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Unforced variations: April 2012

Filed under: — group @ 2 April 2012

This month’s open thread – a day late for obvious reasons… Have at it.

236 Responses to “Unforced variations: April 2012”

  1. 1
    CM says:

    Tool tip: SkepticalScience has complemented the excellent with another online trend grapher/calculator. This one does confidence intervals, taking autocorrelation into account. A handy reference for online discussions with flat-trenders.

  2. 2
    Danny BLoom says:

    While we argue over this and that, seemingly going around in circles, but also getting somewhere, step by step, I am launching my new sci fi book about POLAR CITIES that everyone here dismissed so vehemently three years ago. Remember how you mocked me, reviled me, dissed me? Well, read the novel now, it’s mere fiction, nothing to be afraid of.

    TRAILER VIDEO for “POLAR CITY RED ” – sci fi novel by Jim Laughter

    POLAR CITY RED info link:

  3. 3
    vukcevic says:

    Svensmark effect confirmed by the latest ‘Forbush decrease’

  4. 4
    jgnfld says:

    We keep seeing the Silurian CO2 levels being used notably by WSJ again recently.

    Question: Does the fact that most of the land in the Silurian was centered around the South Pole make any difference? I cannot find refs on that.

    Certainly I have found refs that the equatorial seas were nearly hot water heater hot at times then.

  5. 5
    Russ Doty says:

    I apologize that this question is a off-topic for this post. It occurred to me when the high winds predicted for this morning woke me up. We are seeing data on record temperatures. Is there a count of the number of winds above 30 mph, 50 mph, 60 mph, 70 mph, 80 mph, etc. for an area per year? That metric may correlate with CO2 and temperature. We should be able to begin gathering that data what with the growing number of wind farms worldwide. It would also add to the data concerning number of hurricanes per year, etc. That number of high winds at the hurricane level may not show as much as winds in other levels if it is at the tail of a bell curve, but an increase in higher winds in the 50 mph to 80 mph level may reveal something more. A 70 mph wind in eastern Colorado recently blew over a power pole that sparked a 30+ square mile prairie wild fire that burned a couple of homes, closed a highway, killed livestock, and caused 1000 to evacuate.

  6. 6
    Hank Roberts says:

    For Russ Doty: wind speed mentioned, this should lead to what you’re looking for:

  7. 7
  8. 8
    Chris Colose says:


    There is pretty good evidence that the late Ordovician-early Silurian glacial times resulted from CO2 drawdown due to increased silicate weathering from emerging orogenies (not too dissimilar from the much more recent Cenozoic transition from greenhouse to icehouse climate); similarly, deglaciation episodes probably resulted from decreased weathering as expanding ice reduced the fraction of continental silicates available for weathering.

    There are a couple of episodes embedded within that time period though, and the geologists are always trying to get better at refining the temporal resolution to improve correlations. There’s some other factors going on too (e.g., a few percent decrease in solar brightness, and possible influences from volcanic eruptions or superplumes). Some papers by Saltzmann and Seth Young are good starts for reviewing this subject.

    Continental positions are important for ocean circulation (poleward heat transport, upwelling regions, strength of a possible THC, and where cold water might be invading) and there are a number of hypotheses that involve the ocean circulation in a number of deep-time climate problems, though personally I tend to view this as secondary to the radiation in the global mean for most episodes I can think of in the past. Continental positions matter as well for the albedo, but perhaps more importantly it also matters for the relative strength of weathering of silicates/carbonate relative to the input of CO2 by volcanoes. If you can concentrate a lot of freshly exposed rock in the tropics where you have high temperatures and precipitation, you can trigger a cooling episode by taking CO2 out of the air, but there are also limitations on weathering rates due to the amount of freshly exposed rocks, or in further extremes (like a post-snowball deglaciation) energetic limits on the amount of precipitation that you get.

    (someone like raypierre can give you more insight on this, though I still think a number of interpretations can be had for the isotopic excursions seen as the Ordovician-Silurian boundary, but I doubt the general picture above will be shown to be deeply flawed in the future)

  9. 9
    vukcevic says:

    @ #8 Chris Colose
    There’s some other factors going on too (e.g., a few percent decrease in solar brightness…..)

