Unforced Variations: 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 comments on this post.
  1. Ian:

    Compliments on your inclusion of the comments to the piece in the Daily Mail as although there weren’t many, the majority supported the Mail and not the scientists. It is a moot point whether this shows their abysmal ignorance or is a pointer to increasing scepticism in the wider community but at least this blog unlike many others of similar persuasion does publish adverse comments.

  2. Steve Metzler:

    We note that the latest ‘trick’ of the AGW deniers is to show absolute temps instead of anomalies. And, of course, you must always cherry-pick the great El Niño outlier year of 1998 as your starting point. Leave that single year out, and their whole fragile worldview comes crashing down. But somewhere deep down they must realise that, which makes it all the more disheartening.

  3. Steve Metzler:

    Speaking of which, 2 or 3 years from now, I’m going to bet that the sliding window over which there will have been ‘no significant warming’ will increase from 15 years to 20 years, just so 1998 can still figure in. Am I going to be right?

  4. wili:

    So we have spring in the middle of winter all across the north of the US and much of Canada. Meanwhile, they are having fatally extreme winters in parts of Europe and Japan. What are the immediate drivers of this unusual weather?

    Is there some central clearinghouse of all the extreme and record-breaking weather that seems to be becoming the norm just about everywhere?

  5. Hank Roberts:

    > wili … what ….

    Searched on your question: try

    site:climatecommunication.org immediate+drivers+of+this+unusual+weather?

  6. sidd:

    I repost this from the end of the previous open thread, I hope the moderators will allow:

    –begin included text


    Hansen et al. New Climate dice, Figure 4, exhibit distributions over 60 years of local temperature anomalies scaled by local standard deviation.

    the following URL


    contains precipitation data. I attempt the same analysis as in Fig 4. of Hansen, i attempt to calculate local precipitation anomaly scaled by local standard deviation.


    I get skewed distributions. Is this real or have i erred somewhere ?

    –end included text

    i note that my results are consistent with Medvigy and Beaulieu on Journal of Climate,2011 where they see increase in extreme daily precipitation, and a drop in likelihood of average daily precipitaion. My calculation shows a drop in likelihood of average precipitation as they did, and and increase in likelihood of extreme events, although the data at http://precip.gsfc.nasa.gov are monthly rather than daily.


  7. Former Skeptic:

    Apparently, we’re all wrong about basic statistics. William Briggs claims with absolute certainty that averages are models!

  8. Larry Coleman:

    Trenberth et al’s response (including some RC folks) was spot on. Thanks to all. What I find interesting is the large number of comments by WSJ readers: 370 currently. This is far more than is typical, and in a very short time. You might think that the letter hit a raw nerve among the deniers! Well, they did us a real service by collecting in one place most of the simplistic misconceptions about climate change.

  9. Matthew:

    Never mind the 1998 outlier — David Rose managed to conclude that “the rising trend in world temperatures ended in 1997.” LOL! We can all relax now.

  10. wayne davidson:

    I want to share this moment, when nearly every long range winter 2011-12 forecast outfit if not all were wrong, but I got it mostly right, I, one guy with a couple of telescopes…… not quite’ an avid reader of RC (and some great commenters right here, Hank, Tamino and many others) along with Weather Underground, I credit the guys and galls here along with Dr Masters as true teachers of Climate and Meteorology, what I have learned here was assimilated well enough to be capable to project where others fail, RC’s and WU’s outstanding essays can make anyone a very good forecast amateur. Key to all this is to remember the rabid intolerance to real climate physics such as the co creator of the weather network, and especially some at Accuweather, their zeal to laugh, scoff and discredit AGW is their undoing. Dr Hansen’s and al. great prediction of this current warming period stands along other key discoveries in science , and those who preclude his great body of achievements are prone to fail as they have just done so again. http://eh2r.blogspot.com/

  11. Russell:

    It grieves me to find a real national asset, aerospace icon and America’s Cup defender Burt Rutan among the WSJ signatories , but over at Forbes Pat Michaels & crew have been ballyhooing WUWT and the WSJ piece, adducing the remarkable claim that WUWT doesn’t ban RC commenters.

    To test that hypothesis, as adduced by Pat’s sidekick, Robert E. Phelan

    I posted this test piece on Watts blog :

    ‘Burt Rutan’s views on climate history, notes Wired magazine, reflect his taste in architecture. The aerospace pioneer dwells ‘in a white pyramid on the edge of the [Mojave] desert… I Robert E. Phelan’s side…a floor-to-ceiling mural depicting three large white pyramids glowing against a lush tropical background; toward the front, a strange creature strides across a white veranda. The mural was painted a week ago, and everyone is ogling it.

    Giza plaza, 17,000 years ago,”


    It instantly elicited the following response:

    Russell Seitz says:
    January 31, 2012 at 10:25 pm
    [snip I’m sorry Dr. Seitz, you’ve been banned for abuse of WUWT policy long ago (like shape shifting with multiple email addresses) and you know it, and for continuing to plaster your “weapons grade vitriol” about everything and anyone who happens to post or comment here. If you don’t like Mr. Rutan, please do take it up with him, perhaps you and he can argue about whether aliens wear bow ties.
    In the meantime, please do be as upset as you wish. I’m done with you and your prickly condescending attitude towards people you disagree with.
    Such a fine example for Harvard you set, sir. – Anthony Watts] “>

    Why Watts should style Wired’s quotation from Burt, (whom I’ve known since in the 1988 cup defense), “weapons grade vitriol “ eludes me, but I’m delighted to find that Yosemite Sam continues to be a role model for Sacramento TV weathermen.

  12. Thomas Bleakney:

    What I find most disturbing about the Jan 27 WSJ piece “No Need for Action” is an apparent shift away from denial stage 2 (GW is real but not caused by humans) back to denial stage 1 (GW is not happening). A little of denial stage 3 (GW is real and human caused, but it will be beneficial) is mixed in for good measure.

    Perhaps some deniers are giving up on their claim that the rising the rising CO2 is somehow natural. I guess this is a small amount of progress.

    It is sad that reputable scientists from other fields are sowing so much confusion and doubt among the innocent lay public. In my opinion they are doing a very bad thing with severe consequences for the planet.

  13. Geoff Beacon:

    Underlying assumptions about economics and politics affect much of the discussions on climate change. One is the price that carbon-polluters should pay for emitting a tonne of carbon dioxide. Anybody here want to say where they would set that price to change our lifestyles enough to be able to save the planet?

    My estimate starts here:

    If we were to count the £0.80p tax on liquid transport fuel as a tax on carbon dioxide it would be about £300 per tonne. ( I have made an allowance for the carbon dioxide created in processing crude oil here.)

    This tax is clearly insufficient to suppress enough CO2 from transport so perhaps we should aim higher. I suggest two figures £500 and £1000 per tonne of CO2 as reference. It may also be interesting to contemplate a lower figure, say £200 per tonne, and argue that much of the current tax on transport fuel is to cover externalities such as noise, congestion, ill health and death – and a carbon price should be added on top of those externalities.

    In Cowards in Our Democracies>,James Hansen has a policy initiative which is very interesting

    a gradually rising carbon fee should be collected from fossil fuel companies, with the money distributed uniformly to legal residents. This would stimulate the economy, making it more efficient by putting an honest price on fuels, incorporating their costs to society.

    My preference would be to Tax carbon. Subsidise jobs.

    We will need to downplay economic growth but Job creation doesn’t need economic growth

    But if push comes to shove I’d support Hansen.

    What’s your carbon price?

  14. Septic Matthew:

    why no-one should ever do anything ever.

    That’s not what they wrote.

  15. Lab Lemming:

    Getting away from this short term noise and taking a look at longer scale climate, have there been any recent developments on looking at snowball earth thawing mechanisms and constraining the snowball/slushball debate?

    Or do we not discuss real climate controversies here?

  16. J Bowers:

    First land plants may have plunged the Earth into a series of ice ages

    The spread of early terrestrial plants would have reduced atmospheric carbon and cooled the planet, say scientists […] The scientists assumed that 15% of the Earth’s land mass was covered with early plant life, but even with 5% land coverage, the cooling effect would have been substantial, Lenton said.

    First plants cooled the Ordovician. Lenton et al (2012). Nature Geoscience.

    Grauniad: Wall Street Journal rapped over climate change stance

  17. Paul S:

    Just noticed something a bit odd in the Whitehouse piece. In his Figure 4 (‘Post-1970’ HadCRUT3) he has somehow missed out a couple of years. If you count from the early peak (1983) to the 1998 peak you only get to 1996. I think 1991 and 1992 have gone walkabout.

    [Response: look at his calculations from NASA GISTEMP. – gavin]

  18. paul:

    To be a scientist, is to be a contrarian, skeptic or even a denier. This is the foundation of science!

  19. Kevin McKinney:

    Speaking of Whitehouse (and other laborers in the cherry orchards), my article “When Did Global Warming Stop?” just hit its 1000th page view. Ta, all here who’ve helped make that happen!


  20. Radge Havers:


    “…sliding window…”

    For doubters who don’t readily connect with descriptive shorthand, there’s this great animated visualization (GIF file):
    ‘Skeptics’ v. Realists
    New to me, It’s apparently been around for awhile.

  21. Jim Eager:

    At least Paul got one characteristic of a scientist right.

  22. Dan Lufkin:

    Can anyone steer me toward comments on the Fall, Watts,et al JGR July 2011 paper Analysis on the impacts of station exposure on the USHCN temperatures & temperature trends? It looks like very elaborate cherry-picking to come up with According to the best-sited stations, the diurnal temperature range in the lower 48 states has no century-scale trend.

  23. Kevin McKinney:

    #22–If so, it’s bitter cherries for denialists, since it also says that the worst-sited stations don’t affect the trend of the daily mean temps (though they do, it says, bias the daily max and min trends some, in opposite directions.)

  24. Theo:

    I am not the person to do this.

    But is there anyone out there that can show that there are often contradictions between sceptics. Taking the NYT article, are there some “coolists”, “levellers” and “warmers but not CO2” in the names?

    [Response:See the good article that Rick Brown cited here a few days ago. Maybe somebody can track down that link.–Jim]

  25. Brian Angliss:

    I hope you won’t mind a little self-promotion in the open thread, but if so, by all means delete this comment.

    After Burt Rutan, former CEO of Scaled Composites, co-signed the Wall Street Journal commentary last week that called climate disruption a hoax, I wrote an open letter to him at my blog. Unexpectedly, he responded, and I’ve been attempting to have a discussion with him ever since.

    The original post and comment thread are here, but because Rutan CCed his first comment to Anthony Watts, the thread is massive and it’s very hard to follow. As a result, I pulled his comments and mine out of the thread and put them into their own post here, with the comments turned off to keep it from getting overrun too.

    Thus far Rutan has not been particularly responsive, a point that I keep bringing up and he keeps ignoring. I had hopes for something more from a minor hero of mine.

  26. nuclear_is_good:

    Do you have any insight when BEST will be officially published? To your knowledge is there anyone writing a paper to finally clarify the ridiculous claims from McShane & Wyner on an ultra-warm MWP based on their OLS PC10 and how that is ‘better’ than RegEM EIV or how “… the proxies seem unable to forecast the high levels of and sharp run-up in temperature in the 1990s either in-sample or from contiguous holdout blocks, thus casting doubt on their ability to predict such phenomena if in fact they occurred several hundred years ago.” Since now we also have the 1800-1850 interval and it is easy to see around 1815 a very distinctive dip which is showing a frequency (but not amplitude and duration) of the temperature signal even bigger than the current warming and with a pretty sharp run-down followed immediately by a pretty sharp run-up – which is not present in any of the OLS PC10 reconstructions (and is partially outside the uncertainty limits for that, so McShane & Wyner are beyond wrong with that), is somehow present but pretty scaled-down in OLS PC4 and OLS G5 PC5 but is present in RegEM EIV reasonably close to the thermometer-measured values!

  27. Hank Roberts:

    For theo:

    Global Warming Skeptic Contradictions….
    lists skeptic arguments that contradict each other.

  28. Sebastian:

    What’s also laughably bad is the comments section of the Met’s page. It’s a laughable collection of the most juvenile denialist arguments (global warming stopped in 1998, Antarctic ice is at it’s highest extent ever, etc). Glad Gavin et al do a better job around here than they’re doing there.

  29. eric:

    How is the definition of “average” determined for the TV weather? The weather here in Pennsylvania is reported to be slightly above average. !!

    Somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind I think i remember that it is based upon the average over the previous decade. If so, then this average includes 7(?) of ten of the warmest years on record — so hardly a good average to report.

    If the average included the last three decades it would at least to make a bit more sense.

    Thanks, I love this site.


    [Response: Often ‘average’ in US weather forecasts is the ‘climate normal’ for the last period as defined by NOAA. Currently that will be 1981-2010 (I think). Of course, that is much warmer than the mean over the last 50 years, or last 100 years, and is a bit of a moving target. In 2009 for instance, average would have been defined as 1971-2000. It isn’t therefore a great metric to be using without being specific. – gavin]

  30. Mike Jonas:

    There is a clear cyclical-like component of temperature.
    Given the similarity between the ~30-year temperature rises to ~1942 and ~2003 respectively, and the temperature declines before and between those periods, there is no good reason to suppose that anything unusual is happening or that the temperature has NOT stopped rising.

  31. Rick Brown:

    The article Jim refers to inline @24 is, I believe:

    Michael J. Wood, Karen M. Douglas and Robbie M. Sutton. 2012. Dead and Alive: Beliefs in Contradictory Conspiracy Theories. Social Psychological and Personality Science published online 25 January 2012. DOI: 10.1177/1948550611434786


  32. Hank Roberts:

    > Mike Jonas
    > cyclical-like

    Uh, no.


  33. Hank Roberts:

    “… for the detection of trends…. it will take several decades of high-quality data ….”

    “… to discuss climate trends in global mean temperature, you need to use 20-30 years of data centered on the date of interest.
    … let’s take a look at the whys…. the data and programs on my personal web site and you can run the analysis yourself….”

  34. DS:

    A naive question or two regarding temperature trends: The slight cooling in the 50/60s, I’ve heard that is due to pollution? Is that true? And I take it the Medieval Warm Period does not really show up in southern hemisphere proxies?

  35. Icarus62:

    Recently I’ve been reading a number of articles and essays which say that the critical factor in the magnitude of global warming is the total CO2 we emit, and not so much how we emit it – e.g. it doesn’t make much difference whether we have rapidly rising emissions followed by rapid decline, or continual lower rate of emissions, as long as the total emitted is the same in the end. I haven’t found anything yet which explains the physics of why this is the case – could anyone point me to an explanation, please? Is there any reasonable doubt that it’s true? Cheers…

  36. GlenFergus:

    For sidd at #6:

    Of course rainfall distributions are skewed; rainfalls can’t be negative!

    Rain is generally more variable than temperature so it’s going to be harder to extract a signal from the noise. You do seem to have something though; for what data?

    Extreme rainfall analysis (for whatever duration – hourly, daily, monthly) is generally done on some sort of censored series – e.g. rain above a threshold (the so called “partial series”) or maximum over some interval (e.g. annual maxima). You then fit one of the extreme value type distributions to that. Doesn’t work real well over short intervals though.

  37. Septic Matthew:

    Here is a curiosity that is presented at WUWT today:


    Presumably the book is in university libraries because faculty requested it, but it could have been donated by activists or something. I haven’t been able to discover who the “Impact Team” are. Does anybody know anything about this book or the “Impact Team”? It’s another “they all used to believe in the ice age”, but it might matter if the “Impact Team” were scientists. I never heard of a group of scientists who wrote under a pseudonym like that (there have been pseudonyms, but not that pretentious, that I know of.)

  38. john byatt:

    loved this response from Gavin, last month UV

    Ah.. that’s more standard. But the issue is that climate doesn’t only respond to CO2, and it doesn’t respond instantly. There are multiple drivers of climate change and particularly over the 20th Century, it gets complicated – there are other greenhouse gases (CH4, N2O, CFCs), ozone changes, solar changes and volcanoes. However, the most important in this question is the aerosol forcing which has been a net cooling over the 20th C. This is not as well understood as the greenhouse gases, so the net forcing is a more uncertain, but it is almost certainly true that the net forcing is less than the impact of the main greenhouse gases, and it may be true that net forcing is less than CO2 on it’s own (best guess is that they are comparable). But then you have to take the ocean inertia into account which means that planet takes decades to hundreds of years to reach equilibrium. So if someone claims that the temperature change from CO2 forcing (110ppm extra is around 1.7 W/m2) should have been 3 * 1.7/3.7 = 1.4ºC (estimated from the equilibrium climate sensitivity of 3ºC for a doubling of CO2 = 3.7 W/m2), then they are guilty of ignoring the interia and the additional forcings. – gavin]

    Now if the Models were currently showing 1.4ºC anomaly they might have a point. obvious to me that the models understand inertia and the skeptics do not.
    will keep this on file

  39. Ray Ladbury:

    Mike Jonas, On cycles. Is the following series of ordered pairs cyclic. After all, you have many repetitions and near repetitions.


    As it turns out, it cannot be cyclic, as the “y” is the digit in the base of Napierian logs and the “x” value is its ordinal position.

    Lesson: Be very, very careful in attributing cyclicity to a series unless you have good (physical or mathematical) reasons for thinking it is so.

  40. barry:

    wili @ 4

    “Is there some central clearinghouse of all the extreme and record-breaking weather that seems to be becoming the norm just about everywhere?”

    Here’s a site that lists the record breaking temperature events at cities and towns around the world year by year (from 2002).

    http://www.mherrera.org/temp.htm (current year)
    http://www.mherrera.org/records.htm (each year from 2002)

  41. Pete Dunkelberg:

    DS @ 34 Medieval Warm Period

    During that extended period surface temperatures fluctuated differently at different places & times, not producing a whole surface warm as it is in our time.


  42. Andy:

    Some questions:

    Do scientists have a good handle on the effect of Asia’s increasing consumption of coal on the amount of sunlight reaching the earth’s surface? Are we experiencing a greater amount of “global dimming”?

    Has there been a final proclamation on what caused the dip in global temps after WWII? Was this a product of the way sea surface temperature measurements were made, or was this from the increasing amount of sulfate aerosols or both?

  43. Joe:

    The Impact Team was a group of non-experts, mainly reporters. Steve Schneider wrote about The Weather Conspiracy here. On that page Schneider links to his 1977 review of the book.

  44. Jathanon:

    @ 25 Brian Angliss
    Well, that was a depressing read. A bitter old man (don’t know why he would be…) who has been studiously learning climate science from all the wrong places?

  45. Anonymous Coward:

    #35 Icarus62,
    I read a paper by Matthews (and other authors presumably) proposing this.
    The central idea is that the same mechanism underlies much of climate inertia and the largest CO2 sink so uncertainties cancel out to some extent. The general argument makes some sense within certain limits if you make certain assumptions.
    But I dare say there’s ground for doubting that it’s a prudent guide for policy in the real world.

    Aside from the physical issues, consider the risk perspective: we don’t know yet what the ultimate impact of past emissions will be.
    Even if we somehow had a guarantee that promises of future emissions cuts will be fulfilled (highly dubious considering recent emissions trends) and that this argument wasn’t simply an excuse not to go along with BAU, we are in no position today to come to a decision on total emissions.
    If humanity isn’t lucky at the climate lottery, future generations will wish deeper cuts had been made earlier. The prudent policy would therefore be to cut emissions as fast as possible with a view to relaxing policies in the future, not to defer cuts with a view to adopting stringent policies later.

  46. Grant:

    Septic Matthew, there were no scientists in the Impact Team. See here:


  47. Hank Roberts:



  48. sidd:

    Icarus62 wrote on the 2nd of February, 2012 at 5:37 PM:

    “…that the critical factor in the magnitude of global warming is the total CO2 we emit,…”

    Please see


    Mr. Glen Fergus writes on the 2nd of February, Feb 2012 at 5:58 PM:

    “…rainfall distributions are skewed; rainfalls can’t be negative!”

    Perhaps I did not make myself clear. The data are monthly averages of precipitation over the period 1979-2010, over a 2.5 degree grid, 144×72 floats per month, call it P(i,j) . I calculate the average for each grid point over the period,Pbar(i,j), and the standard deviation Pdev(i,j). Then the quantity (P(i,j)-Pbar(i,j))/Pdev(i,j)
    This quantity can be negative. Then the histogram over 1979-1990, 1991-2000,2001-2010
    and the whole period 1979-2010. This is similar to the analysis in Fig 4 of the paper by Hansen et al for temperature distribution.



  49. Thomas Lee Elifritz:

    I just had to laugh at THIS.

    The hypothesis that refuse to go quietly into the night.

  50. Rick Brown:

    Re: Septic Matthew @37:
    Not a complete answer to your question, but Stephen Schneider had a “review” of the book in Nature — http://stephenschneider.stanford.edu/Publications/PDF_Papers/Schneider1977.pdf
    In another essay on Contrarians Schneider says “The Weather Conspiracy: The Coming of the New Ice Age, authored by a group called The Impact Team, which was made up of reporters, writers, researchers, and “back-up” people, as they called themselves — but no weather experts among the 18 of them.” Presumably no climate experts either.

  51. David B. Benson:

    G. Chen, J. Laane, S>E> Wheeler, Z. Zhang
    Greenhouse Gas Molecules: A Mathematical Perspective
    Notices of the American MAthematical Society v58#10, 2011 Nov 1421–1434
    considers the physical chemistry of absorbtion to comparfe experimental and calculated infrared spectra. Impressive agreement.

  52. sidd:

    My last comment was stil not completely clear. Let me try again.

    a data set with the monthly average precipitation for 2.5 degree grid for each month over the period 1979-2010 : P(x,y,t) x=1..144,y=1..72,t=1..31*12


    i compute

    Pbar(x,y)= average over all t of P(x,y,t)
    Pdev(x,y)=stad dev over all t of P(x,y,t)

    then the quantity


    then i plot the histograms of the last quantity for all x, y and for t in successive decades, and the whole period. The curves are scaled to equal area.


    i hope that was better.


  53. calyptorhynchus:

    Interesting that almost as soon as the Daily Mail piece was published in the UK the usual denialists in the Australian media started trumpeting it. Coordinated is the word that springs to mind.

    Also in the news in Oz two mining magnates are seeking to buy up news organisations so that they can better present their ‘business-friendly’ views. Most of us thought that these views were already over-represented in the Australian media.

  54. KeithWoollard:

    Pete @ 40, you will have to look at #646 in the borehole for a response as the moderators obviously think my comment is off-topic for an open thread

  55. MalcolmT:

    Larry @8
    That high number of comments on the WSJ piece has ballooned considerably since you saw it. It reminded me of this blog post from a year ago about high-tech sockpuppets. Anyone out there care to create an equal and opposite reaction?

  56. Esop:

    Massive Arctic outbreak over significant parts of Europe now, just like in February 09, January 10 and December 10. This after an extremely mild fall and early winter. Still extremely high temperatures at Svalbard (78 degs latitude), where record rains were recorded last week. 11C above the normal for Longyearbyen over the last 30 days. Absolutely nuts. The AO is strongly negative, but surprisingly, the NAO is still positive. In the Scandinavian countries, the previous cold winters have been explained by the NAO, but with rarely any mention of the AO. These are usually closely related, but this year, it seems that it is the negative AO that runs the show during this cold blast. Another thing of interest: the “solar guys” took credit for the past cold winters due to the quiet sun and its proposed effect on the AO/NAO. The negative AO so far in 2012 happens in a period with a much more active sun, putting a dent in the low solar-negative AO theory. This could be an indication that Judah Cohens hypothesis (Siberia snow cover) and the declining sea ice influence (Overland, etc.) as more likely explanations, I would think. The cold blast seems to be more short lived this time, though, as the blocking pattern is supposed to break up sometime early next week.

  57. Urban Leprechaun:

    Can you help me?

    It’s seriously cold again in Europe, especially the eastern edges, and fairly cold in the UK. (And in a cute UK English phrase “It’s cold enough to freeze the balls of a brass monkey”).

    If it is seriously cold in Europe, then I gather it has to be seriously warm elsewhere (+/- a fraction of a degree). I recall last year when Europe was frozen over (and it was) the polar bears in Greenland were finding it so hot they were all at the poolside wearing sunglasses and sipping cool pina coladas.

    Joking apart…

    Is there a website that gives daily up-to-the-momnent global temperature anomalies? Like for yesterday or a few days earlier.

  58. wayne davidson:

    Esop, I take exception about the claimed “Arctic” deep freeze experienced in some parts, cooling was rather continental sub-arctic in origin. The greatest readily visible reason why the AO was positive is the frequent incursions of low pressure cyclones from Northern Atlantic which indeed passed over Svalbard on their way further North. The Arctic ocean ice is made of mostly 1st or second year ice, thinner laced with multiple leads destroying the very consolidation of winter itself. The theory of low sun activity is laughable given that we living a night which lasts months have had warmest historical winters during the same said period of very low sun activity. Contrarian theories have no standing except in the imagination of coming ice age worlders.

  59. Andreas:

    Re #29, eric (and Gavin’s inline response):

    The latest WMO climatological standard normal period is still 1961–1990 until 2021, when it will switch to 1991–2020. Here in Germany, it is common practice to refer to that period.

    NOAA uses WMO normals (without “climatological standard”), which change every 10 years. WMO members should compute the most recent normals for representative stations within their territory, but the primarily used reference values should be the more stable climatological standard normals. US TV weather will most likely follow NOAA.



  60. Rhiaden:

    I actually read this article (The daily mail one) while half asleep, without my brain plugged in properly. Once I woke up, I checked around the interweb to see how else this “huge” story had been reported, I even checked here to see if it was mentioned. Finally caffiene kicked in and I went and read the original document (took some digging around on the site to find it, surprising since it was allegedly so ground breaking)…I have to say, I have seen some cherry picking and quote mining, but this was one of the best I have seen in a long time. Thanks for covering this, I thought it was getting missed by everyone.
    As an aside, this was also pointed out last week in regard to the Daily Mail

  61. DS:

    Thanks Pete @ 41. Looks like I was wrong in thinking the medieval warm period and little ice age were northern hemisphere-only events.

  62. Septic Matthew:

    Here is another small but non-negligible step forward in solar power:


    A journey of a thousand miles continues with a single step. That is a “perverb” from Septic Matthew

  63. Septic Matthew:

    47, Rick Brown, thank you. I almost laughed out loud at the arrogance of the nom de plume. But then when I saw that it was in some university libraries, I thought that someone had respected it.

