Unforced variations: Jan 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 comments on this post.
  1. Maya:


    There’s a graph of it on page 14: http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2011/20110118_MilankovicPaper.pdf

    Yes, 5 meters. Maybe he’s right, maybe he’s not, but he’s been the former more than the latter. I don’t think it’s wise to dismiss the assertion out of hand. He doesn’t try to say that it’s a certainty, of course, but he says it’s possible and plausible.

  2. Hank Roberts:

    Maya, yes, there’s a picture, but make sure you urge people to read the text associated with the picture. That is one of his examples. He is not saying that’s _the only_ possible or plausible result — it’s an example based on one set of possibilities. People are reposting “5 meters” and making it sound like that’s a conclusion, rather than an example of one possible outcome.

    It’s like when your doctor tells you that if you keep going in the direction you’re heading now, you’re likely to end up where that might take you and it might not be good — an invitation to choose better among the alternatives.

  3. Maya:

    Hank, sure, I get that, which I think is completely obvious by my saying that “He doesn’t try to say that it’s a certainty, of course, but he says it’s possible and plausible.”

    When you go “5 meters – and where did you get _that_ idea?” I’m pointing out that it’s *right* *there*, no need to act startled about it or like it’s preposterous or anything, which is definitely how your response comes across. The link you posted in your response gives denialist sites at the top of the list, too. Did you change sides on us or something?

  4. Brian Dodge:

    Dan H. — 22 Jan 2011 @ 11:18 PM
    “The decrease in cosmic rays recently does correlated quite well with the decrease in cloud cover, and the resulting temperature increase.”

    Who told you that?

    If Svensmark were correct, the increase in cosmic rays would have lead to an increase in clouds and a decrease in temperature, all other things being equal. Of course, all other things, such as CO2, aren’t staying equal. Do you think that the expected decline in cosmic rays over the next solar cycle will result in even larger increases in temperature?

  5. Richard Lloyd:

    James Delingpole owned by Sir Paul Nurse on Horizon. Brilliant. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00y4yql

  6. Hank Roberts:

    Maya, Hansen posted that draft for discussion asking scientists to comment.

    I’m not one. I pointed that “5 meter” number being used by people people posting it out of context. I pasted sou’s question into Google. Result — as you saw — that finds mostly people using that “5 meter” number out of context and misrepresented to make exaggerated strawman claims _about_ what Hansen wrote.

    Note they don’t mention it’s an example of an estimate from a draft made public to ask for discussion. Note what they do instead.

    Just sayin’ — look carefully, explain fully, cite good sources, be wary of those using numbers, even good numbers, out of context, as is being done very eagerly about that particular item.

  7. tamino:

    For those who haven’t read Hansen’s draft paper, you should.

    The 5-meter sea level rise is clearly only a hypothetical possibility, meant to illustrate that if sea level rise is exponential (a distinct possibility if the ice sheets disintegrate), then the current rate of sea level rise is a poor indicator of what to expect in the next century. Hansen emphasizes that if it’s exponential, the “doubling time” is highly uncertain. And when it comes to the future habitability of earth, uncertainty is not our friend.

    For me, the most interesting part was that paleoclimate data (ice age cycles) may give a more precise estimate of climate sensitivity than other sources of information (both theoretical musings and computer models).

  8. Louise:

    Sorry, I know I’m OT but I wondered what you thought of this (especially looking at the ‘guest’ list)?


  9. Hank Roberts:

    Louise, you missed the announcement but this is a useful way to get attention — There’s now a topic for that kind of interruption. It needs a big flashy button to get new readers’ attention (-:

    Unforced variations: Jan 2011
    Open thread
    They say there: “… 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….”

  10. Ray Ladbury:

    Judy Curry…

    Ok, Next!

    Seriously? They want to talk about “post-normal” science. Hell, I’d be satisfied if they understood the plain vanilla scientific method! Try it guys. It’s worked for 400 years! I think we can do just fine without all your postmoderist crap for a few hundred more.

    And the participants list doesn’t hold out much hope for serious discussion. It sounds like the 4th circle of hell.

