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Unforced Variations: February 2012

Filed under: — group @ 1 February 2012

This month’s open thread. Current topics are focused on the laughingly bad Daily Mail article by David Rose, the fallout from the Wall Street Journal’s latest regurgitation of why no-one should ever do anything ever. And perhaps someone might want to audit some of David Whitehouse’s arithmetic and reading comprehension…

Or anything else. Within reason.

399 Responses to “Unforced Variations: February 2012”

  1. 201
    Anonymous Coward says:

    Yes but you wrote “increasing” or “decreasing”, not “is not equal”.
    If you retreat to “is not equal”, your argument above doesn’t work. If the cause of the disequilibrium isn’t recent, you don’t need a recent cause for recent changes.

    James’ conjecture becomes obviously untenable only if you can show there is a recent acceleration of the warming. And that’s precisely what Dan H is spreading doubt about (“The overall trend has not changed significantly over the past two centuries”).
    You need a somewhat more sophisticated argument explaining how warming would slow down after a while in response to a stable forcing to convince people who have some doubts about the recent acceleration. As it happens, there’s a forcing which has grown throughtout the 20th century.

  2. 202
    Bob Loblaw says:


    Can’t you find out the results of that experiment by taking a look over at WUWT? Why speculate when empirical evidence is available?

    Anonymous Coward @ 199, 201

    I read Ray’s statement as “energy in must be increasing [above equilibrium value] or energy out must be decreasing [below equilibrium value]”, which implies “not equal”.

  3. 203
    jyyh says:

    a sociological experiment goin on at Amazon though most here likely know this already. my ‘review’ available by clicking the handle. but really there are some better at amazon

  4. 204
    Meow says:

    @189 (James):

    It seems logical to me (although this may be a big mistake) that the earth would actually have an equilibrium point that the average temperature would hold at, or return to, – if volcanoes and asteroid stikes didn’t occur and man was not affecting the atmosphere (and that changes in the sun was not affecting temps)- and subject to anolomolies caused by weather sytems around the world in any year.

    Earth, as any other bulk physical body, has no inherent or favored temperature. Earth’s average surface temperature (which is just a measure of its surface’s energy content) is a function of the difference between the amount of energy arriving at the surface and the amount leaving the surface, in combination with the surface’s heat capacity and any phase changes driven by energy gain or loss [1]. A good way to understand this is to read Gavin’s post “Learning from a simple model”, which derives the surface temperature of a hypothetical planet using a very simple energy-balance model.

    Historically earth’s average surface temperature has changed relatively slowly because its heat capacity is high (it takes lots of energy to change its temperature) and because the difference between energy in and energy out has usually (though not always) been small. The latter is not so anymore, due to our CO2 emissions.

    If there is no “equilibrium point” then the alternative is that momentum takes things to a tipping point one way or t’other over time and man’s efforts to affect this would probably be in vain.

    No. There is no such thing as temperature “momentum”. A body that is warming continues to warm only so long as the energy arriving at it exceeds the energy leaving it. The instant energy in = energy out, the body ceases to warm. And the instant energy out exceeds energy in, the body begins to cool. This is the 1st Law of Thermodynamics: conservation of energy.

    [1] For example, adding energy to ice that has just reached the melting point causes it to melt (phase change) without changing its temperature.

  5. 205
    Hunt Janin says:

    Re #195 above, re sea level rise:

    What might cause a shelf collapse?

  6. 206
    James says:

    Ray 193 and 194

    Ray, you can’t stop yourself can you!

    In #193 you are all patient and even apologetic. You hit “say it” and then feel the overwhelming urge to then write #194 – and go an spoil it all!

    With respect to the matter at hand, as far as I can see, the other contributers “get” the point I was clumsily trying to make – but also say that there isn’t actually any disequilibrium that the planet is recovering from – therefore any temp’ increases are not “natural”.

  7. 207
    Daniel C Goodwin says:

    It has been more than three months since we heard that a big piece of the Pine Island Glacier was starting to break off. Have there been any more recent observations of what’s going on down there?

