Unforced Variations: Aug 2011

This month’s open thread. Your starter for 2010, the 2010 State of the Climate report….

475 comments on this post.
  1. Pete Dunkelberg:

    199 sidd, most ice is melting faster than models indicate. Some ice like the Pine Island Glacier (PIG) is melting lots faster than had been expected.

    btw I don’t think everyone automatically knows these details, but there is no island and there are no pines there, just a big glacier named after a ship that was named after something far away.

    [Response: Actually, a glacier named after a bay (Pine Island Bay) named after a ship named after something far away. Note that Pine Island Glacier is melting from below, not above. See Mauri Pelto’s excellent history: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/11/is-pine-island-glacier-the-weak-underbelly-of-the-west-antarctic-ice-sheet –eric]

  2. simon abingdon:

    #200 Chris Colose

    Thanks. Postma just raised the question for me of whether GCMs adequately model the succession of day and night on a 24-hour cycle. A simple yes or no would suffice. A year or so ago I was shouted down for saying that (unless warm air blows in) from sunset to sunrise the surface experiences a relentless fall in temperature regardless of any insulating effect of GHGs. No reasonable person could deny that this is true.

  3. Vendicar Decarian:

    “Why just rebunk trolling stuff without noting it has already been debunked by the agency a week ago?” – Hank Roberts

    Possibly because the debunking doesn’t appear to have worked.

    You know… Debunking only works when the debunking is widely distributed and common knowledge.

    Perhaps a re-debunking is in order.

  4. Hunt Janin:

    Re 201 above: what happens if the Pine Island Glacier DOES melt/

  5. grypo:

    According to Roger Pielke Jr, 72% of IPCC findings “statements about the actual climatic future” will be realized!

    I can’t think of any better headline for immediate global climate action and mitigation. This seems critically important considering 1) we don’t which ones will be realized and 2) most predictions are based on a priori facts.


  6. Kevin McKinney:

    #192, Paul S.–

    Hadn’t seen this page before, so thanks! Very interesting.

    I don’t quite see it the same way you do, though; I can see the ‘inversion’ pattern for the NH, but that’s not what I see in the SH at all; instead, there’s a pattern where you see the warmest stratospheric temps (ie., TLS 4) in the mid-latitudes.

    But if you look at the maps for January–NH mid-winter instead of mid-summer–you’ll see a pattern for the NH similar to the July pattern for the SH. That seems to say that it’s a seasonal, not hemispheric thing.

    I’d love to hear something on the physical processes involved in that upper-air temp distribution!

  7. Kevin McKinney:

    For interested readers, I’ve just put up a new article on the history of climate science:


    This one touches upon some of the high points in the hunt for the ‘solar constant’, and sets up a forthcoming article dealing with the more vexed question of what happens (radiatively speaking) after that.

    As always, comments and corrections are solicited! (And the indulgent moderators here thanked.)

  8. Paul S:

    #206, Kevin McKinney – Ah, good point. In my cusory look through I was only really selecting NH Summer months.

  9. Kevin McKinney:

    Ta, Paul. I hope we hear more about this.

  10. Don:

    First off, sorry for the off topic post.

    F. Singer is giving a talk in the next while at an institute close to me.
    I may attend. Does anyone know what his latest shtick is ? Is he still on about the tropical hot spot or is he still raving about 1500 yr cycles ?

  11. David B. Benson:

    Hunt Janin @204 — My amateur understanding is that a goodly portin of WAIS then soon follows, leading to quite noticable SLR.

  12. gator:

    Al Gore’s organization is planning a big communication event for Sept 14.

    This looks like an interesting way of trying to get across the reality of climate change.

  13. DeWitt Payne:

    Chris Colose,

    I’m looking forward to your article on the Postma piece. I first heard of it at Science of Doom from someone who thinks Gerlich and Tscheuschner can do no wrong. I haven’t heard from him since I pointed out that G&T disagree with Postma on how to calculate the temperature of a half illuminated sphere.

