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Unforced variations: Feb 2011

Filed under: — group @ 2 February 2011

This month’s open thread…

… continued here.

570 Responses to “Unforced variations: Feb 2011”

  1. 251
    Sou says:

    JCH – I think you’re confounding one lot of experts with other experts. Engineers and hydrologists design dams and hydro electric schemes. (The Franklin was for hydroelectricity not flood mitigation AFAIK.) Land management and natural resources experts provide advice on the impact on the environment. Politicians make the decisions. The community expresses its views, sometimes loudly. I’m with you in essence, though. All the experts should be involved well before politicians make decisions.

    In the case of Franklin River, fortunately one lot of politicians over-rode the decision of another lot of politicians as a result of an outcry by environmentalists. Described more or less accurately here:

    Unfortunately it took the expansion of Lake Pedder to invoke this level of nationwide outrage and consequent government response.

  2. 252
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Edward Greisch says: “Scientists do not fit your stereotype.”

    Ed, I am a scientist. I’ve been doing physics for 30 years. Scientists should do science. It is what they are good at. It’s where their expertise lies.

    The problem with the legislative branch these days is the electoral process and its dependence on money from special interests. It is not that legislators are immoral or stupid or corrupt. It is the process.

    Science works because the scientific method generates reliable understanding even when weilded by fallible human beings. What is needed is a similarly robust method of acheiving good legislation.

  3. 253
    Ray Ladbury says:

    OK, Rod@228, Let’s science this out. Take a simple system–a low-pressure atmosphere of CO2 in a glass tube–as one would expect in a gas-vapor lamp. We heat said vapor to a temperature T and let it come to equilibrium. What will the emission spectrum look like?

    I contend that you will see emission only in spectral lines corresponding to the differences in energy in the molecule, and that the relative strengths of the lines will be determined by where they would intersect the blackbody radiation curve. My reasoning for this is 1)the photon gas cannot self-interact, so 2)the only way it can come into equilibrium is to interact with the matter around it–in this case the CO2. So, in sum: we will see line radiation and virtually no emission in the continuum? You?

    [Response: Something for everybody to keep in mind when following this discussion is that spectral lines have a finite width. Over most of the atmosphere, the main broadening mechanism is collisional. When the lines get broad enough, they overlap enough to form a continuum. But beyond that, I’m not entirely sure what the argument is about here. There’s no inconsistency between the spectral properties of molecular absorption and the emergence of the Planck function once you have Kirchoff’s Law, which applies in local thermodynamic equilibrium. It is a consequence of Kirchoff’s law (emissivity = absorptivity) that a sufficiently extended isothermal body of gas will have its photons in the Planck distribution any place in the spectrum where the absorption/emission probability is nonzero. If you are near the center of a strong spectral line, it doesn’t take much gas to do that, but if you are way out on the wings between lines it can take a huge amount of gas. A more productive discourse would be on the origins of Kirchoff’s law. I mean the microscopic origins; the macroscopic origins as a consequence of the Second Law are clear. –raypierre]

  4. 254
    One Anonymous Bloke says:

    re: #244 Raypierre’s inline remark: “Hansen’s irreparably broken argument”. Which paper does this remark refer to please? No axe to grind here – just interest.

    [Response: This doesn’t refer to anything in Jim’s articles. It refers to the claim he has sometimes made that the Earth would be subject to a “Venus Syndrome” runaway greenhouse if we burn all the coal. Just to be crystal clear, Jim is dead right about most things, even when he goes out on a limb and is somewhat ahead on the data. I think he is rather far out on a limb with regard to “350ppm” being a danger threshold, but not so far out that the arguments aren’t worth listening to. But on the Venus Syndrome business (for Earth as a result of AGW) his concern is entirely misplaced. –raypierre]

  5. 255
    john byatt says:

    Australia, ex cyclone Yasi , hits east coast, now fueling bush fires on west coast, burning through suburbs north of Perth

  6. 256

    230, Jim Steele,

    Do you understand what Trenberth meant when he said:

    The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.


    Your original question was:

    How do you separate the globe absorbing more energy versus recording higher temperatures?