  8. 208
    Anonymous Coward says:

    #202 Bob
    I also read Ray’s statement that way. It implies “not equal” but the reverse is not true.
    “I killed my wife” does not mean the the same thing as “my wife is dead” even though one of the statements implies the other.

  9. 209
    Ray Ladbury says:

    AC, I see the problem–an incomplete edit. It should have read that if the temperature is changing, then energy in and energy out must not be equal. Sorry for the confusion.

  10. 210


    “. . . but also say that there isn’t actually any disequilibrium that the planet is recovering from – therefore any temp’ increases are not “natural”.”

    Close! No, there is no ‘default’–but there can be a ‘disequilibrium.’ (In fact, it is calculated that there is disequilibrium right now of .5-1 Watts per square meter, caused by greenhouse gases and in turn causing the warming observed today.)

    The logical difference is that the first implies some automatic, internal mechanism which acts to maintain a set temperature–rather as mammalian physiology maintains a more-or-less constant body temperature, for instance. There is something a bit like this, since a warmer object radiates more effectively than a cooler one, according to the Stefan-Boltzmann law. Thus, if the Earth warms up due to an increase in the intensity of solar radiation say, it will radiate more, increasing the outgoing energy until it matches the incoming energy once again. So this radiational ‘matching’ is automatic–but note that the temperature changes! The Earth will keep radiating more than previously for as long as the solar radiation stays high–and it will continue to be warmer.

    A familiar physical model for this is the electric stove element–when you turn on a stove burner, electricity passes through the element and is dissipated as heat. The control setting regulates how much power is being dissipated by the element–that is, how much energy is coming in to it. At some point, the element will be heated up to a point where its increased radiational efficacy means that it is radiating heat away as fast as the electricity is bringing energy in, and then it will not heat further. Note also that the greater the energy in proportion to the mass of the element, the more rapid the temperature change will be–thus, if you set the control on its lowest setting, it will take a very long time for the element to warm up.

    That’s why some of the previous comments stressed that the changes in forcing have been small relative to the thermal capacity of the Earth–that means that Earth’s temperatures will tend to change relatively slowly. And it’s important to note, because the period where the stove element (or the Earth) is still warming up is a period of disequilibrium. The two “take away” points, IMO, are these:

    1) Radiative equilibrium is “automatic,” but not instantaneous, and
    2) Does not imply a fixed or stable surface temperature, because it is driven by energy input and output, not an internal ‘thermostat.’

    Speaking of energy out, and returning for a moment to the analogy of the human body, greenhouse gases act rather like clothing in that they slow the rate of cooling. (They don’t act identically of course, as only a part of the heat loss from the body is radiational, while essentially all of the energy leaving the Earth does so as radiation.) It is this effect which has created the disequilibrium I mentioned in my first paragraph.

    The question of ‘natural’ versus ‘not natural’ causes is separate. As we just saw, if solar radiation were to increase, it will create a ‘natural’ disequilibrium. But as mentioned, human-released greenhouse gases have created a disequilibrium that is ‘not natural.’

    The recovery from the last glaciation is not just a return to equilibrium. There is no reason to think that an Ice Age is less ‘normal’, or less stable, than current conditions. In fact, one of the conundrums about the so-called “Snowball Earth” episodes that are believed to have occurred in the deep past is, given the chilling effects of albedo change under snowball conditions, how can the “Snowball Earth” ever become destabilized and warm up again, as we know (thankfully!) that it did.

    It’s currently believed that the last glaciation ended due to ‘energy in’–orbital changes altered the patterns of sunlight coming in, as they periodically do, and this small change was amplified by various feedbacks (including especially CO2 and water vapor) which caused further warming. Specific physical process affecting the energy budget–energy in and energy out–were acting during the whole process.

    And as noted earlier, the warmest point of the Holocene (barring perhaps the last couple of decades) had been the Holocene Climate Optimum of 5-9 thousand years ago.

  11. 211
    MARodger says:

    Dr Nick Bone @195
    I have to say I was still not entirely happy with that Blanchon quote (in the article referenced @168) & was reluctant to put it down to poor journalism. Then I came across this press release
    which is dreadfully written & the quoted 80 billion tons of Greenland-Antarctic annual melt is surely 380 billion – which would fit with the 1.06mm/yr quoted here
    That persuaded me. So I am now minded to shoot the messenger!

