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Unforced Variations; June 2012

Filed under: — group @ 1 June 2012

This month’s open thread…

408 Responses to “Unforced Variations; June 2012”

  1. 101
    Unsettled Scientist says:

    Dan H.

    It’s not insecurity when we ask you for the sources of your information, it’s intelligence. You have repeatedly misinterpreted the sources you provide, often to the point of being completely at odds with the scientific resources your cite. We have learned to double check your comments. Sadly, your spinning yet another thread in the circles you desire to create. Apparently Ewing-Donn hasn’t gained traction in the half-century since it was proposed. Surely you would have cited the copious scientific literature available if it had, rather than claiming we were picking on you.

    It is not surprising that many are unaware of a hypothesis from 56 years ago that wasn’t accepted by the scientific community. If it was something we should be discussing it would be cited by numerous papers since then, rather than being a hypothesis floated before people had computers on their desks. Please provide relevant scientific information rather than waxing philosophical about what science is.

  2. 102
    Guy Rowland says:

    Once again, thanks to Hank and all who have helped me here. I see a new set scenarios to get our heads round here – – but I’m afraid I still don’t see them with the rate of change increasing? Please don’t assume I’m in any way knowledgeable here, I might need a little hand-holding! Bottom line – I’m still keen to see if the current decadal rate of 0.17 is likely to remain about the same or increase (presumably not decrease), given the path we are on.

  3. 103
    Hank Roberts says:

    For those data sets (any batch of numbers with that much variation)
    you need more than a decade’s numbers to say you have a good chance of detecting a trend.

    This may help:
    as illustrated:

    or this:
    More Grumbine Science: Misleading yourself with graphs

  4. 104
    Hank Roberts says:

    Note the difference between change in _temperature_ and change in _rate_ and recall every scenario will eventually taper off and level out, depending on how long more carbon is burned or when it all runs out. There’s no Venus-type runaway in these scenarios.

    Perhaps you’d find a better explanation at Tamino’s site for what you’re quoting, you can at least ask it in the context where it was written.

  5. 105
    Hank Roberts says:

    National Planetary Exploration Car Wash & Bake Sale

    Category: Planetary Exploration

    Date: Saturday, June 9, 2012

    Location: US

    Web Site Address:

  6. 106
    dbostrom says:

    The Bully’s Pulpit: a microphone at a public meeting. Opponents of science disrupt planning meetings dealing w/climate change in Virginia.

    Virginia residents oppose preparations for climate-related sea-level rise

    Stupid is infectious.

  7. 107
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    53 Susan Anderson: I understand your concerns as increasing again the amount of sulpur dioxide in the air is definately not the preferred stop gap measure. My interest was that when the clean air act came into effect in 1963 it didn’t take long for the air temperature/climate especially in the arctic region to begin to revert to albedo conditions again. So that chemical does have the ability to effect climate quickly. It really comes down to the best of several evils scenario. Lowering air temp using sulpur dioxide will partially take the foot off the accelerator with regard to ocean temp only to increase ocean acidification at a much faster rate than the ocean is cooling, thus potentially leading to a collapse to inverebrate populations globally = end of the world’s fisheries = mass starvation. In your opinion Susan, what is the most effective approach for us to take?

  8. 108
    Guy Rowland says:

    Again, thanks Hank. I’m very familiar with the statistical nonsense that gets quoted, so I understand that. But looking ahead to the next 20-30 years, beyond the uncertain major positive feedbacks, I think I’m going to conclude for now that our rate of warming is most likely (though of course not certain) to remain much the same as the current 0.15-0.2 degrees. Which is fine, just checking my knowledge.

  9. 109
    Hank Roberts says:

    Guy, you’ve reached Pat Michaels’ conclusion, coincidentally. He’s been saying he wants to buy beach houses. I don’t see how looking ahead 20-30 years is “beyond” the expected feedbacks, which will still be ramping up; the permafrost and sea level changes will go on much longer. Make sure to state degrees C or F, that’s led to some confusion at times.

  10. 110
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Guy Rowland,
    And I’m sure the owners of all those derivatives in 2007 felt just fine forecasting the same rate of return as in the past. The physics says you are likely wrong.

  11. 111
    Dan H. says:

    Concluding that rate of warming will continue at 0.15-0.2C / decade based on the past three decades is fine, if you feel that the forcings during the time frame will be reproduced going forward. Remember, that the most recent 30-yr rate is twice the 60-yr rate, and almost thrice the 120-yr rate. The most recent high rate of increase may not continue for the next 2 or 3 decades, and revert more closely to the long-term trend (0.06C / decade).