  14. gator:

    grypo @205. I can’t be arsed to create an account somewhere so that I can comment on Pilke Jr’s blog… But that paper seems like transparent silliness.

    He clearly knows he is talking about probabilities since he says 33% of “likely” findings will later be discovered to be wrong. But then he tries to paint this as an absolute. What’re his error bars? Is this paper “likely”? By his standards, I’d wager his findings are “wrong” because it is more than 50/50 that not exactly 28% of the findings will be wrong at some later date… Though I’m sure he can weasel out of anything by saying the later date is not late enough…

    [Response: For more examples of Roger weaseling out of predictions, see this thread… – gavin]

  15. flxible:

    Don@210 – do you need to know more than this ‘overview’?
    Singer: “We have to ask, what is the impact of a warmer climate? It’s not the warming itself that we should be concerned about. It is the impact. So we have to then ask: What is the impact on agriculture? The answer is: It’s positive. It’s good. What’s the impact on forests of greater levels of CO2 and greater temperatures? It’s good. What is the impact on water supplies? It’s neutral. What is the impact on sea level? It will produce a reduction in sea-level rise. It will not raise sea levels. What is the impact on recreation? It’s mixed. You get, on the one hand, perhaps less skiing; on the other hand, you get more sunshine and maybe better beach weather.

    Let’s face it. People like warmer climates. There’s a good reason why much of the U.S. population is moving into the Sun Belt, and not just people who are retiring.”

  16. Don:


    Wow..head vice time (amoungst other howlers, how the #ell does Singer think sea levels will not go up ?). Do you know where this quote comes from ?

    Anyways, at this talk I expect he will present his latest analysis and I wanted to be a bit prepared as to what he may go on about. The abstract I read (if memory serves) mentioned

    1) Examining the “fingerprint of AGW”
    2) A new method for evaluating GCM output that copes with their `chaotic’ nature


    3) The `reality’ of the temperature record or something like that.

    Point 1 made me think of the work he was involved in regarding the `missing’ tropical hot spot. Point 3 looks like it could be another recycled attack on the surface record. Point 2 has me stumped though…..

  17. Pete Dunkelberg:

    Don, is it just possible that Singer doesn’t really think so? He has been a science denier for fun and profit for decades.

  18. Pete Dunkelberg:

    google Fred Singer tobacco, Wikipedia Fred Singer, …
    etc etc

  19. flxible:

    Singer quote from a PBS interview here – as Pete points out, disinformation dressed up as objectivity. “He points out that the scenarios are alarmist, computer models reflect real gaps in climate knowledge, and future warming will be inconsequential or modest at most.

  20. jyyh:

    4th warmest july at GISS.

  21. Don:

    Pete@218 and fixble@219

    Thanks ! In the meantime I have found the older articles on this site concerning upper tropical trop temperature trends.

  22. Hunt Janin:

    Re 204 and 211, if there are any WAIS experts reading this blog, I’d value their opinions.

  23. ccpo:

    Updates to ASI conditions 8/13/11.

    *Current State of the Arctic Sea Ice: Arctic Sea Ice Predictions
    On track for record lows in ASI Volume and ASI Area. http://tinyurl.com/3ly9ybv

    * Current State of the Arctic Sea Ice: Northwest Passage OPEN
    The westernmost of the larger channels is wide open. (Is this becoming so passe it’s not news anymore?) http://tinyurl.com/3qxnmed

    With your indulgence.

    Also, on the issue of scientists as advocates, Paul Erlich isn’t pulling any punches:

    Paul Ehrlich summed it up this way: “You often hear people say scientists should not be advocates. I think that is bull.”

    He was speaking specifically of ecologists. Don’t know if he’d extend that to climate, but logically you’d think so.

  24. David B. Benson:

    Hunt Janin @222 — You can use the search feature here to find the older articles on WAIS. However, it probably suffices to consider the articles regaing the Pliocene and Miocene, as CO2 concentrations are now up to the levels pertaining then; the local of continents and so that influence of climate hasn’t changed that much since even that long ago.