  64. Denys F. Leclerc:

    Since this an open thread, I would like to hear a sound review from somebody on RC on the recent paper published in Science by Shindell et al. on reducing black carbon and methane NOW as a means of mitigating climate change and buying us time for dealing with carbon dioxide. I feel that their conclusions, while probably sound, may lure the public into a sense a false security by kicking the ball further down the years. Your take, gentlemen?

    [Response: There are two issues here. The first is whether there are useful policies with respect to BC and tropospheric ozone that reduce pollution, are cost effective, and reduce global radiative forcing. This paper and the underlying UNEP report show that there are. The second issue is how this should affect policies for CO2. There, as we have discussed before, the answer is that they shouldn’t. Global governments are totally capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time, and all of the BC/ozone measures are orthogonal to CO2 mitigation efforts. No-one should be arguing that we shouldn’t do obvious life-saving measures related to BC because there is a co-benefit to climate – that would be perverse. Likewise, no one should be arguing that CO2 can be ignored because some other problem is also being tackled. We should be doing all of the above. – gavin]

  65. WVhybrid:

    @25 Brian Angliss, I don’t think there was ever much hope having a meaningful dialogue with Burt Rutan. I recall him being interview immediately after his sub-orbital spacecraft had landed, and he launched into a screed against NASA incompetency and the federal government in general.

    I couldn’t understand why, at a moment he should be celebrating his success, he seemed so bitter about his government who provided him with the economic stability, freedom and opportunity to achieve such a dream. But then I don’t understand why so many well educated people will put ideology ahead of science and their prodigy’s future.

  66. Pete Dunkelberg:

    Questions on NASA temperature mapping tool

    Of course the extensions beyond the present are simulations.
    I’m mainly interested in comparing anomalies of recent years, say 2000-2011 to an early base period. Are the maps in this case simulation based or data based? If simulations, is there another mapping tool based on data?
    In the default configuration (map type Trends, Detrend) what does the map show?

  67. Chris Winter:

    Rick Brown wrote (#47): “In another essay on Contrarians Schneider says “The Weather Conspiracy: The Coming of the New Ice Age, authored by a group called The Impact Team, which was made up of reporters, writers, researchers, and “back-up” people, as they called themselves…”

    Does that mean they “got their back up” at what they decided was all this nonsense from hi-falutin’ experts?

  68. sidd:

    After thinking some more, it seems that the correct average and std dev to use is the monthly average and standard deviation as opposed to the 30 year average and standard dev. So I modified my calculation thus:

    a data set with the monthly average precipitation for 2.5 degree grid for each month over the period 1979-2010 : P(x,y,month) x=1..144,y=1..72,t=1..31*12


    i compute

    For each month of the year, month=1,12
    Pbar(x,y,month)= average the 31 numbers for each month of the year in the period 1979-2010

    Pdev(x,y,month)=std dev of the 31 numbers used above

    then the quantities


    then i plot the histograms of the last quantity for all in successive decades, and the whole period. The curves are scaled to equal area.


    the curves are now much more symmetric, but still show a drop in average precip and increase in frequence of low precip months


  69. Hank Roberts:

    another source for maps over time spans, data downloadable:


  70. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    #57 Urban Leprechaun

    For daily tracking of temp. anomalies as well as weekly monthly etc.


    For today it is anomalously warm above Europe in the North Atlantic as well as across North America and Canada. Of course the anomalies maps change constantly so if you look at it tomorrow or a week form now you will see a different picture.

    There are also pages for current conditions for ocean, solar, GHG’s and other aspects.

  71. Russell:

    11 Most of the quote from Burt Rutan was lost in posting.

    Here it is in full:
    Burt Rutan’s views on climate history, notes Wired magazine, reflect his taste in architecture:

    ” The aerospace pioneer dwells ‘in a white pyramid on the edge of the [Mojave] desert…a floor-to-ceiling mural depicting three large white pyramids glowing against a lush tropical background; toward the front, a strange creature strides across a white veranda. The mural was painted a week ago, and everyone is ogling it.

    Giza plaza, 17,000 years ago,” he explains. ‘See, I think the pyramids were made by aliens before the last ice age, and the ice destroyed them and they were just put back together by the Egyptians.” Is he serious? ‘I’ve seen them and I’m an engineer, and you can’t tell me that the technology is ancient Egyptian. If you were a superior race and you knew your time on Earth was ending, wouldn’t you build something really big so people would know you’d been there?”…

    Rutan turns to the mural and says, “You know that face on Mars? NASA did the dumbest thing. They said it wasn’t a face, it was a pile of rocks. If they’d said it was a face, they’d have full funding!” ”


  72. tempterrain:

    Our old friend Christopher Monckton shows no sign of retiring to the shires. He’s now come up with a cunning plan to put wrongs to right in the Australian media, and tells how he has similar plans for the UK too. All you need is, he says, for the super rich to buy an existing TV station or set up a new one, employ the likes of Joanna Nova and hey presto, you’ve got ” free, fair and balanced coverage” just like they do on Fox!


    What will he think of next?

  73. tempterrain:

    Our old friend Christopher Monckton shows no sign of retiring to the shires. He’s now come up with a cunning plan to put wrongs to right in the Australian media, and tells how he has similar plans for the UK too. All you need is, he says, for the super rich to buy an existing TV station or set up a new one, employ the likes of Joanna Nova and hey presto, you’ve got ” free, fair and balanced coverage” just like they do in the US with Fox!


    What will he think of next?

  74. J Bowers:

    Re. 72 tempterrain

    You may be more right than you think.

    Rolling Stone: Ailes, Nixon and the Plan for ‘Putting the GOP on TV News’.

  75. Susan Anderson:

    Russell, thanks for exposing WUWT (around comment 11). We are always hearing that RC censors and they don’t, so this kind of documentation is useful.

    === (change subject)
    I’m fiddling around with global infrared and water vapor composites and these are a couple of good places. If you can stand the optics of the fast animations, they are fascinating as well. Some of our phony skeptic friends should compare their hated models with these slices of reality.


  76. Mark Conder:

    Read about the Limbaugh/Gingrich-initiated assault on Katharine Hayhoe…


  77. Ron Manley:

    It is easy to forget that the original ‘gate’, Watergate, was not about the crime but about the cover up. I sometimes feel that a few climate scientists are trying to do a ‘Nixon’ and present facts every which way to disguise that fact that warming is not continuing at its predicted rate. This has two consequences. Firstly the anti-AGW crowd can ‘prove’ that the temperature trend has been flat (I’ve shown how to cheat and ‘prove’ just that on my web site at http://www.climatedata.info/Discussions/Discussions/opinions.php . Secondly when climate scientists, as I’m sure they will, find the explanation for the stasis and include it in their models the doubters will say “How can you correct a problem which you said did not exist?”
    Recently Sir Brian Hoskins, Director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change gave a talk to a wide group of students at Imperial College (mainly science, technology and medicine). You can hear (but unfortunately not see it) it here:
    In his talk he was refreshingly open about discrepancies between model projections and observed data and areas where climate science was not yet up to speed. Yet, he still gave a convincing talk. Thinking about this I realised that if a climate scientist gives a presentation with cherry-picked data to a group of lay people they won’t notice the omission and will believe the presenter. On the other hand if another scientist presents all the data, warts and all (as Sir Brian Hoskins did), but explains how this does not falsify the overall picture that scientist will also be believed. The difference is that anti-AGW bloggers will find it easy to attack the first presenter and less easy to attack the second one.

  78. gavin:

    No one seems to have taken the hint about Whitehouse’s arithmetic…. I’ll give it another day. – gavin

  79. Barton Paul Levenson:

    RM: I sometimes feel that a few climate scientists are trying to do a ‘Nixon’ and present facts every which way to disguise that fact that warming is not continuing at its predicted rate.

    BPL: Your feelings have very little to do with the reality of the situation. There is no reason whatsoever to think warming is not continuing.

    Hint: You need 30 years or more to establish a climate trend.


  80. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    #78 Gavin

    Well, at first glance, I love that the anomaly in 2002 – 2006 was a whopping 55.4 while 2007 – 2011 was a paltry 54.8 degrees. That’s quite an anomaly!

    [Response: Close, but no cigar. Go deeper… – gavin]

    Other than that the general numbers seem to be incorrect as well. Hadcrut3 from 81 to 90 is a drop, not an increase.

    In their mission statement they claim to be a think tank… makes me wonder what they spend their time thinking about…

    Where the next cherry picking session will be held?

  81. isotopious:

    9 years isn’t a decade?

    lol :)

  82. MARodger:

    Gavin @78
    Frankly I got bored of Whitehouse by the second (or was it the third) paragraph with the first error that I saw – the old “…no temp rise 1997 to 2009” rather than the rise lacking “significance.” As there were a fair number of odd assertions even prior to that, I stopped looking critically & simply followed his (very purile) argumentation. So the 1997 HadCRUT3 calendar year surface temp is higher than 2011 & the only “significant” rise in such temps was in the mid 1990s.

    Whitehuose is signed up to the GWPF. Numbers & words lose their meaning when the GWPF appear. It is so unbelieviably true, but that is how it is. The more I see of their stuff, the more craziness I find.

  83. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    Year / Annual / 5-yr / year to year variation
    2002 0.56 0.48 0.08
    2003 0.55 0.54 0.01
    2004 0.48 0.55 0.07
    2005 0.63 0.56 0.14
    2006 0.55 0.53 0.08
    2007 0.58 0.55 0.03
    2008 0.44 0.56 0.14
    2009 0.57 0.55 0.13
    2010 0.63 * 0.06
    2011 0.52 -0.11

    Did you mean the 5 year mean can not be calc’d to 2011?

    [Response: No. It is much simpler. – gavin]

  84. isotopious:

    Oh Oh Gavin, is this it?

    “It seems that 1995 – 2009 is flat, but 1995 – 2010 has a slight positive trend, though not at any impressive significance. It should be noted that 1995 – 2011 is back to no significant increase.”

    Yes! what do I get?

    [Response: No. Try again. – gavin]

  85. Urban Leprechaun:

    Can you help?

    I’m looking for a website that gives the latest/yesterday’s global temperature anomalies.

    It looks like we are heading for a third very cold winter in Europe (or rather a very cold winter in the bit of Europe where most people live). However, I note from the Norwegian weather service that the temperatures on the Norwegian high Arctic island of Svalbard have been a sweltering 12.5C above normal over the last 30 days. Indeed, Santa tells me the polar bears are at the poolside sipping cool pina coladas and wearing sunglasses.

    Is there a website that gives the global immediately past (=yesterday?) anomalies, as in the previous two years, while Europe was shivering, other parts of the world were exceptionally hot (as I would expect). Because betting a penny to a pound, the sceptics will be all screaming “Global Warming Halted!!”.

    Thanks in advance,

    Theo H (Devon, SW England)

  86. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    #84 Urban Leprechaun

    As I posted in #70

    For daily tracking of temp. anomalies as well as weekly monthly etc.


  87. Andreas:

    Re David Whitehouse:

    The global warming rate (GISTEMP) is 0.0043 K/a in 2002–2006, but 0.0051 K/a in 2007–2011, so it has increased. (Of course, these figures are meaningless and misleading too.)

    Long-term trends in GISTEMP:

    with 60-month running mean
    smoothed with binomial filter (30 months within ±σ)
    smoothed with binomial filter (6 months within ±σ)

  88. isotopious:

    Oh Oh Gavin, is this it?

    “World Average Temperature 1997 -2012”

    What do these guys have a time machine? What happens? Was “The Mayan Prophecy of 2012” right? Did the world end? Judgment?

    Another winner!

  89. isotopious:

    “Statistically speaking it is accurate to say that according to HadCrut3 the world’s temperature has not increased for the 16 years between 1995 and 2011”

    Nope, that’s 17 years…

    [Response: You aren’t really on the right track. But please keep on… – gavin]

  90. isotopious:

    “From 1997 this is exactly the Mail on Sunday’s graph.

    Fig 3. Click on image to enlarge. (Data is for 1980 -2011. Error bars are set at 0.1 deg C)”

    No, the “Mail” only showed the data from 1997, or 15 years, not 3 decades…

  91. ozajh:

    The NasaGiss anomalies seem a little high to me, unless there’s a scale change (which I don’t see emphasised).

    [Response: Aha! Go deeper, grasshopper, there is much to learn… – gavin]

  92. isotopious:

    “Statistically speaking it is accurate to say that according to HadCrut3 the world’s temperature has not increased for the 16 years between 1995 and 2011, though many prefer the more conservative ten years post-2001.”

    I agree, the trend from 1995 is nothing, but then if this is so why would ten years be ‘more conservative’? Going by this logic one year would be the most conservative!

    You better cough it up tommorow Gavin, or else :)

  93. isotopious:

    “The second 5-year period of the 00s was cooler than the first (0.41 and 0.45).”

    Hate to be pedantic, but the 00s are specifically 2000 – 2009, not 2001 – 2010.

    There is no difference between the two periods of the “00s”

  94. Kevin McKinney:

    “the 16 years between 1995 and 2011″

    Nope, that’s 17 years…”

    Maybe, maybe not. To me, “between 1995 and 2011” suggests the named years are excluded from the span, in which case it’d be 15 years. BT presumably went with the span from the beginning (or end) of 1995 to the beginning (or end) of 2011. And Isotopius seems a fan of the inclusive interpretation–“between the first day of 1995 and the last day of 2011.”

    English. Got to love it.

  95. isotopious:

    “The thing the Met Office omitted to say in their “refutation” is that their graph and the one used in the Mail on Sunday are perfectly consistent with each other. Indeed they both come from the very same Met Office data!”

    No they don’t.

  96. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    The anomalies are

    5 year anomalies are 0.554 for 2002-2007

    and 0.548 for 2007-2011

    Are you just referring to the fact that he doesn’t know where to put the decimal?

    [Response: I thought a factor of 100 error in the anomalies was quite interesting. – gavin]

  97. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    Geez, you made me keep looking at his garbage. Speaking of anomalies, someone is having a bad hair day:


    I think factors of 100 in the realm of mistakes are pro forma with him. I’ve read enough junk on that web site now to know the mistake factors likely far supersedes the 100 factor.

  98. isotopious:

    [Response: I thought a factor of 100 error in the anomalies was quite interesting. – gavin]

    No. If that is ‘it’ then ‘it’ is very very lame. Gavin, why don’t you cough up the gistemp data that gets you to 0.52 instead of 0.51 for 2011

  99. Chris Colose:

    I’ve checked about half of David Whitehouse’s numbers in that article and they all seem fine for the most part (with a couple minor differences from what I got) and he never got the number of years in a decade wrong (e.g., 1981-1990 is ten years if you include both the ends). Most of it is not incredibly meaningful though and is largely sensitive to the choice of date range. He seemed to go through a lot of pain in making sure to explain how sensitive the choice of start/end dates in a short time period is for the final answer, but he never actually did a better job himself.

    Of course, the GISS anomalies need to be scaled by a factor of 1/100 to be correct, unless we accept that the world is now ~340 K or so globally. That would be some global warming!

    But that error doesn’t really play a part in the misleading nature of his article, it’s just showing that he was probably too lazy to actually look at the data, as opposed to mindlessly calculating an “Average” in Excel. In fact, it’s somewhat funny that each of his five year segments has an “average anomaly” somewhat greater than the previous segment (except for the last two segments whose order is switched). Note however that the newer HadCRUT4 dataset, which he should have used, has greater warming in the most recent decade (which was probably underestimated before) than in the previous dataset version, such that 1998 is third warmest now. Each decade is progressively warmer than the last and the top 10 warmest years have all occurred since 1997.

    His whole contention seems to be that there was one jump in temperature in the mid 90s that dominates the warming signal for the last 30+ years (of course this raises the question of the underlying physics that would permit the climate to bifurcate into a new regime after only one sudden jump). His interpretation of the data is clearly off-base though. Tamino has been doing a good job recently of rebutting related “step change” myths.

  100. Craig Nazor:

    The obvious problem with the anomalies according to Whitehouse is the basic arbitrariness of short time scales when it comes to defining climate. Certainly, he must be aware of this! If you just change it by a year you get:

    2001-2005 .540
    2006-2010 .554

    And voilá! The warming reappears! If I keep that up, soon I will be able to bake a pie!

    If one insists on using time scales too short to weed out the noise from the signal, then the “apparent” appears “real.” What a waste of time.

  101. Paul Briscoe:

    I am hoping someone here can help me.

    Recently, I’ve seen quite a number of “skeptic” bloggers using an argument based on the null hypothesis against climate change – “the null hypothesis is that global warming is natural”. The implication of this is clear – they’re arguing that scientists have to PROVE the anthropogenic cause before they’ll accept it. This is surely pretty well impossible.

    Based on my recollection of my own research from well over 20 years ago, the null hypothesis is specifically related to a statistical test in a scientific investigation and cannot be applied to either prove or falsify a theory which is based on many lines of evidence. Clearly, the null hypothesis can be usefully employed to test some predictions based on a theory and this may be where the misunderstanding has arisen.

    The only obvious reference to this that I’ve found is the following from Coby Beck:


    Can anyone point me to anything which expands on Coby’s argument?


  102. Hunt Janin:

    Re sea level rise:

    If anyone knows of any major new studies now being undertaken on sea level rise, please give me the details.

  103. Dale:

    When deniers claim an ice age was being predicted in the 70’s, I remember reading here at RC about a particular researcher who was somewhat perplexed over the fact that his research indicated it should be warming. As I remember, he theorized that it was aerosols that were buffering the warming but he believed that in the next several decades the aerosol cooling effect would finally be overwhelmed by CO2. Of course this researcher got it right. I’ve been trying to find out who he was. Can anyone help?

  104. Hank Roberts:

    > lame

  105. Jesús R.:

    Does anyone know of any update of this graph?:

    It’s the reconstructed temperature over the last millenia plus the observed temperature plus the IPCC projections, so that you get a long-term perspective of future projections. But this one is based on IPCC 2001. ¿Is there a similar graph with the IPCC 2007 data? Thanks!

  106. jgnfld:

    The null hypothesis is NOT that “natural” variation is true. The null hypothesis is that there is no significant trend. For example, let’s say human-emitted aerosols and carbon precisely balanced each other in a particular set of measurements. There would be no trend and the null hypothesis of “no warming (or cooling) would be accepted for that particular test. That would not at all mean “natural variation” is true.

    The deniers here are trying to make rather more out of the term “null| than is contained within it.

  107. Paul Briscoe:

    jgnfld @ #106

    Yes, that’s my understanding too. The problem is that it’s quite difficult to find any authoratative sources which tackle this issue as it relates to attribution in climate change. Most sources simply describe the null hypothesis as it would be applied in laboratory tests, where most variables can be controlled.

  108. Andreas:

    If the factor of 100 is the problem, then it’s really lame. David Whitehouse doesn’t specify any unit, and GISTEMP isn’t a measure of temperature anomalies, but an index. An index can be scaled by any factor without loss of information, if used consistently. You just need the correct unit if you want to use GISTEMP as an estimate of quantified near-surface temperature anomalies.

  109. Ray Ladbury:

    Paul Briscoe,
    One way of interpreting the denialist’s straw man is to ask how likely it is to see a 35 year rising trend in temperatures with the slope, etc. that we currently have, along with there being no increase in total solar irradiance, etc. If you look at the reconstructed temperature series, the current epoch stands out like a…well, hockeystick.

    I suppose even getting these idiots to admit it’s warming is progress. Now we have to get them to accept conservation of energy.

  110. Chris Colose:

    Paul Briscoe,

    In attribution studies, the null hypothesis is traditionally one of no human influence on a particular climate variable, and thus when something is reported along the lines of “the greenhouse gas increase response very likely contributes to greater than half the total observed warming,” it means that the null hypothesis is rejected at the 10% significance (or sometimes even more confident) level. Note that this practice can bias successful attributions toward well-modeled or well monitored regions of the globe and also variables of interest (e.g., temperature vs. precipitation). Some like Kevin Trenberth have recently suggested to have a null hypothesis of human influence given the massive accumulation of evidence, thus putting the burden on those who say there isn’t a human influence, but this is a large departure from normal practice.

    A lot of the attribution studies out there are actually quite conservative in the attribution (e.g., by using no prior assumptions about the response to a particular forcing) and a wide range of methodologies have been employed to declare a substantial influence from humans with high confidence. Chances are that your skeptical correspondents don’t really have an idea themselves of what would constitute a “proof” that the null hypothesis is rejected, or just exactly what would convince them.

    We don’t have an alternative Earth to sample and experiment on, so the next logical step is to use physics and look for patterns in space and time that can help guide statistical tests of attribution. When you do this, there is really no study that has withstood scrutiny that can explain the bulk of modern warming without the human influence.

    By the way, the AR4 has a pretty good discussion of attribution, and I am under agreement to not talk about it, but AR5 looks to be even better. But a number of recent papers do a good job too (some by Hegerl are good, eg., Hegerl and Zwiers, 2011, Hegerl et al 2011, ERL, or the 2010 “Good Practice” paper on attribution studies; Reto Knutti typically does a good job on some of this stuff as well).

  111. Septic Matthew:

    79, Barton Paul Levenson, you haven’t been here much lately, so welcome back.

    Hint: You need 30 years or more to establish a climate trend.

    James Hansen gave his first AGW warning in 1988 (or thereabouts, perhaps his Congressional testimony was not his first.) At that time, what trend based on 30 years had been “established”? Has it been confirmed by subsequent events?

    One trend that had been “established” (i.e. presented in public) by 1988 is the empirical fit of the linear trend plus cosine curve, and that has been “confirmed” within rough limits by the subsequent rise and approximate plateau. The limits were “rough”, as I termed them, due to the combination of random variation in the observations and the fact that only 2 cycles of rise and plateau had been observed.

  112. Septic Matthew:

    46, Grant. Thank you. I didn’t notice it earlier.

  113. Susan Anderson:

    There’s a whole lot of garbage being put out on Dr. Mann on DotEarth. I find it wholly despicable that people have been made to believe that he has “persecuted” phony skeptics and that all the personal threats he and others have received, and the unrelenting quasi-legal attacks, are somehow equivalent.


    I know this is old news, but the posse is in full cry there.

  114. MARodger:

    Andreas @108
    GISS may call itself an “index” and you may infer whatever you will from that ‘calling’. But to state that GISS “isn’t a measure of temperature anomalies” begs the question “So what does it measuring then?”
    And do be advised that a non-answer on this one would rate rather high on the Whitehouse Scale of stipidity.

  115. Susan Anderson:

    On the “null hypothsis”, phony skeptics are fond of presenting phony science. Toss in a few sciencey looking terms, find a little language that makes the moon seem like it might be made of green cheese, and voila.

    If anyone manages to prick their balloon, they immediately ask for data and evidence, but *their* data is “real”, as real as PR and money can make it appear, including a whole lot of insider links that add up to perverted hot air, the opposite of skepticism.

    While I’m sure it is useful to real scientists to get a real response to this gobbledygook, it has limited utility in moving the conversation forward. It’s effect, even if demonstrably wrong, is to use up the time and energy of innocent bystanders who would like to help and skilled scientists who have better things to do with their time, such as finding solutions and advancing the state of knowledge.


  116. Paul Tremblay:

    Judith Curry is at it again, arguing that we can’t trust the global record at all:


  117. Paul Briscoe:

    Thanks, everyone, for your helpful comments. Thanks especially to Chris Colose for pointing me to AR4. The problem I can foresee with this is that deniers will dismiss it because it relies heavily on models, which they don’t accept!!!

    Sadly, Susan Anderson is probably correct. I think an effective response would be useful to have for those of us who attempt to support the science, but it is ultimately futile where “phony skeptics” are concerned.

  118. Barton Paul Levenson:

    SM 111: James Hansen gave his first AGW warning in 1988 (or thereabouts, perhaps his Congressional testimony was not his first.) At that time, what trend based on 30 years had been “established”?

    BPL: Rising temperatures. Temp. data was available back to 1850, and 1880-1987 is N = 138 years. Of course, Hansen probably relied on the NASA GISTEMP series, which only goes back to 1880 — N = 108 years.

  119. Rattus Norvegicus:


    And she is really, really embarrassing herself. Almost every point she brings up has been demolished either in formal or informal studies. As a professional she really should be aware of this.

  120. Andreas:

    Re #114, MARodger:
    “But to state that GISS “isn’t a measure of temperature anomalies” begs the question “So what does it measuring then?””

    It measures different kinds of temperatures (2m air temperatures, SST, at some points nothing) and blends them together. The result is an index, not a property of a real object. It is useful for estimating near-surface temperature anomalies, but it doesn’t measure them.

  121. Paul Tremblay:

    From skeptical science:

    “As a general announcement, a spammer (jdey123/mace) has been masquerading as Judith Curry on this thread. ”

    That makes more sense. The comments struck me as too ridiculous, even given Curry’s penchant for saying some absurd things.

  122. John Pollack:

    Paul @117, Susan @115, I’m in general agreement. Sometimes, I try to use humor to get the point across.

    You go to buy a cut of meat from a butcher, but you notice that his thumb is on the scale when he weighs it. You object. He counters “You’re accusing me of cheating! The null hypothesis is that my thumb is carefully placed on the scale so as not to change the result. Besides, you have no evidence of how much a thumb weighs, when still attached to a live human.”

    “No!” you reply, “The null hypothesis isn’t that the laws of physics have been abolished in your case. I don’t know how much your thumb weighs, but it weighs something more than zero, and I don’t want to pay for it.”

    Says the butcher, in a huff, “You need to keep in mind that I’m a skilled professional. In fact, I’ve got a study published in the Journal of Practical Adhesives showing that a butcher’s thumb is sticky, on the average. It’s capable of pulling the scale upward. Here, I’ll give you a free reprint, courtesy of the Heartmeat Institute.”

    I could go on, but Monty Python probably does the routine better – with a dead parrot.

  123. Steven Sullivan:

    That ‘Curry’ was fake.


  124. MARodger:

    Andreas @120
    Well it’s back to school for me. I never knew there were “…different kinds of temperatures.” All these years I have obviously misunderstood the second law of thermodynamics!