  11. JCH:

    It would seem to me that for the “Unforced variations: Jan 2011” thread to work as a needed home for OT discussions, some force has to keep its location invariable for all of Jan, 2011.

  12. Anne van der Bom:

    25 Jan 2011 at 8:56 AM

    Argh, Steven Goddard is on that list! I didn’t check her credibility levels lately, but did JC still have some credibility left to lose?

  13. JCH:

    Louise, yes she does.

    But I was dumbfounded when I saw her interpretation of the historic flood record for Queensland. One would think that an advocate of building dams might have the first clue as to why they build them; as in, to make large precipitation events result in lower flood levels.

    People can’t think as fast as they can blog. As a person of average intelligence, it’s great to know that includes scientists.

  14. Louise:

    Apparently Anthony Watts was also invoted to that conference and declined.

    I wonder if it is actually an attempt at reconciliation or an attempt to bolster the denialist concensus.

  15. Ray Ladbury:

    Louise, if their goal is denialist consensus, then I’m all for it. If they’d ever quit tapdancing, we could (figuratively) nail their feet to the floor and demolish them in time to catch the red-eye from Lisbon.

    Unfortunately, “Anything but CO2” winds up being rather difficult to obliterate when the advocates of the position refuse to even acknowledge evidence.

  16. Brian Dodge:

    from Curry’s workshop-on-reconciliation blog post –

    “Thanks, Judith, for the posting. Good luck!

    Regretfully, there can probably be no reconciliation in the climate debate.
    Climategate exposed an unholy, worldwide alliance of politicians and world leaders with leaders of government science agencies.
    Major distortions in science since 1969 are documented in this new paper on “Neutron Repulsion”.

    What are the chances that leaders of the UN’s IPCC, the US National Academy of Sciences, the UK’s Royal Society, and editors of leading research journals will now

    a.) Address the experimental data presented in the paper, or
    b.) Admit that Earth is heated by neutron repulsion, rather than by hydrogen fusion?

    That is the chances of reconciliation
    Regretfully unlikely,
    Oliver K. Manuel”

    Is this postnormal science “that recognizes the potential for gaps in knowledge and understanding that cannot be resolved other than through revolutionary science,” or a Poe troll?

    Should neutron repulsion, cosmic ray cloud iris enhancements, and unexplained processes that prohibit warm bodies from radiating in the direction of hotter bodies nearby be part of the multiple veiwpoints we incorporate into the problem of global warming?

  17. Hank Roberts:

    Nice straightforward lecture notes here, that may be helpful to to someone:

    “The wavelength distributions of the radiation emitted by the sun and the Earth … The upward IR flux from the surface is computed …”

  18. Kevin McKinney:


    Ah, yes, Oliver “Iron Sun” Manuel.

    Well, that settles that, then.

  19. Hank Roberts:

    For anyone in search of something relevant to read each week, don’t fail to check:

  20. Louise:

    Ray – I suppose that rather than ‘denialist consensus’ I suppose I meant that, because there are some mainstream scientists going along as well as fans of Anthony Watts, they are trying to make the denialist position appear mainstream, i.e. using Dr Curry and Nick Stokes (who is also attending) to give a veneer of legitamacy.

  21. Ray Ladbury:

    I have a lot of respect for Nick (Judy…not so much). I really think he is of the opinion that common ground is possible. I disagree–at least until the denialists cease being denialists and accept 1)physical reality, and 2)standard methodology of risk mitigation. I hold out little hope that they will do this, as it would leave them with no choice but to embrace limitations on CO2 emissions as the only current viable strategy.

    They may think they are “looking for common ground”. But you can’t find common ground between science and lies. And with folks like Judy and Steve Goddard headlining…, well, let’s just say that I can easily envision them all emerging on stage from a single Volkswagen Bug.

  22. JCH:


    Do you think Hansen’s current paper changes the 5-meter discussion in his 2007 article? I really don’t think that.

    I think what Hansen is saying is his speculation is that SLR by 20952100 will be greater than 3 meters because of model-resistant nonlinear melting: closer to 5 meters than to linear estimates of ~1 meter.

  23. Kevin McKinney:

    Hank, #319–

    Thanks for that reference. Some provocative work in there. . .

