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Unforced variations 3

Filed under: — group @ 19 March 2010

Another open thread. OT comments from the Amazon drying thread have been moved over. As usual, substantive comments only please and no abuse.

844 Responses to “Unforced variations 3”

  1. 501

    JP (474),

    The only problem with that is that the regions are not isolated, so the answers you’d get wouldn’t reflect the real world. Even in a “latitude-band” model which divides one hemisphere up into nine bands, each 10 latitude degrees “high,” the heat transfer between bands is a major term.

  2. 502
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Do you know the biggest obstacle to building new UK wind farms? Yes, you guessed it – environmentalists.”


    There are environmentalists who are against wind farms.

    This is not the same as environmentalists are against wind farms.

    And the biggest obstacle is the selfish, not the environmentalist.

  3. 503
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Rod B says:
    26 March 2010 at 11:39 AM

    CFU, My statement to Richard was a conditional, starting with If you are implying.”

    Where is the *IF*???

    “if you are implying the US Navy is a strong protagonist AGWer”

    This doesn’t say in any shape or form “please explain”.

    I really can’t believe it, do you STILL say that you were merely asking for explanation???

  4. 504
    John Peter says:


    I reread your response @471

    We know that global models sometimes forecast misleading regional results even when their global forecasts are correct. Mann(etal) used such global models to study the LIA and MCA that their proxy data indicated were regional. They found La Nina-like and El Nino-like patterns, except their El Nino-like pattern was associated with the LIT and their La Nina-like pattern with the MCA, the opposite of what we now see in our current anthropomorphic CO2 period. During the LIT/MCA natural forcing periods, the El Nino-like and La Nina-like patterns did not exhibit the decadal switching seen between the El Nino and La Nina in our current anthropological period.

    So what should be interesting in these (very tentative) results is the existence and persistence of the newly discovered patterns, not the behavior of the models as research tools. Any back casting anomalies observed are readily attributed to known difficulties in the use of global models to get regional results.

    So I and perhaps the interviewer(?) were confused, but the paper is (ugh) clear. The abstract is good because it emphasizes those discoveries of importance to research climate scientists.

    Thank you very much for your help in my education (I knew you could do it ;

    All above mistakes are my own 8<)

  5. 505
    Walter Manny says:

    To Jim the moderator re. “continued ad hominem attacks will get you banned”. You don’t need to publish this request, but here’s one reader who hopes you will apply this rule to ALL posters, regardless of their points of view. I recognize I am likely tilting at windfarms, as you yourself join the fray when you employ ad hominem the stomach-turning term “denier”.

  6. 506
    Dave G says:

    Didactylos says:
    26 March 2010 at 6:10 PM

    “Do you know the biggest obstacle to building new UK wind farms? Yes, you guessed it – environmentalists.”

    Real environmentalists see the benefits of wind farms. Take the Scottish village of Fintry, for example. This village of 500 people is buying a turbine on a wind-farm near their village and will make about £5million over 25 years from that turbine. That money will, in turn, go towards funding other environmentally friendly projects, like insulating the homes of villagers and changing from oil-fired heating to ground source heat pump heating for the village hall. So not only is Fintry using wind powered electricity, they are making money doing so, and they are investing the profits in other energy-saving measures.

    I hope Fintry is the template for other villages. If there’s money to be made from wind farms which could greatly benefit the community, then maybe the objections will become less frequent.

  7. 507
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    490 Ray Ladbury says:
    Of these 3 billion dollars, probably more than 2 billion goes to the physical sciences, especially climate modelling.

    [Response: Nonsense. Climate modelling is a tiny fraction of this money (I’d estimate about 3%). The vast bulk of it is for satellite missions from NOAA and NASA. – gavin]

    If we look at the IPCC assessment of climate change, less than 1 % of the content are about conflicts and politics etc. Despite this void or societal analysis, the IPCC was awarded the peace price. We don´t have a clue whether climate change will increase conflicts because there are no research about it.
    This is NOT to abandond science as a basis for policy. On the contrary, that is to do policy relevant research and that require a broadening of the scientific basis and new approaches to be more relevant for policy.

  8. 508
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    488 Sou,
    Sure, we need lots of more knowledge, but the thing is, we can´t rely on climate models to the extent that we do today. We need a BROADER and more INTEGRATED knowledge base. We have quite good knowledge on the physical aspects, the vast majority of money and intellectual efforts are invested there, yet this is small islands of knowledge in a sea of ignorance.

    Is it really sound to have more or less a one discipline knowledge base for the very complex problem of climate change?

    And is it really sound do address a “post-normal” problem as if it has a technical issue, e.g. a car breaks down and you need to fix a tire. I don´t think climate change is a technical problem.

    [Response: Strawman argument. What proportion of climate scientists actually work on or with climate models? It’s much smaller than you imply. What proportion of the IPCC references are to clinate modelling papers? Again, it is a small fraction. These kinds of metrics are easily calculatable, and yet you appear to prefer rhetorically useful assumptions. Why? – gavin]

  9. 509
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 508 – “a “post-normal” problem ”

    In the cold war, when ICBMs were being developed, did the study of gravity switch to a post-normal problem?

  10. 510
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    Gavin, please contribute if you have easily avaible metrics. I use hyberbole, but I don´t think you can falsify the general picture with any metrics. Here is some metrics that I have:

    1994, 1,7 % of the US federal funding for global change research was invested in the human dimension (Rayner and Malone 1998).