    [Response: Such wishful thinking…. – gavin]

  12. 112
    Guy Rowland says:

    Speaking of feedbacks, as I understand it the correct way to view them is as possible (probable?) massive future problems. However, currently the uncertainties surrounding them are too great to incorporate as part of the projections (the removal of the large ice sheets in the the FAR is a good example of this, I presume). Is that correct? So I’m assuming 0.15C – 0.2C per decade, PLUS any positive feedbacks as and when they kick in (which might be huge). Perhaps these feedbacks are what Tamino meant, actually?

    No beach houses for me…

  13. 113
    Hank Roberts says:

    > feedbacks, as I understand it …

    What’s your source for that understanding?

    Some feedbacks are incorporated now; some were not known well enough at the time the last IPCC report came out, notably and explicitly they left out much about ice sheet melting (and aerosols).

    But much has come out since; see, for example:

  14. 114
    AIC says:

    An article in the Los Angeles Times about the “Tipping Points” paper in Nature has attracted over 600 online comments, many of which are nonsense.
    However, one of the apparently coherent comments by somebody minimizing the impact of increasing CO2 is:

    “The direct effect from a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere from the preindustrial level of 280 ppm to 560 ppm is believed to produce an increase in average surface temperatures of 1.1 degrees Celsius. The effect of CO2 is greatest in the upper atmosphere where there is little of the far more important greenhouse gas, namely water vapor. CO2 absorbs long wave radiation in the upper atmosphere across a spectrum of wavelengths. However, as the amount of CO2 increases, the gas becomes saturated across an increasing number of wavelengths. That is, increases in CO2 have no further impact on increasing temperature for those wavelengths as they become saturated. As a result, the increase in CO2 from 280 ppm to 393 ppm will produce roughly the same increase in average surface temperature as will the increase from 393 ppm to 560 ppm.

    Most of the increase in atmospheric CO2 has taken place since the end of WWII as the world has experienced the greatest wave of industrialization in history. According to NOAA’s NCDC, the average global temperature anomaly in 1945 was 0.10 degrees Celsius while the average anomaly for the 12 months ending in May 2012 was 0.50 degrees Celsius. Thus, during the post war era average global temperatures have increased by 0.4 degrees Celsius roughly in line with the CO2 direct effect. Increasing CO2 to 560 ppm will likely produce another 0.5 degree C increase.”

    Reasoned response would be appreciated.

    [Response: Multiple errors here. The first is a framing issue that is somewhat misleading. The 1.1 deg C from CO2 is for the theorectical case of no feedbacks in the climate system. Since no-one thinks that there are no feedbacks, this is obviously not what is ‘expected’. The real expectation is that the climate sensitivity is closer to 3 deg C (with some uncertainty). By talking about ‘1.1 deg C + some uncertainty’ first, the poster is trying to imply that the uncertainties are symmteric about 1.1, rather than the real situation in which they are symmetric about 3 deg C. That is misleading. The second point is just wrong. The effect of CO2 is not saturated, and while each additional increment is slghtly less important than the previous, this is well known and has been part of the science for over 100 years. The last point is also very misleading – first of all they are cherry-picking specific dates, but worse than that they are incorrectly assuming that CO2 is the only thing that changed since 1945 and incorrectly assuming that the climate is in instant equilibrium with the forcings – this ignores the impact of aerosols, other greenhouse gases, ocean thermal inertia and the timescales of climate response. – gavin]

  15. 115
    Hank Roberts says:

    Is a newer version of this review article available?

    Bony et al.
    American Meteorological Society
    Journal of Climate, 1 August 2006

    Bony, S., R. Colman, V.M. Kattsov, R.P. Allan, C.S. Bretherton, J.-L. Dufresne, A. Hall, S. Hallegatte, M.M. Holland, W. Ingram, D.A. Randall, D.J. Soden, G. Tselioudis, and M.J. Webb, 2006: How well do we understand and evaluate climate change feedback processes? J. Climate, 19, 3445-3482, doi:10.1175/JCLI3819.1.

    (cited by 321 subsequent articles, per Scholar)

  16. 116
    dbostrom says:

    AIC, also see RC’s A Saturated Gassy Argument for more on the saturation effect.

  17. 117
    Guy Rowland says:

    Hank #113 – well, this paper for example – – looks at a number of tipping elements, but if I understand correctly, none are factored into the regular projections because the uncertainties are too great. Of course that doesn’t mean that they are not likely or indeed probable, but (again, if I understand correctly) certainly in the FAR there wasn’t enough specific knowledge to integrate them into their projections (and as we’ve both mentioned, ice sheets were actually removed from sea level rise). Hence my basic formula that total future warming = projection + tipping elements.

