Unforced Variations: July 2012

Have at it.

561 comments on this post.
  1. wili:

    Thanks for your input on your local experience. I have not seen anyone use the term “evil” when referring to farm animals, lol. Better to go the other way and make them so sacred that killing or mistreating them becomes taboo. And of course “nearly all” does not mean “universal” in any dictionary I know of, so we don’t really have any disagreement.

  2. dbostrom:

    Roughly 1.3 billion cattle on planet at ~35 gallons per day.

    Roughly 7 billion people on planet at ~900 gallons per day.

    Somehow the “too many/much/big” arrow always ends up pointing opposite to our heading.

  3. Jim Larsen:

    The UK is planning to make scientific research free to the public by paying journals for published articles. All revenue neutral, as it’s to be paid for by cutting scientific research.


  4. Steve Fish:

    Re- Comment by Jim Larsen — 16 Jul 2012 @ 9:11 PM, ~#297:

    You say: “Sorta, though that corn is inedible. And maybe this is a better solution than ethanol? Send corn to New England and shut down/convert all those oil furnaces?”

    The corn is edible, in some form, and I don’t think that exchanging the use of one fossil source of carbon for another, just for heating, is a very good idea. In the Northeast it seems to me that it would make much more sense, in the long run, to insulate houses heavily and convert to geothermal heat pumps for heating, and completely get rid of polluting surplus corn.

    Ethanol from corn has always been a bad idea but there are other fermentables that are reasonable for this purpose.


  5. dbostrom:

    Sorry, I didn’t finish my thought about cattle versus people versus water.

    I’m not sure if watering cattle is included in the human fresh water budget but in any case if we remove the cattle water budget from the total Homo bolidus water impact we make little difference in water consumption, proportionately speaking. If reducing water waste is the issue it might be better to start with flushless urinals, astroturf golf links, etc.

  6. dbostrom:

    Paraphrasing optimistic engineers from an earlier era, “the solution to pollution is more pollution!”

    US geoengineers to spray sun-reflecting chemicals from balloon

    On a more serious note, is it time to expand the scope of the IRB process for human subjects?

  7. Patrick 027:

    302 Re dbostrom @ 302,305 – yes, the 900 gal/day per capita global average includes all water use, including agriculture, which (presumably) includes livestock but also (presumably) irrigation for feed production (but would it include rainfall on those lands – presumably not; I haven’t read it fully through yet).

    – “Figuring out a country’s water footprint means adding all the water used plus the water inherent in products imported, then minus the water in exports.” (from link in comment above)

  8. SecularAnimist:

    Re: Jim Larsen’s comment currently #296

    Jim, I think we can agree that an extended discussion of vegan nutrition would be off-topic. So I will try to keep this response as short and succinct as possible.

    I am not so sure that the paper you linked to proves your original assertion that “new vegans often get deficiencies” (emphasis added). (Note that your original comment #266 did not specifically mention vitamin B-12, but instead followed that assertion with a discussion of essential fatty acids. I am responding here to your new comment specifically about B-12.)

    The paper notes that “most” of the cases of “clinical and biochemical symptoms of vitamin B-12 deficiency” are “infants who were born to, and breastfed by, vegan mothers” and that there are only “a few studies” of larger groups of adult vegans. Of those mentioned in the paper, several studies looked specifically at groups following a macrobiotic diet, which is a confounding factor since such diets have constraints different from those of vegan diets generally — omitting some foods that would otherwise be commonly consumed by vegans, and often including large amounts of sea vegetables which may contain B-12 analogues that can interfere with B-12 metabolism. Also, the report notes that “individuals starting with normal stores [of B-12 in the body] and then changing to a vegan diet” would take several years to develop “signs of deficiency”.

    Let me refer you to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) position paper on on vegetarian and vegan diets, which says this about B-12:

    “For vegans, vitamin B-12 must be obtained from regular use of vitamin
    B-12-fortified foods, such as fortified soy and rice beverages, some breakfast cereals and meat analogs, or Red Star Vegetarian Support Formula nutritional yeast; otherwise a daily vitamin B-12 supplement is needed.”

