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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. 751
  2. 752
  3. 753
    Peter Backes says:

    Hope all our northeast-based RC’ers are doing okay.

  4. 754
    Jim Larsen says:

    747 Steve F said, “Why don’t you start with your assertion that climate can be adjusted just like a household thermostat with geoengineering.”

    I believe I already did by discrediting household thermostats. Translated, my statement reduces to “Household thermostats are designed to vary temperatures through large swings, and are either analog or have a limit of full degrees in their interface, while global temperatures are measured in tenths and hundredths of a degree.”

    My references are your thermostat (go look at it), and the GISTEMP record.

    Do you disagree with my statement, or think that it requires further substantiation? (If you want to claim that thermostat-like control is bleeding useless when it comes to global temperatures, then I’d definitely agree.)

    I’ll go ahead and re-research your stuff as your questions are valid, but your assumption that I keep links is absurd. I do no such thing. Do you? If so, why not post your links and save us all some bother?

  5. 755

    I can see there are several groups of people here who completely misunderstand the level of geoengineering required to give humanity enough time to fix this problem. Solar L1 occultation can indeed ‘turn climate on a dime’. You could send the world back to a ‘dark age’ where that pesky carbon dioxide could be simply be frozen out of the atmosphere if desired. Nobody is proposing that. What credible observers simply propose is the slight modulation of solar irradiance at the source, solar L1, using opaque thin films, preferably thin films that absorb and convert solar photons into storable energy of some sort, or simply sold off or beamed away. It can even be made self steering. This is an exercise in what can be done, on a small scale, which can prepare civilization for a world with resource limits and a finite solar collecting area needed for plant growth.

    Any other proposals are indeed nutty, but this is something that is unavoidable at this point. Either we modulate solar irradiance and remove excess carbon from the atmosphere, or we deal with a fallen house of cards and the huge mess that will entail.

    You deal with it. I’m just the messenger. No aerosols allowed or needed.

  6. 756
    Hank Roberts says:

    “if it were so, it would be …..” ?

    We can all agree with that.

  7. 757
    Chris Korda says:

    Thomas Lee Elifritz @755:
    Why should we take your word for all this when your comment doesn’t cite a single source? This is pure hand-waving, which RC supposedly frowns on. Your technological optimism is an opinion, not a given, and thus requires support like any other assertion.

  8. 758
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 740, 706 wayne davidson, my 714, and Secular Animist 713 … and re 717 wili (didn’t read link yet; ‘franken’storm makes sense to me for 2 reasons: it was the result, in part, of putting a hurricane together with extratropical storm-forming conditions – however, both parts would have been alive on their own, no need to give it the spark of life as it just happens on it’s own. But it’s also nearly Halloween. But I like ‘Superstorm’ Sandy, which TWC started using after (if not before?) it was officially no longer Hurricane Sandy (Post-tropical cyclone was also used, but that doesn’t convey the ‘super’. But superstorms are, fortunately, not faster than a speeding bullet (leave that to asteroids and comets).)

    Aside from whether/how/in what way Sandy is connected to AGW, I think it’s useful in:

    Illustrating once again that water rise of a few feet can be devastating
    Adaptations include evacuations and shutting things down
    but also
    Model forecasts can be correct. There was a point when some models had Sandy going out to sea while most were going into the coast; forecasters went with the tendencies. They couldn’t tell us exactly when and where, but that wasn’t of such great importance (except maybe in the storm surge distribution) – And people listenned to the forecasters, they made preparations, and those will/have surely pay(id) off.

  9. 759
    Patrick 027 says:

    ‘few feet’ – maybe I should have said ‘several feet’ (and that adds to tides and waves of course).

  10. 760
    Chris Korda says:

    Patrick @743

    Is that array (Hansen’s response function) of percentages meant to indicate the percentage of the equilibrium response since a step-wise change in forcing?

    Yes, exactly. So then f is the Climate Response Function interpolated into an array of deltas yes?

    Or numerically sum over an approximating series of finite RF steps. Is that what you did?

    Yes, hence all the previous discussion of temperature “buckets”. Each year’s theoretical (instantaneous) temperature delta is divided into 2000 unequal slices, which are added to the temperature buckets corresponding to the next two millennia; a moving window. Sorry I know I’m not using the proper names for things, but I’m understanding you well enough so far.

  11. 761
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by Jim Larsen — 30 Oct 2012 @ 3:21 PM:

    Jimmy: As usual, you provide no support for your claims while dancing and waving your hands.