    What you seem to be trying to say is that because GISSTEMP is a combined measure (and I will insist that it is the product of measurement and thus a “measure”) of Land-Surface Air and Sea-Surface Water Temperature Anomalies, this invalidates it and makes it but a useful ‘estimate’, “not a property of a real object.”
    You add to this argument the lack of ubiquity of such measures (likely in a geographical sense) as though this add further weight to your contention.
    However I was taught that all measurements are ‘estimates’ and it remains so regardless of how up-front and personal you get with the thing you are measuring. And even a simple headcount can be subject to error.
    I thus dismiss your argument of GISSTEMP not being a measurement of the properties of a real phenomenon.

    Further, making recourse to ‘Ah but this is an index’ is a simple & worthless digression (even if GISSTEMP uses the ‘index’ word itself).

    Given then that GISSTEMP is a measure ‘useful for estimating’ global temperature (as is HadCRUT3), why do you legitimise the erroneous scribbling of Whitehouse, which was you message @108?

  125. Urban Leprechaun:

    @ John P Reisman #70 and 84# (Sorry for doubling up. Didn’t think my first post went out)

    Thanks for the link. Just what I needed.

    I am replying to a sceptical letter (Global Warming cancelled!!) in my local newspaper.*

    Bloody freezing in the Ukraine (200 deaths reported from cold – mostly “street people” I gather) while it looks like 15C above normal around the American Great Lakes and Hudson Bay. Skating on Lake Eire cancelled?

    Theo H

    * My local/regional newspaper covers Exeter in Devon, England, and the UK Met Office is based in Exeter. So I hope I get my rebuttals right. :)

  126. jgnfld:

    @120…and I suppose you think a ruler measures something “real” as opposed to being an index.

    ALL measurements are indices of one sort or another and ALL measurements are measured with error. Counting tulip bulbs is measured with error as if you get enough people to count a bag of them, you will find that not everyone comes up with the same number, or records it wrongly, or something such that errors occur in the measurement process.

    This is such an elementary fact that you simply cannot go further in science until you internalize it.

  127. Jim Galasyn:

    Bird numbers plummet around stricken Fukushima plant

    Researchers working around Japan’s disabled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant say bird populations there have begun to dwindle, in what may be a chilling harbinger of the impact of radioactive fallout on local life.

  128. Septic Matthew:

    118, Barton Paul Levenson: BPL: Rising temperatures. Temp. data was available back to 1850, and 1880-1987 is N = 138 years. Of course, Hansen probably relied on the NASA GISTEMP series, which only goes back to 1880 — N = 108 years.

    And based on the full data set, what “trend” was Dr. Hansen warning of? The linear trend or the linear trend + cosine? His warnings seem to have departed from both of them.

  129. Pete Wirfs:

    Today (3/6/2012) the American comic strip called Doonesbury is starting up a story designed to ridicule climate deniers that make up facts.


    It will be interesting to see how far they go with it.

  130. Greg Wellman:

    Does anyone how to contact whoever is moderating over at Joe Romm’s? I was a semi-regular commenter there for years, but for the last several months my comments simply never appear. I certainly didn’t post any denialist crap to earn a ban – I’m a climate realist (which, as Neven would say, means “alarmed”). But I’ve somehow been effectively blacklisted.

  131. Anna Haynes:

    Susan #113, there seems to be an intensification of a crafted tu quoque strategy, to effectively distract attention from the science & the awareness of the climate threat, thus increasing the threat to humans of this & future generations.

    One piece: WSJ signatory Bert Rutan’s views about aliens (see Russell #71) as told to Wired, presumably on the record, and the (seemingly popular in some circles) new-age-leftie how-to-fix-our-problems-&-be-sustainable-in-future film Thrive about aliens.

    “We will be judged by those who come after us, both by what we did do and what we didn’t do, in the time given to us.”

  132. GlenFergus:

    sidd at 48:

    That transformation just converts the data to mean anomalies and expresses them in units of local standard deviations. That only shifts and squeezes the distribution; it stays positively skewed, principally because rainfall can’t be negative. The longer the rain duration analysed the nearer the distribution will be to gaussian (that central limit theorem again), e.g. most annual rainfalls are nearly normally distributed (not in arid areas).

    144 x 72 x 2.5 deg, so that is global, land only? Very interesting.

  133. David B. Benson:

    GlenFergus & sidd — Good generalizations of normal are the stable distributions; indeed the normal distribution is a (rather special) instance of a stable distribution. There is at least one study which fits certain rainfall statistics to the general one-sided stable distribution; the important coefficient in that study indicates a nearly normal, but one-sided of course, stable distribution.

    The stable distributions generalize the c3entral value thereom in such a way that any given stable disribution can be thought of as the sum of stable distributions with the same major parameter. These distribut6ions, for me, seem far better motivated than othr, eaarlier attempts to fit well-known distributions, gamma and so on.

  134. sidd:

    Mr. Fergus:

    these include both land and ocean


  135. Hank Roberts:


    “10 years of data — 2001 to 2010 — from NASA Langley’s orbiting Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System Experiment (CERES) instruments to measure changes in the net radiation balance at the top of Earth’s atmosphere. The CERES data were then combined with estimates of the heat content of Earth’s ocean from three independent ocean-sensor sources.”

  136. GlenFergus:

    Thanks David, interesting. I have cause to want to do some more stuff with annual rainfall distributions shortly, so shall have a close look. Stable distibutions are generally fat-tailed, no? But annual rainfall distributions aren’t necessarily. I’ve been thinking just Pearson IV.

    BTW, for shorter durations, the Australian BOM is currently revising all our design intensity data; no small task over a whole continent. They’re just fitting LP3s to partial series, same as was done 25 years ago: http://www.ncwe.org.au/arr/p1.html.


  137. James:

    Am I missing something??

    There is a lot of debate above as to whether the last 15 years temperatures show a flat trend, or a slight increase – and whether the trend should be taken over 30 years rather than 15.

    Isn’t the point that in a period when humans have generated more CO2 more quickly than ever before (india, China, brazil, etc, coming on stream big time) we have seen little increase in temps that reflects that additional output of CO2.

    As I understand it, there is a general acceptance that the planet continues to warm “naturally” – so, if man made CO2 isn’t resulting in big increase in temps – then the “Natural” warming can’t be there at the moment?

    Do we understand what is happening at all?

  138. Ray Ladbury:

    Look at the trend from 1977-87. Look at the trend from 1987-1997. Now look at the trend from 1977-1997. Temperature data are noisy. If you want to spot trends you need to take periods longer than 30 years.

    Again, where the hell do you get that the planet is “warming naturally”? According to the phase of Milankovich cycles, we ought to be cooling. According to the fact that we just came out of the deepest solar minimum in >100 years, we ought to be cooling now. And given the intensity of the brown cloud coming off of Asia, we ought to be cooling now. We are not. We are still warming. Get the science and forget about talking points.

  139. SecularAnimist:

    James wrote: “Do we understand what is happening at all?”

    Who are you calling “we”?

    The multiple false assertions in your comment suggest that YOU do not, in fact, understand much of what the world’s climate scientists DO understand.

  140. Paul A:

    I’m constantly amazed by the obscure and unlikely outlets that ‘sceptics’ can find to promulgate their views. The latest example being the Catholic Herald:

    “Is the ‘anthropogenic global warming’ consensus on the point of collapse?”

  141. Pete Dunkelberg:

    >Ray Ladbury @ 109: “Now we have to get them to accept conservation of energy.”

    I agree, and not just as sarcasm. I might add that basic physics such as conservation of energy sometimes seems rather

    attenuated in statistical climatology.

    >Chris Colose @ 110: “Some like Kevin Trenberth have recently suggested to have a null hypothesis of human influence

    given the massive accumulation of evidence, thus putting the burden on those who say there isn’t a human influence, but this is a large departure from normal practice.”

    Might that nudge you in a Bayesian direction with physics assigned a prior of 1.0?

    >Paul Briscoe @ 117: “The problem I can foresee with (attribution) is that deniers will dismiss it because it relies heavily

    on (current data, paleo data, physics and “models” ie doing the calculation) which they don’t accept!!!”

    Deniers aren’t news. Try to increase the number of people who get it as opposed to being lost in the fog.

    > James @ 137: “Am I missing something??”

    As best I can decipher from your comment, yes.
    [Aside: You say “As I understand it, there is a general acceptance that the planet continues to warm “naturally” ” I don’t know where you get this.]

    What you may be missing is planet earth and physics, notably the aforementioned conservation of energy.

    First, as a land dwelling creature not that our land surface temperature is going up. See the Muller “BEST” result, and how some interpret the relentless rise as always falling. Next, recall that (1) land is only about 30% of our planet’s surface, (2) the oceans are more dynamic than solid ground, and (3) the earth as a whole is a dynamic physical system. The overall surface temperature pattern is increasing with slightly different annual variation than land alone and requires some attention to ocean dynamics. The largest ocean is the Pacific, and its largest area is the south Pacific and this is the home of the largest oceanic contribution to short term variation to overall surface temperatures, the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO).

    We’ll take a look at how ENSO works, but first here is some information to help you anticipate the importance of it. The term “global warming” is used in scientific literature to mean the increase in the global average surface temperature, but this is only a small part of the warming of the planet. About 90% of the warming goes into ocean heat content. Another chunk goes into melting ice – many cubic kilometers of it. Some seeps into the solid earth.

    How does ENSO work? Atop the south Pacific there is a large pool of warm water know as the Pacific warm pool. Circling the globe on either side of the equator there are very important air currents known as the trade winds. The strength of the trade winds varies a lot from year to year. Why this happens is beyond the scope of this comment. When the trade winds are average, the Pacific warm pool is of average (and considerable) size. When the trade winds are weak the warm pool spreads over more of the ocean surface, leading to a warmer average surface temperature. When the trade winds are strong there is much upwelling of cold water along the Pacific coast of South America. Wind driven surface currents push the warm pool towards barriers to the west while spreading cooler water across much of the Pacific, leading to a lower average earth surface temperature. The warm pool is meanwhile compressed laterally and extended downward. During this time, known as La Niña, more than the usual amount of sea surface water goes down to mid depths and adds to ocean heat content. Thus there is more planetary warming just when the “surface temperature only” view indicates less. None the less the most recent La Niña year (2011) was much warmer than any La Niña of the whole previous century. That tells you that despite annual variation, global warming continues unabated.

  142. Hank Roberts:

    > If you want to spot trends you need to take periods longer than 30 years.

    The amount of variation in any particular data set determines how much of that particular data you need to look at, to say there’s probably a trend in that particular data set.

    It’s a specific calculation, something taught in Statistics 101.

    For annual (once a year) data, that means how many years you need.

    If you were flipping coins, it would mean how many coin-flip events.

    You can do this yourself. There’s a good high-school-level discussion here with examples:

  143. Dr Nick Bone:

    I would like to see some discussion on Hansen and Sato’s latest papers, since together they are very scary. Almost “game over” scary.

    1. “Paleoclimate implications for human-made climate change” at http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abs/ha05510d.html concludes that we cannot push temperatures more than one degree C above the Holocene average (pre-industrial) or we will set off rapid warming and sea-level rise from the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheet.

    This is based on an analysis of previous warm interglacials, arguing that globally they were only fractionally warmer than the Holocene peak, but with major polar amplification. Also, that sea level rise was very fast during these interglacials (several meters per century).

    2. “Earth’s energy imbalance and implications” at http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abs/ha06510a.html implies that the negative aerosol forcing has been underestimated by most climate models, since their response function to warming is too slow. The consequence is that a large part of current CO2 forcing is being masked by aerosols.

    Put these together and we have a huge, and apparently insoluble, problem. Point 1 requires an extremely rapid decarbonisation and carbon sequestration program, since we are almost at 1 degree of warming already. Point 2 then states that if we stop releasing CO2, then we will remove the aerosol masking (most of which comes from fossil fuel burning) and expose ourselves to the full forcing from CO2 already released. This would cause even faster warming.

    So it’s “damned if we do” and “damned if we don’t”. Anyone see a way out of this? Does it mean that we are now forced to try geo-engineering to give ourselves some hope? Could we even afford to do that if we are rapidly decarbonizing at the same time?

  144. Pete Dunkelberg:

    Paul A 140’s link

    “some of the more hysterical and extreme claims about global warming appear symptomatic of a pagan emptiness, of a Western fear when confronted by the immense and basically uncontrollable forces of nature… Perhaps they’re looking for a cause that is almost a substitute for religion… In the past pagans sacrificed animals and even humans in vain attempts to placate capricious and cruel gods. Today they demand a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.”

    Downtown flake city.

  145. MARodger:

    Dr Nick Bone @143
    The Hansen & Sato paper (presently off line so this is from memory & the abstract) seemed to me a bit too pesimistic with the acceleration of sea level rise. They discuss doubling of the rise (every 10 years in the abstract, the paper considers other doubling periods) based on a short record of GRACE data.
    I would argue that the 10 yr doubling rate of rise would soon become impossible unless it is the result of unmelted ice. From the present 1.5mm rise from melting, the 10 yr doubling would yield 24mm pa by mid century & the energy to melt that amount of ice starts to become massive.
    That doesn’t mean sea rise will not hurt, just that without a massive source of icebergs waiting to topple into the ocean, sea rise is a more multi-century problem than a multi-decade one.

  146. Pete Dunkelberg:

    > “…sea rise is a more multi-century problem than a multi-decade one.”

    If we continue with accelerated emissions a big problem before 2100 is likely. But Roger, always keep in mind that the attempt to burn all the carbon will be stopped well before 2100 by some combination of people power and climate shock. The faster people power grows, the less climate shock is needed. YOU must be part of the reason sanity prevails sooner rather than later. Yes, YOU.

  147. SecularAnimist:

    Meteorologist Jeff Masters, interviewed by Christine Shearer at Conducive Chronicle (emphasis added):

    “Stronger hurricanes, bigger floods, more intense heat waves, and sea level rise have been getting many of the headlines with regards to potential climate change impacts, but drought should be our main concern. Drought is capable of crashing a civilization. To illustrate, drought has been implicated in the demise of the Mayan civilization in Mexico, the Anasazis of the Southwest U.S., and the Akkadians of Syria in 2200 B.C. The Russian heat wave and drought of 2010 led to a spike in global food prices that helped cause unrest in Africa and the Middle East that led to the overthrow of several governments. It’s likely that global-warming intensified droughts will cause far more serious impacts in the coming decades, and drought is capable of crashing our global civilization in a worst-case scenario, particularly if we do nothing to slow down emissions of carbon dioxide.”

    This morning, NPR’s Morning Edition ran a report on the multi-year drought that is “ravaging” much of Mexico. Not a single mention that the Mexican drought is part of a world-wide pattern of such droughts. Not a single mention that increasing frequency and intensity of such droughts is a long-predicted result of anthropogenic global warming. Not a single mention of climate change.

  148. Hank Roberts:

    ‘sceptics’ … the Catholic Herald

    It’s a conservative newspaper — not a publication of the church.

    A bit on clouds:

    “One potential geophysical mechanism for changes in atmospheric transmission from one solstice season to the next involves cloudiness. The possibility that clouds are linked to solar activity has appeared in the literature, although the concept is controversial and conflicting results exist (Svensmark, 1998, 2007; Sloan and Wolfendale, 2008). As noted previously, clouds over the South Pole vary erratically….

    “When all 17 years enter the regressions, there is clearly no link between the standard deviations and the solar cycle….

    “… mean irradiance ratios and their standard deviations show no linear dependence on year over solstice periods from 1992 to 2008. This indicates the absence of a trend in cloudiness during the duration of the measurements….”

    There are variations and more to look into, it’s an interesting location for observations.

    Atmos. Chem. Phys., 11, 1177–1189, 2011

    Solar irradiance at the earth’s surface: long-term behavior observed
    at the South Pole
    J. E. Frederick and A. L. Hodge
    Department of the Geophysical Sciences, University of Chicago
    11 February 2011

  149. David B. Benson:

    GlenFergus @136 — Well, the normal distribution is a stable distribution. :-) The one-sided stable distributions indeed rolloff in a heavy tailed manner. I opine that the stable distribution properties are suggesting something important about extreme rainfall events so perhaps your data series just are not long enough yet.

    The study I found was from South Australia metorologists for a time series of Melbourne rainfall data.

  150. jacob l:

    re dale 103
    James Hansen in 1976 published : Greenhouse effects due to man-made perturbation of trace gases.

  151. Paul A:

    err… some belated research shows The Catholic Herald is jointly owned by Rocco Forte and Conrad Black, so may be it isn’t such a surprising vehicle for ACC denial.

  152. James:

    138 ray
    139 Sec A
    141 Pete D

    I wasn’t trying to be contentious..

    You will have gathered from my previous comment at #137 that I am a layman, and as such, I thought that there was long term evidence of a gently warming planet and that this was the consensus viewpoint – but that this warming had increased in the last 50 years or so at a rate that could only be attributable to man’s additional input via increasing CO2 output.

    Is this not the case?

    Are we therefore saying that the underlying trend is flat or downward and that CO2 is the reason for any increase?

  153. Kevin McKinney:

    #147–Thanks, SA, I missed the story yesterday, and it’s a vivid report about what the drought is like ‘on the ground.’ I sent an email to the show, pointing out the missing context that you highlighted.

    Just in case anybody else had the problem I did with SA’s link–the page kept crashing my browser, due I think to the video–you can listen to the story instead. There’s an index for 2/7/12, from which you can pull up the drought piece audio:


    It’s only about 4:30 or so.

  154. Lewis:

    Hank – I wonder if you could clarify just what is the current thinking on the period of timelag for GHGs affecting global surface air temperature due to oceans’ thermal inertia ? For as long as I can recall the period of 35 to 40 years has been quoted without challenge, but the renowned meteorologist Jeff Masters has recently posted an article using 25 years, without referring to any fresh research on the issue.

    So I wonder if you may know of such research, or perhaps of some other explanation ?



  155. MARodger:

    Pete Dunkelberg @146

    Do bear in mind that Dr Nick Bone @143 was asking for “discussion on Hansen & Sato.” I did fail to comment on his point 2 which may have given you the impression I was being “off message.” (I will make amends below.)
    While I wholly agree that ‘sanity should prevail sooner rather than later,’ and also that sea level rise will be damaging by 2100 probably whatever emissions there are before then, I remain convinced that the sea level rises from melting ice considered by Hansen & Sato 2010 are much too pessimistic.

    Dr Nick Bone @143

    Regarding your second point & discussion – If you have a tiger cub by the tail, do not wait until it grows into an angry adult tiger. Your grip will fail soon enough so it is crazy not to let go a.s.a.p.

  156. Dan H.:

    Going back to 1880 (the start of the industrial revolution), the planet has warmed at a rate of ~0.6C / century. However, the warming has not been a constant linear trend. Slight cooling was observed until ~1910, then the planet warmed until the 1940s. The planet then experienced another 30 years of falling temperatures. Starting in the late 70s, the planet began warming again, up until the end of the century. Since then, the trend has been flat to slightly downward. The graph can be viewed here:

    There are many theories as to what has constituted this variation, usually with a combination of natural and manmade contributions. The overall trend has not changed significantly over the past two centuries, however, changes that have lasted several decades are quite evident.

    Explanations for the recent deviation range from sulfer aerosols from coal burning in China, to a change in the ocean currents resulting in more frequent and stronger La Ninas, to a solar minimum.

  157. Hank Roberts:

    Lewis, in your question above, what data set is Jeff Masters writing about? (I can’t make the link behind your name work, so I don’t know if you’ve written something elsewhere). Given a particular data set you can follow Robert Grumbine’s or Tamino’s discussions on detecting trends to assess an article; without that (shrug) I’d try looking it up.

    I’d start at The 40 Year Delay Between Cause and Effect and by looking at papers citing Levitus et al. (2000), Warming of the world ocean, which Scholar lists as having been
    “Cited by 821”

    But remember, I’m just some guy on a blog; I sometimes point out examples of what can be found by looking online for those who can’t easily get to a library and ask a reference librarian for help — which is the way to go for non-experts. I can’t provide critical thinking beyond that.

    I used to rely on the old Usenet approach — “Post what you believe and await correction” — but the ‘corrections’ from opinion without citation are really discouragingly bad, mostly evidence of the backfire effect.

  158. Hank Roberts:

    James above asked about the underlying trend in climate if people weren’t affecting it. I didn’t find a simple clear answer with a brief glance at the “Start Here” link (top of page, still the best place to start looking and I know it’s in there in one of the linked readings).

    But I recalled this:
    from this: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/09/090903-arctic-warming-ice-age.html

    That says it’s referring to a paper “Gifford Miller of the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research at the University of Colorado, Boulder.”

    I didn’t dig down to exactly what paper that means, but this looks like related work:

    The typical pattern is a rapid warming after an ice age then a slow cooling, thus: http://www.globalwarmingart.com/images/thumb/8/8f/Ice_Age_Temperature_Rev.png/350px-Ice_Age_Temperature_Rev.png

    As you see at the National Geographic link, the warm peak after the ice age was about 8,000 years ago, followed by slow cooling — the period during which civilization emerged.

  159. Pete Dunkelberg:

    Good Morning James,

    I was just agreeing ;) that you might be missing something.
    As for trends, underlying or otherwise, they don’t just happen for no physical reason, and are measured in principle via top of the atmosphere energy balance. Causative factors are called forcings.

    I think what you mean by “underlying trend” is whatever is not human-caused. So far so good. But CO2 is hardly the only positive forcing, nor are all human-caused forcings positive. Aerosols are a large negative forcing (cause of cooling, resulting in less warming).

    Perhaps the simplest thing for you to do is search google images for climate forcings.
    Other links:



    This page with updated charts should help you sort out the non-human factors. Look at Figure 13 (about the fourth one from the top, the numbering is based on the source for the page). Figure 13 has several parts. Note volcanoes (top part). These cause cooling if they are large enough. We have some medium large ones in the last 50 years, but nothing out of the ordinary. Figure 11 on that same page shows that the sun has given us slightly less energy in recent decades, but again this is nothing out of the ordinary. On the other hand the NOAA link above has a chart of “The global mean radiative forcing of the climate system for the year 2000, relative to 1750.” This shows that the sun is a small positive forcing compared to 1750.

    You might be pleased, James, that after all that one might say that the aerosol cooling very approximately cancels other greenhouse gasses + black carbon so that CO2 forcing is close to net forcing. Still keep in mind that most of the planet’s energy gain goes into the oceans and so forth.

    But if you want to know what should really matter to all of us, it is ongoing changes in precipitation patterns (big words meaning more drought and floods) and consequences for agriculture (more big words meaning famine).

  160. Septic Matthew:

    12, Thomas Bleakney: It is sad that reputable scientists from other fields are sowing so much confusion and doubt among the innocent lay public. In my opinion they are doing a very bad thing with severe consequences for the planet.

    As written, you have not distinguished between criticism that have merit and those that do not. For criticisms that have merit, are you really advocating that those be ignored? Writing in the Journal of the American Statistical Association last summer, Magnus, Melenberg and Muris referred to “cavities” in the knowledge base. In “Principles of Planetary Climate” Raymond T. Pierrehumbert frequently draws attention to the fact that the mathematics of the steady-state/local-thermal-equilibrium is pretty accurate — but at the same time an alert reader can notice that the inaccuracy of the models (> 10%) cast doubt on the ability to make an accurate forecast over a span of decades (since the system is never in steady state). Add in the fact that all necessary parameters are known only with some degree of inaccuracy, and that ability to make accurate forecasts over a span of decades has not been demonstrated, then it seems to me that researchers ought to focus on the legitimate criticisms by reputable scientists from other fields.

  161. Ray Ladbury:

    James, no offense intended. I am a snarky SOB by nature. Basically, though, the whole contention that “the planet warms naturally” is an unscientific position. Warming implies increasing energy, and that energy must come from somewhere. It is not the Sun. It isn’t the oceans. It looks exactly like what we expect from increasing greenhouse gasses.

    So the question that I would ask–and that I would suggest you consider as well–is where are you getting your information. If they are wrong about something as fundamental as conservation of energy, what else could they be misinforming you about? Anthropogenic causation of warming from burning fossil fuels is an idea that is 112 years old. It is in no way controversial among actual scientists–at least not those who can claim any expertise on climate. Yes, there are cranks, but there are cranks who don’t think smoking causes cancer (many of them are the same). Listen to the experts.

  162. Ray Ladbury:

    Septic Matthew,
    Horse puckey! The evidence is overwhelming that anthropogenic CO2 is causing the planet to warm. The evidence is overwhelming that the warming is within errors of what we expect from the models. The evidence is overwhelming that even now warming is adversely affecting agriculture and increasing severe weather events.

    Do you expect all of this to suddenly freakin’ stop? This is science. You go where the evidence points, and you have bupkes to support your position.

    Quit looking for “uncertainty monsters” under the bed. What we do not know does not invalidate what we do.

  163. Hank Roberts:

    Oh, and James — where “Dan H.” writes above that

    “… the end of the century. Since then, the trend has been flat to slightly downward.”

    He’s lying.
    He knows he’s lying.
    He won’t stop lying.

  164. Hank Roberts:

    What’s needed to claim a trend in a climate data set:

  165. Septic Matthew:

    another waste-to-fuel enterprise:


  166. Septic Matthew:

    162, Ray Ladbury: What we do not know does not invalidate what we do.

    That’s a good one.

  167. Andreas:

    Re #124, MARodger:
    “Given then that GISSTEMP is a measure ‘useful for estimating’ global temperature (as is HadCRUT3), why do you legitimise the erroneous scribbling of Whitehouse, which was you message @108?”

    He doesn’t use GISTEMP as an estimate for global temperature nor for its anomalies. He just says that 54.8 is less than 55.4. That’s as true as to say that .548 K is less than .554 K. For his statements an index is all he needs. They aren’t flawed because of the factor of 100.

  168. Dr Nick Bone:

    Re: 145 and 155. Point noted, but it is clear that Hansen is not just wildly extrapolating, since there is Paleo evidence for multi-meter-per-century rises. I found a concise Scientific American article from 2009 which references original papers by Paul Blanchon and others. See http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=ancient-corals-provide-record-of-rapid-sea-level-rise .

    Also, these fast rates of rise in the Eocene seem consistent with those at the end of the Holocene.

  169. Dr Nick Bone:

    P.S. Sorry, I meant rates of rise at start of Holocene of course…

  170. Dan H.:

    Look at the data, and decide for yourself. By the way, the planet has warmed and cooled naturally in the past. The contributions from natural and manmade causes are constantly being evaluated. Those who think we know everything, are only fooling themselves.