    I am sure you (as a scientist) know that the above is not correct.
    Historical TSI (max)varies from 1360-1362 W/m2
    and that makes it ~ 0.15%.
    1% would be 13.6 W/m2, and ‘a few percent decrease in solar brightness’ would be a bit more than 1%.
    What varies more than few %-age points is heliosphere – geomagnetic coupling, with available evidence pointing to the response by oceanic currents strength.
    If more of the absorbed heat energy is transported from tropics poleward less is re-radiated back to space (and vice versa); result is global warming/cooling, as shown here:

  10. 10
    Chris Colose says:


    I’m sorry but it is correct, all based on standard stellar evolution theory, and not related to the 11-year solar cycle. The sun brightens at a rate of ~7% per billion years (due to the change in mean molecular weight in the stellar interior as hydrogen fuses into helium).

    I took the equation found in Gough (1981), “Solar interior structure and luminosity variations”; if we go back 500 million years ago (roughly to the Ordovician), the luminosity would be 96% of its modern value. That makes it easier to fall into glaciation relative to today, but there’s a negative carbon cycle feedback (silicate weathering) which tends to adjust CO2 on timescales much shorter than that of stellar evolution, so it’s possible to still stabilize the climate above freezing even for fainter stars.

    This stellar evolution (and the possible existence of plate tectonics) is also vitally important for the prospect of habitability on extrasolar worlds, though the rate at which the star brightens is also a function of star type/mass. Low-luminosity stars that make up most of the galaxy don’t evolve in time as much as our own sun, and the water ice-albedo feedback would also be weaker on planets around such stars. It also helps to have working plate tectonics to keep this weathering feedback working, and Mars/Venus are good examples where that broke down.

  11. 11

    Anybody here know who Martin Hoerling’s PhD thesis advisor was at UW Madison?

  12. 12
    caerbannog says:

    I put up a post on my home-town newspaper’s message board with some material that might be handy [edit – too potentially literal]

    The post shows how to confirm NASA/GISS global-average temperature results by computing straightforward temperature-anomaly averages using raw data taken from just a few dozen rural GHCN stations (aka “sparse rural stations”) scattered around the world.

    The results are similar to what I have posted here previously, but this time I also generated .kml files that permit the visualization of station locations with GoogleEarth.

    I put up a couple of plots of my “sparse rural stations” results along with the NASA/GISS “meteorological stations” temperature index.

    Also put up a couple of .kml files (as attachments) that allow folks to use GoogleEarth to view the station locations on the globe.

    For scientists and others who have actually worked with global temperature data, this is all pretty much “been there, done that, wore out the t-shirt”. But the material hopefully is something that some people here could use to convince fence-sitters or even “lukewarm” skeptics that attacks by Watts and others on NASA/NOAA/etc. are completely bogus.

    IMO, the results there do a nice job of debunking Watts’ UHI *and* dropped-stations claims. (After all, if you get nearly the same results after dropping 98+ percent of the stations, what does that say about all of Watts’ fussing over a much smaller number of “dropped stations”?)

    Here’s a link to the post:

    (One nice thing about the UTSanDiego board is that you don’t have to register to download message-board post attachments.)

  13. 13

    Its about time! Dr Masters brings out Arctic causations in our recent warm winters:
    Fabulously citing Recent publications ringing familiarly like my own musings, including from our best Friend Dr Curry the anti-tribal professor. Actually she almost gets it right, despite my misgivings, Dr Curry at least brought out the Arctic as a serious factor in recent warm or colder winters. So cheers Dr Curry, I appreciate the Arctic taking front stage as it should be when relating to winters.

  14. 14
    vukcevic says:

    @ #10 Chris Colose
    There is lot of difference between ‘correct’ and someone’s opinion.
    Scientists have difficulty agreeing about insolation levels during the Maunder minimum, mere 350 years ago, let alone 350 thousand or 350 million years ago.
    As you have said elsewhere it is a bit like ‘counting cows of Idaho’, pure speculation.

