Climate indices to watch

What is the most important climate condition to keep tabs on? We have recently mentioned the record-low Arctic sea-ice extent, but hurricanes this year seem to be getting the most attention because of timing ofHurricane Isaac (I know of no evidence suggesting that the Arctic sea-ice has such a direct impact on U.S. politics!).

In addition, the status of ENSO issued by NOAA on August 27, 2012, states that El Niño conditions are likely to develop during August or September 2012, although the present state is classified as ‘ENSO-neutral‘. El Niño has a strong influence on local economies and societies in fairly extensive regions of the world. ENSO is a natural phenomenon, but may change under a changing climate and is interesting to watch over the long term.

It’s important to avoid getting lost into single indicators, however, as the climate system is complex, with many different parts interacting with one another. The American Meteorological Society (AMS) recently put out a statement on climate change, referring to a wide range of different climate indicators (here is a link for the most common ones). The AMS is not alone – the National Academy for Sciences (NAS) is also concerned about our climate and its many aspects: A fairly recent movie called Climate change at the NAS Climate Change: Lines of Evidence provides a comprehensive overview.

Both AMS and NAS accounts provide a rich picture of many different aspects with many different (important) details, which make them fairly long and complicated. This is why simple indices sometimes are used – to convey a simple message. We need both, and that’s why the NAS video and the AMS statement are so valuable – at least for the readers who understand what they are talking about. I’m not sure that everybody does, though.

R-script for making pretty picture

109 comments on this post.
  1. MMM:

    I would recommend the EPA climate indicators as another resource:

  2. Alexandre:

    When I see the Mauna Loa graph I can’t help becoming puzzled by claims of “panic” or “overreaction” about global warming. Really, I can’t see any reaction whatsoever.

  3. NeilT:

    Linking the 800k historical animation would also be good. It is excellent and really shows the whole true picture of CO2 in the interglacials, Glacials and now.

  4. Lance Olsen:

    We also have many important indicators in the planet’s biological systems. Fisheries, forests, and grasslands, for example, are all telling us how the new climate is advancing. For a broad overview of aquatic, marine, and terrestrial change found among systems (and species) I think it’s hard to do better than to start with the 800+ papers reviewed in Parmesan, Camille. “Ecological and Evolutionary Responses to Recent Climate Change.” Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics. 2006. 37: 637-69

  5. Tom Fiddaman:

    Evidently my brief comment that the graphic was chartjunk didn’t make the moderation cut – I will try to clarify.

    The point is not that there’s anything wrong with this post, but that it’s tough to be good communicators of science without adhering to some standards of presentation. We need to raise the level of debate, because we can’t win with pretty pictures. A chart with a nonzero y-axis baseline and no units of measure is only convincing for the time it takes to get from here to WattsUpWithThat.

    [Response:Pretty pictures like this make it into the media – the traditional ones usually don’t – at least in my experience. It is of enormous help if we can use graphs together with words in the press. There is no contradiction in combining pretty pictures with solid science, and I think solid science can be made much more interesting with pretty pictures. However, we need to break with prejudice about ‘how science should look’ (prejucide is not science). Science is not about bein pompous either (traditinally looking figures), but I include R-scripts for all my pictures (science should be replicable and transparent), and all the graphs are based on quality data from well-known institutions (URLs for the sources are in the R-scripts). I save the ‘sciency looking’ graphs for the science literature and for when I use them to explain a point – here the role of the pretty picture was to illustrate the most icnoic climate index that I know of. -rasmus]

  6. MARodger:

    Call me ‘alarmist’ but I don’t think the 800k really captures the true significance of CO2 curve. Using ocean sediments, it has been show that 300ppm had hardily been exceeded over the last 2.1 million years. So 400ppm (recorded up in the Arctic this year & now no more than two summer away at MLO) is something not seen in what, 15 million years? And all achieved within a century.
    15M:100. That’s some ratio!!

  7. richard pauli:

    Great question to pose. There are classic indicators – CO2, aerosols and temperatures of air, ocean and cryo – all important.

    I hope we keep an eye on methane levels, and ocean ph.

    Then there are consequences of continued carbon combustion like tropospheric O3 levels, — it is a ghg and weakens most all life forms. O3 levels now regularly spike in high combustion areas.

  8. David Donovan:

    It would be nice to have some numbers on the y-axis of the title figure.

  9. Leif:

    Given that the whole denier-sphere is funded by the fundamental flaw of Western Capitalism that allows, nay, encourages the few to profit from the pollution and exploitation of the commons for personal gains, I would think that the most important metric to watch is when the ~77% currently in favor climate disruption mitigation is to become a majority action in a presumably democratic Nation.

    We all pay fees to dump garbage, waste water and more. Corpro/People dump tons for free and accumulate mega-bucks. Even get tax subsidies. The GOP don’t fund abortion. Fine. A precedent! Why must my tax dollars fund the ecocide of the PLANET via fossil subsidies?!!! We’re talking “MORALS” here. Try throwing 19 pounds of paper cups out the car window for each gallon of gas you burn. Who is making money here and who is losing? Toxins verses paper cups? (I bet you could be real creative about increasing your trash stream if it were paper cups.) Even absorb a “slap on the wrist” fine once in awhile. Surely a good lawyer on retainer. Once established perhaps even a congressman or two.

    I pay $150/ton to dump my household garbage. $50/T to recycle yard waste. Waste water fees, of course. I even have a rain water run of fee of $5/m. (guide lines here?) Yet Corpro/people piss all over themselves at the thought of $25/ton for TOXINS! Sweet Jesus… They are making billions, I get ~$30/day to stay alive and must fund health insurance. Go Figure!

    In brief:

    Stop profits from the pollution of the commons.
    Go Green, Resistance is FATAL to Earth’s life support systems.

  10. Jeffrey Davis:

    re: 3

    I don’t know why that’s labeled 800,000 years ago. It’s from 1979.

  11. Didactylos:

    Tom Fiddaman: I believe the term is “infographic”.

    It’s sad that people always truck out the same complaints about zero points and units, because it shows a lack of understanding about context. Sometimes the zero point can be left off in order to deceive, and units can be misused. Here, however, we have a situation where the signal to noise ratio is very, very high, and the increase is significant without recourse to nitpicks over units or zero points. In short, it is an image which can be understood without any great scientific knowledge, while also not distorting the science in any way.

    Yes, the chart could contain more science. It could indicate that CO2 levels have nearly doubled. It could include the fascinating fact that CO2 is measured in parts per million (by volume). And so on, and so on…. but these distract from the key message of the chart.

  12. dbostrom:

    Abyssal warming? Little remarked, sparse data, small in absolute numbers but statistically significant and widespread.

  13. Patrick:

    Thank you. The linked resources are very helpful–lots of good stuff. But I always worry when I hear “geo-engineering” mentioned, even with caution. The best geo-engineering I know is called photovoltaics and wind energy systems.
    Here’s some right here:

    Near-zero emissions. Negligible waste heat. All the weirdness you want–right here in the prevention phase–no need to run to weird remedial schemes.

    I can’t wait for someone calculate and model–emissions aside–the total btu’s of waste heat contributed globally by all power plants and combustion engines. Or the btu’s of waste heat per person from same.

  14. Tom Fiddaman:

    @didactylos – The signal to noise ratio on CO2 measurements is extremely high. The signal to noise ratio in the climate debate is extremely low. Cherry-picked timelines and arbitrary baselines are rampant among the septic crowd. “Infographics” legitimate those practices. Why do it, without a compelling purpose?

