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Unforced variations: Jan 2011

Filed under: — group @ 6 January 2011

After perusing the comments and suggestions made last week, we are going to try a new approach to dealing with comment thread disruptions. We are going to try and ensure that there is always an open thread for off-topic questions and discussions. They will be called (as this one) “Unforced Variation: [current month]” and we will try and move all off-topic comments on other threads to these threads. So if your comment seems to disappear from one thread, look for it here.

Additionally, we will institute a thread for all the troll-like comments to be called “The Bore Hole” (apologies to any actual borehole specialists) that won’t allow discussion, but will serve to show how silly and repetitive some of the nonsense that we have been moderating out is. (Note that truly offensive posts will still get deleted). If you think you’ve ended up there by mistake, please let us know.

With no further ado, please talk about anything climate science related you like.

370 Responses to “Unforced variations: Jan 2011”

  1. 101
    Anne van der Bom says:

    Jonathan Bagley,

    11 Jan 2011 at 7:21 AM

    And it gives you a chance to see that there isn’t, and never has been, any justification for the term ‘censoring’. It is plain and simple quality control.

  2. 102
    Hunt Janin says:

    What, if anything, has been written thus far about sea level rise in 2100 and later?

    I need to know because I’m about to start writing on this subject and don’t want to reinvent the wheel.

    If you have any comments, please send them to me off-line at

  3. 103
    Jacob Mack says:

    Anne, just watch the video and pick up a textbook on hurricanes. Never just take another’s word on anything:)

  4. 104
    Ray Ladbury says:


    Just curious. Are you at all concerned that the Borehole might undergo gravitational collapse due to the extraordinary density of stupidity in one spot?

    Wow, dude, you hve my sympathies. Your mental stability must be astounding. A normal person who had to deal with such a high flux of stupidity would be lucky not to make the evening news.

  5. 105
    The Bore Holer says:

    “I haven’t encountered a single young person in more than a decade who actually has a hobby. Yes. I make it a point to ask. All respond that they spend their time playing Video Games.”
    Define hobby and why don’t video games count as one? How would stamp collecting, for example, improve ones ability to understand science or maths, or any other subject other than stamp collection?

    In the last decade hobbies have changed. For the most part they aren’t any worse than hobbies of twenty or thirty years ago, just different. I love video games; I started with Pong and never looked back. Now in my grumble-mumbles, I enjoy video games with my wife and daughter. Guess what, I can do maths, read without moving my lips and wear socks that match (mostly). And *gasp* I love science. It fascinates me, always has done, always will.

    Sir, keep your stereotypes to yourself, you beanie-capped, pocket-protector wearing nerd.

    Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to the bore hole I go…

  6. 106

    #102–Hunt, funny you should ask. This Canadian modeling study just compared scenarios where zero-emissions occurred now (magically, one must presume, but this is a thought experiment on steroids) versus 2100.

    Basically, we’re screwed now, but we could still be screwed so much worse.

    (Abstract, but the figures are well worth perusing.)

    The University of Calgary press release is here:

  7. 107
    ccpo says:

    HELP! …I’m the closest thing to a scientist a lot of these people know and trust… but the hyperbole from the “hyper-alarmists” doesn’t seem to be challenged directly by actual climatologists in one convienient location. Anyway, have I missed the “What GW is NOT” page?

    Comment by John W — 8 Jan 2011 @ 11:34 AM

    You’ve got a bigger problem than you think you do. The sad thing is, there is nothing you can say about climate warming that is actually “alarmist” or “hyperbolic.”

    Alarmism: the often unwarranted exciting of fears or warning of danger

    There is nothing unwarranted about the warnings about climate. With whatever due apologies to the gents running this site, everything we feared is happening, and much of it faster – much faster – than predicted, and the news getting worse with virtually each new paper published:

    It is very bad news. And to illustrate how “alarmism” isn’t alarmism, here is a conversation I had via e-mail back in ’09 with a cryoscientist, I believe. Name changed to protect the innocent.

    Dear Dr. Whosit,

    There has been much reported in the media about the recent analysis of Greenland ice with regard to methane clathrates and methane.