    My take on what all this is saying is that with present ice caps a sustained rate of 16mm pa for a couple of deg C rise in temperature is likely (not miles different from IPCC AR4) but events of greater increase from a big collapsing ice sheet or juxtaposed glaciers could add a couple more metres at a far higher rate.
    This brings me back to which ice sheet/glaciers thay might be and note the comment in the second last paragraph of this 2008 SA article by Biello
    “Pfeffer notes that the Laurentide and other ice sheets that disappeared in the past had an easier path to the sea than the glaciers in Greenland or Antarctica. ” Mind, there are parts of West Antarctic that some mention as having “an easier path.”

  12. 212
    JimCA says:

    I have a simple(?) question about global averages.

    Given that water has a higher heat capacity than land, is it reasonable to average temperatures for them equally?

    Or should each km^2 of ocean be given a higher weighting than a comparable land area?

    I’m mainly curious to know if this is even an issue that has been considered.

    [Response: The global averages from the models are for the surface air temperature anomaly sampled the same way everywhere. The data indices are estimates of that same quantity, so there isn’t really a problem. If you want to use the temperature index to say something about anomalous heat content, then the issues you raise would be relevant. People who have looked at heat content (i.e. Levitus et al, 2000 etc.) do the calculations very differently over ocean and land and atmosphere for precisely this reason, and there is no one-to-one correspondence between the two measures. – gavin]

  13. 213
    Anonymous Coward says:

    #210 Kevin
    I don’t know what’s the current thinking about the snowball climate but what you wrote about a CO2 feedback doesn’t make sense to me (unlike the H2O feedback).
    CO2 is going to accumulate to a high level in a snowball due to volcanism, right? You aren’t going to get a strong CO2 feedback is you start with a high CO2 level. And if the oceans were (almost) completely covered by ice, I’d even expect a negative CO2 feedback as warming would then cause CO2 to be dissolved in the oceans.

  14. 214
    dbostrom says:

    Despite most other outlets focusing on the titillating and sensational Himalayas, the UK’s Independent chooses to lead with “the rest of the story” (apologies to Paul Harvey):

    Billions of tons of water lost from world’s glaciers, satellite reveals

    “The total volume of water that has melted from all of the world’s polar ice sheets, ice caps and mountain glaciers over the past decade would repeatedly fill Britain’s largest lake, Windemere, more than 13,000 times, according to one of the most comprehensive studies of the Earth’s frozen “cryosphere”.

    The GRACE satellite experiment, however, covered the entire globe and found that all the world’s glaciers and ice caps combined, apart for those in Greenland and Antarctica, had lost about 148 billion tonnes of ice, or about 39 cubic miles, annually between 2003 and 2010. The individual glaciers on the fringes of Greenland and Antarctic contributed an additional 80 billion tons over the same period, the study published in Nature found.

  15. 215
    David Lewis says:

    Re: #35 Icarus62

    Gavin Schmidt and David Archer co-authored Too much of a bad thing in Nature 30 April 2009 which discussed different ways of viewing a climate solution such as limiting the total CO2 emitted, keeping CO2 below a certain ppm, limiting planetary temperature rise to a certain amount, or reducing emissions by a percentage over time. Their article refers to Meinshausen who Schmidt and Archer say find “that the maximum temperature that Earth will experience to the year 2100 depends most reliably on the total amount of CO2 emitted to the year 2050 rather than on the final stabilized CO2 concentration.” Schmidt and Archer also cite Myles Allen Warming caused by cumulative carbon emissions towards the trillionth tonne saying Allen”agree with Meinshausen that it’s the total slug of carbon that matters most”.

