Unforced Varations: Aug 2012

Once more with feeling…

571 comments on this post.
  1. dbostrom:

    Susan: you said a mouthful!

    Horrible, but somebody had to get it over with. :-)

  2. Susan Anderson:

    NYTimes reporting on tar sands, bitumin, dilbit, pipelines, and detection:

    [tar sands] core ingredient — bitumen — is not pumped from wells but is strip-mined or boiled loose underground.

    Industry insiders long considered bitumen to be a “garbage” crude. But now that the light, sweet oil we covet has become more scarce and its price has skyrocketed, bitumen has become worth the trouble to recover. At room temperature, bitumen has the consistency of peanut butter, thick enough to hold in your hands. To get it through pipelines, liquid chemicals must be added to thin it into what’s known as dilbit, short for diluted bitumen.

    Last month, the National Transportation Safety Board issued a report that was harshly critical of the federal government’s regulation and oversight of pipeline safety following a spill of more than one million gallons of dilbit into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan in 2010. The accident underscored not only how different dilbit is from conventional oil, but how unprepared we are for the impending flood of imports.

    After the dilbit gushed into the river, it began separating into its constituent parts. The heavy bitumen sank to the river bottom, leaving a mess that is still being cleaned up. Meanwhile, the chemical additives evaporated, creating a foul smell that lingered for days. People reported headaches, dizziness and nausea. No one could say with certainty what they should do. Federal officials at the scene didn’t know until weeks later that the pipeline was carrying dilbit, because federal law doesn’t require pipeline operators to reveal that information.

    The 2010 spill could have been worse if it had reached Lake Michigan, as authorities originally feared it might. Lake Michigan supplies drinking water to more than 12 million people….

    This close call hasn’t deterred the energy industry from announcing plans to build or repurpose more than 10,000 miles of pipelines to carry dilbit to the United States and global markets. That includes the controversial Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL pipeline….

    The nation’s pipeline network was designed to handle conventional crude oil and is governed by laws and regulations that were written long before the unique risks and hazards associated with dilbit began to emerge. In fact, dilbit is exempt from an excise tax that pays for oil spill cleanups, because the 1980 law that created the tax did not consider bitumen from the “tar sands” to be crude oil….

    Enbridge discovered defects in the area where the pipeline eventually ruptured as early as 2005, and reported them to regulators. Yet the company was able to delay making repairs without breaking any rules….

    Sensors triggered 16 alarms but operators continued to pump dilbit into the line, believing the problem was an air bubble, until someone in Michigan saw oil on the ground and called Enbridge’s emergency line.

    The leak-detection problem is industry-wide…

    The N.T.S.B. chairwoman likened Enbridge employees to Keystone Kops in their handling of the Michigan dilbit disaster. It is a label that could come to apply to the rest of us if we don’t guard against future catastrophe.

    And though I don’t hope to see this, the effort is laudable:

    … asking Congress to serve tap water instead of bottled water at the presidential inauguration…. tap water is a penny a gallon, while bottled water costs 100 times more. Bottled water opponents say that in addition to the waste created by disposable bottles, trucking in bottled water also creates pollution….

  3. Jim Larsen:

    [edit – OT]

  4. MARodger:

    [edit – OT]

  5. Lazarus:

    Not really the response I was looking for Jim. I’m planning a rebuttal of the denier post. I know the post is wrong, very wrong, as it suggests pine needles are used for temp reconstructions. But the question remains, how much does the length of pine needles affect tree ring growth through photosynthesis?

    [Response:When I sense that someone has no idea what they’re talking about and is blowing smoke–like that person clearly is–I spend not a second further trying to figure them out. Are you asking about the physical length of the needles or the length of time they are retained on the tree? Either way, the answer is “insignificantly”. The important variables are total leaf area (and how same is displayed on the tree) and photosynthesis and respiration rates as a function of temperature. There are needles of widely varying length and shape, between different species, within individual species, and even within individual trees (e.g. large differences between sun and shade leaves). The more specific your question, the better I’ll be able to address it. See also the response to flxible–Jim]

  6. flxible:

    Lazarus – From agriculture and orcharding experience I can’t give the answers Jim might, but I’ll point out that the foliage [evergreen or deciduous] feeds the roots via photosynthesis and the roots then uptake the available nutrients to grow the tree – the adaptation of being ‘ever-green’ I believe is thought to be a response to nutrient availability, dropping leaves “wastes” potentially scarce nutrients. The temperature extant when the needles first grew is irrelevant to subsequent tree growth, which is controlled by the ongoing annual temp/light/nutrient/moisture availability cycles . . . and I believe you’ll find individual pine needles actually live anywhere from 1 year up to 40 years or more, some possibly the entire life of the tree. Check Wikipedia re coniferous/deciduous habits and habitats. The bottom line is that the only way the temperature in the trees first years of life [when many of the needles form] affect it’s lifelong growth [controlled by nutrient uptake] is to determine it’s survival beyond those first few years, which is the foolishness of that denialator.