    Yes, vitamin B-12 is absolutely essential, and B-12 deficiency is a serious health problem. Yes, B-12 is not reliably found in plant foods, and yes, anyone choosing a vegan diet needs to have a reliable source of B-12. But as the AND position paper points out, non-animal sources are readily available to most people, in the form of B-12 fortified cereals, soymilk and nutritional yeast, as well as in the form of supplements. In other words, it is very easy to obtain, which was my original point.

    And B-12 is really the only nutrient which requires even that extra “work” to obtain in a vegan diet. And if for some reason a person insists on obtaining B-12 only from animal sources, the necessary amount of animal-source food would be quite small (look up the B-12 content of clams).

    Should vegans be “careful” about what they eat and educate themselves about proper nutrition? Sure. EVERYONE should be “careful” about what they eat and educate themselves about proper nutrition (especially nursing mothers). In my view, people eating the “standard” American diet have more to worry about in that respect than do vegans.

    If anyone is interested in pursuing this topic, I suggest two examples of what I consider to be responsible and accurate information on B-12 from vegan advocacy groups:

    The Vegan Society: “What Every Vegan Should Know About Vitamin B12”

    Vegan Outreach / VeganHealth.org: “Vitamin B12: Are You Getting It?”

    Both sites have information on other important nutrients, including the essential fatty acids that Jim mentioned in his earlier comment.

    Thanking the moderators for their indulgence, this will be my last post on the (off) topic.

    [Response:Animist, I think it’s an interesting topic, as I think a lot of the things you bring up are interesting, and as a long time vegetarian there’s a lot I could say as well. These kinds of topics can range very widely, and as much as possible I think we should try to focus on the direct climatic relevance of them. Granted that what people perceive regarding their own nutrition and health are important drivers of how they behave, which collectively affects society’s impact on GHGs, land use etc.–Jim]

  9. Bin Zhao:

    This just came out yesterday, just following a bigger one 2 years ago.

    Ice island twice as big as Manhattan breaks off Greenland glacier


  10. Patrick 027:

    That article, http://www.treehugger.com/clean-water/we-use-how-much-water-scary-water-footprints-country-by-country.html , converted to table

    Water use:
    . m3/yr . . . .. . . L/d . . . .. gal/d . . . .

    Total per capita:

    . . 1243 . . . .. . 3403.15 .. . . 901.83 . global average

    . . 2500 . . . .. . 6844.63 .. . 1813.83 . U.S.

    . . . 700 . . . .. . 1916.5 . .. . . 507.87 . China

    . . 2330 . . . .. . 6379.19 .. . 1690.49 . Italy NOTE “Experts say illegal wells are a big problem in Italy, as are scant water resources and high leakage rates in the Italian water supply system.

    . . . 980 . . . .. . 2683.09 .. . . 711.02 . India NOTE “India has faced dire water shortages, but on the bright side the country has adopted more rainwater harvesting than in other regions. By harnessing rainwater, villages like Rajsamadhiya have become self-sufficient in their water supplies. India’s higher incidence of vegetarianism (approximately 30% of the population) does play a role in keeping individual footprints lower –“…

    Countries using more or less than stated, respectively (per capita):

    . . . 109.58 .. . . 300 . . . .. . . . 79.5 . . Mozambique, Rwanda, Haiti, Ethiopia, Uganda

    Household or personal usage (?) (per capita ?)

    . . . 210.02 .. . . 575 . . . .. . . 152.38 . U.S. household use (per person or per household? – based on other comparisons made in the article, I believe it is per person)

    . . . 138.8 . .. . . 380 . . . .. . . 100.7 . . Italy daily living (presumably household per capita)

    . . . . 31.41 .. . . . 86 . . . .. . . . 22.79 . “many parts of China” (was compared directly with above two values, assume same meaning)

    Per item (converted from values in article; amount per year unless otherwise stated):