    50 % of the IPCC content belongs to the physical sciences (earth science) and 10 % to the social sciences (Bjurström and Polk, 2010, forthcoming in Climatic Change).

    How much money are invested in the physical sciences? I dont know unfortunately. but since natural science research are much more expensive, especially climate modelling that are extremely expensive, I would guess that 70 to 80 % of all climate research money are invested in the physical sciences.

    Can we quantify the modelling approach part of this? I think not. But can be contest that modelling are a strongly prioritized appproach of climate research and the IPCC assessment? hardly. There are models all over the place in the IPCC.

  11. 511
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    507 Gavin,
    Ray Ladbury claims that climate research in the US has a total budget of 3 billion dollars. You claim that 3 % of these goes to climate modelling (I am not sure that this is a correct interpretation of your statement). Unfortunately I dont know if neither of this is true. However, there is also a fact that climate modelling are a higly dominant approach in the IPCC and my research shows with through quantitative analysis that the earth sciences are heavily dominant in the IPCC assessment of climate change. These different facts and claims dont fit each other very well.

    Are the total budget much bigger than 3 billion dollars? (e.g. additional finance to climate modelling etc. from the US military industrial complex that are hidden or additional? There are a huge military interest in these physical and technical areas since the WW2 period in the US and forward. Fore example, weather predicitons are important in the many US initiated wars all over the world). That would explain the budgets, or?

  12. 512
    Ray Ladbury says:

    I would contend that the reasons why there is less spent on social aspects of climate change is that
    1)there is a very vocal minority who oppose such research as it would likely highlight the criticality of the crisis
    2)there is much less consensus here on what models and methods to use (as evidenced by the widely varying conclusions (from Lomborg to Stern to WWF)
    3)there is no historical precedent for such a slowly unfolding global catastrophe in recorded history
    4)There remain significant uncertainties about a)how quickly the adverse consequences will unfold; and b)how bad they will become–in other words, the risk is still unbounded

    Indeed, I think that much of the credible analysis that has been done in this area may not find its way to the public literature, because it is done by intelligence and defense departments as contingency planning.

    There is not even a peer-reviewed journal for the subject that I know of, and when the IPCC tries to cite literature for this field–almost all of it by governments of advocacy groups–they are severely chastised. Indeed, I think given the response to WG II, you’re likely to see less of this in the future than more.

    Andreas, you have a very distorted view of how resources are allocated in climate science. As with pretty much all theory expenditures, climate modeling actually geta a tiny proportion of the budget. Moreover, even for satellite expenditures (probably the bulk of the money), only a tiny proportion of satellites were purpose built for climate studies. Most are up there for a)weather, b)surveilance, c)general Earth sciences (e.g. Landsat), d)general research (GRACE) or e)space weather. The amazing impact ICESAT had, despite serious problems with its laser altimeter is in part testament to how underserved we are for purpose-built climate satellites. Indeed, under the Bush administration, plans for any sort of Earth Observing effort were shelved and even satellites ready to launch (TRIANA) were mothballed.

    You really owe it to yourself to have your facts straight before you come in advocating changes of priorities. I think if you look at how expenditures are allocated, you’d be calling for more expenditures rather than less. After all, I don’t think hard science vs. soft is of necessity a zero sum game. Social studies would also benefit from firmer science data.

  13. 513
    Septic Matthew says:

    498, 499 Patrick027

    This is where I think that the confidence that AGW proponents have is at best premature. I think that, overall, the sources of random variability and their consequences are generally underappreciated.

  14. 514
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re myself 483,484,496,499 (Re 437 441 442 448 450 455 494)

    So the patterns of change in immediate response to forcing tend to be spread out by LW radiation and convection, with convection being especially important in the troposphere, tending to couple all vertical levels so that the surface temperature shifts along with temperatures at other levels in some proportion. It isn’t the clear-cut case one finds in a 1-dimensional model, with the actually lapse rate being a moist adiabatic lapse rate as a function of surface temperature, but the general tendency is there, and variations from that tendency can be predicted based on the physics. Regions and times of larger stability to localized convection could allow greater temperature increases at lower levels, for example (unless the large scale circulation evacuates a greater heat horizontally).

    Setting aside horizontal motions, consider an atmospheric column that undergoes a diurnal cycle of solar heating. For reasons previously mentioned, if over land, especially at high elevation, with clear skies (or at least with lack of lower-level clouds) and not much water vapor, the surface temperature and the air near the surface can vary much more than the atmospheric temperature. (This is also enhanced by calm conditions; wind-driven mixing, which must work against stabile stratification once set in and must exceed some strength to do so, but can prevent stabile stratification from developing in the first place, although any such mixing of a finite layer ultimately increases the stability at the top and/or bottom of such a layer by cooling the top and warming the bottom (this would also be true for vertical mixing driven by thermally-direct convection, for mixing that occurs when the kinetic energy produced reaches outside the region where convection occurs spontaneously). And the entire layer is subject to a temperature change by heat gains or losses (analogous to tropospheric and surface warming or cooling in response to tropopause-level radiative imbalances). When wind-driven mixing reduces the temperature decline at night, it is by spreading the temperature change over a greater heat capacity.) When warming up from the minimum, The surface heating required per unit temperature increase will actually tend to grow, because the height to which convection can penetrate increases. A wet surface increases the potential convective heat loss.

