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Unforced variations: Oct 2011

Filed under: — gavin @ 1 October 2011

Open thread for October…

409 Responses to “Unforced variations: Oct 2011”

  1. 251
    Paul Briscoe says:

    In hindsight, I should have posted about this first.

    The latest blog post from BBC Weatherman and Climate Correspondent Paul Hudson is now going viral all over the internet:

    “Met Office wakes up to solar influence on climate”

    I don’t believe that Paul has any agenda, but his wording is unhelpful to say the least. He begins his post:

    “For as long as I have been a meteorologist, the mere suggestion that solar activity could influence climate patterns has been greeted with near derision.”

    As you can probably imagine, some elements are having a field day given that this comes from a source such as the BBC!

  2. 252
    Hank Roberts says:

    Paul, would you point to that “very persistent blogger” so others can look? I think you get into confusion because various definitions are used. See the fairly old post at: for example.

  3. 253
    David B. Benson says:

    Paul Briscoe @245 — This amateur states you have done quite well. There are no (large) inconsistencies.

  4. 254
    Hank Roberts says:

    Another for Paul, this also from 2005:

    “… The current global mean top-of-the-atmosphere (TOA) radiative forcing concept with adjusted stratospheric temperatures has both strengths and limitations. The concept has been used extensively in the climate research literature over the past decades and has also become a standard tool for policy analysis endorsed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The concept should be retained as a standard metric in future climate research and policy. However, it also has significant limitations that have been revealed by recent research on forcing agents that are not conventionally considered and by regional studies. Also, it diagnoses only one measure of climate change (equilibrium response of global mean surface temperature). The committee believes that these limitations can be addressed through the introduction of additional forcing metrics. Table 4-1 gives a list of these metrics and summarizes their strengths and limitations. Detailed discussion of each is presented below.


    Global-annual mean adjusted radiative forcing at the top of the atmosphere is, in general, a reliable metric relating the effects of various climate perturbations to global mean surface temperature change ….”

  5. 255
    Paul Briscoe says:

    Thanks everyone for your comments.

    Chris Colose, I understand the point you make regarding the the definition of forcing ( I’m a former microbiologist, so physics was not a speciality for me!) and I can see that if you increase CO2 concentration from A to B it will lead to a specific rise in temperature regardless of the rate of increase.
    What I’m trying to get my head around is this: in the present situation, where CO2 is rising fast, global temperature always has a lot of catching up to do to get towards equilibrium, whereas during glacial/interglacial transitions, where CO2 increased very slowly, the amount of “residual warming” from CO2 (for want of a better term) still in the pipeline at any particular point in time would surely be small. Does this make sense and if so is there a better way of making the point?


  6. 256
    David B. Benson says:

    Paul Briscoe @255 — Yes, since the forcing was small the climate stayed closer to a relaxed, i.e., equilibrium, state at most times. There were exceptions. The most notable was during Younger Dryas but to a lesser extent during the so-called 8.2 kya event. In addition, during meltwater pulse 1A the sea level rose so fast then the climate must have been somewhat out of equilibrium. Despite these pertubations, the general idea of a smooth S-shaped transition from LGM to Holocene over about 5000+ years generally fits well with rathr simple linear model concepts; nothing fancy required to understand it.

  7. 257
    jyyh says:

    #243 I knew it!

  8. 258
    dhogaza says:

    Sphaerica (Bob)

    In some ways, it does exactly what I was asking of Gavin, except that it is a general answer. I was (and still would like to see) a discussion of one, specific, actual climate model, how it is designed and how it operates.

    Perhaps if you were to outline what is missing from the NASA GISS Model E documentation and links to underlying papers (for the physics), maybe they could add documentation that would help you out?

    Or are you asking about the model framework (i.e. the way it manages timesteps etc). For me, that’s the easy part, maybe you’d like to see a primer on how discrete time-step modeling works and is managed in software?

  9. 259
    Hank Roberts says:

    —excerpt follows—-

    “… Kiehl ran his model of the ancient climate with clean skies, and found that the cold-pole problem largely disappeared. With clouds forming in unpolluted air, the poles warmed up much more than the tropics, giving a climate within a few degrees of the one that actually existed.

    The resulting model is a very good match for the Palaeocene-Eocene thermal maximum, says Paul Pearson of Cardiff University in the UK, who uses fossil animals to study past climates. Pearson says Kiehl’s model is the first to reproduce the temperature distribution revealed by the fossils.

    “It’s reassuring,” Kiehl says. “If this is the explanation, there isn’t anything drastically wrong with our climate models.”

