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Climate indices to watch

Filed under: — rasmus @ August 31st, 2012

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 Responses to “Climate indices to watch”

  1. 101

    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.

  2. 102
    dhogaza says:

    Scottar:

    “He found cycles in the New Zealand”

    Bicycles or unicycles?

  3. 103

    #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:

    http://doc-snow.hubpages.com/hub/Global-Warming-Science-A-Thumbnail-History

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

  4. 104
    Brian Dodge says:

    “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.”
    http://www.umanitoba.ca/faculties/arts/anthropology/manarchnet/chronology/archaic/

    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

  5. 105

    #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.

  6. 106
    dbostrom says:

    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.

  7. 107
    Scottar says:

    103
    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:

    http://doc-snow.hubpages.com/hub/Global-Warming-Science-A-Thumbnail-History

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

    Well it’s obvious what I was referring to:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tipping_point_%28climatology%29

    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:

    n.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_global_warming

    Hosta Winnebago.

  8. 108
    Brian Dodge says:

    “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.

  9. 109
    Hank Roberts says:

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

    > Bicycles or unicycles?

    Epicycles.


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