most probably thermocouples) was +/-0.2C. So we are getting all worked up over a warming during the past 15 years that is within the variation limits of the measuring devices? I don’t get that excited about that.

    [Response: This is nonsense. The precision of a single measurement is not the same as the precision of a large scale average. Whether you get excited or not is entirely besides the point. – gavin]

  14. 164
    gary thompson says:

    #160 CFU –
    Gary Thompson wrote – “so are you saying that the narrow IR absorption spectrum of CO2 can turn our planet into a venus-like atmosphere?”
    CFU responded – “It did for Venus. Therefore if we have enough greenhouse gasses, it will.”

    CFU, The atmosphere of Venus is comprised of roughly 95% CO2. Earth has a little less than that at around 0.04%. The positive and negative forcings on venus are a little different than Earth as well so Earth’s fate will not trace the same path as Venus. My question is what is the worst case scenario for earth? If we continue on this CO2 trend what can we expect in 10 years, 50 years and 100 years? Where can I find these predictions by those who, like yourself, are perfect and have all the knowledge and have ceased using science to gain answers since you already have them all? And were these predictions made 10-20 years ago or only recently?

  15. 165
    Anand says:

    Doug:
    I see that you went off on a tangent triggered by all the ‘malarkey’…and the ‘veering into politics’ and all that, which you found too.

    Which you could have avoided if you had gotten what I said initially. And yes, I will use colorful examples and characterize things in terms familiar to those who engage in climate debate. If you want to trip over my words trying to pigeonhole my comments, well…

    And your complaining about transistor deniers does not hold together really well. The standing accusation against RC is that there is deletion or suppression of posts that are ‘climatically troublesome’, not those that are patently stupid. Stupid posts are helped along because they show the poster up. My posts have been deleted and/or mutilated at RC before, so I am not speaking from hearsay.

    Continuing;
    If it is true, as the Nature paper suggests, that γ is greater (by 4 times) in times of cooling, than in times of warming, then wouldn’t temperature reduction be an efficient way of bringing CO2 levels down rapidly? Meaning – cap and trade, carbon taxation – mechanisms which aim to control temperatures by bringing CO2 down may not have dramatic effects, even if adopted globally, because the reduction in positive feedback would be small?

    I don’t see any answers coming forth for the many questions I asked in my posts (except from one exception).

    Regards, and thanks
    Anand

  16. 166
    David B. Benson says:

    gary thompson (146) — I recommend starting with the Start Here link at the top of the page, reading one or more of the excellent intorductory textbooks (David Archer’s or Gavin Schmidt”s or Bill Ruddiman’s) and then going on to read “The Discovery of Global Warming” by Spencer Weart, first link in the Science section of the sidebar.

  17. 167
    Rod B says:

    CFU, et al: From a strictly mathematical (probability & statistics) position a 10-year trend is absolutely allowed. As is a 10-month trend. As is a 10-day trend. [I wouldn’t stir this pot again if it wasn’t brought up.]

  18. 168
    Jim Bouldin says:

    I don’t see any answers coming forth for the many questions I asked in my posts (except from one exception).

    Regards, and thanks
    Anand

    Be patient Anand. There will be a full post on the article sometime in the next few days, I promise, exact time depending on Gavin’s plans and schedule.

  19. 169
    dhogaza says:

    If it is true, as the Nature paper suggests, that γ is greater (by 4 times) in times of cooling, than in times of warming, then wouldn’t temperature reduction be an efficient way of bringing CO2 levels down rapidly?

    Assuming that cooling would magically cause the CO2 we’re dumping into the atmosphere to magically reduce, how do you propose to cool the planet?

    Turn off the sun?

  20. 170
    Sekerob says:

    dhogaza, 1 February 2010 at 2:03 PM, there is already a well developed plan to address the problem hands on:

    The National Airconditioner Initiative:
    http://www.theonion.com/content/news/addressing_climate_crisis_bush

  21. 171
    gary thompson says:

    #163 – Gavin responded to my request

    Gary Thompson wrote – Again, when I go to GISS and look at the trend from 1995-2009 (250km smoothing) I’d be hard pressed to convince anyone the globe is warming.