    Kiehl presented his work on Tuesday at a Royal Society meeting on warm climates of the past in London.

  10. 260
    J Bowers says:

    Rick Perry officials spark revolt after doctoring environment report

    “The scientists said they were disowning the report on the state of Galveston Bay because of political interference and censorship from Perry appointees at the state’s environmental agency.

    By academic standards, the protest amounts to the beginnings of a rebellion: every single scientist associated with the 200-page report has demanded their names be struck from the document.
    But scientists said they still hoped to avoid a clash by simply avoiding direct reference to human causes of climate change and by sticking to materials from peer-reviewed journals. However, that plan began to unravel when officials from the agency made numerous unauthorised changes to Anderson’s chapter, deleting references to climate change, sea-level rise and wetlands destruction.
    Mother Jones has tracked the changes.”

    Mother Jones: Perry Officials Censored Climate Change Report

  11. 261
    Hunt Janin says:

    Can anyone give me the date and details of the first scientific study of sea level rise?

  12. 262
    J Bowers says:

    More background on the censored Texas report, which was a continuation of ongoing research including peer reviewed:

    The Holocene evolution of the Galveston estuary complex, Texas: Evidence for rapid change in estuarine environments. Anderson et al (2008). Geological Society of America

    Apparently, the agency staff had approved the report, but the managers directly appointed by Perry were the ones who censored it.

  13. 263
    Hunt Janin says:

    I’m not a scientist but do have a background in international relations and in history. This leads me to believe that there is virtually no chance that global warming can be slowed appreciably, let alone stopped, in the foreseeable future. If so, what will the consequences be?

  14. 264
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Hunt Janin
    > … what will the consequences be? …

    Did your background lead you to expect success when international controls on chlorofluorocarbons was proposed? Have you been you surprised by the result?

  15. 265
    Jack says:

    How about this? Christopher Columbus was partly responsible for the Little Ice Age? Amazing.

  16. 266
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Columbus
    Hm, do Nevie and Kaplan have published papers? Do they cite Ruddiman?

  17. 267
    john byatt says:

    Comedy in Australia
    I love this Pickering cartoon, I’d tell em the same thing, my unprinted comment was, “the only thing missing is the thrown away sceptic papers in the bin…. Here are a few that Pickering can use,

    “leprechauns cause global warming”
    “Ice age coming Dec 2011”
    “Plants on Venus growing with extra CO2 and loving it”

  18. 268
    David B. Benson says:

    Tonight there was quite a post-sunset show to the south of west. The horizon was red, above that orange and then yellow. Looking carefully I could just pick out the green band before the upper sky became blue, tending to midnight blue (as the solor is called). It wasn’t an extended rainbow but in its own way even more spectacular.

  19. 269
    Hank Roberts says:

    “One of the reasons CO2 fertilization may have accelerated plant growth in parts of Europe and North America over the past few decades may be the fact that we’ve inadvertently been fertilizing the plants with nitrogen, as well as CO2. We’ll actually be talking about this in GEOB400 in a couple weeks. For the 6.7 billion or so of you who were unable to register this semester – yes, yes, the class is too small, I hear that all the time – I wrote about this on Maribo a few years ago, in a cross-post with Eli and Tamino ….”

  20. 270
    Paul S says:

    Hunt Janin – Can anyone give me the date and details of the first scientific study of sea level rise?

    Your best port of call for that kind of information is probably the IPCC First Assessment Report:

    Looks like there were a couple of studies which identified long-term sea level rise in the 1940s, possibly prompted by Callendar’s work(?).

  21. 271
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    Colombus and the LIA?
    Faust, Franz X., Cristóbal Gnecco, Hermann Mannstein, Jörg Stamm, 2006: Evidence for the Postconquest Demographic Collapse of the Americas in Historical CO2 Levels. Earth Interact., 10, 1–14.
    doi: 10.1175/EI157.1 – online at

    Don’t forget the Amazon region.

  22. 272
    Hunt Janin says:

    Can anyone give me a definitive statement on the relationship between sea level rise and storm surges?

    I think I understand this relationship in general terms but want to be belt-and-braces sure before I go into print.

  23. 273
    JCH says:

    Hunt Janin – at Climate Etc. Fred Moolten had series of comments about SLR and storm surges. Can’t say they were enthusiastically received, but they made sense to me.

  24. 274
    David B. Benson says:

    From several papers I won’t attempt to provide links to here one learns that over the satellite era:
    (1) global precipitation has remain constant;
    (2) mid and high latitude precipitation has increased, globally;
    (3) semi-tropical and tropical precipitation has (therefore) decreased globally.