  24. JCH:

    For several months I’ve been accumulating references to either combustion events or totals for oil spillage events during WW2, so Hank’s link was very interesting. WW2 was a global event during which a very large amount of combustion took place, and there was also a fairly large amount of oil spilled into the oceans. One American oil company lost 67 oil tankers during the war: probably the equivalent of at least 5 Exxon Valdez spills.

    The Korean War and the Vietnam War continued some of that activity. The United States dropped almost three times the tonnage of bombs in SE Asia as it did in WW2. It is said the the Korean War artillery tonnage exceeded that of WW2. That one I find doubtful, but the claim exists.

    In WW2 significant burning of a large number of cities took place. The strategic bombing surveys have pretty good numbers there.

    In terms of Mid-20th Century temperature, I am curious as to whether or not potential impacts of warfare have been fully evaluated by climate scientists. It just seems to me there are ways some of this stuff – dust, black carbon, oil sheen, etc. – might have played a role in global temperature.

    At a platoon level, my father’s SPM fired 12,000 75mm rounds on Iwo Jima. All SPM platoons on the island – potentially 500,000 shells. This was by far the least common USMC artillery type on Iwo Jima. That is an awful lot of TNT, which was cut with other explosives. The Russians claim they used more than 600,000 tons of TNT during the war. The US number would be much larger; probably the British too. The first atomic bomb: 12 to 16 kilotons.

  25. Maya:

    Heh, yeah, using their own tactics against them, I love it.



    ‘How many results can we get on “Skepticgate” by the year’s end?’

  26. Michael G:

    I posted a question on another thread but can’t find it about the potential for disruption of the circulation cells (Ferrel, Hadley cells etc) with increasing warming and there were some interesting responses. If spontaneous reconstruction of circulation patterns does occur, for example, driving heat north, would one expect the potential, firstly for sea ice to melt faster than models predict (if such models don’t include circulatory reconstruction) and secondly, induction of ice disintegration events? Is there any evidence that the trigger for the Melt Water Pulse observed in paleo-historical SLR was associated with a spontaneous reconstruction of circulation patterns, with attendant ‘pulsed’ heat transfer? Presumably, if so, might that provide an indication of potential self-similar event (ie repeat of MWP, but on a smaller scale) in the coming decades?

  27. Michael G:

    Erratum: I should have written ‘ice sheet disintegration’ in my last post.

  28. Hank Roberts:

    > combustion events or totals for oil spillage events during WW2

    There’s a guy out there with multiple websites under various names on ocean surface oil spills and other WWII events changing climate. I recall hunting up estimates of the total oil spilled into the ocean from shipping during the war; compared to spills from supertankers lost since; compared to the total natural seepage. Having baselines would help.

    Recent science on the thin surface biological layer is fascinating; I’ve found no idea how warfare affects this stuff: http://www2.cnrs.fr/en/206.htm

  29. Hank Roberts:

    Aside, on oil spills, some bits toward numbers on contemporary losses; might be interesting to compare to WWII losses. The volume of shipping and size of contemporary ships (longer ships can span the gap between bigger waves so may break instead of riding them; imagine a supertanker on this pair: http://www3.ncc.edu/faculty/bio/fanellis/biosci119/ramapo_wave.jpg )


  30. JCH:

    Here’s one:

    “the combined total of WWII shipwrecks stands at 7807 vessels worldwide (Figure 1), combining to over 34 million tons of shipping with 861 tankers and oilers (Figure 2). …”


  31. Septic Matthew:

    A solar note: according to this author (actually, the language is ambiguous) California has installed 3 GW of off-grid solar electrical power:


    Today’s predicted maximum demand for California (from CAISO, which excludes the cities of Los Angeles and Sacramento) is about 30GW, so the rooftop solar panels reduce load on the grid by almost 10%. Had it been available back then, this amount of solar power would have prevented the electricity crisis, which was a crisis only of peak demand.

    The usual caveats apply: it’s relatively expensive electricity, tax-subsidized, the panels are made out of state, etc. But it is a noteworthy milestone.