  15. NeilT:

    @6 MARodger

    Actually I’ve found it more constructive if you scare people just enough. Scaring them to death is counterproductive as most of them just go into total denial mode and don’t come out for a few years until they have got used to the idea.

    I work extensively with change management in my day job as I, basically, ruin you day when I run my migration projects. We work a lot with the Kübler-Ross model.

    I found that the 800k animation was a great tool in getting people who were still in denial to get out of it and recognise that we are driving this change. We don’t need to use millions or total disaster or anything else.

    We’re not actually asking for total and complete transformation of people’s lives. Just to cut it down a bit and keep on going like that until we can try to balance the situation.

    Small actions require compelling evidence but not complete disaster movies.

  16. Patrick:

    @5: I don’t think it’s chartjunk at all. It’s a stlye-graphic which servesas a headline. This post is high-q info, with lots more linked in–which is hardly the case at the the postjunk site you mention.

    I like climate science communication, not disinformation.

  17. Radge Havers:

    This may be a naive, even lazy, question. I seem to have missed the answer. Is some sort of a composite index feasible?

  18. Aaron Lewis:

    The bottom line is always: FOOD; has the weather damaged the crops? Will the weather damage the crops next year? How many corn crops will have to fail before we admit that it is getting too hot for corn?

    As a society,we need to ask ourselves, When do we admit that for practical purposes, “Global warming is here”?

    However, I think we have to go back and look at food production after CO2 rose above 350 ppmv to see changes in the system.


  19. Hank Roberts:

    This presentation has several excellent illustrations:

  20. Didactylos:

    Tom Fiddaman, before you throw around terms like “chartjunk”, you need to have an understanding of the data. In this instance, a very famous, well known dataset is reproduced. The source of the data is given, and all the data is included. It is not cropped or tampered with in any way. The form the data is presented in is entirely appropriate, showing the long term trend and the seasonal signal. Moreover, it is how this dataset is usually portrayed.

    The vertical axis is not easy for everyone to understand, and its omission only offends those who already know what it is and what it means (and are capable of finding the original data)…. so who exactly is outraged here?

    Infographics are important, and we should be looking for ways to make them clearer and more correct, not throwing up our hands in horror and completely abdicating any responsibility to communicate to people who do not speak the language of climate science.

    One of the cardinal sins of scientists is including too much information in a single chart or diagram. For the lay public, clarity and simplicity are vital.

  21. MARodger:

    Jeffrey Davis @10
    The link @3 starts off from 1979 which is presumably where there are enough CO2 records to provide the wobbly line showing CO2 at different latitudes. When it reaches 2011 (despite being titled 2009)it then starts backwards from 1979 and its title then becomes clear.

  22. MMM:

    “nonzero y-axis baseline”

    Yes. Which is why when the newspaper shows temperatures from the last 5 days, I complain because they didn’t start at zero kelvin. Or why when I get a topographic summary of my hiking route I complain because they don’t show the graph starting at sea level.

    As with all charts and graphics, the appropriate choice depends on the information being conveyed. A zero baseline may be appropriate in many circumstances, but not in all (and can depend on the choice of unit: a zero Celsius baseline is different from a zero Fahrenheit baseline is different from a zero Kelvin baseline).

  23. tamino:

    And if you labeled your axes i could tell you by exactly how much

  24. M Tucker:

    MARodger @ 6

    The earth was at around 400ppm about 3 million years ago during the Pliocene warm period. That time period has been extensively studied beginning with the work of Soviet climatologist Mikhail Budyko and then taken up by the USGS in the 1980’s. It continues today as the USGS PRISM project (Pliocene Research Interpretation and Synoptic Mapping.) The work is used to understand what the world is in for in geologically short order and it is used to help verify climate models.

  25. Jim Larsen:

    13 Patrick said, “I can’t wait for someone calculate and model–emissions aside–the total btu’s of waste heat contributed globally by all power plants and combustion engines. ”

    Been done. I don’t have a link, but the result is that waste heat is totally negligible.

  26. owl905:

    Top indicies to watch –
    GHG pollution levels. They drive the disruption.
    Extreme Events. The consequences are in there. The costs are gigantic.
    Global temperatures.
    Sea levels.
    Extinctions and migrations.
    Food supplies.

    Things not to watch –
    Anything from Watt, McIntyre, Goddard, Moncton, Lomborg, et. al.;
    Youtube’s that disprove AGW;
    Antarctic sea-ice;
    Sunspots (literally, and for incite on AGW).

  27. David B. Benson:

    Radge Havers @17 — A composite index is possible of course. Its usefulness remains most uncertain.

  28. sidd:

    These are not strictly climate indices, but …

    1)GRACE mass waste for WAIS and GRIS
    2)Velocity maps for Jacobshawn,Peterman,Zacharie Isstrom/Nioghalvfjerdsforden,Thwaites,PIG


  29. dbostrom:

    Jim: [waste heat] Been done. I don’t have a link, but the result is that waste heat is totally negligible.

    0.028w/m2 vs. 2.9w/m2

    See this amusing coverage at Skeptical Science:

    It’s waste heat


    Waste heat versus greenhouse warming

    A breathtaking metaphor; hundreds of particles of enlightenment jostling against jiggly nuggets of what might be termed “dark matter,” apparently accomplishing no useful work. The last iota of energy was apparently dissipated back in February of this year, after a run of some several years. Cold now, no doubt still very dark in places.

  30. Russell:

    Don’t forget the oldest economic climate index of them all

  31. michael sweet:

    Denial Depot had this excellent post on why you need to include zero as part of the y axis to analyze ice records. They also show the time of analysis as the entire history of the Earth going back all the way to creation in 6,000 BC.

  32. Patrick:

    Thanks d-bo @29 et al.

  33. Tom Fiddaman:

    @20 My objection has nothing to do with the data portrayed, which I understand perfectly well. I also agree that “Infographics are important, and we should be looking for ways to make them clearer and more correct…”

    But I don’t see how this reaches anyone for whom “The vertical axis is not easy … to understand.” For them, this conveys, “ooh … wiggly line going up on a dirty refinery.” But the nutjobs have just as many wiggly lines doing other things with which to distract the naive.

    I could suggest some improvements to the graphic, but I think it’s a distraction from the main point of this post, so I’ll refrain from further comment, and hope for things to be a bit more metric in the future, in the spirit of @23.

  34. John Mashey:

    We’ve been seeing lots of graphs lately.
    People might find Solomon Hsiang’s ideas interesting, worth encouraging. There has been discussion at Andrew Gelman’s, here or earlier.

    The fundamental issue is exploring better ways to show uncertainty. I’ve long disliked the usual CI bars (with horizontal endpoints). Solomon’s (and Felix’s) later attempts seem to be going in the right direction. People interested in visual displays of statistical information might take a look and encourage this.

  35. vukcevic:

    We shouldn’t forget the North Atlantic SST (the AMO) which is often ignored. Since 2000 the short term oscillations appear to be suppressed , this could be an indication of ‘energy saturation’ and that multidecadal peak has been reached, implying significant cooling in the coming decades.
    300 years of the AMO from Mann, Gray etc.

