RealClimate logo


Technical Note: Sorry for any recent performance issues. We are working on it.

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. 151
    Hank Roberts says:

    http://geosci.uchicago.edu/~rtp1/PrinciplesPlanetaryClimate/index.html

    The last pre-publication draft was online for a while, only before the book came out; the online supplements are still available. Those and a link to the published book is here.

  2. 152
    Walt Finerman says:

    Greetings once again. Very simple question: why does atmospheric temperature decline with altitude? I seem to remember once seeing a statistical mechanical calculation demonstrating that in thermodynamic equilibrium, an ideal gas subjected to a constant gravitational force would be isothermal. (Of course, the pressure/density decreases exponentially with altitude.) If I had to guess a cause: the greenhouse effect. Sunlight absorbed by the earth’s surface is re-radiated into the atmosphere at much lower (average) frequencies than incoming sunlight, and greenhouse gases near the surface absorb these lower freqs before they rise enough to warm the upper atmosphere. Is that about right? Thanks…

    [Response: No. It is simple the expansion of air as it rises (and pressure decreases). In a dry atmosphere, this is easy to calculate and leads to a cooling of about 10ºC per km. In a moist atmosphere where you have convection, you get condensation and cloud formation as the air parcel rises, and this releases energy and so moderates the cooling rate a little (implying about 6ºC/km cooling). Note that these rates are the maximum rates - anything steeper would be unstable, but smaller rates are possible in observations. None of this has anything much to do with the greenhouse effect or radiation. - gavin]

  3. 153
    Walt Finerman says:

    And one more question, if you don’t mind. Can anyone explain a little bit about how contemporary climate models model scattering in the atmosphere? Taking a very first principles/conceptual approach, imagine the earth is a non-rotating ball with an ideal gas atmosphere at rest, though the atmosphere is not in thermal equilibrium (obviously, different parts of the atmosphere are exposed to very different incident radiation). In theory, to compute the steady-state temperature at each point in the atmosphere, one would need to model scattering at each point in the atmosphere (with different behavior for different wavelengths). One would need to model the incident power at each point for each frequency and each direction. That’s no easy task, it seems to me. As a byproduct, such a model would yield predictions of the color and brightness of the sky at any point and in any given direction. If one ignores scattering, one will ultimately compute a wrong value of albedo, it seems to me. For example, it seems to me, the more scattering, the more chance for radiation to be absorbed as it takes longer trajectories through the atmosphere. Or it may be backscattered into space before it is absorbed.

    How do climate models deal with this? Do they generally assume simple (presumably adequate) scattering models? Is scattering just not very important for most wavelengths (e.g., infrared), and for shorter wavelengths, scattering only matters to the extent that incident radiation is backscattered into space? In short, how can climate models get away with NOT computing the full radiation incidence at each point and direction?

  4. 154
    Jody says:

    Is it true that the average climate model for the most recent CMIP-5 RCP4.5 result has a calculated tropospheric trend of +0.22 C/decade for 1979-2012 and +0.29 C/decade for 1996-2012?

  5. 155
    Marcus says:

    The user “adelady” mentioned in some other thread, that there are projects online where volunteers can help digitize historical meteorology data .
    What I have sen so far is datarescue@home from the Oeschger Centre ( http://www.oeschger.unibe.ch)

    http://www.data-rescue-at-home.org/

    My question is if there are other projects of this kind online that are explicitly recommended by climate scientists, for instance because the historical data records they provide are of special interest. Are there sites out that have dubious reputation? Is there already any known scientific progress drawn from projects like these.

    Cheers,
    Marcus

  6. 156
    Susan Anderson says:

    This is borderline for RealClimate but so important it seemed worth trying to get the news out. There is a plan for Enbridge to bring a tar sands pipeline across Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine to a new port near Portland. My friend won’t mind this unattributed quote:

    a regional plan by bigshots in New England and the Maritimes to consolidate energy stuff throughout this region including “energy corridors”, an new east-west turnpike across central and northern Maine, new deep water port terminals, etc, all for for “efficient” extraction of New England timber, water, and minerals.

    For more information, this website:

    http://www.foe.org/news/blog/2012-04-stop-the-new-england-tar-sands-oil-pipeline

    The topography west of Lake Winnepesaukee seems daunting, but money seems no object when it comes to exploitation.

