Unforced variations: Sep 2012

Open thread – a little late because of the holiday. But everyone can get back to work now!

591 comments on this post.
  1. Russell:

    Can the Group parse this WUWT description of a very strange transient microclimate in the Black Rock Desert :

    “The burning of The Man on Friday night was a rowdy affair, people yelling and screaming, art cars playing loud music. The most amazing part to me was a strange meteorological phenomenon.

    As The Man was burning, the heat downwind was so intense that it set up dust devils. I was forcefully reminded of why the current climate models can’t model the climate. The dust devils were just one of the many ways that the surface cools itself when it gets too hot. They arise spontaneously as needed, for example when the surface is heated by a fire, and they move huge amounts of energy from the surface aloft.

    You can see a few of the dust devils on the right. They arose just to the right of the fire, one after another, and they spun downwind until they dissipated. Clearly, once they were created they could continue to exist despite moving into cooler areas, and thus they were able to cool the surface down to below the temperature needed to initiate their creation. This “overshoot” is nowhere represented in the climate models.”

  2. Unsettled Scientist:

    The Facts Behind th Frack is a great Feature in Science News about hydraulic fracturing, the process of pumping fluid kilometers beneath the surface to cause the bedrock to break and release methane. Very well cited for those who also want to consult the primary literature.

    DOH, I failed the recaptcha, and now it’s telling me that my comment is a duplicate. I hope this gets through noww.

  3. Patrick 027:

    re 95 Karsten V. Johansen – I’ve gone off a bit on a tangent from what you wanted to know. For anyone interested I plan to continue that tangent in another comment(s)… but I don’t know if I’d be of much help with your question. I can only brainstorm suggestions right now:

    Looking at Fig 7.10 (p 186) in “Global Physical Climatology” by Dennis L. Hartmann (1994), SSTs in DJF (Dec-Feb) seem like about 2 or a bit more K warmer around 60 deg N around Brittain-Scandinavia than around western North America – it’s a bit hard to judge on that map though, because the latitude lines are curved and only shown every 30 deg. Fig 7.11 shows the deviation from zonal average, but it’s for July – but it seems like ~ 2 K difference.

    I wonder if wind speed might play a role – http://www.climate-charts.com/World-Climate-Maps.html#wind-speed (there’s a temperature map there too).

    Also, much of Norway has no analogous part in North America, because Alaska juts out to the west toward Siberia (The Kuroshio current’s extension runs south and not north of Alaska) (Fig 7.7 in Hartmann).

    While Seager mentioned mean flow with a southerly component, there will be N-NW winds too and those don’t always need to cross over the bulk of the ocean to get to British Columbia, depending on angle (the part they cross is a corner of the ocean).

    The quasistationary flow pattern is shaped by heat as well as topography – maybe it could have been altered during the Younger Dryas.

    Also, it occurs to me that if it were the case that The Atlantic and Pacific were not so different now in (helping to) bringing warmth to northwestern coasts, this is actually not mutually exclusive with a difference when only the Atlantic is flooded with meltwater.

    Hartmann’s fig. 7.16 seems to show a larger poleward energy flux by the ocean, at least in the Northern Hemisphere; fig. 7.17 shows that the northward energy flux in the Pacific ocean drops below that of the Atlantic away from low northern latitudes (~5 to 13 deg N, give or take) in both directions (the Atlantic seems to be pulling energy out of the Southern Hemisphere; the Pacific is also to a lesser extent; the Indian ocean takes energy out of the Northern Hemisphere), and northward energy transport in the Pacific drops to ~ 0 around 40 deg N while the Atlantic is still over half a PetaWatt there (and it continues to carry ~ 0.1 or more PW up to ~ 70 deg N, where the domain of the figure cuts off). Of course this may be old info in need of updating (the sources cited for figs 7.16 and 7.17 are from 1984 and 1985) and the text on p. 198 mentions large uncertainties.

    I’m thinking both atmospheric and oceanic flows contribute to the differences between the two coasts.

  4. flxible:

    Russell – There’s nothing “strange” about dust devils, they’re fairly common in the right conditions, and the very large fire of the Burning Man in late evening on the desert is about as perfect a condition as possible, see here. A pretty straight forward redistribution of heat in a relatively small area. Having been raised in the Arizona desert I can attest that dust devils do little to “cool the surface” and it’s highly unlikely they have any effect on climate, being a result of very localized weather.