    But relevant to the original topic, the surface must warm up to some treshold before convection can deliver heat to the majority of the troposphere. Thus, when the diurnal cycle is larger, the daily-average surface temperature can be colder for the same average tropospheric temperature. To the extent that a climate change (clouds, humidity, surface moisture, removing ice cover from the ocean) or forcing (CO2, aerosols? etc.) reduces the surface temperature diurnal cycle, the surface temperature increase could be larger (or decrease could be smaller) than it would be for a model with no diurnal cycle, for the same tropospheric temperature change.

    (I have wondered if this might be a contributing factor, along with the time lag of climate response from oceanic heat capacity, to the land-ocean pattern of warming (the bulk of the troposphere is more readily coupled horizontally than the near-surface, so tropospheric temperature changes away from the surface may vary less over horizontal distances (generally faster winds away from the surface), other things being equal), at least in so far as temperature variations due to changing surface properties over distance) – maybe not, I don’t know (while CO2 forcing, etc, and water vapor feedback, and increasing backradiation from the atmosphere as it warms, would tend to decrease the DTR (diurnal temperature range), surface drying and reduced cloud cover may occur and have the opposite effect, as would loss of snow-cover (increasing solar heating for that time of year), etc.)

    This isn’t to say that the optical property feedbacks are spread out. The temperature response to those feedbacks will spread out for the same reasons as the response to forcings, but not so much as to eliminate the effects of regional variations.

    Hence, surface and near surface warming is relatively larger at higher latitudes where sea ice cover is reduced (especially in spring and summer, when solar heating can be larger), specifically in the colder seasons when sea ice is or would otherwise have been forming or when sea ice is thinner, etc. (because solar heating of the water adds heat but with not much temperature change; the temperature impact is large when greater heat loss is required to start forming ice, delaying or eliminating ice formation and/or reducing it’s thickness, so that both the additional prior solar heating and the greater availibility of the heat capacity of the ocean increase the surface temperature locally). This change in temperature doesn’t need to ‘fully’ (as in following a convective lapse rate) penetrate via local convection up to the rest of the troposphere because polar conditions, especially in winter, give rise to an inversion (surface cooling to space while it is being heated from at least some layer of the atmosphere above).

  15. 515
    David B. Benson says:

    Variability of El Niño/Southern Oscillation activity at millennial timescales during the Holocene epoch

  16. 516
    John Peter says:



    I have lurked about your discussions on this and several other RC threads. In a narrow casual sense I think I agree with Sou@488 and Gavin’s somewhat irritated response.

    It didn’t seem to me I could add much useful content by adding any of my comments, since Sou and Gavin are much more knowledgeable pros. Instead I tried to parse your, what to me were pretty complicated, Andreas points by removing/replacing as many of your adjectives as I felt I could without harming the sense or meaning of your post@508.

    I tried to classify your ideas as assertions or analysis – very hard, very arbitrary and probably very unnecessary. Then I decided to share this with you to try to find out if I was on the right track. Of course, since this is a blog, it meant sharing with others. Since I am only trying to understand what Andreas means and not trying to frame an argument I trusted Real Climate posters and moderators to let us perform this experiment without too much interference.

    Would you care to edit my lists? Anything may be changed including the number of lists, their classification, their contents, the number of items and, of course, the expression of any or all items. I would only request that an edited item be kept as simple a declaration of your idea as possible, i.e. few if any adjectives, and, of course, no qualification. Right or wrong, in this country, qualifying a talking point can lose any debate about or practical understanding of that item.

    1) we have quite good (physical) knowledge
    2) (most of the) money is invested in physical efforts
    3) (most of the) intellectual effort is invested in physical efforts
    4) physical knowledge are in small islands
    5) physical knowledge is surrounded by a sea of physical ignorance
    6) physical knowledge is surrounded by a sea of non-physical ignorance

    A) we need more knowledge
    B) we cannot rely (completely) on climate models
    C) we need a BROADER knowledge base
    D) we need a more INTEGRATED knowledge base

  17. 517
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    512 Ray Ladbury,
    The first half of your text is (theoretically) interesting since it hint to how deeply politicized climate research priorities s. What kind of research we have, what kínd of research the IPCC assess, what reseach we dont have, what research the IPCC does not assess, depends upon lots of political mechanisms. These in turn will control what we know and what we dont know on climate change. For example, we dont know anything at all about climate change and violent conflicts.

    As for budget, what you and Gavin say reinforce my point: since you both indicate the huge quantities of more hidden budgets in the industrial military complex (satellites, weather forecasts, etc, etc) that are not really included in the climate change budget, that will boost the research bias even more towards technical aspects and the physical sciences. The social sciences for sure dont have billions of dollars in hidden military budgets that are related to climate change.

  18. 518
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    516 John Peter,
    I can agree with your list on a general level, especially your separation of assertions from analysis (although the details is not right, and my language in part is quite bad due to me not being native english speaker).

    I would call it descriptions instead of “asssertions” (and they are open to improvements). And probably “assessment” would be better than analysis. An assessment is both analytical and subjective and value-laden.

    Descriptions in short: most things we know about climate change is the physical aspects. because there is a long research tradition within a few disciplines and the bulk of funding are still directed to them.

    Assessment in short: We need a BROADER and more INTEGRATED knowledge base.
    That is more important than to improve the quality of the narrow and non-integrated knowledge base we have today.

  19. 519

    #505 Walter Manny

    If someone is a denialist, it is not an ad hominem attack to point it out. In other words, if someone is denying well established evidence, it is not inappropriate to point out that the person is denying the evidence.

    Maybe you should read up on what an argumentum ad hominem is?

    or any number of other web sites ind

    Our best chance for a better future ‘Fee & Dividend’
    Understand the delay and costs of Cap and Trade
    Sign the Petition!