    [Response:Thanks flxible. Needles do indeed have varying lifespans on different species, and on different individuals within a given species, and on different branches within an individual, as ameliorated by environmental conditions, particularly light. None live anywhere near the lifetime of the tree however, both because they are increasingly shaded out as the branch they are on grows (due to shading by the newer foliage, especially on branches above) and because the thickening of the periderm (outer bark) would gradually engulf a good part of them (hence no needles on branches above a certain diameter typically). When they can no longer produce a positive carbon balance, they are jettisoned. Needles are “formed” throughout the life of the tree, before and during each new year’s shoot elongation from the previous year’s buds, and hence, not primarily early in its life. Evergreen vs deciduous is a more complex question that involves tradeoffs in carbon balance–essentially whether to retain the ability to photosynthesize under marginal conditions or not. Deciduous species have “decided” it’s not worth it, while evergreens have decided it mostly is.–Jim]

  7. Susan Anderson:

    Perhaps this belongs in the communication blog since it mentions Lady Gaga (with illustration) and references the idea of holding phony skeptics accountable, or maybe not.

    Further to Mike Mann’s heroic stance in the face of persecution, some background to the recent UVA shenanigans make it more likely that going after Mann was part of it! Though I would not agree with the title: though the state of education and bullying of same is scary, nothing is scarier than climate change.


    But the sorest subject of all for UVA is climate science. UVA is the former employer of the paleoclimatologist Michael Mann, the lead scientist in the team that produced the so-called “hockey stick” graph of historical temperatures depicting a decisive warming effect starting in the twentieth century… target of the single most vicious fossil fuel-funded personal and professional smear campaign in his endlessly abused field.

    The War on Mann began three years after the hockey stick first appeared as part of what Mann describes in his recent book as the “least scientifically interesting” section of a paper he and two colleagues published in the journal Nature, when Mann was working at UVA and the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change reprinted the graph in its 2001 assessment report. Since then he has been stalked, hacked, spied on by a weird dude who claims to be a CIA veteran and subject to constant formal and informal accusations of scientific misconduct, fraud, treason and so forth. The most recent spate of allegations stems from some deliberately decontextualized comments he made in listserv emails that were hacked from the the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit in the Climategate saga of 2009. Numerous investigations have thoroughly exonerated Mann; all have been pronounced whitewashes and/or coverups by the Denial lobby. In a nod to his current employer Penn State, the Competitive Enterprise Institute recently bestowed upon him a new nickname, the “Jerry Sandusky of climate change.”

    In the weeks before Sullivan’s ouster, the UVA environmental sciences faculty voted to bring Mann back to Thomas Jefferson’s University in a prestigious professorship endowed by vice rector Mark Kington, one of the coup’s main conspirators. Sullivan vociferously endorsed the hire, according to a UVA alumnus active in Charlottesville political ciricles. But it was nixed without explanation by Margaret Woo, the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and a strident supporter of the Sullivan’s ouster.

    At least one professor quit in part over the episode; in his August 15 resignation letter climate scientist Amato Evan referenced an apparent decision by the department to give up “even attempting to make a senior hire in the area of climate change.”

    Further down (please *do* read the whole thing; I’d excerpt more but don’t want to transgress) John Mashey is quoted; this time it’s Wegman and George Mason University (GMU), which is not exclusively anti-science (I read weekly emails from their “good” guys) but provides a solid backing of “science” to industrial interests with intent to mislead. Deepclimate is doing good work, and DeSmogBlog is also outing some of the dirty tricks:


  8. MARodger:

    Well the US NSIDC extent record from 2007 fell with the daily Extent for 24/8/12 dropping 100,000sq km on the pervious day. Past years have seen a further 600-700,000 drop between now and the end of the melt so a final Extent of below 3.5 million would be reasonable … except the rate of melt is exceptional for the time of year. If there it doesn’t let up soon, we may see Extent dropping below 3 million!

    Btu while we wait to witness the startling end to this year’s Arctic melt season, coincidently it appears the planet Wattsupia is also having a “less sea ice than any time since systematic measurements began in 1979.” event.