    [Response: As the person who coined the term “AMO” I figure it’s appropriate for me to comment. The AMO, as we have shown in numerous articles, has little influence on global (or even Northern Hemisphere) average temperature. Its largely a zero sum game because it mostly associated with changes in the transport of heat between regions, and not the total heat budget of the planet. I talk about the history of the AMO (and my role in it) in my book The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars -mike]

  36. MARodger:

    M Tucker @24
    Thank you for the comment. It is good to revise bold assertions periodically. So, how long was 400ppm last seen on the planet? I have been saying 15 million years (with varying levels of caveat) based on graphs like this which is a bold statement although beyond the 0.8M ice core data & 2.1M ocean ooze data the uncertainty is probably the biggest factor.
    So “around 400ppm about 3 million years ago” also appears a bold statement.

    The 400ppm number does indeed start appearing from a ‘Pliocene CO2’ search (& even more with a ‘RISM CO2’ search). But there is a “but” attached to that.
    For instance, there is Wikipedia but the citations date back to 1996 which is getting a bit long in the tooth. There is the number 405ppm that appears occasionally but that appears to have dropped out of a model not proxy evidence. And there are more general quotes comparing Pliocene CO2 levels to 21st century levels or slightly higher than today but these are quotes which feels wrong – if Pliocene CO2 is now considered 400+ppm (while modern graphical reconstructions of paleoCO2 do not), why do I not find papers with the 400ppm finding (instead of just finding effectively what are newspaper reporting it).
    And why do I find a 2009 paper saying (okay with a 1996 reference but this isn’t Wiki) “Estimates of atmospheric CO2 concentrations, however, show values only slightly higher than preindustrial concentrations (Raymo et al., 1996),” or Jiang et al 2005 seemingly showing the value of 315ppm (but paywalled).

    My conclusion from all this is that the 400ppm 3Mybp is but surmised from the argument that the glaciation in following years appears to be due to a forcing perhaps caused by drop in CO2 rather than the appearance of the Panama isthmus or some other event, something proposed here by Lunt et al.

    Now I am ever conscious of my caveats (which were reduced to a “?” @6 above), I am happy to revise my timescales in light of any findings unknown to me.
    So if there are such, do not keep them secret. If there are not, do follow my lead & provide caveats with your 3Mybp assertion.

  37. David B. Benson:

    MARodger @36 — Well done.

  38. AlaskaHoundish:

    C02 at the3 1000hPa, 800hPa, 500hPa, 200hPa right up to 10hPa are relevant. Mixing of all atmospheric constituents at all levels are relevant.
    The concentrations, their interactions are unknown, especially in regard to changes with PDO, AO, NAO, Indian Dipole and the Antarctic stream. When we understand the atmospheric physics involved with stratwarm, 6 hours delays in the gravity waves, etc… we’ll know what is needed to swing from inter-glacial to glacial conditions and visaversa.
    Right now C02 has a lifetime expectancy, but so do the mixes we measure at different heights. We certainly do not know what the ever-changing variables in atmospheric chemistry are telling us.

  39. Susan Anderson:

    John Mashey, those are gorgeous!

  40. Walt Rainboth:

    I just ran across a strange new paper that has been accepted by Global and Planetary Change which seems to be interpreting temperature change as leading CO2 change, and that changes in atmospheric CO2 are not tracking changes in human emissions. It was just released through Science Direct. I don’t have the paper yet but those graphs look pretty strange even though they are too small to read any specifics on. The graph of CO2 looks like a Keeling curve that is flattened to produce no overall increase. I have asked our library to get a copy for me, but thought I’d give you a heads up.

    [Response: The paper (Humlum et al) is indeed an odd one. Basically they have made the same mistake as Mclean et al (2009) and assumed that the correlations in growth rate of CO2 and T tell you something about the long term trends (it doesn’t – it tells you only about the fluctuations around the trend). Basically they have rediscovered that ENSO affects the carbonc cycle. Since they are repeating a previous error, their paper also comes pre-rebutted by the response to McClean by Foster et al (2010). – gavin]

  41. Ben Hocking:

    A nice simple graph that I thought conveyed the point simply is the one here:
    (I think I’ve seen that same graph elsewhere, so I’m pretty sure it’s not original with them.) I like it because it conveys two things:
    1) That on a decadal level, the change has been steady since we’ve started taking measurements, despite what that silly Energy Tribune article says. (I won’t link to it, but if you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s titled ‘Arctic Sea Ice Record Low Is “Broken”’.)
    2) The rate of melt appears to be accelerating. (However, I make the stunning prediction that acceleration will come to a sudden halt when we hit zero.)
    I’d love to see that graph reproduced with 2010-2012 used as a stand-in for the 2010’s average, although I realize that with only 2 or 3 years (depending on time of year) it’s bound to be far noisier.

    Also, add me to the list of people who’d love to see zero included on all of these graphs of melting sea ice area, extent, and volume. Sure, there are reasons not to always include zero on graphs (cf. the witty comment about Kelvin), but given that we’re rapidly heading to zero, for these graphs including it only makes the case stronger, in my opinion.

  42. Jeffrey Davis:

    re: 21

    Ah thanks. Much more polite than a 2×4 across the bridge of the nose.

  43. Edward Greisch:

    Another index: Rivers running dry:,0,6051251.story

  44. ozajh:

    Aaron Lewis @ 15,

    I agree with your comment about food, but the problem is that throughout the so-called First World the overall AVAILABILITY of food is taken absolutely for granted.

    People bitch about price, sure, myself included; but when the increase in grain prices mean that it takes 10 minutes instead of 5 minutes to earn the cost of a good loaf of bread, then it really isn’t a big deal.

    Even when we see pictures of famines elsewhere it doesn’t register viscerally that that could be US after a few years of crop failure . . .

  45. Edward Greisch:

    13 Patrick: Waste heat is irrelevant. We are dumping heat into deep space, and the universe has a temperature of 2.7 degrees Kelvin. The temperature of the universe keeps going down because the universe is expanding and will continue to expand for ever. So forget about waste heat. The CO2 ppm controls the temperature of the Earth.

    PS: Photovoltaics and wind energy systems require industrial processes which make CO2. How much?

  46. Adam H:

    MARodger @36 says
    “And why do I find a 2009 paper saying (okay with a 1996 reference but this isn’t Wiki) “Estimates of atmospheric CO2 concentrations, however, show values only slightly higher than postindustrial concentrations (Raymo etal 1996)”

    Hopefully this isn’t too off topic, but I remember thinking the same thing when I read the 2009 PRISM paper. Raymo etal 1996 is based on an inverse relationship between Carbon-13 and local CO2 concentrations in marine organic matter. I’m no expert on the seas, but I know terrestrial photosynthesis also bears this relationship. However, the isotopic fractionation of terrestrial systems is just as easily influenced by other environmental factors, such as oxygen concentration (see ‘CO2/02 specificity’ in D.W.Lawlor, 2000, Photosynthesis, 400p). Is anyone else skeptical of assuming the isotopic trends in Raymo et al are due to CO2 alone?

  47. Martin Vermeer:

    Actually for CO2 a logarithmic plot would be the way to go, as in physically realistic. And then the zero point is completely arbitrary, a consequence of the unit chosen.

  48. owl905:

    ozajah@44 wrote:- “when the increase in grain prices mean that it takes 10 minutes instead of 5 minutes to earn the cost of a good loaf of bread”

    It means something far greater than that when the failure is wheat and corn and vegetables and livestock. If it’s a 2006-type shock, things can take years to recover (rice) – if it’s multiple shocks in a short time-span it can destabilize regions of the world.

