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Unforced variations, July 2011

Filed under: — group @ 2 July 2011

The RC open thread.
With a reminder that this is not a dumping ground for anything under the sun, but is rather for discussing climate science topics that don’t fit neatly into ongoing discussions.

366 Responses to “Unforced variations, July 2011”

  1. 51
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    Craig Nazor @ 38,

    Coal is the worst thing to use in a new power plant. You don’t have to be a climatologist to become aware of the hazards of mining and using coal. The full costs of fossil fuels are not reflected in the “levelized cost of energy”. The harm extends from West Virginia through the local fishing hole all the way to China. Alternatives are available and constantly becoming cheaper.

    You might post at where the blogger is a Texan. Perhaps most important, the threatened coal plant is a stimulus to community organization. Look around for allies, they’re there. The dependence of the proposed plant on a large supply of fresh water is a danger to the community’s power supply.

  2. 52
    Edward Greisch says:

    51 Pete Dunkelberg: See:
    which leads to:

    The 4.6 MW solar array in Arizona is intermittent on a much shorter time scale than half a day. The graphs given cannot be expanded to show the rise and fall times, but the switching appears to take place in seconds. It looks like it could be much too quick to switch on and off the other standard energy sources. You would have to have a huge battery or an enormous capacitor to flatten out the intermittency. Another alternative would be a superconducting cable that would work without cooling so you could connect DC sources over the whole planet. That is another technology we don’t have.

    Craig Nazor @ 38: Can you create an on-line petition?

  3. 53
    Edward Greisch says:

    51 Pete Dunkelberg: The “lacklustre-colorado-solar/” project is getting only a few % of the energy expected. Super-quick intermittency could be solved by putting all of the solar heat into storage first. Then using heat from storage only.

  4. 54

    #46 Ike, this alleged PDO cooling is exactly what we should expose, especially before the same characters are propped up again coming up with another doubtful theory explaining global warming by any other reason than AGW. We fight this nonsense together, or the world will warm much further by letting medias propagate PR propaganda as science in silence. Their basic premise is quite flawed, during the 70’s world wide surface temperatures were much cooler than from 2000-2010 (the warmest). Right onto itself the PDO appears not directly linked with Global temperatures. From this simple point, PDO is either not measured properly or has no influence on GT’s, neither explanation satisfies me, I am sure there are some who could come up with a more reasonable assessment. But for those journalists out there check out:

    Before ever bringing out this alleged PDO and Global Warming/Cooling connection, there was a bright scientist at MIT (not Lindzen) who proposed that the seas have a “memory” and reflect a once upon a time climate.

  5. 55
    DeNihilist says:

    Nick @ 10, there was a stall in warming from 98 to 08. Just released paper in PNAS. Logical explanation and another bit of information in the climate puzzle. IMO a very well done paper.

    (Don’t mind the WUWT segment, this leads to the actual PDF of the paper, I’m just to busy to Hank it right now :) )

  6. 56
    spyder says:

    Just curious if anyone else thinks that the potential mining of the Pacific Ocean floor, for rare earth metals, is not really a good thing to have happen?

  7. 57
    DeNihilist says:

    Spyder, it depends. We need the rare earths to build the magnets and batteries for the new green economy, so for that point yes. The claim is that the nuclear component of this find is as little as a fifth of the conventional mines, so agaain yes. That they are in international waters could be a scrap waiting to happen, so no. Potential for mass pollution, so no. Size of the find could bve bigger then all known reserves, if able to mine cleanly and cheaply, then could be the thing that brings down the cost of windmills, hybrids, etc, then definitely yes.

    You get it, it has to be thought out and costed properly before a rational decision can be made.

  8. 58
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 52,53 Edward Greisch – Well, if it’s so hard to integrate CSP into a fossil fuel plant, maybe we should stick to having CSP power plants that may use fuel as a supplemental source, rather than the other way around.

    I’m a bit bewildered by something like this performing so poorly relative to expectations. I mean, was it cloudy all the time or something? You’d think somebody must have misplaced a decimal point or something.

    PS if you have enough dispersed PV power plants the high-frequency intermittancy will tend to cancel out to some extent. You don’t need superconductors. Small low level clouds are mesoscale. Our regional electric grids are similar to the synoptic scale, so it appears we do have the technology to redistribute power to respond to extratropical cyclone and hurricane cloud cover; why would cumulus and broken stratocumulus all line up over all the PV fields and roofs over a 100 km region or greater?

  9. 59
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 56 spyder – I don’t know, but at least you wouldn’t have well blowouts (?)

  10. 60
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re Edward Greisch – and HVDC lines are an existing technology (PS they’re ‘undergroundable’ too!).

  11. 61
    ccpo says:

    John E. Pearson says:
    4 Jul 2011 at 8:42 AM

    40: on drawing down CO2.

    Wally Broecker advocates “scrubbing” the CO2 out of the air:–/dp/0809045028/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1309786614&sr=1-1

    Why in the name of [insert epithet/deity/construct] would we do that when we can just rebuild ecosystems we used to have and get more food out of it in the bargain?

