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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. 201
    John E. Pearson says:

    Chris COlose wrote: They aren’t intrinsically “temperature” anymore than the outgoing radiation seen from a satellite is a “temperature,” but it can be a useful and physically-based proxy

    Ditto for the “temperature” measured by any thermometer ever.

  2. 202
    dbostrom says:

    I wonder if anybody’s done modeling of hail storms on a warming planet?

    Dallas hailstorms pack up to $2 billion wallop

    Not suggest that the particular storm in question is novel but it’s thought-provoking all the same. More convective activity does what to hail? More? Bigger?

    Time to be Hank and beaver away in the literature.

  3. 203
    J Bowers says:

    Can anyone remember the Met Office paper from (I think) the 1970s, that very accurately predicted temperature rise? Searched for it but can’t find it, even though I’m sure it was commented on here. Getting weary of “the Met Office is still beating its dog” fiction.

  4. 204
    Hank Roberts says:

    Find the outlier in this chart:
    Measurements with the aerosol mass spectrometer by many investigators show that organics are the major or dominant aerosol constituent throughout the anthropogenically influenced Northern Hemisphere. From: Zhang et al. (2007) Ubiquity and Dominance of Oxygenated Species in Organic Aerosols in Anthropogenically-Influenced Northern Hemisphere Mid-latitudes, Geophys. Res. Lett., 34, L13801, doi:10.1029/2007GL029979.

    (found at )

  5. 205
    Dr Tom Corby says:

    Richard Mueller is saying that the next set of BEST results show that humans are causing global warming.

  6. 206
    dbostrom says:

    More on that hailstorm: Reuters.

    There are a number of things about this story that are intriguing/striking.

    — Here’s a single event lasting only about 1/2 hour but apparently costing something in the neighborhood of 1/7 of all the weather damage clocked between 1990 and 2010.

    — Is it the short duration of this storm that made it so invisible in the national press?

    — As far as inland effects of GW go, we focus on flood, drought and temperature extremes. Very little seems to have been written about hail; there’s some indication of growing damage from hail by observation* but surprisingly little formal prognostication of hail in particular**.

    — As we see from Dallas, hail is selective in the kind of damage it causes but in places w/lots of expensive things exposed to the sky (Dallas: vehicles) monetary losses can balloon to enormous numbers in only 1/2 hour. Let’s say the final tally for this storm is “only” $1 billion. Repeated $1 billion hailstorms won’t be sustainable.

    — Certain neighborhoods in Dallas look as though the clock has been turned back to Spring; vegetation has been almost entirely stripped from trees. Storms like this will completely destroy agricultural crops. What’s the expectation of food loss from these events, going forward?

    Color me “surprised” that more energy is not being spent on formal projections of hail activity going forward. As the SE Australia paper below indicates it does not seem intractable.

    Regional and yearly variations of hail frequency and intensity in France

    On Frequency Distribution and Intensity of Severe Convective Storms over Bulgaria

    Changes in severe thunderstorm environment frequency during the 21st century caused by anthropogenically enhanced global radiative forcing

    The impact of climate change on hailstorms in southeastern Australia

  7. 207
    Hank Roberts says:

    >hail … damage … expensive things exposed to the sky (Dallas: vehicles)

    refineries? substations? solar panels?

  8. 208
    Hank Roberts says:


    Muller’s figured out that it takes a significant investment of time and effort to understand the science about climate change well enough to accept that the warnings he’s long been dismissing are serious.

    So his advice is that the US should rapidly transfer all we know about fracking for natural gas to China.

    Ignoring the warnings*, about potential damage that any biologist and most public health students could explain.

    There’s a failure to learn here somehow.

    * Forbes:
    “… In hydraulic fracturing operations, drillers force water and a mixture of chemicals into wells to shatter the shale and free natural gas.

    Fracking fluids are believed to contain benzene, ethylbenzene, formaldehyde, methanol, naphthalene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, toluene, xylene, boric acid, hydrochloric acid, isopropanol, and diesel fuel. Drillers are usually not required to disclose the chemicals they use.