    Luckily for the inhabitants of Wattupia, this is not a problem because reassuringly “The measured reduction of sea ice does not mean the lowest extent ever. There is evidence that in warmer periods over the past 10,000 years the ice virtually disappeared, such as the periods between 8,000 and 5,000 years ago.

    So happliy the melt season on Wattupia doesn’t need headline coverage and only rates a mention in a “Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup,” and then only after more important matters are reported – things like the pronouncements of Mssrs Cohen, Happer & Lindzen, an important finding from Dr John Christy & the investigations of journalist Christopher Booker. And not forgetting the very important climate news from Egypt (It’s the Old Kingdom again. Droughts apparently. Was it frogs last time?)

    Of course they will argue about the exact definition (I’m told that folk can get pretty fractious on Wattsupia), but the experts are hard at work to see whether August 2012 will an “Arctic-Ice-Report-free month,” the first such event in the entire history of Wattsupia.

  9. Patrick 027:

    re my last comment – okay, more tomorrow…

    (In the meantime, I’ve found that US electricity peak demand(s) (I’ll explain that later) tend to be higher in summer than winter; EIA has a list of news postings, one of which actually has a link to monthly natural gas consumption, from which I’ve been able to figure that natural gas consumption by the electric sector (or to produce electricity? – two slightly different things because some electricity generation occurs in the commercial and industrial sectors) has a peak in late summer (July-August, August being a bit higher) of ~ 50 GWe over October-May, which is to a first approx, nearly flat. Aside from what I’d expect to be a springtime hydro peak (??), I can’t think of why natural gas would preferentially be used in summer and not winter for electrical generation(efficiency should be a little higher in winter for heat engine-type plants), so I’m thinking monthly average power consumption in late summer should be ~ 50 GWe higher or more than the October-May period (annual average is ~ 450 GWe net generation all sectors). There is a large winter spike in natural gas consumption outside the electric sector, for heating of course. Some households have electric heat – I think more in those parts of the country where there is less of a heating need; I’m not clear on whether this electric heat is of the heat pump variety (heat engine in reverse) or if it’s just resistance heating – the later would be rather inefficient and it would be better to just burn fuel in that case, other things being equal. Of course there’s extra winter lighting needs.)

  10. Brian Dodge:

    Lazarus – Liebig’s Law of the minimum. Whatever is the limiting factor for growth dominates. If it’s too cool for maximum photosynthesis, more needles won’t help. If the temperature is right, and the nutrients are right, but there’s no water, you get a desert – not more, or fewer, needles. The “trick” is finding trees which have enough water, & fertilizer, and light, but the temperature is the limiting factor – typically trees growing near their northern limit (Yamal Peninsula) or altitude limit (Bristlecone pines), and compare their growth rings/latewood density to known temperatures over a calibration period, so that earlier temperatures can be extrapolated. MBH found a bunch of trees that could be calibrated to other temperature records, and showed that the MWP wasn’t as warm as today (in the ares where their trees grew).

    This has been confirmed by noted(famous? infamous?) denialist skeptic Roy Spencer[1], who pointed out that CO2 outgasses as the ocean warms, amplifying temperature increases through positive feedback. The CO2 record from ice cores[2] shows no blip corresponding to the Medieval allegedlyWarm Period. (Hehe &;>)

    [1] http://wattsupwiththat.com/2008/01/28/spencer-pt2-more-co2-peculiarities-the-c13c12-isotope-ratio/ Fig 4,5
    “Note the strong similarity – the C13 variations very closely follow the C12 variations, which again (as in my previous post) are related to SST variations (e.g. the strong signal during the 1997-98 El Nino event).”

    [2] ftp://ftp.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/paleo/icecore/antarctica/epica_domec/edc-co2-2008.txt

  11. Edward Greisch:

    [edit – Nuclear power is always OT. How many times does this need to be repeated?]

  12. David B. Benson:

    Comments on variousa forms of power sources are welcomed on
    the Brave New Climate Discussion Forum. Further, there are many practicing and retired power (included nuclear) engineers there to help keep the discussion informed.

    All too often Unforced Variations comments desecnd into those solution areas. I say descend because the vast majority of the comments on such matters here are obviously quite, quite naive. On BNCDF one quickly becomes much more informed.

    Can we all please keep Real Climate focused on climate?
    Thank you.

  13. Jim Larsen:

    Lazarus, in general, if you weaken a plant, it will take a while to recover and resume normal growth, but it can’t just be sub-optimal. A blazingly hot summer where the tree almost dies could lead to less growth the next year, but in any case, the tree will adjust. If a tree ends with below-optimal needle density one year, you’d expect it to produce more needles the next year.