    That’s exactly Trenberth’s point, but including the opposite point of view… “how does one separate the globe absorbing more energy versus not always recording higher temperatures?”

    Of course, if NASA had had an appropriate climate sciences/earth sciences satellite budget for the past 15 years, and if we put the proper effort/money into many aspects of the needed observations, we’d be a lot further along in answering that question.

    Thirty years from now people are going to wonder (aside from what will by then be clear to be silly brouhaha that’s gone on with rampant political denial) why we simply didn’t spend more on observational techniques, starting with better satellite intel. Maybe we don’t always know exactly what we need to measure, or how, but we’re too slow to react when we do figure it out.

    We’re playing a dangerous game of “Marco Polo” with the earth’s temperature.

    But you are basically right in your observations. Measuring heat here, there, and everywhere, without adding it all up into a total energy budget, is “the best we can do” but it’s not enough. We need a complete, accurate energy budget, and regular accounting statements to make sure we’re living within it. Right now we’re living beyond our means, and we won’t be able to prove it to some people until we’re already in bankruptcy.

    But at the same time, the planet only actually gains or loses energy through radiation, and it is very plain and clear that changes in CO2 levels will alter that balance in the continuous, relentless, relevant long run (not the irrelevant short term, like the lifespan of a single El Nino). Despite our failures to adequately measure the energy balance, the fact is that the planet will warm until the planet reaches a new balance of outbound radiation = inbound radiation.

    Which was Hank Roberts point in #224 when he asked “And the heat would be going — where?”

    All of the clamor about “this is warmer but that’s cooler” or “it was warmer then but it’s cooler now” is just noise. That’s why this is all so frightening to the people who actually understand the physics behind the problem. The passengers on the airliner can get as frantic as they want about the increased turbulence, when the flight engineer knows that the real problem is that hydraulic pressure light that keeps flashing on his control panel, and what it means, no matter how much or little the plane is shaking from turbulence.

  7. 257
    tamino says:

    Re: #246 (Jim Steele)

    … how do you separate rises in temperature due to dynamical processes versus increased energy inputs such as CO2 forcing.

    One indicator is that, as I said before, dynamical processes have a tendency to average out to zero over large geographical and long time scales. That’s one of the reasons we can separate weather from climate.

    For example, consider the dramatic 2007 arctic ice loss. Dynamical processes were a major contributor to that year’s ice loss, with winds and currents that flushed ice out through the Fram straight. But if it were just dynamical, then we’d have seen (over the satellite era, and the entire 20th century to boot) recovery from that temporary dynamical process, as well as other dynamical changes of similar magnitude. We would not see the (rather dramatic and unique) declining trend (which is especially alarming in the context of the last century and the last few thousand years).

    It’s the same with global temperature. There are lots of fluctuations and lots of dynamical processes, but over the entire globe and over long time spans it’s the changes in energy inputs that dominate the trend. This is clear from paleoclimate reconstructions of the last few thousand years, and from glacial cycles over the last several million years.

    The conclusion is evident: modern global warming is due to changes in the energy balance, not the dynamical processes you’re focusing on.

  8. 258
  9. 259
    Chris Dudley says:

    raypierre (243 and 251),

    I think you are misunderstanding Hansen’s argument. He is not talking about burning all the coal. He is talking about burning all the coal, all the natural gas, all the oil and then going on to burn all the tar sands and all the shale oil, much much more than just all the coal. And, he expects all clathrates to destabilize as a result on a level even larger than the PETM.

    Hansen has put his arguments in a book like Galileo, Copernicus, Newton, Darwin, Gibbs, Cantor and anyone who has written a PhD thesis. That book is available at both the U. Chicago and UW-Madison libraries. I suspect his arguments may be wrong because they end in a “trust me” statement. But, we should at least address them as they are and not mischaracterize them.

    On ocean weathering, I’d like to learn more. What mechanism exposes fresh surfaces? Is just the formation of new basalts enough? Why don’t sediments eventually limit exposure of basalts presuming surface weathering is ongoing?

  10. 260


    If I could impose on you a bit more (you’ve already looked too hard, I think, to find the complete answer to my O2/N2 emission question)… hopefully this one will be just off the top of your head.