  5. Hank Roberts:

    > strange transient microclimate

    WUTspeak for “didn’t bother trying to look it up”

    see, e.g.


  6. Don Gisselbeck:

    Presumably, the dust devils move that heat right up through the atmosphere and on into outer space. I wonder if HAARP is involved.

  7. dbostrom:

    The Burning Man Festival is the final nail in the coffin of CAGW. Who needs fancy supercomputers when you’ve got sleeve tattoos, a welding torch and no access to decent toilets?

  8. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company:

    A healthy economy is essential for enlightened action to reduce CO2. People looking to fill their basic needs have trouble seeing the importance of global action on climate. For the USA, a healthy economy is something that requires political action. The right path would revitalize the economy with minimal additional CO2.

    Many commentators have said there is a need for sign of leadership which would require a big thing, like the Interstate Highway System for example.

    I am suggesting that a big thing could be a National Water System which would provide universal irrigation to end the effects of drought and flood. But the biggest part would be the vastly expanded agriculture which could come from turning under-used land into productive farm land, especially in the West.

    I maintain this is a constructive proposal for economic revitalization with minimal CO2 generation as needed.

    Vote for this at: http://www.wh.gov/DzBD to encourage a path to a revitalized economy.

  9. Edward Greisch:

    106 Don Gisselbeck: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HAARP

    “‪High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program‬
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Not to be confused with Project HARP, the High Altitude Research Project.
    High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program Research Station

    The High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) is an ionospheric research program jointly funded by the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Navy, the University of Alaska, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
    Built by BAE Advanced Technologies (BAEAT), its purpose is to analyze the ionosphere and investigate the potential for developing ionospheric enhancement technology for radio communications and surveillance. The HAARP program operates a major sub-arctic facility, named the HAARP Research Station, on an Air Force–owned site near Gakona, Alaska.
    The most prominent instrument at the HAARP Station is the Ionospheric Research Instrument (IRI), a high-power radio frequency transmitter facility operating in the high frequency (HF) band. The IRI is used to temporarily excite a limited area of the ionosphere. Other instruments, such as a VHF and a UHF radar, a fluxgate magnetometer, a digisonde, and an induction magnetometer, are used to study the physical processes that occur in the excited region.
    Work on the HAARP Station began in 1993. The current working IRI was completed in 2007, and its prime contractor was BAE Systems Advanced Technologies.[1] As of 2008, HAARP had incurred around $250 million in tax-funded construction and operating costs. ………

    HAARP has been blamed by conspiracy theorists for a range of events, including numerous natural disasters. Various scientists have commented that HAARP is an attractive target for conspiracy theorists because according to computer scientist David Naiditch, “its purpose seems deeply mysterious to the scientifically uninformed”.

    ………..According to HAARP’s management, the project strives for openness, and all activities are logged and publicly available. Scientists without security clearances, even foreign nationals, are routinely allowed on site. The HAARP facility regularly (once a year on most years according to the HAARP home page) hosts open houses, during which time any civilian may tour the entire facility. In addition, scientific results obtained with HAARP are routinely published in major research journals (such as Geophysical Research Letters, or Journal of Geophysical Research), written both by university scientists (American and foreign) or by U.S. Department of Defense research lab scientists. Each summer, the HAARP holds a summer school for visiting students, including foreign nationals, giving them an opportunity to do research with one of the world’s foremost research instruments.

  10. David B. Benson:

    Nick Gotts @96 — The best chance of triggering a descent into a glacial (not an “ice age” as Terra has been, and continues to be desspite AGW, in an ice age for the last 2.588 million years) was right about now. AGW canceled this attempt. Whether or not the attempt would have succeeded is not clear as the orbital forcing is somewhat shrimpy; an entire issue of The Holocene was recently devoted to this question; W.F. Ruddiman’s contributions are surely available on his web site.

    The next minor stab is in about 20,000 years but that orbital forcing is much smaller and so is probably ignorable, both in an alternate future without AGW and surely in our future. However the orbital forcing in about 100,000 years is deep and so with considerable certainty will result in a glacial, despite the last remnants of AGW still in the atmosphere; see David Archer’s book.

