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Unforced variations: Apr 2011

Filed under: — group @ 1 April 2011

This months open thread. There are some Items of potential interest::

or whatever you like.

525 Responses to “Unforced variations: Apr 2011”

  1. 1
    Witgren says:

    A new open thread hasn’t been opened for April yet, but this seems interesting, to say the least…Seems Anthony Watts blew a gasket over a study he thought would support his position, but instead appears to support AGW:

  2. 2
    MarkB says:

    In between now and claiming seals are predicting global cooling, Watts’ own study is essentially saying the same thing as Menne et al.

  3. 3
    Maya says:

    A friend of mine just showed this to me. It isn’t about climate science per se, but about “how to have a rational discussion”. Considering that conversations on the subject of climate science would be (in my opinion) much more productive if this diagram was adhered to, I submit it for your consideration.

  4. 4
    Seb Tallents says:

    I recently some stuff about this paper:

    that purports to show:
    a. maximum extractable wind power.
    b. the effect of large scale wind power is “in some senses equivalent to CO2 doubling”,

    Any comments on the climate impact aspect? It seems far fetched to me, though I haven’t been able to download the full text PDF for some reason.

  5. 5
    Seb Tallents says:

    I’ve come across this:

    which purports to show the maximum extractable wind power available, and that large scale wind power has a climate impact similar to CO2 doubling. This seems fanciful, though I have been unable to download the full text PDF… I was wondering if anyone would care to comment?

  6. 6
    Seb Tallents says:

    I came across this, which purports to calculate maximum extractable wind power and claims that large scale wind power will have similar impact to the climate as CO2 doubling. This seems fanciful, does anyone care to comment? (Note, for some reason I’ve not been able to download the PDF successfully due to a problem at my end).

  7. 7
    Seb Tallents says:

    I came across this, which purports to calculate maximum extractable wind power and claims that large scale wind power will have similar impact to the climate as CO2 doubling. This seems fanciful, does anyone care to comment? (Note, for some reason I’ve not been able to download the PDF successfully due to a problem at my end).

  8. 8
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    It would be very helpful to me if someone could point me to research on the possible increase in size of the Hadley cells and dry areas, and on the other hand a possible increase of the concentration of precipitation in heavy storms poleward of the dry areas. I have looked for papers but Have not found anything much that sums up these things.

  9. 9
    Bay Bunny says:

    I was wondering if RC has any updates about this feedback discussed a couple of years back.

  10. 10
    Didactylos says:

    Seb Tallents: This is all rather academic, given that there are more practical limitations on wind power exploitation. It’s a question of where we can put wind turbines, and what technical solutions we can use to extract energy from low speed winds.

    To give you an idea of how pie in the sky the paper is, consider that their most conservative land only estimate of 18–34 TW is in excess of the total global energy consumption rate from all sources (15 TW).

    Even if we could put wind turbines everywhere, we wouldn’t want to. It’s more effective to use different forms of energy in different places, to reduce transmission losses and storage losses.

    Don’t get me wrong, though – we currently need to add as much wind capacity as we can. We are a long, long way away from where we want to be, let alone theoretical “fundamental limits”.

  11. 11
    MarkB says:

    I’ve started reading through the MCA/LIA PAGES links suggested here. I find the Steinhilber and Beer article to be an easy read for the layperson.

  12. 12
    Wheels says:

    @1 Witgren, I notice this bit in the NY Times article:

    ‘BEST’s preliminary results show a warming trend of 0.7 degrees Celsius since 1957. That result, which Muller called “unexpected,” is similar to the findings of independent analyses by NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.K. Hadley Centre.’

    How he expected anything other than good agreement over the land station data is really beyond me. His is not the only team looking at the data, nor even the most experienced and qualified. The surprising part is that he’s surprised.
    Unfortunately, I think Watts’ reaction will be typical of the denialists even if the final results for all phases turn up agreement with the mainstream findings. Even releasing all the data, methods, software, etc. won’t satisfy some of the most vocal.

  13. 13
    Bay Bunny says:

    I was wondering if RC had any updates regarding this feedback discussed a couple of years back.

  14. 14
    Seb Tallents says:

    I appreciate it is pie in the sky stuff, I’m more wondering about the quality of the climate analysis aspect of it out of curiosity, though my curiosity is somewhat peaked by not being able to read it.