    I tried all weekend without luck to find a source to answer another molecular physics question. Now it’s bugging me.

    When a phase change occurs in water, and latent heat is released, at the molecular level how is that energy realized? Is it emitted as a photon, or converted to translational or vibrational (or rotational?) kinetic energy, and if kinetic, what is the “recipient” of that kinetic energy (the bonding H2O molecules, or an unrelated nearby molecule that collides at the right time)?

  11. 261
    Jim Steele says:

    Raypierre, tamino, Bob (Sphaerica) ,

    It looks like in view of the lack of any descriptive or mechanistic answers to my question, the short answer is you don’t know how to make that distinction. The rest of the replies are just “noise”, expected political noise.It is both a valid and a critically important question if we wish to get the heat budget right. Wigley’s 1990 paper stated “Virtually nothing is known about the nature or magnitude of internally generated low-frequency variability.” Six years later the Pacific Decadal Oscillation was named.

    Although progress is being made, to simply dismiss such variability as irrelevant or self-servingly impute a motive of obfuscation is simply an impediment to a more scientific discussion and understanding.

  12. 262
    Septic Matthew says:

    Jim, and Hank Roberts: thank you for your comments on Hetch Hetchy. Of course I knew that Hetch Hetchy was opposed from the start, and that opposition comes from more than “extreme” environmentalists. If a new water supply for San Francisco is built first, that will have environmental consequences of its own: not least the threat to the famous river smelt. If someone has proposed actually building one and raising the money to pay for it, I have missed it. There isn’t even enough money to maintain and enhance the existing flood control system in the Central and Sacramento Valleys.

    Back to the question of Hetch Hetchy increasing the risk of flooding? The others that I mentioned: Hoover Dam and the Glen Canyon Dam? The two dams where the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers flow into the Ohio? The dams in the San Gabriel Mountains? Grand Coullee and Bonneville Dams, did they also increase the risk of catastrophic flooding? Kinzua Dam on the Allegheny River? Kingsley Dam on the North Platte? Lucky Peak and American Falls Dams in Idaho? Flaming Gorge Dam in Utah? Eric made a rather universalistic claim.

    If some water control projects work and others don’t, the next step is to build more of what works, and avoid the things that don’t work.

  13. 263

    256, Hank,

    That was great reading. I was particularly taken (in light of current events) by this statement (emphasis mine):

    One of its biggest critics was Wilhelm Ostwald, the father of physical chemistry (and Nobel Prize winner in 1909), who wanted to rid physics of the notion of atoms and base it purely on energy – a quantity that could be observed. Like other logical positivists (people who accept only what can be observed directly and who discount speculation), Ostwald stubbornly refused to believe in anything he couldn’t see or measure. (Boltzmann eventually killed himself because of depression brought on by such persistent attacks on his views.)

    Hopefully, today’s climate scientists aren’t similarly driven to the brink by the sturm and drang of denialism.

    For those deniers who like to claim that climate science is immature, I also did not realize that acceptance of atomic theory was still reluctant just 120 years ago:

    “[I]n spite of the great successes of the atomistic theory in the past, we will finally have to give it up and to decide in favor of the assumption of continuous matter.”

    By the 1890s Planck had mellowed a bit in his stance against atomism – he’d come to realize the power of the hypothesis, even if he didn’t like it…

    So is all of modern physics and physical chemistry therefore as immature (read “untrustworthy”) as climate science?

    Last, but not least, I find the concluding paragraphs to be a useful parable for science, of value to all of those hard nosed, show-me-the-money deniers who clamor for empirical evidence, despite (or in addition to) the inarguable logic before them.

    So much in science is realized and discovered from the abstract, before it is concretely observed. Yet Planck discovered quantum theory before it could be measured, and before he had even accepted the idea that matter, too, must be divided into discrete units.

    To put a value on molecular disorder, Planck had to be able to add up the number of ways a given amount of energy can be spread among a set of blackbody oscillators; and it was at this juncture that he had his great insight. He brought in the idea of what he called energy elements – little snippets of energy into which the total energy of the blackbody had to be divided in order to make the formulation work. By late 1900, Planck had built his new radiation law from the ground up, having made the extraordinary assumption that energy comes in tiny, indivisible lumps.