    Some thousands of years from now (and persisting for a long time indeed) the sea level will be much, much higher. You may care to check for estimates from the mid-Pliocene and mid-Miocene as being roughly comperable as to what is going to happen, but roughly 50–60 meters seems about right to me. [If you find better estimates for those two periods in the past, please post as I’d like to know.]

  11. wili:

    I’ve heard a lot of discussion, from Jennifer Francis of Rutgers and from others, about the lowering of the temperature difference between the Arctic and lower latitudes leading to weakening of the jet stream, which in turn leads to greater amplitude of the Rossby waves as well as slower movement of those waves–leading to the blocking patterns we’ve seen in the last few years.

    But the biggest lost of difference between Arctic and lower latitude temps should be in the lowest altitudes of the troposphere. As you move up into the stratosphere, hasn’t the temperature up there actually cooled some above the Arctic while staying relatively stable in lower latitudes?

    If so, why would there be such a strong effect on the jet stream? Isn’t that up closer to stratospheric heights?

    Thanks ahead of time for any light anyone can throw in my general direction on this.

    (And apologies ahead of time to Hank for my not having done adequate web searches to find the answers myself.)

    (reCapch: “it r sur help”!)

  12. Thomas:

    It used to be believed -or at least conjectured in some circles that an ice-free arctic ocean might provide enough moisture to seed the buildup of land ice, initiating a glacial epoch. That conjecture at least makes logical sense. I have heard that average snowfalls in interior Alaska and even maximum snowdepths have been increasing. However despite greater snowpacks, the date when the ground becomes snowfree has gotten earlier, which strongly implies that increased temperatures will more than make up for any increased precipitation.

  13. Russell:


    The bulldozed decor of Jencks’s ‘lady of Northumbria’ earthwork could be Pictish or Celtic in intent, but as the Picts are an anoymous lot, I went with the familiar.

    Your earlier observation that ” If the Earth’s mantle were made transparent, the core-mantle boundary would cool dramatically” is spectacularly true-

    Diamond anvil experiments on the melting point of iron at >300 gigapascal suggest the Earth ‘s incandescent core rival sthe surface of the sun in color temperature

    This means deep enough underfoot there is a virtual heliopause at which the upwelling radiative flux from a borehole would be bright as the sun in the sky.

  14. Patrick 027:

    Re 111 wili – geostrophic wind shear is proportional to the temperature gradient. The level of (relative) maximum (or minimum) speed will be found where the temperature gradient flips direction. I think this tends to be at the tropopause (with some exceptions?). Thus keeping the wind at the surface constant, reducing the temperature gradient, even if only in the lower atmosphere, will reduce westerly winds above that level. Of course, why would winds near the surface necessarily stay constant? Also, with stratospheric cooling and with the poleward downward slope of the tropopause, the temperature gradient near tropopause should actually be enhanced – especially at jets where there are drops in tropopause height (?). (And a higher tropopause, with higher jet maxima, would partly offset the effect of decreased shear on the jet speed).

    But if the gradient in geopotential height of isobaric surfaces (proportional to warmth below that level, if pressure at the surface is unchanged) is reduced, the same geopotential anomaly values would lead to higher-amplitude (in terms of meridional displacement) waves in the flow…

    I haven’t actually watched those videos yet; I guess I tend to save watching for when I’m done reading and writing. But I should set a time for it.

  15. Ron R.:

    Hank Roberts 9 Sep 2012 at 12:02 PM:
    I think you need a citation to explain “swamp cooling” whatever that might mean.

    Sorry, my word choice. Most people are familiar with swamp coolers. Evaporative cooling is better. I’m no expert but my understanding is that as the ice melts, both the water and air around must initially cool. The cooling would naturally be greatest in that local region. As the ice and colder water begin to achieve equilibrium with warmer water temps would, of course, be rising.

    Melting the ice caps isn’t going to cool the planet; it rearranges things somewhat.

    That’s true in normal situation. In one though where global temps continue to rise (for whatever reason) the ocean temps with have to find a new, higher equilibrium. So after a period of initial cooling, if nothing happens to check the warming, that initial cooling will slow, stop then reverse and begin to rise.