    . . . 160 . . . .. . . 438.06 .. . . 116.08 . 10 kg beef

    . . . . 24 . . . .. . . . 65.71 .. . . . 17.41 . 10 hamburgers

    . . . . 62.4 . .. . . 170.84 .. . . . 45.27 . 52 x “standard” Pizza Margarita

    . . . . 19 . . . .. . . . 52.02 .. . . . 13.79 . 10 kg pasta (I assume this doesn’t include cooking dry pasta)

    . . . . . 0.07 .. . . . . 0.19 .. . . . . 0.05 . 10 bottles of bottled water, minus the water

    . . . 949.65 .. . 2600 . . . .. . . 689 . . . . vegetarian diet

    . . 1826.25 .. . 5000 . . . .. . 1325 . . . . “U.S.-style meat based diet” NOTE – no mention of impact of grain/soy vs. grass fed or the impact of different irrigation techniques

    . . . . . 2 . . . .. . . . . 5.48 .. . . . . 1.45 . 200 sheets of paper

    . . . . . 1.6 . .. . . . . 4.38 .. . . . . 1.16 . leather shoes, (assumed 1 pair) once per every 5 years

    PS since a reduction in agricultural land use would leave the poorest land first, perhaps irrigation usage would decrease faster than in proportion to various food items (?).

  11. Patrick 027:

    A line somehow got deleted above:

    Countries using more or less than stated, respectively (per capita):

    . . . 109.58 .. . . 300 . . . .. . . . 79.5 . . Mozambique, Rwanda, Haiti, Ethiopia, Uganda

  12. Patrick 027:

    I think I know why:

    Countries using more or less than stated, respectively (per capita):

    . . . 109.58 .. . . 300 . . . .. . . . 79.5 . . (these countries use more) U.S., Australia, Italy, Japan, Mexico

    . . . . . 5.48 .. . . . 15 . . . .. . . . . 3.98 . (these countries use less) Mozambique, Rwanda, Haiti, Ethiopia, Uganda

  13. Patrick 027:

    …(conversions based on 365.25 d/yr)

  14. sidd:

    Greenland, she melts.

    and re the july 12 gregoire paper in nature, i see a saddle at about 67 N on GRIS
    and i note that the gregoire paper says saddle collapses when surface melt reaches the low point (~2000m) of the saddle (topological effect, more area becomes available for melt as the gradients in both principal directions becomes horizontal.)Jason Box at meltfactor foresees melt extent all over GRIS. The amazing ASCAT animation in the comments might indicate this has already happened this month.

    Wonder what GRACE will show for the year.


  15. Hank Roberts:

    “But, but, what if I change to eating lots-of-leafy-greens, no-added-oil, no meat, no cheese, no dairy, stay on the Esselstyn/firehouse diet, and all that happens is I lose 40 excess pounds and my favorite arteries begin to work better than they have in years? Eh? Eh??”

    Sometimes, ya just gotta try what works for your own reasons, not to save the world. If that’s a side effect, hey, stuff happens like that sometimes.

  16. The Wonderer:

    Time to update your “Other Opinions” sidebar. Many of the links are out of date.

    [Response: Indeed… Suggestions welcome. – gavin]

  17. dbostrom:

    sidd: Wonder what GRACE will show for the year.

    Something, with a little luck. 2014 and 2015 depend on more luck.

    Drag is one problem but the batteries are getting hoary and are already affecting operations.

    The mission could be over before a replacement is up:

    [2011]…continuation of the GRACE mission has to be viewed as high risk—the weakened power system may fail, or result in significantly degradation of data quality within the next two years.

    With loads of luck and no lawmakers in DC pretending to be morons in order to raise campaign cash and/or avoid being brave, the gap-filler mission might arrive on station before there’s a discontinuity in data.

    Any problems w/the next launch and there will be a gap; whatever the batteries do, drag (and natural variability of drag due to solar storms) will spell the end of the GRACE mission perilously close to the arrival of a replacement.

    Our constant skinflint attitude to instrumentation costing a drop in the budgetary ocean is kind of like not changing the batteries in your fever thermometer in order to save a few dollars, risking that your kid may end up in ER with a runaway fever due to sepsis. Big savings, ya know? Very wise, not.