  25. sidd:

    Re: WAIS

    Please see the Andrill reconstructions of WAIS glaciation/deglaciation cycles, in particular Pollard and DeConto and Naish et al. papers from (2009?, Nature ?) for a timescale. The collapses seem to have taken 1Kyr-10Kyr, although I seem to recall that Bindschadler commented that 1Kyr should be taken as an upper limit. Hansen makes a similar point, that historical deglaciations are paced by the relatively slow orbital forcings, and do not reflect the internal time scales of the ice sheets; that the internal time scale for collapse is shorter than the timescale of the orbital forcings, and a stronger forcing as we are applying now result in faster collapse.


  26. prokaryotes:

    Draft paper from David Wasdell on Earth System Sensitivity

    Climate Shift impact Risk Assessment revisited http://climateforce.net/2011/08/13/climate-shift-impact-risk-assessment-revisited/

  27. David B. Benson:

    Moderators — Head in a Cloud, listed on the sidebar, appears to be a dead link.

  28. Edward Greisch:

    223 ccpo: Thanks and Bravo for Paul Erlich. But “For the first time in human history, a complex global society is at risk of environmental collapse.” is wrong if you cross out “global.” Dozens of previous civilizations have fallen, many because of minor climate changes.

    Paul Erlich’s Millenium Alliance for Humanity & the Biosphere [MAHB] is a great idea but http://mahb.stanford.edu/contact/ crashes every time you click a “select” while trying to contact them. It partly crashes my browser.

    MAHB says: “Understanding the biosphere that sustains all life without understanding culture, institutions, and drivers of human behavior is insufficient. MAHB aspires to foster a dialogue that will involve individuals and organizations around the world and change the social infrastructure that threatens humanity’s survival.

    See: http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/08/13/271676/whats-the-best-strategy-for-dealing-with-deniers
    where David Roberts says: “intensity wins in politics.” No matter how much you dislike politics, hold your nose and take political action.

    MAHB is correct but does not go far enough. The RealClimate.org contributors should be running for the US senate. I am trying to run for the US house. Why? Because the US congress is where action on GW will get done, if it ever does get done. So far, nothing has gotten done. RealClimate.org is great, but the laws enacted are zero. David Roberts says: “giving CWM still more facts and arguments is not going to achieve anything.” True.

  29. JimCA:

    Can anyone comment on the recent report from NCAR that the loss of arctic sea ice might temporarily abate for the next few years?

    This seems surprising, given the relentless loss lately.

    Is that credible? And if so, is there a simple explanation for why loss would suddenly slow now?

    [My apologies if this duplicates, but the captcha nonsense seems to be eating my posts]

    [Response: This is mostly about a quantification of the size of internal variability. By looking at multiple runs with the same forcing and looking at the variability in short trends, you can make a statement about the range. The current trend is at the edge of what the NCAR runs show, and so it is conceivable that what we are seeing has been a weaker forced trend, combined with a (stochastic) increase to the trend because of internal variability. With that assumption, one can look at the other simulations and calculate the likelihood of the stochastic component going the opposite way and slowing down the observed trend. But these likelihoods rely on the NCAR model’s estimates of both the forced trend and the internal variability being correct. The former is less likely than the latter. – gavin]

  30. Hank Roberts:

    This site looks at least amusing, and possibly interesting.
    Look up someone you know something about and see.


    “Comparisons with Other Experts and Influencers

    The similarity between Qing-Bin Lu and each expert and influencer is calculated by looking at how the same questions were answered. These figures are used to calculate conforming, nonconforming, and projected opinions. The accuracy of the analysis depends on Qing-Bin Lu’s coverage, which grows with the number of their opinions entered into TakeOnIt.”