    I think this paper http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/future/docs/ArcticAND_Globe.pdf shows the influence that loss or gain of pole sea ice can have far from where it occurs. See under: 5.1.3. Tropics and subtropics.

    This leads me to a question which has probably been answered numerous times here before. Could a dumping of cold Arctic water in the sea from melting ice actually temporarily speed up the THC, that is until sea temps begin to equalize at which time it slows the stops?

    And my usual disclaimer: If I’ve messed this up my apologies.

  16. grypo:


    The Trenberth quote is specifically about what is dealt with in this study. SkS did a quick write up on that and had a part which may answer your question about the heat ‘haunt’.

    Ocean heat coming back to haunt us?

    Not only does the climate model-based study, Meehl (2011), show heat is buried into deeper ocean layers when global surface temperatures stall, but it also presents plausible mechanisms in ocean circulation that transport heat down to the deep ocean. The general pattern of sea surface temperature during these hiatus periods is very reminiscent of a La Niña-like climate state.

    The regular nature of these hiatus decades in the climate model, indicate that they are simply periods of natural variability, which occur even in the presence of a long-term warming trend. This is supported by historic observations (Figure 1), which shows roughly decade-long hiatus periods in upper ocean heat content during the 1960s to 1970s, and the 1980s to 1990s.

    The natural variability ‘flip-side’ to these hiatus decades, are periods where there is greater-than-average surface warming (see inset in Figure 2). So at some point in the very near future we can probably expect surface temperatures to gather up a head of steam, and begin rising at a rapid rate.

    I believe this is what Trenberth meant. I’m sure he knows the nature of the heat that is basically gone when circulated into the deep ocean layers.

    When you put that together with what Gavin said:

    …Basically, it is never going to ‘reappear’ (as long as we are not actively reducing CO2 below current levels). The OHC change is a measure of the planetary imbalance, and so indicates how much the planet still needs to warm to come into equilibrium with the forcing…

    Although there is a leak in the bucket, because of the imbalance, it quickly fills back up. It clears things up, I believe. I was once confused about this too and certain individuals took advantage of the confusing nature of the problem.

  17. Alastair McDonald:

    Ron R. asked:

    “This leads me to a question which has probably been answered numerous times here before. Could a dumping of cold Arctic water in the sea from melting ice actually temporarily speed up the THC, that is until sea temps begin to equalize at which time it slows the stops?”

    IMHO, the answer is no! The THC sinks in the Arctic because the salty water, brought from the Caribbean by the Gulf Stream, sinks when it cools. The water from melting sea ice is fresher than normal sea water and would float over the surface so halting the THC.

    In theory the melting of Arctic sea ice should have covered the ocean with fresh water so allowing it to refreeze earlier this autumn. On the other hand, if it has been well mixed with the saline sub surface water by storms and tides, then it may reform more slowly than usual as happened in 2007. Presumably, this was due to the lack of a solid surface above which the air temperature can fall below -10 C needed for the ice to reform.

    Cheers, Alastair.

  18. Dan H.:


    You are probably referring to the Ewing-Donn hypothesis:


    Why recent data has shown a warmer Arctic during the ice ages, no evidence has been found that the ocean was ice-free.


  19. Alexandre:

    Anyone else reading the Dog Stars? Haven’t read fiction in a while, but this one turned out to be a page turner. As they put it over at Climate Progress, a good story about climate change that does not even mention the words climate change.

  20. JCH:

    Grypo – thanks.

    I found a couple of articles about 1998, and they cited the El Nino as the cause of the additional warmth that year, so I’m going to continue to operate under the notion that record years/hotter years are primarily caused by El Nino. But it does make sense El Nino is piggybacked on other oscillations.

  21. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company:

    Re:116 grypo

    Your leak seems to have been quickly plugged. If the leak continues indefinitely it has to be accounted for in the heat balance equation, the bucket fills at a slower rate.

    Prevailing wisdom seems to have it that the deep ocean is not capable of on-going take up of heat due to its supposedly stationary deep water.

    Deep ocean currents are very slow to be sure, but even so it represents a significant capacity to move heat. Current studies by Pochapsky at Hudson Laboratories of Columbia Univ. in the 1960s showed definite water movement in deep regions, contrary to reports by some significant authorities (associated with Lamont I think and maybe Scripps). And the thermohaline circulation most certainly operates to cause vertical heat transport.