    A vigorous proponent of the view that what matters is the total tonnage of CO2 emitted is the UK Tyndall Centre’s Dr. Kevin Anderson. He believes confusion and fuzzy thinking often results when people view the climate solution in terms such as 85% less emissions by 2050 because quite different amounts of CO2 could end up in the atmosphere depending on when that 85% was achieved. He also argues that people tend to look at a solution that involves achieving a given percentage emission reduction target by some far off date as something that can be met even if nothing is done now by taking action later when in fact, he asserts, if nothing is done now the possibility of achieving the desired result disappears. He believes it is easier to understand that the crisis intensifies with each passing year if the concept that there is only so much CO2 that can be allowed into the atmosphere is accepted.

    Anderson’s latest paper is Beyond ‘dangerous’ climate change: emission scenarios for a new world He gave a talk at the London School of Economics recently which is available on audio here. One of his presentations that includes slides is here.

  16. 216
  17. 217
    Hank Roberts says:

    For Wili, about the AIRS images

    That’s not data. These pictures have been reposted quite often lately at many sites by several different userids, always with “Is this scary yet?” kinds of comments but without data.

    So I asked.

    I used the contact link at one of the AIRS websites.
    They invite questions. You can do this yourself.

    This is their reply, in full:

    —————- begin quote ———–

    Color bars are very nonlinear, and the eye can be easily fooled. The comment you quote is reading too much into that image.

    That commenter should also view this image of the trend over the
    Arctic cap:

    The early monitoring of CH4 had shown a small trend upward that
    stopped around 2000, for no known reason. Then the trend may have
    begun again around 2008. Looking at the trend plot, there is a very
    small increase since 2008. The variability is larger by a factor of
    five, and there was a large excursion in mid-2011 that reached the
    level last seen in mid-2003.

    ————— end quote ——–

  18. 218
    wili says:

    Thanks for the graph, Hank. I believe the pause in the upward trend in atmospheric methane was global, not just over the Arctic.

    The maps I posted show, to my eye, a ~30 ppb increase in just one year over parts of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf and the southern border of the tundra, exactly where some are concerned that positive carbon feedback may have started.

    Perhaps this is an oddity that will soon disappear, so we should not be concerned. Or it could be the beginning of something that could balloon into a major new contribution to GW, one that is essentially outside of our control to directly affect. I’m hoping for the former. It is a bit like finding a new lump on your body. It’s very small and may be benign. But it could be the beginning of something ominous.

    Can we agree that it is at least worth watching?

  19. 219
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Can we agree that it is at least worth watching?

    Nobody’s suggested stopping doing the science.
    I’m suggesting understanding it is better than worrying a lot in public.

    How much change are you worrying about?
    30 parts out of 1800.
    Look at the variability in the measurements.
    Find out whether there’s a detectable trend.
    Robert Grumbine explains how. You know his site.

    Or, ask the scientists whose imagery you’re interpreting.
    Go to the source page at the site where you got the images.
    You know how to find the home page?

    Look for the contact or question link you’ll find there.

    If they tell you you’re reading too much into that image,
    will you believe them?

    Of course there’s plenty to worry about. But the gas companies wanting to drill for methane are hyping “geo-engineering” to get at that gas by pretending it’s boiling out. It ain’t. It can be left alone safely for now.

    Make it unnecessary to go after it by reducing fossil fuel use so clathrates doh’t become a worse problem than our current very bad problems.

    Focus on the real big urgent problem — reducing fossil fuel use.

    The gas companies want an excuse for drilling into the methane reservoirs to burn the stuff profitably.

  20. 220
    Hank Roberts says:

    PS for Wili, did you actually read what I quoted?

    Here it is again:
    “view this image of the trend over the
    Arctic cap:

    You said,

    “I believe the pause in the upward trend in atmospheric methane was global, not just over the Arctic.”

    They refer you to the “trend over the Arctic cap” in that image.

  21. 221
    Hank Roberts says:

    PPS, as this blogger says, “the concept is simple”

  22. 222
    wili says:

    Wow, three posts just to me. What an honor.

    “But the gas companies wanting to drill for methane are hyping “geo-engineering” to get at that gas by pretending it’s boiling out.”

    For the record, I am deeply opposed to any kind of geo-engineering, I despise ff companies, and I work diligently at every level I can to reduce fossil fuel use (self, family, neighborhood, work, city, state, country, world–besides the first two, I am in committees and organizations working on all those levels).