    Patrick Michaels
    Climatology Professor
    100% agreement / 1 opinions

    Denis Rancourt
    Physics Professor
    100% agreement / 1 opinions

    Mostly Agree
    Gerhard Gerlich
    Physics Professor
    75% agreement / 1 opinions

    S. Fred Singer
    Head of NIPCC, Astrophysics Professor
    75% agreement / 1 opinions

    Syun-Ichi Akasofu
    Geophysics Professor
    75% agreement / 1 opinions
    Mostly Disagree
    Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
    (IPCC) Scientific Body formed by U.N.
    25% agreement / 1 opinions

    Paul Crutzen
    Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
    25% agreement / 1 opinions

    Svante Arrhenius
    Scientist, First Modeled Greenhouse Effect
    25% agreement / 1 opinions

    Gavin Schmidt
    12% agreement / 2 opinions

    James Hansen
    Climatology Professor
    0% agreement / 1 opinions

    [Response: How the heck can Svante Arrhenius have an opinion on ozone depletion? –eric]

  31. Hank Roberts:

    Belatedly noted:

    “The North Pacific Fishery Management Council voted unanimously to close industrial fishing in the Chukchi Sea and the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska. That’s nearly 200,000 square miles of Arctic waters sealed off from fishermen in order to protect the fragile ecosystem at the top of the world.

    Oddly enough, this is not a region where much fishing has ever taken place. That’s because, in the past, the area was covered with ice. Now, though, because of climate change, the ice has retreated. In fact, it has disappeared much more quickly than had been predicted. A phenomenon that was expected to take 50 to 100 years – the complete disappearance of Arctic ice in the summer months – will be a fact of life in just 10 years.

    Climate change seems to be racing on at a 21st century pace. Meanwhile, too many politicians continue to plod along as if we have all the time in the world.”

    Posted by David Horsey on February 5, 2009 at
    http://blog.seattlepi.com/davidhorsey/2009/02/05/the-politics-of-planetary-peril/ (click the link for his cartoon associated with that blog post)

  32. prokaryotes:

    @ Edward Greisch
    please get in touch with me when you need a professional campaign website! Never to early for setting it up!

  33. Robert Murphy:

    eric @230:
    “How the heck can Svante Arrhenius have an opinion on ozone depletion? –eric”

    The opinion they disagreed on was “Does atmospheric CO2 cause significant global warming?”. They obviously didn’t have an opinion from Arrhenius on ozone depletion. :)

  34. Louise:

    Could this be partly responsible for the supposed ‘lack of recent warming’?


    “Scientists say that there has been a mysterious decline in the growth of methane in the atmosphere in the last decades of the 20th Century.”

  35. Kees van der Leun:

    2011 Arctic sea-ice collapse in full swing: ice area now 37% less than average for this date: http://bit.ly/SAarea

  36. JimCA:

    Gavin — thank you for the clarification about the NCAR result, but one followup:

    Do they use a (for lack of a better word) conventional forced trend, or is there something unusual about the one they chose?

    For that matter, do they have a single forcing model, or do they use an ensemble of runs over many alternatives?


    [Response: Not sure, but I think they are reporting on one of the middle RCP scenarios. This is not particularly relevant for current behaviour though. More important is how good the aerosol forcing is, or the indirect impacts of black carbon etc. – but we don’t know the real answer. – gavin]

  37. David B. Benson:

    Louise @234 — There has been no lack of warming in recent decades. You’ll find well stated details in threads on

    The period of flatness in the CH4 level is not mysterious, being attributed largely to the collapse of the former Soviet Union.

  38. chris colose:

    This is random, but maybe useful

    Why does climate change? Causes and Timescales

  39. David B. Benson:

    chris colose @237 — Tis indeed most useful.

  40. Leo G:

    was just over at Dr. Bart’s site. Great video of Dr. Dennings’ talk @ Heartland. Highly recommend it!


  41. prokaryotes:

    Earth’s 2 Moons? It’s Not Lunacy, But New Theory http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/03/earth-two-moons-theory_n_917464.html

    There is also a high impact theory about mars, which caused a similar geological phenomena and is believed to caused the degenerated gravitational field of mars.

  42. sidd:

    Here is another nice paper, (or at least i think so,) which I was led to by Mr. Ari Jokimaki at agwobserver.wordpress.com, arguing that the agw signal is most evident at low latitudes, although the warming is most pronounced at high latitudes, because larger variance at high latitudes masks the agw signal.