  20. 520
    CM says:

    Andreas #517:
    Careful: Gavin did not at any point indicate any “huge quantities of more hidden budgets in the industrial military complex”. That was your speculation at #511. And if you go back and think about what Ray wrote about defense planning, and what comment of yours he responded to, you’ll realize Ray speculated there are studies about climate change and conflict, i. e. about the the (geo)political and social dimensions, that are not made public — not “technical aspects and the physical sciences.”

    Andreas, a question about the standard against which you measure the disciplinary “bias” in the IPCC reports: You have counted TAR sources. But do we have a comparable statistic on the whole of the scientific literature on which TAR could have drawn? Were the TAR sources really skewed toward physics/earth sciences at the expense of social/human sciences (and towards economics at the expense of the softer social sciences)? Or did the TAR provide a representative sample of the existing published research on climate change across disciplines — it’s just that a great deal less work had been done in social science?

    Answering the question would obviously require an extremely wide-ranging survey of science publishing, and throw up tricky questions about commensurability between fields with different publication habits. But it is a natural question to ask.

  21. 521
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 513 – You seem to be refering to actual climate variations and not small errors introduced by such approximations as I was going over 498,499.

  22. 522
    BobFJ says:

    Ray Ladbury & David B Benson have suggested that a discussion around Tamino’s article on “Volcanic Forcing Lag” on the “Daily Mangle” thread, that has closed, be continued here.
    Ray, you commented in part:

    1) Anomalously low volcanic forcing from 1910-1940 dumped a lot of additional energy into the climate system
    2)That the oceans responded to that forcing with a characteristic timescale of 30 years before returning to the new equilibrium
    3)That once that equilibrium was established, the effective forcing from the combined volcanic-ocean system was zero
    4)That volcanic forcing does not account for the relative lack of warming from 1945-1975

    We already knew point 4, since aerosols from burning fossil fuels have been shown to be the main driver of the lack of warming during that period.

    a) Lack of volcanic forcing is a solid argument for the warming period up until around 1940, however there was continued near zero forcing thereon from ~1940 through 1960, when a cooling period commenced; initially rapidly; which is inconsistent.

    b) The argument that increasing industrials from 1945, caused the cooling, which was then countered later by various clean air acts, is intuitively good, but is not supported by GISS data. See this graph which shows continuous increase in industrial aerosols through to today.

    c) The slight cooling from ~1960 through 1975, (despite increasing CO2), is better explained by significantly increased volcanic forcing. See also this composite graph delineating those periods.

  23. 523
    David B. Benson says:

    Septic Matthew (513) — What do you mean by “random variability”?

  24. 524
    John Peter says:


    I’m disappointed that you can not or will not be specific. In general you are very incorrect in that we know nowhere enough about the physical side of weather and climate. Our hypotheses and measurements get better all the time because we work at making them so. We spend as much as we can, there are few opportunities because the work is too hard, too specialized and the progress – against what is required – is too slow.

    You can’t turn good physical science work into good social science by switching money around, the $$ are fungible but the skills, materials and measurements are not. So your problem is not that too much time, attention, money, whatever is being absorbed by the physical side, rather the problem is that not enough time, attention, money, whatever is being applied to the social side. It is cowardly defalcation for the social side to try to identity the physical side as a source for their own inaction.

    All three classes of physical climate scientists, orthodox, skeptic, and denier agree on one point, we don’t yet know enough science or have enough measuring capability to turn any hypothesis into a scientific theory.

  25. 525
    John Peter says:


    “…Consider for example a person who’s height is known to be between 5 feet and 6 feet. If this person stands on their toes, is there an uncertainty of 1 foot in the change of the height of their head?…

    I was taught (20th century) that there probably was. Physicists then were taught to distinguish between precision and accuracy. We were taught it might be very difficult. If you measure the person’s height enough times, you will get a precise – but necessarily accurate result. The instructor used this Emperor of China homily:

    If you asked each of 1 billion Chinese peasants the height of their Emperor – whom they had never seen – you would have a highly precise but probably inaccurate answer.

    So I would guess that it all depends on how you “know” the CO2 forcings;)

    Please keep up your radiation discussions. They are oh sooooh much better than I have found in the half dozen books or hundreds of web sites I’ve explored recently.

  26. 526
    David B. Benson says:

    BobFJ (522) — Also consider the AMO:

  27. 527
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 525 – My analogy was based on the expected relative proportion of a person’s foot size to a person’s height. Of course there will be variations from that, and various biological and medical … the analogy could break down, but anyway, if there were a ~ 20 % uncertainty in the person’s height then there might be a ~ 20 % uncertainty (or more or less, I don’t know typical anatomical proportions so precisely or accurately) in the change in height if the person stands on their toes verses flat on their heels. This will be just a fraction of a foot, and a foot is typically not much more than a foot long.

    A climate model may get a global average temperature 1 K higher or lower than the actual value; this doesn’t mean that any simulated change, by the same model in response to a change in forcing, smaller than 1 K is insignificant. There is a type of error that persists relatively unchanged over small changes, such an error, subtracted from the initial and final values, leaves nearly the same change. The uncertainty in climate sensitivity comes from a different sort of error.

  28. 528
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Andreas, Boy, talk about confirmation bias. In no way did I assert at all that there were black programs doing climate research, and even if there were, their tools, results and conclusions would not be available to the public or scientists.