    Principle: organic before mechanical/industrial.

    1. If there is a simpler, more organic solution, use it. 2. Maintaining a self-propagating ecosystem is a lot easier than maintaining a massive, man-made infrastructure made of of imperfect materials which will fail with time. 3. The resource limits we face are significant and are not limited to fossil fuels. There are many things we currently use that will eventually run out because they are not renewable. We must consider Liebig’s law of the Minimum, which Wally obviously cannot be doing to propose and support such a poor idea. When you hit one of those irreplaceable minimums, things break.

    Concept: Technology reaches a point of decreasing returns past which it affects society negatively. (Tainter.)

    Sequestration in unnatural ways has obvious disadvantages:

    1. We live on human time lines, but sequestration would have to occur on geological time lines. There is zero hope of maintaining such structures over such time scales. Please observe the obvious and note how many intact structures we have from 500 or more years ago. Maintenance alone would be huge. While we can choose to use our global resources in any given way, we have shown we are not able to coordinate this way as a modern version of our species. Any system that relies on human maintenance of the system is bound to fail. While one can argue a forest garden/forest also actually relies on human interaction, this is only if we choose/need for it to be productive. Even so, a day or two of chop-and-drop mulching per acre per year just isn’t much of a demand on humans and can be done by any human of at least, say 8 or 10 years old. 2. The economic system we use is not sustainable because it is based in the consumption of non-renewable resources. The money for expensive techno-fixes will not continue to be there. Can we prioritize such a scheme? Yes. Will we? No. Look to history.

    Principle: Care of the ecosystem.

    Everything is of the Earth. There is no way around that. it is finite, it is sensitive. i am not speaking of some Gaian voodoo, but about practical reality. Just as we are finding the climate is more sensitive to our actions than we thought, we are finding all ecosystems are, and that it is one ecosystem at the end of the day. Our first goal of self-preservation is the maintenance of the global ecosystem at an equilibrium that allows us to survive, as well as a minimum of variety within the “natural” world. This will not preclude a Siberian Traps, asteroid or some other unanticipated , but certain to occur event, but to the extent and for the time we are here, we need to live within the ecosystem, not dominant to it. At least, not to the extent we currently do. Even ancient societies affected their environment. We are finding that indigenous peoples in the Americas had a huge effect on the ecosystem. It turns out, e.g., there upwards of 5 million people living in the Amazon prior to European settlement, 90% of whom were killed by disease, not war, with settlements all along the Amazon and complex relationships among villages organized and laid out in specific patterns. (See: BBC unnatural Histories, 3 parts.)

    We have always terraformed. The world is no more natural (untouched by human influence) than my rear end, but we did used to know how to live within the limits of ecological services. We still can, but not in the way we do now. We are learning how to manage ecosystems in ways that leverages our intelligence into greater yields than the system would generate without human influence, but there are limits, and the role of technology must be very carefully applied. Consumption must fall overall.

    If it’s not renewable/sustainable, it’s not an option, regardless of technology. Until we can lasso asteroids and terraform other planets to serve this one, this is a truth we must all assimilate into our everyday thinking.

  12. 62
    ccpo says:

    (Con’t) Forgot to point out the even more obvious: Fracking is fracked. The CO2 is not going to stay where you put it. See previous on man-made structures and time, and I suggest some respect for the planet as a very active geological system that likes to chew up and spit out our puny human toys.

  13. 63
    ccpo says:

    DeNihilist says:
    4 Jul 2011 at 4:02 PM

    Nick @ 10, there was a stall in warming from 98 to 08. Just released paper in PNAS. Logical explanation and another bit of information in the climate puzzle. IMO a very well done paper.

    I wish they’d be more careful with their terminology. There was no cooling or pause overall, just in surface temperatures, but even that is not accurate: the decade 2000 – 2010 was warmer than the previous. That the heat was masked by ocean heating and the many energy exchanges causing the huge array of weather anomalies we’ve experienced is in no way an indication of cooling. Phrasing things this way just makes it easier for the denial machine.

    Haven’t the authors read the stories on ocean water temps in Greenland fjords and under Antarctic ice shelves, e.g.? How does one account the energy effects of massive floods, hurricanes, record snow storms, etc? Is there a mechanism for allowing for the exchange of energy caused by the Arctic oscillation or the melt or non-growth of sea ice?

  14. 64
    DeNihilist says:

    ccpo, as far as I can tell, the paper was about the surface temps only, and a logical explanation as to why the temps stalled for a bit. AFAIK this episode has been expected and is expected again. Natural forcings can be very large, but they seem to not last long. Whereas the CO2 hypothesis is that even though the effect from this gas can be overcome from time time, the inevitable march of upward temps will eventually win. Kinda like holding back water with a rake.

  15. 65
    Hank Roberts says:

    > just released paper in PNAS

    >actual PDF
    The PDF file you link to at wossname’s has this cite in the footer:

  16. 66
    Hank Roberts says:

    The PDF file at wossname’s has a URL — click that and it says the paper has not yet been released.
    As of right now that link says the paper has not been released yet.