  171. Septic Matthew:

    Here is recent research on an unknown that might matter:


    It requires confirmation from future research, and I have only seen the abstract, but it looks to be worthy of discussion.

  172. SecularAnimist:

    Dan H. wrote: “Those who think we know everything, are only fooling themselves.”

    And those who pretend that we don’t know what we DO know, are only trying to fool others.

  173. Dan:

    re: 170.

    Oh puh-lease! You are dredging up very long-ago addressed points. We are talking about the warming that has occurred since the 1970s which can not be explained by natural causes alone. The warming can only be explained when the additional forcings from greenhouse gases are considered. You really need to read about the forcings because it is quite clear you do not know about them. Or understand them. We know what warmed and cooled the planet thousands of years ago. That is a huge red herring for you to bring up. Especially since it is such old news even in the denialist, anti-science world you live in. What happened thousands of years ago is all but irrelevant to the cause of warming over the past 40 years. The natural causes are still in effect and may vary but you are completely ignoring the additional impact of greenhouse gases since the 70s.

    BTW, do please explain why the stratosphere has essentially been cooling over the past recent decades? If natural causes (e.g. the sun) were the cause, the stratosphere ought to be warming. And solar trends do not explain/track the warming. Oh…you can’t explain it? Gee, wonder why? Maybe you ought to read the science. It is the height of scientific arrogance to claim that natural causes are the cause of warming since the 70s. Especially on a blog run by peer-reviewed climate scientists. And your climate science expertise? (crickets chirping) Thought so.

    A. Read about the scientific method (which is how science has been done for centuries). Especially about how science is reviewed and debated through scientific conferences and journals. By actual climate scientists as opposed to magazine writers, newspaper editorial writers, and talk show hosts who have no clue about what they are talking about.
    B. Read the peer-reviewed science re: warming over the past 4 decades.

  174. Hank Roberts:

    > look … and decide for yourself

    Or, you can check what he’s offering you to work with and see how it spins.

    “… statistics, ‘…like veal pies, are good if you know the person that made them, and are sure of the ingredients.'”

    Dan H. has never said where he gets the notions he posts here repeatedly.

    From the references cited above, for those who didn’t check them:

    “… in doing science. We try to avoid having choices. Choices can be made differently by different people, for different reasons, and not all those reasons will turn out to be good ones. Finding a scientific principle and then looking for how to satisfy that principle is far better. Here, the principle is that the length of data used should not affect your conclusion about what the climate trend is. This is a strong principle. So when you see someone violating it (say by using a 7 year span without doing some real work to justify it — work like I’m doing here), they’re probably not doing good science.

    … let’s look at what the trends are like if we use 7 years of data, versus using 25 years….”

    “Temperature trends – pick a timescale, any timescale! … trend-lines … can be fairly dangerous…. Depending on your preconceptions, by picking your start and end times carefully, you can now ‘prove’ that:
    Temperature is falling!
    Temperature is static!….”

  175. Anonymous Coward:

    Lewis (#154),
    Your question is imprecise.
    The 40 year figure quoted by Hank (which is undertain and may for all I know not be representative of the views of most experts) has a precise meaning. It seems to be the time at which approximately 60% of the warming would be realized. Like all such figures, it’s based on an arbitrary choice.
    The reason you need an arbitrary choice is that the total intertia of the oceans is huge. You’d need thousands of years to get the to the full effect of a given stable forcing. Refer to IPCC WG1 AR4 for the consensusual take on this kind of stuff.
    But no forcing is going to be that stable so it’s kind of a moot point. The inertia for the top of the oceans is more relevant to our concerns but where do you draw the line?

  176. Ray Ladbury:

    Dan H., Just curious. Do you really think it is a profitable use of time to challenge physics that has been known for more than a century (Arrhenius predicted anthropogenic climate change from fossil fuel burning in 1896)?

    Do you also think we should revisit whether atoms exist? How about investigating the nature of the luminiferous aether? And that pesky quantization–hasn’t that always bugged you? Relativity? The atomic nucleus? So, tell us, Dan, what else, in your opinion, should we toss out along with all of climate theory?

  177. Hank Roberts:

    > 40 year figure quoted

    That’s the number from the HTML link to a headline; it’s the author’s rounded-off approximation of the overly precise “midpoint” of the paper’s estimate of a range. Don’t put much weight on it, you’ll fall through.

    It’s explained in the linked article.

  178. James:

    Re Ray 161

    Hmmm. I guess what I thought I understood by the “natural” warming trend is based on the concept that the last ice age is still in “retreat” – i.e. “natural” warming must be the result of the rebalancing of “natural” events that caused cooling, for instance volcanoes or large asteroid stikes or something – rather than being “warmed” by the sun because the sun is is somehow generating more energy.

  179. MARodger:

    Andreas @167

    Are we are talking about the same ‘document’? I am not entirely sure any more!
    This is because you say “He doesn’t use GISTEMP as an estimate for global temperature nor for its anomalies. ” Yet the Whitehouse nonsense linked at the top of this post (& thus what I am referring to) discusses “NasaGiss” using words like “…running mean global temperature…” and “Average Temperature Anomaly

    On the off-chance that we are referring to the same ‘document’ and that you wish to defend it further (I cannot for the life of me think why you would. Even Whitehouse would probably here call it a day.), let me give you my honest opinion of it.

    First off, it says GWPF at the top. I never can remember what that stands for (Is it Grand Words Pure Flimflam?) but I know GWPF is used to prepare the reader for some of the most bizarre comments and analysis on AGW that they are ever likely to encounter.
    In this GWPF paper Whitehouse describes the recent global temperature record in a manner akin to a blind man’s description of the anatomy of an elephant based solely on a chance overheard elephant-keepers’ conversation on the top deck of a London omnibus.
    Whitehouse notes that the strongest period of warming was in the mid 1990s yet fails to mention either the rather significant eruption of Pinatuba or the strongest El Nino event on record which, goodness, may be the reason for this short period of strong warming. Clever Whitehouse! He’s discovered volcanoes & ENSO cause wobbles in global temperature. If we hang on a few more centuries he might just be able to add the solar infulence onto that and work out why the recent global temperatures aren’t surging up as rapidly as they might (or as he calls it the “no increase in temperature”).
    Then all Whitehouse needs to do is work out how to write his message using a tenth the words he does at present and he may then find his errors are better received.

  180. MARodger:

    Dr Nick Bone @168
    Hey. I think it is not the likes of Hansen that “wildly extrapolates.”
    Hansen & Sato 2010 (now on line to refresh my memory) do talk of the mechanisms for a potential increasing rate of sea level rise. In this they point to the floating ice actually cooling the planet by significant amounts (& for a significant period, not doubt).
    I am inclined to the view that the main message of Hansen & Sato 2010 of long term multi-metre sea level rise from quite modest temperature rises is well founded. The exponential increase in sea level rise by 2100 surely requires more glacier study (& less extrapolation) to be seen as more than speculative.

    I was careful @145 to talk of “melting” ice caps & the reference you link to talks of “collapsing ice sheets” which I take to mean unmelted ice pouring into the oceans. (There is something odd about the numbers in that Scientific American article. The crucial Blanchon quote says clearly ’20cm in 50 years’ when elsewhere the rate is given as ten times that.) The ” 2m jump” mentioned is also in the referenced Nature article (what can be seen of it) – “2-3m jump in sea level.” – again suggesting collapsing ice sheets. The stated rate of rise (50mm pa) would require some 6 zJ pa to melt the ice which is about what the annual rise in Ocean Heat Content is presently measured at. So warming would be greatly restrained while such levels of ice melted & if rates were higher than 50mm as Hansen’s 10 year doubling would bring, the result would be those cooling temperatures during the melt

  181. Dan H.:

    Where are you getting the idea that warming since the 1970s can be explained by natural causes alone, or is ignoring the effects of CO2? If this information is coming from the media, talk show hosts, or extremist websites, then perhaps, it is time to switch to more scientific outlets. Check out what is printed in the scientific literature.

    There you can find details of both natural and manmade causes of warming and cooling, not just of the past 40 years, but throughout history. Condescending attitudes and implying that your opponents are ignorant does not lend your post much credence. In fact, it implies that you are in denial of the science.

    Not all scientists agree as to the effect of each of these causes, and I am curious as to your explanations for the variations in the warming and cooling of the past 40 years.

  182. Dan Lufkin:

    I confess that I’ve never thought about our Sisyphean task of enlightenment in just these terms before. The idea of “cohort replacement” cheers me greatly although it implies gratification postponed. Read all about it HERE.

  183. Kevin McKinney:


    “I guess what I thought I understood by the “natural” warming trend is based on the concept that the last ice age is still in “retreat” – i.e. “natural” warming must be the result of the rebalancing of “natural” events that caused cooling. . .”

    Many people seem to hold the intuitive view that there is some sort of equilibrium to which temperatures ‘automatically’ return, like a default setting. Thus, take away a source of cooling, and things return to ‘normal,’ like a spring relaxing.

    Unfortunately, that perception appears not to be accurate. Cooling or warming occurs in response to specific forcings and the feedbacks following therefrom.

    And WRT the current situation, the climate has generally been cooling, not warming, since the height of the current interglacial–the peak temperatures of the Holocene (until just recently, that is) appear to have been roughly 10,000 years ago. So from this perspective, the current warming isn’t a continuation, but a reversal of a trend.

  184. Radge Havers:


    “So, tell us, Dan, what else, in your opinion, should we toss out along with all of climate theory?”

    Ah, I would submit that the “skeptic for skepticism’s sake” doesn’t want to toss anything out. They just want to start each day fresh, surprised that the sun has risen again, that apples still fall from trees, and glad that they have yet another opportunity to reinvent the wheel, rediscover first principles, and generally float in a timeless adolescent fog of perpetual cafe debate.

  185. Ray Ladbury:

    James, when you posit a “natural” cause for warming, you need to keep in mind its mechanism. Volcanism modulates climate by decreasing the sunlight that reaches the planet. It acts on a timescale of years. Likewise an asteroid impact. There is zero evidence that the current warming is being driven by such a cause.

    The temperature of the planet is determined by the energy absorbed from the sun and the energy that escapes Earth as outgoing infrared radiation. If the temperature is rising, then either energy in must be increasing or energy out must be decreasing. Energy in does not look to be increasing–solar irradiance hasn’t been increasing. Accordingto Milankovich cycles, we ought to be cooling.

    That leaves energy out decreasing. Every indication is that this decrease is due to greenhouse gasses. There is no credible competing hypothesis.

    Frankly, the whole “natural warming” argument is unscientific. It sounds like a teenager standing over a broken vase saying, “It just happened!!!”

  186. SecularAnimist:

    Ray Ladbury wrote: “Dan H., Just curious. Do you really think it is a profitable use of time to challenge physics that has been known for more than a century …”

    It has become abundantly obvious that Dan H. thinks that a profitable use of his time is wasting other people’s time with disingenuous nonsense.

  187. Hank Roberts:

    The distortions from “Dan H.” are getting pretty blatant.

    Above, “Dan” replies to “Dan H.” who posted a big bundle of denial at 156.

    173 Dan says: 8 Feb 2012 at 6:42 PM
    > … We are talking about
    > the warming that has occurred
    > since the 1970s which can not be
    > explained by natural causes alone.

    and Dan H. says: 9 Feb 2012 at 9:15 AM
    > Dan,
    > Where are you getting the idea that
    > warming since the 1970s can be
    > explained by natural causes alone …

  188. Jim Galasyn:

    The forces of anti-science descend on Amazon.com: Michael Mann and the Climate Wars

    Eminent climate scientist Michael Mann has written a book describing what’s it’s like to be on the receiving end of an orchestrated anti-science campaign. The Amazon.com comments page has collected a swarm of negative reviews from climate science denialists.

  189. James:

    #Ray 185

    Ray, you started well and went all grumpy SOB at the end! – likening my thought processes to those of a teenager.

    Please try and understand that not everyone has the knowledge that you, and other contributers, have and try and understand how, and where, reasonably intelligent lay people get their “knowledge”.

    Throughout the whole of my education I was taught that the planet has experienced various major clamatic events. I believe, because that was what I was taught, that dinosaurs probably became extinct because of an asteroid stike which sent plumes of matter into the skies – which darkened (cooled) the planet and wiped out much natural life.

    I believe, this event, or others, lead to an ice age such that my country (England) was once frozen over for many years.

    I was then lead to believe that as the dust settled (literally) the planet started to warm (naturally) and the ice started to retreat (and still does).

    You went on to say:
    If the temperature is rising, then either energy in must be increasing or energy out must be decreasing.

    At the risk of incurring your ire, is this really correct?

    It is surely not suggested that the sun was getting “hotter” after the ice age – only that more of the sun’s energy was getting through because the dust settled.

    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.

    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.

    As I hit the “say it” button …. I am diving under the table.

  190. Septic Matthew:

    More on the declining costs of solar power, this time in Germany: http://cleantechnica.com/2012/02/09/solar-pv-reducing-price-of-electricity-in-germany/

  191. flxible:

    James – Ray is normally a “grumpy SOB”. While your “thought processes” may have progressed beyond those of a teenager, your knowledge of the processes of the physics of climate haven’t . . . click the “Start Here” button at the top of the site and you might improve your understanding of why those changes you were taught of have occured – it isn’t as simple as dust settling and what “seems logical”. ;)

  192. Dan H.:

    The Earth does have an “equlibrium” temperature per se. Rather the temperature of the Earth is dependant on the energy in and energy out, as mentioned by Ray. During the recent ice ages and interglacials, the temperature of this planet has swing wildly from a cold, dry planet of expanding glaciers to the mild (by our standards) temperatures of today. Prior to that, the climate was even hotter and wetter.
    Do not think of it as a single temperature about which the Earth swings like a pendulum. But rather, as a constantly changing tempperature, influenced by both external and internal forces. Changes in these forces will cause the most recent “equilibrium” to move to a new equilibrium state. Momentum will not take over and cause temperatures to rise or fall in a runaway fashion.

  193. Ray Ladbury:

    James, I was not trying to imply that you were thinking like a teenager–rather that the whole “natural cycle…” argument is unscientific. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

    Unfortunately, popular culture is full of sciencey sounding myths. Yes, the at least some dinosaurs probably died out due to a mass extinction event resulting from a large impact. No, this had nothing to do with the ice ages. Rather, the glacial/interglacial periods seem to be modulated by subtle changes in solar irradiation resulting form minor changes in Earth’s orbital distance, orientation, orbital phase, etc. Collectively, these changes go under the heading Milankovich cycles. What happens is that small changes in solar radiation absorbed (note, that’s energy in) give rise to changes in ice cover and greenhouse gasses, etc. (modifying energy out). Then the planet swings the other way and the process is reversed.

    The planet does have an equilibrium for a given amount of solar energy absorbed and a given state–at which point energy in equals energy out. Now let’s say we change the state of the planet by adding 40% more of a powerful greenhouse gas. That takes a big bite out of the outgoing infrared spectrum (decreasing energy out). That’s got to heat things up, right? However, as things heat up, the planet emits more infrared radiation across the spectrum, so eventually, the energy leaving the planet (integrated over the entire curve) is again equal to energy in, despite the big bite taken out.

    Generally, what saves us from reaching a tipping point is that the changes in both energy in and out are pretty small as a proportion of the total.

    Aw, come on. I’m not that mean!

  194. Ray Ladbury:

    You know, every once in a while, I will go peruse the Borehole. I always think with a shudder what would happen if the containment on that vessel gave way and unleashed so much weapons-grade stupidity on the world at once.

  195. Dr Nick Bone:

    Re: 180. The abstract from Blanchon’s Nature article describes the 2-3 meter rise as happening on an “ecological” timescale; the supplementary info (which is available for download) gives the argumentation for this, and the interpretation as “the lifespan of one or two generations of coral”. Also, if you look at Blanchon’s comments to the SA article, then he says the rates were the same as at the end of the last glaciation. So Blanchon is indeed claiming several meters per century.

    Further, note that the SA article links to an earlier Nature letter by Rohling et al which found average rates of 1.6 meters per century rise during the Eemian. Link here: http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v1/n1/full/ngeo.2007.28.html .

    I agree fast rise does not require actual melting of an icesheet: it could just mean large amounts of ice are being floated off the ground, or sudden collapse of a shelf into the sea. But couldn’t a shelf collapse in the next century as well (e.g. part of WAIS), much faster than it would take to melt out?

  196. Hank Roberts:

    > the temperature of this planet has swing wildly

    “wildly” is bogus misdirection.

    Look up the rate of global change for natural variation.
    Compare that to the current rate of global change.

    Rates of change in natural and anthropogenic radiative forcing over the past 20,000 years

    “global climate change, which is anthropogenic in origin, is progressing at a speed that is unprecedented at least during the last 22,000 years.

    Dan H. keeps trying to pose as a knowledgeable commentator, while slipping in bogus ‘information’. He’s become quite a clever mimic. Watch him.

    Damn, I miss killfile. I’m getting snippy.

  197. Hank Roberts:

    Here, picture this:

    Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 February 5; 105(5): 1425–1430.
    doi: 10.1073/pnas.0707386105

  198. Chris Colose:


    You might be interested in this blog post that I wrote where I outlined why climate changes on a number of different timescales, ranging from years to billions of years (Note that the asteroid impact was some 65 million years ago, completely irrelevant to us today), and I give some more developed examples in Earth’s history.

    Actually, it’s a self-advertisement to all.

  199. Anonymous Coward:

    It seems to me that something was not cleared up in the discussion between James and Ray.
    The statement James questioned makes an unstated assumption: “If the temperature is rising, then either energy in must be increasing or energy out must be decreasing.”
    If you assume radiative equilibrium, then that’s of course true. But, given a pre-existing disequilibrium, it’s not: it doesn’t take any increase or decrease to cause a change in temperatures.
    I think that James’ conjecture was about (in other words) a pre-existing disequilibrium such as would have been caused by a drop in global ice cover. The early Holocene must have had a sustained disequilibrium of this sort for instance.

    It doesn’t seem that there actually was a pre-existing disequilibrium large enough to cause anything like the increase in temperatures during the last third of the 20th century. The erratic recovery from the LIA or the more vigorous recovery from the 19th century chill (itself partly caused by changes in GHGs) don’t have the required magnitude and there’s no evidence of a catastrophic feedback that could have amplified them (like a large ice sheet giving way or something).
    But you can’t rule out something like that a priori with a theoretical argument.

  200. Ray Ladbury:

    AC, if there is a disequilibrium, then by definition energy in is not equal to energy out.

  201. Anonymous Coward:

    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.

  202. Bob Loblaw:


    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”.

  203. jyyh:

    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

  204. Meow:

    @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.

  205. Hunt Janin:

    Re #195 above, re sea level rise:

    What might cause a shelf collapse?

  206. James:

    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”.

  207. Daniel C Goodwin:

    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?

  208. Anonymous Coward:

    #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.

  209. Ray Ladbury:

    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.

  210. Kevin McKinney:


    “. . . 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.

  211. MARodger:

    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.”

  212. JimCA:

    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]

  213. Anonymous Coward:

    #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.

  214. dbostrom:

    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.

  215. David Lewis:

    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 et.al. 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 et.al. Warming caused by cumulative carbon emissions towards the trillionth tonne saying Allen et.al.”agree with Meinshausen et.al. 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.

  216. wili:

    Thoughts on the following article:


    Or on the jump in atmospheric methane in the Arctic between January of last year:


    and this January:


  217. Hank Roberts:

    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 ——–

  218. wili:

    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?

  219. Hank Roberts:

    > 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.

  220. Hank Roberts:

    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.

  221. Hank Roberts:

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

  222. wili:

    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.

  223. Hank Roberts:

    > 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: http://chriscolose.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/rf_20000years.jpg
    But link to the place you found the picture
    like this: http://chriscolose.wordpress.com/2010/03/02/global-warming-mapsgraphs-2/

    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.

  224. Hank Roberts:

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

  225. wili:

    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.)

  226. Hank Roberts:

    > 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.

  227. wili:

    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.

  228. Pete Dunkelberg:

    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.

  229. Jack:

    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:

  230. Hank Roberts:

    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?

  231. Leland Palmer:

    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?

  232. Robert:

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


    Heartland Institute Exposed

  233. dbostrom:

    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.

  234. Hank Roberts:

    <a http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-checkup/post/air-pollution-linked-to-cognitive-impairment-in-older-women/2010/12/20/gIQAiohqBR_blog.html 02/13/2012
    Air pollution linked to cognitive impairment in older women

  235. Ron R.:

    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]

  236. Leland Palmer:

    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.

  237. Hank Roberts:

    > 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?

  238. Hank Roberts:

    North American Bird Phenology Program

  239. DP:

    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?

  240. Hank Roberts:

    > 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?

  241. Ron R.:

    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.


  242. jacob l:

    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

  243. Ron R.:

    Evidently I messed up he captcha.

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

  244. Hank Roberts:

    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.

  245. Ron R.:



    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:


  246. David B. Benson:

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

  247. Martin Vermeer:

    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”?


  248. Andreas:

    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.

  249. DP:

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

  250. SRJ:

    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.

  251. Dan H.:

    I think this is what you want. Try this link for a recent GISS map.


  252. Kevin McKinney:

    For those interested in flywheel technology–

    It seems that Beacon Energy, which went bust in the wake of the Solyndra affair, found a ‘white knight’:


    Good news, I think. Beacon has a real-world technology, earning actual revenue by stabilizing the grid, seemingly with good long-term prospects. But development costs have been high. Can they “get over the hump?” At least they’ll have a chance to try, and some (hopefully more robust) financial backing in doing so.

  253. Kevin McKinney:

    #251–No, Dan that is not what he wanted. That is baselined to 1998-2006, which is fairly goofy.

  254. Hank Roberts:

    Oh, dear, Dan H., you’ve done it again.
    You’re linking an unexplained copy of someone else’s image at a known denial site and handwaving to claim it answers someone’s question.

    That particular spun image is all over the denial sites if you do an image search. You can do better than be a tube piping stuff you find in without thinking.

    Look up the original source.
    Read the caption and the context.
    People who post unattributed copies with their own claims are quite likely trying to delude people who don’t think critically.
    Ask them where they got the original.
    If they won’t tell you — ask why not.

  255. dbostrom:

    …when comes the time to write up and report the results, these otherwise smart folks regress to office automation software.

    Constant supplies of “free” or heavily discounted software to clueless administrators will have that effect.

    Of course it’s not really “free” software unless publishers making these “donations” eschew taking tax deductions for their purported munificence. Otherwise, each “free” copy of Office or whatever proprietary version of mundanity is on offer is a self-printed coupon which may be submitted to our government as a means to resign from the social contract that helped to produce the human talent required for creating the software in the first place.

    This sort of thing is rampant here in Washington; Microsoft’s reputation as a benefactor to the state is high even as our educational infrastructure crumbles for lack of a fraction of the contributions they’re managing to dodge. Here we don’t have an income tax, so the self-printed tax exemption coupon thing is replaced by other sorts of exemptions.

    Public college and university budgets here have been cut to the tune of 40-50% in the past 3 years. Meanwhile Microsoft executives take the stage with the Governor and university officials, lamenting these cuts and exhorting legislators to magically fix the problem, even as Microsoft agilely avoids all responsibility for helping to ameliorate this problem.

    Presumably in the future the company will fasten its feeding tubes on graduates from other states with less of a parasitic burden, as the supply of graduates in Washington dries up.

  256. SecularAnimist:

    Dan H wrote: “Try this link for a recent GISS map.”

    Dan H. tries to put one over on “DP” by suggesting that he’s linked to a map created by NASA GISS.

    But that is not a “GISS map”. It’s a map created by someone using the “climate4you” website — perhaps by Dan H., or perhaps by Ole Humlum, the maintainer of the “climate4you” website.

    Humlum is a denier who has signed on to a statement which asserts “the case for alarm regarding climate change is grossly overstated. Surface temperature changes over the past century have been episodic and modest and there has been no net global warming for over a decade now … there has been no increase in damages from severe weather-related events. The computer models forecasting rapid temperature change abjectly fail to explain recent climate behavior.” Other signatories include Craig Idso, Richard Lindzen, Patrick Michaels and Roy Spencer.

    Humlum’s errors and egregious cherry-picking have been documented at SkepticalScience.

    It’s one thing for Dan H. to “contribute” such denialist fare to the discussion here. It’s quite another thing for Dan H. to misrepresent the work of a well-known denier as the product of NASA GISS.

  257. Ric Merritt:

    Ron R, re squabbling between bluebirds and sparrows: A while back (10 years??) The New Yorker published “A Scrap of Sky”, a gorgeous sonnet by George Bradley on that very subject, so much so that I memorized it.

    I fear that reproducing it here would be too far OT, plus probably a copyright violation, but for those who enjoy bluebirds, poetry, or both, it is worth looking up.

  258. flxible:

    Shame on DanH@251 for yet again referencing a denialator sites unexplained and unreferenced mis-interpretations of data instead of encouraging folks to investigate for themselves, all the while attributing the misinformation to real scientists. Humlum’s “climate4you” is climate for Dan.

  259. Walter Pearce:

    Re: Dan H. “Despicable” is the word to use for the mendacity of certain deniers.

    A suggestion: Require Dan H. to make an honest start by owning up to and explaining his laughable misunderstanding of the PDSI, as detailed on Tamino’s blog.

    Otherwise, send his comments straight to the bore hole.

  260. Hank Roberts:

    Sigh. climate4you Humlum fake image.

    Desccribed as using ‘data from the GISS database’:

    “All the above diagrams are constructed using data from the GISS database.”

    Faked by changing the baseline to the latest highest years:

    “the period 1998-2006 is used as reference period….”

    1998 is a denial favorite comparison point, and claiming trends based on time spans a favorite deception. Bunk on bunk.

    To paraphrase the rest of the ‘climate4you’ explanation:

    Any comparison to a few years starting in 1998 will therefore appear as low or cool, and it will be impossible to decide if last year’s surface air temperatures are increasing or decreasing. Comparing with this very recent period is done to enhance the deception.

    — No cite
    — Deceptive source
    — Offered as helpful in response to someone’s question

    Dan H., for shame. BAD.


  261. dbostrom:

    Otherwise, send his comments straight to the bore hole.

    Some are already being pumped in, but like a composting toilet it seems the bore hole can only digest “matter” at a certain maximum rate.