  18. sidd:

    Nice paper by Mueller and Seneviratne


    correlation of dry with subsequent hot
    i have been waiting for this forabit


  19. Edward Greisch:

    I just started reading the book “Waking the Giant; how a changing climate triggers earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes” by Bill McGuire, 2012

  20. Jim Larsen:

    “And if for some reason a person insists on obtaining B-12 only from animal sources, the necessary amount of animal-source food would be quite small”

    ” people eating the “standard” American diet have more to worry about in that respect than do vegans.”

    Yes, lots more. Thanks for the discussion.

  21. MARodger:

    sidd @314
    A couple of links to save folk running round @Neven’s site.

    A link to the actual comment with the animated Greenland radar pictures.
    Credits to SteveMDFP for spotting the event & creating the animation with a bit of post-editing by Ethan O’Connor

    The ASCAT images come from this directory (also linked @ Neven) msfa-NHe-a-… files for days 186-195 (July 4 – 13). The most recent images 196 & 7 seem to show some stabilisation of the situation.

    The impact on albedo is evident in the double-dips on Jason Box’s Meltfactor graphs for 2000m & 2500m that are now showing up to about 13 July.

  22. Dan H.:

    While a gap in the replacement for GRACE would be a loss, the consequences would not be as dire as you make it to be. Just like your batteries in the thermometer analogy, there are alternatives that not only can monitor a child’s temperature, but also the Greenland glaciers. They just do so with less precision. Hopefully, we can a replacement up and flying soon.

  23. Thomas Lee Elifritz:

    Re: Grace

    Sure Dan, all we need is a large fleet of aircraft flying 24/7 and we can always keep our eye on sea level, so that will keep us well informed.

  24. dbostrom:

    McIntyre climbdown forthcoming? Signs and portents. Death of book review greatly exaggerated…

  25. Dan H.:

    Overkill. Current measurements are satisfactory. There is no need to present such extravagant solutions to a minor problem.

  26. Chris Colose:

    //”Time to update your “Other Opinions” sidebar. Many of the links are out of date.

    [Response: Indeed… Suggestions welcome. – gavin]”//

    Not to self-advertise :-)

    And Isaac Held’s a must…

  27. dbostrom:

    Indeed… Suggestions welcome. – gavin

    Science of Doom

  28. sidd:

    Re: GRACE lifetime

    We have very good time data from GPS constellations. Can we get good enuf location information as well and combine to deduce gravity well shape ? Or is friction in GPS orbits enuf to smooth out all the interesting stuff ?


  29. dbostrom:

    Denskepticons will no doubt be outraged by this obvious whitewash:

    Norfolk Constabulary has made the decision to formally close its investigation into the hacking of online data from the Climate Research Centre (CRU) at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich.

    The decision follows a comprehensive investigation by the force’s Major Investigation Team, supported by a number of national specia-list services, and is informed by a statutory deadline on criminal proceedings.

    While no criminal proceedings will be instigated, the investigation has concluded that the data breach was the result of a ‘sophisticated and carefully orchestrated attack on the CRU’s data files, carried out remotely via the internet’.

    Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Superintendant Julian Gregory, said: “Despite detailed and comprehensive enquiries, supported by experts in this field, the complex nature of this investigation means that we do not have a realistic prospect of identifying the offender or offenders and launching criminal proceedings within the time constraints imposed by law.

    “The international dimension of investigating the World Wide Web especially has proved extremely challenging.

    “However, as a result of our enquiries, we can say that the data breach was the result of a sophisticated and carefully orchestrated attack on the CRU’s data files, carried out remotely via the internet. The offenders used methods common in unlawful internet activity to obstruct enquiries.

    “There is no evidence to suggest that anyone working at or associated with the University of East Anglia was involved in the crime.”

    ‘Ere now, what’s all this, then?

  30. JCH:

    AGW Observer

    Climate Charts & Graphs

  31. dbostrom:

    Somebody: While a gap in the replacement for GRACE would be a loss, the consequences would not be as dire as you make it to be.

    The entire Earth observation constellation is falling apart. Some say it’s because of JWST, others say ISS. I say it’s because we spend too much on hair gel, extra chrome for our vehicles, various other vacuous frippery that might vanish tomorrow and not make a whit of difference in our lives or those coming later, those who might have appreciated a better sense of priorities on our part.