  15. 15
    vukcevic says:

    @ #13 wayne davidson
    Current epoch of instant communications expects ‘instant science’ and instant solutions. However, often a natural change takes some time to manifest its consequences.
    In the Atlantic side of the hemisphere (area of my interest) there is an apparent Arctic –Equator connection, which even at the most sceptic goes beyond simple coincidence.
    Explaining causes and consequences of such links if confirmed as true, it may not be as easy as some of the ‘instant science’ pronouncements would imply.

  16. 16
    Phil Mattheis says:

    Polar ice is likely to be a pretty active topic in the near term (with interest and attention inversely proportional to changes in volume and extent). This resource may be useful for people living far from cold country.

  17. 17
    Nick Gotts says:

    I hope the RealClimate team will not mind me using this space to advertise a meeting that could be of interest. On 19th April, the final meeting of the GILDED project ( will take place at the Club University Foundation, rue d’Egmont 11, 1000 Brussels. GILDED is funded under the EC Framework Seven theme ‘Socio-economic factors and actors that shape
    the “post-carbon” society’. It has studied the determinants of domestic energy demand across five case-study areas in Europe. If anyone might be interested in attending, please contact me at nickgottshuttonacuk. Funding for travel and accommodation expenses may be available.

  18. 18
    Nick Gotts says:

    Um. I see my email address has been mangled. There shuold be dots between “nick” and “gotts”, and between “hutton” and “ac”, and “ac” and “uk”, and an “at” sign between “gotts” and “hutton”.

  19. 19
    Hank Roberts says:

    Vukevich, you’re confusing climate and weather — this time with respect to the output from stars including our sun.

    The main sequence change over time for stars is ‘climate’ — well known.
    That’s what Chris Colose has pointed you to above, with references.

    The exact amount of energy from our sun reaching Earth 350 years ago is ‘weather’ — of various sorts.

    Variability from year to year is what you’re talking about.

    Change over long time is what he’s talking about.

    The long time scale can be well understood and documented while the short term variability remains hard to get exact.

  20. 20
    Tokodave says:

    Jgnfld # 4
    As usual I’m not sure where the WSJ is going with a discussion of temperatures in the geologic past. As I geologist I can certainly verify that temperatures have fluctuated throughout the geologic past. If you watch Richard Alley’s AGU presentation from a couple years ago, he makes a strong case for CO2 as the control knob. Chris makes some good points regarding aspects of the science above as well.
    Here’s the problem with whatever argument the WSJ thinks they’re making: We don’t live in the Silurian or the PETM, we live here, now.

  21. 21
    Steve Fish says:

    Vukcevic — 3 Apr 2012 @ 1:43 AM (~#14).

    Differing conclusions in several peer reviewed research articles on the same topic that are based on different data, or interpretations of data, is not “pure speculation.” The fact that you think this displays such a lack of understanding of how science progresses that I would never go to your website for accurate information. Never.


  22. 22

    vuckavic. $15, Its by no means instant, science papers such as those published are formed after long and arduous process. My own prognostications come from a mere 30 years of observing. No instantaneous edicts, but from rather a great deal of Arctic and temperate knowledge acquired.
    There is always connections, every weather system is linked in many ways, PCB’s burned in south-east Asia
    end up in the Arctic as fallout. Weather chaos rules in unison humming away sounds and tunes, the instrument most out of whack changes the sound of the entire planets orchestra. In Earth’s case the most transformed area is the Arctic, so now Earth climate is playing a different tune, all regions contribute, but adjusting to the meltdown. I have no problems with your connection, it should be significant, except the big change stems by the silence of ice fusing to water or a torrent of water drops falling from floating sea ice.

  23. 23
    mark48 says:

    Another cosmic ray paper. This one starts from lower stratospheric ozone levels modulated by cosmic ray fluxes.
    Climate sensitivity to the lower stratospheric ozone
    N.A. Kilifarska
    PII: S1364-6826(12)00086-7
    DOI: doi:10.1016/j.jastp.2012.03.002
    Reference: ATP3593
    To appear in: Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics

  24. 24
    Susan Anderson says:

    If anyone has the time and energy, there’s a new thing on DotEarth that looks a bit off to me. No doubt it will offend deniers equally, but it seems to be an attack on those who would bring the state of the world and science to people’s attention.