    Steady melting of sea ice supports the notion of increasing ocean heat content. Measurements of sea level are a little less convincing.

    Still, I have yet to find a satisfying discussion of the deep heat situation, though I continue to look for more from the Argos project.

  22. Brian Dodge:

    @ Ron R & Alistair

    Permanent Ice cover in the Arctic in the past resulted in a highly stratified water column; saltier with depth, warmer with depth, but denser with depth because the positive salt density gradient was larger than the negative temperature density gradient. The areas of the Greenland and Barents seas that melted annually pumped sinking brine into the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Current as they refroze, expelling salt brought in by the Gulf Stream. The areas now melting out in the Kara, Laptev, East Siberian, Chukchi, and Beaufort Seas, and in the Central Arctic Basin have salt mixed into the surface layers by wind and waves; as they freeze in the fall, cold brine will be expelled and sink through the formerly stratified layers of the deep arctic waters, and eventually flow over the Greenland-Spitsbergen Sill at the bottom of the Fram Strait, joining the AMOC. Inflow of surface/shallow waters to replace the new sources of brine will draw warm Atlantic water further into the Arctic – another positive feedback in addition to albedo loss, and which operates out of phase with insolation. The larger areas melting & freezing compared to decades ago may pump enough more brine into the AMOC to increase its flow.

  23. Oakwood:

    What is your best estimate of when we will get an ice free Arctic? Site owners or anyone else?

  24. Ron R.:

    Thanks for the comments Brian and Alastair. It’s a sadly vicious cycle. Temps climb, the ice melts, the ice melts, temps climb. When the ice is finally gone, or past a certain point, we’ll be longing for the good ‘ol days. If we’re still around.

  25. Kevin McKinney:

    #123–Oakwood, I’m thinking 2016, for no good reason except that volume losses over the last several years, combined with the qualitatively different behavior of the pack during melt season, makes me think it will be soon. (And 2016 would be the last year to fall within Maslowski’s 2013 +/- 3–I don’t think it will be next year, though after this season I wouldn’t rule it out, either.)

    Totally made-up un-quantified amateur gut feeling–so if you go out and bet on Intrade based on my comment, it’s your lookout, not mine! ;-)

  26. Rob Dekker:

    Kevin, I think Maslowski projected 2016 +/- 3 yrs.
    So you would be right in the middle with 2016.

  27. Dan H.:

    I am going with 2028. That is based on the loss of sea ice area over the past 15 years. Of course all this could change if the North Atlantic starting pumping more (less) warm water into the Arctic.

  28. wili:

    Thanks Patrick, @ 114. Do I read your comment “with stratospheric cooling and with the poleward downward slope of the tropopause, the temperature gradient near tropopause should actually be enhanced – especially at jets where there are drops in tropopause height (?)” to mean that you also find this result a bit puzzling.

    It’s obviously a complex system (as is everything related to climate), so perhaps others could also pipe in a throw some light (or at least a bit of glimmer)?

    (And reCaptcha gives the answer: “cannot, acieyi” (I’ve been called worse”).)

  29. Thomas Lee Elifritz:

    I am going with 2028.

    Then I’m going with 2028 too, because Dan H. clearly knows how these things work.

  30. Ron R.:

    Just wondering about RC’s having an ongoing side thread: Solutions. We hear all about the problems, very little about how to solve them.

    I’ll offer some ideas:

    First off shelve large-scale geo-engineering. Things which cannot be controlled or recalled once they are in place. For example, dumping nano-sized aluminized particles in the atmosphere to reflect the sun. For one thing, how are you going to undo that if you need to? Why might you need to? Well what if there were a large unexpected volcanic eruption that threw a lot of aerosols up. Or maybe there would be something that we don’t want concentrated at the surface like radiation. For another, they would be extremely hazardous to breathe, so even if they worked it would be a Phyrric victory.

    Here’s one possible “solution”: Position giant solar powered air-cleaners around urban areas, perhaps designed like the Seattle Space Needle. Their numbers would be dependent upon the population or on industrial density.