  7. 157
    flxible says:

    There is a plan for Enbridge to bring a tar sands pipeline across Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine to a new port near Portland.

    A better examination of the situation is available here.

  8. 158
    Hank Roberts says:

    For Walt Finerman — I know nothing about this personally, but find quite a bit is available, e.g.

    https://duckduckgo.com/?q=how+contemporary+climate+models+model+scattering+in+the+atmosphere
    finds (first hit of many search results)

    Tenth ARM Science Team Meeting Proceedings, San Antonio, Texas, March 13-17, 2000
    Radiation Parameterization for Three-Dimensional Inhomogeneous Cirrus Clouds: Application to Climate Models

    “… Potential effects of the cloud geometry and inhomogeneity on the transfer of radiation must be carefully studied to understand their impact on the radiative properties of the atmosphere as well as to perform proper interpretations of radiometric measurements from the ground, the air, and space. Most of the approaches to three-dimensional (3D) radiative transfer employ the Monte Carlo method. For application to cirrus clouds, Liou and Rao (1996) have used the successive orders of scattering (SOS) approach, which can be directly applied to specific geometry and inhomogeneous structure of a medium. Ou and Liou (1982) presented a spherical harmonic method in multiple dimensions, based on which the diffusion approximation for 3D radiative transfer can be developed (Liou 1992). However, the requirement of computer resources remains the primary obstacle in the modeling of 3D radiative transfer. In conjunction with our objective of understanding the effects of 3D inhomogeneous cirrus on radiative flux and heating rate profiles in the atmosphere and of providing a physical basis for parameterization in climate models, we have developed a 3D inhomogeneous radiative transfer model based on a modified diffusion approximation employing Cartesian coordinates.”

  9. 159
    sidd says:

    New OHC paper by Levitus, no leveling off in OHC, juicy data to 2000m, deep ocean warming. That’s where the heat goes. Read all about it.

    http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/pip/2012GL051106.shtml

    sidd

  10. 160
    Hank Roberts says:

    From “Before Believing” by Danny Flowers

    … Told you everything I could
    How would you feel if the world was
    falling apart around you

    Pieces of the sky were falling
    in your neighbor’s yard
    But not on you
    Wouldn’t you feel
    just a little bit funny
    Think maybe there’s something you oughta do

    Solutions that never lay down before you
    the answers are all around ….

  11. 161
    Susan Anderson says:

    Thanks flxible (@~157). That is indeed more complete information, if no less appalling.

    I would recommend interested parties to look at that link.

    I continue to feel that if tar sands must be transported, they should be looking at rail lines instead of pipelines. This may be air dreaming of me – and I’ve never heard that anyone else had this idea. It would convey additional benefits in facilitating improved transit in the US, which has degraded itself to third-world status on railroads, which are both more efficient and safer. I’ve been given to understand the material is rather like asphalt and requires heavy treatment to move in pipelines.

  12. 162
    John E Pearson says:

    Richard Alley’s “Earth the operators manual”

    http://www.pbs.org/programs/earth-the-operators-manual/

  13. 163
    Meow says:

    Higher-than-expected levels of methane found over open water and cracks in arctic sea-ice. http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/earth20120422.html

    CAPTCHA: soil inharTi

  14. 164
    Bob Loblaw says:

    Walt @ 153 “…If one ignores scattering…

    I, for one, was exposed to the principles of scattering of radiation in the atmosphere about 30 years ago, in an undergraduate Physical Geography course. Active area of research then, so I think the chances of it being “ignored” now are pretty small.

    Will you forgive me for thinking that the way that you are posing these “questions” is, um, “ignorant”???

  15. 165
  16. 166
    sidd says:

    I happened upon a land precipitation dataset from
    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/temp-and-precip/ghcn-gridded-products.php

    and i compare to the global precip from
    ftp://precip.gsfc.nasa.gov/pub/gpcp-v2.2/

    for the period 1970 through roughly the present

    treating the data as in Hansen’s climate dice paper,
    dividing local deviation from average by local std deviation
    (using avg and std dev for each month, lat, long)

    global precip distribution is at
    http://membrane.com/sidd/precip-4.png

    land only is at
    http://membrane.com/sidd/precip-land.png

    dry months are increasing over the last 4 decades

    sidd

  17. 167
    Stranger says:

    My understanding is that the error concerning the Himalayan glaciers in the IPPC report was discovered it was immediately noted. I’ve heard critics claim that the authors were repeatedly warned about the flaw but they published it anyway. I find that hard to believe. I couldn’t find anything on that aspect of the controversy.