    The brine that returns to the surface has been found to contain these chemicals and others, including up to 16,000 picoCuries per liter of radium-226 (pdf). The discharge limit in effluent for Radium 226 is 60 pCi/L, and the EPA’s drinking water standard is 5 pCi/L.

    The RFPs are available through the Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America. The fracking proposals are due March 6 for implementation in October. The small producer proposals are due Feb. 17 for implementation in September.

    Fracking Pollution May Be Solved, DOE Says


  9. 209
    Chris Crawford says:

    A small bit of good news: I just got my copy of The Economist and the cover story is “The Vanishing North: What the melting of the Arctic means for trade, energy, and the environment. A 14-page special report”

    The Economist is read by a great many business people.

  10. 210
  11. 211
    Bob Loblaw says:

    Re: Dallas hailstorm and costs

    A few years ago, a large thunderstorm parked itself over a small Canadian prairie town and dumped up to 375mm of rain in 8 hours. It took months for the water to drain away.

    The Vanguard Torrential Storm

    When one of the authors sent me a copy of the paper, he said “if this had parked itself over one of our larger cities…”

  12. 212
    wili says:

    Look at the free fall in the recent data from the “tale of the tape” anomaly graph from CT:

    This may be revised, but it seems to correspond to what other data are showing and to reports of very thin ice throughout much of the Arctic this spring. It seems to be just dissolving way.

    (reCapcha: passage yersea)

  13. 213
    J Bowers says:

    Re. 212 Wili

    Look at it when the time axis is compressed to 10 percent:

  14. 214
    dbostrom says:

    J Bowers says: Look at it when the time axis is compressed to 10 percent:

    Excursions in the anomaly of late are pretty eye-catching.

  15. 215
    Susan Anderson says:

    re hail, for some reason (bad fires nearby, perhaps) this one received very little (if any) national reporting, but was picked up in the UK (go figure) (near Denver, 6th June).

    There was a similar storm in Texas a few months back as well.

  16. 216
    Mertonian Norm says:

    Hank, I saw that article, too, and I’m wondering what point, if any, you’re trying to make. Depending on where you’re standing — in the middle of Manhattan in August sniffing exhaust; on top of Mount Washington in February, blinking at the vista — your intuitions are going to cloud your understanding of climate science in different ways, no? Any attempt to predict a [dire or benign] future will be tough on the D.L.P.F.C., no doubt, which is why I tend to shy away from assured statements on either side of the AGW debate.

  17. 217
    Ron R. says:

    Re: dbostrom — 1 Jun 2012 @ 9:08 PM

    Reminded me of this quote by Ulf Merbold Federal Republic of Germany

    “For the first time in my life I saw the horizon as a curved line. It was accentuated by a thin seam of dark blue light—our atmosphere. Obviously this was not the ocean of air I had been told it was so many times in my life. I was terrified by its fragile appearance.”

  18. 218

    Our article on Wedging the Gap, a bottom-up approach to the global climate challenge, is now online! Nature Climate Change:

  19. 219
    dbostrom says:

    Extremely nice visualization of Arctic ice area by Jim Pettit, with awesome built-in pun:

    Plot of Arctic sea ice area

    Not sure if that presentation choice is original to Pettit but it’s sure useful.

  20. 220
    dbostrom says:

    Ron R.:

    …I was terrified by its fragile appearance.

    Such a common response by astronauts– we’re huddled under a ridiculously thin skin of air, just a few kilometers from a fatal environment.

    Isn’t gravitation wonderful? Reliably efficient.

  21. 221

    #217–Great quote–though ironic if read literally, in that the ‘ocean of water’ is even thinner than its airy brother.

    (We’re rapidly degrading both, of course.)

  22. 222
    Bob Loblaw says:

    Re: 219 – plot of sea ice area

    …interesting, but the choice of visualization is a bit misleading: the eye probably responds more to area inside each line, and since the scale is radius = area, not area= = area, it doesn’t quite match. E.g., 12=4×3, but the area on the graph where r=12 covers 16x the area of where r=3.