  262. Meow:

    @246: The sciencedaily summary misrepresents the paper via the (unqualified) italicized statement:

    The study…claims that the rapid deployment of low-greenhouse-gas-emitting technologies (LGEs) will initially increase emissions as they will require a large amount of energy to construct and install. These cumulative emissions will remain in the atmosphere for extended periods due to the long lifetime of CO2, meaning that global mean surface temperatures will increase to a level greater than if we continued to use conventional coal-fired plants.

    Actually, the paper claims that, depending upon the technology, there will be ~1 yr to ~15 yr periods during deployment of low/no-carbon electricity generation tech [1] where CO2 emissions (and thus global temperatures) will be somewhat greater than they would be for continued use of coal. Supp. materials Fig. S3 shows the estimated years of “excess” deployment emissions, and Fig. S7 shows the resulting excess radiative forcing (in uW/m^2/GW and degrees C/GW deployed). Note the gigantic uncertainty ranges for renewables.

    [1] Excepting hydro, which has an uncertainty range of 0-62 years (????)

    CAPTCHA: people ingLIn

  263. Ray Ladbury:

    So, did anyone remember to sweep up the ashes of Dan H.’s credibility? I mean we should probably put them in a box…or at least a vacuum cleaner bag so he can carry them home.

  264. David Miller:

    Dan H. once had credibility?

    Darn, I read RC at least daily and I quite missed that.

  265. David B. Benson:

    SRJ @250 — Empirical observation is easy (and enjoyable): buy a cool bottle and also a warm bottle of your favorite carbonated beverage; open both. Which expresses the more carbon? Taste both; which tastes the more carbonated?

  266. Ron R.:

    Ric, I found that poem on this site (along with lot of others).


    A lovely poem. I especially like these lines:

    “Has hope and optimism to the marrow,”

    “So beauty comes again each spring and tries to stay,
    And so does drab determination thrive.”

    Can I pen one?

    The bluebird does have it’s enemies.
    The swallows and the sparrows.
    All beautiful things do.
    But I love the swallow
    and the sparrow too.

    Thank goodness that little glowing scrap of sky stepped back from the brink of extinction.

    [Response:You might be interested in this–Jim]

  267. Hank Roberts:

    So for the benefit of search engines:

    This is NOT a recent GISS map, we were being misinformed.


  268. Hank Roberts:

    hat tip to commenter Zorawar at John Baez’s Azimuth

    “The 85% energy wasted figure probably comes form the “Energy Flow” diagrams the government produces (in archaic units), e.g. https://flowcharts.llnl.gov/

  269. Hank Roberts:

    Changes in seasonal land precipitation during the latter twentieth-century
    Key Points
    Seasonal precipitation changes can be attributed to external climate forcing
    Pattern of change is consistent across 3 independent observational datasets
    Multi-model mean trends tend to underestimate the observed trends

  270. Leland Palmer:

    Hi All-

    Here’s a nasty correlation between temperature increase in the Arctic and the location of the ESAS:

    From Shakhova:


    (Hit the small orange download button, not the large green animated one, which is a commercial link)

    (From page 24)
    Observed warming on the ESAS (March-April-May; MAM, 2000-2005 versus 1970-1999, NOAA) is the strongest in the entire Arctic and the region is now 5°C warmer compared with average springtime temperature registered during the 20th century;
    B) Circum-Arctic map of sub-sea permafrost (shown in purple) (ACIA, 2005). This compilation suggests that most (~ 80%) of the relict submarine permafrost is predicted on the ESAS;

    This suggests a causal relationship, between methane release from the hydrates and local average temperature increases. Looking at the 2011 average data from NASA GISS:

    NASS GISS 2011 – Hot Spot over the ESAS

    Chances are, this will be condemned as unscientific, by the habitual pundits on this site. But temperature increases over the ESAS are certainly not inconsistent with moderately large scale methane release in 2011 from the ESAS.

  271. Ron R.:

    Thanks Jim. I’ve read a bit Jeffers in the past. While not available at my local library I’ll keep an eye for it.

    I also like Thoreau and Muir and Abbey. A old melancholy favorite is Loren Eiseley.

    It seems that a love of the natural combined with a disaffection with organized religion has figured into much of environmental verse.

    [Response:Good poetry is similar to good science in some respects. We could use a few more people who can do both.–Jim]

  272. Ron R.:

    I should say, between organized religion on one side and cold, scientific reductionism on the other.

  273. John E. Pearson:


    [Response:Lake Erie has been essentially ice free all winter, which is highly unusual.–Jim]

  274. John E. Pearson:

    There just wasn’t enough ice,” said Shannon Meister, a spokeswoman for Winterfest, who said parts of Lake Manawa revealed not just dubious ice, but open water. “In past years, it’s been debatable, but this year it was no question.”

    And some said they had no intention of missing out on remaining fishing days and worried aloud that climate change or the causes of this season’s warmth — a jet stream that sat farther north than usual and a relatively small snow cover — might somehow signal the beginning of the end of a sport that has spanned generations.

    I wonder how many of Michelle Bachman’s constituents will have to start saying these sorts of things before she starts parroting them.

  275. Susan Anderson:

    dumb question: What is ESAS in this context. Everything I can find assumes I know, but as far as I can see it’s

    Exploration Systems Architecture Study

    which is not a physical area.

  276. Rick Brown:

    Susan – it’s East Siberian Arctic Shelf, I believe

  277. Leland Palmer:

    Yes, sorry Susan.

    From Shakhova, about the significance of the ESAS methane hydrates (East Siberian Arctic Shelf):

    The ESAS is the most extensive and the shallowest shelf of the World Ocean
    • The East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS) is 2.1×106 km2 area (~25% of the Arctic Shelf, ~8% of the total area of the World Ocean’s continental shelf;
    • ~75% is shallower than 50 m (mean depth of the continental shelf is 130 m); this provides very short conduit for methane to escape to the atmosphere with almost no oxidation.

    So, it’s a big area of shallow undersea methane hydrates, which is heating rapidly. Shakhova claims that there are about a trillion tons of hydrate there, along with another 700 billion tons of free associated methane.

    There appears to me to be a correlation between the extensive methane venting Shakhova and Semiletov observed there and average temperature increases over all of 2011 as reported by NASA GISS (Goddard Institute of Space Sciences) for the local area around the ESAS.

    It could be a coincidence, but this correlation keeps showing up, and it is consistent with methane releases in the area.

    Chances are, in my opinion, it is not a coincidence, and what we are seeing with the hot spot in the NASA data is mostly local warming caused by methane release from the hydrates. There could be some albedo effect thrown in, with less ice cover reflecting less sunlight into outer space, and other more random factors, of course. But it looks to me like the methane releases are having a significant enough effect that they are affecting the yearly average temperatures. November, December, and January of 2011-2012 seemed to show very large temperature anomalies consistent with methane release from the hydrates, known to be large during those months.

    So, for the first time, in the last decade but especially in 2011 we’re starting to see this theoretical prediction of localized greenhouse heating from methane releases from the hydrates come true, I think.

    If you want to make your own maps, here is the link to NASA GISS:

    NASA GISS Surface Temperature Map Maker

    Pick temperature anomalies, select the time period you want, and select polar projection for a similar map.

  278. Hank Roberts:

    > It could be a coincidence, but this correlation keeps showing up

    And the wacky-woo anti-vaccine parody-science site huffpost is on it:

    I noticed in the Heartland stuff one of their writers moved to Huffpost recently. Seems to me like PR winding up for the leap from “can’t happen” to “too late” — or at least to “geoengineering now drill baby drill that methane”


    But perhaps I’m too cynical.

  279. Hank Roberts:

    The guy moving from Heartland to Huffington is named Greenwood, by the way.

    Came across that wondering why credit unions’ national association has been funding Heartland’s “FIRE” program. It’s their push against acceptance of climate change risks by the financial and insurance industries, which is a big issue for regulation of financial institutions.

    Heartland wants “risk-based” insurance — based on only what’s already known to have gone wrong in the past, not on what’s likely to go wrong with business as usual continuing. Look up how well that has worked out for other industries, it’s been a big “conservative” notion for a while.


    More coverage of Huffington Post’s new “Science” duck:

  280. Hank Roberts:

    Seriously, look into this stuff:

  281. Leland Palmer:

    Hi Hank-

    Don’t think it’s possible to be too cynical, these days.

    Seriously, though, I thought that the “Methane in the Twilight Zone” series of articles was great, and would not condemn the author just for publishing on the Huffington Post.

    We don’t have to drill for methane. Plumes of methane are bubbling up through the ocean. The oil corporations wanted to present the world with an accomplished fact, in the Arctic, and now they have done so, I think.

    The question now is what to do about the methane plumes, and is is possible to do anything significant about them at all?

    I suggest we start laying underwater electrical cables to the sites, and start capturing the methane, burning it using oxyfuel combustion to generate electricity, and then deep inject the resulting CO2 into any deep fractured basalt layers we can find in the area. Some of the sites seem to be pretty close to shore, and it might be possible to directly export the methane from there by pipeline. Then, of course, there is the possibility of exporting it as liquified natural gas (LNG).

    If we let the oil and gas corporations do it, they won’t capture and deep inject the resulting CO2 from methane combustion, I think. So, maybe Obama should get together with other countries, and at midnight some night just go in with the military and nationalize the multinational oil and gas corporations. Then, using the equipment and experience of the oil corporations, we go up to the Arctic and clean up some of their mess, generating useful electricity at the same time.

    It’s too late, though, chances are.

    Still, there are concentrated hot spots where most of the methane is coming out, and it may be possible to capture some or most of it from those hot spots. We can’t get all of it, but maybe we can capture and do carbon neutral remediation on some of it.

    Ancient Chinese curse- “May you live in interesting times”. These do seem like interesting times, sad to say.

  282. Leland Palmer:

    About the correlation between surface temperature anomalies over the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS) and the months of highest methane release- every month of 2011 seems to be a reasonable fit to this correlation.

    From NASA GISS (Goddard Institute of Space Sciences)

    August 2011 shows a slight correlation between ESAS location and temperature anomaly, possibly due to methane release.

    September 2011 shows a moderate correlation.

    More to come…

  283. Kevin McKinney:

    #281–All of which seems to me like a rush to throw tons of money at several, er, undeveloped technologies, in an attempt to solve what may very well be a non-existent problem.

    Sorry, Leland, but I don’t think you’ve made your case.

    I say we get on with the serious work of mitigating CO2 emissions.

  284. Leland Palmer:


    October 2011 shows very strong heating over the ESAS, just when methane release would plausibly be increasing.

    November 2011 also seems to show a strong correlation.

    December 2011 and January 2012 also show strong correlations between months of high methane release and temperature anomaly over the ESAS.

    Add them all together, and these hot spots generate a nearly perfect correlation between ESAS (East Siberian Arctic Shelf) location and temperature increases for all of 2011, likely due to methane releases from this area.

    Really, this seems beyond coincidence. As predicted, it looks like large scale methane releases are occurring, and are large enough to show up on the surface temperature maps.

  285. Leland Palmer:

    Hi Kevin-

    Mitigating methane and CO2 are not mutually exclusive. Electricity generated by capturing and burning methane from the hydrates would reduce CO2 generated by conventional fossil fuel use…if the methane was burned using oxyfuel combustion and the resulting CO2 deep injected. But the real threat is from the methane, of course, because of its high greenhouse potency, and because it will eventually oxidize into CO2 in the atmosphere anyway, and then we will be stuck with that secondary CO2 for thousands of years.

    So far as making my case goes, I don’t really worry about that. I just tell the truth as I see it.

  286. Leland Palmer:

    Just to be complete:

    December 2011 shows a really nasty correlation between surface temperatures and East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS) location, possibly due to methane release from ESAS hydrates.

    January 2012 also shows a strong hot spot over the ESAS.

    It looks to me like this is happening. Methane release from the hydrates is likely a new fact of life, and now we have to try to figure out how to deal with this terrible mess.

  287. Ron R.:

    A thousand apologies. I just discovered from comparing pictures of swallow species that I apparently misidentified the species of swallow that has been taking up residence with us. Although we have had cliff swallows, the ones famous for their long migration from Argentina to San Juan Capistrano, nesting under the eaves of our house in the past, these are evidently tree swallows not cliff swallows.

    I will endeavor to be more accurate in the future.

    [Response:You’re fired :)]

  288. Craig Nazor:

    Concerning the comment at 273:

    I grew up along the shores of Lake Erie in the ’50’s, ’60’s, and early 70’s, close to the Pennsylvania border. The lake ALWAYS froze out at least a half mile from shore, frequently out to the horizon, at least once or twice in the winter. My grandparents would tell stories of when, in a cold, bygone winter, the lake would freeze all the way to Canada, and wolves could be seen crossing the ice. Everyone says that now the winters are much milder, and summers are getting wetter.

    [Response:Interesting. I’ve read reports of deer swimming across the open water between the islands in the western basin. Just went looking (again) for historical ice cover data and it’s a nightmare tracking it down. Here’s the latest views of the western basin.–Jim]

    Also, as I noticed when I visited back home in the spring recently (and discussed with my family), the trees are consistently leafing out one month earlier than in the early 70’s.

    These are easy observations to make, and hard ones to deny!

    recaptcha says: Geoppea much?

    Well, not recently…

  289. Anonymous Coward:

    For the record, there is no evidence of abnormally large methane releases. Methane alarmists have made this up based on qualitative newspaper accounts.
    All the quantitative _local_ measurements I’ve seen are within 3% or so of status quo. Even if methane spiked a bit in some locations, you’d still have no evidence that it’s unprecedented.
    And you’d need a hell of a lot more methane to cause signifcant warming anyway!

    Gotta love this by the way: “at midnight some night just go in with the military and nationalize the multinational oil and gas corporations.”
    How to tell parody apart from the real thing?

  290. Ron R.:

    [Response:You’re fired :)]

    Wouldn’t be the first time.

  291. dhogaza:

    Ron R:

    “these are evidently tree swallows not cliff swallows.”

    Yes, tree swallows are earliest north american swallow species to begin migrating north in spring. Funny, when I saw your earlier posts I wondered if perhaps you were seeing tree swallows, but they don’t look at all like cliff swallows so didn’t bother asking. Since you went to the bird books, now it’s obvious you’re a neophyte birder. Maybe this experience will lead you to learn more and more about our avian friends! :)

  292. SRJ:

    David B. Benson @ 265
    I think you misunderstood my question. First, when I asked for empirical evidence I was hoping to get suggestions for some peer reviewed papers.
    Secondly, what I asked was not about how the carbon dioxide content of bottled beverages is affected by temperature.
    Trying to restate my question:
    From radiative physics it follows that a doubling of CO2 gives a warming of ca. 1 Celsius, without any feedbacks. With the feedbacks from the water vapor, the ice-albedo, the clouds , and the lapse rate the warming of a CO2 doubling is expected to be higher, Wikipedia mentions a range of 2.6–4.1 °C estimated from models (Wiki is quoting Rahmstorf, Stefan (2008). “Anthropogenic Climate Change: Revisiting the Facts”. In Zedillo, E. (PDF). Global Warming: Looking Beyond Kyoto. Brookings Institution Press. pp. 34–53).
    My question is, what observational evidence is there for these feedbacks? Only from actual observations, not from model calculations?

  293. Kevin McKinney:

    #287–Just be careful if you run into a strange bridgekeeper. . .

  294. Kevin McKinney:

    #292–SRJ, I’ll rush in where (perhaps) angels fear to tread.

    First, note that mechanisms operating as climate feedbacks are often observable over short timescales as factors influencing weather. For example, numerical forecasting–ie., darn near all forecasting these days–must calculate radiational warming or cooling if it is to arrive at a temperature forecast. It does so using the pretty the same mathematical/computational tools as climate models do, with regard to things like water vapor content (absolute humidity), albedo, and of course the relevant bits of the atmospheric circulation. So there’s a validated physical basis for how these factors affect energy flows within the atmosphere. That doesn’t answer the question of how their evolution over time is affected by CO2 levels, of course, but it does say that these factors are going to affect climate sensitivity if they are at all dependent upon CO2 levels in any way.

    From there, it is a logical step to use modeling techniques to investigate climate sensitivity directly, and of course that has been done (and continues to be done.) That’s not ’empirical’ in the way you mean it, but I hope my first paragraph highlights the fact that atmospheric modeling in general does have strong evidentiary–indeed, operational–basis. It’s not just ivory-tower hypothesizing.

    However, there’s a whole other approach to the question, which is to use paleo-climatic proxy data to infer sensitivity. If we can see that CO2 levels changed at certain points in the paleo record, what did temperature do? This approach can be (and often is) combined with modeling studies, since that allows a detailed probing of what feedbacks may have been at work, and how strong they were over various timescales. Here’s a small sample:


    Hope that bears some relation to what you want to know.

  295. Kevin McKinney:

    I suppose that I should quickly add that the general record of the last 3-4 decades also suggests that some of the hypothesized effects do occur in the real world, insofar as we have raised CO2 levels significantly, and observe at least two of the feedback parameters responding as expected: there is, in fact, a robust rising trend in absolute humidity, and there is a falling planetary albedo, particularly in the Arctic, and particularly in the early fall. We’re in the process of observing just how those changes affect the planetary system now. . . but of course that’s something that evolves over decadal timescales and greater.

    Of course, every decade of BAU sees a CO2 increase of around 6% (if my mental arithmetic can be trusted.) Equilibrium could take quite a while, going on like that. . .

  296. Ron R.:

    dhogaza @ 291. “Yes, tree swallows are earliest north american swallow species to begin migrating north in spring.”

    I’m embarrassed to have confused them.

    Still they did show up 39 days earlier than last year. These houses have been up for several years now, last year being the first time I actually noted their arrival here. As far as I remember they arrived in early spring the other years as well.

  297. Ron R.:

    Kevin McKinney: Just be careful if you run into a strange bridgekeeper. . .

    Don’t think I’ve ever used this overused acronym before but, LOL. :-D

  298. David B. Benson:

    SRJ @292 — Ah, climate sensitivity. There is a study of the Pliocene with Gavin Schmidt as one of the authors which suggests that the so-called earth system climate sensitivity is quite high. As for estimating the Charney (fast feedback) climate sensitivity, I recommend papers by Annan & Hargreaves and papers referencing that body of knowledge.

    I had thought you were interested in the fact the ocean CO2 content waxes and wanes with temperature, hence the bottled beverage experiment.

  299. Chris Colose:


    Keep in mind that “observational” evidence to diagnose climate sensitivity can come in the form of using actual 20th century data (in a couple of different forms), or it can come from using proxy data that is applied to reconstruct past climates. In both cases, the usefulness of applying this evidence to interrogate the question (in the absence of physical models) is actually quite limited.

    For the 20th century, you might think that you can naively link the total radiative forcing applied on the Earth system with the observed temperature change to know the sensitivity. In fact, we have very poor understanding of the total applied radiative forcing. Because estimating the ‘true’ climate sensitivity depends on understanding this forcing, you end up with a relatively wide distribution for possible values that are all consistent with the modern climate.

    People have also looked at the linkage between surface temperatures and the top of the atmospheric radiation budget with satellites, which in theory could tell you something about how efficient the Earth is at restoring itself to a new equilibrium. In a highly sensitive system, the temperature responds much more to a certain radiative perturbation. But you can also think about it as saying that the radiative response by the Earth is less efficient at coming back to equilibrium. The problem, however, with these approaches is that it requires global coverage, datasets that are long and accurate enough, in addition to properly recognizing that it is possible to have changes in net radiation that give little insight into the sensitivity problem (such as the response after an El Nino event).

    People have also looked at the response to volcanic eruptions. The problem here is that the response to a volcanic eruption is very short-lived and is not necessarily linearly related to the equilibrium climate sensitivity. For example, the peak cooling of a volcanic eruption in system 1 might change only slightly from that in system 2, even if system 1 and 2 have radically different equilibrium sensitivities. You can also isolate individual feedback responses (for example, it was confirmed after the Pinatubo eruption how the water vapor concentration would change, lending confidence to our understanding of a positive water vapor feedback). This, however, does not strongly constrain the response to the whole system on decadal timescales to a CO2 forcing.

    Turning to the paleoclimate record, there are intervals in the past that have a good enough signal-to-noise ratio that they are useful targets for answering the question. The Last Glacial Maximum comes to mind as a time period that was in equilibrium and featured large enough forcing/temperature change relative to the current day. Indeed, there are a number of papers that have given best estimates of the total forcing and the total temperature change, and you do get a useful range of results. But the problem here is that when you apply this result to the future, you are inherently making an assumption that the feedbacks of interest apply linearly from the LGM to modern as they do from modern to 2xCO2. If you think that assumption is not very good, then you cannot advocate using the observation-only approach.

  300. Anonymous Coward:

    #292 SRJ
    Your question is self-contradictory. It will only result in confusion.
    Climate sensitivity is a model property. You can not say anything about it without models or untenable assumptions (see Chris Colose’s comment).
    All that observational evidence can demonstrate is that feedbacks are indeed operating.
    People who claim climate sensitivity is low are either using models or making stuff up.
    For references to peer-reviewed papers, consult the IPCC reports.

  301. Leland Palmer:

    Hi All-

    Relying on direct measurements of methane would be better than relying on indirect temperature correlations, of course. I’ve been searching the web for methane satellite maps, and they are hard to find.

    Did finally find these, however:

    Yurganov AIRS Methane Video 2002-2011 (November)

    Yurganov AIRS Methane Video 2002-2011 (December)

    The videos are organized by month, and seem to show that 2011 was an anomalous methane year, in the arctic.

    Offhand, I’d say they do correlate with the NASA GISS temperature anomaly data.

    These were put together by an amateur, working off data posted on the website of Dr. Leonid Yurganov of the University of Maryland. They are from the NASA AIRS satellite.

  302. Leland Palmer:

    Here is the link to all the AIRS satellite methane videos, and the monthly images from Yurganov:

    Dosbat’s Blog

  303. Leland Palmer:

    Wow, look at January, 2012:

    Yurganov AIRS Methane Video 2003-2012 (January)

    Nasty, nasty looking month of January, 2012, I think.

    Question- why do we have to get this data via the back door, from some amateur (thank you, dosbat!) putting together videos from images posted on a scientist’s website?

  304. Hank Roberts:

    > Leland
    > Question- why do we have to get this data ….

    Leland, you know the answer.

    You gave it yourself.
    You aren’t using data.
    You’re asserting “truth” as you see it, without analysis.

    You probably asked the scientists and were told the same thing I was when I asked — that the pictures are being misinterpreted, and there’s no evidence for the wild claims being made — and they’re looking into this.

  305. Kevin McKinney:

    Dr. Andrew Weaver of U. Victoria has a paper in Nature out about the GW potential of various FF, and says that the oilsands have a surprisingly small potential (but oh, that coal!):


  306. Steve Fish:

    Leland asks (~#303): “Question- why do we have to get this data via the back door, from some amateur….?”

    Leland, perhaps you should consider the fact that real science undergoes pre- and post publication review by experts in reputable scientific journals, while blog science produced by amateurs is just scientifically empty fun. Steve

  307. Leland Palmer:

    It’s a little surprising, looking at the NASA GISS temperature anomaly data and the AIRS satellite methane maps that both the temperature and methane concentration anomalies are displaced from the peak of the sea ice melt season by about 2-4 months, at least for 2011. So peak sea ice melting is in September, but peak methane concentration is in December/January, at least for 2011.

    This implies, maybe, that the summer/fall pulse of heat takes a while to penetrate into the hydrate deposits, or that water temperatures lag air temperatures, or that the hydroxyl radical oxidation mechanism of methane doesn’t work as well at low temperatures during the winter.

    A lot of the Arctic methane seems to be coming from the terrestrial permafrost, though. See Yurganov page 15.

    Very interesting, and full of unanticipated side effects. What did we expect, though?

  308. MARodger:

    Hi Kevin @305.
    All Dr Weaver is quantifying is how much carbon there is in the various global FF reserves. He says he doesn’t count the energy required to process the fuel (which is why tar sands are so nasty). And he doesn’t consider how little energy is derived per ton CO2 when the fuel is burnt (which is why coal is so nasty). All he’s saying is that there’s loads more coal on the planet than there is tar sands.
    Talking of tar sands, the Guardian have a piece today on Canada threatening a trade war with the EU if they categorise tar sand oils as being more polluting than conventionally-derived oil.

  309. Kevin McKinney:

    #308–Yes, that was explained in the linked story (albeit not quite as clearly!)

    As to the, er, aggressive defense of the tarsands by the Harper government, it is not surprising. Although Harper et al give lip service to the need to address climate change, their behavior suggests that they don’t give a [proverbially valueless object] about GW. Personally, I suspect that they are largely in agreement with conservative Republicans on the topic, but that they find it impolitic to say so.

  310. Leland Palmer:

    Hi Hank-

    Yes, hypothesis generation is anathema to scientists of all sorts. It carries with it the possibility of being wrong- definitely bad JuJu.

    Suppose there is no significant casual relationship between methane generation from the hydrates and the hot spots over the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS). Suppose this apparent correlation is only coincidence. Suppose the hydrates just aren’t generating much methane yet, regardless of the many theoretical reasons to think that they might, and the anecdotal reports from Shakhova and Semiletov.

    Doesn’t it worry you, just a little, to see the fastest warming place on earth be parked over 1.7 trillion tons of methane hydrates and free associated methane gas?

    We’re not doing a very good job of monitoring Arctic methane concentrations, even though that may be the most important data in the world.

    We’re not doing a very good job of monitoring the total amount of methane hydrate, either. Shakhova seems to think that there is as much methane hydrate and free methane gas in the ESAS as Archer thinks there is in the entire world, for example.

    We should wonder why this is, I think.

    Why is the science about atmospheric methane concentrations and methane hydrates so uncertain?

  311. Leland Palmer:

    Hi Hank-

    Make that causal not casual.

    My point is- why isn’t the ESAS and other Arctic regions set up with an extensive monitoring network, which would tell us all precisely how much methane is evolving from the hydrates?

    AIRS isn’t the world’s best satellite for methane monitoring. Aircraft monitoring of methane concentrations is in fact being shut down, not expanded.

    Why are we all forced to speculate?

    We have three trillion dollars to invade the Middle East, a few years ago, but we don’t have a few million to set up such a network- when the future of the world could well depend on the answer?