  18. 168
    Dan H. says:

    Stranger,

    Many websites have covered this controversy. Here is one:

    http://globalwarmingisreal.com/2010/02/02/scientists-behaving-badly-raina-demands-public-apology-ipccs-pachauri-remains-defiant-nobody-wins/

    [Response: Though few covered it accurately. The Raina report was rather weak tea - and very poor on climate impacts in the Himalayas and didn't bring up the 2035 error at all. - gavin]

  19. 169
    SteveF says:

    More evidence against the YD impact hypothesis:

    “Accumulation of impact markers in desert wetlands and implications for the Younger Dryas impact hypothesis”

    http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/04/16/1200296109.abstract

  20. 170
    Hank Roberts says:

    > suggesting that elevated concentrations of these markers
    > arise from processes common to wetland systems,

    Reasonable that a marsh/peat bog would concentrate such fallout, assuming it falls out generally and sheet erosion (wind and water) carries small particles downhill.

    > and not a catastrophic extraterrestrial impact event.

    How would one distinguish a deposit occurring from a single large fallout episode — are they assuming that would befollowed by dieoff of the marsh? But marshes survive fire quite well generally

    Can they distinguish an input from a single large event, versus normal accumulation over time, if both are collected by a living marsh/bog?

  21. 171
    Hank Roberts says:

    Lovelock apparently now says a climate model from 20 years ago was the basis for his book projecting rapid collapse, and he was misinformed — but did he ever say what model he was relying on? None that I knew back then or now were as apocalyptic as Lovelock became for a while there.

    http://www.huliq.com/3257/climate-scientist-james-lovelock-says-he-was-wrong-about-catastrophic-global-warming

  22. 172

    Interesting–SkS noted this new study:

    http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/JCLI-D-11-00466.1

    It looks at sea ice loss & the “Atlantification” of the Barents–rather along the lines of the Bengtsson 2004 paper we were talking about. Sounds like it supports the earlier paper, actually–though I’m going by the abstract only (paywall!)

  23. 173
    Hank Roberts says:

    Ann. Geophys., 30, 9–19, 2012
    http://www.ann-geophys.net/30/9/2012/
    doi:10.5194/angeo-30-9-2012
    Cosmic rays and space weather: effects on global climate change

    This is a discussion of very small effects that people are trying to discover statistically.

    “… the main factors influencing climate are meteorological processes: cyclones and anticyclones; air mass moving in vertical and horizontal directions; precipitation of ice and snow (which changes the planetary radiation balance, see Waliser et al., 2011); and so on. Only after averaging for long periods (from one-ten years up to 100–1000 yr and even million of years) did it become possible to determine much smaller factors that influence the climate, such as cosmic rays, dust, solar irradiation, and so on. For example, Zecca and Chiari (2009) show that the dust from comet 1P/Halley, according to data of about the last 2000 yr, produces periodic variations in planetary surface temperature (an average cooling of about 0.08 ◦C) with a period 72 ± 5 yr. Cosmic dust of interplanetary and interstellar origin, as well as galactic cosmic rays entering the Earth’s atmosphere, have an impact on the Earth’s climate (Ermakov et al., 2006, 2007, 2009; Kasatkina et al., 2007a, b). Ermakov et al. (2006, 2009) hypothesized that the particles of extraterrestrial origin residing in the atmosphere may serve as condensation nuclei and, thereby, may affect the cloud cover. Kasatkina et al. (2007a, b) conjectured that interstellar dust particles may serve as atmospheric condensation nuclei, change atmospheric transparency and, as a consequence, affect the radiation balance. Ogurtsov and Raspopov (2011) show that the meteoric dust in the Earth’s atmosphere is potentially one of the important climate forming agents in two ways: (i) particles of meteoric haze may serve as condensation nuclei in the troposphere and stratosphere; (ii) charged meteor particles residing in the mesosphere may markedly change (by a few percent) the total atmospheric resistance and thereby, affect the global current circuit. Changes in the global electric circuit, in turn, may influence cloud formation processes.