  18. 118
    Susan Anderson says:

    Lawrence Coleman@~107

    Thanks for the clarification. I am neither a policymaker nor a scientist, but a horrified onlooker wondering what could be done. As far as I can see, we are going exactly backwards from the way we could go if we reattached our brains to our polity.

    Things that seem paramount to me, after discontinuing spending energy and thought on dangerous “solutions” like spraying sulfur dioxide which as you say had a short term but reversible effect when it was observed with terrible consequences elsewhere, are first and foremost a real “surge” in exploring clean energy, solar, wind, wave, hydro, even geothermal where it’s appropriate, local transmission, storage – a knotty problem – of intermittent but otherwise plentiful sources, and conservation. In addition, we need a public education project on a massive scale as people seem to have disconnected their toys from the expertise that made them possible. We need to come to understand that continuous growth on a finite planet is not possible, and that spaceships to some other place are not going to happen, and even if they could, would be prohibitively expensive. Wealthy interests with ties to entertainment (sports, reality shows, and on and on) need to stop encouraging people to ramp up their appetite for spectacle and escapism. Though I don’t know enough to find nuclear anything but dubious, another short-term tradeoff with long-term dangers with a slightly longer timeline, I’m open to the idea that it is perhaps not quite as dangerous as some of my friends insist. It should, however, be smaller and more localized, with adequate safety measures.

    I believe the world water crisis is already upon us, and there are parts of the world where climate change drives conflict. Where juvenile thinking and guns proliferate, we are in for a dodgy time.

    I’m not sure if you meant to imply that all I do is complain without trying to help, but I would agree that is a fair assessment of my part in this gallimaufry. Nonetheless, I think collective outrage is justified and moderation and politeness have been proven not to work.

  19. 119
    Susan Anderson says:

    I forgot to include mass transit in my basket of solutions. Unfortunately, at the turn of the 20th century, railroads were replaced with roads. While I would hate to give up my private traveling box, that may be necessary and if other options were more adequate it would not seem so daunting to do so. A trip on public transit in any city will show you that it has become less convenient and more expensive in the name of cutting expenses – more looting of the poor. Massachusetts, which is fairly progressive, was unable to solve all its transit problems by adding an 11 cent per gallon increase in their gas tax, and instead opted for regressive sales and other taxes that once again burden the have nots. As long as the habit of rewarding privilege with more privilege at the expense of those who struggle to get by prevails, no reasonable solution to our growing energy and climate problems is going to accrue.

    Speaking of which, England, which has a huge gas tax, also cut back fiercely on public transit the last time I was there (quite a while ago). AFAIK, things have gotten worse since then as people imitate, in Michael Moore’s locution, “stupid white men”.

  20. 120
    AIC says:

    Thanks Gavin and dbostrom.

  21. 121
    Hank Roberts says:

    Aside for Guy:

    I’m not a scientist and not an expert; I can help a bit with looking stuff up to get you into the ballpark for questions I’ve seen answered before.

    But always — answers may have changed.

    Any science question that’s not a FAQ likely will attract the interest of someone knowledgeable, or at least better pointers.

  22. 122
    Hank Roberts says:

    One thing to remember — even if warming were a straight line, rising some fraction of a degree per decade — “The cost of climate change is generally considered to be a nonlinear (concave) function of the magnitude of warming.”
    The costs of uncertainty

  23. 123
    SteveF says:

    New paper:

    “Human-induced global ocean warming on multidecadal timescales”

  24. 124
    wili says:

    Did anyone one notice that Arctic sea ice extent just dropped below the 2007 record-low year. If this continues (and is there any reason to think it won’t?), we are in for a new record low minimum extent in September.

  25. 125
    Hasis says:

    (and is there any reason to think it won’t?)

    Wouldn’t be the first time if it doesn’t

  26. 126
    MARodger says:

    Hasis @125
    Certainly Arctic Sea Ice Extent has been below 2007 at this time of year before then subsequently pulled up well short of the 2007 level in September. The weather plays a big part in that.
    While weather will always play a big part, this year the melt season started late and is dropping fast. Ice Area values are at record levels for the time of year, Arctic temperatures are abmormaly high for early summer (See SST anomaly here) and the NSIDC report for May talks of open water & broken ice.

    The weather will as always play a big role in September levels of Arctic Sea Ice but 2012 is looking “interesting” at the present.