    The error I see in this analysis is the assumption that methane as a cause of possible abrupt warming is now somehow less significant.

    The fact is, the Arctic was cooler then than now. That is, we simply wouldn’t **expect** to see any clathrate destabilization with temperatures as they were at the end of the Younger Dryas.

    What destabilizes clathrates is not so much the absolute temperature as the shift in the pressure-temperature conditions. The rapid atmospheric warming in the Arctic at the end of the Younger Dryas was very large… Yet we don’t see evidence for large clatharte methane releases to the atmosphere.

    More importantly, the areas of clathrates were lergely above the water line where the clathrates were basically forming.

    This would be permafrost clathrates, which I believe are estimated to be only ~10% or less of the total clathrate inventory (the rest are in deeper marine sediments).

    Whatever the number, it’s apparently something like 2x that in the air. That would indicate a mere 10% could equal another 78 ppm. And apparently on the Siberian shelf. Sadly, the amount of CO2 increase we can tolerate is, uh, -50ppm or so, so any is too much.

    Now, they under the sea floor. As Dr. Romanovsky poitns out, warmed as they were flooded over, and are warming ever more now…

    Arctic clathrates weren’t implicated at the termination of the YD because they simply couldn’t have been. The comparison is in error.

    I agree that the evidence suggests that they weren’t implicated. While the comparison is imperfect… it is the temperature SHIFT that matters more than the absolute temperature.

    I think the shift in the Arctic has been dramatic, and this was not reassuring:
    When the last glacial cycle turned into the interglacial, all the Arctic shelves were covered with sea water. The temperature …had been –15 °C to –25 °C… increased to –1.8 °C or warmer. The permafrost started to thaw from both sides – from the top down because of the chemistry of salty water, and from the bottom up as the thermal process also affected hydrates as well… there is some evidence that permafrost is thawing from both sides, and there are some methane concentrations in the sea water which exceed by one or two orders of magnitude the equilibrium concentration of methane that we would expect in sea water. This means that there is some source, and we see these methane increases not only at the bottom sea water but at the sea surface. It means there is some methane coming into the water and going through the water and probably being released into the atmosphere. …given the history of sediments (marine sediments for some period of time, then terrestrial sediment for another period of time, then again marine sediments because of the glacier/inter-glacial cycles in the hundreds of thousands of years), there could be no ice in the marine salty sediments. Thus, there could be no problems for gas to go through this warm permafrost

    Sounds, and sounded, like a problem to me, but my e-mail buddy says:

    While there have been observations of individual bubble plumes in the Arctic making it to the ocean surface, there is no strong evidence (to the best of my knowledge) of this methane currently being a significant contributor to the atmospheric methane budget.

    What a difference two years makes, eh? But here’s the thing. How do we allow scientists to apply their intuition without recrimination if an intuitive leap fails? It was clear to me from the first report I read about Walter, et al., that we were in some pretty deep doo-doo. Arctic clathrates within 2C of destabilization with bottom melt of sea ice accounting for 2/3 of mass loss? This was a no-brainer for me.

    Work by Katy Walter also indicates that the permafrost and clathrates are nearing their melting points, that is, the sea bed and permafrost are approaching O degrees, at which point melting can be expected.

    Remember that clathrates dissociate based on the combination of temperature and pressure conditions — they are stable at temperatures way above 0C at large depths in the ocean.

    Sadly, we aren’t talking about great depths.

    People are too complacent about the risks of climate change… temps at the end of the YD were lower than today by at least two degrees, so the clathrates were in no danger of melting. Temperature rises since then leave clathrates within 1C of melting.

    Some fraction of the clathrate reservoir will certainly become unstable as global warming continues – it is a simple question of thermodynamics. … Most clathrates are deeper than 200m in marine sediments. The propagation of the warming signal through this thickness of sediments will take hundreds of years… In the process, there is a very good chance that the methane will be consumed by methanotrophic bacteria.

    Ah, but not on the Siberian Continental Shelf, and obviously the quote showed that even in deep water the methane content was rising to the air…

    So, the science is alarming, and even the scientists get it a bit wrong at times for various reasons.