    Searching, I found a “not for redistribution” draft at one author’s website, and a file of supplemental info at the first author’s website.

  17. 67
    ccpo says:

    @64 I wasn’t arguing the science. It would just be nice to see something in the paper acknowledging the energy went somewhere and is in the system, just hard to quantify. The basic equation of more coming in than going out doesn’t change because of geoclimatic interactions. I personally think it would be helpful to be explicit rather than implicit about this.

    Just sayin’.

  18. 68
    Bern says:

    Re 58 Patrick 027
    There are a couple of key factors that may help explain the poor performance of that solar thermal plant.
    1) They cut back on insulation, to save on costs (and at 300ºC, losses from pipework could approach a kW per lineal metre)
    2) They didn’t wash the mirrors as much as required, to save on costs
    3) They tested a new mirror frame, which didn’t work out very well – this may have significantly reduced the collected energy.
    There doesn’t seem to really be enough information made public to fully evaluate the trial.

  19. 69
    Edward Greisch says:

    58 Patrick 027: Read the article and the report for yourself and divide the actual by the expected for yourself. I get actual = 2% of expected.

    The article says: “That is, the actual performance was 2.2% of the predicted performance in terms of fuel savings, and 22% of expected in terms of CO2-e reduction.”
    The 4.5 million US dollar project seems to have been a bust.

    Fast fluctuations: The article says: “Note that this is from a solar PV farm in the Arizona desert — one of the best locations in the US for this type of facility. The associated commentary said:

    “Observed rapid and deep fluctuations at time scales of 10 seconds to several minutes may indicate that a component of the intermittency is due to low, scattered clouds with significant opacity. We observe a number of examples of output power rising above nameplate capacity before and after deep drops in power.

    This may be due to focusing of sunlight around the edges of low clouds. If PV becomes economically attractive enough to be deployed at large scale, intermittency is likely to be matched with dispatchable power, storage, and / or demand response”

    The implied ramp rates to compensate for these types of fluctuations will be challenging. Indeed, some form of large-scale battery energy storage seems vital to maintain quality of the electricity output.”

    “The Character of Power Output from Utility-Scale Photovoltaic Systems”

    Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Center Working Paper CEIC-07-05
    The project had 3 tracking array sites in Yuma, Prescott and Scottsdale for comparison. “These data also imply that site diversity over a ~280 km range does not dampen PV intermittency sufficiently to eliminate the need for substantial firm power or dispatchable demand response.”

    If a solar PV farm doesn’t work in the Arizona desert, solar PV farms don’t work. It was a 44 acre site, which seems to me to be spread out enough.

    The solar PV farm has a 19% capacity factor. See: “Characteristics of Wind and Solar Power” by Jay Apt at:

  20. 70
    Craig Nazor says:


    The LCRA board is a political entity. The LCRA itself is supposed to be science-based, but as I have said before, no one on the LCRA board is a scientist. Texas Governor Rick Perry, who is a noted global warming denier, has appointed them all:

    To avoid this “dangerous” political topic, the LCRA manager stated at the last meeting that the use to which the water is being put (a coal-fired power plant) CANNOT BE CONSIDERED in the decision. This is obviously political poppycock, but the board shows every intention of ignoring any comments about the coal-fired power plant. Many people testified about the potential bad effects of a coal-fired power plant on Matagorda Bay, but I am afraid their testimony had little effect. However, the LCRA is required by law to care about water sustainability. This is something they can’t really ignore.

    What we need are a few (or even one) good climate scientists to call this board out on the fact that the LCRA is ignoring a scientific consensus that will have a huge effect on future water availability. Can anyone help? There will be press there, for those who could use some exposure (maybe not that good for a scientist). But Austin is a great city to visit (I know of a particularly spectacular Thai restaurant)!

    Edward – the online petition is a good idea, although I am not sure how heavily they will weigh the feelings of those who do not actually attend the meeting. However, I will work on it (I have some good connections in that area).

  21. 71
    chris says:

    Re: #63 DeNihilist and #67 ccpo

    I agree that the paper can easily be used to support dodgy agendas. After all the authors did a rather extreme “cherry-pick” of a period starting with a huge El Nino (1998) and a strong La Nina (2008) to maximise a period of apparent surface cooling. And they seem to have used a temperature series (Hadcrut?) that minimizes accumulated warming in the Arctic. There’s no question that the Earth has warmed in the period since the late 1990’s to now, and if the authors were to have used the Giss surface temperature record, the evidence for a “hiatus” in warming is weaker. Likewise, if one were to consider the surface temperature change in the period 1999-2009 (rather than 1998-2008). I’m surprised that the authors didn’t choose the former (1999-2009) since it greatly minimizes that element of short term stochastic variation (ENSO) which unnecessary complicates consideration of the subject of the paper, which is largely about changes in external forcings (sulphate aerosols and solar effects) and longer term ocean fluctuations (PDO).

    On the other hand perhaps it’s reasonable that scientists are allowed to write papers without screening them to consider how these might be used to misrepresent the broader subject! In fact the broader implications of the paper are quite scary. Despite a very marked solar minimum, the slight downward drift in solar output since the mid-late 1980’s, a slightly cooling contribution from PDO and an apparent large increase in negative forcing from coal-sourced sulphate aerosols from Asia, 2010 was very warm indeed.