  32. Septic Matthew:

    316 Brian dodge: unexplained processes that prohibit warm bodies from radiating in the direction of hotter bodies nearby

    “Warm bodies” and “hotter bodies nearby” are all radiating in all directions (that is, assuming that there are a lot in each category.) The claim is that the set of “warm bodies” can not raise the temperatures of the set of “hotter bodies nearby”. It may be “unexplained”, but it’s “the law” (second.)

  33. Hank Roberts:

    SM, Brian alludes to a notion from the denier universe. Look at the responses in this thread by people who think that: http://www.drroyspencer.com/2010/07/yes-virginia-cooler-objects-can-make-warmer-objects-even-warmer-still/

  34. Septic Matthew:

    333, Hank Roberts: Brian alludes

    I understand the allusion. I addressed his actual language, which was deficient. The fact that certain denialists mess this up all the time is no reason for a warmist to mess it up as well.

  35. JiminMpls:

    #331 Had it been available back then, this amount of solar power would have prevented the electricity crisis, which was a crisis only of peak demand.

    Bullsh_t. No amount of addtional capacity would have prevented the California energy crisis. Peak demand never remotely approached capacity. It was an artificial crisis created by Exxon’s manipulation of supply.

  36. François:

    335 : you mean ENRON, I think.

  37. Kevin McKinney:

    #333, 334–

    Brian didn’t mess it up, nor was his language (IMO) ‘deficient’; it was an ironic reference, rather adroitly skewering the G & T fetishists out there.

    BPL also has a nice discussion of this issue:


  38. Hank Roberts:

    > SM
    >> The claim is that the set of “warm bodies” can not
    >> raise the temperatures of the set of “hotter bodies nearby”.

    That claim is wrong.

    >> It may be “unexplained”

    What’s unexplained: any basis for believing the claim.
    (the claim that the greenhouse effect/back-radiation can’t happen because the atmosphere is warm but the Earth is warmer).

    There are no “unexplained processes that prohibit warm bodies from radiating in the direction of hotter bodies nearby”

    Back-radiation from the atmosphere to the planet happens.

    > yes-virginia-cooler-objects-can-make-warmer-objects-even-warmer-still

    We agree, right? Just checking.
    Spencer tries hard to make it clear.
    His thread makes it clear how difficult this can be to explain.

  39. JCH:

    335, I think you mean ENRON.

  40. Septic Matthew:

    335, JiminMnpls: Peak demand never remotely approached capacity. It was an artificial crisis created by Exxon’s manipulation of supply.

    The CAISO ordered brownouts and factory closings whenever supply was less than 5% greater than projected demand.

  41. Hank Roberts:

    >> Exxon’s manipulation of supply.

    > supply was less

    Enron manipulation throttled the supply.

  42. Septic Matthew:

    316: unexplained processes that prohibit warm bodies from radiating in the direction of hotter bodies nearby

    Ah. I understand now that the wording is beyond reproach. Sorry.

    Hank Roberts and Jim in Minneapolis, Californians solved their electr5icity crisis by their own efforts. It took them a while, but Californians solved their electricity crisis by their own efforts. Had the electricity supply been “choked off”, that would have been impossible. It’s too bad that Californians ran up such a big debt first, but they were slow to act. The current 3 GW of off-grid solar power is greater than the shortage of peak supply at the peak of the crisis. That isn’t a great amount, about 8% of demand a few days ago, but a memorable milestone.

  43. Hank Roberts:

    SM, they got caught at it.
    How can you tell people it never happened?
    What are you relying on for your claims about Enron’s California power?

  44. Warmcast:

    Since this is way off topic I’ll post it here!

    Should be of interest to Americans.
    New Scientist map showing areas that have the most patents (or above/below average) in the US:


    Then I wondered what the average political affiliation of different states were:


    Maybe not surprising to many Americans?
    If you have problem with the links, then in summary:
    Republican states appear to under perform in the patent count.
    I thought it suggested why there was a political battle between the political right and science/innovation??

  45. Brian Dodge:

    From wikipedia – “Poe’s law, named after its author Nathan Poe, is an Internet adage reflecting the fact that without a clear indication of the author’s intent, it is difficult or impossible to tell the difference between sincere extremism and the parody of extremism.”