    Sorry to bother y’all with this bunkum …

  25. 25
    michael sweet says:

    It is well understood that the suns brightness has increased over the last billion years. When you argue with someone (like Chris) who obviously knows more than you do, you lose any credibility you might have had. Limit yourself to commenting on things you know something about. If you continue to comment on things you know nothing about no-one will listen to anything you say. If you wish to claim that the brightness has not changed you must have a peer reviewed reference to back your claims.

  26. 26
    vukcevic says:

    @ #22 wayne davidson
    My apology, the comment was directed not at your views (perhaps I should have made that clear) but at the recent climate science’s tendency.

    @ #25 michael sweet
    Any variable with no data is speculation which may be correct or equally may be wrong. On the solar iradiance there are only data for the last few decades, and a back extrapolation from the SSN to 1650. When scientists agree about those, then it would be possible to go a bit further back in time, one step at the time, with more certainty.
    I concern myself only with matters where there is at least some data available.
    No data no certainty.
    What I find in data I make available to others, and there is a lot in there that even the ‘most learned’ and ‘peer reviewed’ often not only do not know about, but by denying expose their true lack of knowledge, as these two examples have shown:
    (C.C evaluated it as good as counting the cows of Idaho) or
    causing some consternation to one or two experts; perhaps someone may be interested in this one:

  27. 27
    wili says:

    Perhaps relevant to the query at #5:

    “Tornado risk is growing and spreading, study shows”

    (To ms, I don’t think v needs to continue to comment on things he knows nothing about to prompt many of us to stop listening to anything he has to say–he’s pretty well proved his cluelessness already.)

  28. 28
    J Bowers says:

    Study suggests rising CO2 in the past caused global warming

    A paper in Nature shows how increased CO2 in the atmosphere led to warming – rather than the other way round
    Previously, researchers thought that the source of the extra carbon was the oceans, in the form of frozen methane gas in ocean-floor sediments, but from this research they conclude that the carbon came from the polar regions.

    Andrew Watson, a fellow of the Royal Society and professor at the University of East Anglia, said: “The paper shows that the increase in atmospheric CO2 was very important and drove the global temperature rise, but it also suggests that the initial trigger for the deglaciation was something different – a slight warming and associated slow-down of the Atlantic Ocean circulation. This caused carbon dioxide to start being degassed from the deep oceans, and that in turn drove the global change

  29. 29
    Jathanon says:

    Ack, blah. Oh, the environmental movement myth is demolished because Thoreau’s mother did his laundry, and Abbey simultaneously reveled in the solitude and wrote “Christ, I am lonely!”. Well.
    Why is it so wrong to want sustainability? Corporations to not push external costs off onto the general public (pollution, resource extraction, etc.)? People to act responsibly toward the environment instead of selfishly and greedily? I think these are some of the core environmental beliefs, whatever DotJunk wants to argue. And that new “vital voice” of Emma Marris, I read an interview where she seemed both clueless and contradictory, perfect for bending into any shape by those with an agenda.

  30. 30
    Hank Roberts says:

    > dot earth
    As a commenter points out:

    “… let’s talk Thoreau! How can a scientist of Kareiva’s caliber not check his facts before going public?”

    Kareiva’s mistakes are the basis for his entire essay.

    Did nobody at the NYT check Kareiva’s ‘facts’ before praised him?

  31. 31
    MARodger says:

    @24 link to
    I did skim through the video linked by which was as said (but they were referring to something else) “…far too long.
    The message which couldn’t be fagged to give is that some fella called Kareiva says environmentalists are seen increasingly as hypocritical extremists who should change their ways by ’embracing’ technology & business and realising that ‘wilderness’ must be seen in the context of a human-dominated/manipulated world.
    The video was far too long and I never got to the end. So it may have turned full circle & ended by advocating the spraying of DDT into every crevice available. Then maybe it didn’t.