    I do find it odd ‘though that an equivalent period 1999-2009 wasn’t used in place of 1998-2008. No doubt we’ll have a post about this paper in due course…

  22. 72
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    Embargo done, the BBC has it this morning:

    “Global warming lull down to China’s coal growth”

    “The lull in global warming from 1998 to 2008 was mainly caused by a sharp rise in China’s coal use, a study suggests.

    The absence of a temperature rise over that decade is often used by “climate sceptics” as grounds for denying the existence of man-made global warming.

    But the new study, in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, concludes that smog from the extra coal acted to mask greenhouse warming.

    China’s coal use doubled 2002-2007, according to US government figures.

    Although burning the coal produced more warming carbon dioxide, it also put more tiny sulphate aerosol particles into the atmosphere which cool the planet by reflecting solar energy back into space.”

    “But the new study, which uses statistical models that are very different from the models traditionally used to simulate the Earth’s climate, offers an alternative way of explaining the apparent halt.”

  23. 73
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    Chris @ 71, the paper Kaufmann_Kauppi_Mann_Stock_2011_pre-release_Reconciling_anthropogenic_climate_change_with_observed_temperature_1998–2008_.pdf

    is specifically a study of the period 1998-2008. They do not say this period represents the trend for 100 years. So, not a cherry pick, but a study of current interest.

    Given the widely noted increase in the warming effects of rising
    greenhouse gas concentrations, it has been unclear why global
    surface temperatures did not rise between 1998 and 2008. We find
    that this hiatus in warming coincides with a period of little increase
    in the sum of anthropogenic and natural forcings. Declining solar
    insolation as part of a normal eleven-year cycle, and a cyclical
    change from an El Nino to a La Nina dominate our measure of
    anthropogenic effects because rapid growth in short-lived sulfur
    emissions partially offsets rising greenhouse gas concentrations.
    As such, we find that recent global temperature records are consistent
    with the existing understanding of the relationship among
    global surface temperature, internal variability, and radiative
    forcing, which includes anthropogenic factors with well known warming and cooling effects.


    Nevertheless, at the current GH forcing the oceans accumulate heat (it takes years for the oceans to come to equilibrium with a changed forcing) and this causes problems.

  24. 74
    Paul S says:

    #67, ccpo – I briefly read the paper and it seems to me their conclusions are that there was actually a change in radiative forcing over this period such that less energy was accumulating in the system.

    They point to the rapid increase of coal consumption in China as a source of sulfur emissions that affect albedo, and the drop in TSI along the solar cycle. They suggest these factors largely cancelled out greenhouse gas forcing over the period.

  25. 75
    Paul S says:

    #71, chris – I think the period 1998-2008 and HadCRUT dataset were chosen because the combination are commonly cited in cherry-pick pieces by ‘skeptics’. They wanted to address an extreme example with their approach.

    I’d agree that the lack of discussion or even mention of differences between Gistemp and HadCRUT seems like an oversight.

  26. 76
    ccpo says:

    Paul S says:
    5 Jul 2011 at 7:10 AM

    #67, ccpo – I briefly read the paper and it seems to me their conclusions are that there was actually a change in radiative forcing over this period such that less energy was accumulating in the system.

    They point to the rapid increase of coal consumption in China as a source of sulfur emissions that affect albedo, and the drop in TSI along the solar cycle. They suggest these factors largely cancelled out greenhouse gas forcing over the period.

    As stated, I am not quibbling with the science, but with the presentation. This paper is specifically written to debunk a denialist talking point: no warming since 1998.

    But first, I actually do have a quibble, hopefully not an example of my own ignorance. To wit, it is contradictory to say there had been no warming between ’98 and ’08 when the years ’00 – ’08 are warmer than the years ’90 – ’98. There obviously was warming. Yes, I get they are attempting to debunk a very specific talking point, but am not sure I see the efficacy of the approach taken. Since this is not the final version, maybe they will do some editing to make it more effective.

    I see no harm to their debunking if they point out that if looking at discreet measurements one can be lulled into thinking there was no rise from ’98 to ’08, but, in fact, the overall temps for that time period WERE higher than the previous comparable time period, thus, the planet was warming. I think this should be stated explicitly to help clarify 1. why the cherry pick is bogus on it’s face and 2. bogus even if you do cherry pick, as the paper demonstrates as written.

    This will help avoid 1. confusing lay people, who, due to the nature of addressing the cherry pick, this paper is actually aimed at (as opposed to the more typical audience of the scientific community), and 2. make it harder for the cherry pickers to spin this specific paper, and 3. serve as a lesson in not using discreet points to discuss things more accurately represented by trends.

    Anywho… it’s not like anyone listens to me rant. My teacher persona gets the best of me.

    On another topic, I am doing a quickie look at the Arctic Sea Ice, specifically the Northwest Passage and more generally overall expectations for this summer’s minimum. Not finished, but if you’ve someone who is a neophyte on the topic, it’s a simple intro to the topic.