  49. Pete Dunkelberg:

    @ 45:”We are dumping heat into deep space, and the universe has a temperature of 2.7 degrees Kelvin.”

    That would be 2.7 kelvins or 2.7 K, no degrees. That seems to be one of the hardest things in physics. ;)

    If 2.7 K is the right value it’s cooled a little since last I checked (or is it a memory fault?) but since I’m not going there I won’t worry about it.

  50. Chris G:

    On the food thread:

    Aaron @
    posted interesting links, but I’m wondering if there is a bigger picture available. World food prices are the scope I’m looking for, but price is a function of supply and demand, and I’m looking for just supply. Productivity of the US is interesting, but it is just the US.

    I think it would be very interesting if there was a summation of yields per acre planted (for the major grains) over the same time period as Hansen’s climate dice paper. My guess is that there will be a strong, negative correlation between percentage of land area covered by 3-sigma events and yield per acre.

    If so, it might be a clear indication of what we have to look forward to as the occurrence of 3-sigma and greater events increases. (And it would be useful in countering the CO2-is-plant-food meme.)

    In regions where food accounts for less than 5% of annual income, a doubling will impact lives, but not be crippling. Regions where food accounts for higher percentages of income will be impacted more severely, and at some level, less than 50%, a doubling of food prices becomes catastrophic.

    // mumsction clan ?

  51. Hank Roberts:

    Good one here:

  52. Jim Larsen:

    50 Chris G said, “If so, it might be a clear indication of what we have to look forward to as the occurrence of 3-sigma and greater events increases. (And it would be useful in countering the CO2-is-plant-food meme.)”

    Excellent idea, but it would need adjustment for past and future technology and neglects adaptation. In the future, two or three different crops, one adapted to warm winters, another to brutal summers, might out-produce a single “regular” crop today. Plus, much of any decline could have been caused by farmers planting the wrong variety or species at the wrong time or nurtured in the wrong way precisely because they didn’t know 3-sigma events ain’t 3-sigma anymore.

    A 3-sigma event means it’s probably happened twice since the theoretical time of Jesus. Nobody plans for that.

  53. sidd:

    Re: Agricultural yields, climate extremes

    The FAO has compendia of crop numbers. For example

    A calculation as suggested by Mr. Chris G. would indeed be interesting. I was toying with the idea of doing such, but I have not yet had time to compile a land mask with grid cells assigned to cropland by crop type(s)

    I am hoping (actually i am quite sure) that if i wait long enuf, someone else will do the hard work …


  54. Edward Greisch:

    50 Chris G:

  55. dbostrom:

    Hank’s link: if-2013-breaks-heat-record-how-will-deniers-respond.html

    The usual: 500

  56. Patrick:

    Chartjunk: The term is attributed (link @14) to Edward Tufte, who wrote the book on statistical graphics–several.

    Chartjunk is relative to data density and the data-ink ratio in the chart. A particular problem of chartjunk is that it can mask lack of depth and lead to simplisitic thinking where it doesn’t belong.

    It’s easy enough to find out what kind of chartjunk Tufte criticized. Other Tufte terms are visual intelligence and envisioning information.

    Four of Tufte’s books, chronologically, are: The Visual Display of Quantitative Information; Envisioning Information; Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative; and Beautiful Evidence. Think I get the picture.

    Information can be visualized using two axes, more than two, and beyond. What is needed are charts that are founded on a depth of information, and that suggest it.

    This post strengthens “the signal to noise ratio” of the public discussion on climate [which is the express concern @ 14] a lot.

    The graphic is an accurate representation of the world I know, and of the subject: indices to watch.

    The NAS videos are excellent, even if they don’t quite get the voice right, or the music. That’s what communicating climate science projects are for.

    A Nobel laureate (R.H.) once said to a science writers’ conference: scientists use metaphor, too–we just don’t want you to think that we do.

  57. Mystified:

    Would this be for real ?

    [Response: Unfortunately yes. Another example of how people can get rubbish papers past review if they are persistent enough and how the contrarian blogosphere has absolutely no scepticism for anything that they perceive supports their politics. The authors have in fact rediscovered that ENSO affects the carbon cycle – something that has been known for decades and something that has absolutely nothing to do with the trends in either CO2 or temperature. Their error is that in correlating the first differences they have removed the trend before they start. Curiously it is the same error that another paper made (McLean et al, 2009) as was pointed out in a comment we made (Foster et al, 2010). That comment would serve equally well as a comment on this new paper too. – gavin]

  58. Patrick:

    45 Edward Greisch: Thank you. The point is that geo-engineering should be
    forethought, not afterthought.

  59. ozajh:

    owl905 @ 48,


    The last paragraph of Chris G @ 50 spells out the point I was alluding to.

  60. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    #57 re. Foster et al, 2010

    And when will the denial/confusionist blogs claim McLean et al, 2009 and Humlum et al, 2012 a ‘trick’.

    Survey says: Shhhh…

  61. Thomas Lee Elifritz:

    I couldn’t figure out why the arctic sea ice extent anomaly graph was not following the precipitous drop in arctic sea ice, but I can now see there appears to be a technical problem with the automated graphing display.

  62. Chris G:

    Jim Larsen,
    Agreed on all points; couple of notes:

    I’ve been able to find some information to the effect that the improvements in yield/acre due to technology advances are tapering off, and a few claims that there is little more that can be gained given the limiting factor of the efficiency of photosynthesis. But what I’ve found so far is not in reviewed literature; so, I’m not highly confident it is accurate, yet.

    [Response:The biological component of yield is indeed generally asymptotic, but that depends on a lot of factors specific to the crop and the nature of its yield limits. And with genetic engineering constantly on the increase, I’m not sure the traditional concept of a yield ceiling has the same inherent limits that it used to when the slow and laborious process of breeding was the only means to improvement. There’s a big wild card element to that, because the molecular biologists are constantly coming up with new genetic transformation systems, and locating and cloning potentially very useful genes from a steadily increasing number of sources. Yes, photosynthetic and respiration rates represent complex processes that have already been under selection for many millions of years, and hence are unlikely to be improved upon in a big way any time soon. But other limitations, such as “harvest index” (harvestable product as a fraction of total biomass), insect and disease resistance, heat shock resistance and some other traits have a high heritability (hence subject to improvement by selection) and some of them are also very amenable to genetic engineering, so there is real room for improvement in some cases. However, the only substantial technological solution for losses due to drought, is irrigation, with all the potential issues (source, cost, salinification etc) that that entails.–Jim]

    The unpredictability of the weather during a growing season is exactly the nature of the problem. For instance, where I live is a mix of corn and wheat. Wheat takes less water and is harvested earlier than corn. The farmers that planted wheat did well; the ones who planted corn are getting from 0-50% of normal yield. I suspect there is a reason that where there is enough water, it’s almost all corn (and some milo and soybeans), and very little wheat; so, I don’t think the answer is to always plant wheat. (I don’t think that’s what you are thinking; I just want to head off possible misconceptions by others.)

    I thought that was where you were going, but decided it would not hurt to spell out the allusion.

    Thanks, the FAO information is interesting, but it would be easy enough to attribute (rightly or wrongly, and to what extent?) rising food prices to higher population and more meat-intensive diets, and very hard to know how much to attribute to yield losses. The cereal demand and supply is useful, but it is possible to increase supply simply by planting more, which is ongoing (and probably on less productive land). I was looking for a way to isolate some of these factors from the base number of yield/area. There is a finite amount of arable land, and irrigation problems are looming. If the components are isolated, it might be possible to make projections that give use more forewarning than waiting for the year when demand becomes greater than supply.