    The instrumentation we’re coasting on is dying a little too fast to be replaced by the money left over after we buy our aerosol cheese and plug-in air fresheners, leaving us dependent on the random variety of good luck. We could build our own luck but we choose not to do that.

  32. dbostrom:

    Tamino hits spatial visualizations of continental US temperature anomalies out of the park.

  33. The Wonderer:

    Sorry about that, I should have taken notes: Nature Blog and Michael Tobias has now moved to Planet 3.0 for starters.

  34. ozajh:

    Neven’s Arctic Sea Ice blog?

  35. Six Legged Heaven:

    Could anyone point me to the calculations required to show the total energy increase in the system that can be attributed to the increase in CO2 over the last, say, 50 years?

    No need to account for anything special like variation in output of the sun, or changes in cloud cover albedo, etc. Just want a number that roughly equates to that energy delta associated with the Arrhenius effect.

  36. Chris Dudley:

    The Norfolk Constabulary is closing the email theft case at CRU owing to the time limitation included in the criminal statute. http://www.norfolk.police.uk/newsevents/newsstories/2012/july/ueadatabreachinvestigation.aspx

    I mention this becasue sometimes poster Andy Revkin has steadfastly refused to admit that there was a crime based on the idea that the Constbulary had not said there was a crime. Now they definitely have said so.

  37. KR:

    Six Legged Heaven“…total energy increase in the system…”

    For observations, I would suggest looking at the ocean heat content (http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/OC5/3M_HEAT_CONTENT/), where >93% of the thermal mass resides. The 0-2000m records indicate a gain of 25-30×10^22 Joules since 1960 there.

  38. toto:

    I suggest Lucia’s The Blackboard. Hey, it’s called “Other Opinions”, right?

  39. Edward Greisch:

    Book: “Waking the Giant; how a changing climate triggers earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes” by Bill McGuire, 2012

    Bill McGuire is a geologist. Bill McGuire says minor changes in tides, sea level, ice melt, etc. can determine the moment of eruption. The crust is thin and flexible. Glaciers create waves in the crust when the glaciers melt. The waves result in things like the New Madrid earthquakes. Climate feeds back to geology.

  40. Unsettled Scientist:

    Here are some really cool pictures from MODIS as the Petermann Glacier calved an enormous iceberg in Greenland. This is the iceberg the news media is calling “twice the size of Manhattan.”


    Three images, the orbital period of Aqua (the satellite carrying MODIS) is about 90 minutes. The first two images are 90 minutes apart, while the third is one day later. I highly recommend downloading a big TIFF and enjoying the view.

  41. Unsettled Scientist:

    @Six Legged Heaven

    Here is Arrhenius’s paper from 1896:

    On the Influence of Carbonic Acid in the Air Upon the Temperature of the Ground

    However, you may find this more useful, approachable and complete:

    The Carbon Dioxide Greenhouse Effect

  42. Unsettled Scientist:

    Oh no, I failed with that link to the Arrhenius’s paper. Sorry, here is a working link.


  43. Six Legged Heaven:

    @Unsettled Scientist thanks… i’m really looking for a way to calculate the actual numbers, conceptually i have some grasp of what’s happening.

  44. J Bowers:

    I’ve found the US Navy’s efforts to move to sustainables a fascinating example of forward thinking and “can do”, especially with the highly successful deployment of solar in US Marine forward operational bases in Afghanistan. But regardless of the potential lives saved through less need for convoys (90%?), it looks like the battle’s hotting up back home. I can’t help but feel that this could spill more openly into the wider political and public arena, and the burning question that will be asked will be why are these politicians are so adamant that the Navy must use fossil fuels? The immediate short term costs argument really doesn’t hold water given how new tech always costs more to begin with, but the advantages will reap more benefits, including healthcare.