    And yet, even after he’d done so:

    It was to be a slow delivery. Physicists, especially Planck (the “reluctant revolutionary” as one historian called him), didn’t quite know what to make of this bizarre suggestion of the graininess of energy.

    It seems that science, like history, is doomed to repeat itself.

  14. 264
    Hank Roberts says:

    Jim, you’re conflating internal variability and heat budget for the planet.
    These are not the same thing.

  15. 265
    tamino says:

    Re: #259 (Jim Steele)

    Gee, I thought you were serious about wanting to know so I actually answered your question. Now it seems you just don’t like the answer because it interferes with your intention to use the “dynamical changes” to jump on the “it’s all natural variations!” bandwagon. The “political noise” is coming from you.

  16. 266

    259, Jim Steele,

    I’m not sure that you read (or understood) my post. To make it crystal clear:

    1) It is a travesty that we can’t close the Earth’s energy budget. We do need to invest considerably more money in that area. More satellites (with backups, given launch and equipment failures) would be a great start.

    2) The fact that we can’t account for all heat is an excuse that deniers may not use for inaction or for arguing against a logical, reasoned and considered climate theory.

    …to simply dismiss such variability as irrelevant or self-servingly impute a motive of obfuscation is simply an impediment to a more scientific discussion and understanding.

    Actually, no, quite to the contrary, to focus on such variability is the obfuscation/impediment which distracts from the meaningful scientific discussion. It’s an area of the science (improving measurements) worth discussing, but not an argument for throwing out the baby with the bath water.

    Hint: You quoted Wigley about “internally generated low-frequency variability.” Key word = internal. In a closed system, it doesn’t matter. It’s inputs and outputs (an open system) that matter. No amount of shuffling heat around within a closed system is going to account for the upward trend, and cries that we can’t measure the upward trend accurately enough are just excuses to ignore the obvious.

  17. 267
    Hank Roberts says:

    SM, the older the dam, the more sediment has filled in behind it. The ability to control floods requires keeping empty space behind the dam. The older the dam, the lower the estimate of the volume of water it needs to control. You’re listing old projects that worked for a while for the specific purpose and ignoring the rest of the issues.

  18. 268
    Hank Roberts says:

    SM, note what you’re doing, again.

    With the wind turbines you quote a nameplate-capacity statement as though it indicated poor performance, then back down with “everybody knows” when people cited better information.

    With Hetch Hetchy you invoke “extreme environmentalists” then back off with “of course I knew” when cited better information.

    See the pattern? Overstatement, pasting in odd notions from unidentified sources instead of making the effort to look them up for yoursel.

    Unthinking, unconsidered copypasting.

    It’s a waste of time and attention.
    You’re taking both time and attention away from the topics we’re here for.

    Please stop. Do beter.

  19. 269
  20. 270
    Edward Greisch says:

    251 Ray Ladbury: If you think scientists can’t write good laws just because they are scientists, you have a stereotype of scientists even if you are one. Politicians get no special training in legislation writing. Neither do lawyers. Politicians come from all possible backgrounds that can get elected, and that is all legal careers.

    “What is needed is a similarly robust method of achieving good legislation.”
    It certainly is. Most of the time there is an ulterior motive and the title of the law is irrelevant to what the law does. Plain old honesty would help a lot, and that is something that scientists have, at least until elected.

  21. 271
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Jim Steele, You are commiting a fundamental sin against the scientific method–you are trying to explian the unknown in terms of the unknown. That ain’t science. None of your oscillations will explain why the stratosphere is cooling even as the troposphere warms. It will not explain why the effects we are seeing are global. In the end, you will keep looking for wiggles you can add together to sum up to the curve you want, and you “theory” will look like Ptolemy’s cycles and epicycles.

    Or, you could go with known physics and explain all of it. You just won’t like the implications.