    Let me underline that there is also one additional mechanism by which cosmic rays influence lower cloud formation, precipitation, and climate change: the nucleation by cosmic energetic particles of aerosol and dust, and through aerosol and dust-increasing of cloudiness. It was shown by Enghoff et al. (2011) in the frame of the CLOUD experiment at CERN ….”
    _______________________________________

    Aside — I always wonder, when I see “global electrical circuit” and photographs from space of the aurora — whether Tesla wasn’t right to think we should divert some zillionth of a percent of all those electrons to flow through our electrical grid on their way to wherever they’re going, instead of burning carbon to boil water to spin magnets to move electrons (sigh).

  24. 174
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Hank, I’ve been disappointed with Lovelock in recent years; I saw video of him at a book signing last year, claiming that there were no effects from Chernobyl fallout. His new claim that warming has stopped is particularly unfortunate:

    The world has not warmed up very much since the millennium. Twelve years is a reasonable time. … It (the temperature) has stayed almost constant, whereas it should have been rising — carbon dioxide is rising, no question about that.

  25. 175
    wili says:

    Killian at 165 cited: http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ngeo1452.html

    Yes, I think this is a significant development. They claim that the very high levels of methane on the ocean surface are from methanogens blooming there under conditions of increasingly open water. Does this seem likely to others?

    “Atmospheric observations of Arctic Ocean methane emissions up to 82° north”

    “the surface waters of the Arctic Ocean are supersaturated with respect to methane”

  26. 176
    EOttawa says:

    A new paper was just published in Nature:

    Antarctic ice-sheet loss driven by basal melting of ice shelves
    H. D. Pritchard et al

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v484/n7395/full/nature10968.html?WT.ec_id=NATURE-20120426

    The abstract concludes with:

    The highest thinning rates occur where warm water at depth can access thick ice shelves via submarine troughs crossing the continental shelf. Wind forcing could explain the dominant patterns of both basal melting and the surface melting and collapse of Antarctic ice shelves, through ocean upwelling in the Amundsen6 and Bellingshausen7 seas, and atmospheric warming on the Antarctic Peninsula8. This implies that climate forcing through changing winds influences Antarctic ice-sheet mass balance, and hence global sea level, on annual to decadal timescales.

    I have been wondering for some time how much is attributable to ‘old’ heat stored in the deep ocean versus ‘newer’ heat in the higher levels.

    TIA …

  27. 177
    Meow says:

    Antarctic ice shelves are melting from underneath. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v484/n7395/full/nature10968.html :

    …Here we use satellite laser altimetry and modelling of the surface firn layer to reveal the circum-Antarctic pattern of ice-shelf thinning through increased basal melt. We deduce that this increased melt is the primary control of Antarctic ice-sheet loss, through a reduction in buttressing of the adjacent ice sheet leading to accelerated glacier flow.

  28. 178
    t_p_hamilton says:

    Hank Roberts, referring to “Cosmic rays and space weather: effects on global climate change” by L I Dorman:

    “This is a discussion of very small effects that people are trying to discover statistically.”

    Not trying very hard, if they are relying on Svensmark’s work.

  29. 179
    Susan Anderson says:

    A brief look at Lovelock’s bio shows he is close to age 92. He was a chemist specializing in tropical medicine.”Medicine, Biology, Instrument Science and Geophysiology. He has filed more than 50 patents, mostly for detectors for use in chemical analysis.” This looks like someone who shares the engineering type of bias, thinking they know about stuff they don’t because they can solve problems in their own subject very well.

    I wrote him off a couple of years back when the BBC published his statements, sloppily paraphrased by yours truly as eat drink and be merry because it’s too late to do anything and all hopeless. For him to continue to court the limelight borders on criminal and he should be ashamed of himself.

  30. 180
    Susan Anderson says:

    As all too often, I failed to make part of my point about Lovelock, which is that if he is scaling back his more recent statements that would be appropriate, but since time has passed things are closer to his previous warnings than they were when he said all was lost. What *is* it with people that can’t resist fame at the expense of their souls (metaphorically speaking, not mentioning religion here, please)?