    But I became concerned about GW because I have an odd desire to know what the greatest threats facing us our. A desire to know exactly what is going on in the Arctic re. methane is part of that drive for understanding. I’m sorry if you don’t like my pursuing this knowledge on this forum. Unfortunately for you, you do not get to determine what people do and do not post on here. Thanks for the suggestions for places to seek for clarity, but, really, you seem to imply that no one should post anything here who hasn’t already exhausted every other line of inquiry first. I believe that would make this a very quiet site.

    For the other posts: I’m not sure what the problem is that you are addressing in 220. A misunderstanding? Thanks, anyway, for the link at 221.

  23. 223
    Hank Roberts says:

    > you seem to imply ….

    You misread my words.

    You post pictures.
    You say you’re worried.
    You see a 30ppm change.

    You can ask the scientists whose pictures you post.

    I did and I quoted their reply above.

    You can do this.
    That’s what I’m trying to tell you.

    You don’t need to just keep reposting how worried you are.
    You can understand what part 30 is out of 1800.
    You can understand how variability affects detecting a trend.

    Scary pictures? We got scary pictures, plenty of them.
    Like this:
    But link to the place you found the picture
    like this:

    But what do those mean and which is the biggest worry? That takes thinking.
    Help people understand.

    Do some of the work — point to the source, think about what it means, ask the people who put the image there what it means.

  24. 224
    Hank Roberts says:

    er, you said, correctly, “30 ppb” (not “ppm”, my typo) for methane, sorry.

  25. 225
    wili says:

    Thank for the links, again. We are going in circles a bit, so probably time to quit. But let me just say that I certainly hope that the unprecedented (as far as I can see) jump of 30 ppb in one year ends up to be an insignificant bump on a bumpy graph and not the beginning of something more ominous.

    I happen to think that it is legitimate and responsible to point out and ask questions about relevant data as it comes in. Isn’t that what a site like this is for?

    I would be interested to know if you will be more concerned if these elevated rates at these levels and higher continue to increase over the next several months, even after the sunlight that should convert some of it into CO2 has arrived. If not, how many years of the same would cause it to rise to the level of great concern to you?

    Again, the main thing we all have to do is reduce our own use of ff and do what we can on every organizational level to get others to do the same. I am already doing this. But I do want to know what is coming at me around the corner, if possible.

    Anyway, thanks for your time. (I will probably be too busy over the next few days to post much, but I’ll eventually get back to check for any responses.)

  26. 226
    Hank Roberts says:

    > the unprecedented (as far as I can see) jump of 30 ppb in one year

    But, Wili, the people who collect the data said look at this chart:

    “there is a very small increase since 2008. The variability is larger by a factor of five …”

    Can’t you see there’s more than 30ppb ups and downs going back years?

    Seriously, how can’t you see this change in the chart?
    Won’t you ask UMBC yourself? I’m not asking you to believe me.
    But I’m asking you to quit repeating your fear without checking for yourself.

    “Who are you going to believe, the data or your own lying eyes?”

    Your call.

    What would convince you?

    Would you believe the scientists who collect the data and make the picture you find scary when they tell you you’re wrong.


    I (sigh) just don’t get it.

  27. 227
    wili says:

    Those large swings are all changes within a single year.

    Of course, when the sun hits up there, lots of methane gets converted to CO2 all of a sudden, so levels drop rapidly in the spring.

    The only thing that is valid to compare is the change from a month in one year to the same month in the next.

    That is the comparison that I don’t see a precedent for 30+ ppb changes happening in the past. (I will withhold a condescending sigh.)

    Again, we seem to be talking past each other at this point, and I have a big backlog of work to do, so I will you wish you and everyone else a happy Valentines Day and be off.