    [Response: Why? That map shows a 0.36 deg C trend (annual averages, no ocean data). What did you expect? – gavin]

    thanks for the reply and you are absolutely correct that the global average trend is 0.36C rise. but why is that rise confined to >70 deg latitude and <-70 deg latitude? the region of our earth where most everyone lives (between the 70's) is flat (no temperature increase). the graph of zonal mean vs. latitude looks like a bathtub "U" shape. why is that? of course the skeptics would state that this is due to the cherry picked weather stations which were added lately and the dropped weather stations (in cooler regions). but you've already done a good debunking of that. what is the scientific answer for why the warming during this 15 year period is confined to the polar regions?

  22. 172
    tamino says:

    #167 (Rod B):

    What’s the probable error in your 10-year trend?

    Most climate trends on short time scales (like 10 years) are meaningless. They get ridicule the old-fashioned way — they earn it. Those who stand by meaningless trends deserve likewise.

  23. 173
    Tim Jones says:

    There’ll be no end to picking at the IPCC AR4 as every non-peer reviewed citation is dragged out for ridicule by sensation seeking yellow journalists.

    UN climate change panel based claims on student dissertation and magazine article
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/climatechange/7111525/UN-climate-change-panel-based-claims-on-student-dissertation-and-magazine-article.html
    The Sunday Telegraph,
    31 January 2010
    Richard Gray and Rebecca Lefort

    “The United Nations’ expert panel on climate change based claims about ice disappearing from the world’s mountain tops on a student’s dissertation and an article in a mountaineering magazine.
    […]
    “Mr Bowen said: “I am surprised that they have cited an article from a climbing magazine, but there is no reason why anecdotal evidence from climbers should be disregarded as they are spending a great deal of time in places that other people rarely go and so notice the changes.”

    “The dissertation paper, written by professional mountain guide and climate change campaigner Dario-Andri Schworer while he was studying for a geography degree, quotes observations from interviews with around 80 mountain guides in the Bernina region of the Swiss Alps.

    “Experts claim that loss of ice climbs are a poor indicator of a reduction in mountain ice as climbers can knock ice down and damage ice falls with their axes and crampons.”
    […]

  24. 174
    Tim Jones says:

    ‘Climate emails hacked by spies’
    http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/climate-emails-hacked-by-spies-1885147.html
    Interception bore hallmarks of foreign intelligence agency, says expert
    By Steve Connor, Science Editor
    Monday, 1 February 2010

    “A highly sophisticated hacking operation that led to the leaking of hundreds of emails from the Climatic Research Unit in East Anglia was probably carried out by a foreign intelligence agency, according to the Government’s former chief scientist. Sir David King, who was Tony Blair’s chief scientific adviser for seven years until 2007, said that the hacking and selective leaking of the unit’s emails, going back 13 years, bore all the hallmarks of a co-ordinated intelligence operation – especially given their release just before the Copenhagen climate conference in December.
    […]
    “In an interview with The Independent, Sir David suggested the email leaks were deliberately designed to destabilise Copenhagen and he dismissed the idea that it was a run-of-the-mill hacking. It was carried out by a team of skilled professionals, either on behalf of a foreign government or at the behest of anti-climate change lobbyists in the United States, he said.”
    […]

  25. 175
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “167
    Rod B says:
    1 February 2010 at 1:52 PM

    CFU, et al: From a strictly mathematical (probability & statistics) position a 10-year trend is absolutely allowed.”

    From a strictly mathematical position, a 10 year trend is only allowed if the trend passes a statistical significance test and then only within the bounds of your error estimation.

    But the year-by-year variation of global temperature annual averages ensures that this is never the case with temperature records.

    In a strictly mathematical sense, a 10 year trend is fallacious and therefore not meaningful.

    It isn’t that it’s “not allowed”, it’s that it doesn’t exist.

