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Unforced variations: Oct 2012

Filed under: — group @ 1 October 2012

This month’s open thread. Try to keep it at least vaguely focused on climate science…!

782 Responses to “Unforced variations: Oct 2012”

  1. 501
    David B. Benson says:

    Some like it hot?
    How warm is your bath water?

  2. 502
    Susan Anderson says:

    Here’s a better R&D graphic with proper labeling. I was looking for it earlier and finally found it, using the sloppy DotEarth one was I thought better than nothing, but given RC, should have known it wouldn’t be. I think yellow was energy and blue everything else. Very sloppy, but this one isn’t:
    “Trends in Nondefense R&D by Function
    outlays for the conduct of R&D, billions of constant FY 2012 dollars”

    This one gives you renewables broken out as well.

  3. 503
    Chris Dudley says:

    Chris (#499),

    I suspect the estimates you give based on RCP8.5 are not bad but take a look at what happens with RCP3-PD. The lagged temperature begins to decline while the instantaneous temperature is still above it. It looks at though the lagged temperature knows the future track of the forcing rather than responding to the actual forcing at the time. Aristotelian Final Causes are not usually well received in science so I think there is some problem with applying the climate response functions to this situation in such a straightforward manner. It would be good to compare a climate response function produced from a step up in concentration (as in Hansen et al. 2011) with one produced by a step down in concentration to see how well they match (after an appropriate axis flip).

  4. 504
    Jim Larsen says:

    497 Bernd, thanks for the response, and I’m honored that you even went back to old posts, but since then the whole topic has been banned, more or less. I’ll say I agree with everything you said except the ratio of 30 + 30 + 30 = 40 since power transmission across regions will vastly improve, but especially that we (the USA especially) ain’t gonna do diddly much, that is until it makes immediate economic sense to do so or the horse has already left the barn. (In my area, which is one of the most wind-rich regions in the USA, the goal is to generate 10% of electrical power via renewables…eventually.) My guess is we’ll hit SecularA’s scenario in a few decades – which is that we’ll be given the choice to use the shiny new airplanes and power plants we just built and reap devastation or trash them and lose our investment. And there’s no guarantee that SecularA is wrong about us having hit that point already. He has no scientific support, but remember, “It’s worse than we thought”.

    498 J Bowers, I have to shake my head. Removing carbon is not geoengineering unless one defines emitting carbon as geoengineering. Should we outlaw planting trees? I’m ever so glad this guy did it, and I can’t think of any significant lasting harm that could result from such a tiny experiment. (your link’s calling it “huge” just made my eyes roll. Lies are lies, or perhaps errors.) If it turns out to be a bad technique, we’ll have learned much with little cost and negligible harm. Besides, we need to start doing geoengineering experiments now. Otherwise, say bye bye to Arctic sea ice and who knows what else.

  5. 505
    Craig Nazor says:

    J Bowers @498 – Yes, that is interesting, indeed.

    The plot thickens. It reads like a bad scifi novel. Unfortunately, it’s not.

  6. 506
    Hank Roberts says:

    Plot the number of whales against climate change — yet another interesting correlation.

  7. 507
    Jim Larsen says:

    Susan, thanks for the extra effort. If “we” had made such an effort since the 70s, we’d be in a much better position now.

  8. 508
    Chris Korda says:

    Chris Dudley @503: “the lagged temperature begins to decline while the instantaneous temperature is still above it” because the climate response function adds hysteresis, like an inductor. Given a forcing that peaks and declines, a CRF will peak later and lower compared to the instantaneous function. If you download the data, and open RCPTemperatures.txt in Excel or the equivalent, you will see that the RCP3D/instantaneous column peaks in 2052 at 2.014, whereas the RCP3D/fast column peaks in 2066 at 1.768.

  9. 509
    Bernd Herd says:

    #504 Jim Larsen “except the ratio of 30 + 30 + 30 = 40 since power transmission across regions will vastly improve”.

    Well, that’s an estimation. If I remember it right, Germany produced 25% of the electricity in the first half of this year with renewable energy and I have the impression this causes all kinds of unwanted side effects.

    I read an analysis of the well reputed Fraunhofer institute and they said that worst case for wind is: It will never be less than 11% (if I remember right) of the installed power when averaged all over germany. And PV obviously is 0% at night, but we only use about 50% power at night. So since there are few new hydroelectric plants, only the few new bioenergy plants and the 11% from wind really add to the clean electricity during worst case times.

    This causes all kinds of side effects: The administration wants power companies to build more gas-powered plants and more pumped hydro storage for we’ll need them when we add more wind and PV. But since most of the time there is so much renewable energy on the grid, the prices for electricity have fallen, especially during the day time. Day time electricity is usually no longer more expansive than night time electricity. This means that gas powered plants can no longer compete and some are about to get shut down, we even need less pumped hydro plants and some are about to get shut down. The german administration considers to just forbid shutting down old power plants without explicit permission and pay the companies a compensation, which would raise electricity prices. They have fear that we could get into trouble in winter times. Last year the French with their many Nuclear Power Plants had trouble because many of French citizens use electricity for heating and the winter was harder than usual, so Germany sold electricity to France, and at the same time Russia reduced gas delivery to Germany and there was some kind of trouble within germany with the delivery of gas from storage to some gas based power plants so at least one near Karlsruhe had to be shut down, so in the end Germany bought electricity from Austria to deliver it to France… Electricity prices in France were very high at that time, I guess some dealers made a fortune.