    I find point (3), especially the tropical precipitation decrease, averaged over the entire globe, difficult to understand. I’m not doubting the results of the observations, just not comprehending it. Takers?

  25. 275
  26. 276
    Hank Roberts says:

    “… At this point, we don’t know if the Great Filter is in front or behind us. []. The basic idea of the Great Filter is that the easiest explanation of the Fermi Paradox is that there’s some set of events that make life unlikely to reach the interstellar level. That could be behind us, if for example life arising is unlikely or multicellular life arising is unlikely. But at least some filtration has to be in front of us….”

    Hat tip for the observation to Joshua Z. at Slashdot, in

  27. 277
    ldavidcooke says:

    RE: 276

    Hey Hank,

    The Hanson “Filter” description would appear to have multiple holes. We have been given to find several non-organic sources for amino acids that could under specific ionic influences, form RNA bundles. By the same token there is no evidence so far to suggest that the amino acids found in stellar material may not have been organic initally. So to say that one observation is exclusive of alternate explanations is simply silly.

    As to the premise that for a given set of varibles that there are unknown gating factors should be obvious. The real work requires observation, such that for a given collection of baryonic particles the local conditions may result in a predictable fashion. It is when mankind first specifies the process and then observes the real world, knowledge becomes someone’s pipedream.

    Life as has been found on this planet is not a pipedream. However, it is predicated on several hard and fast rules. Who is to say that what we currently see could not have been built from a former experiment, destroyed in a previous Nova.

    It is likely in the 4.8Gy since the Pre-Sol Nova, some portion of the RNA bearing matetial would have journeyed sufficiently to have populated a similar life form elsewhere.

    This would suggest if conditions are ripe for life to arise here then it should also arise in a nearby locality. If not, then it would suggest that the local conditions are truely unique.

    If local conditions are unique and we have not identified them, it suggests we have much more work to do to discover what makes the local conditions different. We are now searching for water and are contemplating changing over to liquids. It is more likely that a combination of temperature and radiating energy intensity will be the gating element. (Elsewise, why not look to magma for a life form.)

    Given this, life as we contemplate it is tenious at best. Yet, life abounds on this planet without regard for the gating factors we currently apply when searching for life in the cosmos.

    In the end life here will be consumed in the photosphere of a dying star. The local conditions will have been consumed as fuel and the remains expelled from the vacinity at a very rapid rate. As we currently exist in a hydrogen sparse part of the Galaxy the chance of renewal of local life is small. The “Great Filter” is likely the same for us as it is for our Galaxy and eventually the Universe. If not entropy, then accelleration to beyond baryonic matter physics rules.

    My question to you is, “What does the introduction of the “Great Filter” have to do with unforced variations”?

    Dave Cooke

  28. 278

    #276–Dave, surely it’s obvious? Disastrous ecological mismanagement has been proposed as a filter mechanism more than once. In that case the filtering would certainly be in front of us. (And note that extinction is not logically necessary to achieve “filtering,” since humans could potentially survive for a very long time even if a technologically advanced civilization failed to do the same. If we aren’t ‘visible’ at interstellar distances, we don’t count vis a vis the Fermi paradox.)

    On a cheerier subject (to me, especially), a milestone: I just noticed that my summary review of Dr. Archer’s The Long Thaw has now passed its thousandth page view. One slightly muted cheer, and many thanks to RC readers who helped make that happen. . .

  29. 279
    ldavidcooke says:


    Hey Kevin,

    In context, life not civilization or social colonys…

    As to ecological filtering, even bacterium are limited by their waste products. It is the diversification/population vs predidation and local conditions (resources and waste disposal) which acts as the filter in the case of ecological concerns. (If you advance to discussing technical human societies, the rules remain the same, just the name of the category changes.)

    Dave Cooke

  30. 280
    Meow says:

    @276: On the Fermi Paradox, I’m most convinced by two arguments. The first posits that most civilizations that develop technology that’s radio-visible over many light-years use it for only brief periods, until they devise something better — like fiber-optic cables. The second posits that only beings capable of a rare, fine balance between cooperation and competition can collaborate well enough to develop radio-visible technology. Given how we’re approaching AGW, I’d argue that humans are close to the too-competitive edge of the balance.