    Besides, they look for trees whose lives have been lived in the least data-polluting way, such as on the cool side of their range. This surely is another case of the mountainification of an anthill combined with the Assumption of Expert Ignorance, Idiocy, and evil Intent. And I’m still unclear as to the guy’s point. That tree rings could be “smeared” by 3-10 years changes what, exactly? If it’s 10 years, then 10% of a small effect seems like a tiny smear.

    Typical denier tactics. Take a tiny truth (or opinion), implicitly ramp up its order of magnitude by 3, and viola! A persuasive argument.

    504 MARodger said [OT-no nuclear power discussions]

  14. Ron R.:

    I wonder if Climate Progress has such a forum (or wants one)? There needs to be some balance to the strong bias at BNC for NP. Course that would tend to lead to people talking past each other.

    Perhaps a new site?

  15. Ron R.:

    Lazarus 25 Aug 2012 at 5:15 AM:

    I wasn’t quite getting what the man was claiming. That because needles on some pine trees stay on for a long time that that would lead to increased growth and thus skew the tree ring results?

    Jim can correct me, but i wouldn’t think that it would make a lot of difference if the needles stay on for only a year or for decades, because pretty much the same surface area of these trees would still be covered in needles (providing we are talking about “equivalent” species. Some pines are more densely needled than others). IOW, even if the needles on a pine tree last but a year, being evergreen the ones that fall are soon replaced so that the total amount of time needles are on these pine trees is pretty much equivalent to those where the needles hang on a long time. Thus, short or long, similar amount of carbon buildup among equivalent species.

    If I flubbed something here my apologies.

    [Response:Not a problem. It’s a little more complex than that. Length of leaf (needle) retention is definitely important, and as long as nothing is severely limiting, the longer the better. The shorter the average leaf lifespan, the harder it is to maintain a given leaf area, and the tree wants to minimize leaf turnover because leaves are metabolically expensive to construct. If trees could get by making one set of leaves and maintaining them over their entire lives, they likely would. But they can’t, for a number of reasons, one of which is the increasing shade experienced by older leaves, which is due to the fact that leaves are formed on new shoots, which in turn are concentrated toward the periphery of the tree’s canopy, i.e. at branch ends. So the older your leaves are, the more likely they are to be shaded, which reduces their carbon balance (photosynthetic/respiratory C flux). On species that grow in intense competition with others (i.e. in optimal growth conditions) this problem is exacerbated even more by the shading due to other trees, and leaves may thus live only a few years. But even for species growing on the margins of environmental tolerance (e.g. cold or dry) and thus not strongly affected by competition, there can be variation from species to species in leaf longevity and area, even in species that are very closely related. A good example of this is foxtail and bristlecone pines vs limber and whitebark pines. All four are closely related, with the members of each pair especially so, and live in similar environments with minimal competition (high, cold, windy and dry in the mountains of western N America), but the former two hold their leaves longer than the latter two (thereby giving them their “bottlebrush” or “foxtail” appearance as needles are retained along the branches). So, there are some genetic constraints operating there that confound simple environmentally-based explanations. On your other point, needles are typically only formed once a year, during local spring (with some exceptions as in certain types of insect defoliation, where a second flush can be produced). And any evergreen must, by definition, have leaves that live > 1 year. But you are correct that the tree is generally trying to maximize it’s leaf area, given it’s (strongly heritable) architectural constraints, which include both needle length and branching geometry.–Jim]

  16. Edward Greisch:

    [edit – the reason why nuclear is off-topic is because it never goes anywhere and pushes out other more relevant conversations. It has nothing to do with the substance. As suggested above, those wishing to discuss such topics are welcome at Barry Brooks site. Just not here.]

  17. Brian Dodge:

    I would suggest that those who are interested in nuclear vs renewable pissing contests which derail rational discussion take them to Wattsupwiththat – not that anyone will notice a difference over there. &;>)

    When I scrolled down to reCAPTCHA, it told me “grousey justice”

  18. SecularAnimist:

    David B. Benson wrote:

    Comments on various forms of power sources are welcomed on the Brave New Climate Discussion Forum.

    I would caution readers that Brave New Climate is not a reliable source for accurate and up-to-date information on solar, wind and other renewable energy sources.

    There are a number of sites that focus specifically on the renewable energy industries. I can recommend a few with blogs which allow comments and discussion:

    Joe Romm’s blog http://www.ClimateProgress.org regularly features posts on renewable energy and efficiency by journalist Stephen Lacey and various guest bloggers.