  15. 15
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re Seb Tallents, Didactylos – I had come across a paper which refered to a prior study about a (hypothetical, I think!) wind farm’s affect on (climatological? or weather?) circulation patterns, suggesting it was (as I recall) significant, and then went on to describe … potential purposeful alteration of synoptic scale weather in Europe by manipulation of a hypothetical wind power plant in the U.S. If I find the website again I’ll post it here; what I remember is that the power plant refered to was very large and concentrated into one small region; the authors suggested different effects may occur with different distributions of wind power plants (something about the spacing of the plants and the wavelengths of the weather, as best I can recall). I was happy to see that this effect was found for a very very large wind power plant because I’m a bit uneasy about such large-scale weather control, although that might (?) be somewhat moot in a world with 500+ ppm CO2 (so long as the Europeans et al are paying or payed for the services provided by or to the power plant as opposed to unilateral actions which might be used as a part of future warfare…)

    Not to feed into unjustified claims about solar power plants’ global albedo effects, but I wonder about local effects of wind and solar power, and for solar power, in cases where the change in albedo + efficiency (because the energy that is extracted turns to heat elsewhere, such as cities) actually has a local cooling effect, if that might tend to enhance downdrafts and reduce cloudiness, which has obvious advantages if the effect occurs over the forcing and not mostly downwind (I’d guess this would have a stronger effect on boundary-layer clouds) (to the extent the effect is redistributed by winds, this might suggest more or less favorable spacings and sizes for power plants depending on albedo changes – then again, the advantage might (?) be too small relative to land value, ecological concerns, locations of transmission lines, and of course, the available solar resource itself).

    As wind farms would leave some sort of wake, there should tend to be enhanced convergence (facing downwind) to the left (Northern Hemisphere) and enhanced divergence to the right (Northern Hem.), leading perhaps to more updrafts/downdrafts and associated changes in precipitation there (??). Would the observed size and orientation of lakes necessary to produce or arrange lake-effect snow give a clue to what effects a wind farm or solar power plant would have (factoring in that wind farms are mechanical, not thermal, forcing, etc.)?

  16. 16
    pjclarke says:

    Mr Watts, in am eyebrow-raising example of revealing an agenda and pre-judging the results of a study prior to the data even being collected,

    “I believe we will be able to demonstrate that some of the global warming increase is not from CO2 but from localized changes in the temperature-measurement environment”

    As the abstract of his long-long-long-awaited paper, in review, now focuses on the lack of trend in the diurnal temperature range (watch the pea under the thimble, folks), and states that siting has no effect on the trend in the mean, can we infer that this cherished vision now lies in tatters?

    Also, a 1995 comparison of observations vs models published in Chemical Engineering News, had this:

    Furthermore, most models project that with global warming, the increase in mean surface temperatures will be more pronounced during the cold season; that precipitation at mid to high latitudes will increase, especially during the cold season; that droughts will be more severe and longer lasting, particularly during the warm season; that nighttime temperatures will increase more than daytime temperatures during the warm season; that a greater portion of warm season precipitation will come in heavy showers or thunderstorms rather than in gentler, longer lasting rainfalls; and that the day-to-day variability of temperatures will decline for mid to high latitudes. These are changes that are now being observed, if not globally, at least in many regions.

    But after many decades, Hansen says, “models show that daytime warming will be almost as great as nighttime warming.”

    In light of which, a headline appearing soon at WUWT must surely be:

    My research confirms Hansen model prediction. … …

  17. 17
    Isotopious says:

    For the record (Bore hole or not):


    Gavin Schmidt:
    If the central issue is whether man-made CO2 is having a major impact on the climate, then I would have to say ‘case closed’ ;-) “

  18. 18
    Eli Rabett says:

    That quote “I believe we will be able to demonstrate that some of the global warming increase is not from CO2 but from localized changes in the temperature-measurement environment”

    Is 100% pure Roger Pielke Sr., which gives you a pretty clear view of Watts going on.

  19. 19
    One Anonymous Bloke says:

    Some good news? – new ways to deliver hydrogen as a fuel…

  20. 20
    Russell says:

    Thanks for the House hearing link.

    Christy must be shocked, deeply shocked that its organizers though fit to have his testimony seconded by a Professor of Marketing

  21. 21
    Geoff Beacon says:

    Any comments on Global radiative forcing from contrail cirrus? The abstact says

    Aviation makes a significant contribution to anthropogenic climate forcing…We also find that contrail cirrus cause a significant decrease in natural cloudiness, which partly offsets their warming effect. Nevertheless, net radiative forcing due to contrail cirrus remains the largest single radiative-forcing component associated with aviation. Our findings regarding global radiative forcing by contrail cirrus will allow their effects to be included in studies assessing the impacts of aviation on climate and appropriate mitigation options.