  22. 272
    Chris Dudley says:

    Chris (#248),

    I kind of liked the half-time show, maybe because my daughter was excited about the surprise appearance of Usher. As a big dance number I thought it pretty successful.

    Hansen has devoted a book chapter to the Venus Syndrome including quantitative detailed arguments, it was not just in passing.

    If anything, Kasting’s work opens up the discussion since we are no longer discussing a factor of 1.4 above the solar constant but a factor of 1.1 which is less impossibly far to go with carbon dioxide forcing. The factor of 1.4 seems to be the ‘true’ runaway threshold but 1.1 (also in the abstract) is the Venus Syndrome threshold as regards Earth. The KI limit is not the main issue though the increased climate sensitivity is important. And, this is the threshold Hansen discusses on p. 230.

    A factor of 1.1 is still a long way to go. In terms of carbon, he seems to be discussing about 3 GT of conventional fossil fuels, at least that much of unconventional fossil fuels, I would guess 5 GT there and more than 3 GT of carbon feedback from clathrates, so perhaps 12 GT. I could see more coming from thawed permafrost so getting 15 W/m^2 of forcing seems plausible. That is still not a factor of 1.1 but its is getting closer. But he also thinks that climate sensitivity may be an increasing function of forcing so maybe that is how he gets there. But there, I don’t understand his fig. 30 all that well as I mentioned before.

    So, it might be better to read the chapter before dismissing it as hand waving.

    [Response: Chris, you continue to try to talk about things you obviously don’t half understand. In invoking 1.1 times present solar constant, you seem to think there is a threshold there, as there is with the classic dry runaway. There isn’t. In a moist runaway, the planet just gets continuously warmer as you increase the solar constant (or the CO2), leading to a progressively weaker cold trap and a moister stratosphere, yielding water loss OVER A HUNDRED MILLION YEARS OR MORE. Kasting’s calculation does not give you any mechanism getting climate sensitivities beyond the IPCC range, and it has no relevance to what happens during the warming pulse of the duration that results from anthropogenic carbon release. I’ll put it this way. A 10% increase in solar constant is about 24 W/m**2, roughly equivalent to the radiative forcing from 6 doublings of CO2. This would bring CO2 to 18,000 ppmv, or about 1.8% of the atmosphere. Given likely carbon inventories, it’s completely out of the question you could do this as a result of fossil fuel emissions and carbon cycle feedbacks (though you could get that as a result of a few million years in a Snowball state) , but even if you did go that high you wouldn’t lose the oceans and you wouldn’t turn into Venus. But what if you went to just 3 doublings as a result of fossil fuel emissions plus carbon cycle feedbacks. At a standard 3.5C climate sensitivity, that’s a 10.5C warming, and if the climate sensitivity were 8C (hard to completely rule out) you’re talking about a 24C warming. That’s a long way from Venus, but catastrophic enough for life, especially in the tropics. That ought to be plenty reason for caution about CO2 emissions. But the Earth is not going to lose its oceans and it is not going to turn into Venus under those conditions. Think about that hard before you post again, please. Every time we start to get somewhere in this conversation, you change the subject and venture into areas where you display new levels of ignorance, before having fully understood the previous topic. It’s getting really tedious. –raypierre]

  23. 273
    One Anonymous Bloke says:

    Raypierre #253. Thank you.

  24. 274
    Deep Climate says:

    I was posting my latest on Post-NBormal Meltdown in Lisbon, when I noticed that the New Scientist has updated Fred Pearce’s post.

    But the leaders of mainstream climate science turned down the gig, including NASA’s Gavin Schmidt. who said the science was settled so there was nothing to discuss. [Gavin Schmidt has asked us to clarify his reasons for not attending: see the bottom of this post.]

    Update: Gavin Schmidt has asked us to clarify his reasons for not attending the meeting. We are happy to reproduce the email in which he declined:

    Thanks for the invitation. However, I’m a little confused at what conflict you feel you are going to be addressing? The fundamental conflict is of what (if anything) we should do about greenhouse gas emissions (and other assorted pollutants), not what the weather was like 1000 years ago. Your proposed restriction against policy discussion removes the whole point. None of the seemingly important ‘conflicts’ that are *perceived* in the science are ‘conflicts’ in any real sense within the scientific community, rather they are proxy arguments for political positions. No ‘conflict resolution’ is possible between the science community who are focussed on increasing understanding, and people who are picking through the scientific evidence for cherries they can pick to support a pre-defined policy position.