    What I said was that much of the sociological analysis of climate change impacts is probably done by military and intelligence organizations.

    What Gavin said and what I reiterated was that the overwhelming majority of expenditures in climate research go for satellites–many of which serve multiple purposes in addition to climate research. Even with these satellites, we have a paucity of information.

    In contrast, social research does not use expensive tools like satellites ($100-500 million a pop). You have asserted repeatedly that such research is underfunded, but what would the field do with additional resources? (There is nothing stopping you from submitting a grant proposal, you know.) In what journal would you publish? What research tools would you use? In some ways, you seem to be criticizing climate science for having an infrastructure in place that allows them to make rapid use of resources, while sociological research on climate effects does not. Wouldn’t it be more effective to build up the sociological infrastructure than tear the science infrastructure down? Again, you seem to be assuming the game is zero-sum. It ain’t.

    As to the $3 billion–that is based on an analysis of this article:
    and assuming that there is additional funding for some climate measures under other appropriations (e.g. instruments in NASA’s budget like TIRS)–and actually, you will see that much of the $2.56 billion for USGCRP has to do with things other than climate research.

    Actually, given how badly climate science languished under Bush, most new satellite initiatives are at an early stage (so-called Phase A), so they aren’t spending much yet. Again, Andreas, you really need to look for hard numbers rather than simply assuming that physical scientists are rolling in cash. It ain’t so.

  29. 529
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Bob FJ, Look closely at your aerosol forcing–the slope is not constant.

  30. 530
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    520 CM,
    Good questions on ”bias”. It is easy to quantify “the whole of the scientific literature” since that is available in databases. But there is two problems. 1: the whole is only journal articles and not from all journals. There is no way to include books and gray literature. 2: the whole includes all research, but how do we delimiate climate relevant research?

    Because of mainly point 2, I decided to not do this comparison in my study, i.e. I only describe TAR. What I do know, from my analysis, is that IPCC reproduce a traditional disciplinary structure of science. I do not know whether they reproduce the disciplinary bias (emphasis) of the research community (published research). Overall this is most certainly the case. The earth sciences dominate climate research as well as the IPCC assessment. I would not be surpriced if IPCC pick only the best earth science literature (since there is so much available) whereas IPCC includes rather crappy sources on for example insurance and economic concequences (Tol say some interesting things about that on Pielkes blog. My analysis of gray literature also indicate that). In other words, counteract the disciplinary bias of the research community. However, I am rather certain that IPCC downplay political and cultural analysis among others (I hardly find any references at all from political science, sociology or anthropology). Political analysis are downplayed because that is sensitive for politics, i.e. one aspect of the politization of climate science in IPCC. Cultural analysis are downplayed because IPCC have a technical approach to policy: identify the problem (with mainly physics) and solve it with techical fix and liberal economic instruments. How climate relevant research is delimiated is crucial here. One could of course include much general social science theory to strengthen the human dimension of climate change, maybe similar to how IPCC includes physical laws in climate models and many other physical systems besides the atmosphere.

    The general “bias” is likely overall the same irrespective of IPCC mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion.

  31. 531
    JiminMpls says:

    Please excuse the dumb question, but why isn’t the nearl complete deforestation of the continguous USA between 1850 and 1920 considered a factor in the warming observed between 1910 and 1940? Has anyone even studied the impact?

    The rate of deforestation was equal to or greater than the rate occuring in Amazonia and souteast Asia today.

  32. 532
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    524 John Peter,
    Sorry to disappoint you, but I think you did a good job, and I´m not sure what specifics you want me to deliver? It is hard to be holistic and specific at the same time. I try again.

    1) We have a long research tradition on climate change within a few disciplines
    2) These disciplines frame how we understand, approach, evaluate climate change
    3) These disciplines are also effectively allocating most research fundings to their “businees as usual” disciplinary research.
    4) We have quite good physical CORE knowledge (e.g. that CO2 is a greenhouse gas)
    5) We don’t have good physical knowledge on all aspects (e.g. models with 100 year forecasts are speculative).
    6) We know far too little of most other aspects of climate change

    A) we need more knowledge
    B) we need a BROADER knowledge base
    C) we need a more INTEGRATED knowledge base
    D) decisions must always be made despite uncertainty
    E) we don´t have unlimited resources

    This imply that I don´t agree with your arguments. Of course knowledge on physical aspects increase with time. We never know enough if enough equals know everything perfectly (A). Due to E and D and B we cant say that reducing physical uncertainty are the most prioriticed issue (that is the priority of 3 above). To think that reducing uncertainty are the only key for responses is to misunderstand D (and the nature of policymaking and the role of science in that in general and also the nature of climate change as very broad and also to a large extend an energy issue) and also misunderstand C (causes and conseqnences are caused the total earth system including humans).

    Research funding are not zero sum, yet there is a trade-off and a total budget. Same with aid. Climate aid to the developing world are already resulting in worrysome decrease in poverty aid. The total research and political budget of climate change is limited.

  33. 533
    Septic Matthew says:

    523, David B. Benson: Septic Matthew (513) — What do you mean by “random variability”?

    I mean “random variability” in the empirical sense, of the variability that is not preventable nor exactly predictable. An example is the set of residuals from a fit of a straight line to some data. “Random variability” is the most thoroughly replicated result in empirical research, not the exact values (by definition), but the fact that everything that is observed has unexplainable variation.