  31. 181
    sidd says:

    The British Antarctic Survey paper agrees well with GRACE, even (and i note this with increasing discomfort) in East Antarctica.

    sidd

  32. 182
    Ron R. says:

    “He claimed a university or government scientist might fear an admission of a mistake would lead to the loss of funding.”

    An asinine thing to say. No direct quote though, so I wonder if he really said it. If so sounds like the skeptics have been working overtime on his 92 year old mind.

  33. 183
    MARodger says:

    Re James Lovelock.
    His talk of AGW catastrophe began in 2004 when such things as ‘Global Dimming’ and a new chinese coal-fuelled power station every week and large annual increases in atmospheric CO2 all got mainstream news coverage in rather close proximity. And the basis for his belief was as shallow as that.
    He is certainly more commentator than scientist although he has maintained a level of loyalty over the years for some of his more sparky comments.

    The ‘Chernobyl fallout’ thing was used in some quarters to clobber his credibility although they did tend to ignore the actual message he was making which was that, hurrah!! in the zone round the powerstation now human-free, nature is burgeoning. It was again a ‘shallow’ message beacuse nobody ever expected the radiation to result in some blasted lifeless landscape, just as nobody expects it to be overrun by herds of two-heaed feral dogs, or whatever.

  34. 184
    wili says:

    Susan, as the son of a beloved father near Lovelock’s age, I would ask you not to judge an old man too harshly merely by some ill chosen words of his dotage. His insights into how the entire planet works as a system have been, as I understand it, an important advance, called by some the greatest advance in biological thinking since Darwin, iirc.

    Unfortunately, once people have been in the limelight, their words continue to be cited even after they may have lost their way a bit. And we males rarely have the self-knowledge and humility to realize when we are making asses of ourselves. Also, as Ron says, who knows what kinds of folks have been pressing their pet ideas on him?

    (reCaptcha: son, fructede !)

  35. 185
    Ray Ladbury says:

    I’m afraid I always thought Lovelock was a loon. The whole Gaia thing just sounded like another tired incarnation of the anthropic principle–somewhere between the weak and strong versions.

    Lovelock always relied on intuition over evidence. Intuition fails us as we age. We saw the same thing in Dirac and we see it in Dyson. Evidence trumps all, and it is utterly indifferent to what it implies for all the wonderful theories we construct in our youth.

    [Response:You do a disservice to Lovelock. He did some very innovative work on difficult measurements of sulfate in the atmosphere, leading to the modern understanding of the role of ocean chemistry and biology in cloud condensation. And the original Homeostasis paper does not say what most people assume it says; it's purely scientific. I do agree that Gaia strayed way out of science, and that Lovelock has "gone emeritus". But to say the Lovelock "always" relied on intuition rather than evidence is historically incorrect.--eric]

  36. 186
  37. 187
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Eric, I’ll agree I was harsh. However, there is a certain approach to science that we see in some of its most brilliant practitioners that simply doesn’t work as the brain ages and becomes less adroit and flexible.

    When we are young, we are more capable of accommodating and integrating new evidence into our theories–the evidence is the framework on which we build our intuition. In our dotage, the very “intuition” we relied on starts to lead us astray. We often start to ignore or down-weight inconvenient facts. Our ideas of “what must be true” start to become more real to us than what is true.

    Lovelock seems to be in this mold–likewise Dirac and Dyson. Regardless of his early contributions, what he’s done since the mid-80s isn’t significant.

  38. 188
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Lovelock

    Thank you Eric for an appropriate and thoughtful inline reply to Ray there.

    If we’re smart and lucky, we go emeritus.

    Further on that and worth a read (and reread from time to time): Brand’s ongoing revision of his recent book, in which he quotes email from Lovelock about why he’s been changing his mind.

    I don’t agree with their conclusions. I have a hunch I see why they don’t worry now as much as they did when their last books came out: Both now think that “something” may be reducing the rate of change. Without having an idea what that could be, it’s easy to imagine the short term variation is a change in the trend — and so to worry less about what factors persist over the long term.

    We get old, and find our time horizon creeping very close as we get older. The future we thought about a few years ago may be lost beyond that horizon, as it creeps toward us. Our later years go by very fast.