  28. 228
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    New Carbon cycle paper:
    Brovkin_Ganopolski_Archer_Munhoven_2012_Glacial CO2 cycle as a succession of key physical and biogeochemical processes.pdf

    Abstract. During glacial-interglacial cycles, atmospheric
    CO2 concentration varied by about 100 ppmv in amplitude.
    While testing mechanisms that have led to the low glacial
    CO2 level could be done in equilibrium model experiments,
    an ultimate goal is to explain CO2 changes in transient simulations
    through the complete glacial-interglacial cycle. The
    computationally efficient Earth System model of intermediate
    complexity CLIMBER-2 is used to simulate global biogeochemistry
    over the last glacial cycle (126 kyr). The physical
    core of the model (atmosphere, ocean, land and ice
    sheets) is driven by orbital changes and reconstructed radiative
    forcing from greenhouses gases, ice, and aeolian dust.
    The carbon cycle model is able to reproduce the main features
    of the CO2 changes: a 50 ppmv CO2 drop during glacial
    inception, a minimum concentration at the last glacial maximum
    80 ppmv lower than the Holocene value, and an abrupt
    60 ppmv CO2 rise during the deglaciation. The model deep
    ocean 13C also resembles reconstructions from deep-sea
    cores. The main drivers of atmospheric CO2 evolve in time:
    changes in sea surface temperatures and in the volume of bottom
    water of southern origin control atmospheric CO2 during
    the glacial inception and deglaciation; changes in carbonate
    chemistry and marine biology are dominant during the first
    and second parts of the glacial cycle, respectively. These
    feedback mechanisms could also significantly impact the ultimate
    climate response to the anthropogenic perturbation.

  29. 229
    Jack says:

    I wonder if the seals around Antarctica have confirmed the data collected by the Argo Floats, if there are any floats off Antarctica. In any event, here’s the study:

  30. 230
    Hank Roberts says:

    wili says:
    > Those large swings are all changes within a single year.

    So how can you believe 30ppb at one site is unprecedented, when the chart shows the Arctic average goes up and down by more than that amount?

  31. 231
    Leland Palmer says:

    Hi All-

    David Archer says that current worldwide methane hydrate mass is 0.7 to 1.2 trillion tons, along with something like a trillion tons or less of associated free methane.

    This 2011 paper from Science calculates 12 trillion tons of methane being released by the hydrates at the End Triassic mass extinction, looking at the hard scientific evidence of isotope ratios:

    Atmospheric Carbon Injection Linked to End-Triassic Mass Extinction

    Here, we present compound-specific carbon-isotope data of long-chain n-alkanes derived from waxes of land plants, showing a ~8.5 per mil negative excursion, coincident with the extinction interval. These data indicate strong carbon-13 depletion of the end-Triassic atmosphere, within only 10,000 to 20,000 years. The magnitude and rate of this carbon-cycle disruption
    can be explained by the injection of at least ~12 × 10E3 gigatons of isotopically depleted carbon as methane into the atmosphere. Concurrent vegetation changes reflect strong warming and an enhanced hydrological cycle. Hence, end-Triassic events are robustly linked to methane-derived massive carbon release and associated climate change.

    The total worldwide hydrate mass is probably the most important number in science. It will likely distinguish between a survivable methane catastrophe in our future and one that could kill the biosphere. This almost happened during another apparent methane catastrophe, the End Permian- back when the sun was a couple of percent dimmer than it is now.

    So, David’s estimates for total worldwide hydrate mass are roughly a tenth or so of what this paper calculates came out of the hydrates, back at the end of the Triassic.

    It seems unlikely that all of the methane was released, back during the End Triassic. Therefore total hydrate mass back then was a factor of ten or so greater than David’s current estimate for current hydrate mass and associated free methane, if you believe the isotope ratio calculations.

    Other peer reviewed scientific papers have conservatively calculated releases of trillions of tons of methane from the hydrates, during other apparent methane catastrophes such as the End Permian, and the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum.

    Why the discrepancy between David’s estimates of total hydrate mass and the hard scientific evidence of the isotope ratios? Why does David’s estimate of total hydrate mass appear to be a factor of ten low?

    We’re coming out of several ice ages, with low water temperatures, and so increased hydrate stability, and presumably hydrate accumulation.

    Is there some compelling reason why current total hydrate mass is as low as David estimates? Have the fundamental bacteriological and geochemical conditions changed in some way that could explain this?