    For example, take 10,000 atoms of a radioactive substance (this can be done nowadays with optical tweezers): after a half-life of observation nearly a half of them will have decayed, but we can not predict which of them will have decayed, nor when the next will decay, nor which will decay next, nor why the number is slightly different from exactly 5,000, nor how much different it will be. What is known is that for short observation intervals the number of decays has a nearly (or exactly) Poisson distribution, and that the inter-decay times have nearly (or exact) an exponential distribution.

    You get something similar with “tunneling”: no one can predict which electrons will “tunnel”, only the average number over a bunch of observation intervals. And you get this with breeding drug resistant disease germs: no one knows which of the poisoned germs will survive and have offspring, only that a few will, and the offspring of those few will have greater drug resistance than the original population — this happens all the time with drug treatments for infections. After the fact we might discover which members of the population we might have predicted would have the highest survival rates — but when we do an experiment to test the hypothesis, there will be yet additional random variation.

    All of the parameters for heat and radiation transfer in the earth climate system have been computed from experiments in which there were random deviations about the calibration curve of the measuring instrument, or random deviations from the fit of data to a curve, or some such. Not only that, but for the same parameters estimated by multiple research teams, the between-group differences are frequently bigger than the random variability estimated from the within-experiment residuals. The American Statistical Association each year gives an award for the best paper on inter-laboratory reliability.

    Consider the different climate forecasting models: no one knows exactly why they give different forecasts, otherwise there would be single forecast with a variation for each of the others. Instead they are averaged together, as though they were a random sample from the space of possible models. Instead, they are merely the models that have been thought of so far, and included in the averaging process.

  34. 534
    Sou says:

    @ #508 Andreas Bjurström: (27 March 2010 at 11:51 AM)

    488 Sou,
    Sure, we need lots of more knowledge, but the thing is, we can´t rely on climate models to the extent that we do today. We need a BROADER and more INTEGRATED knowledge base. We have quite good knowledge on the physical aspects, the vast majority of money and intellectual efforts are invested there, yet this is small islands of knowledge in a sea of ignorance.

    Is it really sound to have more or less a one discipline knowledge base for the very complex problem of climate change?

    And is it really sound do address a “post-normal” problem as if it has a technical issue, e.g. a car breaks down and you need to fix a tire. I don´t think climate change is a technical problem.

    [Response: Strawman argument. What proportion of climate scientists actually work on or with climate models? It’s much smaller than you imply. What proportion of the IPCC references are to clinate modelling papers? Again, it is a small fraction. These kinds of metrics are easily calculatable, and yet you appear to prefer rhetorically useful assumptions. Why? – gavin]

    It is sounding as if you are looking for the universal answer to everything :D

    I acknowledge that there are important issues being discussed here. The IPCC has a mandate to “to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic consequences”. WG1 focuses on the scientific impacts, WG2 on the socio-economic and natural impacts and WG3 on mitigation. The socio-economic and natural environmental impacts will only be better understood as the effect of climate on particular regions becomes more clear.

    In the meantime, there is a lot of research being undertaken by government agencies, universities and private research institutes to look at social and economic factors as well as into specific matters that will impact the future. These are rightly taking into account more than climate change. Governments need information from a more holistic viewpoint when it comes to developing policy solutions. Example include the Stern review in the UK and the Garnaut review in Australia.

    In my own state of Victoria recent reviews include the Russell review on water security (which is probably the single biggest issue for this part of the world), which took account of social, economic and policy issues. In addition there is a lot of research being funded by agricultural research funding bodies into matters such as future pasture and farm management strategies to cope with a hotter and drier climate that is evident now and likely to continue. There is an increasing amount of research on other impacts such as human health (eg Ross River fever, malaria etc), population, immigration, future infrastructure requirements, planning regs for projected sea levels and other matters. Much of this locally-specific research would not be expected to be referenced by the IPCC, which has an international focus.

    There are entire government departments set up around the world to deal with climate change. In Australia there is a Ministerial portfolio for climate change in the Federal Government as well as in State governments. (In Victoria the Commissioner Environmental Sustainability, the Department for Sustainability and Environment and other government agencies all have a strong focus on climate change.)

    More research is undoubtedly necessary, but to suggest we cut down research into physical sciences to divert funds to social sciences is wrong. That’s no different from the age-old dilemma of funding education vs health vs law and order etc. The social science research will be useless if it’s not founded on solid information about what is likely to happen to the climate in particular locations. For that we need to continue to study the climate itself.

    As I stated earlier, policy is informed by research and can lead to massive investment decisions. If the base information is incomplete or inaccurate, the cost could be calamitous.

  35. 535
    Gilles says:

    522 : the volcanic forcings have obvious difficulties to explain the pre-1970 variability? Nobody could track the occurence of major volcanic eruptions just by inspecting the temperature curve : there is no correlation with them. The breaks in the slope aren’t happening in correlation with anything linked with volcanoes. It must be although stressed that comparison of the effects of volcanic eruptions both in temperature ( ) and in height of the tropopause ( ) seems to show they are greatly exaggerated.

    Rather, there seem to be a broad 60 -years periodicity in the 30-yrs averaged slope, which is indicative of a significative Fourier component at this scale. Note that this exactly what is supposed to be the “climatic scale” and would have the effect of overestimating the trend over a positive rising half-period.

  36. 536
    John E. Pearson says:

    494: Septic Matthew says: (to Patrick 027)
    “Good enough as far as it goes. The paper I cited that Ray Ladbury didn’t like tries to quantify a lot of the effects that you wrote of semiquantitatively.”