  26. 176
    Completely Fed Up says:

    gary: “CFU, The atmosphere of Venus is comprised of roughly 95% CO2.”

    And that is how CO2 manages to make Venus a runaway effect.

    May I refer you back to the original statement?

    “so are you saying that the narrow IR absorption spectrum of CO2 can turn our planet into a venus-like atmosphere?”

    And the answer is “yes”.

    The narrow IR absorbtion spectrum CAN turn our planet into a venus-like atmosphere.

    You just need enough of it.

    “My question is what is the worst case scenario for earth?”

    Well your question NOW is that. The worst case scenario for earth is that a nearby supernova starts a jet of material out towards us that fries all life on the planet.

    Be.
    More.
    Specific.

    “If we continue on this CO2 trend what can we expect in 10 years, 50 years and 100 years? ”

    We could expect something like 410ppm, 520ppm and 690ppm CO2 levels.

    The last time this happened, there were no ice caps. And in those days, the sun was quite a bit cooler.

    20m added to the sea levels.

    We also had hypercanes in the shallow warm waters where the speed of the winds produced were supersonic.

    Have a look at where we currently have coal. These places used to be underwater. In many cases, they will be underwater in 100 years if we get to 620ppm.

    “those who, like yourself, are perfect and have all the knowledge and have ceased using science to gain answers since you already have them all?”

    Ah, you’re projecting gazzer.

    You presume you KNOW the answers and act accordingly and merely assume that’s what *everyone* does (therefore it’s OK for you to do it).

    Got anything to back that ridiculous assertion up, Gary?

    Go here and read the predictions:

    http://www.icpp.ch

    and stop throwing a strop because you’re flailing.

    Anand: “My posts have been deleted and/or mutilated at RC before, so I am not speaking from hearsay.”

    You mean edited because of the load of cack you’ve spouted Anand? And I’m not speaking from hearsay.

  27. 177
    Completely Fed Up says:

    gary: “So we are getting all worked up over a warming during the past 15 years that is within the variation limits of the measuring devices? I don’t get that excited about that.”

    Well given that you’re OK with holding up 1 lego brick, how about we add another.

    And another.

    And another.

    Eventually, you’ll shut up because you can’t breathe with all the lego bricks piled over you.

    Now the thing about natural variation is that it doesn’t sum to any different value. the thing about a rising trend (even when small) is that it continues to add up. At some point, the change will be more than the variation.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_that_broke_the_camel's_back

    Just for you.

  28. 178
    Frank Giger says:

    This is really interesting science, and like all good research begs as many questions as answers, most of which are going to be real wooly-boogers to suss out.

    First, is this indicative of a long term cycle in the upper atmosphere, like the hurricane cycle in the Atlantic Ocean? We might be at the start of the min water vapor portion of it. Unfortunately we don’t have long term measurements to track it against other forcings (solar output, GHG concentrations, etc.).

    As the atmosphere expands, will the effect be more pronounced, or less so – or will the expansion not matter one way or another?

    How does this fit into the Ice Age cycle? On reading this it is the first thing I thought of – the cooling (and lack of cooling) the planet gets from the phenomenon. While it reads like it is a nudging factor rather than a driving one, it could be a nail (or the lack thereof) for the horseshoe under the right conditions.

    Our planet sure is fascinating!

  29. 179
    Bob says:

    gary, #171:

    I think the answer lies in your endpoint selection. 1995 was a very warm year in North America, Europe and Russia, so by choosing it as your baseline, you’ll make any other year seem like no warming has occurred. To see this, choose 1979-1989 as your base period and 1995 as your target. See how warm NA and Europe were that year? Alternately, you can do what Spencer does, and choose 1979-1999 as your base period (but this is basically pretending that warming didn’t start until 1989).

    Similarly, your choice of 2009 affects things. Any one year may warm more in some places and less in others. So all you are saying is that 1995 and 2009 were very similar in North America and northern Europe, but you are incorrectly extrapolating that into “no warming has occurred” when that’s not a valid thing to do.