  43. Pete Dunkelberg:

    JimCA @ 235, note that Rampal et al. 2011 is in press at the same time.


    IPCC climate models underestimate the decrease of the Arctic sea ice extent. The recent Arctic sea ice decline is also characterized by a rapid thinning and by an increase of sea ice kinematics (velocities and deformation rates), with both processes being coupled through positive feedbacks. In this study we show that IPCC climate models underestimate the observed thinning trend by a factor of almost 4 on average and fail to capture the associated accelerated motion. The coupling between the ice state (thickness and concentration) and ice velocity is unexpectedly weak in most models. In particular, sea ice drifts faster during the months when it is thick and packed than when it is thin, contrary to what is observed; also models with larger long-term thinning trends do not show higher drift acceleration. This weak coupling behavior (i) suggests that the positive feedbacks mentioned above are underestimated, and (ii) can partly explain for the models underestimation of the recent sea ice area, thickness and velocity trends. Due partly to this weak coupling, ice export does not play an important role in the simulated negative balance of Arctic sea ice mass between 1950 and 2050. If we assume a positive trend on ice speeds at straits equivalent to the one observed since 1979 within the Arctic basin, first-order estimations give shrinking and thinning trends that become significantly closer to the observations.

  44. Radge Havers:

    Grassroots science? Sounds old but has a slightly different angle: The Status of Science: We Have No-one to Blame but Ourselves.

    I don’t know about this part:

    “f you ask them to provide a general-audience description of what their research is about, that’s also treated as an unreasonable imposition. But hiring people to do that is out of the question, because the money could be spent on “real” science rather than PR flacks.”

    Probably only scientists are capable of “getting it right”, although PR flacks could probably help with appropriate emphasis for a moody, shifting audience. Maybe simple statements should carry a rating of GA for General Audiences with the acknowledgment that a statement may be correct in its broad outlines but weak in the details, and that a more nuanced understanding for active thinkers will require some exploring.

    In any case, I’m really fed up with the sea of memes that treats climate scientists as a bunch of fatuous goober-heads who spend their days holding hands and skipping around the daisy patch. A little honesty and so little effort is required to see that this is false. It’s a vile situation and time for more heavy weights to grab their thunderbolts and come down off mount Olympus for some hard assed, heavy-duty smiting against the forces of darkness.

    Sez here anyhoo…

  45. deconvoluter:

    Re #230

    Hank. I am not advocating censorship just common sense. You usually make useful comments, but for the life of me I cannot see the point of using RC to publicise that web site especially in the manner of that comment. There are enough busy scientists excellent in their field, who think that the debate and misinformation is evenly divided between two ‘sides’.The busy ones won’t have time to find out why Gerlich for example is ‘amusing’.

  46. deconvoluter:

    Re #241

    Interesting counter-intuitive effect. Warming by latitude. Weaker signals easier to detect because less masked by climate produced noise.

    It may also be a metaphor for the educational problem. When the signal rises, will the artificial propagandist noise rise at an even faster rate? Recent evidence is not reassuring.

  47. Pete Dunkelberg:


  48. Kevin McKinney:


    It may, but I think its characteristics may also brand it more obviously as noise.

    (One may hope, at least.)

    [I don’t usually like to report Captcha’s quasi-oracular pronouncements, but this one is too good: “choke forkem.”]

  49. SteveF:

    Just seen this upcoming paper in GRL, may be of some interest:

    “Climatic trends in major U.S. urban areas, 1950–2009”


    [Response: Thanks, hadn’t been aware of that, even though the co-author is at UW where I am. Of course, the fact that he’s at the same institution as me, and I once published a paper with Mike means you can’t trust a word of it. ;) -eric]

  50. SteveF:

    Just noticed another interesting new paper in GRL, from Gabi Hegerl and colleagues:

    “Detectable Regional Changes in the Number of Warm Nights”


    Incidentally, the paper I mentioned in my post above is already being discussed at WUWT. Didn’t bother reading their take.