    Dude. The paper you cited isn’t doing any such thing. Here’s what I suggest for you. Get some books on basic atmospheric physics and read them. I’m currently enjoying “Atmospheres” by Goody, et al, which is available for $1.49 from Amazon. It was written in 1971 and it’s not horribly technical so someone who doesn’t know calculus can read and understand it. If you learn a little of the basic physics you’ll be far less inclined to cite drivel like that paper.

  37. 537
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “If the base information is incomplete or inaccurate, the cost could be calamitous.”

    Then all works done are calamitous in cost since ALL our information is incomplete or inaccurate to some extent.

    PS what is the causation that ensures that the cost will be calamitous?

  38. 538
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Climate aid to the developing world are already resulting in worrysome decrease in poverty aid.”

    So the US having spent a trillion dollars (with comensurate spending on all the other “partners”) cannot be the reason? I guess that the recession and bailouts of banks hasn’t had an effect on aid donations, either…

    I think you’d be better looking off into your own bias and politicisation of this science discussion before trying that laser sight on others…

  39. 539
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Andreas, OK, let’s look at this. First, you need to understand what the IPCC is. They are not a research organization. They do not give grants. They have few permanent employees. Their charter is to summarize the state of the research. If you do not know what the state of the research is in the general literature, you are in no position to say how well they have done.

    If in fact there is little sociological research that is directly related to the effects of climate change (and that is my impression), then the IPCC publications merely reflect this fact. They are fulfilling their charter.

    So, then you have to go back to the primary literature and ask whether the problem lies in a lack of grant proposals from social scientists or in the failure of grantmaking agencies to fund such proposals. THAT would be an interesting study.

    There have been some interesting psychological studies of how humans perceive various risks. They don’t give us much hope for optimism that humans will deal with this crisis before it becomes a catastrophe. Again, though, if these studies were cited, denialists would have a field day saying that climate scientists were spinning the science.

    I would argue against citing general sociology of science references that do not pertain directly to climate change. Most policy makers wouldn’t even know how to read these. I think that there is a necessity that the research cited be directly relevant or it doesn’t belong in the summary.

  40. 540

    So it comes to this, again, very strong temperature anomaly +25 C above average for the high arctic…

    I guess curiosity is fickle, and demands more?

    When are we going to focus more on the Arctic?
    There are all sorts of events demanding study and analysis. Also none the least, praise for those who said this would happen, and respect for what they have to say for the future. Thinner sea ice, or no sea ice is playing a huge role along with increasing incursions of warm Cyclones. So it seems the models were right , but are equally too conservative…

  41. 541
    Sou says:

    @ 537 Completely Fed Up says: (28 March 2010 at 7:40 AM)

    “If the base information is incomplete or inaccurate, the cost could be calamitous.”
    Then all works done are calamitous in cost since ALL our information is incomplete or inaccurate to some extent.

    PS what is the causation that ensures that the cost will be calamitous?

    Slow down, CFU, and try not to quote out of context, it might get you in strife :D

    Would you be satisfied if I rephrased to: "The risk of less than adequate information is that funds are misspent on white elephants, leaving none for works that are subsequently seen as essential. Therefore continued climate research is critical to better inform decisions at the local level." (A bit awkward?)

    The point I was making was that funds allocated to climate science should not be cut to divert it to fund social science. Climate research already competes with research in other sciences. Social science is important, but not much good if the climate is not well enough understood. Social scientists can seek funds from elsewhere in social science or from other sources to do the required research, not from cutting funding to ongoing climate science. It doesn't have to be either/or.

    Local infrastructure works need local information about climate, which will become more and more reliable as climate science and computing power advances.

    As an example, if a local water authority spends available funds on expanding water storage and irrigation infrastructure on the expectation that rain will fall seasonally as in the past, but instead there's no rain except for infrequent torrential downpours, then further funds must be found for building storm water infrastructure. It might be beyond the capacity of the local authority to fund both, so towns and farms may end up without water at all. (Purely illustrative and not the best example, perhaps.)

    I'm not suggesting all decisions must wait for total certainty before being made. That's impossible. Obviously decisions can only be made with the best information available at the time. Nor am I saying that social research is not important. It is. (As is education, community awareness, economic research etc.)

  42. 542
    Septic Matthew says:

    536, John E. Pearson: The paper you cited isn’t doing any such thing.

    You didn’t read it, did you?

    I’m currently enjoying “Atmospheres” by Goody, et al, which is available for $1.49 from Amazon. It was written in 1971 and it’s not horribly technical so someone who doesn’t know calculus can read and understand it.

    In learning about AGW, why would you limit yourself to sources that are not terribly technical and don’t require calculus? I’m currently reading “The Cointegrated VAR Model” by Juselius.

  43. 543
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    538 Completely Fed Up says:
    Sorry to disappoint you, but the world is biggger than the US. And when we talk about poverty aid and climate aid, we are talking pure politics, not climate change. You are confusing yourself ;-)
    I know for sure that Sweden are thinking about cutting poverty aid because we promise so much climate aid, and Sweden are giving har more per person in such aid than the US does. That the economic cricis also has effects on aid is not a very good argument against what I argued. There is for sure a trade-off between climate aid and poverty aid. The western world wants to pay very little, that is why Copenhagen was not successful …. We are egoistic bastards for sure …

  44. 544

    Re #543–

    Actually, in many instances climate aid can synergize with poverty aid. (Think local PV solar, efficient communications, information infrastructure, sustainable agriculture, and many more.)

    I expect Ray has some experience on the ground with these issues: I know he’s done development work in Africa.