    There is also an have-your-cake-and-eat-it effect: The administration seems to target to organize the additional costs for renewable energy (EEG) so the industry will have to pay as little as possible and essentially the private households are charged. They want to avoid effects on the export markets. This means a problem to poor households which furnishes sceptics a fit occasion to portray renewable energy as social injustice.

    We need rising energy prices, for most people still don’t give a damn on energy costs. But when prices rise, the sceptics tend to get the poor households on their side. This could be avoided by different politics: The German EEG solution has the weak side that the CO2 avoided using expansive PV and wind plants makes european CO2 emission certificates cheap, currently 7.76€ / t CO2. See:

    Thus reducing the price of CO2 emissions from coal based power plants and in the end coal-produced electricity gets (or at least looks) cheaper. I think it is likely that this approach will fail for political reasons the sooner or later. If we should have luck here in Germany, and the EEG does not fail, it would mean that in 20 years we’d have a grid mostly powered by renewable energy, paid by the private households alone, that will produce cheap electricity for the industry at a time when oil, gas and coal will be much more expansive than today.

    If we’d have a global price for CO2, we wouldn’t have to protect industry from raising costs of renewable energy and the income produced by selling CO2 certificates could be used to support poor households. However most poor households are not in rich countries, so it is obvious why climate negotiations like Kyoto and Kopenhagen are a farce. If CO2 emission certificates would be based on the number of citizens, then China would be allowed about 5 times the emissions of the U.S. which would cause a huge net transfer of money to the developing countries, which makes this approach unacceptable to the rich countries for unfair reasons. In addition it would reward countries with a high increase in population, which would not be fair. I think population growth in some developing countries is about as severe a problem as the mass-emission of CO2 in industrial countries.

    I have the impression that the rich countries need to agree to those money transfers in some way or another to avoid a climate catastrophe, but I have no idea how to make poorer households in rich countries agree to those transfers.

  10. 510
    observer says:

    Interesting reference on the value of peer review:

    [Response: to be more specific, the value of peer review at for profit open access journals that only get revenue from authors paying to play. There are good things happening with open access, but the multitude of journal start up seeking to take advantage of some academics who perceive the need to publish anything is not one of them. There is a list of dodgy publishers somewhere – I’ll link here when I find it. – gavin]

  11. 511
    Hank Roberts says:

    Several different lists that I’ve seen are relevant.

    This list for example, written by editors who are not in command of writing (or reading, probably) standard English

    “… the list of journals which says they are indexed in Thomson Reuters ISI and have Impact Factor. If you overcome this kind of journals just drop us an email about the journal and we will update the list here. Our email id is

    Few journals put the logo of thomson reuters and put a text like indexing, going to be indexed etc. So be careful while publishing the journal in these journals. Few journals says they have journal impact factor. This Journal Impact Factor is provided by GISI and not Thomson Reuters.”

    They review journals, apparently — here’s part of one such:

    Review by International Journal of Research in Computer Science, December 18, 2011

    The International Journal of Research in Computer Science (IJORCS), a research journal of international repute, is a notable and distinguish platform to publish quality research papers.

    IJORCS is a repository of materials besides providing a platform for the reinforcement of science, fast operative publication, results of scientific researches and representation of the scientific conception of the society. IJORCS is a purely Computer Science research journal and is acknowledged by various universities and international professional bodies.

    The cutting edge innovative features dwell with the advance approach makes it futuristic creative publishers helping scientists to expand in their respective research areas profoundly. IJORCS is a one place for all innovative, far-sighted and social advancement articles in the field of computer science.”


    This article (in standard English) is quite good:

    “… Thomson Reuters, publishers of the annual Journal Citation Report (JCR), routinely puts journals in “time-out” when their self-citation rates are excessively high, such that they greatly shift the journal’s positional rank among other related titles.
    There is another citation gaming tactic that is much more pernicious and difficult to detect. It is the citation cartel.

    In a 1999 essay published in Science titled, “Scientific Communication — A Vanity Fair?” George Franck warned us on the possibility of citation cartels — groups of editors and journals working together for mutual benefit. To date, this behavior has not been widely documented; however, when you first view it, it is astonishing….”

  12. 512
    Hank Roberts says:

    That first item referenced GISI.
    Here’s GISI in their own mangled words:

    “The Global Institute for Scientific Information (GISI) was founded by renowned scientist in 1990. A group of 40 scientist from various countries in different disciplines are started GISI with specific objective of providing quality information to the researcher. GISI offering academic database services to researcher. Its mainly: citation indexing, analysis, and maintains citation databases covering thousands ….”

  13. 513
    tamino says:

    Re: #512 (Hank Roberts)

    All your journal are belong to us.

  14. 514
    Chris Dudley says:

    Chris (#508),

    But that is unphysical. If the forcing is such that the current temperature is too low compared to the instantaneous temperature you calculated, then the temperature should be rising, not falling. The peak in the lagged temperature should come when it meets the equilibrium temperature (instantaneous temperature) not before. After that the lagged temperature should be drawn down because the forcing has become negative relative to the state of the climate.

    I suppose one explanation might be that since we are looking at an average temperature, different components are behaving in different ways. One component (say air temperature over land) was pretty much at the instantaneous temperature all the time, while another component (say sea surface temperature) lagged much more in its response. Then, in the average, sea surface temperature would still be rising for a while after the peak in the average while the land surface temperature is falling to create the peak below the forcing. Details of the model run that generated the climate response function might shed light on that kind of thing.