    My suggestion is to choose as your base period 1979-1989 (or 1979-1999), and then 2000-2009 (or 2006-2009) as your target period, just to make sure you are eliminating some of the single year geographic anomalies by including a range of years.

    Then, to boot, realize that the 2006-2009 period brackets a strong La Nina that negatively impacted global temperatures, yet despite this the warming is still apparent.

    I would also argue with your statement about “most people living above the 70s”. An awful lot of people live in India, Southeast Asia, along the Nile, in Central America, and other places. See here. And even if they seem to be a long way away, a water-war between China, India and Pakistan (all nuclear powers) or crop failures and starvation in Southeast Asia would not be fun.

  30. 180
    Rod B says:

    tamino asks, “What’s the probable error in your 10-year trend?”

    Depends on what I’m trending. A student’s school grades? pretty low error. Climate? pretty large error I would suspect. All I said was that a 10-year trend is mathematically allowed contrary to the claim that it is not — “…This isn’t a trend. Never has been, never will be….” [Though I now notice the claimant had earlier, and now later, too, made better and more accurate statements; maybe I’m getting too picky…]

  31. 181
    Hank Roberts says:

    Rod B says: 1 February 2010 at 1:52 PM

    > From a strictly mathematical (probability & statistics) position
    > a 10-year trend

    Ah, the old “I’m posting my misleading statement one more time, then we should quit talking about it” ploy. Kids, watch this guy, he’s really good at what he does.

    If you want to learn science, though, find a reliable source. Try here:
    http://moregrumbinescience.blogspot.com/2009/01/results-on-deciding-trends.html

    You can do the math for yourself, given any particular data set, to find out how many samples/how long a time you’ll need to have a good chance to determine whether there’s a trend. Clue: you need to know what you’re doing. Robert Grumbine does, and can teach anyone who wants to learn.

    Rod’s here to keep the the controversy going, even when there isn’t one, as on this particular issue.

  32. 182
    Completely Fed Up says:

    RodB: “All I said was that a 10-year trend is mathematically allowed contrary to the claim that it is not — “”

    Taking a 10 year sample will never be a trend.

    Just like a single roll of the dice is not the average.

  33. 183
    Chris Dudley says:

    Gary (#164),

    There has been discussion here before about a runaway greenhouse motivated, in part, by Hansen saying that a runaway a a dead certainty if all fossil fuels are burned (including oil shales and tar sands). First, there is enough carbon in limestone to provide all the carbon dioxide needed for a massive atmosphere similar to that on Venus. But, this is not the real issue to begin with because it is water vapor that produces the runaway and a dense hot atmosphere to start. Carbon dioxide is merely the trigger for that.

  34. 184
    gary thompson says:

    #179 Bob wrote – “I would also argue with your statement about “most people living above the 70s”. An awful lot of people live in India, Southeast Asia, along the Nile, in Central America, and other places. See here. And even if they seem to be a long way away, a water-war between China, India and Pakistan (all nuclear powers) or crop failures and starvation in Southeast Asia would not be fun.”

    Bob, just for clarification i stated that most people live BETWEEN the 70’s (between -70 deg lat and +70 deg lat) which covers the countries you mentioned.

    thanks for the rest of the reply and i’ll look at those graphs later. I do so enjoy that graphing utility on the GISS site. i also like to go to areas that depart from the surrounding area (i.e. a small red region surrounded by yellow or white) and look at the weather stations in that area. and by the way, the dates were suggested by others on this site. there was no bias on my part by choosing 1995-2009.

  35. 185
    Bob says:

    gary, #171:

    Apologies. I misread part of your post relating to where most people live (“between the 70s”), perhaps because I didn’t realize that you were focusing on the Zonal Mean graph instead of the map (which showed flat temps in NA and Europe).

    The rest of it stands, though; 1995 is an anomalous base year and 2009 is an anomalous end year. Even just extending your range to 94-96 vs. 07-09 makes a huge difference (0.4 C to 0.6 C warming in the populous 30-60 lats in just a 15 year period).