    IMO, it is impossible to be alarmist about climate changes; we can only underestimate them at this point.

  8. 108
    _Flin_ says:

    Sorry to bother you with questions about Knox, Douglass 2010. When thinking about it, however, there are a few things I can’t figure out for myself with my amateur knowledge.

    1. Argo Data Depth
    Argo floats sink down to 2000m. Willis and Lyman used data from down to 750m. How deep is the OHC of Knox & Douglass? They mention the depth of every other OHC estimate from ARGO, but not their own. Or am I blind? Or do they use data from down to 750m, because it’s Willis’ data?

    But why not use data from down to 2000m (like von Schuckmann). Wouldn’t that add more insight about the missing heat issue?

    2. 2003-2008 time span and ENSO
    Does ENSO influence global OHC? Or do the ENSO ocean temperature anomalies cancel each other out? I didn’t find any papers about influences of ENSO on global OHC, but starting in an El Nino and ending in a La Nina somehow “felt” unfortunate for me (but then, I am an amateur).

    Thank you in advance for answering my questions (if you do, that is ;-) ).

  9. 109
    ccpo says:

    joe says:
    8 Jan 2011 at 3:18 PM

    Can you comment on this? Has the warming been cancelled?

    1. Not a reputable journal, so far as I can tell.

    2. In the intro they clearly state they don’t care about long term trends and will use a climaically insignificant 5 year trend instead.

    Conclusion: Bunk science.

  10. 110
    Didactylos says:

    ccpo: I have to respectfully disagree.

    Of course real scientists don’t say anything “hyper-alarmist” that they can’t fully justify. Plenty of other people are there to fill the void, and there are two methods they use to generate hyper-alarmism: treating the very high end of estimates as absolute certainty, and misusing or falsifying estimates.

    For example, tabloid claims that sea levels will rise tens of metres this century fall into the second category, by misrepresenting the timescale.

    Unfortunately, deniers aren’t interested in correcting these errors. In fact, it’s one of the primary non-scientific reasons I know deniers are full of it. They prefer ludicrous straw men to tilt against – it’s the only way they can fool themselves they are winning. It even works well with those people who really aren’t deniers, but don’t want to think too hard about it, and are looking for an excuse to dismiss it all as unrealistic “doom and gloom”.

    Consequently, when we deflate the straw men, we strengthen the argument for taking climate action.

  11. 111
    Didactylos says:

    I see an unexpected benefit of the Bore Hole. Some commenters tread the line, more often than not having their comments wiped out. Before the Bore Hole, we had no idea of this, and just saw the better comments, that maybe got through after a few rewrites.

    Now, we have some warning of when a discussion might be unproductive.

  12. 112
    ccpo says:

    Didactylos says:
    11 Jan 2011 at 1:10 PM

    ccpo: I have to respectfully disagree.

    I can’t figure out what you are disagreeing with, for you’ve not said anything I disagree with and don’t seem to have addressed what I wrote.


    reCAPTCHA: Roints infra. Has it been programmed with Scooby-doo dialect?

  13. 113

    #111–Very true.

  14. 114

    An early report, this, and I think it begs some verification and followup. But it seems that there are some rumblings about problems with one of the few functioning CO2 sequestration operations:

    (Captcha opines: “Gonvism problem.” Now if we only knew what “Gonvism” is.)

  15. 115
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re ccpo – the original question refered to Earth turning into Venus (likely in the deep geological future, but not from AGW now so far as I know). We could imagine the “The Day After Tomorrow” scenario may also come up (some things nominally correct but blown out of proportion; physically implausable storms (how low would the central pressure have to get?) and cold. In comparison to the Younger Dryas, we have less ice to melt in the Northern Hemisphere and it’s in different places).

  16. 116
    doug says:

    Any thought or hope that one day supercomputers may point the way on how to “tweak” the climate to our satisfaction? Please forgive me if this sounds completely insane.

  17. 117
    One Anonymous Bloke says:

    Doug #116 Yes! They say we had better reduce the CO2 content of the atmosphere to 350ppm.