    “appropriate mitigation options”? Join the No Miles High Club?

    [Response: This looks to be an improvement on previous efforts to model contrails, but the bottom line number (0.03-0.04 W/m2) is not out of line with other estimates (i.e. Hansen et al (2005) had a very crude calculation assuming that contrails spread out by a factor of 10, and got 0.03 W/m2). Having said that, modelling aviation effects is complicated – involving ozone chemistry, strat/trop exchange, aerosols, CO2, contrails, water vapour etc. – all of which interact to some degree, and which have very different timescales. This means that net effects depend crucially on the time horizon you care about (and the longer the time horizon the more important the direct CO2 effect is). Unger et al (2010) does a nice assessment of this, though it is not comprehensive. – gavin]

  22. 22
    Snapple says:

    Today the Pontifical Academy workshop on “The Fate of Mountain Glaciers in the Anthropocene” (April 2-4) begins in the Vatican.

    Maybe you will write about the presentations. I told Catholic H.S. students that the research of Pontifical Academician V. Ramanathan (Scripps Institution of Oceanography) is discussed in their high school Environmental Science course. He is famous for studying Asia’s brown cloud.

    Several links about the program, which is just the first in a series, can be found here.

    The Prologue of the program, which was written by Pontifical Academician P.J. Crutzen, L. Bengtsson, and Pontifical Academician V. Ramanathan, states:

    Mountain glaciers in Europe, North America, South America, Africa, and the largest of them all in the Himalayan-Tibetan region are retreating, some at alarming rates. The hypothesized causal factors include global warming, atmospheric brown clouds, land surface modification, recovery from the mini ice-age, and large scale drying of the air among other factors. Some glaciers are expected to disappear during this century and others are predicted to experience significant loss of spatial cover and mass. The downstream consequences include glacial lake outburst floods, disrupted availability of water for agriculture and human consumption, changes to mountain eco systems, increased frequency of forest fires, loss of habitat, and other potential catastrophes. A holistic study covering the physical science, social science, and the human dimension sides of the problem has not been attempted thus far. It is our hope that this first of its kind workshop organized by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences will lay the foundation for studying and monitoring this potential disaster that will impact the entire planet.

    The workshop will also explore avenues available for mitigating and adapting to this potential tragedy.

    P.J. Crutzen, L. Bengtsson and V. Ramanathan [See the full schedule of the workshop and the speakers.]

  23. 23

    The paper is very interesting and informative. It also presents a pretty scary scenario. Our problem appears to be the media, especially TV and TV like programming. News coverage of science related issues by reporters and journalists without any BG in science is the crux of it. And taking a post secondary course in one of the sciences is not going to solve the problem. Reporters cannot differentiate between science and pseudo science and their desire to create “stories” leads to spectacle, hyperbole and BS (Bad Science). AGW is the tip of the ice berg. All of science is being marginalized and misrepresented by the media. Articles like this about the shortcomings of the media can only help.

  24. 24
    Kevin C says:

    The Nature paper is an outstanding piece of work, and contains material which should be taken on board by everyone interested in climate science communication, Real Climate not excepted!

    This particularly struck me:

    For example, subject-matter experts should edit for fact, not style; they should also check that social scientists have not garbled the facts when trying to make them clearer. That coordination must maintain a rhetorical stance of non-persuasive communication67, trusting the evidence to speak for itself, without spin or colouring. Although there is an important place for persuasive communication, encouraging individual behaviours and public policies, it must be distinct, lest scientists come to be seen as inept politicians. If climate scientists passionately offer dispassionate accounts of the evidence, it will preserve their uniquely trusted social position and avoid the advocacy that most are ill-suited to pursue by disposition, experience and training.

  25. 25
    Hunt Janin says:

    If I may be excused for doing so, let me put forward a heretical view:

    Why don’t climate change scientists, and their supporters, just get on with their own work? Why should they waste their valuable time trying to discredit the deniers? This is trying to push a boulder uphill.

    In my view, the climate change folks clearly are right; the deniers clearly are wrong. This will become increasingly evident, on its own, as the years roll by. The climate change folks would do better, in my opinion, to focus on brand-new research, not on old controversies.