  36. 186

    Re 176–a bit of a typo in the link, CFU. The WGII SPM is here:

    http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg2/ar4-wg2-spm.pdf

  37. 187

    gary thompson: as far as evidence of the AGW theories falling apart i point to observations over the past 10 years. we haven’t continued to warm

    BPL: In what way have we NOT continued to warm, sir? Here are the temperature anomalies for the last ten years, from four different sources:

    1999 0.296 0.32 0.093 0.041
    2000 0.270 0.33 0.062 0.035
    2001 0.409 0.48 0.244 0.198
    2002 0.464 0.56 0.365 0.312
    2003 0.473 0.55 0.355 0.275
    2004 0.447 0.48 0.240 0.196
    2005 0.482 0.63 0.354 0.339
    2006 0.422 0.54 0.268 0.261
    2007 0.405 0.57 0.285 0.282
    2008 0.328 0.43 0.031 0.048

    gt: hurricane activity has not increased, droughts and famine are not happening

    BPL: I think the Australians would disagree. Please note that in 1970, 12% of the Earth’s total land surface was “severely dry” by the Palmer Drought Severity Index. By 2002 that figure was 30%. That’s a hell of an increase. If it keeps up, we will lose pretty much ALL agricultural land some time in the next 40 years.

    gt: north american/europe are in the grips of the worst winter in recent memory, etc.

    BPL: Do you understand the difference between weather and climate?

    gt: i keep hearing that i can’t focus on a small time slice of 10 years to negate the trend over the past 30 years. ok, i agree with that. but just because the data doesn’t support the hypothesis is no reason to throw it out.

    BPL: Nobody is advocating throwing it out. It’s just not enough to conclude anything meaningful. The data counts as much as any other data, but you can’t identify a climate trend from it any more than you can identify a face by a small photo clip of the person’s left eyebrow.

  38. 188

    Steve M,

    The stratosphere is about 20% of the mass of the atmosphere, not 1%. The troposphere is about 80%. All the rest is about 1%. Ignore rounding error.

  39. 189
    Doug Bostrom says:

    gary thompson says: 1 February 2010 at 12:11 AM

    “as far as evidence of the AGW theories falling apart i point to observations over the past 10 years. we haven’t continued to warm, hurricane activity has not increased, droughts and famine are not happening, north american/europe are in the grips of the worst winter in recent memory, etc. ”

    Even if they were not problematic due to their scantiness or plain factual inaccuracy, none of those things address the actual theory. You need something much more specific and robust, something addressing physics.

    “Anand says: 1 February 2010 at 1:26 PM”

    “The standing accusation against RC is that there is deletion or suppression of posts that are ‘climatically troublesome’, not those that are patently stupid.”

    Their very invisibility means they were deleted? Leaving aside the fundamentally tautological nature of your argument there are plenty of examples to be found here which falsify your hypothesis.

  40. 190
    Geoff Wexler says:

    It seems that this topic is ripe for confusion

    All too true. This is especially true with this paper which has many apparently non-technical passages. But the way it has been written has not helped. I think that editors should encourage reviewers to be stricter about matters of clarity considering that a paper like this is likely to receive so much publicity.

    Example 1:

    “These findings show that stratospheric water vapor
    represents an important driver of decadal global surface climate change.”

    The word ‘driver’ is ambiguous. What the paper does is explained properly later :

    Because of these limitations in prognostic climate model simulations, here we impose observed stratospheric water vapor changes diagnostically as
    a forcing for the purpose of evaluation and comparison to other climate change agents. However, in the real world the contributions of changes in stratospheric water vapor to global climate change may be a source of unforced decadal variability, or they may be a feedback

    This clarification may be too technical for some readers who may have absorbed and be misled by the first version and fail to understand this more subtle one. Why couldn’t the reviewers have insisted that the authors avoid what looks like a possible contradiction?