    If this description has some merit, it means that our control of some components of the average temperature may be rather immediate and some aspects of dangerous climate change could be mitigated quickly without a lot of hand wringing about Commitments and Irreversibility.

  15. 515
    Hank Roberts says:

    A bit more, just because this stuff is fascinating to watch as a great number of for-profit and third- and fourth-world publishers vie to become attractive to scientists looking for places to publish:

    Emerging Alternatives to the Impact Factor

    And this is good– some amazing examples of bogus journals:

    Recent Posts:
    New Journal Publishes Seven Issues of Bogus Articles to Appear Successful
    Copying Elsevier
    A Journal Called Waste
    OA Publisher Offers Author Fee Waivers in Exchange for Citing Its Journals

    “… a thousand paper flowers bloom, but smell wrong …”

  16. 516
    Barrie May says:

    #509 Bernd Herd, You seem a little pessimstic about the effect of a price on carbon on public perception. In Australia, there was a lot of hoo-haa about putting a $23/tonne price on carbon. However, after the scheme commenced there was hardly a word of complaint from the public. The effect was only a 10% increase (2c per kWh) in electricity prices which was more than compensated for by cash payouts and reductions in taxes for low to middle income families. Even with these payouts, there is still billions of dollars to invest in clean energy, tree planting and environmental restoration. This shows how even a moderate price on carbon can provide a huge boost for renewable energy.

    The lack of action from the US is a perfect excuse for countries like China, Russia and Canada to do nothing. Even so China is now the world leader in clean energy development and is testing the effect of a small carbon price. The fact that climate change hasn’t even made it on to the election agenda is not just tragic for the world, it is pathetic.

    If you want to do something, why not sign a petition here at the Whitehouse website:

    It is only when the voters move that our leaders follow!

  17. 517
    Hank Roberts says:

    “… One of the problems that new journals face is that no one wants to submit an article to a journal that doesn’t have any articles yet. If the journal turns out to be a dud, then you are left looking silly as one of the few authors to submit to a failed journal.

    IJERSRT has invented a creative, yet unethical, way of solving this no-articles problem….

  18. 518
    Chris Korda says:

    Chris Dudley @514: “The peak in the lagged temperature should come when it meets the equilibrium temperature (instantaneous temperature) not before.”

    The climate response does not reach equilibrium at the peak, because it doesn’t get a chance to: at the peak, the CO2 concentrations reverse direction and begin declining. The climate response function models inertia, and therefore reaches equilibrium some time after the forcing stops changing.

    To demonstrate this point, I added a square wave burst to the RCP3-PD CO2 concentrations (the input data), by multiplying concentrations for the years 2051 through 2055 by ten. I then reran the model, and here’s the result. Compared to instantaneous response, the Climate Response Functions peak later and lower, as I said previously @508. It takes two millennia for them to finish responding to the burst.

  19. 519
  20. 520
    Hank Roberts says:

    A couple of lists from that source:

    Beall’s List:
    Potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers…. This list is kept up-to-date to the best extent possible but may not reflect sudden, unreported, or unknown enhancements ….”

    “Some questionable journals publish independently of any publisher. The list below includes such journals. Similar to the questionable publishers, I recommend against doing any business with these journals and to be wary of any articles included in them.”

  21. 521
    Jim Larsen says:

    509 Bernd,

    I admire your English. Ich habe ein bisschen Deutsch. Not anywhere near your proficiency in English, but a tip: the word is “expensive”, not “expansive”. Expansive means “broad” or “comprehensive”.

    You’re right that a system such as we will evolve to will result in plenty of opportunities to game the system (in one viewpoint) or make legitimate profits (in another viewpoint). Regardless of your definitions, it means rich folks will suck money from the poor.

    We’re in the infantile just-starting-to-figure-out-how-to-walk stage. It’s gonna be inefficient by definition, especially since actions have two masters. In Germany and Scandinavia benefits to society are stressed, but in the USA only profit to the owners of money matters. We have to shrug the inefficiency off (but still try to minimize it, which is something few on this site care a whit about), as the goal is walking efficiently, not being efficient as one learns to walk. The vision is to have a grid that can transmit French nuclear power to Poland or Egyptian solar to Sweden as needed. Excess wind in Denmark can go elsewhere, or aluminum smelters can run 24/7. Germany gets snowed in and power is expensive? Shut down the smelters, let many folks stay home, and drop demand. Complex, integrated, and nothing like what we have today. “averaged over all of Germany” is far too provincial a view when it comes to a post-fossil grid.

    Your fear about developing countries’ population rise is unfounded. The population problem is solved. We’ll hit 9-10 billion people and glide downwards. That should be used as an axiom. I’ll be proven wrong as soon as life-extension tech comes online….

    Your last two paragraphs started with the proper solution, a global price on carbon, but veered off into a rationing by country argument. It matters not whether the poor household is in the USA or Yemen. The price of carbon is the price of carbon. I could see a system where adults get a set ration of free carbon. Children, of course, are choices and so should be paid for by their parents and so should get no carbon allowance, thus helping with your population fears.

    On cars, my view is we only have so many batteries. By spreading them amongst all our cars (non-plug-in hybrids), we’ll save the most carbon. Shoving them all in a couple cars (EVs) is stupid beyond belief.

  22. 522
    SecularAnimist says:

    A couple of articles over at ClimateCentral relating to the ongoing North American drought that may be of interest … especially to anyone who, you know, like, eats food:

    Winter Wheat Crop Now Feeling Impact of U.S. Drought

    During the past week, drought conditions have improved slightly across the U.S., but the majority of the lower 48 states continue to suffer from what is proving to be a widespread and pernicious drought event, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor statistics, released on Thursday. The drought put a major dent in the U.S. corn and soybean crop, and now it is delaying the emergence of winter wheat, which is grown in some of the hardest-hit drought states, such as Nebraska.