    We’ve known global warming was coming for decades. The oil corporations have known about the threat from the methane hydrates for at least a decade- they do after all employ a significant fraction of all the geologists and paleontologists on the planet.

    Why are we forced to speculate about how much methane is coming out of the hydrates?

  312. Chris R:

    Leland Palmer,

    “Why are we all forced to speculate?”

    My suggestion that the persistent pattern over the ESAS is linked to emissions from that region is just a suggestion without further data. However as I’ve argued at my blog I think it’s a reasonable suggestion.

    I don’t however think that it’s reasonable to look at the widespread high concentrations of this January and conclude that these are largely due to the ESAS. Due to the pattern being similar to a persistent pattern associated with boreal land wetlands (including tundra), it seems to me that these recent increases, and the bulk of the post 2007 increase in the Arctic region, are due to the land source not ocean sources. Indeed I’ve discussed research that concludes as much using carbon isotopes in methane.

    What bothers me is the current fashion for ‘speculation’ to tend towards the worst interpretation possible. As I’ve had cause to tell many denialists over the years – the door of uncertainty swings both ways. The denialists like to cherry pick the least worrying swing of the door, others like to cherry pick the most worrying swing.

    For what it’s worth, in researching my recent posts I’ve read a stack of papers about Arctic methane and the ESAS, and as I’ve blogged in detail – I see reason for concern in the AIRS images and the current state of the science on that matter – but I agree with Dr David Archer, we most likely face a chronic problem, not a catastrophic release of methane.

  313. Leland Palmer:

    Hi Chris R-

    Re post 312-

    All of that seems reasonable.

    While you’re doing all this agreeing, though, you might remember that Archer’s numbers for methane hydrate for the entire world (700-1200 Gtons) are roughly equal to Shakhova’s numbers for just the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (1000 Gtons). So, that might bias David’s estimates toward less catastrophic outcomes, if Shakhova is correct about the total amount. Archer’s estimates for total hydrate mass also conflict with isotope ratio evidence of methane releases much greater than his estimates- as much as ten times greater, in the case of the End Triassic.

    Yes, it does look like much of the methane is from terrestrial sources, especially permafrost. It also looks like the cold winter temperatures are preserving much of the emitted methane, by slowing down the hydroxyl radical oxidation mechanism. Also, total worldwide methane concentration is rising, most of it from other sources, which makes the Arctic methane maps for 2011-2012 look especially bad. So, yes, I think I was premature to blame it on the ESAS. Because of the lack of information, though, it is not unreasonable to wonder if the ESAS is responsible for some of it, and the temperature anomaly hot spot over the ESAS is still worrisome, whether coincidental or not. Of course, increased levels of methane from the terrestrial permafrost, if that’s what we’re seeing, are not good news, either.

    I wouldn’t let this conversation on this thread influence you, one way or another, though. Certainly, don’t let my flailing about influence you. We can’t just rely on the experts, anymore, IMO- this is too important a subject, and there are too many non-scientific factors involved to rely on any source of information.

  314. Mike:


    My local paper carried this story:

    Rare fungus kills endangered rattlesnakes in Southern Illinois


    Anyone know if this might be climate change related?

    [Response:Unlikely but possible.–Jim]

  315. Steve Fish:

    Leland (~#313) provides us with his wisdom in the following:

    “We can’t just rely on the experts, anymore, IMO- this is too important a subject, and there are too many non-scientific factors involved to rely on any source of information.”

    I say:

    This sounds like an an appeal to pseudoscience to me. Who but the experts could know enough to evaluate current conditions? Leland asks us to believe his amateurish proclamations regarding cherry picked data and a belief that all the methane will out-gas instantaneously when the science says that only 4.5% can be affected by warming, gradually, over the next several hundred years. Steve

  316. Hank Roberts:

    It’s a tipping point.
    _A_ tipping point.

  317. adelady:

    Leland “We can’t just rely on the experts, anymore, IMO- this is too important a subject, and there are too many non-scientific factors involved to rely on any source of information.”

    I have no idea what a ‘non-scientific factor’ might be. Especially in the context of methane. What we do have to do is to accept scientific knowledge and expertise as it is. That is, error bars, confidence limits and all. ‘All’ includes accepting that nothing is ever perfect – most of all, data.

    It also includes accepting what scientists tell us about where we are with climate. We’re right on the edge of having very little to guide us. When they say things like this rate of CO2 release or temperature increase or change in extreme weather is ‘unprecedented’, we’re obliged not to just nod a passive agreement but to do something about it.

    That’s where the larger world of non-scientists has to step up to the plate. Not to nag the scientists, but to get involved one way or another in dealing effectively with what we’ve been told. That might mean getting solar panels or insulation on your own property. It might mean getting involved in local efforts to improve public transport or bike paths. It might mean joining a political party you’re not especially fond of in order to give voice to your concerns.

    Regardless, those are the places where the ‘non-scientific factors’ really come into play.

  318. Leland Palmer:

    Hi Steve-

    If Shakhova is right about the hydrate mass of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (1000 Gtons) then David is surely wrong about his estimate of total hydrate worldwide (700-1200 Gtons).

    According to G. R. Dickens: Down the Rabbit Hole: toward appropriate discussion of methane release the three modern revisionist estimates of worldwide hydrate mass are all the results of modeling, and are sensitive to assumptions. All three cases give results much lower than traditional estimates of around 10,000 Gtons. All three made little or no effort to compare their results to the real world, and in some cases make obviously wrong predictions.

    I hadn’t made the connection, but Dickens is one of the early authors of the clathrate gun hypothesis, and is featured in this documentary about the End Permian mass extinction:The Day the Earth Nearly Died

    The conflict between Shakhova’s estimates and Archer’s estimates seems to fit this pattern: David’s modeling does not match reality, or at least strongly conflicts with Shakhova’s estimates, and those of people like Dickens who have been working on the hydrate problem for more than a decade- and who claim to take pains to compare their estimates to reality. Shakhova and Dickens certainly seem to be careful, pragmatic scientists.

    Don’t trust anybody, is my advice. Look at all the science, not just that from some expert that you trust. Keep in mind that you may prefer a reassuring message to an alarming one.

    Think for yourself.

  319. Leland Palmer:

    About non-scientific factors-

    There are trillions of dollars worth of fossil fuel resources in the Arctic.

  320. Leland Palmer:

    In my laboratory work, I always look for hypotheses which have either increased explanatory power, or increased predictive ability, or both.

    The clathrate gun hypothesis appeals to me, because it has increased explanatory power- it is a common explanation for most mass extinctions in the earth’s past.

    It also has a great deal of predictive ability.

    The clathrate gun hypothesis organizes a lot of information, ties it into a coherent whole, and then makes good predictions. It even makes good quantitative predictions- the numbers add up.

    In this case, the theory that makes the most logical sense, has the greatest explanatory power, makes good predictions, and fits the facts quantitatively also has extremely alarming real world implications.

    There is no lower bound to the time necessary to set off a methane catastrophe, in the geological record, generally. The record speaks of sharp discontinuities, and often these extinction events appear to occur in stages, with each discontinuity setting off the next,like a chain reaction. These apparent methane releases could happen very suddenly.

    Like lighting a fire, how rapidly the fire proceeds depends on initial conditions.

    The sun is about two percent hotter now, than it was during the End Permian.

  321. Ray Ladbury:

    On this very page, there are 20 comments so far. Ten of them are by you, all on the same topic. Have you ever thought of taking up stamp collecting? Have you considered church?

  322. Leland Palmer:

    Hi Ray-

    I do sometimes consider church…

    …especially when I see the greatest warming temperature anomaly on earth parked over 1.7 trillion tons of methane hydrates and free methane gas, as is the case right now with the East Siberian Arctic Shelf.

  323. Steve Fish:

    Leland (~#s 318, 319, 320), in my laboratory work I always thought for myself and followed the evidence within the area in which I was an expert. For areas outside of my expertise, I always let the experts work out their own consensus to inform me of the best approximation of reality. That is how science works and why it works so well.

    Your inexpert cherry picking of science that matches your methane bomb hobby horse is not a good example of thinking for yourself. Steve

  324. Ron R.:

    RR here, writing from the Big Dry, hoping for a March Miracle.


    Another version:



  325. Ron R.:


    SecularAnimist’s comment # 147 — 7 Feb 2012 @ 4:38


    Kevin McKinney’s comment #153 — 8 Feb 2012 @ 8:08 AM

  326. Chris R:

    Leland Palmer,

    The claim that modelling attempts to estimate the amount of hydrates do not refer to the available empirical evidence is specious IMO. As I argue here, I think Shakhova & Semiletov’s estimate of 1400Gt methane in the sediments of the ESAS is an overestimate, potentially by a large margin. Furthermore having read (virtually – in case I’ve missed one) all of S&S’s papers over the last decade, I don’t see anything that settles the key question – is what they are observing new and increasing? i.e. a result of the last few decades of Arctic warming. Or is their work a new observation of a process that’s been going on for centuries or more in response to the early holocene inundation of the ESAS. From all I’ve read only Dmitrenko et al’s 2011 modelling study throws real light on this crucial question; and they find that modern warming accounts for a recession of just 1 metre in the hydrate stability zone upper boundary, with most of the sediment warming and methane release being an ongoing long-term response to the early holocene inundation.

    The clathrate Gun hypothesis – if the trigger on the gun is so sensitive that we are going to see it fire this decade or shortly thereafter how come we’ve only seen such an example during the PETM, and not during more recent warming events? I accept the theory that the methane hydrates and boreal land carbon were key players in the PETM. However Schmidt and Shindell modelled various inputs of methane and found that the best fit to paleo observations was a flux of 0.3Gt per year, around 3 to 10 times current emissions from the Arctic (assuming no growth of sinks). Crucially they found that more massive short lived pulses of methane produced too much short term warming and did not maintain the warming for long enough to match paleo records.

    There are two scenarios –

    1. People like me are wrong. within a short time (2 decades?) we will see what S&S rightly call catastrophic GW, with some 50Gt of methane being released in less than a decade.

    2. People like me are right, and the release will be chronic, not catastrophic.

    If scenario 1 is correct then it’s probably already too late to stop it. The massive action needed will take years to organise and coordinate. Some are calling for geo-engineering to cool the Arctic – this process will have detrimental side effects – those carrying out the action may find themselves legally, and hence financially, responsible for those side effects of an intentional action. Geo-engineering may be a viable policy option after the event is underway as the lesser of evils in a position of extremis, but carried out beforehand? I see no precedent for it.

    If scenario 2 is correct then those talking of scenario 1 are building a situation that can be painted as ‘crying wolf’ to be used by those dead-set against action, or those who just like the way they live now and want excuses to do nothing.

    However if people argue publicly that scenario 2 is the most likely, leaving the nasty surprises like scenario 1 as the side-order (not the main course), then if scenario 1 happens what do the public see? They see sceintists, bloggers, activists, all joining together in a chorus of “This is much worse than we thought.”

    Banging on about scenario 1 is the lose-lose situation, there’s not a great deal you can do about it, and if you bang on about it you come across as a doomer. Sticking with what the conservative scientific position suggests (scenario 2) means you don’t cry wolf and if scenario 1 does happen then you can join the scientists in declaring to the world that AGW is much worse than you thought. That plus the event itself might be enough to get people thinking seriously about reacting to AGW.

    Don’t think for a minute that my agreement with the ‘chronic not catastrophic’ position isn’t my considered position based on the evidence I’ve read. If I was persuaded by scenario 1, I’d shut up about it, start stockpiling canned foods, and getting everything I’d need to live ‘off the grid’. I’m not joking.

  327. Leland Palmer:

    Hi Chris R-

    Is this Dosbat? If so, thanks for posting the AIRS images and videos.

    As I argue here, I think Shakhova & Semiletov’s estimate of 1400Gt methane in the sediments of the ESAS is an overestimate, potentially by a large margin.

    Oh, I doubt it. It’s a shame we don’t know precisely how much is down there, and have not sent scientific or even scientific/military expeditions up there to find out, with Russian cooperation, of course. But Shakhova’s and Semiletov’s estimates fit right in with the carbon isotope ratio data from past apparent methane catastrophes, and their apparent release of trillions of tons of methane. Those pesky Carbon Isotope Excursions- you try rubbing them out, and soaking them out, but you’ve still got CIE’s. :) So, 1700 Gtons of hydrate and free methane, the number I’m familiar with, seems about right. If 12000 Gtons came out of the hydrates at the End Triassic, 1700 Gtons seems right in the ballpark. I’ve seen numbers for other events in the 5000-8000 range. So, I believe Shakhova and Semiletov, and Dickens, not Archer.

    The clathrate Gun hypothesis – if the trigger on the gun is so sensitive that we are going to see it fire this decade or shortly thereafter how come we’ve only seen such an example during the PETM, and not during more recent warming events?

    I think the answer to that is rate of change, and nonrandom forcing. It’s the fast and unnaturally systematic forcing from CO2 that has me worried. Our present rate of change of CO2 is unique except in the aftermath of a major dinosaur killer meteor strike, I’ve read somewhere. The magnitude of the forcing is respectable, and it is unnaturally fast.

    Methane released slowly is no problem- it is easily oxidized by the oceans and atmosphere into CO2, and sequestered as carbonate. It’s large scale, fast releases that have the ability to overwhelm oceanic and atmospheric methane oxidation mechanisms.

    Other factors which might put us very much at risk are the location and size of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf hydrates, and the fact that we are coming out of ice ages with low water temperatures. Maybe to set off one of these extinction events, you need a large area of shallow hydrates in the Arctic, so that the rate of release will activate these latent positive feedback loops, and send the system out of control.

    About scenario 1 and scenario 2- A slight probability of scenario 1 should be enough to justify radical action. A slight probability multiplied by the huge consequences of scenario 1 results in a huge risk. A prudent species would avoid huge risks, don’t you agree?

    But the probability of scenario 1 (catastrophic release) is not slight, in my opinion. If large scale methane releases have happened before, and those pesky carbon isotope excursions that won’t go away say that yes, they have, then our present situation with our large shallow East Siberian Arctic Shelf located directly under the fastest warming place on the planet seems extremely hazardous. Couple that with our fast and unnaturally systematic release of CO2, and likely large hydrate stocks left over from past ice ages, and we have the makings of a perfect storm.

    The only real thing wrong with the clathrate gun theory is that the oil corporations didn’t like it. In explanatory ability, predictive ability, and quantitative fit with the known facts, it’s a fine theory.

    Are we too late? Maybe. But a prudent species would try to stop it. A prudent species would have realized 50 years ago that relying on an energy source with greenhouse side effects a hundred thousand times greater than the intended benefit is a bad idea, done in such quantities.

    How do you get out of a hole?

    The first step is to stop digging.

  328. AIC:

    Requesting Comments on latest Wall Street Journal letter

    “Concerned Scientists Reply on Global Warming”
    The authors of the Jan. 27 Wall Street Journal op-ed, ‘No Need to Panic about Global Warming,’ respond to their critics.

    Feb 21, 2012 WSJ, the same 16 replying to the letter by Trenberth et al.

    I would appreciate it if somebody here could do a point-by-point comment on this latest letter. Or is it too much to hope for that the WSJ will publish a reply by Trenberth et al ?

  329. wili:

    I can’t speak for Leland, but I just want to know what is actually happening, and, to the best that science can tell us, what may be about to happen.

    So far, as far as I’ve seen, it has mostly been denialists who decide what to believe is true based on what they think the likely consequences, policy or otherwise, would be. It is somewhat disturbing to me to find someone I have greatly respecting saying that we should evaluate the situation more on (or as much on) what it might mean in terms of consequences than just based on what the science says is most likely.

    These kinds of statements just lead me to conclude that you and others are downplaying the possibility of rapid release from ESAS because of how you think people might respond to the news rather than what may actually be going on there.

    I hope you are right, by the way. But I try to avoid basing judgment of what is real on hope.

  330. Hank Roberts:

    Recommendation: try a different search engine.
    Here’s why:
    search engines now show different results to different people.

    I’d sure like to know if the Google Scholar results are also biased.

    Anybody know if the Scholar science results are also being spun toward what the search engines record about what other sites you visit, terms you searched, news you read, movies you watched, mail you wrote and read, and stuff you bought?

    That would suck.

  331. MARodger:

    AIC @328
    It seems a universal truth that newspaper letters’ columns will contain a high level of craziness. The subject of your curiosity keeps the craziness level well topped up at the WSJ
    It is evidently written by a bunch of Little Ice Age Revivalists. They are quite fun in an idiotic sort of way. I’d catagorise it as ‘incohereant unsubstantiated twaddle.’ The authors would do well to visit my graphical collection & examine the evidence that they so obviously are having trouble accessing.

    Just as heart patients have a right to decide their treatment, so folk have a right to decide AGW policy.
    In science, prediction is all. Temperatures have not risen as the IPCC predicted. Oceans Heat Content has not increased enough, “…perhaps not increasing at all.” So why should we believe science that now says it is hiding in deep oceans.
    So a second opinion is given by the letter-writers. Mother Nature tells us what the science is. Think of the climate scientists’ bad motives. Trust nobody. Don’t take our word. Look at the graph of temperature. Think upper oceans & lower atmosphere.
    Okay 2000-10 was perhaps 0.2 deg C warmer than 1990-2000 but what about the Little Ice Age? That could be responsible for some of that warming so the question is how much? And what about the Medieval Warm Period? Holocene Climate Optimum? They weren’t CO2.
    This 97% concensus – it is dubious & anyway, science isn’t democracy. Their muzzling of oponents is bad & this Trenberth was in on it, as Climategate shows.
    The green economy sucks & the reduced CO2 emissions likely won’t do any good. CO2 is just being demonised.
    And things are not good at the APS.
    AGW policy is a serious business & evidence cannot be ignored. The science isn’t settled. Many more well-qualified scientists agree with us but science isn’t democracy. Let the evidence speak. AGW is nonsense.

  332. Hank Roberts:

    This is fascinating, for those who like this kind of detail, and useful for predicting changes in the rest of the world.


    The Construction of Normal Expectations
    Consumption Drivers for the Danish Bathroom Boom

    online: 23 APR 2008
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1530-9290.2008.00017.x

    “… The capacity problems arise from several different trends. The most important is the changing showering practice—from the weekly bath or shower to the daily (or twice daily) shower…. the change took place during late 1960s and the 1970s. Such changes do not involve everybody, but since the 1980s the daily shower has been a norm for the younger and middle-aged …. a recent qualitative study on teenage cleanliness (Gram-Hanssen 2007) indicates the strength of this norm. Another indication is the widespread indignation when old people in need of care are not offered a daily shower (a much-debated issue during the Danish general election campaign in 2007). Hand and colleagues (2005) identified the same trend in the United Kingdom and tried to explain it within a longer historical perspective than we apply here….”

    (links and cites in the original)

  333. Leland Palmer:

    Here’s an interesting link, re the total amount of methane hydrate in the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS):

    Preliminary Geospatial Analysis of Arctic Ocean Hydrocarbon Resources

    This is a Pacific Northwest National Labs document from 2008, full of caveats and hard to read.

    This PNNL report, PNNL-17922, estimates that most of the ESAS is underlain by hydrate deposits. In figure 3.6 they show dark blue color, corresponding to hydrate deposits approximately 200 meters thick, covering about half of the ESAS:

    Boundaries for the thick (~200 m) hydrate deposit (dark blue) are confined to water depths greater than 30m and less than or equal to 100 m.

    Shakhova says that the areal of the ESAS is 2.10E+06 square kilometers. If the hydrate deposits are an average of 100 meters thick, then that’s about a tenth of the above number, or 2.10E+05 cubic kilometers of hydrate deposits. That’s 210,000 cubic kilometers of hydrate deposits. At a density of 0.9 for hydrate, that would be about 190 trillion tons of hydrate, if it was all hydrate.

    For Shakhova’s number of 1.7 trillion tons of carbon from methane in the hydrates to be correct, the carbon as methane content of those deposits would only have to be about 1 percent. The carbon content of methane hydrate is about ten percent, so they appear to be assuming that the deposits are about ten percent hydrate.

    It all seems reasonable, to me, as an order of magnitude estimate. Shakhova says that the hydrate deposits in the ESAS can be 20-100 percent pure, higher than the 10 percent they assume.

    So, 1.7 trillion tons of carbon as methane in these deposits seems pretty reasonable, it in fact seems conservative.

  334. AIC:

    MARodger @330

    I had not been aware before of your collection of graphs. Very interesting, pulling together a lot of information. Thank you for the work.

    Thank you for the precis.
    I was really hoping that somebody would do a point-by-point response to the WSJ letter, suitable for quoting for a general audience, but maybe I should use your graphs and consider it an exercise for the reader.

    When you get down to it, the WSJ letter needs response on four levels:
    1) AGW is happening.
    2) If fossil fuel CO2 emissions are continued at a rapid rate it is going to be very bad for our civilization
    3) We can develop substitute sources of energy for our civilization at a cost less than the cost of continued AGW
    3a) The sooner we get working on developing non-fossil-fuel sources of energy for our civilization, the easier it will be.

  335. Chris R:

    #327, Leland Palmer,

    I’m going to leave the rest of your post and concentate initially on the first paragraph. Sorry but I find your reasoning rather imprecise.

    I have given very detailed and specific reasons for doubting the 1400Gt estimate of total methane in the ESAS and the 50Gt as possibly available for imminent release. In message #326 I provided a link to that post so you could see and criticise my reasoning. To help you find the salient text, search that page for “How do they come up with” then read the three paragraphs that follow the quote.

    You refer to carbon isotope excursions, yet in message #326 I touched upon research by Schmidt and Shindell which finds a 0.3Gt per year sustained release best matched the available paleo evidence from the PETM. As I stated in that message they found that more massive responses produced more warming than the paleo record, e.g. 3Gt per year for 500 years produced greater warming than the proxy data supports. You seem to be unaware that the PETM carbon isotope excursion lasted for something of the order of 10k-20k years. As methane is a transient compound in the environment if (as I suspect) methane hydrates played a large role in the excursion, then there must have been a long term chronic release.

    I am most certainly _not_ unaware of the carbon isotope excursion, as you would be aware had you taken the opportunity to at least skim my blog posts on this matter, i.e. see here.

    So no, actually Semiletov & Shakhova’s 1400Gt in reserve, 50Gt primed for imminent release, doesn’t exclusively match with the isotopic excursion during the PETM.

  336. wayne davidson:

    There is a highly likely possibility that El-Nino , apparently now coming or trending, leaves tracks in the horizon sky. http://eh2r.blogspot.com/ I deal with this on my workout blog soon to be on the main website. This is really intriguing if so…. I think it is very difficult for many to observe the horizon, because they have busy lives, rely on computers and standard meteorology, ordinary folk pass 16.9 hours looking at each other,TV or computers and .1 hours looking at the road. There is something in the air all the time. I joke often that a mother ship from planet Crypton would fly over any big city of millions and perhaps 2 people would notice….

  337. Susan Anderson:

    Hank Roberts @~331

    You might enjoy this history:
    The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History, Katherine Ashenburg

    Interesting sidelight on things we take for granted. The thought of doing without hot and cold running water gives me the shivers, but we have no idea how many of the things we take for granted only arrived in the latter half of the 20th century.

  338. Leland Palmer:

    Hi Chris R-

    About imprecise reasoning-

    Back when dinosaurs walked the earth (when I was in school :)) in my physics classes the professors taught that the first thing to do when making a calculation in an uncertain situation was make an order of magnitude estimate. Then, later, when all the fancy calculations were done, the students would have something to compare their results to, to see if they were obviously wrong.

    So, in this highly politicized atmosphere, with trillions of dollars of money at stake in the Arctic, when a paper is an outlier or conflicts with my back of the envelope estimates, I admit I just tend to dismiss it.

    Looking at the map of the ESAS, with something like 2 million square kilometers of area, and an average hydrate thickness of about 100 meters, that’s about 200,000 cubic kilometers of hydrate deposits. That’s a big number, corresponding to roughly 200 trillion tons of hydrate, if it was all hydrate.

    Round Shakhova’s numbers off to 2 trillion tons of carbon.

    For Shakhova to be right, and Archer to be wrong, only about one percent of the hydrate deposits need to be carbon as methane. That seems like a reasonable number- low if anything. Shakhova says that sediments in the ESAS can be 20-100% pure, and methane hydrate is about 10% carbon. So Shakhova’s estimates could in fact be very low.

    So, when I saw your stuff, I admit that I took a quick look at it, and dismissed it as unlikely. Looking at the maps of hydrate deposits and their thicknesses tell an entirely different story.

    So, I’ll take another look, when I find the time.

  339. Meow:

    A new paper holds that AGW made the 2010 Russian heat wave 3x more likely, but that its magnitude was within natural variation. PR at http://www.agu.org/news/press/pr_archives/2012/2012-10.shtml .

    Rollin’ rollin’ rollin’, New Climate Dice are rollin’….

    P.S. This paper used models run on volunteers’ computers via climateprediction.net. If you’ve got computer power to give, they can use it.

  340. David B. Benson:

    Ancient Warming Shrunk Horses to Housecat Size
    Interesting history of sizes over PETM.

  341. Hank Roberts:


    I do respect the way he presents the basic facts to his readers, patiently, over and over, and tries to separate those from opinions, hypotheses and political positions.

  342. Kevin McKinney:

    Another little milestone–my summary/review of “Climate Cover-up” is just hitting its 1000th page view.

    Sadly, no prizes on offer for the 1000th reader.

  343. Chris R:

    #338, Leland Palmer,

    Yes you have an order of magnitude – of the order of 1000Gt, not of the order of 100 or 10,000Gt. You’re beyond that stage now.

    So you dismiss Shakhova & Semiletov’s step by step reasoning which arrived at 1400Gt gross with 50Gt at risk of imminent release. You proceed to loosely argue that it’s 2000Gt, concluding this is ‘low if anything’. Then you dismiss my detailed reasons why I think Shakhova & Semiletov’s 1400GT gross with 50Gt at risk of imminent release is a high-sided estimate. You do so without saying why you dismiss it.

    Meow (#329) links to Hansen’s ‘Climate Dice’ paper. Last year I posted a message here asking for evidence of ongoing destructive AGW weather events, as I’d failed to convince myself with my own reading. Someone directed me to that newly issued Hansen white paper. With one read I turned from a sceptic of the drought threat to one of the growing numbers of bloggers ringing the alarm on drought. So you see, all it takes to change my mind is robust, well reasoned evidence.