  23. 223
    J Bowers says:

    Just to say I found that paper: Sawyer (1972).

  24. 224
    wili says:

    van der Leun @ 218, thanks for sharing that article. These approaches always seem rather tepid given the threat we face, but then I recall that even much more modest goals have proven impossible to achieve.

    What is missing is any discussion of curtailment. We simply can’t get where we need to be with efficiency and renewables, as far as I can see. We have to greatly down-size the scale of our use of energy and materials. Only then do these other approaches look like they could be scaled up in time to sustain something resembling global civilization.

    For example, how much international air travel is really needed to keeping the game going, especially in the age of skipe?

    How many other functions can we quickly and relatively painlessly do without?

    How much of the night lighting that lights up so much of the globe in those satellite pictures of earth from space is really necessary?

    How much meat and dairy do people need to be eating to be healthy?

    How many of us really need private cars (especially if we have a rapid scale-up of public transport and bike/walk-friendliness of cities)?

    If we really examine everything that we do and use, I think we can find lots of things and activities that we can do without without creating a large negative effect on happiness and health, and often with improvements.

    Somehow we have to get into the mindset of the British in WWII who reduced domestic use of petrol by 95% and made many other radical changes in lifestyles! We are, after all, facing an even more dire existential threat today than they were then. “Sacrifices” must be part of the picture. By the way, many health indicators improved for Brits during WWII–it turns out that eating a lot less meat and dairy than were in the average diet, and getting a lot more exercise than were common in most people’s lifestyles, are good for health and happiness, as is having a strong sense of everyone coming together to sacrifice together for a larger purpose. Surprise, surprise.

    But instituting such measure do pose greater challenges for implementation than the “wedges” proposed here.

    The other thing we have to honestly start talking about is phasing out nearly all extraction of fossil fuels. A start, of course, is to stop subsidizing their extraction. But then we have to quickly phase out their use, especially coal and tar-sands oil. A start might be to re-lable them ‘death fuels’ since they are the major culprit driving the death spiral we are in.

  25. 225
    dbostrom says:

    Bob Loblaw says: 17 Jun 2012 at 2:36 PM

    It’s the disentangling effect combined w/seamless annual coverage that appeals to me.

  26. 226
    Ron R. says:

    A couple more astronaut quotes describing the fragility of the atmosphere, and one from Edgar Mitchell thrown in. There are many more.

    “On the one hand, we can see how indescribably beautiful the planet that we have been is, but on the other hand, we can really, clearly see how fragile it is. The atmosphere for instance. The atmosphere when viewed from space is paper thin, and to think that this paper thin layer is all that separates every living thing from the vacuum of space and all that protects us is really a sobering thought.” – Ron Garan

    “Looking outward to the blackness of space, sprinkled with the glory of a universe of lights, I saw majesty—but no welcome. Below was a welcoming planet. There, contained in the thin, moving, incredibly fragile shell of the biosphere is everything that is dear to you, all the human drama and comedy. That’s where life is; that’s were all the good stuff is. — Loren Acton

    “You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch.'” — Edgar Mitchell

  27. 227
    Ian George says:

    Could someone please explain what appears to be a discrepancy between the GISS data for the Arctic during May (showing 0.2C+ above average) and the data from the DMI which shows May temps below average?


    DMI temp data

    [Response: You have to know what you are looking at before it is worth looking into why the numbers might be different (if indeed they are). The GISTEMP product only uses surface station data and for the Arctic, this all comes from GHCN, interpolated where possible to fill areas of no-data (within a radius of 1200km). A smaller radius of influence doesn’t really affect the Arctic mean – just the coverage, so the warmth with respect to 1951-1980 (about 1.5 to 1.8ºC) is coming from the stations themselves. The DMI graph you are looking at is something else entirely. Their ‘average’ is from a different time period (1957-2002), and from a reanalysis product (ERA-40). The reanalysis assimilates observations into a weather forecast model to produce a blended product of the model and the observed data. Unfortunately, there can be trends in reanalysis products that are due to the different amounts of data in the earlier periods compared to the later periods which have nothing to do with climate change. Also, the difference between different reanalyses can often be profound, and again nothing to do with climate. In the DMI figure, they are comparing the current weather forecast (the ‘analysis’) with an old reanalysis, without any assessment of whether there are systematic differences that might affect the trends. This is most likely the source of the perceived discrepancy. – gavin]