  32. 32
    wili says:

    “‘Past Extreme Warming Events Linked To Massive Carbon Release From Thawing Permafrost’”

  33. 33
    owl905 says:

    It’s probably a tad late for the earthquake news of the year, but it’s sure to be the coming attraction at just about every climate blog on the planet within a few days. The notorious ‘800-year-CO2-lag’ may have just a disparu.


    Article recap:

    Basically, antarctic temperature rise preceded CO2 rise BUT CO2 rise preceded global warming out of the Ice Age.

    “Ladies and Gentlemen, please fasten your seat-belts. There’s a thunderblog ahead.”

  34. 34
    J Bowers says:

    Poor Joe Bast. First GM pull the plug on Heartland, now his other op takes a hit…

    Coke Pulls the Plug on Anti-Climate Change ALEC Lobby.

  35. 35
    Hank Roberts says:

    “… As temperature rises, so too will the quantity of water vapor in the atmosphere, and this gas, in turn, will drive further warming. The result is a positive feedback that will have to be factored into estimates of future climate.

    Held’s studies hold out a particular warning for the Mediterranean. According to his forecasts, if CO2 emissions are not curtailed, temperatures in the region could increase by 3ºC in the course of a century. This would mean a major reduction in rainfall levels (in the interval of 15% to 30%): “We expect precipitation to decrease maybe 5% to 10% for every degree of warming,” Held affirms….”

  36. 36
    Killian says:

    Carbon bomb go, “BOOM!”


    I don’t hate to say, “I told you so,” but it does frustrate and anger me a bit that I am able to. It comes down to having or not having pattern literacy. Patterns in nature teach us how to do things right, but they also have other uses, such as warnings.

    I hope you are convinced now if you are one of those who has not been before. It may seem, on human time scales, to be a slow motion explosion, but as Joe’s article points out, even on human time scales, this is actually happening very quickly. Tipping points are a…

  37. 37
    Hank Roberts says:

    Free articles at Nature Climate Change, usually paywalled:

  38. 38
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    RE #31, I’m hoping RealClimate will do a post on this. A couple of months ago David Archer did a post on how we need to be more worried about CO2 than CH4 (which degrades to CO2 + within about 10 years) due to CH4s shorter time in the atmosphere — see ).

    I think the idea also was that most of the CH4 is in the ocean hydrates (most of which are deep enough in the ocean for the warming not to be a big issue now).

    However, if the bigger worry is CH4 from permafrost as the study linked in #31 suggests, it seems this might be a somewhat more volatile issue. I’m thinkng permafrost CH4 may be more easily warmed and released than ocean hydrate CH4 (but I don’t know).

    I also read a study some years back about how the CH4 rich permafrost goes a lot deeper than earlier thought (don’t have that reference here).

  39. 39
    deconvoluter says:

    Susan: Re: #24.

    This may be slightly OT.
    I haven’t read it all, but this bit caught my attention:

    which Matt Ridley recently gushed about and which I’ll be praising soon here

    I wonder which part of M.R.’s experience best qualifies him to judge climate science and environmentalism? Is it gambling with other people’s welfare?

    Is it gambling with other people’s welfare?

    [The UK’s crisis began with Northern Rock.]

  40. 40
    Hank Roberts says:

    This may be worth a look:

    “Thunderstorms, heavy rain, snow, floods and mudslides are not exactly what one would expect to see in the driest place on Earth, the Atacama Desert in Chile.

    But for the past two months, these were the working conditions of the team of scientists at one of the world’s biggest astronomy projects, the Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array (Alma).

    A striking contrast from the usual sunshine and clear skies …

    …Extreme weather

    The main reason for choosing Atacama – and Chajnantor in particular – was the altitude, the extreme dryness of the air and very clear skies. Clouds appear here on average only 30 days a year.

    And although some rain in the area is not unusual in February and March, no one had quite expected the latest weather.

    There has not been this much water in the desert for decades, and the downpours have pushed the deadline for the project’s completion back by two to three weeks, says Richard Hills, one of the astronomers on the site.
    Chajnantor plateau, Chile Chajnantor plateau is the so-called “high site”; even in summer time it snows up there

    “It’s impossible to make any observations in such conditions,” he says.