    And the boundary between sincere postmodern science unintentional self-parody and intentional parody of postmodern science is pretty fuzzy as well.

  46. FurryCatHerder:

    SM @ 340:

    Yes, but there are other sources of supply and Enron created the crisis by manipulating supply.

    Likewise, just because there is “supply” doesn’t mean that supply is “available”. The ERCOT (TX ISO) peak is around 69GW, but if the day-ahead forecast were off by a few GW, there could be problems even though demand is nowhere near 69GW.

  47. FurryCatHerder:

    Warmcast @ 344:

    “Patents issued per warm body” is a useless metric if patents issued to companies that license their portfolio are included. Some companies, such as my former employer, promote patent filing in part so they can maintain their standing in terms of patents issued, without much apparent regard for the quality of the patents. Or as we used to call them on the review boards I sat on, “cell-phone patents”. Meaning, some feature of dubious commercial value who’s true value is being able to say there’s yet another patent. Or defensive patents which exist to =stifle= innovation.

    Real innovation is revolutionary, not evolutionary, and of the more than a dozen patents I’ve been issued, I think only two or three are “revolutionary”. And of those two or three, based on the number of times they’ve been referenced by other patents, only one is =truly= revolutionary. Another patent, a method for improving pipelined instruction execution, seems to be attracting some interest and I may yet change my opinion as to how much it changed the state of the art. But my reading of the two recently issued patents that reference says those patents were themselves minor tweaks. Probably to the extent that they weren’t even tweaks …

    All this is to say that “innovation” is hard to capture in numerical terms because the “unit” of “innovation” isn’t well-defined. A “patent” means one thing to a company that has a limited budget for IP lawyers, and something completely different to a company that keeps IP lawyers on staff, or pays for patent filings in bulk. I had plans to file 3 patent applications, and I did file a provisional, but when revenue attributable to the concept failed to materialize, those innovative concepts — and one was highly innovative — had the wrong cost/benefit ratio.

    — Julie.

  48. Hank Roberts:


    “Spencer wrote that he “wasn’t aware” of the FoxNews.com report. He further stated that he “read the part that mentions me, and it does not make sense.” [Email to Media Matters, 1/26/11]”

    “Spencer: “No One I Know Seriously Debates That Warming Has Actually Occurred.” Spencer, who contends that the warming trend is natural rather than manmade, further told Media Matters via email, “I love FoxNews, but this was a little sloppy.” He added: “We have differing opinions on the cause of warming…no one I know seriously debates that warming has actually occurred…so… ….I think whether 2010 was a record or not is not terrible relevant to the debate” [Ellipses in original]. [Email to Media Matters, 1/26/11]”

  49. Brian Taylor:

    Glad to see an open forum for posting various ideas. I read (the Bore Hole, January 2011, about #10 or so, and various other items from the past few years) that there is lots of money in climate science, what a joke. Fortunately most scientists stay in science jobs. After all, look what happened when a bunch of physicists found other work after the Superconducting Supercollider work collapsed when they went to work on Wall Street. As an old hand there said – the real cause of the financial collapse is that there were too many smart guys working there, thinking up too many new products and schemes that no one else understood. Instead of just making a killing (tens of millions) they began to make extreme amounts of money (billions). Kind of like any other field of human endeavor, people continue to push things to new extremes.

  50. Septic Matthew:

    343, Hank Roberts: SM, they got caught at it.
    How can you tell people it never happened?

    despite manipulation of the market by wholesalers, Californians solved their own problem.

    they did so by a slight (ca 3%) reduction in peak electrical demand.

    they could have implemented the solution a year earlier than they did.

    most of the lawsuits against the electricity wholesalers were decided in favor of the wholesalers.

    wholesalers were obligated to return about 5% of the claimed overcharges (of the claimed overcharges, not 5% of the total billed.)

    Californians are still paying for the electricity that they bought during the crisis (there is a line item on my monthly bill.)

    the precipitating event was a reduction in hydroelectric power following a prolonged drought. That followed 3+ decades in which CA electrical consumption grew faster than CA electrical production.

    Had the 3GW (assumning the figure is accurate) of installed solar power already been installed at that time, the crisis would never have happened, just as I wrote.