    The Institute For Local Self-Reliance has excellent resources and articles focused on “democratizing the energy system” with wind and solar, and their Energy Self-Reliant States blog reports and analyzes industry, technology and public policy developments enabling “a distributed renewable energy future”:



    The site http://www.CleanTechnica.com has news and analysis of developments in the solar, wind, efficiency, energy storage and electric vehicle industries, as well as other renewable energy and clean transport issues. (CleanTechnica seems to be a particularly good source for news on developments in battery and other energy storage technologies.)

    In addition to the above, the industry trade groups, the Solar Energy Industries Association (www.seia.org) and the American Wind Energy Association (www.awea.org) have a lot of good reference information, and news and analysis on developments in their industries.

    Last but not least, I recommend that anyone interested in renewable energy, efficiency, smart grid, electric vehicle and related technologies frequent the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory site at http://www.nrel.gov. Just for one example, check out this current article on microgrids:


    [Response:That’s helpful, thanks Animist.–Jim]

  19. Ron R.:

    Thanks for the reply Jim. I hadn’t really considered it before yesterday but I’m wondering about the actually longevity of pine needles? Most places mention up to three years. A few up to 40 or even 70 years. I’d think by then the needles would be in bad shape from the elements.

    We have “digger” pines. I was wondering about determining the age of the tree from the needles. You’d think that if needles are hanging on for decades there should be some sort of growth pattern. I just looked at a needle close up. Quite interesting.

    [Response:I would say that something like two to twenty years would encompass most of the range of needle longevity in most species but don’t have definitive info. You are right–the longer they live, the more likely they are to be damaged, especially at elevation, from sand and ice blasting. Indeed this is one big reason to shed them, because the loss of the waxy cuticle in such situations can lead to major water loss. You can’t determine the tree age from the needles, but you can approximate the needle age from the tree. One way is as described in those references you give–by looking at the “trace” of the needle, that is the callous tissue that forms perpendicular to the rings after a needle dies. But you need a perfectly located cross section of the stem to catch that. A much easier way on live trees is to simply count the branch whorls back to the point where there are still needles, on branch ends. Pines and other conifers produce branches in whorls, with each whorl marking one year. From my observations on digger pine (Pinus sabiniana) the needles live no more than a 3-4 years at most. This is actually a little surprising to me, given how open the canopy is on those trees (e.g. here), being the very unusual and atypical pine that it is, having poor apical dominance and therefore no straight central stem like most conifers. And the branch whorling is also very incomplete and hard to identify after a few years. –Jim]

    Anyway, some more info:


    Great pictures of a Scot’s pine close up.

    [Response:Yes those are good pictures. Two highly helpful information sources to be aware of, in general, are here and here.

  20. David B. Benson:

    Following on SecularAnimist’s comment @518, I disagree about the accuracy of information regarding alternative energy sources on Barry Brook’s Brave New Climate and the associated Discussion Forum. Those posting there certainly have access to the resources mentioned @518 and make use of them.

    The different focus @ BNC is partly Australia’s pecular problems but also the fact that there are several power engineers (some retired now) who comment there. As practicing engineers their focus is on solutions which actually work and for (nearly) minimal cost. I find that to be a useful perspective on a problem shared world-wide.

  21. sidd:

    Re: energy sites

    Recommend Mr. Guillet’s Wind energy site at the european tribune:


    See especially the discussion of the merit order effect, and the careful dissection of the cost, price and value of wind energy.


  22. Jim Larsen:

    518 Secular, thanks.

    520 David B said, “As practicing engineers their focus is on solutions which actually work and for (nearly) minimal cost.”

    Never been there (will try it, thanks). I’d expect an engineer to tend towards defining cost as dollars spent specifically by the interested party. Here, the definition tends more towards “arctic sea ice melt et al”, and dollars, though important, are secondary to an externality valued at $100000000000000000000000000, give or take.

    So, depending on the things you want to learn at that moment, choosing either experience is defensible as “better”.

    The most important lesson to learn is to follow the rules of the site you’re on.

  23. Unsettled Scientist:

    Jim replied > Not a problem. It’s a little more complex than that.

    I really appreciate these kinds of posts in the comments. I feel more attuned to nature after reading that reply, and will probably look at trees a little differently now. Thanks.