  45. 545
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    539 Ray Ladbury,
    IPCC is of course NOT a research organization. IPCC rely on the contribution of elite scientists that work for free with grants from other sources. I have never claimed otherwise.
    To understand IPCC, one must begin with the fact that it is a FN organization characterized by its hybridity inbetween science and politics that assess research on a regular basis. There are many scientific as well as political mechanism built into IPCC architecture and processes.

    IPCC is NOT merely reflecting the research community. That would be naive to believe. All organisations influence their outcomes. It is possible to assess science with other approaches than the IPCC have choosen, to give different emphasis, to structure the report differently, to
    interpret research results with other nuances …. IPCC is powerful enough to shape research priorities to some extent and to impact on what kind of climate policies that are adopted.

    One example of exclusion: Anthropology have a hundred year long research tradition on human adaptation to natural conditions, yet we hardly see any references to this body of literature at all. Why is this so? Probably because more technological approaches of risk assessment and the like dominate these areas in the IPCC community. More humistic oriented research have very hard to fit the technocratic approach of IPCC. And the IPCC hardly cite any psychological literature. Why? Perceptions and behaviour are highly relevant. And IPCC dont have to use only studies that explicitly address climate change. They can assess the general psychological literature and apply that to climate change. IPCC is free to do that.

  46. 546

    Wayne’s #540–

    He didn’t link the normals for that date.


    I don’t think this shows exactly +25C anomaly, but it’s still pretty darn dramatic. (For the 25C, Wayne is probably talking about a bigger picture than this specific, very limited comparison.)

    Another reason that I doubt the recent increase in sea ice extent extent says much about how this year’s melt season is likely to go.

  47. 547
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    544 Kevin McKinney says:
    Sure, there are many synergies, not just between poverty and climat aid. But to find synergies, one needs integrated research. We concequently doesnt know very well where these synergies are, since climate research and the IPCC assessment are weak in integrating research. We rely mainly on traditional disciplinary based research. The natural and social systems must be integrated if we want to find synergies (in mitigation and adaptation) and to spot the regions where the effect will likely be worst.

  48. 548
    Walter Manny says:

    519. John, you are giving the appearance of being disingenuous on the topic of ad hominem argument. You know perfectly well I know what I’m talking about on the subject, [edit]

    [Response: You are continually bring up the same issue, and you are still wrong about the implications. The use of the term denialism or variants thereof are simply a description of the behaviour (and apply equally to those who deny the link between HIV and AIDS, the evidence for evolution, the lack of evidence for a vaccine/autism link, the curvature of the Earth etc.) and attempts to play the victim card every single time someone uses it, are tiresome. If you choose not to engage with people that use the term, fair enough, but please move on from this topic. – gavin]

  49. 549
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Sweden are thinking about cutting poverty aid because we promise
    > so much climate aid, and Sweden are giving har more per person
    > in such aid than the US does

    Would this be your own personal political position? “We give too much?”
    You seem to be representing it well here. But at the same time you seem to be saying you’re here to discuss science.

    Can you start separating clearly what’s science, what’s politics, and what’s your opinion?

    To get into weighing global political responsibility, gets into history, and a nation’s responsibility looks at one’s grandparents as well as one’s grandchildren and what share they took, of what, to what result.

    I doubt you want to go into that, and we’d run into Godwin’s Law problems immediately.

    I suggest you spend a bit of time reading at (one of the links in the right sidebar under Other Opinions:

    The most recent page there is really worth some thought.
    –excerpt follows–

    “… unless the South comes to trust the North’s willingness to accept its fair share of the necessary effort, whatever it turns out to be, honest emergency pathways will remain forever out of reach.

    Return to China, which despite wealthy enclaves still has many, many people living in poverty. Consider that the targets that the Chinese expunged from the Copenhagen Accord would have important developmental implications. And that the South has for years made it clear that it will simply not allow itself to be trapped into sacrificing development for climate protection. Remember that, during the run up to Copenhagen, the South repeatedly insisted that the North accept a science-based reduction target at the “upper end” of the IPCC’s 25% by 40% range (from the 1990 baseline, by 2020). And that the North, for its part, attempted instead to enshrine a global reduction pathway that would have implicitly (as above) constrained southern development, and to do so without itself adopting science-based targets of any kind. Then ask yourself, again, exactly what (other than its failure to properly explain itself) was so unreasonable about the Chinese position.

    The answer is not obvious.”
    —- end excerpt —–

    Click the link for the full document with illustrations of various paths.

  50. 550
    Walter Manny says:

    [off-line, though post it if you have the balls] Gavin, I am disappointed in you for the obvious reason that you are responding to my post without posting it. It is a cowardly decision on your part, you know it, and we have returned to the censored world I thought the EAU business had scuttled. I have a good argument to make, though you disagree with it, and you have done exactly as I predicted someone would, which is to offer yet another rationalization for the use of a noxious and loaded term (though I am proud of you for not using it yourself this time). But you can’t stomach doing so while leaving my prediction there for all to see. You clearly do not find the topic so tiresome, or you wouldn’t bother with it at all.

    Here’s the gutsy move, though your behavior indicates you will not make it: Discourage the use of the term on your site, take the high road, and make your arguments the way an admirable scientist would choose to make them. You’ll find joy in it. – Walter

    [Response: Oh please. Your concern for mental well-being is noted. But this is a tedious topic that only succeeds in bogging down conversations about more substantive issues. I am simply not interested and further missives on the subject are OT. – gavin]