    Example 2 . (Raised by others.)

    the trend in global surface temperatures has been
    nearly flat since the late 1990s despite continuing increases in the forcing due to the sum of the well-mixed greenhouse
    gases (CO2, CH4, halocarbons, and N2O), raising questions…

    This sentence is an invitation to being misunderstood. In order to understand it, the reader has to go to the second citation i.e. to :

    Easterling, D. R., and M. F. Wehner (2009), Is the climate warming or cooling?, Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L08706, doi:10.1029/2009GL037810.

    which is available free on line. Here we can read:

    if we fit a trend line to the same annual global land-ocean temperatures for the 1977-1985 period or the 1981-1989 period we also get no trend, even though these periods are embedded in the 1975-2008 period showing a substantial overall warming.

    There is more of interest in that GRL letter, but that quotation does more than clarify the reference to so called ‘flattening’ , it also raises questions about what the stratospheric water vapour was doing during those other intervals of ‘slowed warming’.

  41. 191
    flxible says:

    Gary@153
    I said January was the warmest ever [8.2c avg high, 4.4c avg low] – yes, December [avg high 4.2c, avg low -0.2c] was colder than January here, we even had 2 days of snow – IN CANADA, SNOW!! as normal for winter, although we usually get most of the snow in January.
    Your observation that “AGW is falling apart” doesn’t really hold together when citing only N American weather.

  42. 192
    t_p_hamilton says:

    Anand:”Continuing;
    If it is true, as the Nature paper suggests, that γ is greater (by 4 times) in times of cooling, than in times of warming, then wouldn’t temperature reduction be an efficient way of bringing CO2 levels down rapidly? Meaning – cap and trade, carbon taxation – mechanisms which aim to control temperatures by bringing CO2 down may not have dramatic effects, even if adopted globally, because the reduction in positive feedback would be small?”

    Adding CO2 raises T from direct effect, raises water (and more heating) indirectly, then there is a small amount (gamma) additional CO2 desorbed.

    By symmetry, the result of reduced greenhouse gases would be cooling from CO2 decrease, cooling from the indirect water decrease, plus an additional (gamma’s worth) additional cooling from additional CO2 resorption.

  43. 193
    Jim Bouldin says:

    Our planet sure is fascinating!

    I’m with ya Frank. Big ol’ fascinatin’ and beautiful blue marble!

  44. 194
    Septic Matthew says:

    Gavin, is it worth your while to rebut Miskolczi? I can’t tell if this is serious or not. Have you dealt with it elsewhere?

    [Response: Try here. – gavin]

  45. 195
    yourmommycalled says:

    Pekka Kostamo says: (#164)

    Thanks for the response and clarification. It isn’t exactly clear that things are as bad as you say think. I’ve managed radiosonde/dropsonde campaigns in strange and wonderful places (14,000 ft in peru, rainforests of Brazil, pacific islands, shipborne launches) and taught a lot of people how to properly launch sondes. The data over the last 15 years is of much higher quality than previously. I’m now trying Frank Schmnidlin’s technique of not only collecting data on the way up, which doesn’t give a truly vertical profile, but also collecting data after the balloon bursts and fall rapidly to the surface

  46. 196
    Eli Rabett says:

    FWIW(#176) you have to first say what you mean by a runaway greenhouse. WRT Venus the idea is that enough CO2 is pushed into the atmosphere that all the water vaporizes. The water then gets mostly photolyzed high up in the atmosphere. The hydrogen escapes and the oxygen combines with whatever else is around. At this point it is hot enough to cook the CO2 out of carbonates on the surface which kicks the CO2 content of the atmosphere up to infinity (for all practical purposes). There is enough SO2 and H20 around to block all the holes in the IR spectrum and away it went.

    The Earth is far enough out from the sun, with a somewhat lower solar insolation that you can’t get rid of liquid water, e.g. no runaway greenhouse like Venus. That is not to say that really bad stuff can’t happen.

  47. 197
    gary thompson says:

    #176 – CFU replied

    gary thompson wrote – “If we continue on this CO2 trend what can we expect in 10 years, 50 years and 100 years? ”

    cfu wrote – “We could expect something like 410ppm, 520ppm and 690ppm CO2 levels.