    [Response:Very glad to hear it. Trees record more information about their growth environment than any other terrestrial life form, and do so in a number of completely different ways (e.g. ring patterns, stem and branch architecture, leaf size and shape, pollen abundance etc). You can learn an enormous amount about local environmental history if you know what to look for. Not to mention their ecological importance and general impressiveness of course–Jim]

  24. Patrick 027:

    … there is a winter peak in coal electricity. Why coal and not so much nat gas, I wonder. Anyway… (more tomorrow) (haven’t had much time lately).

  25. Patrick 027:

    see also http://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/monthly/pdf/sec7_4.pdf

  26. Ron R.:

    Thanks for the links jim, I’ve bookmarked them.

    There is something else that some digger (digger generally being considered an undesirable name) pines do (maybe all?) which I wonder if you’ve heard of. There are two favorite specimens across from each other along a trail at a lake I like to hike at. These trees “rain” tiny droplets of water down upon passersby. Of course all trees respire but these ones do it in this intriguing way. You can actually see hundreds of tiny droplets descending like rain if you stand below them and there is a dark background to contrast the sunlit droplets by (such as forest) and feel them on your skin. I enjoy standing beneath them.

    I call them “rain trees”. They are not far from a source of water, a seasonal river of sorts that runs to the lake (which river in the wet season becomes a southern extension of the lake) and seem to do it during those times that water is present (though I’ve not documented anything). I was there today and the did not see any rain, the river being dry.

    [Response:Interesting, not sure what’s going on there (and you mean transpiration, not respiration), never observed that. And yes, gray or foothill pine is the more accepted name these days.–Jim]

  27. Edward Greisch:

    To whoever is moderating: Look again at the list I sent you. I never mention nuclear except in reply to the wind and solar crowd. And some of their comments are “inappropriate.” It appears that they know when the moderatorship is going to change, and I don’t. It is a matter of fairness.

    I see that you have allowed the discussion of wind and solar to continue, as in 518. Are you sticking to climate science or not?

    [Response:I agree that if we’re going to prohibit discussions of nuclear, we should prohibit all discussions of energy production, in fairness. As for moderation, it’s completely random–we don’t even know ourselves, so nobody else does either. If you would like to give a set of links where information and/or discussions of nuclear power occur, please go ahead, that would be helpful.–Jim]

  28. David B. Benson:

    Locally the willow-leafed cottonwoods, always in association with a river or even seasonal creek, are filled with aphids. The aphids suck enough sap that some comes out of a rear orifice, falling in a gentle mist. It is always cooler under the cottonwoods due to the evaporation of the mist.

  29. Jim Larsen:

    Edward, as others have pointed out, the web is vast. Sites develop a personality based on the moderators, the regulars, and the rules. Here, the moderators have noticed that of the myriad sources of energy production possible, only one creates the chaos which engulfed this thread. It started out with a couple of folks, including me, trying to engage the subject lightly to add some robustness to the discussion. The moderators indulged our behaviour, a mistake(?) they probably won’t repeat.

    I disagree that banning all discussion of solutions to climate change is the answer. They should be limited, but that’s easily done. When the Mods suggest changes in conversation direction, people generally follow suit.

    Frankly, I’d be happy if the “N” word were put in the spam filter. (Of course, there’s Bush Jr’s workaround for that)

  30. Ron R.:

    David B. Benson at 4:19 PM.


    Well that would be something! Standing under an aphid storm. While I’m ruling nothing out I doubt that these are aphids. The reason why is because I’ve seen aphid ridden trees plenty of times. They are always easy to spot because of the black soot and the ants that milk them. The honeydew gets dirty or moldy and turns black caking the leaves.

    I’ve seen no aphids or inordinate numbers of ants on these trees (though I haven’t looked terribly closely). If it were aphids these trees put out so much mist that I’d think there’d have to be a lot of them. But to my eye they look healthy and clean. They are young trees, maybe 20 feet high. If RC had a way to download pictures I would, though again the mist has stopped at the moment. I’ve noticed it for years now.

    Again, I’m not ruling out your thought, it’s a logical suggestion. I’ll have to go back and have another look.

  31. Ron R.:

    Jim, thanks for the correction.

    Another name is the Ghost Pine. Four different names for the same tree. Be nice if they could decide on one.

    [Response:They did: Pinus sabiniana. Or rather, David Douglas did, long ago.–Jim]

  32. Ron R.:

    “If RC had a way to download pictures I would,

    Sorry, I meant upload pictures.

    Perhaps a bit too much vintage 2010.

    Captcha completely unintelligible.

  33. Ron R.:

    [Response:They did: Pinus sabiniana. Or rather, David Douglas did, long ago.–Jim]

    LOL. Right. I meant a common name, in english. (I know the popular names can vary widely :-) ), e.g.: in my area valley oaks are always called valley oaks.