    Comments and links to help tighten it up would be appreciated from any and all. Please make any suggestions here rather than on the blog since i will be editing before generally letting people know about the post.

  27. 77
    Hank Roberts says:

    Watts got a high Google rank by releasing the paper during the embargo period.
    Clever of him.

  28. 78
  29. 79
    Hank Roberts says:

    PS, to track appearances of blog copies of the text, search for a quoted string including a typographical error — e.g.

  30. 80
    Paul S says:

    #76, ccpo – Sorry, just responding to your line: ‘It would just be nice to see something in the paper acknowledging the energy went somewhere and is in the system, just hard to quantify.’ The point is they’re actually arguing the energy isn’t in the system, that there is less warming because there is less energy coming in.

    00-08 being warmer overall than 90-98 doesn’t necessarily mean ‘warming’ took place between 1998 and 2008. Think about an upward sloped line, which is then connected at the raised end to a flat horizontal line. The flat line is on average higher than the sloped line despite being flat. In fact the second line could decline slightly and still be higher overall.

  31. 81
    JCH says:

    Using Swanson’s dates from his article on an interruption in global warming:






  32. 82
    Ron R. says:

    Patrick 027 @ 4 Jul 2011 @ 6:19 PM:

    maybe we should stick to having CSP power plants that may use fuel as a supplemental source, rather than the other way around


  33. 83
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 69 Edward Greisch – (PS did read the article, or at least some of it, enough to recognize what you quoted)…

    1. I wonder how CO2eq savings could have been, in proportion to expectations, ten times as much as fuel savings. Anyway, I wasn’t so much doubting the math of the article, although if I had the time that would be a worth-while double check, but I was also thinking also that somebody ELSE may have misplaced a decimal point.

    Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Center Working Paper CEIC-07-05
    “These data also imply that site diversity over a ~280 km range does not dampen PV intermittency sufficiently to eliminate the need for substantial firm power or dispatchable demand response.”

    But it does dampen it, right? And this is from only three sites? So what if there were 10 or 20? Over 400 km? No matter what the spacing, too small a number of sites will still leave larger and less predictable varibility.

    If a solar PV farm doesn’t work in the Arizona desert, solar PV farms don’t work. It was a 44 acre site, which seems to me to be spread out enough.

    Define ‘doesn’t work’ (rhetorical, please don’t bother, you know what I’m getting at).

    44 acres is less than a tenth of a square mile. I’m not suggesting we need larger PV farms per se (maybe we’ll have to have those, though), but we need greater distribution of sites – not just a few large plants spread out from each other, but many distributed plants. In order for a single power plant to smooth out such variations it has to be substantially larger than the typical cumulus or stratocumulus cloud/cell.

    And maybe some larger PV farms, because of their nature as concentrated large sources, should have some battery or other storage for smoothing out the high-frequency variations. This would only require storage capacity for … whatever time it takes for complementary power sources or longer-term storage facilities to ramp up power, or to make it easier for the aggregate power supply to be smoothed, and/or whatever the needs of the wiring and transformers, etc. are (capacitance and inductance may be issues, I’d guess).

    If you have y PV farms, it’s unlikely (to some acceptable probability) that some more than a net value of x farms will experience a cloud-sun transition

    (you could have x + n experience a transition in one direction with n experiencing the opposite transition within the same time period. Of course we’d have to weight this by each plants’ capacity and the capacity factor difference for the transition, but for sake of simple illustration let’s stick with assuming all transitions are of equal power magnitude for now)

    the time period within a t time period, so you’d only need storage of t*x/y times the aggregate PV capacity (well, less than that if some power is still produced under cloud cover) to smooth things out on a t time scale, right?

  34. 84
    Patrick 027 says:

    And this is from only three sites?

    Sorry, I shouldn’t have assumed that they only just took three sites and looked at what they could do with only that. Perhaps they extrapolated to n sites and y km. I’ll have to read the article – but, if you already have, please share.

    Of course one could also look at satellite imagery for guidance…

  35. 85
    Patrick 027 says:

    In order for a single power plant to smooth out such variations it has to be substantially larger than the typical cumulus or stratocumulus cloud/cell.

    well, longer anyway. So maybe a lot of long thin power plants? Aligned east-to-west, casting long shadows on the snow in winter where sunlight can otherwise reach in summer to feed the crops…

    It may not be a significant effect (?) but one could consider the local climatology of cloud-street orientations (shaped by wind shear and gravity waves, etc.).

  36. 86
    Antonio Sarmiento G says:

    Gavin, Thanks again.
    ¿Could you please say something on the paper in the Proceedings of
    the National Academy of Sciences quoted today by Reuters to claim
    that “Asia pollution (is to be) blamed for halt in warming”?