    The last time this happened, there were no ice caps. And in those days, the sun was quite a bit cooler.

    20m added to the sea levels.”

    excellent, cfu has provided a prediction here. taking your advice to “be. more. specific.” let me try and solidify this since you were vague. if atmospheric CO2 levels continue their linear increase then we’ll expect sea levels to rise 20 meters in 100 years. [edit of pointless digression]

    [Response: You aren’t that stupid, and so misconstruing CFU’s comment is just deliberate noise generation. The last time CO2 was 400+ for any extended length of time was most likely the Pliocene (some 3 million years ago). Sea levels were indeed some 20m higher than today. However the rate at which ice sheets can melt is somewhat constrained, and so this statement cannot be equated to your caricature. If you want to play games, play them somewhere else. – gavin]

  48. 198
    gary thompson says:

    #189 Doug Bostrom – “Even if they were not problematic due to their scantiness or plain factual inaccuracy, none of those things address the actual theory. You need something much more specific and robust, something addressing physics. ”

    you are correct, my apologies. i need to stick to the science and observations/data related to it.

  49. 199
    gary thompson says:

    #179 – Bob wrote – “My suggestion is to choose as your base period 1979-1989 (or 1979-1999), and then 2000-2009 (or 2006-2009) as your target period, just to make sure you are eliminating some of the single year geographic anomalies by including a range of years.”

    thanks again bob for your feedback. i changed the base period to 1979-1999 and the target period of 2000-2009 but i got the same results. the overall global temp trend was 0.22C but again i see this ‘bathtub’ shaped “U” graph for the zonal mean vs. latitude. if you eliminate the poles then the global temps are flat or even cooling slightly. what is the explanation for the poles being so much hotter than the rest of the globe? again, the skeptics have given their explanation which is cherry picking of a few monitoring stations at the north and south poles and that has been addressed here. but i haven’t heard the scientific explanation as to why the poles are so out of step with the rest of the globe.

  50. 200
    Anand Rajan KD says:

    Mr. Hamilton:
    “By symmetry, the result of reduced greenhouse gases would be cooling from CO2 decrease:…”

    The paper estimate the sensitivity of CO2 to temperature changes to be different (higher) in a cooling period compared to a warming (lower) period.

    There are saying there is no symmetry that you speak of.

    dhogaza:
    “Assuming that cooling would magically cause the CO2 we’re dumping into the atmosphere to magically reduce, how do you propose to cool the planet?”

    There is no magic, although I can sort of see why it may seem that way to you. I have no idea how to cool the planet, but I believe there are a enlightened few who do.

    The authors themselves state they are not sure how to explain the higher γ with declining temperatures.

    They give the following as reasons:
    1) artefacts in the ice core data
    2) biosphere inertia
    3) changes in land use
    4) shifts in ocean/atmosphere states

    Moreover, I don’t particularly want to talk about the wacky geoengineering ideas to affect the weather and climate. But you do agree that there are those who seek US federal funding to do the very magical cooling.

    http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/24174/

    My concern, vis a vis this paper, is more along these lines: In a warming system, even assuming CO2 effects – direct and feedback-mediated to be the predominant driver of temperature, the effect we could have via γ would very small – a fractional drop in an effect that is already small. We would only be left with reductions achievable via the direct effect of reducing CO2-mediated warming (GHG). Which by itself does have a self-limiting character. And is also linked to the dismal politics of luxury emissions vs survival emissions, historical emissions vs present emissions etc.

    All this without even questioning the magnitude and the veracity of the GHG effect itself (which I do not intend to get into).

    Completely Fed Up:
    So you are going to kill Gary by piling lego on him? :)

    Please remember – you can post anything here and it’ll probably get through because of the function you serve here. It doesn’t mean anything by itself.

    Doug:
    There are entire blogs dedicated to preserve comments rejected at RealClimate. Twice, my posts were ‘memory-holed’. A few others had some or the other surgery performed on them. That’s my evidence.

    I can assure you there were no abusive wording in those posts.


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