    I’m sorry but I’ve not found that in this dicsussion of the issue of methane clathrates. It seems to me that you’ve reached your conclusion first and then have gone looking for the evidence, which is a shame because that’s of no help in deciding if we do face an imminent methane driven catastrophe. And that’s a very important matter.

  344. Leland Palmer:

    Hi Chris R-

    Looking again at your post #326, I was not surprised. It was just more of what I have come to expect from Archer, and people persuaded by Archer.

    If there were no mass extinctions in earth history, many of them accompanied by a large carbon isotope excursion, Archer’s claim that 1000 Gtons of release from the methane hydrates is a maximum might have some plausibility.

    But, there are those pesky carbon isotope ratio excursions, that won’t go away accompanied by mass extinctions. The calculations made from those excursions are generally conservative calculations, which don’t take into account carbon burial- and they give a lower bound to the amount released of several thousand Gtons of carbon. I’ve posted a link to a paper before which calculates 12,000 Gtons of carbon released during the End Triassic. Since it seems unlikely that all of the methane hydrates dissociated at that time, total hydrate mass, at least back then, must have been greater than that- on the order of 20,000 Gtons, at a guess. Since we are coming out of a series of ice ages, with low water temperatures which expand hydrate stability zones, it seems reasonable to assume that total worldwide hydrate mass right now is in fact greater than that.

    As Dickens points out in Down the Rabbit Hole, these carbon isotope excursions are accompanied by widespread dissolution of carbonate sediments during the event and increased carbonate deposition after the events- a straightforward prediction of the clathrate gun theory. So, the fact that the theory makes good predictions adds weight to the methane release scenarios.

    Then, there are the extinction events themselves. If 1000 Gtons of methane are an upper limit, what killed everything? If the release was so gradual, what created the extinction events themselves? Methane released gradually is oxidized quickly into CO2, in the oceans and the atmosphere. Only methane released rapidly could overwhelm the oceanic and atmospheric oxidation mechanisms, and cause the extinction events themselves. In the case of the End Permian, for example, CO2 alone seems insufficient to cause the extinction event itself.

    The massive and abrupt methane release theory has great explanatory power- it in fact integrates most past mass extinctions into a single framework. It has great predictive ability- predicting a large carbon isotope excursion during the Triassic, for example, which is then found in reality. Finally, it makes good quantitative predictions, but only if the total methane hydrate mass is much greater than Archer claims it is.

    I just don’t believe Archer’s stuff. His output contradicts known facts.

    There are trillions of dollars worth of fossil fuel resources in the Arctic.

    We cannot risk the future of the world on Archer’s predictions. We cannot assume that the releases will be gradual, this time. We in fact may have a unique set of circumstances, including the location and hydrate content of the ESAS and a more rapid and systematic triggering event which could create the “mother of all methane catastrophes”.

  345. Ray Ladbury:

    Hank, perhaps recommend the following to Roy:


    The data are pretty clear evidence of a temperature of the Universe.

    Have to agree. Roy is one of the few truly skeptical “skeptics”, though I think he has some issues with self delusion.

  346. Chris Colose:

    Roger Pielke Sr. has decided to post a set of e-mail exchanges I had with him. Originally I only wanted to point out an article I wrote at SkepticalScience, but somehow he turned it into an interrogation session, and for some reason I went along with it.

    For odd reasons, he thinks that the dynamic responses of clouds/water vapor to ENSO must be the same as to global warming. He also does not seem to get the difference between ‘radiative forcing’ and ‘radiative imbalance.’

    I think Roger is very confused. He doesn’t let people comment there, just alerting people…

  347. MARodger:

    Chris Colose @345
    He was showing poor grasp of ‘radiative forcing’ last Autumn when he butted in on a SkS thread that was discussing his downplaying of CO2’s contribution to forcing.
    The discussion got pretty messy as I remember. This link will put the curious into the middle of it.

  348. John Mashey:

    Wegman Report is in the news at USA Today, also mentioned by Retraction Watch and of coruse, with serious discussion of more details at the original discovery Deep Climate.

  349. Leland Palmer:

    Hi Chris R-

    Oh, it wasn’t me that made the map the order of magnitude estimates are based on.

    That was the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, which made that map.

    Preliminary Geospatial Analysis of Arctic Hydrocarbon Resources

    They show 200 meter thick hydrate deposits extending over about half the area of the ESAS, and deposits of lesser thickness covering just about all of the rest of the ESAS.

    Let’s go through it again. Two million square kilometers of area, multiplied by 100 meters of thickness, equals 200,000 cubic kilometers of hydrate volume. That’s equal to roughly 200 trillion tons of hydrate, if it was all hydrate and was 100% pure. Assume the purity of the deposits is ten percent, that brings the total down to 20 trillion tons of hydrate. Methane hydrate is about ten percent (11, actually, but who’s counting) carbon. So, that brings the total down to about 2 trillion tons carbon, assuming that the hydrates are ten percent pure.

    But Shakhova says that the ESAS hydrates are 20-100% pure. Assume that averages out to 40% purity, to be conservative. That would bring the total of carbon as methane in the ESAS up to about 8 trillion tons. So, if the map is correct, and Shakhova’s purity numbers are correct, Shakhova’s estimates are conservative. Conservative numbers are OK- those that are obviously an order of magnitude low are not.

    Dickens says that a previous consensus estimate before the science became distorted by politics and money to be 5 to 20 trillion tons of carbon as methane in the entire world. Those seem like reasonable numbers, given the known extent and thickness of the hydrate deposits.

    Looking at the map, and multiplying the area by the thickness, means that David Archer’s estimates are nonsense- if the map is correct.

    What do we want to bet that the map is not correct?

  350. Hank Roberts:

    I’d recommend emailing the people who made the maps, and wrote the document you cite, and inquiring what they think of your estimates.

    Just sayin’ — ask the people whose data you’re claiming as the basis whether they think you’re using the data appropriately.

    Always a good idea.

  351. Steve Fish:

    Leland, you have characterized the Ruhl et.al. paper several times as proving a massive end Triassic methane release. The authors cite two other potential volcanic sources for the isotope shift that have been published previously and are only proposing a methane hypothesis that is also consistent with the isotope data. They state that “none of these mechanisms is mutually exclusive, and all three may have contributed to the release…,” and “The relative contribution of these end members for 13C-depleted carbon release is yet unknown.” They propose a possible reason why methane release might be a more likely cause, but give no discussion of mechanisms regarding why volcanic events can be ruled out.

    So, you have again cherry picked a study and made inexpert and exaggerated assertions regarding what a study says. All of the scientists who work in this area will eventually reconcile the findings. You need to work on your learning curve regarding how science works. Steve

  352. Chris R:

    #349, Leland Palmer.

    Why do you feel the need to repeat things? I am quite capable of reading, so there is no need to go over your reasoning again.

    The fact remains that your estimate is substantially larger than Shakhova & Semiletov’s 1400Gt estimate. That’s before we start on my objections to their figure.

    The reference you cite states “Their results show conditions are favorable for a continuous thick zone (~200 m) of stable gas hydrates in water depths up to 60m.” The ‘they’ being Romanovskii et al 2005. That paper is a thermal model based study.

    In Rachold et al, 2007, “Near-shore Arctic Subsea Permafrost in Transition” PDF findings are revealed which cast doubt upon the validity of thermal modelling studies in the Laptev Sea. As part of the COAST drilling programme boreholes were drilled, Rachold et al explicitly mention Romanovskii et al. The core drilling found a substantially larger than modelled thawed region, i.e. the permafrost layer is much less than 200m. Core 2, the core taken furthest out onto the ESAS, found a frozen zone of ~30m, not 200m.

    I quote:
    “Considering the model data summarized above, a surprising result is that C2 encountered almost completely unfrozen sediments below a depth of 64.7 mbsl (Figure 1). This observation raises the question of whether present models hold true for subsea permafrost thickness and distribution throughout the whole Laptev Sea shelf.”

    Furthermore, you seem unaware of the free methane layer that exists below the gas hydrate stability zone. Why isn’t your dubious guesstimate even higher?

  353. Leland Palmer:

    Hi Hank-

    Thank you for your advice. :)

    You could even be right. I’ll look into it some more. For one thing, the map shows methane hydrate potential, not methane hydrate deposits. But they use the words almost as synonyms, sometimes saying deposit, sometimes saying potential. So, the purity value could be less than 10%.

    Or, it could be more than 10%.

    It would be nice to know for sure, though, wouldn’t it?

    If the future of the world could depend on it, why don’t we already know for sure?

  354. Leland Palmer:

    Hi Steve (#351)

    Volcanic explanations require much more carbon to be released to explain the observed isotope ratio shift, seems to be their reasoning, since methane hydrates are especially enriched in C12.

    Hi Chris R (# 352)

    Yes, I am aware of the layer of free gas. It’s an order of magnitude estimate, and I was being conservative.

    Regarding your objections, I’m not sure why you bother. If your objections are not certain enough to bet the future of the world on, then the obvious remedy to all this wrangling is to go find out how much hydrate and free gas is actually there, in some sort of open and transparent international monitoring program.

    If your position is that there is enough good information about this to bet the future of the world on business as usual, I don’t think that’s true.

    But we are not going up there and finding out, despite the risk to the entire world. That seems odd, to say the least.

    Perhaps the trillions of dollars worth of arctic hydrocarbon resources the PNNL report talks about is warping the decision making process.

  355. Leland Palmer:

    Hi All-

    Regarding cherry picking-

    The carbon isotope ratio studies that I am aware of all talk about trillions of tons of methane release from the hydrates being necessary to explain the huge carbon isotope ratio excursions. Just about all of them, that I am aware of, use numbers greater than Archer’s estimate of 700-1200 Gtons of carbon in the methane hydrates, plus a few hundred Gtons of free methane gas. Keeping in mind that it is unlikely that the entire hydrate inventory would be depleted during these extinction events, this is a serious problem for Archer’s estimates.

    Just about all the papers I am aware of neglect carbon burial during the event, and so are very conservative estimates.

    So, this is not cherry picking, by any definition that I am aware of. These are huge carbon isotope excursions, and in fact the methane release explanation requires the least amount of carbon to be released to explain them.

    The observed effects also argue for methane release. It seems likely that a second greenhouse gas, occupying a separate absorption band is necessary to explain the observed temperature increases and mass extinctions. CO2 alone won’t provide enough forcing, according to most experts on the matter, because of the logarithmic nature of greenhouse gas forcing, and the CO2 absorption bands getting saturated.

  356. john byatt:

    On the Australian ABC news site this morning

    Experts from the university of Aukland suggest the change in cloud altitude could be the Earth’s way of dealing with global warming,


    Cause the Earth knows just how we humans like it (SARC)


  357. David Miller:

    Leland, you say:

    Since it seems unlikely that all of the methane hydrates dissociated at that time, total hydrate mass, at least back then, must have been greater than that- on the order of 20,000 Gtons, at a guess.

    Guessing doesn’t really help much. But the reason for this response is to ask why you assume that all carbon must have come from methane? That certainly won’t be the case with todays world.

  358. Leland Palmer:

    Hi David (357)-

    Oh, guessing helps a lot. Making order of magnitude estimates really is a good idea, before doing a more detailed calculation. Detailed calculations working off highly uncertain data can be wildly wrong, of course- garbage in, garbage out, no matter how fancy the computer model. That’s why serious modelers go through a whole process of making order of magnitude estimates, then doing the more detailed calculations and modeling, then running the model using information which will somehow validate it, for example using past inputs into the system and comparing the model output with the real known result. Finally, it is standard good scientific practice to see how much the predictions made by the model generally match reality.

    If Dickens is right about the three low revisionist estimates of worldwide carbon as methane content of the hydrates being mostly based on computer modeling, with that modeling sensitive to assumptions, and then very little effort being made to compare those results to reality, well, that violates known good scientific practice.

    About the assumption that all of the carbon must come from methane, that is the assumption which requires the least carbon, because the hydrates are the most C12 enriched source. Some could come from other sources, but it requires more carbon. The methane hydrates are also the largest and arguably the most volatile source, and large methane releases appear to be capable of stimulating further methane releases via positive feedback. For the End Triassic, there is also the associated mass extinction which fits the methane release model. Finally, to get the observed mass extinction seems to require a second major greenhouse gas other than CO2, absorbing in a second non-saturated absorption band, to provide the required forcing to fit the observed temperature increases, is my understanding.

    Occam’s Razor says that there is no need to endlessly multiply hypotheses if an adequate explanation is already available.

  359. Steve Fish:

    Leland, the article does not say what you imply and your overlong and inexpert opinion dance to try to cover this up is not working. Steve

  360. Chris R:

    Leland Palmer,

    I’ve shown you research that undermines your back of envelope calculation of 8000Gt ESAS methane, you simply ignored that. Yet again, as you seem to need reminding, your figure is far in excess of Shakhova & Semiletov’s estimate of 1400Gt, that’s before you get to my disagreements with that: In the case of these latter issues, you have been given detailed summaries of the arguments in both instances, yet you repeatedly fail to address those arguments and use the detail provided in the arguments to critically examine the 1400Gt figure and my argument that that figure is a high-end estimate. In place of dealing with evidence and detailed arguments you now cling to your 20,000Gt global figure by making guesses about the situation in the PETM.

    1) Can you cite evidence to show that PETM Arctic methane inventories should be considered equal to the present?

    Just about all the papers I am aware of neglect carbon burial during the event, and so are very conservative estimates.

    2) Can you name these papers? – full titles, authors & year.

    Regarding your objections, I’m not sure why you bother…

    …If your position is that there is enough good information about this to bet the future of the world on business as usual, I don’t think that’s true.

    You won’t find me supporting BAU anywhere. Whatever the problems with alternatives, BAU is not a rational option.

    Why do I bother? a) For me science is about getting my mind closer to objective reality. b) I intensely dislike wishy washy arguments driven by undeclared agendas, be that from denialists or alarmists pushing scare stories not robustly supported by the evidence.

    So far your arguments have been shown to be very very weak, as supported by your failure to engage with key issues. If you disagree with this you can go back to the beginning (#335) and start by:

    3) Giving a detailed point by point account of why and where in their reasoning Semiletov & Shakhova’s estimate of 1400Gt is a massive under-estimate.

    As for your ridiculous conspiracy theory about the amount of methane hydrate and their potential value explaining why there haven’t been more extensive drilling / seismic surveys of the amount of hydrate. It’s ridiculous because it lacks internal logical consistency: A first stage in assessing the economics of such a reserve are extensive seismic surveys followed by core drilling.

    Then we’re on to Dickens, about which you claimed:

    Dickens says that a previous consensus estimate before the science became distorted by politics and money to be 5 to 20 trillion tons of carbon as methane in the entire world.

    What Dickens actually said was: “an appropriate range across the studies was 5000–20000 Gt (Dickens, 2001b).” However he goes on to state on page 6 that in his opinion the two best estimates give a global inventory of marine methane clathrates as 170 to 12700Gt, McGuire et al 2009 note that the Arctic Ocean and its adjacent shelves are some 5% of the global world’s ocean area, from that they continue to provide a rough estimate of Artic marine methane hydrate (their figures 2 to 65Gt). Using the same line of reasoning, and Dicken’s preferred estimates, gives 8.5 to 635Gt for the entire Arctic Ocean, of which the ESAS is but a part. For what it’s worth I’m more persuaded by S&S’s reasoning, taking into account my comments, than those low figures. But Dickens doesn’t support your excessive 8000Gt guess.

    Furthermore you pretend that Dickens supports your claim that assessments of methane clathrate inventory have been reduced due to pressure from “politics and money”. Simply reading that paper shows that this is not the case. For example, Dickens is critical of Archer et al (2009) because their calculations are based on modern levels of carbon input, whereas Dickens cites research that during low sea-level stands (prevalent for the last 1M years) organic carbon input to sediment is higher than at present. The critique of Burwicz et al is similarly technical. His criticism of Milkov is summed up by this passage:

    Determining the mass of the present-day gas hydrate reservoir in this way is analogous to quantifying the mass of the present-day terrestrial biosphere by estimating the area which vegetation can grow across the globe and multiplying this by the mass of plants in a few hectares from a few scattered locations.

    Your claim that the fault is with modelling is baseless, Dickens’ references do not support your claim as Gornitz & Fung and Harvey & Huang, the two studies he prefers, are both model dependent studies. Any study on this issue is sensitive to assumptions.

  361. Hank Roberts:

    Hm — this is cast as a description of a possible paleo feedback mechanism. Is it also the kind of study oil companies use to look for new places to drill?


    Warm Eocene climate enhanced petroleum generation from Cretaceous source rocks: A potential climate feedback mechanism?

  362. Leland Palmer:

    Hi David- (357)

    Leland, you say:

    Since it seems unlikely that all of the methane hydrates dissociated at that time, total hydrate mass, at least back then, must have been greater than that- on the order of 20,000 Gtons, at a guess.

    Guessing doesn’t really help much. But the reason for this response is to ask why you assume that all carbon must have come from methane? That certainly won’t be the case with todays world.

    It is a good point that you make, about the source of the forcing, and it being predominantly CO2, in today’s world.

    My understanding of the methane release model is that it starts with a triggering event, a large volcanic release of CO2, for example.

    So, these events start out being CO2 based, but in some cases go on to become more about methane than CO2, at their peak. They may in fact be more about atmospheric and oceanic chemistry side effects of methane release, at their peak, than they are about the methane itself. As methane hydrate stores are exhausted, and sea levels rise, the hydrate deposits stabilize due to increased pressure, and the main issue then is the secondary CO2 released. As the rock weathering cycle sequesters CO2 over thousands of years, the primary and secondary CO2 ends up being sequestered and the system returns to normal, or to some new equilibrium.

    So, the methane release model also contains CO2. It is a sort of one-two-three punch, with and initial CO2 trigger (one), methane and it’s oceanic and atmospheric chemistry effects providing strong forcing (two), and the accumulated primary and secondary CO2 produced from methane oxidation locking large forcing in place for thousands of years (three).

    My real concern is that there may be stages beyond two, involving ozone, nitrous oxide, and water vapor. My real concern are new absorption bands, starting out in their most potent concentration ranges, adding to forcing, and that forcing then being multiplied by the water vapor feedback.

  363. Leland Palmer:

    Hi Chris-

    The map I referenced shows 200,000 cubic kilometers of methane hydrate potential in the ESAS, Chris.

    That would be about 200 trillion tons of hydrate, containing about 20 trillion tons of carbon, if it was all hydrate.

    I really haven’t issued any estimates, Chris. I have said that according to my rough calculations, two trillion tons of carbon did not seem to be unreasonable. I said that 8 trillion did not seem unreasonable, given the uncertainties involved. Given the uncertainties involved, I’m willing to go with Shakhova’s estimates, while waiting for better information, and keeping in mind the propensity for scientists to make conservative estimates.

    You think that Shakhova’s estimates are too high. OK, fine, if you think that the process you are going through of reading and comparing results between papers will help you find the right number, well, go for it. I doubt it personally, and suspect that some of the information has been warped by the non-scientific factors involved, so I consider it unlikely that all your efforts will arrive at the correct number.

    But I don’t have the time, or the energy, to jump through all of your hoops.

    There is a wide range of uncertainty on all of these calculations. Estimates for total hydrate mass vary by orders of magnitude.

    There may be better information sources, which I haven’t located yet. I’m certain that the oil corporations have better information, for example.

    I can provide you with a list of papers which calculate large hydrate releases during past events (not just the PETM) in the trillions of tons of carbon range, but it will take me some time to compile such a list. I’ve referenced several of them, so far.

  364. Steve Fish:

    Leland, you are still dancing around with opinions. I am sorry, but the Hokey Pokey is not really what it’s all about. Steve

  365. Leland Palmer:

    OK, Dickens in Down the Rabbit Hole says 2-3 trillion tons of carbon as methane, during the PETM:

    Down the Rabbit Hole: : toward appropriate discussion of methane
    release from gas hydrate systems during the Paleocene-Eocene
    thermal maximum and other past hyperthermal events

    According to the “gas hydrate dissociation” hypothesis
    (Dickens et al. 1995), some Earth system threshold was
    crossed, so that deep ocean temperatures rose rapidly. This
    warmth propagated into sediment on continental slopes,
    which shoaled the base of the GHSZ and converted large
    amounts of gas hydrate to free gas. Nominally 2000–
    3000 Gt C, as free CH4 gas, then escaped from marine sediment through slumping or venting (Dickens, 2003).

    Ruhl et al say 12 trillon tons of carbon as methane, during the Triassic:

    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.

    …more to come.

  366. Leland Palmer:


    Beerling says 5 trillion tons of carbon from methane hydrates during the Early Toarcian and 3 trillion tons during the Early Aptian:


    Our analyses support the idea that both the Early Toarcian and Early Aptian isotopic curves were indicative of large episodic methane releases (5000 and 3000 Gt respectively) promoting warm ‘greenhouse’ conditions in the Mesozoic

    Compare this to David Archer’s figure of 0.7 to 1.2 trillion tons methane plus a few hundred billion tons of free methane gas.

  367. Leland Palmer:

    OK, here’s another one, Hesselbo et al (2000), talking about 1.5 to 2.7 trillion metric tons of carbon released during an oceanic anoxic event from methane hydrates. They also say that if synchronous burial of light organic carbon is taken into account, the mass of methane derived carbon necessary to cause the carbon isotope excursion is very much greater:

    Massive dissociation of gas hydrate during a Jurassic oceanic anoxic event

    The mass of methane-hydrate carbon necessary to cause the negative excursion over this short timescale can be estimated using simple mass-balance equations7. Taking present-day mass and d13C estimates, we calculate that 1.5 × 10E18 to 2.7 × 10E18 g of carbon is required for excursions of −2 or −3.5‰ respectively. These figures are 14–24% of the estimated present-day gas-hydrate reservoir (compare 14–19% for the LPTM using estimates of reservoir mass and isotopic composition derived from refs 7 and 24). If the synchronous burial of light organic carbon is taken into account, the mass of methane-derived carbon necessary to produce the excursion is very much larger

    Do we really think that these probable hydrate dissociation events released all of the hydrate, and reduced the methane hydrate stability zone to zero volume? Do we really think that all the trapped associated methane gas bubbled out of the sediments? Some deep hydrates and associated free gas must have been left after these events, so the global hydrate inventory during these events must have been greater than the amount released during those events.

    All of this makes the modern revisionist estimates of total worldwide gas hydrate inventory look less and less likely. We are coming out of a series of ice ages and low water periods, with increased carbon burial in sediments and low water temperatures, all of which should make current methane hydrate inventories greater than in the past, not smaller, is my understanding. Please correct this if I am wrong about this point. Should methane hydrate accumulations now be less than in the past, and if so, why?

  368. Steve Fish:

    Leland, you say: “Ruhl et al. say 12 trillon tons of carbon as methane, during the Triassic:”

    The Ruhl et al. paper does not support your contentions. It is a hypothesis that requires confirmation. This, and comments of others demonstrate that your ability to accurately read and report on this area of research is untrustworthy.

    RECAPTCHA says ridiculum rosacti. Rosacti is a real insult. Steve

  369. Leland Palmer:

    Hi Steve-

    OK, here’s Dickens arguing that the series of progressively smaller warming events following the PETM are strong evidence of a carbon capacitor in the form of methane hydrate deposits, progressively storing and then suddenly releasing carbon in response to orbital forcing, but becoming weaker each time:

    Down the Rabbit Hole

    There is also a growing appreciation that the PETM is only the most prominent of a series of “hyperthermal” events that occurred during long-term deep-ocean warming of the early Paleogene (Lourens et al., 2005; Nicolo et al., 2007; Agnini et al., 2009; Stap et al., 2009, 2010; Leon Rodriguez and Dickens, 2010; Zachos et al., 2010). At least five other events, presently called ETM2/H1, H2, I1, I2, and K/X (following Cramer et al., 2003), have been identified in multiple records and follow the PETM at approximately 53.7, 53.6, 53.3, 53.2, and 52.5 Ma. Like the PETM, these events display evidence for Earth surface warming (including in the deep sea) and massive injection of 13C-depleted carbon to the ocean and atmosphere; more interestingly, with available data, they appear coupled to orbital forcing and to have a relationship between magnitude and time (above references). Specifically, there seems to be a decrease in the magnitude of the δ13C excursion with a shorter duration since the previous event (i.e. PETM> ETM2/H1 > K/X > I1 > H2 ∼ I2). Assuming the PETM and the other events have a similar generic cause, their characteristics almost demand inclusion of some large capacitor in the global carbon cycle that can release 13C-depleted carbon fast in response to forcing, but that recharges more slowly (Dickens, 2000, 2003; Nicolo et al.,2007; Zachos et al., 2010; Westerhold et al., 2011).

    This is a straightforward prediction of the methane release theory, but difficult to explain by any other means I am aware of.

    It’s a good theory.

    It makes good quantitative predictions.

    It predicts we are in great danger- especially if the methane hydrate inventory is larger than Archer, Milkov, and Burwicz say it is.

  370. Leland Palmer:

    Hi Steve-

    OK, here’s something else to consider, when thinking about worst case scenarios:

    Rhul et al calculate 12 trillion tons of carbon release from methane hyrates…into the atmosphere, during the End Triassic.

    Not into the oceans and atmosphere, but into the atmosphere only.

    But much of the methane released today from the hydrates will go into the oceans directly, and be directly oxidized into CO2, in the oceans, then directly deposited as carbonate sediments, without ever making it into the atmosphere. Some of the carbon from the methane released would make it back out of the oceans, as evolved CO2, but not all of it.

    Rhul’s calculations are based on waxes from land plants.

    So, if 12 trillion tons of carbon from methane made it into the atmosphere, how much carbon total was released into both the atmosphere and oceans?

    How much carbon was left over in the deep stable hydrates or in trapped free gas which never escaped?

    Suppose 9 trillion tons of carbon went directly into the atmosphere. Suppose 6 trillion tons of carbon released as methane went directly into the oceans. Suppose half of that, or 3 trillion tons made it back into the atmosphere, from the oceans, equaling Rhul’s 12 trillion tons. That would leave 3 trillion tons going directly into carbonate sediments, for a total of 15 trillion tons of carbon as methane released.

    Suppose as much methane was retained as deep stable hydrates and free trapped methane gas as was released into both the atmosphere and oceans.