    Cheers, Antonio

    [Response: The headlines do not do justice to the study. I read the paper and came away with conclusion that the biggest factor was the ‘internal variability’ (i.e. ENSO), which is neither surprising nor novel. Increases in Asian aerosols are real, but they are poorly quantified – both in extent and in effect. It’s conceivable they played a role, but in looking at trends over short time periods – even if you factor in ENSO – there is still a lot of unforced variability. The uncertainties are such that short periods do not provide strong constraints either on net forcing nor climate sensitivity, and so focusing on them is not particularly insightful. – gavin]

  37. 87
  38. 88
    ccpo says:

    Paul #80: You are still describing warming. If more energy is absorbed over that period, it’s warming (eventually). It is exactly my point that it is the warming overall that matters, and there is an opportunity to reinforce that and help people think in terms of trends and comparative averages.

    Also, I’m not convinced there was no warming. I find it far more likely, given the empirical evidence, we just aren’t very good at measuring short-term energy additions to the system. It’s too fine grained. We do a great job of overall tracking of energy flows, but the shorter term stuff, not so much. Given the surprising readings of ocean heat content in unlikely places, all the wacky weather, etc., I’m voting for we just don’t know how to track the energy very well on such short time frames.

    I make the argument weakly as I am likely wrong, though for a non-scientist I’ve got a great track record. So far. I’m almost ready to call new minimums in ice extent and mass for this summer. Almost.

  39. 89

    Nonsense about this lull, the sun disk vertical measurement maximas (2002-2011) utterly reject this. There are cooling periods largely driven by exotics, ENSO and Stratospheric polar vortex behaviors being the main culprits that come to mind, but the trend is for warming, relentless warming. As I write on my blog and website, warming does not absolutely mean it felt on the surface, nor consistent, warming causes great floods (cooling may be felt by clouds), wider snow extent, more moisture more snow, greater kinetic energy, need not be explained especially lately, unusual Arctic heat anomalies trigger the PSV
    to cool returning a feedback which may appear as cooling. Anyways, we can mangle graphs all we want, but the sun disk size is available for all to see every day. BBC does goof at times. But I still like to watch their programs.

  40. 90
    Edward Greisch says:

    83, 84, 85 Patrick 027: Another paper linked from the BNC paper is “RENEWABLE ENERGY – CANNOT SUSTAIN AN ENERGY-INTENSIVE SOCIETY.”
    by Ted Trainer. University of NSW, Kensington.

    I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but Trainer makes some good points regarding renewables:

    “There are times when the wind is calm everywhere.”

    ““Synoptic” weather patterns often apply to large regions.  Sharman points out that Europe can experience long periods of very cold, calm and cloudy weather in winter.”

    “Thus it should be clear that the common statement, “…the wind is always blowing somewhere…” fails to grasp the problem.  If we assume that the wind is always good in Morocco, or Kazakhstan or Siberia or Western Europe, then if we are to have a system that always reliably meets demand from one or other of these regions, we would have to build four entire systems each big enough to meet demand.  We would also have to build several costly 4,000-5,000 km transmission lines to Europe (losing perhaps 15% of energy generated.) 

    Note that most of these regions are well to the East of Europe so it will be night time there when European demand is highest, during the day.  Winds tend to be low at night.

    Czisch (2004) estimates that long distance transmission might add 33% to electricity cost.  The IEA (2010, p. 336) estimates that the average (mostly short distance) transmission cost adds 25%.”

    Not to switch subjects to wind, because solar has the same problem. Spreading solar out over 280 kilometers isn’t far enough. Either solar or wind or both have to be spread over the whole globe. We don’t know if ” four entire systems each big enough to meet demand” is really enough. The electric generating companies have plenty of evidence to strongly avoid investing/wasting any more money in wind or solar.

    The electric generating companies will build nothing but coal fired power plants because they know that coal works and at what cost. They build wind and solar experiments because they are forced to by law. The coal industry has a cash flow of $100 Billion/year. That is a lot of political clout.

    “Perhaps they extrapolated to n sites and y km”
    Perhaps if they covered the earth with solar cells. At some point, you have to realize that the project is over. There isn’t an infinite amount of money to invest in your obsession. The electric generating companies are in it for the gold. That is all they care about. In the opinion of the electric generating companies, renewables do not work. Renewables do not generate gold.

  41. 91
    Ron R. says:

    Patrick, I think it’s clear that there’s something wrong with the data or the way the test was run. Even Brook calls it “potentially nonsense data” later in the thread.

    I agree that some of the data looks suspicious – I was just reporting what was in the the Final Report…. This rings alarm bells for me – but that is what the report says.

    It pretty ridiculous for people, eager to jump on anything negative about clean alternatives, to use this one, early and questionable report as proof that “If a solar PV farm doesn’t work in the Arizona desert, solar PV farms don’t work”.

    There is a mountain of evidence that solar is quite valuable as an energy resource. But again some of the drop off in transmission efficiency could be mitigated by making solar much more “local”, meaning everyone that can having their own right at the source.

    My 2 cents.

  42. 92
    flxible says:

    There is a mountain of evidence that solar is quite valuable as an energy resource. But again some of the drop off in transmission efficiency could be mitigated by making solar much more “local”, meaning everyone that can having their own right at the source.

    My 2 cents.

    Make that 4 cents, totally distributed solar is the route, quit asking the gubmint and the coal barons to supply and suffle around your electricity. And quit falling for to EG’s “nothing works but nukes” slight of hand.