    Demise of El Niño Throws a Wrench in Winter Outlook

    The upcoming winter is likely to be a mild and dry one for the West and the Upper Midwest, while parts of the Southeast may see cooler and wetter than average conditions, according to the official U.S. winter outlook issued Thursday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In making its seasonal prediction, forecasters cautioned that there are large portions of the country for which there are no clear indications whether it will be a warmer, colder, wetter, or drier than average winter, largely due to a fickle El Niño event that may have petered out too early to have much of an impact on North American winter weather.

    Given that the majority of the Lower 48 states are still mired in a major drought, with the latest drought monitor showing a continuous swath of drought stretching from California to Illinois, the forecast offers little hope for significant relief anytime soon. In fact, Mike Halpert, the deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Md., said the drought is likely to expand from the Upper Midwest to the Pacific Northwest, and may also intensify all along the West Coast.

  23. 523
    prokaryotes says:

    I invite and welcome everybody to the nClimate State forum to elaborate in-depth on climate change

  24. 524
    Chris Dudley says:

    Chris (#518),

    That is a nice kit you are developing there.

    In the example you ran, it is a little like heating a pot of water on a gas stove then turning off the gas. When the gas is turned off the pot should start to cool immediately and that is what you got.

    But, for RCP3-PD it is more like heating a pot of water on a an electric burner. You shut it off and the burner starts to cool, but as long as it is hotter than the water, the water should still warm. And that does not happen in your calculation. The water starts to cool while the burner is still hot.

    That is why I am trying to think about distinct elements that might explain what is happening there. Normally a Green’s function should do some smart things without violating causality. Maybe that is happening and I am just missing the smartness.

  25. 525
    SecularAnimist says:

    Jim Larsen wrote: “On cars, my view is we only have so many batteries. By spreading them amongst all our cars (non-plug-in hybrids), we’ll save the most carbon. Shoving them all in a couple cars (EVs) is stupid beyond belief.”

    Um, no.

    Actually, the problem right now is an oversupply of batteries, and not enough EVs to “shove them” into.

    Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) predicts that an oversupply of lithium-ion batteries by 2013 will cause battery prices to plummet. Overall they expect supply to outstrip demand by almost 100% as early as 2013. Electric vehicle (EV) battery manufacturers can currently produce 2.4GWh of battery power annually but this will skyrocket over 1000% to 35 GWh in only two years. Demand from EV makers however will be only about 18 GWh by 2013.

    Currently EV batteries cost about $800/kWh, but this could fall to as low as just $350/kWh by 2020. Since the batteries make up almost half the cost of the car, EV prices are also expected to drop significantly.

    The “hyper-oversupplied market for electric car batteries”, as it is described in the business press, is of course one reason why battery manufacturer A123 Systems recently declared bankruptcy.

  26. 526
    Hank Roberts says:

    Year 1 (5- and 6-year-old) students were learning about living things. Most students were found to think about living things with either stable, nonscientific or stable, scientific framework theories. … The predominant pattern of learning … was the assimilation of facts and information into the students’ preferred framework theory. …. Children with nonscientific theories of living things were identified as being least able to benefit from socially constructed, scientific knowledge; hence, recommendations are made for teaching that focuses on conceptual change strategies rather than knowledge enrichment. © 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 41: 449–480, 2004

  27. 527
    prokaryotes says:

    The global ocean surface changes in extent too which also brings a multitude of aspects to consider, such as flooded soils…

    The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fourth Assessment reported a likely upper SLR bound in the year 2100 near 0.6 m (meter). More recent studies considering semi-empirical modeling approaches and kinematic constraints on glacial melting suggest a reasonable 2100 SLR upper bound of approximately 2 m.

    These recent studies have broken important new ground, but they largely neglect uncertainties surrounding thermal expansion (thermosteric SLR) and/or observational constraints on ocean heat uptake. Here we quantify the effects of key parametric uncertainties and observational constraints on thermosteric SLR projections using an Earth system model with a dynamic three-dimensional ocean, which provides a mechanistic representation of deep ocean processes and heat uptake. Considering these effects nearly doubles the contribution of thermosteric SLR compared to previous estimates and increases the reasonable upper bound of 2100 SLR projections by 0.25 m.

    For conditions close to the Port of Los Angeles, the 0.25 m increase in the reasonable upper bound can result in a flooding-risk increase by roughly three orders of magnitude. Results provide evidence that relatively minor underestimation of the upper bound of projected SLR can lead to major downward biases of future flooding risks.

    Flooded soils are dynamic ecosystems that play an important role in biogeochemical cycling and in the production of greenhouse gases. Methane (CH4+) and nitrous oxide (N2O) are produced as byproducts of anaerobic metabolism in the low-redox zones characteristic of flooded soils, where oxygen is lacking.
    Flux rates of CO2 and, surprisingly, CH4 increased significantly following salt-water intrusion, and remained elevated relative to freshwater cores for 6 and 5 months, respectively.

  28. 528
    Bernd Herd says:

    #512 Barrie May: “In Australia, there was a lot of hoo-haa about putting a $23/tonne price on carbon. However, after the scheme commenced there was hardly a word of complaint from the public. The effect was only a 10% increase (2c per kWh) in electricity prices which was more than compensated for by cash payouts and reductions in taxes for low to middle income families. ”

    I was not aware of this success in Australian climate politics. But this is very interesting.