  28. 228

    #227–To expand on two of Gavin’s points:

    1) Since the DMI mean includes the 80s and 90s–each the ‘hottest decade on record’ in its time–and GHCN doesn’t, one would expect the DMI ‘mean’ to be significantly higher.

    2) The DMI data includes very little land–only the northernmost bits of the Canadian archipelago, Greenland, Svalbard, Franz Josef Land, and Severnaya Zemlya are north of the 80th parallel, which is the southerly (and only!) limit for the data you mention:

    GISTEMP, by contrast–and as Gavin mentioned–is drawn from land-based data only.

    You could play around with the data a bit–for instance, you could deal with concern #1 by adjusting the numbers to reflect the different baselines–just add an appropriate offset to the DMI mean. But you’d have to calculate an actual number for May 2012 in DMI for that to be much help, which I think would mean going to the data underlying the graph in the link.

    (That’s a task highly dependent on your ability as a numerical analyst–it’d be a big job for me, but I know there’s no shortage of folks who could do it in–well, maybe not a heartbeat, but just a few of them. The data is available via the DMI link and backlinks, IIRC, but for efficiency you’d need appropriate routine(s) to download, format and crunch.)

  29. 229
    Ron R. says:

    Sad. James Lovelock is now pro-fracking, pro-nuclear, anti-renewable energy, anti-sustainable development and anti-democracy, just like Lomborg, Moore and Kareiva. And also just like the repubs.

    Lovelock: “Proportional representation is a very bad idea and an absolute gift to ideologues.”

    Lovelock: “Adapt and survive,” he says” …. “if that’s the way the flow is going, don’t stop it, let’s encourage it. Instead of trying to save the planet by geo-engineering or whatever, you merely have to air-condition the cities.”

    Notice how similar to the repubs:

    “Despite conceding that our consumption of fossil fuels is causing serious damage and despite implying that current policy is inadequate, the Report fails to take the next step and recommend serious alternatives. Rather, it suggests that we simply need to accommodate to the coming changes. For example, reminiscent of former Interior Secretary Hodel’s proposal that the government address the hole in the ozone layer by encouraging Americans to make better use of sunglasses, suntan lotion and broad-brimmed hats, the Report suggests that we can deal with heat-related health impacts by increased use of air-conditioning … Far from proposing solutions to the climate change problem, the Administration has been adopting energy policies that would actually increase greenhouse gas emissions. Notably, even as the Report identifies increased air conditioner use as one of the ‘solutions’ to climate change impacts, the Department of Energy has decided to roll back energy efficiency standards for air conditioners.[219] Letter from 11 State Attorneys General to George W. Bush.”

    The right likes to target “icons” on the left in hopes of making the rest fall. What they fail to realize is that people on the left tend to be much more independent thinking then the right, the cult of personality, of John Wayneism, is not as strong. Still it’s scary to think the fate of this lovely planet and all of its members is in the hands of such a fickle species.

  30. 230
    dbostrom says:

    …has decided to roll back energy efficiency standards…

    You just have to love how journalists help us perceive our world.

    A more accurate description would be “…has decided to degrade energy efficiency standards…” but that sounds so darned harsh. We all prefer a happy story, so better to dodge around squeamish facts.

  31. 231
    sidd says:

    Is this in press anywhere or is a pdf available ? NEGIS and Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden bear watching.


  32. 232
    Hank Roberts says:

    A short excerpt from a short essay worth reading:

    “… Sivan Kartha, a senior scientist at the Stockholm Environment Institute, … laid out the stark logic of the equity-to-ambition link.