    That’s kind of already happening in some parts of the world. There are those that say it is a distribution problem, but I have little doubt that if the hungry people had more money, food would be distributed to them. When the wealthy countries have food production shortcomings, we will see two things: A shift of wealth to those with a food surplus, and starvation and strife in the countries unable to compete in the bidding. At some point the world food market will shift from one favoring buyers to one favoring sellers.

  63. Superman1:

    The metrics one selects depend on the objectives of the presentation. There is one group of metrics appropriate for a technical expert audience, another for entertainment purposes for the general public, and another if attempting to convince the public to change behaviors. For the latter, I find most of the climate blogs purporting to convey the seriousness of the climate change problem to the larger public to be a complete mismatch to the interests and capabilities of the public. Most of the charts and graphs that I see seem to exult in presenting as much data as can be crammed into the space available, independent of whether it is interpretable or not.

    Before I retired, I would hear many technical presentations. I noticed that as the decades proceeded, the graphics became heavier on data and lighter on analysis. The availability of voluminous data from computers and sensors simplified the process, and simple transferrence to vugraphs led to more complex visuals with less insight. So, we not only need the underlying metrics to be impedence-matched to the audience, but the mechanics of how this information is presented needs to be simplified greatly. Less data, more information.

  64. Superman1:

    The metrics one selects depend on the objectives of the presentation. There is one group of metrics appropriate for a technical expert audience, another for entertainment purposes for the general public, and another if attempting to convince the public to change behaviors. For the latter, I find most of the climate blogs purporting to convey the seriousness of the climate change problem to the larger public to be a complete mismatch to the interests and capabilities of the public. Most of the charts and graphs that I see seem to exult in presenting as much data as can be crammed into the space available, independent of whether it is interpretable or not.

    Before I retired, I would hear many technical presentations. I noticed that as the decades proceeded, the graphics became heavier on data and lighter on analysis. The availability of voluminous data from computers and sensors simplified the process, and simple transferrence to vugraphs led to more complex visuals with less insight. So, we not only need the underlying metrics to be impedence-matched to the audience, but the mechanics of how this information is presented needs to be simplified greatly. Less data, more information.

  65. M Tucker:

    MARodger @36

    I am surprised by your resistance to the 400 ppmv number. I am surprised that you were unable to find any other sources online. It is not hard. “USGS PRISM” or “CO2 record of the Pliocene” will work. Even the IPCC Fourth Assessment: Climate Change 2007 gives a range of 360 to 400 ppm so the 400 ppmv number is not unimaginable.

    On the USGS site you can find a complete list of the USGS PRISM personnel and collaborators if that has any influence on your conclusion.

    In a paper by A M Haywood (one of the project collaborators) et al. (3/23/2011) the various proxies are discussed and evaluated. In his paper he discusses several studies of CO2 during the mid Pliocene.

    The Pagani et al. study using “a number of different mairne records” find a range of 365 to 415 ppmv.

    Seki et al. finds that using “the alkenone-based CO2 record is consistent with 400 ppmv”

    Dr Haywood says a “…range in CO2 estimates within the literature, and [the] fact that a number of the records and techniques can easily support a value of 405 ppmv…”

    I know that Dr Marci Robinson of the USGS PRISM project, a Research Geologist who specializes in planktic foraminifera and climate change research, also agrees with a CO2 concentration around 405 ppmv.

    The estimate of CO2 concentration of the mid-Pliocene is a part of on going research so more recent studies are much more credible and convincing than earlier studies. And, to quote from the Vision Statement from the PRISM project, “Future research will…develop an ultra high resolution CO2 record through the PRISM interval to define the variability.”

    So, for me at least, a CO2 concentration of about 400 ppmv, probably higher at about 405 ppmv, for the mid-Pliocene is documented and the ongoing research will more accurately define the variability. If you really would like to argue the science you should take it up with the actual scientists who are doing the work.

  66. John Mashey:

    re: 61
    Yes to Jim’s comments, but it might be worth adding:

    a) Every time I’ve looked, there were big disparities of yields in different countries, i.e., at some point, a given plant variant is biologically asymptotic, which means there is way more upside in the less-developed countries.

    b) Irrigation: in lots of places, water = energy. If I recall correctly, in CA, we use ~20% of our electricity for pumping water around. Hence this is another way the conjoined climate+energy problem is manifested, through water. Of course, drought and/or lessened snowpack are not helpful for hydropower predictability.

  67. Hank Roberts:

    Anyone know what the trend is on carbon in agricultural soil? Up or down, even?

    [Response:On what time scale and where?–Jim]
    says: The amount of carbon as CO2 currently in the atmosphere is approx 750 Pg, and that in the soil is approx 1500 Pg.

    Mentioned here:

    I wonder what the trend would look like over the same past few centuries as we’ve eroded topsoil into the oceans.

  68. David B. Benson:

    Hank Roberts @66 — Even without topsoil loss I suspect that monoculture crops tend to deplete soil carbon along with the NPKS minor nutrients.

  69. flxible:

    Hank and David – Industrial agriculture depletes soil carbon with the heavy use of petro fertilizers that destroy soil bacteria that could otherwise operate to create/stabilize humus – in addition there appears now to be some fungus discovered recently that reverses soil carbon sequestration, report here.

    [Response:I appreciate the interest but this kind of comment only tends to lead to vague assertions and pointless arguments which do not help anyone. More pointed and defensible statements please.–Jim]

  70. don gisselbeck:

    Superman1: I hope this is appropriate. Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information? T.S. Eliot The Rock

  71. Hank Roberts:

    > trend is on carbon in agricultural soil?

    I realize how incredibly difficult this is compared to measuring CO2 levels!

    And just tallying agricultural soil doesn’t necessarily give the same trend as some measure of primary productivity, counting the oceans.

    I know that an acre-foot of topsoil washed down the Mississippi may produce ten or a hundred times that amount of biological carbon from a plankton or algae bloom — so we can’t just say erosion is a net carbon loss, on the global scale.

    It occurs to me to likewise whether what Peter Ward called the “Rise of Slime” is a net carbon capture, compared to the ocean of fifty years ago. Remembering those pictures we’ve seen of an ocean of green algae washing ashore, and washing ashore, and washing ashore, in places.

    Just raised my eyebrows at the mention that soils hold twice as much carbon as the atmosphere, and I started wondering where else carbon’s held for a while biologically in what kinds of quantity. And how fast that can change.

    [Response:I don’t know where they get their 1500 number from, but total belowground C is a lot higher than that. There’s likely that much or more just in the permafrost regions (Tarnocai et al, 2009, doi:10.1029/2008GB003327).–Jim]

  72. Jim Larsen:

    67 Hank wondered about soil and carbon.

    This subject has got to be fraught with opinion and error. Geologist David Montgomery says the estimate is that we’re losing about 1% a year via erosion.

    That doesn’t mean the carbon ends up in the atmosphere. Surely most travels to rivers and oceans, at least temporarily.

    The US woke up to the problem big time because of the dust bowl, so we’re way ahead of most of the world. Other sites estimated our losses at 1/4 other countries’ losses. So, current in-place practices might extend our worldwide topsoil longevity to 400 years – though a field will become useless before all the topsoil is gone.