    Norsk Hydro considers closing their site Kurri Kurri in Australia with a capacity of 180.000 tons per year in aluminium production and transfer of this volume to a production site in Germany because electricity prices in Germany are currently lower.

    The price for electricity that the big industry pays is much lower than the price for normal private households, I think it is about 6c per kWh, so 2c per kWh is a lot for them. Industry consumes more electricity in Germany than all the private households, about 2 or 3 times as much.

    I think it would be very valuable if we could all agree to a CO2 emission price, and 23$ seems a good price for a start. Does Australia also include emissions from flights, cars and heatings, or just power plants?

  29. 529
    Patrick 027 says:

    re my 456 – Kohler curve – there is a thermodynamic disequilibrium in the sense that some percentage of supersaturation can be required to make a haze partical transition to a cloud droplet. However, this is w/ respect to a flat surface of pure water, or approximately, any large continuous volume of nearly pure water. Dissolved solutes reduce the vapor pressure. Smaller droplets tend to ‘squeeze’ out a higher vapor pressure due to surface tension. Haze particles exist in a range of sizes where the two effects are in stable equilibrium – as more water condenses onto what was a soluble dry aerosol (maybe hygroscopic), the effect of the surface tension on equilibrium vapor pressure (for that context) is reduced, but for some conditions the effect of the dilution of the solute is greater, so that equilibrium vapor pressure rises – or as temperature is changing (during ascent, for example), it gets larger relative to the declining equilbrium vapor pressure for a flat surface of pure water (a standard eq.vap.p). It may/will(?) peak above that standard (supersaturation) – after the peak, it declines, which means that now as the droplets grow, the necessary relative humidity to maintain them declines (which allows them to take more water from the vapor phase). The peak distinguishes a haze particle from a cloud droplet. Various aerosols have differing effects and so as some haze particles become cloud droplets, some will remain haze particles and shrink as RH declines (due to condensation on the cloud droplets). I’m not sure offhand of the importance of this, but more rapid cooling from more rapid ascent would reduce the distances over which molecules can diffuse during the time periods involved, which would tend to isolate the effects of the particles from each other, so that more haze particles could go on to become cloud droplets, resulting in smaller and more numerous cloud droplets. Anyway, that’s what Kohler curves are about. There’s hysteresis because if a volume of cloud is brought back down and warmed (moist and then dry adiabatically), evaporation starts shrinking the droplets – but it won’t put so much back into the air to produce RH > 100 %.

    A hydrophilic surface would also be preferable for condensation (reduced surface tension effect for a given mass of liquid water in a droplet), though I’ve never heard of that being important in the atmosphere.

    (PS diffusion of matter and energy (latent heat) during such phase changes requires compositional and temperature gradients – entropy must then be produced, so there is a departure from actually being adiabatic – a smaller departure if pressure is being changed less rapidly (so that diffusions occur across smaller gradients). I don’t think that’s generally of much importance in the atmosphere in so far as affecting the resulting temperature, though).

    Ice crystal nucleation is a whole other thing… (some aerosols are more effective ice nuclei than others. ‘homogeneous nucleation’ (spontaneous formation of ice crystal from pure liquid state) happens at a certain rate per unit volume that increases (at first, I think) as temperature declines and the liquid state becomes more and more unstable; droplets being very small, homogeneous nucleation is relatively ineffective until approaching -40 deg C (which happens to be -40 deg F). The vapor pressure in equilibrium with supercooled droplets (liquid H2O) is higher than that in equilibrium with solid H2O at the same temperature, so liquid droplets will evaporate to feed deposition on an effective ice nucleus. Fewer ice nuclei produce larger ice crystals. From memory, I think this is called the Bergeron process. Liquid droplets bouncing off snow crystals may freeze (until latent heat raises the temperature to the freezing point). Drop(let?)s freezing from the outside in can break apart (ice expands) multiplying the ice particles. See Wallace and Hobbs (textbook).

  30. 530
    Patrick 027 says:

    re 454 wili – I missed your comment earlier (I don’t think it appeared in order) – I agree that Chu was definitely not discussing a Venus syndrome.

    (PS regarding Venus – as I have understood it, a runaway water vapor feedback would have occured when solar heating increasing to become greater than a limiting OLR value (Simpson-Kombayashi-Ingersoll limit – see – although I should add that at more ‘moderate’ temperatures (warmer than today), stratospheric H2O increases to a point where H escape to space becomes a significant H2O sink – if that stage worked fast enough relative to solar brightening, a runaway H2O case could be prevented, and it would be a dry(er) heat. At some temperature(s), carbonate rocks themselves will decompose – the negative chemical weathering feedback has limits ( , fig. 1))

    I am thinking that the permafrost feedback article we were discussing was refering to a non-runaway feedback, but rather a delayed feedback, which is otherwise just like the fast feedbacks except that it’s slow response would make clear that it does feedback on itself according to the climate sensitivity from all other feedbacks (it drives itself, via climate change, to go farther, but it approaches a limit asymptotically). Maybe inclusion of CH4 and a sufficient climate sensitivity from the other feedbacks would make it runaway for some part (maybe not all) of the process. The discussion on Skeptical Science did point out that the paper also only considered C down to some depth in the permafrost. My guess (which makes sense to me but I must add I don’t know much about soils) is that making more C available, but only at greater depth, would make a bigger difference to the amount of C that could be released with unlimited forcing (delaying the exhaustion of the C reservoir) than it would to the sensivity of that release.