    Kartha showed that, if we’re to avoid climate catastrophe, developing-country emissions will have to peak while their per-capita incomes are still extremely low.

    This, in a way, is the whole problem, or at least the part that’s visible above the surface….

    Kartha is an author of the Greenhouse Development Rights framework … as well as a coordinating lead author of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (Working Group III, Chapter 4, Sustainable Development and Equity).

    … his presentation (at the start of the first stream) …. his slides, or see this summary of his talk, on the Stockholm Environment Institute’s website….”
    That’s from

  33. 233
    jgnfld says:

    @212, etc.

    That a steep drop in ice cover about now was really quite predictable the minute it became clear that there was a lot of excess ice this year (western arctic) that was sure to melt out come spring. It made reading various denier blogs a few months ago rather funny.

  34. 234

    #233–Yeah, whenever the ice extent gets close to historic means for a week or so the usual suspects are right on the ‘recovery.’ Call ’em “Mr. Right Now.”

  35. 235
    dbostrom says:

    Yeah, whenever the ice extent gets close to historic means for a week or so the usual suspects are right on the ‘recovery.’

    Hey, the recovery is both permanent and undeniable!

  36. 236
    Craig Nazor says:

    Here is a very interesting paper:

    This paper shows that in the Miocene, when atmospheric CO2 levels were 400-600 ppm, the edge of Antarctica was vegetated, with high temperatures as high as 45ºF, which would greatly reduce the amount of ice. Since we are already above 390 ppm of atmospheric CO2, this seems a significant finding.

    It’s all in the preserved plant wax and pollen from undersea sediment samples. Don’t you just love paleobotany!

  37. 237
    Ron R. says:

    Craig Nazor at 12:05 PM

    Thanks for that link Craig.

    The average global temps during the Middle Miocene are said to have been 3 °C hotter than today. This paper is saying “~11 °C warmer at the vegetated margins of Antarctica during the Middle Miocene than over the ice-covered margins today.”

    Pretty high. I wonder if this impacts the average global temps.

  38. 238
    dbostrom says:

    Reading about DoE’s shiny new 16 petaflop computer led me to wonder just how efficiently climate models can exploit their own hardware,* which led me to this excellent chart on climate model architecture, with an accompanying excellent article.

    Another pleasingly accessible elaboration on the earlier piece is available at ClimateSight.

    Still wondering about what happens when a petaflop of potential collides with a climate model. How satisfactory are compilers, how much interplay is there between model authors and compiler elves, is portability sometimes sacrificed in order to push code closer to the metal, etc.

    *(DoE’s machine is mostly in aid of imagining direct heating of the Earth by anthropogenic fusion, as opposed to indirect heating by the Sun)

  39. 239

    Anybody want to discuss the Younger Dryas? Ok, then, how about the Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis controversy. Or how about the Glacial Lake Agassiz rerouting and catastrophic Moorehead phase discharge controversy? Anybody?

    Didn’t think so. I guess it’s back to the boring and mundane for me then.

  40. 240
    wili says:

    Hank @ #232, thanks for that link. Sivan is an old friend. This is a, perhaps the, central topic. I would love to see further discussion here on it. Here’s the link again:

    Here’s the conclusion to the article:

    “All of which is a fine illustration of the climate crisis as “the commons problem from hell.”

    So what’s the prospect? Are we doomed to perpetual deadlock? I don’t think so. I think in fact that if the world’s more enlightened elites could somehow contrive, or be forced, to put real finance and technology support on the barrel head, we might yet be able to make progress. We do, after all, have lots of interests in common. That’s the nice thing about an emergency!

    Also, there’s no necessary conflict between “Every country should do its fair share” and “Every country should do all that it can.” We could pursue both tracks simultaneously, working around domestic constraints – and we all have them – as best we can. We could do so, successfully, as long as we do so in good faith. “Good faith,” of course, doesn’t come easy, but those are the real magic words. As we head farther out into the post-Copenhagen badlands, we’re all going to have to have a big think about whose “negotiating strategy” fits the bill.