    You would be much better off trying to find common ground on policy ideas via co-benefits (on air pollution, energy security, public health water resources etc), than trying to get involved in irrelevant scientific ‘controversies’.

  25. 275
    Septic Matthew says:

    267, Hank roberts: With the wind turbines you quote a nameplate-capacity statement as though it indicated poor performance,

    No, it was just another detail to avoid making wind turbines sound too good (because I have written in support of them on other threads); I also quoted the paper saying that they were providing 7% of generation, which I said was a good thing. I wrote that the fact that they were operating at about 35% of total capacity was something for future discussion (along with the general theme of intermittancy and need for backup, and a general scorekeeping of the methods of electrical generation, which I left unwritten.)

    With Hetch Hetchy you invoke “extreme environmentalists” then back off with “of course I knew” when cited better information.

    In California, it is indeed mostly the extreme environmentalists who lead the campaign to remove the dam at Hetch Hetchy, with the mostly pro-environmental Schwarzenegger administration agreeing that it’s possible. Opposition to Hetch Hetchy is as old as support for it.

    For review, here is a line from the post (185) by JCH and the response by eric that I was responding to:
    But to them the fix is simple: build the dams the historic record indicated were needed.

    [Response: Hang on a second. I don’t know the particulars in Australia, but dams historically haven’t helped mitigate flooding; quite the opposite. It ain’t so simple.–eric]

    I gather from your comments on my comments that you support eric’s claim of “quite the opposite”, written without qualification. You have certainly had opportunity enough to outline any disagreement you may have had. Would you oppose (rhetorically, I mean, since you won’t be concretely involved) the construction of new flood-control and irrigation systems in the Indus Valley?

  26. 276
    Deep Climate says:

    Lisbon Reconciliation Workshop

    But the naivete and gullibility do not end there, for Pearce missed the truly fascinating part of the whole story. “Tallbloke’s” passing around of the email he wasn’t even supposed to have was not just a supremely ironic coda to a workshop ostensibly dedicated to building trust and reconciliation (a circumstance which seems to have completely eluded the befuddled Pearce). Somehow the fringe blogger and WUWT regular managed to forge a connection between a highly respected science philosopher and the contrarian blogosphere, and then put himself in the inner circle planning the resulting workshop a year later, providing a fascinating insight into this misbegotten enterprise.

  27. 277
    Hunt Janin says:

    Should you happen to think of any topics which SIMPLY MUST BE be included in my introductory survey on sea level rise, please feel free to send them to me off-list at Thanks very much.

  28. 278
    Hank Roberts says:

    Well worth a considered look —“King+County”+snowpack+climate

    They’ve understood that with more rain rather than snow, faster runoff, earlier peaks, less water stored in the snowpack, that the existing dam system fails. They can’t store the rainfall water because they have to leave room for the floodwater — think warm spring rain on snow, and sudden melting. And they can’t not store the rainfall water because, well, there might not be all that much and they won’t have melting snow to continue the supply through the summer dry season.

    They’re making good plans.

  29. 279
    Jim says:

    Everybody please drop the various accusations of obfuscation, inability to answer questions and the like and just stick strictly to the scientific questions at hand.

  30. 280
    Hank Roberts says:

    > flood control and irrigation

    What you build depends on whether you expect snowpack and glaciers or rain, and when and how much. What you get depends on what actually happens.

    Big infrastructure projects haven’t been built to cope with the range of variation we know has happened in the past. Flood plains and wetlands do considerably better, the’re more resilient to change. Which should we be ‘building’?