  18. 118
  19. 119
    doug says:

    Thank you Anonymous. I’m thinking in the absense of that…supercomputers might show that if we put (is it sulfates?) into the atmosephere that we might get such and such outcome? It was meant as a serious question. I do think the outlook for computers is that they will be perhaps be millions of times more powerful than they are now.

  20. 120
    Matt7195 says:

    Hi Everyone,

    I don’t want to interrupt a productive exchange on the facts about global warming.

    But I want to ask everyone to join me in commenting on Climate Denier Blogs like: and and and and Pretty much any site you can find that is spreading misinformation about climate change.

    Here’s what I’ve posted. I urge you to also post this on these sites. The more this comment shows up, the more people will remember it. Climate deniers don’t come to our sites, so we have to go to them:

    –Begin Quote–

    We should believe scientists. In fact, we have to, because they have studied this stuff much longer than we ever could. We’re going to either have to believe the scientists that work for the universities or the scientists that work for the energy companies.

    Why would a university scientist have our best interests in mind any more or less than a BP scientist, a Koch Industries scientist or an Exxon scientist?

    What would they have to gain from trying to convince everyone that the fuel that everyone including them depends on is running low and is changing our atmosphere for the worse?

    It would take a conspiracy theory bigger than a faked moon landing, a covered up alien invasion and a fake 9/11 combined to solve this question on a global scale.

    Or it could just be that the money the fossil fuel companies like Koch Industries give to scientists is enough to make them say what they want. Would you say that the Earth is flat for $5 million?

    —End Quote—

    I wish you all the best. Please get this out there. If you can improve the comment, do. I wish us all the best!

  21. 121
  22. 122
    David B. Benson says:

    Mountain Glacier Melt to Contribute 12 Centimeters to World Sea-Level Increases by 2100

  23. 123
    Didactylos says:

    ccpo: You said “it is impossible to be alarmist about climate changes”. I suppose you didn’t get into the subject of misinformation, but your comments were easily interpreted as the “any exaggeration is justified” canard.

    Thank you for clarifying.

  24. 124
    wili says:

    Dactylos, I think you are missing the point.

    You wrote at #110: “treating the very high end of estimates as absolute certainty”

    I rarely see this. What I do see everywhere is almost total disregard for the ‘very high end of estimates.’

    Any rational person in any real life context would not ignore possibilities that were at the high end of estimates.

    If you were told that if you walk through door x, there is a 10, 5, even one % possibility of your being horribly mutilated, probably fatally, would you prefer not to have known or heard about this possibility before you made your decision.

    Anyone who puts a fragment of a moments thought into it realizes that very, very high stakes (particularly existential stakes) trump very low odds.

    But in spite of what you claim, this side of the discussion is almost completely left out of the general conversation.

    It is not irrational to contemplate what the worst possibilities could be.

    It is the height of rational, prudent thinking.

    Thinking that is almost completely lacking anywhere.

  25. 125
    Didactylos says:

    wili, maybe you have forgotten the time when the tabloids decided to treat climate as a scare story. Currently, most tabloids have swung back to the opposite view, but when the story is “hottest year ever” again, you can count on yet another reversal.

    They won’t be careful with the facts. You know what headline writers do.

    I’m not in the mood to go digging for examples, but I remember a few recent ones. RC even did a post a while back, trying to correct some media distortions.

  26. 126
    _Flin_ says:

    @David Benson: Thank You

  27. 127
    Christer Svensson says:

    As methane is viewed as a 20 times more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. We need hence to look at ways and means of combusting methane before it is released into the atmosphere from: the defrosting permafrost boggs of siberia to methane release from sea beds and rice fields etc.
    Collecting mebranes with collecting valves or open flame exits or other more innovative approaches should be developped we are looking at a free energy source …

  28. 128
    Esop says:

    Unusually warm temperatures pretty all over Europe, with major melt induced flooding in Germany, Poland and Belgium.
    This means Piers Corbyn’s much publicized forecast of a brutally cold January in Europe has failed in a most spectacular fashion. However, as usual, when “skeptic” predictions fail, the MSM will not report on it.