  43. 93
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 90 Edward Greisch

    – (Am I any more obsessed than you?)

    “There are times when the wind is calm everywhere.”

    Okay…(and is it also dark everywhere, and dark and calm at the same time, and dark and calm and cold at the same time, and dry as well, with no geothermal activity, and no stored biofuels?) well, that’s what AA-CAES would be for – by the point that we’d need it. Not that we shouldn’t plan ahead, but why stop adding renewables when we haven’t reached the point of having a problem with them?

    we would have to build four entire systems each big enough to meet demand.

    But those four systems would then on average meet more than Europe’s demand (and the grid would then include that much more in solar, hydropower, etc.). (Nobody forgot the capacity factors are substantially less than 100 %; that’s factored into the planning, cost, CO2eq, etc.). In times of surplus over the whole grid, electricity might be stored either to be regerated or in some other way (fuel production)…

    We would also have to build several costly 4,000-5,000 km transmission lines to Europe (losing perhaps 15% of energy generated.)

    The grid we have loses ~ 10 % already – not an excuse to lose more but it’s worth keeping in mind that 15 % is not comparatively awful. And it’s only the electicity that is transmitted over long distance which suffers larger losses.

    transmission cost… okay…(I’ve gotten a different impression, but whatever.)

    The electric generating companies have plenty of evidence to strongly avoid investing/wasting any more money in wind or solar.

    But with appropriate policies, would the investment make sense?

    They build wind and solar experiments because they are forced to by law.

    If the law is justified, what’s the problem?

    (You would be in favor of a CO2eq tax or something like that, right? Well we can’t have it for awhile yet, because we live in a democracy and so we have to put up with a lot of stupidity (whereas if we lived in a dictatorship we’d have to put up with a lot of stupidity, unless of course (whoever is reading this) was in charge. So in the meantime, we need another law, less effective and efficient than the ideal, to get the job done (because many of those who hate government inefficiency also hate government efficiency)).

    The coal industry has a cash flow of $100 Billion/year. That is a lot of political clout.

    Are you saying we shouldn’t do it, or merely that we can’t because the villains won’t let us?

    Perhaps … At some point, … the project is over. … infinite … money … your obsession.

    I’m only obsessed with renewables as much as you are :)

    In the opinion of the electric generating companies, renewables do not work.

    According to what survey?

  44. 94
    SecularAnimist says:

    Perhaps it should not be surprising that when pro-nuclear nonsense was declared off-topic that certain parties would replace it with anti-solar nonsense.

    In any case, it sometimes seems that discussions about solar power here take place in a vacuum, carefully insulated from knowledge of what is actually happening in the real solar industry in the real world.

    According to the US solar industry trade group, the Solar Energy Industries Association:

    New US solar electric installations in 2010 totaled 956 MW.

    The total value of US solar installations grew 67 percent from $3.6 billion in 2009 to $6 billion in 2010.

    Grid-connected PV installations in the first quarter of 2011 reached 252 MW, a 66 percent increase over the first quarter of 2010. US production of PV modules in Q1 2011 increased 31 percent over Q1 2010.

    Cumulative grid-connected solar electric capacity in the US has reached 2.85 Gigawatts.

    A total of 1,100 MW of concentrating solar power (both PV and thermal) is now under construction in the USA, with signed power purchase agreements for 2.4 GW.

    Meanwhile, some people insist that the reason that solar energy is the fastest-growing industry in the USA is that “solar doesn’t work”.

    Go figure.

    [Response: I don’t really know why people insist on arguing about energy technology on climate science blog. You’d think they’d go somewhere where it was at least a little on topic. And so to forestall yet another off-topic thread derailment, this is the last word on this – so please, no more solar, hydro, nuclear, fracking etc. etc. – take it somewhere else please. – gavin]

  45. 95

    To complement #89 comment is this:

    How on Earth can there be a lull in temperature rising when Arctic sea ice is doing the exact opposite, in tandem with sun disk observations? The amount of cognitive disconnect is scandalous. We are in a great period of warming as exemplified by sea and glacier ice disappearing in front of our very eyes, to the credit of the guys at Nasa who saw it coming in the 80’s. This warming is overwhelming, compelling and without a lull.
    Those who favor this lull thing are basically huddled around the wrong sources of information, overconfident about the wrong conclusion and are nothing but playing contrarian musings.

  46. 96
    ccpo says:

    With all due respect, Gavin, we are getting well beyond the point where these topics can be constructively discussed in isolation from one another. It makes sense to insist discussions be clearly connected to climate, but it makes none to isolate the two. You don’t want energy here, The Oil Drum doesn’t want climate there, so the two best places on the the web for discussing the two primary legs of the problems we face choose to exacerbate the problem by insisting they not be discussed systemically.