  31. 531
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 509 Bernd Herd – I agree that it’s tricky. see my 451, 468-469, and see my 284-285. And Jim Larsen @ 521 – to that I would just add, it shouldn’t tend to be inhumane to tax regardless of wealth because if CO2 emission were proportional to wealth generation, then the poor will be taxed less; otherwise, the price signal is encouraging wealth generation with less CO2 emission (which shapes investment so that it becomes easier to do so with less). Of course there are quirks of human behavior and societal processes – the choice (or lack thereof) to reproduce and the role of poverty in that, for example. And countries would get away with past emissions with no consequences (specific to them, as opposed to global warming and OA), unless that issue is addressed. However, the idea that other, now developing countries must be given the right to emit as much or even some fraction – this is problematic (not that anyone was making this suggesting). While having disadvantages, they also have the advantage of not having so much of a legacy problem – they get to do more things right (well, better – nothing’s perfect) the first time. It may be better to some extent for a rich nation to help a poor nation develop clean energy infrastructure than to replace it’s own (see Jim Larsen and Secular Animist above – commited emissions from infrastructure, etc.) – although ultimately that must happen too. Also, things are the way they are – setting aside the politics (for recieving nations) and psychological costs (for those moving), it would make sense to some extent for people to move toward places set up for efficient wealth generation rather than to spread the wealth among the people whereever they are, so it wouldn’t make sense to try to wipe the slate clean of the advantages gained from history let along geography, although the later does bring up the issue of climate change refugees, and some wealth generating capacity is spread out (land), and of course some clean energy resources are rather abundant in the developing world or parts thereof, and energy needs differ geographically even for the same lifestyle – see above … this whole paragraph should reference itself…. But this is actually supposed to be OT here now so see links, etc.

  32. 532
    Patrick 027 says:

    It may be better to some extent for a rich nation to help a poor nation develop clean energy infrastructure than to replace it’s own “… includes building designs, urban planning, appliances, etc. And re 481 flxible – I agree that population must be addressed; RC doesn’t have to be the one to address it (see inline comments above somewhere – not that you were really going against that). Distributing birth control and encouraging education and … see Bill and Melinda Gates’ Foundation (Melinda Gates was on the Colbert report some time ago and I think this issue came up. The issue of populations is fortunately complex.

  33. 533
    Patrick 027 says:

    re 454 wili – of course, introducing additional feedbacks like vegetation albedo (boreal forests replacing tundra) and methane hydrate/clathrate, etc, could concievably make it runaway – again, limited by C reservoir and land area/latitude ranges (and some places would probably see a surface albedo increase).

    (Limited runaway – graphing equilibrium temperature over externally-imposed forcing, it would be a smaller rather than larger discontuinity/step).

  34. 534
    Patrick 027 says:

    However, the idea that other, now developing countries must be given the right to emit as much – per capita or per $ , even without trade, etc…

  35. 535
    Chris Colose says:

    On the subject of methane/permafrost feedbacks-

    The doomsday and runaway scenarios presented outside the scientific literature on this topic are completely indefensible. It’s hard to figure out just what Steven Chu meant by the term “runaway,” but that video came off as more of a scary sound byte than anything scientifically substantive.

    Permafrost modeling studies typically indicate a potential release of in the neighborhood ~200 PgC as carbon dioxide equivalent by 2100, though poorly constrained, but comparable to other biogeochemical and climate-ecosystem related feedbacks, such as the additional CO2 released by the warming of terrestrial soils. This is enough to matter, but it’s no more scary than the uncertainty in cloud feedbacks for example, and whether they could put us on the high end of typical climate sensitivity estimates.

    As David Archer argued in previous articles here, it’s better to think of methane as a fine-tuning knob, particularly as it relates to the long-term tail of warming commitments (after it is converted to CO2 in the atmosphere) rather than as some big “tipping point” this century.

    Finally, I cannot envision, even on theoretical grounds, a situation in which methane could lead to a “runaway greenhouse” in the way planetary scientists use the term. Even CO2 which is a better greenhouse gas than methane (when comparing them side-by-side in equal concentrations) does not trigger a runaway greenhouse, even in studies where it becomes the substantial part of the atmosphere.

  36. 536
    Jim Larsen says:

    525 SecularA said, ” Electric vehicle (EV) battery manufacturers can currently produce 2.4GWh of battery power annually but this will skyrocket over 1000% to 35 GWh in only two years.”

    Thanks for the info. 80 million cars at 2kWh per car is 160 GWh. I’d say our battery production capability will still be woefully small. It’s obvious that rationing is in order.

  37. 537
    Jim Larsen says:

    525 SecularA said, “of course one reason why battery manufacturer A123 Systems recently declared bankruptcy.”

    I think you’re being generous. The recall was a big bump, but those are to be expected. It is the height of insanity to spend all that national wealth building these marvellous factories and then not run them 24/7. We’re tossing wind on the scrap heap too.

  38. 538
    Jim Larsen says:

    531 Patrick said, ” It may be better to some extent for a rich nation to help a poor nation develop clean energy infrastructure than to replace it’s own”

    Great post. I’ve pondered whether we should be concentrating in the third world. Often gridless. Usually grid-poor. We built our infrastructure long ago. If the world “needs” one coal plant’s worth of energy, doesn’t it make sense to provide it with our old plants rather than China’s new ones? Aluminum and fertilizer can transfer energy between continents.