    It’ll be a hard think, but equity principles and indicators can help.”

  41. 241
    Susan Anderson says:


    Two kinds of hot times in the old town tonight:

    UVa President removed by what appears to be political power:
    (h/t Tenney Naumer)
    Isn’t this the gal who stood up for Mike Mann?

    Siberia Burns, from Earth Observatory:

    Then there’s this sterling statement from George Monbiot, who is reaching for stark reality, bless his honest soul:

    Worn down by hope. That’s the predicament of those who have sought to defend the earth’s living systems. Every time governments meet ….

    We know it’s rubbish, …. the UN secretary-general, whose job obliges him to talk nonsense in an impressive number of languages, will explain that the unresolved issues (namely all of them) will be settled at next year’s summit. …. until the delegates, surrounded by rising waters, have eaten the last rare dove, exquisitely presented with an olive leaf roulade. The biosphere, that world leaders promised to protect, is in a far worse state than it was 20 years ago. Is it not time to recognise that they have failed?

    ….The past 20 years have been a billionaires’ banquet. At the behest of corporations and the ultra-rich, governments have removed the constraining decencies – the laws and regulations – which prevent one person from destroying another. To expect governments funded and appointed by this class to protect the biosphere and defend the poor is like expecting a lion to live on gazpacho.

    …. the word “equitable”, the US insists, must be cleansed from the text. So must any mention of the right to food, water, health, the rule of law, gender equality and women’s empowerment. So must a clear target of preventing two degrees of global warming. So must a commitment to change “unsustainable consumption and production patterns” and to decouple economic growth from the use of natural resources.

    …. The paranoid, petty, unilateralist sabotage of international agreements continues uninterrupted. To see Obama backtracking on the commitments made by Bush the elder 20 years ago is to see the extent to which a tiny group of plutocrats has asserted its grip on policy.

    …. So this is the great question of our age: where is everyone? …. When a few hundred people do make a stand – as the Occupy campers have done – the rest of the nation just waits for them to achieve the kind of change that requires the sustained work of millions.

    Without mass movements, without the kind of confrontation required to revitalise democracy, everything of value is deleted from the political text. But we do not mobilise, perhaps because we are endlessly seduced by hope. Hope is the rope on which we hang.

    It was hard to choose which part of the stellar and scorching language to leave out!

  42. 242
    Edward Greisch says:

    David Roberts says in the video that GW will make the temperature be 170 degrees F in some places. Where did he get that number?

  43. 243
    J Bowers says:

    Re. 241 Susan Anderson

    Interesting that Andrew Breitbart (not Joe Romm) seems to be the first to mention Cuccinelli in relation to the sorry affair. There does seem to be a lot of vocal support for the ousted UVa president, though.

  44. 244
    dbostrom says:

    Increasing moisture and energy in the air has no demonstrable connection with weather.

    Just keep repeating that.

  45. 245
    Radge Havers says:

    “where is everyone?”

    Watching now and then.

    Threaten the status quo and you get plopped into the fishbowl where you are rendered harmless as so much entertainment.

  46. 246
    Charlie H says:

    I didn’t notice that anyone else has posted this, yet:

    I had been checking NSIDC to see if/when we would fall to a record minimum sea ice extent for the date and it looks like we have now done so. There’s no guarantee of a new seasonal minimum, of course, but it is interesting to watch.

  47. 247

    #243–Not Breitbart personally; he is, like a certain Norwegian Blue, ‘defunct.’ Apparently, one Michael Patrick Leahy is carrying on the tradition of smearing political opponents at ‘’

  48. 248
    wili says:

    The ice extent on the Arctic continues to drop like a stone:

    Maybe there will be a sudden halt or bounce back, but at this point it certainly looks like a new low extent record will be set in September.

  49. 249
    wili says:

    Sorry, those graphs measure area, not extent.

    And of course the thing to watch long term is the total volume.

  50. 250
    Edward Greisch says:

    “The Psychological Effects of Global Warming on the United States:”
    It is a .pdf.

    Have not read yet, but looks promising.