    Lovelock (and Brand) haven’t had time to read Foster & Rahmstorf. It’s been blogged about here .

    That paper makes progress toward weighing the influences to sourt out what “accounts for some of those other factors, and by removing their influence from the temperature record makes the progress of global warming much more clear.”

    And, kids, you can do it at home and see how it works for yourselves.

    That’s a gift to the future. Tools they can use.

    We old folks can wish’em luck.

    Smart opinions are the best gift most of us can hope to leave the future, poor as they often are. Good tools and smart analysis go further.

  39. 189
    JCH says:

    I love how Lovelock throws Al Gore in as being whatever, too alarmist, but gives no examples. Has Al Gore ever made a prediction of the future that is similar to the predictions Lovelock was making?

    It looks more like Lovelock just likes to write books that glom onto fads.

  40. 190

    Don’t forget the CLAW hypothesis (where the L stands for Lovelock), published in 1987. Perhaps it hasn’t born out to be as stated in that paper (the ‘geophysiological link’ between sulfur emissions by marine phytoplankton and climate regulation) but it was a landmark scientific paper.

  41. 191
  42. 192
    Hank Roberts says:

    Aside (tasty herring):

    Is Al Gore still revising and giving a presentation along the lines of the book and movie?

    Both the book and the movie were — like the IPCC documents, or any consensus
    statement or review in any field — snapshots in time.

    Gore’s, Lovelock’s, and Brand’s last climate books came out long, long ago (in dog-on-the-Internet years).

    Brand (link above) revises his online, sometimes. He has at least the option and site to extend, revise, and change his mind publicly and repeatly, and cite sources for readers to think about on their own — commendable. Lack of followup doesn’t mean there’s no more to say, just that he hasn’t written more there yet, of course.

  43. 193
    Ron R. says:

    Gaia theory is actually very well supported and has had many many papers published about it. It is closely tied to evolution. The basic principle makes perfect sense when you think about it. Changes in the environment stimulate and precipitate changes in the biosphere. Why? Because life, or its many forms, do what they can to survive.

    For example, an increase in carbon dioxide eventually leads to an increase in carbon eating vegetation (a complex process acknowledged). That continues until the carbon levels out, then plant growth levels out as well. A sudden ice age forces changes in nature that eventually bring the earth back out of it. Areas of devastation for one reason or another are usually reclaimed. After a fire fireweed will spread acting as a precursor and even conditioner for other plants to follow.

    There is a constant push/pull action, nature ever responding to the unavoidable environmental changes around it. And that keeps it within homeostasis. That which cannot tolerate a particular environmental change and modify itself in time or does not change adequately in response goes extinct and another comes to fill the void.

    Think of all the devastating things that have occurred to this planet, all the asteroid blasts, volcanic eruptions, hot houses, ice houses etc, and yet somehow the earth has managed each time to return to a roughly homeostatic temperature and balance well suited for the majority of biota within. So the earth as a whole, all of the interconnected species together, unconsciously acts as a self-regulating unit, and the biota within naturally, by the mechanism of natural selection, keep the whole operating in a balanced way.

    What saddled it with the feel of woo was the name Gaia and New Ageists. Though some people, myself included, believe, without evidence (so far) that the earth may have acquired a certain almost Jungian self-awareness Gaia theory does not require it. Evolution and natural selection are all that is necessary.

    [Response: It's actually quite helpful to distinguish the 'weak Gaia' theory (that biological activity affects climate and vice versa) which is uncontroversial, with a 'strong Gaia' theory (that evolution works to maintain climate stability), which is far less well supported. David's post on Lovelock from 2006 discusses this. - gavin]

  44. 194
    Susan Anderson says:

    Wili@~184, I totally agree that not all emeriti are out of whack. My Dad (pw) is 88 and in full possession of his faculties (if, as he was in his younger days as well, a bit absent-minded at times, being entranced by science; he says he had to train himself not to think about physics while driving). Therefore, he refuses to pronounce on climate change; he did take a hard look at the physics in the mid-70s and hasn’t wavered on it since. He’s willing to hold my coat but not to take a public stance other than signing any petition or letter that comes his way and sharing my concern about the anti-science coalition and its dangers and a personal dislike of some who have gone from issue to issue on the dangerous side of things.