    They can also be positioned on top of sky scrapers. Smaller ones on top of buildings like houses. Even if they can’t remove the carbon that is too high up they can help check ongoing ground level emissions.

    Where to get the money for all this? As mentioned before, in the US there are almost trillion dollars a year going to the war machine. New bombs and bombers. It’s as if the expiration date on each year’s end on the following December 31. Come on! How many times over do we need to be able to blow up the world? Rounding out that trillion dollars is money going to subside big dirty energy, an outrage if ever there were one.

    That money should also be used to outfit the country in clean alternatives. Solar or portable wind power on every home. As much as possible.

    Plant more trees. Make it a national campaign.

    Begin a concerted effort to educate people about population issues, overpopuation being at the heart of all of our other desperate environmental problems.

    Stop playing footsie with dirty energy. These guys don’t care, that much should be obvious by now. Require the highest standards for energy efficiency. If it’s possible do it. Publicly expose and disavow politicians and influencers secretly in their employ.

    Now do something similar in every country.

    There are any number of other solutions, but the short of it is, stop the non-sense and get serious. Deal with these issues. Environmental problems should not be solely the domain of NGOs, they should be officially front and center.

  31. Didactylos:

    It all depends on what people mean by “ice free”. And you can rely on the fact that anyone with a vested interest will have a strange and baffling definition of “ice free” that they change to suit their purpose.

    I think the Arctic will be substantially ice free when no first year ice survives the whole year, and multiyear ice extent falls below 1 million sq km.

    The Arctic will be definitively ice free when drift ice concentration drops below 15% everywhere in the Arctic, and then, ultimately, it will reach zero by all measures.

    Climate scientists aren’t going to use the last given definition, since the last remainders of multiyear ice and icebergs calved from fast ice and glaciers will make it difficult to make that final call.

    Deniers, on the converse hand, will cling to any rapidly melting chunk of ice, no matter where it came from, claiming that it’s not really “ice free”.

  32. Superman1:

    We need to think about the physics of the positive feedbacks. When there was ice covering the Arctic in the Summer, there was modest decrease in the ice volume. When significant open water appeared, then many synergistic positive feedbacks occurred. Overall, the mass, momentum, and energy barrier between the atmosphere and ocean that the ice provided was gone in the open water regions. This allowed solar absorption to replace solar reflection, and result in water heating. Warmer water (and associated permafrost and wetlands thawing) resulted in at least the increase of two GHGs in the atmosphere: methane and water vapor, thereby increasing the heat containment. More and warmer open water created enabling conditions for stronger cyclones, fragmenting the ice and accelerating its melting, and enhancing convective mixing and transport in the ocean. Elimination of the no-slip condition of both the ice on the atmosphere and on the ocean allowed convective enhancement of the diffusion of mass and energy through the water column.

    The bottom line is that once significant open water occurred, it appears that Nature ‘pulled out all the stops’ to accelerate the ice decline as rapidly as possible. If this ‘pulling out all the stops’ is the precedent for how Nature implements climate change, it means that the past will be a poor and very conservative indicator of the future. My vote is for ice disappearance much sooner than later, and a rapid acceleration of the other climate change feedback mechanisms as well. Since these positive feedback mechanisms go in one direction, and are self-reinforcing, the decline may be precipitous.

  33. Kevin McKinney:

    #126–“Kevin, I think Maslowski projected 2016 +/- 3 yrs.”

    D’oh! I think you are right. That’s probably the real reason that 2016 popped into my tired brain late last night…

  34. Jim Larsen:

    Thomas said, “Then I’m going with 2028 too, because Dan H. clearly knows how these things work.”

    Dan H going for a date perhaps sooner than the average climate scientist certainly is surprising, and will color my interpretations of and responses to his comments in the future.

    I’m sticking with my long-standing 2020 date because of ego and comedic value. Something about not seeing ice with 2020….

    In reality, weather happens, and we don’t know how big the residual ice pack will be or how long it will survive.

  35. Charlie H:

    #130, geoengineering:

    We might make an attempt to harvest the methane in the Arctic before it is released to the atmosphere. Use it instead of other natural gas sources. I don’t know if that’s feasible or not.

  36. sidd:

    There was a paper in 2009


    linking acceleration in PIG to gravitational stress increase, as the slope steepens from differential thinning and melt. I was looking for similar results from GIS. Any pointers ?