    Urban civilization in the Indus valley has come and gone with changes in water supply that didn’t match their flood control and irrigation systems.
    Climate change at the 4.2 ka BP termination of the Indus valley
    civilization and Holocene south Asian monsoon variability

  31. 281
    Chris Dudley says:

    raypierre (#271),

    Recall that I’m the only one who has provided a counter to Hansen’s arguments in the context of what he actually says; namely that weathering would remove the forcing before the oceans escaped. What we discussed a couple of years ago based on your text turned out to be irrelevant once his book came out because it turned out that he was not talking about a runway in the ‘pure’ sense. He is invoking carbon feedbacks, not just fossil fuel sourced carbon so I don’t think he has run out of room there. Turning all permafrost soils to sand (or clay) probably gives you more than 0.2 bar.

    I think it would really help if we could get on the same page in terms of what Hansen is actually arguing. I bet the library can send you the book by campus mail and it would take you less than thirty minutes to skim the chapter. He does not look at things from exactly your perspective but he is staying pretty close to the literature.

  32. 282
    Marcus says:

    #260 Jim Steele

    As a darn layman I would suggest looking at the heat budget if internal variability was the culprit. Were the oceanic heat responsible for sustaining global warming over *decades* (and should we leave CO2 induced infrared capture aside), the oceans as a whole would necessarily lose energy, significantly. One would expect oceanic cooling sustaining atmospheric warming. Instead we see warming of the oceans, for instance:

  33. 283
    Harold Pierce Jr says:

    Brain Dodge at 220

    Down load the book and read the first few chapters. I skipped over the chapters on the detailed analyses of various fisheries. I’m not fish guy.

  34. 284
    One Anonymous Bloke says:

    Raypierre, regarding the “Venus Syndrome” this lecture contains the phrase “The ocean boils into the atmosphere and life is extinguished.” Which you clearly disagree with. What if it said “The ocean evaporates into the atmosphere…”? Your inline remarks at #271 suggest that is unlikely but possible, I think. Once again thanks for your time.

  35. 285
    Chris Colose says:

    I’m sure this is not helpful but microscopically, I think a decent way to think of Kirchoff’s law is to give attention to a pair of energy levels of a body, and we know that these give rise to absorption/emission features at some wavelength. If the probability of a transition is large, the E-field within the incident radiation easily induces transitions from lower to upper levels (absorption).The thermal disruption also readily produces transitions from the upper to lower levels (emission).

  36. 286
    raypierre says:

    This has been an interesting unforced variation on a theme. It’s time for me to move on to other things, so I won’t be monitoring this thread and making comments anymore. Thanks for all the stimulating discussion. The thread will probably stay active for a while, but from here on you’re on your own, at least as far as my own areas of expertise are concerned.

  37. 287

    278, Jim,

    Everybody please drop the various accusations of obfuscation, inability to answer questions and the like and just stick strictly to the scientific questions at hand.

    Sorry. It’s the Monday after the Superbowl. We’re all cranky (unless you live in Green Bay).

    [Response: So that was yesterday and Green Bay must have won? Good deal, that means spring training is right around the corner…–Jim]

  38. 288


    Thanks greatly for your time and help. It’s very much appreciated.

    [If you missed it, I’m still agonizing over my question in 259, about the release of energy during the formation of hydrogen bonds as water condenses or freezes… but only if you can answer it off the top of your head. I suspect the answer lies in a change in energy levels of an electron. I just have to look harder for the answer. It’s got to be out there somewhere.]

  39. 289

    Atmospheric CO2 for January was 391.2 ppm at Mauna Loa, speeding away from 350 ppm target at 2.7 ppm per year:

    [Response: No, it’s winter in the NH remember. Seasonal rise. It’s about 1.8 ppm over the last few years.–Jim]

  40. 290
    Andrew Adams says:

    Jim Steele,

    Using sunspots as a proxy spots have doubled since 1900, and the past 50 years solar energy is higher than the past 150.

    But TSI peaked around 1960 and has been flat or slightly downwards since then.

  41. 291
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 237 Edward Greisch – It’s a good point about laws being written by corporations, etc., but ethics/morality will always be in the jurisdiction of philosophy – however, science will be called to the witness stand many times. This is different, however, from relegating scientists to the witness stand, because scientists are not just scientists, they are people. Etc.

  42. 292
    Jim Steele says:

    Andrew Adams #289 says “But TSI peaked around 1960 and has been flat or slightly downwards since then.”