    CAPTCHA: detelevi Warner

  31. 281
    mike says:

    [Editorial Comment by Mike Mann: Physicist Mark Boslough compares recent Einstein vindication with repeated vindication of climate science: “Some scientific principles are so powerful that contradictory data become suspect. On closer inspection, the data turn out to be wrong. Einstein’s relativity and human-caused global warming–which requires energy to be conserved–have that aspect in common. Observations of faster-than-light neutrinos turn out to be just as wrong as satellite measurements of a cooling Earth. In both cases the scientists who collected the data made a mistake.”]

  32. 282
    wili says:

    I would be interested in anyone’s insights into a (maybe) hypothetical situation:

    According to Shakhova (March 2011), the methane coming from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf is about 8 million tons. For the purposes of simplicity I will round this up to 10 megatons. If we multiply this by the 105 times global warming potential of methane (Schindell 2006), we get about one gigaton of gwp from this source per year (compared to about 30 gigatons of CO2 from all direct human activity).

    Reports earlier this year was that there was a ‘dramatic increase’ in methane release from the Arctic which prompted an sudden mission by US and Russian researchers to investigate put together ‘on short notice.’

    My question is, if ‘dramatic’ here ends up being an increase of an order of magnitude, how long would it take for this forcing to significantly affect temperatures, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere?

    The answer involves at least two considerations that I can identify:

    How fast would the methane mix into the broader atmosphere?

    How long would it take for the heat to build up that would be held in the troposphere by this new quantity?

    (I suppose that whether this is a one-time emission or a new and increasing level of regular annual emissions from the Arctic would also have an effect on the answer.)

    Thanks ahead of time for any insights or speculation.

  33. 283
    Hugh Laue says:

    Congratulations Gavin on your AGU prize. Your scientific integrity is inspirational.

  34. 284
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    Mike, I agree in principle but did you give the wrong link? I can’t find the quote.

    By the way general relativity (now with dark matter) also won another round:

    “Proof is in the cosmos: General relativity confirmed (again)
    New findings come from study of light from distant galaxies”

  35. 285

    #268 David, reads like clean air… Did you see the dark streaks just above the horizon?

    Does anyone know when we will get ice charts up and running. AMSR-E chose a bad time to break down, there is some hugely interesting flushing going about.

  36. 286
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Mike #281, the relativistic effect described is called the “Sagnac Effect”. As it is used in the laser gyros that are part of inertial navigation equipment, as a geodesist I should have thought of this myself. It is also a well-known correction in GPS positioning. Damn, there goes my chance of fame ;-)

    One article

  37. 287
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    Gavin @ Kate
    is so nice. But Gavin, where do you get those temperatures? (compared to other projections of transient sensitivity mentioned recently)?

    Gavin: Well, we don’t have a perfect crystal ball for exactly what “business-as-usual” means, but the kind of projections that people have been looking at – which involve quite high increases in population and minimal changes in technology – you are talking about global temperature changes, by about 2070, of somewhere between two, three, five degrees Celsius, depending a little bit on the scenario, and a little bit on how sensitive the climate actually is.

    – Pete Dunkelberg

  38. 288
    MapleLeaf says:

    I suppose that someone has to waste time debunking this latest nonsense:

    High (uncritical) praise received from, surprise surprise Ross McKitrick and Bob Carter.

  39. 289
    David B. Benson says:

    wayne davidson @285 — The horizon locally is a hilly area a few kilometers to the west and south. The effect wasn’t due to clean air; I know what a properly clean post-sunset should look like. The reddish lower down is due to the aerosols generated in the Willamette Valley. The more yellow-tan might actually be aerosols in the stratosphere; I’ve never seen the green before.

    I don’t recall dark streaks that time but when present I attribute those to clouds between me and the post-sunset.

  40. 290
    Dave says:

    WUWT have their lead article featuring Anthony Watts attempting to reproduce an experiment In Al Gore’s Climate 101 video. Based upon Watt’s article and video, it appears that it is unlikely that the original experiment in the Climate 101 video was genuine.

    Obviously, this neither proves nor disproves anything – other than the very simple experiment “that can be reproduced in any High School Physics Department” will probably not show what the original video purports to show.

  41. 291
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Not sure what the WTF post is meant to show. I’m not sure I’d trust Tony Watts to trim his own nose hair without giving himself a lobotomy.

  42. 292
    Dave says:

    #291 Ray

    … For what it is worth, I predict that the “story” will find its way into the MSM (probably via Fox) with the angle being that this is more junk science promoted by Al Gore and that it is riddled with “untruths and misrepresentations”. This will then lead to others to question why demonstrably “fake” experiments are used as “propoganda” in this way.

    This will then have fall out elsewhere in the MSM and learned people will end up trying to explain to lay people why the theory is correct – but the experiment shown in the video is flawed, wrong, or whaever else you want to say about it. At some point in the not too distant future you will find yourselves discussing it.