  37. Superman1:

    Jim Larsen #134,

    “In reality, weather happens, and we don’t know how big the residual ice pack will be or how long it will survive.”

    For all operational and functional purposes, the ice is gone. Yes, it shows up on the sensors as occupying space, but for most purposes it has died. David Barber talks about a mission to the Arctic in the Summer a few years ago. He went to regions labeled by the sensors as thick multi-year ice. The ship didn’t miss a beat cutting through the ice. The ice had rotted clear through, and was offering no resistance to the ship. All we’re doing now is waiting for the corpse to decay.

  38. Superman1:

    Ron R. #130,

    “Stop playing footsie with dirty energy. These guys don’t care, that much should be obvious by now. Require the highest standards for energy efficiency. If it’s possible do it. Publicly expose and disavow politicians and influencers secretly in their employ.”

    The first step in solving a problem is identifying the problem. The second step is developing the motivation and will to solve the problem. The third step is identifying the cause of the problem. The fourth step is removing the cause of the problem, and the fifth step is solving the problem.

    Unfortunately, I don’t see any of the posters on this blog addressing the total problem in full. It has two components. We all recognize the technical component, but in reality it is subservient to the sociopolitical component. The fundamental problem is that we the energy consumers have become addicted to a lifestyle that only the intensive use of fossil energy can fulfill (at least at present). We want our huge SUVs (even with one occupant usually), we want our huge McMansions, we want our long commutes to a pastoral home in the country, we want to travel to as many destinations as we can afford, we want our highly processed toys, etc. We are so addicted to this intensive use of energy that we are willing to trade the survival of our progeny to satisfy our addiction.

    The energy companies are like the drug ‘pushers’; they are ready, willing, and able to exploit our addiction to the fullest. The fossil energy workers are dependent on maximal fossil energy production to support a comfortable lifestyle, and they have no desire to alter the status quo.

    The politicians recognize 1) the electorate has no interest in giving up their addiction, 2) many of their largest donors represent the fossil fuel producers, and 3) their fossil fuel workers like the status quo. Therefore, the politicians have no incentives to change the status quo, and we are seeing this with Republicans and Democrats alike.

    So, you can go after the energy companies and politicians all you want, but that is like the old parable of looking for the keys under the lamp-post (that’s where the light is) rather than looking for the keys where they were dropped. That’s also why I believe the problem is intractable. People who are heavy drug users or heavy smokers or who have other heavy addictions many times will die rather than surrendering their addictions. That’s what we have today with fossil energy.

  39. Superman1:

    Kevin McKinney #125,

    “(And 2016 would be the last year to fall within Maslowski’s 2013 +/- 3–I don’t think it will be next year, though after this season I wouldn’t rule it out, either.)”

    Maslowski used a regional model. How accurately did that incorporate positive feedbacks from other regions? Also, I don’t believe his model incorporated methane feedbacks, and I’m not sure about enhanced water vapor feedbacks. I suspect even his worst case may be overly optimistic because of these omissions. My experience with nonlinear dynamical systems shows that not much of a positive feedback is needed to drive some sensitive systems over the cliff. This may be one of them.

  40. Jim Larsen:

    137 Superman1 said, “For all operational and functional purposes, the ice is gone.”

    I don’t disagree. We’re at the point where most first year ice melts out. It’s an unusual position where novice and expert climate scientist are similarly without a clue.

    Remember WW2. The Manhattan project had zero assurances of success, but smart folks projected that it was the way to the future. Ditto today’s ice and climate science.

  41. Kevin McKinney:

    #135–“We might make an attempt to harvest the methane in the Arctic before it is released to the atmosphere. Use it instead of other natural gas sources. I don’t know if that’s feasible or not.”

    It’s not currently feasible, as I understand it, but there are folks trying to make it so for the clathrate component. If I understand Dr. Archer’s comments on methane correctly, it wouldn’t help much anyway, though the folks who made money on it would doubtlessly be happy for a while.

  42. Dan H.:

    I will disagree with superman1’s comment. While the summer minimum area has fallen by 3 million sq. km over the past three decades (to less than half), the winter maximum has decreased by less than 2 million (with little change since 2002). Much has been made of this “first-year ice,” but it would take just a few cold summers to grow into multi-year ice, and stem the decline.