    Absolutely. And furthermore if you look at many of the warming trends such as Sierra Nevada USHCN maximum temperatures, Arctic warming or glacial retreats, the peaks are in the 30’s and 40’s. So any linear correlation with sunspots is very weak if at all. However the peaking of several warm events in the 40’s suggests that the 1960’s peak of sunspots/solar activity was modulated by the oceans. The PDO oscillation coincidently shifted to a negative in the 40’s. From the 40’s to 1976 of the PDO was in a negative phase, During that time there were fewer El Nino’s and a smaller warm pool which allows for greater heat absorption. Above 28 C that defines most warm pools, most incoming energy is quickly used to evaporate sea water and not available for deeper storage. During La Nina’s the heat is more readily stored and the heat is quickly (~1-1.5 years) transported to the subtropical gyres where it has a greater shelf life. The thermocline at the equator is very shallow, but very deep in the midlatitudes. And it is the midlatitudes where the 30-40 year oscillations operate.

    If the ocean oscillations have modulated the solar input that peaked in the 60’s although it was still relatively high in the 80’s and 90’s, it suggests now a solar cooling trend and that we should be at the end of further oceanic warming. ARGO observes that plateau, but certainly that my be a coincidence. If the above scenario has any validity that would suggest the surface temperatures should soon plateau also although global averages may be effected be feedbacks such as less ice. The next 20 years will either confirm or repudiate this idea.

    Incidentally the PDO shift to its negative phase is showing it biological effects. SF Bay has increased crab catches and porposies have returned for the first time since WW2, probably a result of cleaner water and PDO effects. California Salmon catches should increase accordingly

  43. 293
    David Oser says:

    I have asked something like this before, elsewhere – but only received one relevant reference to a paper on ‘roughness’. My now slightly more refined (but obviously still pig-ignorant) question is… How much energy would we need to extract from, say, wind, tide and solar for it to make a really significant impact on our carbon emissions, such that we need not worry about them any more? Or, at least, so that we can then practise carbon sequestration with current technology and not worry any more? OK – then how much of that total ‘renewable’ energy extraction would need specifically to be wind an tide? OK, then, given we were extracting that much energy from wind and tide, and given that there is no such thing as a free lunch – what would the effect be on the planet in extracting that much energy from it that way? Is it all truly continuously replaced from outside? (loss of angular momentum, longer days, greater tectonic movement?) Just asking…

  44. 294
    Hank Roberts says:

    for David Oser, you’ll find a start on most of those questions in these:
    and a bit more with Google turns up numbers for the rest, such as

  45. 295
    flxible says:

    David Oser – Where will we be putting this energy we “extract from the planet“? Yes, you are right, there is no “free lunch”.

  46. 296
    David B. Benson says:

    Real Climaters — Ads for WIndows live and something which appers to be a website are now, without invitation, usurping and invading

    On my Linux/Firefox noless.

  47. 297
    Vendicar Decarian says:

    “The aide (Republican Carl Rove) said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” … “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.” – Suskind

  48. 298
    Hank Roberts says:

    PS for David Oser:
    > and not worry any more?
    A bit too late to eliminate worries, much of the warming we’re already committed to, from the fossil fuel already burned, hasn’t begun to affect us yet. This is a very common misapprehension.
    “… most people don’t understand the basic dynamics of the climate system. Most dangerously, people tend to underestimate both the time it will take for the climate to adjust to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and the size of the reductions that will be needed to stabilize the climate….”

  49. 299
    Septic Matthew says:

    279, Hank Roberts, all good points. I especially liked “What should we be building?”

    Whatever, I hope that they finish it before the next “unprecedented” or even “precedented” (30-year) rainfall.

  50. 300
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Again, Jim, you are trying to come up with a sum of oscillations that matches another curve that is not oscillating. I call this “Fun with Fourrier”. If you can find enough oscillations you’ll get close–but you will have no idea if they are really the cause. The thing is, we have a theory that matches the trend very well. It also explains a lot of other things, ranging from glacial/interglacial cycles to stratospheric cooling.

    What you are doing is not science.