  32. 232
    Robert says:

    Not sure you’ve seen this but it’s important

    Heartland Institute Exposed

  33. 233
    dbostrom says:

    Robert says:

    Not sure you’ve seen this but it’s important

    Heartland Institute Exposed: Internal Documents Unmask Heart of Climate Denial Machine

    How revolting. Like the saucepan left on the back porch; you know it’s going to be horrible but anticipation is no inoculation against actually seeing the writhing mass of pallid, glistening maggots revealed when the lid comes off.

  34. 234
  35. 235
    Ron R. says:

    Another anecdotal phenological observation. We have a couple of bluebird houses. Actually the bluebirds take one and swallows the other (you have have two houses near each other – ours are on the same pole – or the swallows will harass the bluebirds until they abandon their house to them).

    Last year, according to my calendar, I first observed both birds checking out and squabbling over the houses on March 27th. Today, February 16th, I observed the same thing. That’s 39 days earlier than last year.

    [Response:What’s your approximate location Ron?–Jim]

  36. 236
    Leland Palmer says:

    Hi All-

    David Archer says that current worldwide methane hydrate mass is 0.7 to 1.2 trillion tons, along with something like a trillion tons or less of associated free methane.

    From Down The Rabbit Hole:

    Down the Rabbit Hole- toward appropriate discussion of methane release

    The total mass of carbon stored as CH4 in present-day marine gas hydrates has been estimated numerous times using different approaches as reviewed in several papers (Dickens, 2001b; Milkov, 2004; Archer, 2007). Prior to 2001, several estimates converged on 10 000 Gt, and this “consensus mass” (Kvenvolden, 1993) was often cited in the literature. However, the convergence of estimates was fortuitous because different authors arrived at nearly the same mass but with widely varying assumptions; an appropriate range across the studies was 5000–20 000 Gt (Dickens, 2001b). In the last ten years, estimates have ranged from 500-2500 Gt (Milkov, 2004), ∼700–1200 Gt (Archer et al., 2009), and 4–995 Gt (Burwicz et al., 2011) to 74 400 Gt (Klauda and Sandler, 2005). The latter is almost assuredly too high (Archer, 2007).The others are probably too low.

    Yes, compared to past releases of methane, according to the isotope ratio evidence, the three low estimates in the past ten years do appear low- very low, indeed.

    Shakhova has this to say about the East Siberian Arctic Shelf:

    1A Shakhova Final

    (Click on the small orange icon, not the big green animated one, which is a sponsored link)

    Accumulated methane potential of the ESAS:
    1) C(organic) in permafrost ~500 Gt;
    2) Methane accumulation in hydrate deposits (GHSZ=100m) ~1000 Gt;
    3) Free gas beneath the GHSZ ~700 Gt

    So, Shakhova says there is as much methane in the ESAS as hydrate and free gas as Archer says there is methane hydrate and free gas in the entire world, roughly.

    Shakhova’s presentation is a very alarming one, and really highlights the difference between the ESAS hydrates and the rest of the world hydrates, in terms of purity, shallowness, temperature increase, heat necessary to cause dissociation, and so on.

  37. 237
    Hank Roberts says:

    > anecdotal phenological

    Anecdotal as a sole observation — but the same observation could be of interest to one of the groups collecting that sort of observation. Then it would be phenological (grin).

    Are you in touch with any of them who’d like to know that?

  38. 238
  39. 239
    DP says:

    one query about the latest NASA/GISS temperature figures for January. It seems to show most of the globe significantly hotter than usual but the figure they give is only .36C above normal. In other words the map and the temp figure seem incompatable. Can anybody help?

  40. 240
    Hank Roberts says:

    > the latest

    DP, pointer to what “latest” figure and what map you’re looking at would help.

    Did you read these? There’s a .36 figure in the last one; the only place Google found mention of it is in a Portland blog

    Discussion in there points to the Land/Ocean Temperature Index [LOTI]:

    “… Our analysis concerns only temperature anomalies, not absolute temperature.”