  29. 129
    Steve Milesworthy says:

    The following 2010 paper suggests that 0.8mm/year sea level rise could be due to pumping out of aquifers. On the face of it, the estimate looked like a reasonable starting point. The paper says that aquifer pumping is mentioned, but not quantified, in the IPCC 4th Assessment Report.

    How does this fit with sea level budget and so forth?

    Global depletion of groundwater resources
    Y Wada, LPH van Beek, CM van Kempen

  30. 130
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Before we can do risk assessment, we need a lowest upper bound–a sort of 95 or even 99% WC. We don’t even have that. We can’t even rule out the absolute worst of scenarios. So what we need to remember is that when used for the purposes of risk assessment/mitigation, worst-case assessments are not alarmist, but rather essential.

  31. 131
    Didactylos says:

    Folks, please stop twisting my words. I said “treating the very high end of estimates as absolute certainty”.

    Any reasonable discussion of risk can talk about the unbounded upper end of unlikely values, as well as the better bounded lower end and also the best estimate. But please note that risk assessment may take a theoretical worst case into account, but you don’t go on from there to take a course of action which absolutely rules out the worst case. If people did that, nobody would ever cross a road again, or step into a car.

    I can’t believe I’m trying to convince scientists that it’s not a good idea to ignore 97.5% of the PDF.

  32. 132
    jacob mack says:

    Climate always changes. Risk assessment should be used more for adverse weather.

  33. 133
    Esop says:

    #132 (Jacob): The climate only changes when forced to do so. When we know the forcings (solar/Milankovitch/tilt/greenhouse gases, etc) we can make predictions and assess risks.

  34. 134
    Maya says:

    Surely I’m not the first one with this. There’s gotta be comments awaiting moderation. :D

    2010 ties record for warmest year – NOAA

  35. 135
    Maya says:


    I’m just going with the data. If it makes you happy to insist that events have not taken place, there’s nothing I can do about that.

    Global temperature increase is projected to be 1.1-6.4°C by the end of the century, with a best estimate of 1.8-4.0°C. That’s based on the IPCC 2007 report. Going with your 0.6°C thus far, that means a best guess of AT LEAST 300% higher.

    I’m sorry, I don’t know how to have a productive discussion with you. I look at the very best data and estimates available, and as far as I can tell, your overall response to them is “it isn’t so.” I just don’t know what to do with that. I really am sorry, because it seems like you are truly interested in the subject, but I just don’t know where to go with the conversation. Maybe someone else can figure out a better way to go about it.

  36. 136
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot. Interogative?

    I cannot see any universe in which your post follows from what I wrote. And mine is the only one that mentions risk up to that point. Perhaps you merely scanned my post. If so, read it again…this time for comprehension.

  37. 137
    Hank Roberts says:

    Thunderstorms produce antimatter particle beams radiating energy into space. How cooling is _that_?

  38. 138
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Very cool, but not particularly cooling. These are not common events–not the gamma ray bursts and certainly not the antimatter production. Even so, it’s a really neat result.

  39. 139
    Didactylos says:

    Ray, you were the third person to ignore or confuse what I actually said. Maybe you agreed with me, I couldn’t tell. But I thought it was about time I cut through the fog.

  40. 140
    Dan H. says:

    Looking at teh very best data we have:
    The global temperature increase over the past 130 years is about 0.6C based on the CRU data (other datasets may be slightly different, but close). During this time, atmospheric CO2 concentrations have increased ~35%. Climate science tells us that the CO2-temperature relation is logarithmic, such that every 35% increase will yield similar temperature increases (all other factors being equal).
    At the current rate of increase (past decade), atmospheric CO2 concentrations will rise another 35% by about 2090. Therefore, a similar temperature would be expec ted based on CO2. Predicting a higher increase without accompanying data is foolhardy. Since you are quoting the AR4 report, I see why you are arriving at such high figures.

    [Response: You might want to think about why the IPCC arrives at it’s figures yourself. (Hint. They don’t use linear extrapolation). – gavin]

  41. 141
    Jim Eager says:

    GISStemp 2010 anomaly figures are out:

    Global land ocean: warmest (just barely) Jan-Dec at .63 compared to .62 for 2005.