    I also read an opinion that 97% of losses could be eliminated by planting trees or grass as buffers around fields. I assume they meant in combination with no-till farming. Doesn’t take much grass-width to capture and/or filter runoff from the field, and no-till with cover crops keeps the wind at bay. I visualize a permanent field of shade-tolerant clover with the planting machinery cutting 3″ circular divots in which to plant grain, spaced further apart to allow a bit of light to reach the clover. Essentially zero soil loss and the elimination of the need for nitrogen fertilizer.

    Topsoil is an incredibly important issue for climate change, as it is created over loooonnnngggg periods, and generally happens in areas conducive to growing human-desired crops. It is also scraped clean by ice sheets and glaciers. This means that when the grain belts move north, they’ll leave their topsoil behind. So yes, northern Canada might become grand for growing corn and wheat – as long as you truck in the topsoil from Nebraska. Then again, Canada has plenty of peat moss and gravel. Synthetic growing mediums are possible – but it isn’t like wandering up and planting a seed in a field prepared by nature.

  73. Jim Larsen:

    Jim responded, “(harvestable product as a fraction of total biomass)”

    Yeah. A ripe modern field is amazing to behold. Cotton is the one that sticks in my mind. Almost nothing left – a couple twigs – and pure white cotton everywhere. I find it hard to believe that there’s much more growth in this direction, but botanists are clever folks!

  74. Ian Perrin:

    On the food issues, Oxfam have a report out today – ‘Extreme Weather, Extreme Prices’. It’s bad news for where I live (South Africa) where the poorest can spend up to 75% of their disposable income on food. The largest staple here, by far, is maize (corn). By 2030, Oxfam predicts, prices for maize in the region will be up 129% (at 2010 prices) due to climate change and a further 120% spike when extreme events hit. That makes over 400% in all!
    Guardian article here and report (191Kb .pdf) from here.
    If this happens, expect a massive food emergency, starvation and unrest. Similarly elsewhere.

  75. MARodger:

    M Tucker @65
    You are surprised? So am I? I will however not copy your lead entirely as I will directly address the substantive comments you make rather than ignoring them.

    To recap – @6 I proposed (nothing stronger) that 400ppm was perhaps last seen 15 million years ago. @24 You say “Oh no it wasn’t. It was 3 million years ago.” @36 I suggest reasons why the jury is still out and @65 you present references to back up you assertion. And you end curiously by saying “If you really would like to argue the science you should take it up with the actual scientists who are doing the work.” which suggests you are content to lob in you ha’pe’th worth and walk away.

    @65 you make several references.
    IPCC AR4 do indeed state that the period 3.3 to 3.0 Ma “were likely higher than pre-industiral values” and “estimated to be between 360 to 400 ppm.” You assert this does not make 400ppm “unimaginable.” Indeed so, but it also suggests 400ppm can be considered an outlier and thus rather unlikely. (It should be pointed out that the IPCC statement is based on very large error bars.)
    You also quote Pagani et al 2009 who conclude a CO2 range of 365 – 415 ppm. This would provide you with stronger backing except the paper actually gives the range 350ppm to 380 ppm for the 3.0-3.3 Ma period(see fig 3) which remains less than the 400 ppm you assert. It requires another million years for the upper end of the error bar to reach your 400 ppm. It requires you to invoke another million years for 400ppm to become “not unimaginable” which is definitely not an insignificant period of time.
    Seki et al 2010 stress the sparce Pliocene proxy data and the technical problems, concluding from their own study that during the warm Ploicene CO2 was between 330 & 400 ppm.

    It is when I read the other reference you give Haywood 2011, an overt defence of that 405ppm figure, that I begin to wonder if it is these toes that my comment @6 inadvertently stomped on, whether here lies the reason for this interchange.
    Haywood cites Pagani et al & Seki et al as well as Kurschner et al 1996 whose abstract mentions CO2 to 370ppm (Haywood takes it to be 380ppm via a figure in the paper), and finally Raymo et al 1996 whose absrtact states that their evidence suggests CO2 at 3 million years ago was “on average only about 35% higher than the preindustrial value of 280 ppm” or roughly no higher than 378ppm. Haywood again plucks a peak figure from the paper (fig 5 apparently) to arrive at CO2 values “beyond 450 ppm” which he brashly asserts is “entirely plausible.
    You also cite personal knowledge of a Dr Marci Robinson’s work which in that form has to be outwith the discussion & I am not in the least interested in the PRISM project Vision Statement.

    Thus, from the above, I conclude that it is wrong to assert as you did @65 that mid-Ploicene CO2 levels at about 405ppm is “documented.” It is evidently not.

  76. Edward Greisch:

    58 Patrick: Geo-engineering like putting poison gas in the air?

    62 Chris G: Since the FAO is part of the UN, contacting them is the place to start.

    74 Ian Perrin: A “massive food emergency, starvation and unrest.” Exactly.

  77. tokodave:

    Jim Larsen @ 72. That’s a good point Jim. Adaptation is not as simple as just moving the corn and wheat fields north. While the Great Plains in the US were developing the soils we’ve come to rely on as our breadbasket…the Great White North was under several thousand feet of ice, eh? The other problem of course is, Canada is a separate country…even if we could replace all the corn and wheat with grain grown in Canada….if it’s grown in Canada, we’re not producing our own food. That’s a problem.

  78. Hank Roberts:

    > 1500 pg
    The link went to “Soil Science Society of America” which doesn’t give that number, but lists many other references (and seems primarily agriculture-focused).

    So I ‘oogled: soil carbon “1500 pg”
    and found
    by MA Sheikh – 2009 – Cited by 6 – Related articles
    “… Worldwide the first 30 cm of soil holds 1500 Pg carbon …”

    So it’s definitely not a total; maybe it’s the amount in ag soils. I recall the IPCC has numbers for how much carbon could be sequestered by changing ag practices.

    Reflooding the old peat bogs (drained to dry them to harvest peat as fuel over the past few centuries) might preserve some of that larger amount at risk.

    So: clouds and soils are both areas of great uncertainty where we need better info — baselines — and trends/indices of change to watch.

  79. Jon Schoolar:

    In any event, pretty or not, a graph without a y axis label is glaringly incomplete.

  80. Hank Roberts:

    Um … ocean salinity levels, in detail?

  81. Hank Roberts:

    > Jon
    > Y axis

    Labeling that chart is exactly _not_ the point of the thread — read the title

    Which indicators are important to watch?

    That iconic image there at the top is immediately recognizable.

    But what does the image mean?

    The CO2 concentration at Mauna Loa isn’t the most important index to watch. Want to know more about that one? You can open this more detailed image:

    But you knew how to find that.

    Anybody who recognizes the image at the top knows where to find that.

    That is exactly not the point of the topic, though.

    The Mauna Loa measurement is a second or third hand result summing up and averaging out a lot of more directly observable changes happening in the world.

    Mauna Loa shows us the output of those processes — known and not known. It’s where they come together and the sum result can be seen.

    The indexes we need to know about are the _inputs_.

    We know the CO2 level is the common result of many inputs: The Big Control Knob turns up the CO2

    But what is it that turns the knob? And with what strength?

    There’s leverage on that knob, it’s showing not just fossil fuel, it’s all the other changes that are piling on.

    What are they? Which ones do we need to watch?

  82. Hank Roberts:


  83. Hank Roberts:


  84. adelady:

    I’d never thought of this concept as a “metric” until Coby’s post on metres per day for movement of climate zones.