  26. 26
    Susan Anderson says:

    Legerdemain. Could this be another way to look at the problem of communication? ->

    The zealots, bullies, profiteers, and fellow travelers of the anti-best-science brigade are using science’s strengths to defeat it. They are using scientists’ regard for the truth to overturn it.

    It must be possible to bring substance to the senses of those being seduced by these illusions.

  27. 27
    M. Joyce says:

    Hunt, the problem with that tactic is that we’re rapidly aproaching the point of no return. Confronting the deniers head on must be undertaken concurrent with continued science before, not after, we cross the tipping point.

  28. 28
    Wheels says:

    @20, Hunt:
    See the effect denialism has had on the political will to not only do something about the climate, but even to continue funding research into it. Climate scientists used to keep their heads down and work away at the issue, but that got the rest of us no policy gains.

  29. 29
    flxible says:

    20&21 – The real use of “confronting” the deniers is to get the politicians to start thinking about mitigation and adaptation, particularly getting onto a low carbon economy. Unfortunately, in N America, it’s the politicos who have become the worst deniers, to please their monied constituents. They aren’t concerned with life further down the road than 2 or 4 years.

  30. 30
    Big Dave says:

    Would someone be willing to direct me to the source of information which would support Dr. Muller’s statement to US House Committee? He indicated that natural variability in land surface temperatures stopped in 1957.
    Thank you.
    Big Dave

  31. 31
    Joe Cushley says:

    Wow! I hadn’t come across this J Scott Armstrong character before. What a bumbling, but dangerous nutcase.

    His recommendations at the end of his completely illogical ramblings to the House Committee, boil down to this “End all government funding of climate research….” He states it pretty much as baldly as that…

    He’s a Professor of Marketing…

    It is deeply worrying that one of the two major parties in the most powerful nation on the planet rely on such bat-shit crazy “experts’. Deeply worrying.

  32. 32
    BillS says:

    Readers interested in the atmosphere might be interest in the latest request for comment issued by the IETF on 1 April 2011, RFC 6217. It’s title is,
    “Regional Broadcast Using an Atmospheric Link Layer”

  33. 33
    Adam R. says:

    J Scott Armstrong

    Didja ever notice how often the biggest blowhards use a first initial in naming themselves?

  34. 34
    Fred Magyar says:

    Joe Cushley @ 24,

    He’s a Professor of Marketing Propaganda…

    Which is precisely the kind of professional you want giving a presentation if you are trying push a particular agenda. Ironic that Dr. Armstrong could manage his Macintosh. Welcome to Orwell’s 1984 and the Ministry of Truth. Methinks, that we as a nation are FUBAR!

  35. 35
    seamus says:

    This seems somewhat interesting: “Carbon dioxide traps heat in the middle of the atmosphere. This warm air higher in the atmosphere tends to prevent the rising air motions that create thunderstorms and rainfall. As a result, an increase in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide tends to suppress precipitation.”

    Cutting carbon dioxide helps prevent drying

  36. 36
    Chris Colose says:


    I’m curious about the paragraph in the Nature communication piece suggesting that as climate models grow more sophisticated, many key uncertainties may actually grow relative to earlier models. This seems reasonable to me, and I’d suspect that for example many aerosol uncertainties may actually increase in the AR5, but it also seems like a testable hypothesis which can be applied to state of the art models hind casting observed and paleo-climate.

    I’m under the impression that model performance has typically increased with time, particularly when comparing ensemble means for today’s models vs, say those a decade ago. Could you amplify on the current thinking on this?

  37. 37
    Joel Shore says:

    Geoff Beacon (#16): Unfortunately, that study has been getting some “press” at places like Watts’ site without proper context. It may sound impressive how the contrail forcing compares to the forcing due to CO2 from aircraft, but some context helps:

    (1) At this point, the amount of forcing due to CO2 from aircraft is only a tiny amount of the total forcing due to anthropogenic CO2. If you look at the contrail forcing on the scale of the total forcing due to anthropogenic, CO2, you see it is on the order of 2%.

    (2) If we imagine that airline traffic remains the same, then the total forcing due to CO2 from aircraft will continue to rise as this CO2 continues to accumulate in the atmosphere. However, the forcing due to the contrails will remain constant. So, the balance will tend to shift over time. (To his credit, the lead author of the study himself make this point in this Reuters article: .)