    Global met station only: warmest at .83 vs .77 for 2005.

    Northern hemisphere land-ocean: .84 vs .82.

    Norhtern hemisphere met station only: 1.08 vs 1.01.

  42. 142
    Tinman says:

    T-shirt seen on Brisbane street: “I’m just getting warmed up.”–Mother Nature

  43. 143
    Rattus Norvegicus says:

    NOAA released their data today also. Tied for warmest with 2005. The crowd at that site which shall not be named had the predictable reaction: foaming at the mouth.

  44. 144
    Esop says:

    #140 (Dan H):
    I seem to remember reading on some climate realist sites about a year ago that Climategate proved the CRU data to be rather inaccurate, so it probably best to use one of the other datasets in your example.

  45. 145
    David Miller says:

    DanH at #140

    As Gavin alluded to, you’re significantly oversimplifying the problem. It might seem OK on a first guess sort of basis, but it certainly isn’t the sort of thing one can use to tell those studying the problem in detail that they’re all wrong.

    The first thing you need to consider is the lag is between adding CO2 and reaching equilibrium temperatures. We haven’t yet begun to reach all the temperature increase for the CO2 we’ve already added. In 35 years we’ll see more of it, but not that much of the effect of the CO2 we’ll add in that time.

    You probably want to understand that, and a lot of other basics, before trying to convince people they’re wrong.

  46. 146
  47. 147
    Bibasir says:

    Maya, you say “The global temperature increase over the past 130 years is about 0.6C. Based on the chart on GISS, the temperature is up .6C from the 1950-80 base. The 1950-80 base is about .2C higher than 1900, so we are up .8C since 1900.

  48. 148
    Snapple says:

    The Russian media attacked the climate scientists after Climategate, but now there are articles in the Russian media supporting the idea of climate change.

    Here is a new one.

    It seems the official line has changed, or maybe some Russians want to take advantage of the carbon credits. I would be very suspicious that the Russians would attempt to turn the climate credit program into a racket. They are really good at those paper crimes Interpol has gone after some criminal organizations who try to take advantage of these credits.

    It is really interesting that an official at Andrei Illarionov’s Institute for Economic Analysis (IEA) is quoted—Boris Profiriyev.

    It’s kind of funny because Cuccinelli’s EPA suit cited the RIA Novosti version of a Kommersant article that trashed climate scientists by citing the “expert” Andrei Illarionov of the IEA, so this really seems to be a new line.

    This article is Russian media, but it is in English for us to read–caveat emptor. I am just telling what they are saying.

    Profiriyev of the IEA says that Gazprom has sold Japan “quotas” on greenhouse gasses.

    The article also says,”President Medvedev sees a reduction in green-house emissions as one of the priority issues on the country’s economic agenda.”

    In 2009, when he was in Tomsk, Medvedev called global warming “some kind of tricky campaign made up by some commercial structures to promote their business projects.”

    At least one Russian paper I looked at was connected to Gazprom, but it also admitted there was global warming.

  49. 149
    Brian Dodge says:

    Don’t you mean a WET T-shirt seen on a Brisbane street?

  50. 150
    Snapple says:

    The article piously presents Russia in the lead of countries who honor their committments on the climate agreements:

    “Unlike Russia, other signatories to the Kyoto Protocol are in no hurry to act on their commitments. Opposition from other countries disrupted the signing of new climate agreements on Copenhagen and Cancun summits. But Nature, as we see from the calamities of late, does not tolerate disregard and neglect on the part of humanity.”

    Still, this does seem to be a change in the party line. I would be so interested if some climate scientists could give their insights on this article and some others I have linked to in recent posts on my site.

    The Russians are trying to diversify their economy with higher technology. They want to have their own Silicon Valley. Even Arnold Schwartzeneger was in Russia and was given good reviews. I think maybe he will have something to do with Silicon Valley investing in Russian high-tech and also with global warming.

    The Russians do seem to be telling their people that a lot of Russia may end up under water because of thawing permafrost and the rising of the Arctic Ocean.