    My sympathies on the beloved part – yes indeed!

  45. 195
    SecularAnimist says:

    Um, the Gaia Hypothesis has nothing whatever to do with the Earth’s biosphere acquiring “self-awareness” (Jungian or otherwise).

    Fundamentally, the Gaia Hypothesis says that the Earth’s biosphere is an integral part of the Earth system which also comprises the atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, etc. and that all of these taken together as an indivisible whole, must be regarded as a living entity which is in a sense, and to a degree to be determined by observation, self-regulating.

    Fundamentally, the Gaia Hypothesis is about wholeness. Oddly enough, I think the spirit of the Gaia Hypothesis may have been best expressed not by Lovelock or Margulis but by Lewis Thomas:

    “I have been trying to think of the earth as a kind of organism, but it is no go. I cannot think of it this way. It is too big, too complex, with too many working parts lacking visible connections. The other night, driving through a hilly, wooded part of New England, I wondered about this. If not like an organism, what is it like, what is it most like? Then, satisfactorily for that moment, it came to me: it is most like a single cell.”

    It is Lovelock’s perhaps “intuitive” appreciation of wholeness that made his earlier “alarmism” (or as Joe Romm calls it, “doomism”) very compelling, IMHO. Many scientific discussions about the likely outcomes of AGW seem to take various aspects of global warming and its effects in isolation, while Lovelock seemed to better appreciate that the synergistic result of all of those effects on Gaia (the whole Earth system) could be far worse than the sum of the parts.

    As for his recent comments, it would appear that he is simply not keeping up with the current science.

  46. 196
    Susan Anderson says:

    Hank Roberts @~173

    I love it!:

    Aside — I always wonder, when I see “global electrical circuit” and photographs from space of the aurora — whether Tesla wasn’t right to think we should divert some zillionth of a percent of all those electrons to flow through our electrical grid on their way to wherever they’re going, instead of burning carbon to boil water to spin magnets to move electrons (sigh).

  47. 197
    Hank Roberts says:

    ‘weak Gaia’ theory (biological activity affects climate and vice versa)

    ‘strong Gaia’ notion (group selection at the planetary level, sorta)
    ‘bipolar Terra’ analogy (Gaia complexifies for a while, then Medea cleans house; more lithium please)

    Did anyone see anything new from Peter Ward after he made that trip on that icebreaker a few years ago, to go revisit some remote island rock outcrop looking for more signs of Medea’s past appearances?

  48. 198
    Susan Anderson says:

    Thanks Eric for the update on what Lovelock did that was of value and others who have moved forward on that discussion, truly interesting and illustrative of what is great about RC.

    [... Lovelock ... did some very innovative work on difficult measurements of sulfate in the atmosphere, leading to the modern understanding of the role of ocean chemistry and biology in cloud condensation. And the original Homeostasis paper does not say what most people assume it says; it's purely scientific. I do agree that Gaia strayed way out of science, and that Lovelock has "gone emeritus". But to say the Lovelock "always" relied on intuition rather than evidence is historically incorrect.--eric]

    On Gore, I thought his book “Our Choice” was a logical progression. AIT did everything it could, and the kill the messenger campaign indicates how valuable that was. Using his tremendous access he summed up the state of the art in every related subject possible, and I thought it was invaluable. Sadly, an internet look found under the “book” a link to a Wiki and within that I found Chevron. Corruption is endemic.

  49. 199
    SecularAnimist says:

    Hank Roberts wrote: “Is Al Gore still revising and giving a presentation along the lines of the book and movie?”

    AIT evolved into the Climate Reality Project:

    http://climaterealityproject.org/

  50. 200
    Tom says:

    Susan Anderson says:
    25 Apr 2012 at 5:28 PM

    This looks like someone who shares the engineering type of bias, thinking they know about stuff they don’t because they can solve problems in their own subject very well.

    Please do not lump all engineers into a single group. Yes, training in the applied sciences focuses mostly on what it already known, and often fails to place enough emphasis on some important aspects of the scientific process. That can sometimes create a false sense of ones own knowledge and limitations. This is common in engineering. But no field is immune to it, and there are also those in the engineering field who do understand both the complexity of climate science, the value that this work has, and the dedication and integrity of those who perform it.


Switch to our mobile site