    The commenter pointing out that there would be absolutely no wheat at all grown on the Australian mainland if temperatures rose 3C is a bit of an eye-opener.

  85. Chris G:

    tokodave (77): Jim L. already mentioned that regions that have grown grasses for thousands of years are better for it than those that haven’t, but specifically, and in addition to your comment, there is the Canadian Shield occupying much of the area and I don’t think agriculture will do well there.

    adelady: That’s, uh, interesting, in the worst meaning of the word.

  86. deconvoluter:

    re: #40: Walt Rainboth

    A specific refutation of the new version of the differencing fallacy was quoted by Stoat,


    As for the refutation of the earlier version, Foster et al.(linked by Gavin), is extremely thorough; even so, there are some additional ‘tricks’ revealed


    My simplistic comment: For small intervals of time differencing is approximately the same as differentiation. Start with a long term warming signal for the temperature T given by :

    T = at +b = trend

    where t is the time. The trouble is that this shows global warming. Now differentiate it :

    dT/dt = a = constant.

    Hiding a constant is much easier than hiding a trend.

    A signal processor will describe this process as filtering out the long term variability. Mike Kelly however, who has contributed to RC (below the line) described this simple discussion as an ‘arcane statistical argument’. He also seemed to be upset that this paper was criticised in some emails.

  87. M Tucker:

    MARodgers @75

    I’m sorry that my comments seem to have provoked so much opposition. You seem to want to dismiss the work done by the USGS on the mid-Pliocene warming and wish to maintain that work done on the mid-Miocene is more extensive and better documented and was the last time CO2 was at 400 ppmv or above. Perhaps you had some hand in that work and I have trampled on your professional turf. That is fine by me.

  88. Geoff Wexler:

    Albedo indicators. Measured and or calculated.

    Are there any good graphs for
    (a) The Arctic summer albedo vs month and year.
    (b) Ditto for the globe as a whole ?

  89. MARodger:

    M Tucker @87
    I am no longer surprised by your comments here. You seem to imply that this USGS work has some exclusive right to pronounce on mid-Pliocene CO2 levels. You seem to suggest that I am unsettled by this “CO2 was at 400ppm 3 million years ago” statement of yours. You are wrong, badly wrong. I am unsettled by your inability to back you assertions with any useful evidence. I have grown immune to your “That is fine by me” parting lines. As I pointed out @75, you fail to provide explanation for your assertions. I give you the opportunity. Indeed I welcome such an eventuality. But all I witness is the fall of badly aimed brickbats.
    Must do better!!

  90. MARodger:

    Geoff Wexler @88
    Flanner et al have some Arctic albedo graphs in their presentation PDF here.

  91. Bruce Tabor:

    Hi Rasmus,

    I’m an R user and I greatly appreciate you provciding the R code for your illustrations. However I usually can’t get your routines to run “out-of-the-box”, so I thought you’d appreciate some feedback.

    Firstly, the package jpeg must be installed to run your function. Most readers will not be aware of this and . Secondly, once installed the function produces the error:
    “JPEG decompression: Corrupt JPEG data: bad Huffman codeError in readJPEG(“raffinery.jpg”) :
    JPEG decompression error: Bogus Huffman table definition”
    Furthermore, the downloaded jpg is not readable by any software I tried.

    Additional problems:
    There is no function, so running the function a 2nd time produces problems.
    Most people will not have the ghostscript program gswin32c.exe required for the dev2bitmap() function.
    1958 is repeated when presumably 2012 is meant on the RHS

    As a comment, although it looks good your attempt to avoid space outside the backround pacture (and so have internal axes) makes R code complex for the inexperienced.

    This minimalist code seems to work if intrerested readers simply download R from CRAN ( and run one commandat a time. It will produce CO2.png with meaningful axes.


    Mauna.Loa <- read.table(url,

    co2.ppm <- Mauna.Loa$interp
    Year <- Mauna.Loa$yymm


    plot(Year, co2.ppm,
    main = "CO2 concentrations (Mauna Loa)",
    type = "l")

  92. Hugh:

    I set up a dashboard on netvibes which has a number of climate feeds including arctic ice, hurricanes, blogs, PPM, Temp etc. Doing the same for some companies.
    You can see an image of it here. Always amending so if anyone has any ideas let me know.

    Might be able to make it public if people are interested.

  93. M Tucker:

    MARodger @89

    I don’t need to defend others work. I am free to be convinced by their work as you are. If you don’t like their work why should I care? So, of course, I am fine with that. You are obviously convinced by work done on the mid-Miocene while you reject the interpretations by the PRISM members and that is fine. I do not argue that that CO2 was not about 400 ppmv during the mid-Miocene. It very well may have been. I was simply pointing out that some very hard working members of a team that has been investigating the mid-Pliocene for something like 30+ years now think that CO2 was about 400 ppmv at that time. If it turns out that after more research and interpretation the PRISM team members and collaborators decide CO2 was less than 400 ppmv I am also fine with that. For me it means that we are guaranteed 2 to 3 degrees of warming without adding any more CO2 to the system. Since civilization will only add more, it confirms that the 2 degree limit negotiators cling to is nothing more than bureaucratic bunk.

    As for you thinking that I am trying to insult you or your intelligence, that is not it at all. I get it. You reject the 400 or 405 ppmv number for the mid-Pliocene. Why should I care? The PRISM work will continue and it will continue to be used to verify climate models regardless of what you or I think. I do not pretend to know more than those who have devoted their lives to science I simply follow their work.

  94. Scottar:

    This whole AGW debacle was mostly contrived by Jim Hansens claim that there was a tipping point based on his studies of the Venus atmosphere. What he neglected to note is that it’s the density and not the gas (The atmospheric pressure on Venus is 92X greater than earth’s) that is the main factor of the planets hotness along with it’s early development period. It does not have water to moderate temps either plus the thick clouds also help to trap heat.

    I read again and again how Gist’s NASSA and other ‘official’ science organization have thrown a curve ball in the data to exaggerate the warming claim and effects. They try to hide the studies that show the medieval period was world wide and hotter then the alleged ‘unprecedented’ period. It just a contrived sales gimmick to grab more grant money to continue the contrived, pseudo science continuous touted by bureaucrats and the like.

    What is becoming more apparent is it cycles and not human accelerated climate change:

    Mr. Tomes worked in computer modeling applications through which he gained an interest in interdisciplinary cycles. He found cycles in the New Zealand and realized that these were almost exact fractions of 35.6 years as well as other cycles also that relate to this figure. He went on to discover that his work yielded similar findings to what was already established by famed cycles researcher, Edward R. Dewey then he furthered these studies in his original work…

    As the ice core samples suggested, CO2 follows temps.

  95. Hank Roberts: ?

  96. Steve Fish:

    Re- Comment by Scottar — 9 Sep 2012 @ 8:54 PM:

    I don’t think that you cite any science at all to support your assertions? Surprise me.


  97. David B. Benson:

    Moderators — Does not Scottar’s comment #94 belong more properly in The Bore Hole?

  98. JohnLopresti:

    For some reason, the graphic at the top of the post, “CO2 Concentrations (Mauna Loa)”, and its begin-date “1958” reminded me of something unscientific which might illustrate the chart’s evident message about refinery-allied pollution: namely, trout fishing near any urban area pretty much ended in 1958, at least the quality variety, native fish, clean water that is cold and oxygenated, healthy tree overstory/canopy.

    I would want the graph to begin before 1958. There was good trout fishing in 1951, but you had to go far from an urban area, even then.