    On reproduction, I was talking from an axiomatic view. So often policies designed to promote a certain behaviour become discrimination against those who choose to do otherwise, which really becomes yucky when kids, as always, pay for their parents’ bad luck or unwise decisions.

    Wili is concerned we’re too late already. Secular believes we have 15 years to duck and cover. Myself, temperature is a choice we choose with brimstone, and the oceans die first. In any case, this is the time to remember WW2, the last “real” war we fought. Idling a bomber or fighter factory??

  39. 539
    prokaryotes says:

    Fun in “german” with the controversial Roger Pielke Jr.

    Die verharmlosende Berichterstattung zum Klimawandel bei SPIEGEL

    SPIEGEL / Axel Bojanowski claim that the Science world is upset about a recent Munich Re study, when it comes to extreme weather and growing cost from climate change. In above post i try to make clear that Pielke Jr. is not even a climate scientist and controversial in his studies. Yet, the SPIEGEL alleges in the latest piece that he represents the climate science and that the insurer has just financial motivation to raise rates.

    Some of Dr. Pielke’s comments and work have proven to be controversial. Critics note that his work has been frequently cited by “global warming skeptics,”[3] Dr. Pielke and his allies have praised his independence and called his critics “climate McCarthyists.”[4] (For more information on who the “skeptics” are and which corporations fund skeptics, SourceWatch has created a global warming skeptic clearinghouse.)
    Dr. Pielke’s work on climate change effects has been criticized by Dr. Stephen Schneider, who said that with Pielke “one consistent pattern emerges-he is a self-aggrandizer who sets up straw men, knocks them down, and takes credit for being the honest broker to explain the mess-and in fact usually adds little new social science to his analysis.

  40. 540
    Bernd Herd says:

    #531 Patrick 027 “it shouldn’t tend to be inhumane to tax regardless of wealth because if CO2 emission were proportional to wealth generation, then the poor will be taxed less; otherwise”

    Maybe a misunderstanding: The German EEG (Renawable Energy Law) doesn’t work by taxing CO2 emissions or selling CO2 emission certificates. Instead investors are guaranteed to get a certain amount of money per kWh sold to the grid for 20 Years. The price depends on the technology, PV gives most. For new PV should be about 20c / kWh for 20 years. The payment is then charged to all electricity customers except big industrial customers. This charge to all customers was around 3.5c/kWh until last week and raised now to about 5.5c/kWh, mostly because they exclude more industrial companies from the payment now.

    The interesting difference to a CO2 tax is that the payment is from all private customers and small companies to the ones rich enough to invest in PV or wind. So the EEG tries to get the job done charging the private customers only. While this has produced impressive results, I still think CO2 taxing would be better because it would allow different methods of CO2 avoidance to compete. The technology-dependent EEG is necessary to help some technologies to get cheap due to mass-production, but we should also charge cars, planes, industrial production etc.

    The social meaning of a CO2 tax would mostly depend on the way it is returned back to the society. If distributed equally among citizens it would mean a big net transfer of money from the rich to the poor. If distributed as a income tax reduction it would mainly be returned to the ones paying high income taxes, thus to the riches.

    But when I read James Hansens suggestion I mostly wondered about the inter-country effects. And I wonder why nobody here is discussing this, for it seems so obvious to me. Did I miss something?

    Assuming all humans have the same right to live, one could agree that all countries have the right to sell CO2 emission certificates according to the number of citizens and to distribute the produced income equally among their citizens. If the initial price per ton of CO2 would be for example 23$ per t CO2, and I know the average German consumes 11t CO2 per year, this would mean a typical familiy with 2 children would have to pay about 1000$ per year. If the total allowence per person living would be calculated in a way to stay beyond 2°C warming, then most of the CO2 emission certificates (70%?) would be sold by poor nations, where more people live. That would mean a huge money transfer to developing countries. This sounds reasonable to avoid climate change, but I can not imagine rich nations to agree to it.

    I have difficulties to understand how a world having a separated European CO2 emission market and a separated Australian CO2 emission market and a separated US emission market could make the developing countries refrain from using all fossil fuels available to them.

    I read the book “The Global Deal” from Nicholas Stern (2009), and while it seems reasonable that we could do this, it seems unlikely that most of us are willing to. And he didn’t even suggest to meet 2°C, just 3°C for he argumented there is no realistic chance of meeting 2°C seen from his economists point of view. His idea of a “Global Deal” is mainly that the developed nations need to do (pay?) a lot to help the developing countries meet climate change requirements. For example his suggestions included that all developed countries should reduce their CO2 output by 90% until 2050 to allow developing countries some more development with increasing emissions. Just to hold the 3° aim, not 2°.

  41. 541
    Dan H. says:

    Jim, Patrick,,
    With regards to reproduction, just look at was has happened in the wealthier nations, U.S., Japan, Europe, etc. As they became wealthier, population growth shrank, even to the point were some European nations have a negative population growth. History shows that the best way to reduce population growth is to grow wealth first. Of course that creates the aforementioned problem of how to do so without increasing energy production.

  42. 542
    SecularAnimist says:

    Dan H wrote: “Of course that creates the aforementioned problem of how to do so without increasing energy production.”

    Once again, you are pretending that “energy production” is the same thing as “burning fossil fuels”.

    Distributed solar photovoltaics can provide plentiful electricity throughout the developing world, and in fact there is already a revolution in rural electrification with distributed PV underway in Africa, India, Central America and elsewhere.