    Never mind. I’m babbling.

  34. Patrick 027:

    (I’m not sure if my last comment was deleted due to content or to lack thereof (it was just a ‘more later’ message), and I know I’m pushing it here, but I had left some loose ends that I’ve been meaning to tie up for days but couldn’t get to it. I did trim it back. No real boosterism here (or anything that would trigger endless argument with no progress), just dry discourse. Also, weather and climate affect seasonality of energy usage and availability. And I overlooked something obvious in explaining why som… well here’s the comment:)

    Re 494 David B. Benson – Thanks.

    Re 486 Hank Roberts – interesting to compare land areas used; also, droughts (can’t take up the space to explain what I mean).

    Re my 509, 524, 525 – I answered my own question; heating demands pull nat gas away from electricity generation in winter.
    Peak demand will of course be higher than monthly average or even average daily peak; http://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/annual/?ref=bookshelf gives U.S. noncoincident peak demand in summer and winter (it is a little higher in summer than winter – http://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/annual/pdf/sec8_46.pdf), which is the sum of peak demands of various parts of the grid (see map); the actual peak demand for the whole nation will thus tend to be smaller (how much smaller?).

    It doesn’t seem like hydroelectric power has a strong seasonal cycle, which suggests to me that the capacity factor does reflect a usage as dispatchable energy rather than baseload or simply production according to river flow, at least for reservoirs of sufficient size (reservoir size of course limits the ability to vary output over longer time periods). But I haven’t really gotten far into the data (see next paragraph).

    re my 495 (monthly nat.gas usage) (you can get data from CSV links)
    and much more here
    (unfortunately the spreadsheets in the monthly data here don’t seem to open; but the CSV data seems to have monthly data for all years given) (I haven’t gone through it yet, and I guess I’ll have to keep it to myself now)(PS having pasted these into spreadsheets, I’ll use “vlookup” to construct something more readable. Caution with solar power seasonality especially – if there’s a seasonal cycle in installation (?), that could have a significant effect on the data. I think you’ll need to look at the pdfs to provide context (the various lettered footnotes, etc.))

    (space heating): http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=7690#
    (more space heating): http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=3690
    (storage): http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=6910

    Could desalinated, pumped water be stored by pumping it down a well into an an aquifer? Could fuels be pumped into existing wells, etc.? (But don’t pump hydrogen into oil wells. You’ll clog the whole thing with trans-fats and the next thing ya’know, Old Faithful’s going in for triple bypass surgery. :) )

    Re 485 wili, and Jim Larsen – a climate vs. weather issue – weather perhaps best managed first by changes in automated processes; use climate for residential electricity pricing schedule (time of day, time of year)?

    Re my 464,472 – parts that I didn’t get to (the all wind case, the all solar case – data – won’t describe it here). Rube Goldberg devices usually run in serial more than parallel, don’t they? (see http://bravenewclimate.com/2011/10/29/gws-sg-es/ , near the end). (and agreeing w/ Hank Roberts @ 486 “trusting the strength of that single thread“) If you’re going to have 100s+ sources, why a problem that they are not identical? Technodiversity as a general strategy (like biodiversity)… Of course the best solutions will depend on regional conditions (via resource and demand patterns); low latitudes different than high latitudes, etc.

    Re 477 dbostrom – thanks.

    Re 471 Brian Dodge – thanks.

    Re Jim Larsen 467, … – thanks.

    Re 512 David B. Benson – thanks, and I’m done here with that.

  35. Hank Roberts:

    > pumped water be stored by pumping it down a well into an an aquifer?

    That’s done routinely, lots of places.

  36. David B. Benson:

    I have a hockeystick question (which only arises due to an ongoing internet exchange with someone in seriously deep denial). The hockeystick shows a slow decline followed by a rapid rise (in northern hemisphere temperature reconstruction). When [preferably within a decade or so] was the inflection point, that is, the transition from the decline to the rise?

    [Response:Which reconstruction? There are many of them and they are all different, depending on the data and methods used, which vary widely. Very few of them show any constant decline before the increase of the 20th century, and in the 20th century it’s not been a continual increase.–Jim]

  37. Hank Roberts:

    > When [preferably within a decade or so] was the inflection point ….?

    For a small signal in noise, ten years may not be adequate for detecting a trend (and it takes more information to detect a trend in either direction than in only one direction) — there may be no “inflection point” because of the noise level

    (ReCaptcha says: was cooldria
    perhaps you should look for a change in humidity as well as temperature :-)

  38. David B. Benson:

    Hank Roberts @537 — An estimate spanning 50-75 years is acceptable.