  27. 127
    wili says:

    “China Emissions Suggest Climate Change Could Be Faster than Thought”

    “China’s carbon emissions could be nearly 20 percent higher than previously thought, a new analysis of official Chinese data showed on Sunday, suggesting the pace of global climate change could be even faster than currently predicted…

    According to Chinese national statistics, on average, CO2 emissions have been growing 7.5 percent annually from 1997 to 7.69 billion tonnes in 2010, the authors say in the study.

    In contrast, aggregated emissions of all Chinese provinces have increased 8.5 percent on average to 9.08 billion tonnes in 2010.

    By comparison, U.S. emissions were 6.87 billion tonnes in 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency says.

    The scientists said differences in reported coal consumption and processing at the provincial level were the main contributors to the discrepancy in energy statistics.

    The findings also expose the challenges China faces in introduce emissions trading schemes, which need accurate measurement, reporting and verification of energy use and carbon pollution at the local and national level.

    Yang Fuqiang, a former Chinese energy official and senior adviser for the Natural Resources Defense Council in Beijing, said provinces routinely underestimate both their carbon emissions and their energy utilisation rates.

    “I would say the biggest concern about the accuracy and reliability of (China’s emissions) data is coal – and that comes from too many small coal mines supplying small enterprises and industrial plants. They have no monitoring systems and generally speaking, they are also avoiding tax,” he said.”

  28. 128
    wili says:

    Thanks for the fuller set of graphs, Hasis. They do add some perspective.

    Today’s update at Cryosphere Today shows a 266 thousand square kilometers loss in extent.

    (That’s before revisions, but several of the monitoring groups have had a similar drop.)

    Watching ice melt is generally considered the epitome of boring activity, but when one is watching the planet change from one with a year-round polar ice cap to one that is largely ice free for part of the year, it becomes a bit more…engaging.

  29. 129
    wili says:

    Oh, and this updated comprehensive graph from CT shows us now below all previous years:

  30. 130
    dbostrom says:

    wili says: 11 Jun 2012 at 7:30 AM

    Did anyone one notice that Arctic sea ice extent just dropped below the 2007 record-low year.

    Most followers of RC probably already know about it but just in case: Arctic Sea Ice Blog. Neven and Crew notice everything. Poor walrus have no privacy at all; thousands of eyes staring down from space…

  31. 131
    dbostrom says:

    Somewhere in this thread there was a bit of discussion about the relative volume of the atmosphere compared to the solid Earth.

    This video via BadAstronomy give another great perspective.

  32. 132

    A colleague and me replied to Fritz Vahrenholt, author of “die kalte Sonne” (the cold sun), as he was interviewed for the European Energy Review:
    Also reproduced at my blog, with a longer version of our last response, discussing a host of skeptical talking points:

  33. 133
    john byatt says:

    #130 Wili “Did anyone one notice that Arctic sea ice extent just dropped below the 2007 record-low year.”

    sorry Wili but 2007 was not at a record low in June.
    It’s in the pack though for years pre and post 2007.

  34. 134
    john byatt says:

    2010 holds the record low Arctic ice extent for this date,

  35. 135
    john byatt says:

    Probably what I wanted to say was that WTFUWT declared in April that sea ice extent was average, we also should not be declaring record lows with months remaining to minimum extent

  36. 136
    Glen says:

    Hope you scored a few hugs today Gavin.

  37. 137
    EOttawa says:

    Since it is #hugaclimatescientist day, can this count as a “group hug” ?

  38. 138
    dbostrom says:

    Hug a climate scientist, or send flowers.

  39. 139
    dbostrom says:

    Jeff Masters has a little more on lawmakers wishing away sea level increase in North Carolina.

    The stupidity is infectious, too. Virginia’s going down the same road.

    Virginia Lawmaker Says ‘Sea Level Rise’ Is A ‘Left Wing Term,’ Excises It From State Report On Coastal Flooding”

    “Underwater” becomes “recurrent flooding” when viewed through the correct political prism.

    Perfect for The Onion, except reality already got there first.

    On a slightly more serious note, would it be safe to say that the atmospherics of Cuccinelli’s legal theatrics help make this kind of lunacy possible? “Overton Window” and all that?

  40. 140
    Hank Roberts says:

    I trust someone is already creating and selling “Recurrent Flood Tables” to replace those antiquated “Tide Tables” — for users in NC and Va.

    I think any property owner who fails to keep a current copy of the “Recurrent Flood Table” and take steps to ameliorate the effects of the “Recurrent Floods” won’t get the best property insurance rates …..