    Global-mean monthly, seasonal, and annual means
    1880-present, updated through most recent month

    “LOTI provides a more realistic representation of the global mean trends … it slightly underestimates warming or cooling trends, since the much larger heat capacity of water compared to air causes a slower and diminished reaction to changes… ”

    Just guessing here.

    If you read what you posted somewhere, what source did you get it from?

  41. 241
    Ron R. says:

    Hi Jim. I’m located just back of the Central Coast of California. Other side of the Santa Lucias. While the coast is moderate it’s distinctly seasonal here.


  42. 242
    jacob l says:

    re to self 150
    I looked over the paper I cited and relating to sulfur aerosols it has nothing, My mistake.
    I remember reading something about aerosols vs G.H.G. a couple years ago but couldn’t find it sorry about and inconvenience

  43. 243
    Ron R. says:

    Evidently I messed up he captcha.

    Hank @ 237. No. My assumption is that they know about it.

  44. 244
    Hank Roberts says:

    The more data points get collected, the easier it is for researchers to in good conscience decide whether or not there’s likely a trend, but that takes a whole lot of reports over time.

  45. 245
    Ron R. says:



    Sorry, no. But you’re close. We’re a little over 100 miles south of there as the crow, or sparrow, flies.

    Hank @ 244. Well I’m no expert but it would seem that if the swallows are already here it would be noticed.

    According to tradition, and news archives, the swallows reach San Juan Capistrano every year on or around March 19th.

    We’re 200 miles north of San Juan.

    On the other hand I read on some sites that there is some flexibility in migration times between February and March. Maybe someone somewhere has kept an actual record of arrival times. Still, seems like a big difference from last year.

    Anyway, here’s an interesting article:

  46. 246
    David B. Benson says:

    Low-Carbon Technologies ‘No Quick-Fix’: May Not Lessen Global Warming Until Late This Century
    so many, including me, opine we should start immediately.

  47. 247
    Martin Vermeer says:

    The documents ‘leaked’ from the Heartland Institute show Microsoft as one of their (small) donors. Some people were surprised by this; I was not.

    Microsoft’s history of moral obtuseness is nearly as venerable as that of coal, oil and tobacco. I remember how many years ago, both Heartland and the Alexis de Tocqueville Institute were writing on how Free Software / Open Source were unamerican, how no meat-eating American could be seen to use marxist software not owned by anyone, with no support, no-one to blame or sue if things go south — you know the drill. No evidence where the cheques came from, but.

    In this case, it appears MS are buying their propaganda from Heartland not on climate or tobacco, but within their own profession: ITTN, Infotech and Telecom News. While this isn’t as consequential — it doesn’t actually kill people (but see Tufte) — don’t expect it to be any more honest.

    I remember an amusing exchange a few years ago during the drafting of an RC post, when Eric Steig gently chided me for mentioning LaTeX in the text — elitistic or something, just the thing scientists would do. Well yes, noblesse oblige — being part of an intellectual elite does create an expectation of moral leadership. And it’s amazing how stuck climatologists (and journals!) are with Microsoft software: on the computing side of things, the UNIX environment is popular, being the best, but then when comes the time to write up and report the results, these otherwise smart folks regress to office automation software. Even while Ubuntu and LaTeX/LyX are nowadays perfectly usable and offer the scientific user an overall more satisfactory experience.

    Should climatologists — and scientists in general — use “enemy software”?


  48. 248
    Andreas says:

    Re #239, DP:

    +.36 K is significantly hotter than the 1951–1980 baseline. Plot with a more recent baseline to compare with recent years. And note that the map projection isn’t equal-area. You can also compare with Reanalysis data and look at the Hovmöller plot (1968–1996 baseline). Global temperatures were very low at the end of January into February; now they are back to the 1980–2010 mean. The La Niña peek is visible now.

  49. 249
    DP says:

    re 240
    having trouble with the link but it was the Nasa/Giss global temperature anomoly graph for January 2012.

  50. 250
    SRJ says:

    Does anyone have references for the newest knowledge about whether the climate system has a positive feedback to CO2? I am particularly interested in empirical observations on this.