  39. Ron R.:

    Question: As a general rule can it be said that an early leaf drop from deciduous trees is indicative of a coming cold winter whereas a late leaf drop would indicate a coming warm one? Or is this too simplistic?

    P.S. I haven’t got to the lake yet to check on those pine trees. Will try to do so before the week is out.

  40. MARodger:

    David B. Benson @538
    If you examine the IPCC AR4 temperature reconstructions kindly linked by Jim @Response@536 you will see that the classical ‘hockeystick’ has increased in number since 2001 and also been joined by some ‘droopy’ versions showing major dips in NH temperature over past centuries. The majority of these reconstructions still plot out a strong ‘hockeystick’ shape (abet with a zig-zag blade due to the mid-century cooling).

    [Response:Not just “dips” but also rapid increases, and overall, the estimates of rapid and strong variation on scales of decades to centuries has increased in studies over the last decade. At some point you have to ask what exactly constitutes a “hockey stick” shape. That phrase implies two periods, each of (relatively) constant rate, which diverge suddenly, and many reconstructions show this not to be the case. See Frank et al. here for discussion–Jim]

    However, referring to the classical ‘hockeystick’, your ‘inflection point’ can thus be allocated the date March 1911. (As I recall it was a Tuesday, possibly the day Rutherford first split the atom or something.) As any attribution of a particular single event to the cause of this perceived ‘inflection point’ is ridiculous in the extreme, it is probably best (as suggested @537) to consider a broader period within which NH temperatures turned from a slow long term gradual decline to what is becoming evidently an unprecidentedly sharp rise. Such a period could be considered as the years 1880 & 1930.

  41. Hank Roberts:

    David, I dunno how you can find such precision — it’s spaghetti:

  42. Hank Roberts:

    M. Owen at Neven’s Arctic sea ice blog just posted this:
    worried microbiologists

  43. flxible:

    RonR@539 – Timing of deciduous leaf drop is an indicator of the near past [temperatures and precipitation], not of the immediate future, regardless of ‘farmers tales’.

  44. Mal Adapted:

    Timing of leaf abscission in some plants is at least partially a function of daylength, and is less responsive to weather than in others. I can’t locate a reference at the moment, unfortunately.

  45. David B. Benson:

    MARodger @540 & Hank Roberts @541 — Thank you.

  46. Jim Larsen:

    534 patrick said, ” and I know I’m pushing it here,”

    Knowing when you are pseudo-breaking the rules and adjusting your behaviour based on that knowledge is the key to productive blogging/commenting.

  47. David B. Benson:

    One way to resolve my question @536 is from
    Which states
    Little Ice Age

    The period of time that led to expansion of valley and cirque glaciers world-wide, with their maximum extents being attained in about 1700-1850 AD in many temperate regions, and around 1900 in Arctic regions.

    With this I’ll have to be satisfied with the two century long interval from 1700-1900 CE.

  48. MARodger:

    Jim @540 Response.
    Thanks for the link. I learn of Groveman & Landesberg 1979 & shall have a bit of fun sticking it on a graph to see how their reconstruction compares with the newer better known ones.

  49. dbostrom:

    Train wreck in slow motion.

    Having recently condemned James Hansen and a vague, unspecified cloud of other offenders for exaggerating the situation with regard to climate change, Cliff Mass is now following a very curious path.

    Cliff has mentioned a few times his suspicions about thermometer siting w/regard to synoptic assessments of weather. Followers of his popular Pacific NW weather blog are probably familiar with this.

    Now Mass is extrapolating his personal concerns to include something much more significant. In a recent blog post SeaTac Heat Cliff uses the example of Seattle Tacoma International Airport’s temperature record to hypothesize about systematic failure of national climatic records and conclusions we might draw from the trends those indicate.

    Sound familiar? Depressingly so, and even more depressing is what Cliff has to say in the comments on his blog:

    …I think very highly of Watt’s surface station work…he has revealed how problematic many (most) of our surface stations are, as well as the poor QC work done by NCDC over the years. A national embarrassment, really…


    …Watts work is quite compelling and he has made an important contribution with his web site: surfacestations.org. We have problems with urbanization, poor temperature sensor locations, and problematic quality control.

    Suggestions to check the literature on this topic go unanswered and unpublished.

    What’s the deal with this guy? And what’s he saying in his public presentations on climate change? Has anybody following RC attended one of those?

  50. Hank Roberts:

    It’s an election year.