    This year, we witnessed a large drop in the minimum, corresponding to storms, currents, higher Arctic temperatures, etc. Nature always seems to exxaggerate these changes, prior to a pull back, and similar to five years ago, I would expect that the sea ice minimum will be higher next year. That said, I do not envision a return to the higher minimums of 4 million sq. km, but would be surprised to see this year’s record minimum broken in the next few years.

  43. Russell:

    One of the usual suspects, Pat Michaels is playing games with the drought index in Mitt’s back yard

    – Please whack-a mole at will

  44. Thomas Lee Elifritz:

    I believe Dan H. because he sounds like he knows what he is talking about.

  45. Tokodave:

    Dan H. Just out of curiosity, where are these “few cold summers” going to come from?

  46. Unsettled Scientist:

    >That said, I do not envision a return to the higher minimums of 4 million sq. km

    But do you envision an ice-free Arctic in about 15 years. The ice maximum declining slower than the minimum is hardly comforting, both are in decline and neither is growing. As you say, much has been made of the first-year ice, people think it means growth when really it’s all disappearing.

  47. Hank Roberts:

    > solutions
    Over in the Arctic Sea Ice thread Jim Larsen mentioned:

    >> Fossil fuels are useless to their owners when
    >> left in the ground, and wildly profitable at
    >> any price or tax rate when drilled.

    It’s a definition problem. Once carbon is burned it becomes CO2, in the atmosphere and oceans. It becomes a _commons_ rather than a _property_ so it’s everybody’s problem.

    But while carbon is in the ground, it’s _property_.

    There’s the answer — give the businesses that _own_ the carbon in the ground credit for sequestering all the carbon they haven’t dug or drilled yet, as though they had removed it from the global commons and hidden it away.

    They can use the the “pay me or I”ll shoot this dog” market theory.


    “subsequent agedbalm” says ReCaptcha.
    The oracle has weighed in, I think this is the solution.

  48. Didactylos:

    “it would take just a few cold summers to grow into multi-year ice”

    I would expect to see unfounded optimism on certain websites out there, but hearing it from someone who has been reading RealClimate for some years is quite astounding.

    There is no guarantee of new records next year. However, the albedo changes, temperature changes and ice thickness changes make further records in the next few years absolutely inevitable, and absolutely rule out anything you can describe as a “recovery”. Failing to break the record next year is not a recovery. If you go down that insane path, then you end up Going Up the Down Escalator.

    May I finally point out that close to zero first year ice has survived until its first birthday? This essentially means that thickness reductions have reached the point where any first year ice can melt, no matter how far north it is. That means zero ice to “grow into multi-year ice”.

  49. Superman1:

    Dan H,

    “I will disagree with superman1′s comment. While the summer minimum area has fallen by 3 million sq. km over the past three decades (to less than half), the winter maximum has decreased by less than 2 million (with little change since 2002). Much has been made of this “first-year ice,” but it would take just a few cold summers to grow into multi-year ice, and stem the decline.”

    Even though area has dropped substantially, it is a misleading metric, as you well know. Ice volume is a more informative metric. The ice volume decline has been inexorable, according to the PIOMAS charts and associated measurements.

    Equally importantly, when you consider the physics of what is happening, as I outlined very briefly in #132 above, there is a ‘domino effect’ on the ice. When significant open water appeared, Nature pulled out all the stops by bringing in every self-reinforcing positive feedback phenomenon to accelerate the decline. I suspect that is Nature’s Hamiltonian principle for how it will deal with climate change across the board, not only the Arctic, and we are in for a faster ride downhill than anyone is projecting. Even the best of climate models today don’t incorporate many, if not most, of the positive feedback effects. Anyone who has dealt with nonlinear dynamical systems understands the dramatic impact even modest positive feedback mechanisms can have on the solution, much less the potential impacts of neglected positive feedbacks such as the voluminous methane releases in the Arctic.

  50. dbostrom:

    That said, I do not envision a return to the higher minimums of 4 million sq. km, but would be surprised to see this year’s record minimum broken in the next few years.

    Let history be our guide. What’s “a few?”