    (Which, by the way, I think is one of the best things happening in this whole sphere — communities from Mongolia to Kenya that have never had any access to electricity are now getting it, with wonderful results.)

    There is no need for these societies to repeat the disaster of the western world’s 19th century fossil-fueled industrial revolution, nor is there any possibility of them doing so, given that they can afford neither the cost of the fossil fuels nor the cost of building electric grids to distribute power from large, centralized power plants.

  43. 543
    prokaryotes says:

    European winter climate and its possible relationship with the Arctic sea ice reduction in the recent past and future as simulated by the models of the Climate Model Intercomparison Project phase 5 (CMIP5) is investigated, with focus on the cold winters. While Europe will warm overall in the future, we find that episodes of cold months will continue to occur and there remains substantial probability for the occurrence of cold winters in Europe linked with sea ice reduction in the Barents and Kara Sea sector. A pattern of cold-European warm-Arctic anomaly is typical for the cold events in the future, which is associated with the negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation. These patterns, however, differ from the corresponding patterns in the historical period, and underline the connection between European cold winter events and Arctic sea ice reduction.

  44. 544
    Hank Roberts says:

    > As they became wealthier, population growth shrank

    As people come to see over years of experience that food, water, health care, family planning, and education are reliably staying available, population growth shrinks. Don’t assume that because the rich get richer, the poor get richer. It doesn’t work that way. Europe, you may recall, had some wars and revolutions before the poor got bread reliably.

    > wealth … without increasing energy production

    Look in the right sidebar. That’s off topic here. Or google.

  45. 545
    Jim Larsen says:

    542 SecularA said, “There is no need for these societies to repeat the disaster of the western world’s 19th century fossil-fueled industrial revolution, nor is there any possibility of them doing so,”

    Absolutely. You mentioned the wonderful effects of PV in Africa. But one must realize the truth: A lightbulb or two per house. Cellphone chargers. The village pump. That’s grand, but laughably small in scale. Bernd’s point is ever so valid. To give every African village enough clean energy to do one quarter of the things we do, but ever so efficiently… well, that ain’t pennies.

    What we have is a Jesus Moment. Spending money on ourselves will result in our downfall as a species.

  46. 546
    wili says:

    Chris @ 535 said “it’s hard to figure out just what Steven Chu meant by the term “runaway,””

    With great respect, I would suggest that on the contrary, I and most others find it completely clear what Chu means by ‘runaway’ in the video.

    You seem to be the only one who doesn’t understand his very clear explanation of what he means by it–(a) large enough positive feedback(s) that it (or they) exceeds the total amount of CO2 equivalent of all human ghg emissions.

    That is a clear, consistent and sensible definition. We can call it “Chuvian” runaway if you wish, to distinguish it from the “Venusian” feedback you reference.

    Are you suggesting that Chu is somehow a fringe scientist or doesn’t know what he’s talking about here?

    And again, here is the SkS piece on the Nature Geoscience article that sparked the discussion. The relevant graph is on the left one on figure 3, the dashed line being the relevant and most probable one.

    I do appreciate all input from all sides on this important study and its implications. I would love to be convinced that this graph, when added to what we know about other carbon feedbacks, does not mean that we are now in a “Chuvian” runaway. I have not seen an argument to convince me yet.

  47. 547
    Jim Larsen says:


    All we can do by reducing our consumption of fossil fuels is drive down the price. Close a coal plant? Make global warming worse because the coal gets exported, which adds plenty of carbon during the trip. The maximum cost is $25 a barrel for tar sands. So, until we drive the cost of fossil fuels down from $100/barrel to $40/barrel, we’re just driving demand to the third world, and demanding the third world not take our path, that of slurping cheap carbon, well, that’s unfair.

  48. 548
    Hank Roberts says:

    Good pointer from prokaryotes to the recent AGU links.

    Remember — post the DOI number — any time it’s available.

    Lots more there of interest this week

    Mitigation of 21st century Antarctic sea ice loss by stratospheric ozone recovery

  49. 549
    Hank Roberts says:

    whoah, I didn’t know that the rift system under Antarctica is like the one in east Africa, a spreading zone. That’d be a hint that warm water could indeed get in under the icecap once the edges melt off, unblocking the deep channels and allowing water to circulate in and out from the southern ocean — wouldn’t it?

    Rate of change could be — interestingly faster.

    “Neogene extension and basin deepening in the West Antarctic rift inferred from comparisons with the East African rift and other analogs
    WE LeMasurier – Geology, 2008
    Abstract The West Antarctic rift system differs from other volcanically active rift systems in two unusual respects:(1) the rift floor lies 1000–2000 m lower in elevation than others, and (2) four interior ice-filled troughs extend between 1500 m and 2555 m below sea level. …. (yes, it’s paywalled)


    “The Amundsen Sea embayment is a probable site for the initiation of a future collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. This paper contributes to a better understanding of the transport pathways of subglacial sediments into this embayment at present and during the last glacial period. It discusses the clay mineral composition of sediment samples taken from the seafloor surface and marine cores in order to decipher spatial and temporal changes in the sediment provenance. …. … indicates that glacial sediment sources were different from modern ones, which could reflect changes in the catchment areas of the glaciers and ice streams.

  50. 550
    wili says:

    Patrick @ # 533 wrote: “of course, introducing additional feedbacks like vegetation albedo (boreal forests replacing tundra) and methane hydrate/clathrate, etc, could concievably make it [limited] runaway”

    Nicely put. Except I have trouble conceiving how these additional feedbacks could do anything else than create a limited, ‘Chuvian’ runaway.