    What hope have we, then?

    reCAPTCHA: arbitrary ndiafect

    [Response: The problem is that informed moderation and interjection are key to having productive discussions on such topics. If repetitive point scoring is all that is wanted, then no progress is possible. We can provide such guidance on climate science topics, but not on energy ones, therefore those conversations tend to spiral out of control, dominated by the more strident or vociferous opinions and adding little to any readers understandings. I see great benefit in being able to disaggregate different issues – the radiative forcing of CO2 is independent of whether you think solar or nuclear is the energy of the future. But continually having to talk about nuclear energy when discussing water vapour feedback is simply distracting. There are links between policy options for energy and climate impacts (i.e. via the full emissions profile, impact on surface roughness, etc.) but these are best discussed a specific topics, not as the automatic adjunct of every open thread. – gavin]

  47. 97
    wili says:

    Two questions (ok, the second one is really lots of related questions):

    1) Isn’t one answer to post #1 the exact effect of aerosols?

    2) Why is “The Keeling Curve” called a curve? In most representations it looks pretty linear. Is it a curve? If so, what kind of curve? Has it been described mathematically? Are there good places to go that discuss the mathematics of that curve? Whether it is a curve or linear, it certainly does not seem to match the steep curve of increased use of fossil fuels. Why is that? Is there a sink that has become more efficient as CO2 levels have increased? Ocean? Plants? Aren’t oceans supposed to become less not more efficient as they heat up? Has the Keeling Curve been steepening recently? If so, why? Are we really burning ff at that great of a rate of increase? Are the sinks not keeping up? Is it from tundra melt, burning forests, or other such feedback?

    (Sorry to dump so many question out in that second item. Someone on another forum referred to CO2 increases being linear, and trying to figure out how to reply, I bumped into all these questions I hadn’t thought of before. Thanks ahead of time for any light anyone could throw on my confusion.)

    [Response: Increases is temperature and [CO2] forcings on the carbon balance–both oceanically and terrestrially–oppose each other. Temperature is increasing but so is [CO2]. The terrestrial carbon balance is further complicated in that precipitation is also critical, as is land use. The rate of atm. [CO2] increase is increasing because the rate the sinks are filling does not keep pace with the ever increasing rate of fuel burning. That is, the ocean and terr. pools are being forced at rates faster than their inherent time lags of absorption can handle.–Jim]

  48. 98
    DeNihilist says:

    Dr. Jim,

    Will you be doing more on the Pine Beetle or maybe the use of the dead wood for bio-generation? Really enjoyed your last venture there, until of course the topic got hi-jinxed :(

    [Response: Your kind words are greatly appreciated. Yes, I’m still hoping to extend the tree mortality episode into a 2nd or even 3rd post. Thank you for the link also–Jim]

    Was reading a supplement to the Vancouver Sun newspaper this weekend about the newer pulp mills that have been built in Germany and now B.C. Don’t know if you saw this, but I found it very informative.

  49. 99
    chris says:

    Pete Dunkelberg/Paul S

    Yes fine but it’s a very odd way of addressing the issue of surface temperature and its recent determinants. The abstract starts with the sentence:

    “Given the widely noted increase in the warming effects of rising greenhouse gas concentrations, it has been unclear why global surface temperatures do not rise between 1998 and 2008.”

    But surely that question shouldn’t be raised without the obvious and uncontroversial information that the surface temperature of 1998 was temporally boosted ~ 0.2 oC above the trend by the strongest El Nino of the 20th century, and that 2008 temperatures were lowered relative to the surrounding trend by ~ 0.1 oC due to a significant la Nina.

    That wipes out 0.3 oC of apparent cooling leaving in both NASA Giss and Hadcrut a surface warming (e.g. between 1999 and 2009, or between 1997 and 2007). There’s absolutely nothing “unclear” about that whatsoever.

    I would have thought that should be stated at the outset! Then the authors/readers can get down to addressing the essential element of the analysis which is why there has been a short term slow down in warming beginning around 2002 (or maybe 2005 in the NASA Giss analysis). It is that period that has been most impacted by the prolonged drop of the solar output to an extended minimum and the apparent rise sulphate particulates from Asian coal burning (and a bit of a PDO contribution).

    It really seems like an odd way of framing the study with a sort of unaddressed red herring in the opening pages!

    Clerarly if one is reasonably knowledgeable about this subject then the essential elements of the contributions to 1998-2008 surface temperature variation can be extracted from the paper (which is in a multidisciplinary journal that gets lots of coverage in the media – embargoes for press release and so on)…if I’m a little bemused by the presentation then I expect quite a lot of other people may be more than a little confused..

  50. 100
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Gavin inline@96:

    I really sympathize that it is difficult to keep discussions on energy alternatives under control, particularly given the passionate adherence nearly all posters have toward one camp or another. There are few true agnostics in the debate. The fallacy that most often leads technically competent minds into the denialist camp is the argument from consequences–they see no hope of weaning civilization off of fossil fuels, so they begin to look for holes in the physics.

    Moreover, as the Kaufmann study on Chinese aerosols shows, current energy policies can also mask warming and give the denialists a fig leaf to cover the nakedness of their lies. Might it be possible to get someone with some energy expertise who could serve as moderator for this subject, and perhaps establish some ground rules to ensure things don’t go off the rails entirely? I say this not as a frequent poster on energy-related subjects, but as an interested observer.