  41. 141
    John E. Pearson says:

    139 but it is entertaining all the same. “What people care about is the floodwater coming through their door,” Stolle said. “Let’s focus on that. Let’s study that. So that’s what I wanted us to call it.”

    In the 1960’s floodwaters came through my door twice. In the 1970’s floodwaters came through my door 3 times. In the 1980’s floodwaters came through my door once a month. In the 1990’s floodwaters came through my door twice a month. In 2010 floodwaters came through my door once a week. I need a new door.

  42. 142

    #134 John, no old multi-year ice bridge spanning the Arctic Euro Asian To North American Continents spells near certain record melt and flushing for 2012. The contrarians need to walk on lake ice to appreciate ice thickness and volume. The real big factor in eliminating the remnant old multiyear ice is not in place yet, its quite cloudy, and that is good for ice ecologies.

  43. 143
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    124 wili: Yep. I look at the arctic sea ice exent graph every day and a few months ago it was nudging the average curve and now it seems to be nose diving well below the 2007 line. I bet if the 2012 line is smoothed you will probably see that the pack ice is melting faster and sooner in the year which is entirely consistant with the uncontrolled positive feeback that climate change is bringing the arctic. It also indicates that the snow and ice put down during the last winter, even though the extent was similar to the average was not high quality and it’s melting away at a rapid rate.
    I would not say yet that this shows a new record in the making this summer but if this trend is not corrected fairly soon then it just well could be.

  44. 144
    Dan H. says:

    Not sure about Virginia, but at least North Carolina relied on a scientific assessment for their legislation.
    The final version of the bill did not specifically state a SLR for planning purposes, but that rates “shall be determined using statistically significant, peer-reviewed historical data generated using generally accepted scientific and statistical techniques. Historic rates of sea-level rise may be extrapolated to estimate future rates of rise but shall not include scenarios of accelerated rates of sea-level rise unless such rates are from statistically significant, peer-reviewed data and are consistent with historic trends.” The final bill also allowed for the different rates of rise experienced on ocean-front compared to estuary shorelines.

    [Response: You are joking right? Mandating the use of linear extrapolation as the only forecasting method permitted is not, in any way shape or form, a “scientific assessment”. But if you prefer to be mocked by Stephen Colbert, go right ahead:

    – gavin]

  45. 145
    Ray Ladbury says:

    So, Dan, shall we also pass legislation that requires corporate profits to conform to historical norms?

  46. 146
    dbostrom says:

    “…at least North Carolina relied on a scientific assessment for their legislation.”

    News flash on the blindingly obvious: legislating the method and means of scientific assessment is axiomatically unscientific.

    What a fog of stupid we’re living in, really.

  47. 147
    Susan Anderson says:

    more of teh wasteful stupid, don’t know if to laugh or cry:

    AFP will be going toe to toe with the environmental extremists to combat their radical agenda and tell the truth about the costs of offshore wind.

    Yes, that’s right. With monetary assistance from the Koch Brothers, AFP will be going toe to toe with these kite-flying kids who represent such a threat to the free market.

    Here’s how the Sierra Club describes the event in support of Global Wind Day: “We’ll be gathering at a beach near you for a kite-flying rally and celebration of NJ’s offshore wind potential. Bring your family, friends and kites.”

    The horror!

    In order to combat these “extremist” families and their kite-flying antics, AFP is throwing in all the resources it can — chartering six buses (yes, six) to bring people in from around the state.

    How will this battle unfold? Will the crusading free-marketeers be able to withstand this beach full of radical children?

  48. 148
    Dan H. says:


    At least the legislation says that scientific (and statistical) methods shall be used. This is a vast improvement over the crystal ball method proposed in the original draft of the bill, which used one report, and the highest tidal data available, and then multiplied the result by 2.6 to achieve their final number.

    Personally, I do not see the need to impose this type of legislation at all. However, if the state was going to enact legislation imposing building restriction based on predicted SLR, then at least this methods shows some scientific reason.

    Would you prefer no legislation on coastal building restrictions? Maybe, the governor should just veto the legislation, and scrap the whole thing. Then, everything can stay just the way it is.

    [Response: Ah, the classic false dichotomy! Have you been taking a new class in fallacious argumentation? If so, I hope you got an A. – gavin]

  49. 149
    Meow says:

    @144: Lysenko would be proud of states that have passed such nonsensical statutes. What’s next? Legislating pi to be exactly 3?

  50. 150
    Hank Roberts says:

    “If tide lasts for more than four hours, call your climatologist.” — Colbert

    As I predicted 12 Jun 2012 at 5:41 PM