    …. All of which could have been avoided if someone did their job properly, actually did the experiement properly, checked the results properly and proved their work before they committed it to being published and distributed.

  43. 293
    J Bowers says:

    Re, 290 Dave.

    Linda’s first CO2 experiment

    Watts is Gore-bashing and using Gore as a proxy for his adulators to bash climate science. That’s all.

  44. 294
    Richard Bird says:

    Hi. I asked this question a while ago but I didnt get a clear answer. Sorry I can’t find the original post.

    Q1: Are there any known climate models which can fully simulate using natural forcings alone the reconstructed temperature variations of approx +/- 0.5 deg C either side of the historic average, which are generally agreed to have occurred over the last 1100 years?

    And a new Q2:

    Q2: What would be a reasonable estimate for the reduction in incident solar irradiation on 1 sq m. of earth surface due to dense low level cloud cover, relative to a clear sky condition, either in W/sm or as a percentage of the clear sky irradiation. Assuming: a median date at an equinox, a median time of day say noon +/- 2 hours, a median latitude such as 45 deg North.

    Thanks in advance for any responses.

  45. 295
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    Dave, when I mentioned that mess weeks back I was pointed to this:

    As for Watts, if you read all the way to the end Watts admits that CO2 absorbs infrared and gets hot and that this is well known and even that slight traces of CO2 are routinely sensed to regulate room ventilation. In short, the demonstration that CO2 absorbs infrared can not be a fraud. it is simply true.

    There are complete online Chemistry courses (part of “virtual school”) with arrangements to use a high school lab for some experiments.
    Now suppose that you video tapped a basic demonstration A + B Yields C.
    Later you notice that the first part, dissolving A in beaker 1, does not show up very well. Maybe there was reflection off the side of the beaker that you didn’t notice at first.
    So the next day you do that part over. All your beakers were properly washed and put away.
    But you use the beaker that had been first used for B, and it has a scratch. In addition there is now a small spot on your lab coat that was not there before.

    Now along comes some genius like Watts who decides he is a Video Detective and goes all picky on you and screams FRAUD!

    He is automatically wrong. A + B does indeed yield C, and you are simply demonstrating to the class how to set it up. Your video technique is beside the point.

    And in the original case here, Watts knows that CO2 + infrared yields heat. You know it too. Hence, whether Gore is personally handy with the equipment is beside the point.

    This is yet another demonstration of why no one in the reality oriented community pays attention to Watts.

  46. 296
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    What is the Walker circulation doing? Is it getting weaker or stronger? Or just moving laterally? This from Nature
    h/t Romm

    “While there appear to be many factors that govern interannual variability in east African long-rains precipitation, convective activity during [the March to June season] has steadily declined in eastern Africa for the past 30 years as the convective branch of the Walker circulation has become more active over the Indian Ocean,” the paper states.

    The authors say the IPCC report got it wrong because of the many unknowns that govern rainfall. Long rains have many inputs that are not well understood.

    Conventional modeling suggests that the tropical Walker circulation will become weaker due to climate change, resulting in more rainfall in eastern Africa. In the IPCC report, 18 out of 21 models predicted greater precipitation in the region. But recent studies, including this one, argue for a strengthening of the Walker circulation. This study uses observational data to show that the Walker circulation has extended westward, which makes precipitation more likely over the Indian Ocean and droughts the norm in eastern Africa.

  47. 297
    Septic Matthew says:

    281, mike

    Any sensible person would demure and say something like “I appreciate the support, but really you shouldn’t be comparing me to Einstein. Current climate science is anyway not nearly so precise as relatively theory.”

  48. 298
    ldavidcooke says:

    Re: 297

    Hey Matthew,

    The question is in the limitations of Einsteinian physics, as it improved on the work of Newton… (IE: Post event-horizon, or “dark energy” in the absence of sufficient “dark matter”.)

    As to Climate Science it remains to be seen, IMHO. Have you seen much wrt photo-chemistry or work, (IE: Conversion of Energy); yet…?

    As wrt Dr. Mann’s comment, no doubt! The science is still young, the foundations are well laid, next is the attempt to raise the roof, (and I hope an attempt to leave out the walls).

    Dave Cooke

  49. 299
    Maya says:

    Not exactly world-shattering news, at least to folks here. I am amused that WTF is already on the attack.

  50. 300
    Septic Matthew says:

    2011 most transformative biofuel technology:

    It facilitates production of fuel from non-food sources and produces water as a by product.