  38. 38
    Hank Roberts says:

    One thing individuals can do is get to know your local botany. A couple of resources suitable for starting anywhere from the dirt strip next to the sidewalk to any parcel of damaged property you can work on: (ecological restoration; sample book chapters)

    Natural History of Vacant Lots (California Natural History Guide No. 50)
    (ISBN: 0520053907 / 0-520-05390-7 ) Matthew F. Vessel, Herbert H. Wong

    Earth Manual: How to Work on Wild Land Without Taming it (ISBN: 0930588185 / 0-930588-18-5) Margolin, Malcolm (1985, revised edition, green cover)

    (try ABEBooks or Powell’s)

  39. 39
    Rick Brown says:

    Chris Colose @29: I doubt that I have anything useful to contribute, but just in case — Kevin Trenberth: More knowledge, less certainty [Apologies if I messed that up; I don’t get preview for some reason.]

  40. 40
    Ken Fabos says:

    Seb @4 – My first thought was the similar impacts of deforestation; surely forests act in a similar way in absorbing wind energy at low altitudes. I think (without knowing so) that the other impacts of deforestation – like carbon cycle, water cycle and albedo changes – tend to make direct effects on winds virtually insignificant. Likewise I suspect the impacts on winds pale to insignificance compared to the impacts on emissions of such technologies.

  41. 41
    Susan Anderson says:

    Legerdemain. Could this be another way to look at the problem of communication? ->

    The zealots, bullies, profiteers, and fellow travelers of the anti-best-science brigade are using science’s strengths to defeat it. They are using scientists’ regard for the truth to overturn it.

    It must be possible to bring substance to the senses of those being seduced by these illusions.

    Believing the truth will prevail is not enough. As pointed out earlier, time is running out. But this idea that truth itself shines in the house of the hostile is just not going to work. Sad but true.

  42. 42
    adelady says:

    seb@4. My instinctive reaction that any (if any at all) such impacts would have to be tiny in climate terms. Maybe bigger than microclimates for walled gardens or windbreaks on farms. But the idea that climate drivers like the high altitude jet stream winds, Hadley cells and their many friends could be affected is, to me at least, fanciful.

    Just for a visualisation. Picture a circle with the same diameter as the blades of a wind turbine. Estimate the area of the circle. Estimate the surface area of the blades of the turbine. Now make the circle the diameter of a tube wind tunnel. How much impact would those blades have compared to the total volume of air passing them at various wind speeds?

    My feeling is that someone, somewhere has underestimated the height of the atmosphere and/or the real quantity of power in the winds within 500 metres of ground level. And that also ignores the fact that 70% of the planet surface is covered by water which is pretty flat and entirely open, not land with its mountains, forests and other large impacts on wind flows.

  43. 43
    Bern says:

    Adelady @ #34 – good point – surface roughness effects may be far more substantial than wind turbines. How much energy does a skyscraper pull out of the wind, by it’s wake turbulence?

  44. 44
    Tom Keen says:

    @ Seb Tallents, 1 Apr 2011 at 3:34 PM

    I don’t think this hypothesis will ever be tested anyway. Wind power is simply too unreliable and too expensive to replace a significant portion of fossil fuels in the long run. Frankly, I think it’ll be nuclear power or climate change in the end.

    There is a lot to be concerned about in regards to fossil fuel expansion right now. These articles give an indication as to why:

  45. 45
    Brian Dodge says:

    @ Chris Colose — 2 Apr 2011 @ 6:20 PM and Rick Brown — 2 Apr 2011 @ 8:19 PM regarding knowledge and uncertainty –

    We will likely discover more butterflies.

  46. 46
  47. 47
    Joe Lassiter says:

    Does anyone know the approximate total number of personnel and perhaps even the approximate subtotals of scientific, administrative and other personnel working at or substanitally funded by CRU?

    I don’t have any sense of the scale of the CRU operation. I have always assumed it was “small,” but maybe I am wrong.


  48. 48
    Hunt Janin says:

    Does anyone know of any highly speculative thinking that has been done, or is being done, on the likely impacts of sea level by and after the year 2100?

  49. 49
    Andrew Hobbs says:

    #38 Joe Lassiter

    You could try their website.

  50. 50
    flxible says:

    Joe Lassiter – It’s not hard to find the answer to your first question in detail – depends on what you define as “small”, and of course none of them are “funded by CRU”, it’s also easy to “follow the money”.