    That would bring the total methane hydrate and free gas inventory up to about 30 trillion tons of carbon content, in line with the high end estimates of worldwide hydrate mass, not the low end ones.

    This could all be wrong. Maybe as the oceans acidified, carbonate sediments would themselves be dissolved, and become a source of atmospheric carbon. Or, in an ocean release scenario, much of the carbon released could stay in the oceans and never make it into the atmosphere.

    Dickens- On the fate of past gas: what happens to methane released from a bacterially mediated gas hydrate capacitor?  

    My message when posting here has always been that methane release is a highly uncertain situation, and not to be taken lightly or ignored. We just don’t know what will happen if large amounts of methane start to be released from the hydrates. We certainly don’t want to bet the future of the world on this sort of complicated situation, full of positive feedback loops and combined physical, chemical, and biological effects.

    And we urgently need to know how much methane and hydrate are in ocean sediments, and its distribution, especially as regards to depth. We cannot allow this information to be proprietary.

  371. Leland Palmer:

    Hi Steve-

    Leland, you say: “Ruhl et al. say 12 trillon tons of carbon as methane, during the Triassic:”

    The Ruhl et al. paper does not support your contentions. It is a hypothesis that requires confirmation. This, and comments of others demonstrate that your ability to accurately read and report on this area of research is untrustworthy.

    RECAPTCHA says ridiculum rosacti. Rosacti is a real insult. Steve

    Yes, Steve, all of paleoclimatology and a good part of geology are based on hypothetical scenarios aimed at explaining current geological evidence. Including Ruhl et al.

  372. Chris R:

    Leland Palmer,

    “…modern revisionist estimates…”

    I’m not interested in your bias.

    You still have yet to show that there is an equivalence between hydrate inventories in the PETM era, and present day. On which matter you say: “…all of which should make current methane hydrate inventories greater than in the past, not smaller..” Abundant Early Palaeogene marine gas hydrates despite warm deep-ocean temperatures.

    We find that under plausible temperature and pressure conditions, the abundance of gas hydrates would be similar or higher in the Palaeogene than at present.

    Don’t just fixate on the ‘similar’, they also say ‘higher’. Nobody knows, either is feasible. As I’ve had to tell more denialists than I care to remember: The door of uncertainty swings both ways.

    According to Dickens a 4degC warming of the seafloor over 10k years would result in a 50% reduction of the stability zone. This implies something approaching 50% of the gas hydrate being reduced to get an idea of total inventory. So you can at least double any emission amount. Then, back to Dickens, there is the issue of the other hypotheses. Let’s immediately drop the comet – there’s no evidence of an impact crater. But peat burning seems a reasonable outcome of the PETM and there is also evidence of vulcanism having a role, Dickens accepts these factors as a likely partial precursor to the PETM carbon cycle feedback. For what it’s worth, so do I. Yet you seem to be exclusively concentrating on hydrates – they were not the only player in the PETM.

    Frankly I’m getting bored of this, still don’t see your 20000Gt as supported in the literature, and don’t get your obsession with Dr Archer’s estimates.

    I second Steve’s comment regarding Ruhl, furthermore the landmasses were radically different then, so trying to support estimates of methane hydrate now using emissions then is daft – same with your other cases, both in the Mesozoic.

    Note that Ruhl et al state:

    None of these mechanisms is mutually exclusive, and all three may have contributed to the release of 13C-depleted carbon at the ETME, with thermogenic methane and gaseous CO2 release from CAMP initiating a positive feedback in the global exogenic carbon cycle, causing the release of methane from clathrates. The relative contribution of these end members for 13C-depleted carbon release is yet unknown.


    …However, given the duration and magnitude of the observed end-Triassic negative CIE, a strong contribution from the methane-clathrate reservoir may be likely.

    Let’s apply Occam’s razor – your amateur estimate of 20,000Gt global methane hydrate is far larger than comparable estimates from experts, so it is probably wrong.

    As none of us are experts in the field we’re best to take the expert’s views. I’m happy to take Dickens as an expert.

    Dickens prefers two studies which give a range of 170 to 12,700Gt methane, this being so wide that it covers Archer & Milkov, also a substantial part of the range of Burwicz. So if we take Dicken’s preferred range then that covers all bases. Where our bases are based on peer-reviewed science, not back of envelope reasoning.

    Now do you want to move this discussion on?

  373. Leland Palmer:

    Hi Steve-

    From Ruhl:

    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.

    They seem to be presenting this as their lead hypothesis, Steve. As always, alternate explanations to methane release from the hydrates are possible, but require more carbon, and so are considered less likely by most people.

  374. Leland Palmer:

    Hi Chris-

    That’s good information, from Dickens, on the total quantity of hydrates, I think. So, as I suspected, there is no particular reason to think that today’s hydrate mass is an order of magnitude less than it has been in the past. Could be more, could be less, but should be in the same ballpark.

    Now do you want to move this discussion on?

    No, not particularly.

    Can you think of a more important or urgent topic to discuss?

    Why should we move this discussion on? It’s been an interesting discussion so far, and it’s given me a lot to think about- your paper from Dickens, for exmaple, which I was not aware of.

    What’s more important than a possible or even probable methane catastrophe in our future and perhaps in our very near future?

  375. Chris R:

    Leland Palmer,

    See your post #318, you first raised the Dickens paper on this thread, I last read it in November and didn’t bring it up.

    What’s more important than a possible or even probable methane catastrophe in our future and perhaps in our very near future?

    Er.. The more robustly supported risk of drought linked to the observed skew in the frequency of occurence of warm events. Or the likelihood of the Arctic becoming seasonally sea-ice free as early as the 2020s. Or the fact that so far as a civilisation we’re doing diddly squat to deal with our idiotic addiction to fossil fuels.

    I believe in dealing with high probability imminent threats to worrying about speculative distant ones.

  376. Leland Palmer:

    Hi Chris-

    Let’s apply Occam’s razor – your amateur estimate of 20,000Gt global methane hydrate is far larger than comparable estimates from experts, so it is probably wrong.

    Actually, it’s about average if you include the high end estimates, Chris.

    Note that Ruhl et al state:

    None of these mechanisms is mutually exclusive, and all three may have contributed to the release of 13C-depleted carbon at the ETME, with thermogenic methane and gaseous CO2 release from CAMP initiating a positive feedback in the global exogenic carbon cycle, causing the release of methane from clathrates. The relative contribution of these end members for 13C-depleted carbon release is yet unknown…

    …However, given the duration and magnitude of the observed end-Triassic negative CIE, a strong contribution from the methane-clathrate reservoir may be likely.

    Yes, some mix of hydrate and alternate explanations are possible, but require more total carbon to be released, and so are considered less likely by most people. So, to completely replace the methane with peat would require ~5 trillion tons of peat, as opposed to ~2 trillion tons of methane, for the PETM, for example.

    I think I focus on the hydrates because that appears to be where the biggest threat to our existence and the biosphere lies.

    If the methane release theory is correct, then emergency action to stop use of fossil fuels using alternative energy sources would be justified. We would also need to put carbon back underground, for example by combining biomass energy with carbon capture and storage.

    No matter what the cost.

  377. Leland Palmer:

    Hi Chris-

    Er.. The more robustly supported risk of drought linked to the observed skew in the frequency of occurence of warm events. Or the likelihood of the Arctic becoming seasonally sea-ice free as early as the 2020s. Or the fact that so far as a civilisation we’re doing diddly squat to deal with our idiotic addiction to fossil fuels.

    I believe in dealing with high probability imminent threats to worrying about speculative distant ones.

    Interesting collection of conceptual frames…all based on the idea that climate change will be gradual, and mostly limited to increases in CO2, as advocated by Archer.

    I don’t think it will be gradual, Chris. I expect to see horrendous, probably irreversible, and likely unstoppable effects in my lifetime- and I’m an old guy. I expect to see substantially accelerated and probably unstoppable releases from the methane hydrates in the Arctic and the ESAS, in the next few years, as Shakhova warns. I think the natural processes of methane release are already being accelerated, and will ramp up quickly from here, via positive feedback.

    I think it likely that Archer, Milkov, and Burwicz are an order of magnitude low on their estimates of total hydrate mass. If those estimates give us a false sense of security, and affect policy decisions, those decisions could kill the biosphere.

    Methane hydrate is a form of water ice, Chris.

    Does ice melt, in response to increasing temperature?

    How certain can we be that we can predict the rate at which it will melt, including wild card factors like underwater landslides?

    Are we certain enough about our hydrate models to feel confident we have included all potential side effects and accelerating factors?

    The existing modeling in fact gives very ominous results, especially for the shallow water hydrates like the East Siberian Arctic Shelf.

    Suppose we wait for publicly available proof of massive coming methane releases before we act decisively, and by then it ends up being too late?

  378. Leland Palmer:

    Hi Chris-

    See your post #318, you first raised the Dickens paper on this thread, I last read it in November and didn’t bring it up.

    Not Down the Rabbit Hole, Chris.

    I was referring to this one:

    Abundant Early Palaeogene marine gas hydrates despite warm deep-ocean temperatures

    Now that we’ve settled that particular important matter, can we move on?

  379. Chris R:

    Leland Palmer

    Re ‘Dickens’ – I’d refer to that paper on early Palaeogene hydrates as “Gu et al”, because Guangsheng Gu is the lead author, hence the confusion.

    Yes ice melts – the dissociation of methane hydrate is an endothermic process – i.e. needs input of heat to progress. The big question is; how fast? Crucially the heat needs time to proceed through the layers of sediment.

    I remain unconvinced by the 50GT figure of Shakhova & Semiletov (S&S). But even if it’s a lower figure then how could there be a near synchronous release across the whole of the ESAS? How would a rapid release in one area teleconnect to a talik/fault hundreds of km away? There are the results of Dmitreno et al. Their study suggests that what is being observed in the ESAS is a result of the inundation of the ESAS during the early Holocene, with recent Arctic warming playing a small role. I’ve read nothing that chalenges that interpretation, so in short; we do not know if what S&S are observing on the ESAS is the start of some massive and imminent release, or if it’s a process that has been going on for millenia. Even if we assume that this is a process that’s recent, then how likely is it that many Gt are poised to go at the same time (i.e. within a decade)?

    Then we have the issue of landslides and pockmarks. Both are likely to be a factor, indeed I have stated that I do not expect a steady rate of emissions from the marine hydrates – the process is likely to result in background emissions with pulses due to landslides and pockmarks. However, how catastrophic will these be? Both are self limiting processes; landslides are limited by the geography of the seafloor, pockmarks are observed to be limited to no more than the order of 1km maximum (whilst they could be the resut of rapid events they clearly come to a natural end after initiation). Pockmarks at Blake Ridge are estimated to have emitted up to 1Gt of methane maximum. Using Dr Archer’s model, such a pulse would cause a virtually undetectable radiative forcing, a short-lived uptick in atmospheric concentration, and a minor increase in methane lifetime. A long way from a catastrophe.

    Yes, AGW will cause more emissions from the ESAS, however these emissions are likely to be chronic. The biggest Arctic player now is northern wetlands, even S&S agree that emissions from the ESAS aren’t a major player at present. Both isotopes and AIRS support this.

    Positive feedback? You say you expect to see “substantially accelerated and probably unstoppable releases” in the next few years. At what level would these need to be to be to constitute a positive feedback? I’d suggest at least something approaching the order of 0.3Gt per year sustained, which would match current net anthropogenic forcing. That’s an increase of Arctic methane emissions of around 3 to 10 times, within the next few years? As for ‘horrendous’ – you’re really back to S&S’s 50Gt or something in that ballpark, You are aware of my criticism of that figure, before we get to the issue of how likely it is that it would all go within a timescale of the order of a decade. That’s the sort of timescale needed to replicate S&S’s “~12-times increase of modern atmospheric methane burden with consequent catastrophic greenhouse warming.” e.g. Shakhova et al “Predicted Methane Emission on the East Siberian Shelf.” figures 2, 3, & assoc text.

    Yes, I understand that you are motivated by fear, an underlying motivation has been apparent throughout these discussions. However what chance do you think you have arguing for pre-emptive action when the threat of imminent, massive and catastrophic release is unproven? How will you undo the damage if it doesn’t happen and people arguing for your position are held up as examples of yet more AGW activists crying wolf?

  380. Leland Palmer:

    Hi Chris-

    Positive feedback? You say you expect to see “substantially accelerated and probably unstoppable releases” in the next few years. At what level would these need to be to be to constitute a positive feedback? I’d suggest at least something approaching the order of 0.3Gt per year sustained, which would match current net anthropogenic forcing. That’s an increase of Arctic methane emissions of around 3 to 10 times, within the next few years?

    Looking at the NASA maps of temperature anomalies, Chris, the biggest temperature anomaly on the planet is parked right over the East Siberian Arctic Shelf.

    It may be possible for chronic plumes of methane to cause local temperature anomalies, and for the high methane concentration directly over those plumes to create local positive feedback greenhouse forcing. I certainly don’t want to bet the future of the planet against this, or on someone’s computer model- especially in a world full of non-scientific factors including power, influence, and profit.

    Yes, I understand that you are motivated by fear, an underlying motivation has been apparent throughout these discussions. However what chance do you think you have arguing for pre-emptive action when the threat of imminent, massive and catastrophic release is unproven? How will you undo the damage if it doesn’t happen and people arguing for your position are held up as examples of yet more AGW activists crying wolf?

    Are you aware how closely your arguments follow standard climate change denier protocols? Accusing people alarmed over global warming of being afraid is standard Denier technique, Chris. I expected more from you, and am very much disappointed.

    In my laboratory experience, I provide data, and that data is used to keep projects we work on in control. If wrong decisions are made on the basis of that data, the projects can spiral out of control, and fail.

    The only way to bring the climate system back into control, in my opinion, is start with a big injection of scientific truth, and then devise appropriate remedial action based on that truth.

    I have no fear of “crying wolf”, Chris. I am afraid of not “crying wolf” when there is in fact a real wolf.

  381. Chris R:

    Leland Palmer,

    That anomaly is due to open water causing warming, not methane. Don’t guess, your guesses will probably be wrong, read the research.

    I seem like a denialist? Your performance here speaks volumes – choosing one extreme side of the uncertainty (repeated), failing to properly read your sources (e.g. #360 re Dickens), choosing what elements of the evidence you deal with (e.g. #343 para 2, #360 para 1). Scientific truth involves assessing all the evidence, you seem to me to have developed rather a pattern of walking away from issues you don’t want to deal with.

    You may have no fear of crying wolf, because you genuinely believe there is a wolf. But what matters here? The objective reality or your beliefs? Anyway I don’t think you have made a very strong case that we face imminent, massive and catastrophic methane releases. Earlier in reference to my posts on this matter you said: “So, when I saw your stuff, I admit that I took a quick look at it, and dismissed it as unlikely.” If I seem verbose you should bear in mind that what I have written is a slimmed version of the original draft, I couldn’t truncate the matter any further because it is complex. Having read some 30+ papers on the subject since last Autumn I can assure you of one thing: ‘a quick look’ is insufficient to grasp the complexity of this matter.

    I mentioned fear because it is quite apparent from your final sentences post 377. Personally I’m always concerned that I may be wrong, that makes me put what real scientists say ahead of my conclusions.

    Once again, I am scared by some issues, don’t believe me? Read this. I just need coherent robust evidence to be persuaded.

    Have you read the RC archives about the Bryden results? More here. When Bryden’s initial results were first published they were touted by some as meaning the THC was about to shut down, more research and a longer time-series led to the understanding that the THC is more variable than thought at the time, and no, it’s not shutting down. I’m sure I don’t need to explain the relevance.

  382. Leland Palmer:

    Hi Chris-

    Maybe one reason I have no fear of crying “wolf”, Chris, is that I have seen past estimates of the pace of global warming exceeded time after time. We’re seeing effects on the Arctic sea ice that senior scientists are characterizing as thirty years ahead of schedule.

    For example:

    Climate models had projected the passage would eventually open as warming temperatures melted the Arctic sea ice—but no one had predicted it would happen this soon.

    “We’re probably 30 years ahead of schedule in terms of the loss of the Arctic sea ice,” said Mark Serreze, a senior scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado.

    “We’re on this fast track of change.”

    So one reason I suspect that the future will not be gradual is that climate change has not been gradual, so far.

    We were told that the Antarctic ice caps were stable, but Peter Ward says that they have destabilized suddenly in the past- I’m still trying to track down his references for this. More later on that.

    Methane concentrations are rising rapidly, with most of the methane so far coming from terrestrial sources, that is true. But we were talking about the future, Chris.

    Perhaps you are right. Perhaps it is the permafrost decay which will cause the sea ice to retreat, and this in turn will set off the hydrates. We are lucky that hydrate dissociation is endothermic. But the heat content of the oceans is definitely rising, and that heat will inevitably dissociate the hydrates. Once again, the question of the total hydrate mass seems crucial- “chronic” releases from a huge mass of hydrate could have catastrophic effects.

    I seem like a denialist?

    No, not really. But accusing people who are alarmed about global warming of being afraid is standard denialist technique, Chris, and is not a worthy argument. Since you ask, you seem to be more like a guy who wants to occupy the center of the argument- then shift that center to the gradualist point of view.

  383. Hank Roberts:

    Leland, most of the readers here are as aware as you of the problem.
    You’re looking at part of the problem pretty far into the disaster we’re hoping to avoid. Most of us are looking at the earlier stages of the disaster.

    You know how it is with accidents — the big mistakes are often made minutes or even hours before the metal starts crumpling.

    Methane is like that.

    You’re in a crowd of people who are saying “don’t go in that direction because there are a whole lot of bad things along that path” .

    You’re jumping up and down yelling “at the end of that path something really bad happens”

    Somehow you think nobody but you knows the end of the path is bad, because the rest of the people are saying that every damn step in that direction along that path is bad and the farther you go the worse it gets.

    You’re demeaning and ignoring real warnings and somehow trying to say you’re the only one who knows there’s a problem.

    This is what Joe Romm meant a while back about the discussion being preempted by the denialists and the alarmists who won’t let anyone hold a conversation without shouting their position over and over, preempting any other discussion.

    We know it’s bad. We know it gets worse. We know the end of the path is extremely ugly. We get it.

    You’re saying “don’t end up there.”

    We’re saying “don’t go in that direction, it’s bad all along.”

    As a doctor friend of mine used to tell patients:

    “If you don’t change, you’re going to end up where you’re headed.”

    When a car has crashed, you can say
    — oh, big mistake knitting when the airbag popped open
    — oh, big mistake hitting that tree
    — oh, big mistake running off the road
    — oh, big mistake driving while sleepy

    You’re focusing on the passenger who should avoid holding knitting needles when the airbag pops open.

    The scientists are warning about the loose nut behind the steering wheel that’s going to cause a lot of damage eventually.

    It’s not all about you.

  384. Hank Roberts:

    “If given the chance to talk to an expert on global warming, the Alarmed and Concerned would most like to know what the nations of the world can do to reduce global warming, and if there’s still time to do so. The Disengaged would most like to ask whether global warming is actually occurring, and what harm it will cause. The Cautious, Doubtful and Dismissive would most like to have an expert explain how scientists know that global warming is happening and is caused by human activities.”

  385. Ray Ladbury:

    The area where you are expressing your concern is an area of active research. It is science. There are lots of papers being published, and the papers disagree wrt their conclusions. That’s the fun part–science on the cutting edge.
    Unfortunately, it means that the threat you are trumpeting is not firmly established–certainly not to the degree you are asserting. It will take a decade or more, probably, before it is firmly established. At that time, it will become the subject of risk analysis, mitigation, etc.

    So what can we do while we wait for the science to catch up to you? We can try to address the firmly established threats that are driving the threat you say is going to wipe us out.

  386. Chris R:

    Leland Palmer,

    I second Hank’s comments, furthermore…

    …accusing people who are alarmed about global warming of being afraid is standard denialist technique…

    Theres no shame in feeling fear. If aspects of AGW don’t scare a person then they simply don’t get it. My whole argument is that it’s only by looking at the detail of the science that we can get to grips with what should scare us and what we needn’t actually lose sleep over.

    Perhaps it is the permafrost decay which will cause the sea ice to retreat, and this in turn will set off the hydrates.

    I disagree, regardless of methane, which is currently a small player, without _massive_ cuts in CO2 emissions the Arctic _will_ transition to a seasonally sea-ice free state. Indeed I think we’ve already passed the ‘tipping point’ which Nghiem’s findings using QuikScat have revealed – the massive and precipitous loss of perennial sea-ice culminating last decade. We are now living with a new Arctic ice-pack, one that is predominantly first year sea-ice. Events like 2007, and possibly spring 2010 (I’m looking into that at present), I see as being epiphenomenal of the loss of multi-year ice. The ice-pack has lost it’s stabiliser and is now far more responsive to weather impacts. I’d put good money on virtually sea ice free summers (under 1M km^2) by the 2020s. In Winter 2009/10, and what I see as a summer pattern since 2007, we’re now seeing the wider atmospheric impacts of the loss of sea-ice, just a taste of what we’ll see next decade.

    you seem to be more like a guy who wants to occupy the center of the argument

    Firstly the position I take on issues is arrived at by reading the science. That’s how I dealt with my former scepticism of AGW, and it’s a policy I find works. Secondly, I used to be a free-market Conservative voter, I’ve lost my politics because it doesn’t offer solutions to the problems we face (AGW/Population/Fossil Fuel Depletion), so I no longer do positions. I’m aware that I can annoy both sides of the argument over AGW, that is irrelevant, evidence and reason is what counts.

    PS – my main obsession is the Arctic, telling me about what’s going on there is like taking coals to Newcastle. ;)

  387. One Anonymous Bloke:

    Please can someone help me? I am working through Dr. Archer’s Climate 101, trying to solve the Stefan Boltzmann equation for the “bare rock” temperature on the moon’s surface. I’m using “Microsoft Mathematics” to help me. I’ve taken the following steps, to solve for T:

    (L(1-alpha))/4=sigmaT^4 albedo is 33%, solar constant 1s 1350, sigma is 5.67*10^-8


    This is giving me an answer of 251.3K, which the lab assures me is “not quite” right.

    I would very much appreciate some assistance. Thanks in advance.

  388. Hank Roberts:

    Somehow this seemed pertinent to understanding climate change, I dunno.

  389. Leland Palmer:

    Well, everyone here is talking about a lot of things.

    But is there an elephant sitting in the living room which we are not talking about?

    For example, the total mass of methane hydrates- which is very likely the most important number in science? This number could after all determine the difference between a survivable methane catastrophe and one that could kill the biosphere.

    Here’s the situation we have now:

    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

    The three low range estimates don’t make any sense, if the methane release theory of mass extinctions is correct. According to the hard isotope ratio measurements, much larger amounts than that have come out of several mass extinction events, as I’ve mentioned. Also such events would reasonably have left some hydrate behind- perhaps doubling the total methane hydrate mass. Also, some of the methane would have likely been oxidized in the oceans and would never have made it into the atmosphere, being deposited as carbonate instead- further increasing the total hydrate mass.

    The methane release theory has the most explanatory power, the most predictive ability, and the greatest amount of supporting evidence. It alone appears to be a true generic explanation for most mass extinction events.

    It’s been about 50 million years since the PETM and a series of smaller hyperthermal events discharged the methane capacitor. Presumably hydrates have been accumulating since then. In the past several million years, there have also been ice ages and low water temperatures which expands the gas hydrate stability zones.

    So, potentially, the clathrate gun is cocked and loaded and ready to blow our brains our.

    Since we’re all so concerned, how about a unanimous vote of approval for determining the total mass of methane hydrates precisely?

  390. Steve Fish:

    Leland. As I write this there have been 18 posts since my last reply to you and 9 (exactly half) are yours. They are all way too long and, in fact, continue to consist of the Hokey Pokey dance of your inexpert opinion about real science (hand waving to physicists).

    Put your left foot in, put your left foot out….


  391. flxible:

    Leland wants a vote . . . I vote that he take his fixation elsewhere, show of hands please.

  392. Leland Palmer:

    Hi Steve-

    Maybe it was the typo that turned you off:

    So, potentially, the clathrate gun is cocked and loaded and ready to blow our brains our.

    Blow our brains our?

    Sounds like a seal. It was one of my best phrases, too.

    Make that blow our brains out. Presumably the clathrate gun is cocked and ready to blow our brains out, was what I meant.

    If that happens, we too could end up dancing the hokey pokey together in Valhalla.

    Save the last dance for me, Steve. :)

  393. Chris Colose:

    One Anonymous Bloke

    I just checked the question you’re talking about. Your math is correct but the question asks “what is the equilibrium temperature of the surface of the moon, on the equator, at local noon, when the sun is directly overhead, in Kelvins?”

    This is not what you are calculating. You are looking at the traditional radiative balance equation that assumes that the temperature is essentially uniform over the entire planetary sphere. You could also think of it as saying that L(1-a)/4 is the local solar radiation over every point on the sphere, uniformly. This assumption works good on Earth where atmospheric and ocean circulation transport heat around, such that the deviation in temperature over the globe (in Kelvins) is relatively small, often to within 10% or so.

    But on a body like Mercury, the Moon, or perhaps some tide-locked exoplanet with no heat transport, it is a rather useless equation, since the day-side/night-side or even the temperature over latitude can deviate by hundreds of degrees Kelvin. In the case where you only want to treat the local solar radiation at noon, at the equator, think what term you might want to change in that balance equation.

  394. Hank Roberts:


  395. Pekka Kostamo:

    Chris R 386: My favourite arctic summer pattern is shown in:


    There is a rather clear mode change in 2007. The anomalous summer melt pattern has now persisted for 5 years. There is, of course, also a gradual decline from start of the data series in 1979, possibly accelerating.

  396. Chris R:

    Leland Palmer, #389…

    ….and so we’re back where we started. I’m bored of this.

    #394, Thanks Hank, funny cartoon.

  397. john byatt:

    Australia drowning,

    after the Queensland and NSW biblical floods of 2010 and 2011,
    75% of NSW is being flooded or on flood watch again today.
    My son on the QLD sunshine coast has a property that has never flooded going back over 80 years, his house is twelve metres above the little creek running through the property. he woke up saturday morning to find 10mm of water in the house after a 340mm downpour in just three hours.

  398. One Anonymous Bloke:

    Chris Colose #393 thank you very much – I will give it some more thought.

  399. Kevin McKinney:

    #397–“Wow, just wow.”