    US Navy defends ‘great green fleet’ from Republican attacks

  45. JCH:

    six legged heaven – try this:
    Revisiting the Earth’s sea-level and energy budgets from 1961 to 2008

  46. Unsettled Scientist:

    @Six Legged Heaven

    It sounds like you didn’t bother reading the Arrhenius paper. The title of section IV is “Calculation of the Variation of Temperature that would ensue in consequence of a given Variation of the Carbonic Acid in the Air.” Table VII is specifically the actual numbers Arrhenius calculated. If you want the math for the effect Arrhenius calculated, that’s it, it’s all in that paper. If you only have some grasp of planetary modeling however you should read the sections before that, or perhaps the stuff below will be better.

    But maybe you are looking for a very simple idealized model to show the influence of a GHG such as CO2. Then perhaps what you are looking for is Chris Colose’s recent post.

    Building a Planet Part 2: Greenhouse Effects

    It might be easier to help you if we know specifically what problem you are trying to solve.

  47. John E. Pearson:

    346 Unsettled scientist on calculating the change in energy.

    I don’t agree that it’s so easy. Arrhenius came up with something like a 6C warming for a doubling of CO2. Plass calculated something like a 3.6C change from a doubling of CO2 (1956 Am. J Phys paper(V 24 # 5 page 303) without including water vapor. The modern number for the change in temperature from a doubling of CO2 without any feedbacks is roughly 1.3 C (a number I have not calculated but written down from correspondence with an actual climate scientist). I’ve been told on this site by people whose opinions I respect (probably Gavin and/or Raypierre ) that there is no easy way to calculate a warming of 3C-ish per doubling. I’ve never tried hard enough to convince myself that I believe them, partly because I sort of believe them. I do believe that if you can’t get a 3C per doubling w/ feedback without radiative transfer models that you can’t hope to calculate the change in energy to date that is due to CO2 without complex models. I’ve wondered if I ought not to be able to putz around and do something iterative to first get the 1.3C no feedback temperature, then include H2O vapor and get a correction to atmospheric temp, then correct the H2O feedback and get a new atmospheric temp, etc. but I’ve never tried. Days are too short.

  48. Hank Roberts:

    > six leg … total energy increase in the system

    Which “system” are you asking about, and what “total energy increase” do you mean?

    Without defining those you won’t get a satisfactory answer.

    Warming of the upper few meters of the Earth, for example– counting that? Then you want to look at borehole temperatures, well documented. Those are slow changes, so limiting your request to 50 years loses a lot of information that’s available.

    Do you use “total energy” as equivalent to warming?

    I wonder if you’re quoting someone you read elsewhere using that phrasing. If so, it’s possible you have been set up to ask a question phrased to come up with a very tiny number.

    You could claim that the “total energy increase” in the last “50 years” solely from CO2 is an extremely small number. Especially if you count from absolute zero, for example, or as you rule out the change from the preindustrial baseline to 1962, and much else. You’ve asked an oddly narrow question.

    Try here, this may help you ask a question that will give you an interesting answer:
    Frequently Asked Question 2.1
    How do Human Activities Contribute to Climate Change and How do They Compare with Natural Influences?

  49. JMcDonald:

    Forgive me if this is already answered in a FAQ somewhere, but could someone provide a crude zero-order description of the effective duration of added CO2 in the atmosphere?

    I say “effective” because I understand that individual molecules may have a much shorter duration in the atmosphere than the overall rise in concentration they engender, and I’m concerned with the latter, not the former.

    And I say “duration” because I also understand that “half-life” might not be the best description of how long the effect lasts, although it might be the best simple description.

    I’ve seen everything from half-lifes of about 300 to 30,000 years, or half-lifes of 300 years for 80% and 20% lasting essentially forever, etc.

    Is there a simple description? For example, if we rose to 500ppm, then stopped adding CO2, how long would it take to get back to 400 ppm, 300 ppm, etc.?

    Thanks in advance.

    [Response: Discussion here. It isn’t a simple story though and you can’t characterise the response using a simple exponential. – gavin]

  50. dz.alexander:

    Are GISS papers no longer available?

    [Response: Should be: http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/ – some journals are more fussy about this though so it isn’t 100%. Email the author if you want a copy of anything that isn’t online. – gavin]