    I also note, there is no hockey stick in the graph, and the ascending line resembles an old fashioned coiled telephone cord. I suppose, if the chart began at the year 1900, the graph would show a hockey stick shape; and the smart trout clearly would have occurred in the early fifties way up the handle.

    I have read anadromous fish population studies…and even worked a decade in their habitat restoration…but, little about that formerly ubiquitous natural trout.

    Thanx for the GE, biology, statistics, and other supplemental inputs from the comment thread; I agree Hank’s soils questions appear substantive and germane.

  99. MARodger:

    Scottar @94
    I would agree with @96 who recommends the borehole for you.

    Yet you are here and not boreholed. So can we clear up the mess you present?

    For your first two substative points, you provide no reference. They remain just your own wild assertions. Could you rectify this by making such a provision for:-
    (1a) AGW is “contrived” mostly using studies of the atmosphere of Venus.
    (1b) These studies are flawed.
    (2a) The medieval period was worldwide and hotter.
    (2b) Attempts have been made by NASA GISS & others to hide the studies that show this. (Note however that the studies “that show this” will be the more useful and amusing start.)

    Your third substantive point, that climate change is accelerated by “cycles and not humans,” appears to be referenced but the link (and the cut & paste quote) do not mention that this application of cyclology in any way applies to “accelerated climate change“. Could you thus provide a reference that is fit for purpose to support your third substative and wild assetion.

    You final substantive point is presented in a most confused way which requires significant clarification.
    (a) Do the ice core samples you talk of no longer suggest the CO2/temps relationship you assert?
    (b) You provide a link to a thesis that begins with a similar assertion to the one you yourself make. Is this your intention?
    (c.) If your answer at (b) is affirmative, does your assertion rest solely on the unsupported statement of this Tomes and if not what evidence do you present to support essentially what remains a repeated wild assertion?
    (d) If your answer at (b) is negative, are you then using the conclusions of the thesis you linked to as supporting the substance of your assertion, where Major Tomes says “It seems, ground control, that, contrary to popular wisdom, temperature changes are driving atmospheric CO2 content changes, with a lag time of 6 months.“? This you will agree is entirely different to the 800 year lag mentioned by Tomes at the start of his thesis and (in whatever way it may be interpreted) it remains unreconciled with any ice core data.
    (e) If your answer at (d) is affirmative, can you clarify that your assertion applies to the relationship between ‘Rate of change of atmospheric CO2‘ and ‘global average surface temperature‘ and not (as could be erroneously interpreted from the words used by Major Tomes) that the actual level of atmospheric CO2 is driven by temperature, a fallacy that occasionally presents itself but which is obviously wholly different from the findings of Tomes.

    In short can you demonstrate you are not worthy of the borehole. Can you respond to the call “Must do better!!“?
    (If you cannot, will not be the first occurrence on this thread.)

  100. Brian Dodge:

    @ JohnLopresti — 9 Sep 2012 @ 10:39 PM

    CO2 hockey stick –

    @ Scottar — 9 Sep 2012 @ 8:54 PM
    If it was warmer in the MWP, and “…CO2 follows temps…” why is there no bump in the CO2 hockey stick graph referenced above?

  101. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company:

    The Mauna Loa data is the only clear data. Everything else is embroiled in some degree of likely, probably, maybe. But Mauna Loa continues on without pause.

    There is room for disagreement as to what might reasonably be done, but Mauna Loa says not much has happened.

    I maintain that there are some kinds of solutions that will not sell, for substantial if not sufficient reasons. At this point it might be advisable to think about other approaches to reduce CO2, and even to think about impact mitigating steps.

    Back to water and trees and agriculture, I say.

  102. dhogaza:


    “He found cycles in the New Zealand”

    Bicycles or unicycles?

  103. Kevin McKinney:

    #94, Scottar–

    “This whole AGW debacle was mostly contrived by Jim Hansens claim that there was a tipping point based on his studies of the Venus atmosphere.”

    Umm, no, it wasn’t. For some very brief background, you might try this:

    And the research background goes back to the early 19th century.

  104. Brian Dodge:

    “Canada might become grand for growing corn and wheat – as long as you truck in the topsoil from Nebraska.” Jim Larsen

    “The cultural phases and traditions within this period developed between 6,000 B.C. and A.D. 1, the earliest cultural evidence in the Manitoba region dating from 3,500 B.C. The relatively late Archaic settlement in the Province may be due to drought conditions across the Plains.”
    “As elsewhere, the Archaic Period is marked in Manitoba by changes in climate, vegetation, food resources, and human activity. The climate was warmer and drier than Palaeo conditions. The last of the ice sheets melted and Lake Agassiz disappeared. Relieved from the pressures of ice and water, the land continued to rise and tilt, and Manitoba’s current lake and river system took shape. Periodic occurrences of drought reduced water supplies, creating desert conditions in the central part of the province and expanding the bison grazing areas to the north and east. Modern bison (Bison bison) replaced the long horned Bison antiquus, probably because of the ability of the smaller animals to survive dry periods.”

    When we return to the climate of 4-6,000 years ago, topsoil isn’t the only thing we’ll need to truck in to grow corn in Canada. Maybe we can build a kilometer high dam around Greenland, use the runoff to generate electricity to pump some of the water to the center of the Canada and the US. I wonder if it would generate more power from runoff than it would consume in pumping irrigation. California moves about 50km^3 per year for irrigation and municipal water supplies – its State Water Project represents about 10% of the total, generates about 6,500 GWh and consumes about 5,100GWh

  105. Kevin McKinney:

    #104–and preceding–“Canada might be grand for growing corn and wheat…”

    Actually, it already is. For wheat particularly, it’s one of the world’s biggest exporters–#3 a year or so back, behind the US and France, and the biggest exporter of ‘hard wheat.’

    Of course, the bigger point is still valid–the parts of Canada that have topsoil (and not Canadian Shield, which is mostly archaic glaciated rock) are already making good use of it. Thawing permafrost won’t provide much more, I’m afraid.

  106. dbostrom:

    When we return to the climate of 4-6,000 years ago, topsoil isn’t the only thing we’ll need to truck in to grow corn in Canada.

    Unicorns, to haul plows for breaking magic sod.

  107. Scottar:

    Kevin McKinney says:
    10 Sep 2012 at 12:34 PM

    #94, Scottar–

    “This whole AGW debacle was mostly contrived by Jim Hansens claim that there was a tipping point based on his studies of the Venus atmosphere.”

    Umm, no, it wasn’t. For some very brief background, you might try this:

    And the research background goes back to the early 19th century.

    Well it’s obvious what I was referring to:

    2] James E. Hansen said that this tipping point had already been reached in April 2008 when the CO2 level was 385 ppm. (Hansen states 350 ppm as the upper limit.) “Further global warming of 1°C defines a critical threshold.

    And for history, here’s a better site:

    Hosta Winnebago.

  108. Brian Dodge:

    “This whole AGW debacle was mostly contrived by Jim Hansens claim that there was a tipping point…”

    I wonder how Hansen contrived the Arctic sea ice dynamics to change on cue in 2009. Is he a modern Merlin, who waves a wand, and “makes his own (unRepublican) reality”? More powerful than a speeding Rove, able to leap large Limbaughs in a single bound.

  109. Hank Roberts:

    >> Scottar:
    >> “He found cycles in the New Zealand”

    > Bicycles or unicycles?