    “Water in the air just absorbs the astronomical signals that we’re trying to observe – they simply do not make it through the atmosphere.”

  41. 41
    Dan H. says:


    I am not sure that the article presents anything new. The claim all along has been that the changing orbit resulting in warming which released CO2, which led to more warming. I would be surprised if this paper caused such an earthquake.

  42. 42
    Killian says:

    Here’s the link I tried to provide earlier:

    The thing that I noted in re-reading it is that it states the expectation that the Arctic may become a carbon sink in the 2020’s, but even that is an underestimate because all the Arctic feedbacks aren’t included in even that pessimistic scenario.

    Lynn, the danger of the clathrates is massive. While “most” clathrates are in deeper water, the clathrate deposits on the East Siberian continental shelf are large enough to cause more warming than we want to think about. Wasn’t it reported that just 1 or 2% of them are enough to cause serious problems? Part of that danger stems from the initial localized effects of a the methane and because the clathrates have fewer mechanisms to prevent disintegration once they reach a given temperature at a given depth. it’s a much more on-off system than the permafrost.

  43. 43
    owl905 says:


    It certainly does present a seismic shift. Your comment illustrates it – claiming the orbital forcing was the prime driver is off the table. At best it’s a trigger or catalyst; at worst it’s an Antarctic co-incidence.

    The new research says it wasn’t. The new research says the centuries ‘lag’ is an artifact of Loehle-type reliance on too few measurement points that did not, in fact, represent the global picture. The new research adds global data spread. The new research says CO2 drives the end of Ice Ages. That links up with earlier studies about the Southern Ocean old-carbon release, the lack of a similar outpouring in the northern Pacific; and a re-arrangement of the ocean currents.

    This ’cause-and-effect’ tempest has been in the teapot all the way back to black flag debates in alt.globalwarming in the late 90s. It’s the foundation of the pro-pollutionist bleat about ‘temperatures leads CO2’. And this just drove an overhand smash-shot at it.

    Anyway, the headline spread has gone viral.

  44. 44
    David B. Benson says:

    Hank Roberts @40 — Hadley cell expansion.

  45. 45
    Susan Anderson says:

    Deconvoluter et al.

    Thanks for the help about DotEarth. Most of you know the story pretty well – seems to be looking for authority in all the wrong places, and Karieva seems to be just such another. I was so taken aback by the personal tone of the attack on “environmentalists” (whatever and whoever they might be – a heterogeneous wide-ranging group of people in search of ways to actively promote a better future, with a few nutcases but nothing like those on the phony skeptic end) that I couldn’t quite face it, but was hoping a knowledgeable person or two would call it like it was. It used to be a nice place for an amateur to lurk, but now it has an agenda one can’t support, Pielke, Breakthrough, and the lukewarmer/technocrat/apologist du jour.

    Commentariat did very well there, more informative than the article.

  46. 46
    Susan Anderson says:

    For visual types and others, HotTopic has a neat concatenation of graphics:

    All kinds of circulation in motion.

  47. 47
    J Bowers says:

    The Guardian launches a formal home for the Newton science channel.

  48. 48
    vukcevic says:

    @ Steve Fish & others
    Proxy is a metrics of one physical quantity used as a probable indicator of another with no particular degree of certainty.
    There is difference between information regarding data and information based on an opinion.
    Data I use is from half a dozen of world renowned institutions; if you have doubt about the accuracy, I decline any responsibility in that matter.
    If my opinions are what you do reject, you are cordially invited to continue to do so.

  49. 49
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Proxy is a metrics of one physical quantity used as a probable
    > indicator of another with no particular degree of certainty.

    You’re following Pat Frank’s approach published at Wattsupwiththat?

  50. 50
    Steve Fish says:

    vukcevic — 6 Apr 2012 @ 4:12 AM ~#48.

    Thank you for the invitation. I cordially suggest that your repeated unscientific speculation and strongly stated lack of understanding of how the scientific process works is disruptive and not cordial at all! The fact that you confidently assert that differences between research papers indicates speculation (@#14) and that proxy data has so little certainty that it is just opinion (@~#48) makes you an excellent example of the Dunning-Kruger effect.