    In post #684 you said- “Obviously you’ve never read anything about volcanos’ effect on global temperature. If you had, you’d know that there is absolute “proof” that GE will work. We can set global temperature like the thermostat in our house.”

    Volcanoes don’t have handy controls. You are talking about the “absolute” feasibility of geoengineering not thermostats. You said it you reference it.

    Speaking of thermostats, you want me to look at my own? I have a couple of Johnson Controls thermostats that have a programmable trigger point and swing within 0.1 degree, but this has no importance to geoengineering. Even sloppy household like control would be useful if geoengineering were a viable option, but it isn’t. You said it you justify it.

    Jimmy, you said- Household thermostats have a “limit of full degrees in their interface, while global temperatures are measured in tenths and hundredths of a degree.”

    What does this statement have to do with anything? Comparing global climate change to temperature swing in a house temperature control is like comparing climate temperature change to day and night or winter summer temperature swings. It is the desired effect that counts. You said it you provide evidence.

    Jimmy, you said- “your assumption that I keep links is absurd.”

    I always save my links because it takes only a second and takes up miniscule space on my drives. Information I have read is useless if I can’t find it again. But, you want me to post my links to geoengineering that I just found with a simple search? Jimmy, you are so lazy. I am not going to help you because this would just be feeding trolling behavior. You said it you document it.


  12. 762

    Why should we take your word for all this when your comment doesn’t cite a single source?

    Because it is original. Cite this blog post if you like. The physics of solar L1 occultation is fairly straightforward, Once you ramp up coverage you certainly would want to utilize highly developed algorithms tightly coupled to intrinsic models calibrated against observational experience.

    That is well within the scope of a technological society with a large fleet of reusable heavy lift launch vehicles. What? You don’t have RLVs yet? The process of fixing carbonate is proving to be more challenging for me IMHO, but I don’t see anything insurmountable there either for drawdown.

  13. 763
  14. 764
    Chris Korda says:

    Thomas Lee Elifritz @762

    Cite this blog post if you like.

    Thanks but if you don’t mind I’ll hold off on citing your research until after it’s been published.

  15. 765
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 764 Chris Korda, 762 Thomas Lee Elifritz –

    L1 – I can easily believe it to be original to any one person, but shortly after I mentioned it* recently here (was it last month?) in an offhanded sort of way, someone else posted a … sciencedaily? … link to an article about it. *it: … specifically (as it had been mentioned before) I suggested that maybe it would be easier to get an asteroid there rather than shoot stuff up with a rail gun launch system (I think that’s what was being discussed by others). Explosives could be used to kick up dust … but wait, why have the dust needlessly disperse? Send Wall-E up there with a shovel, and you can just keep reusing the same dust as it falls back down (slowly)… A potential problem, though, is forward scattering – in particular, if the dust cloud is large enough to extend significantly beyond the disk of the sun as seen from Earth, it might ‘focus’ light on the Earth more than block it (of course it doesn’t focus light, it would just seem like it from Earth). I was thinking instead perhaps more easily controlled polar-orbit satellites might be used, which would rotate with some fixed ratio to their orbital period, casting greater shadows at higher latitudes … or some other arrangment… for a targetted offset polar amplification of AGW especially and in particular perhaps avoiding the reduction in precipitation that can be caused by SW-radiation-based ‘GE’ (although aerosols that actually absorb some SW in the troposphere while shielding the surface would have the worst effect in that way, I’d think)… strategic distribution of solar shading has been suggested with precipitation effects in mind, such as here… sorry, I don’t have the link (I’m sure I saved it, just as Steve Fish would suggest – but where?). Maybe tomorrow…

  16. 766
    Patrick 027 says:


    “Offsetting Global Warming: Targeting Solar Geoengineering to Minimize Risk and Inequality
    ScienceDaily (Oct. 21, 2012)”

    “Asteroid Dust Could Fight Climate Change on Earth”

    also found (haven’t yet read)
    “Geoengineering Could Disrupt Rainfall Patterns
    ScienceDaily (June 6, 2012)”

    “Sunshade Geoengineering More Likely to Improve Global Food Security, Research Suggests
    ScienceDaily (Jan. 25, 2012)”

    “Geoengineering for Global Warming: Increasing Aerosols in Atmosphere Would Make Sky Whiter
    ScienceDaily (May 31, 2012)”

    I don’t have time right now to track down the comments at RC that I refered to above; they were in unforced variations sometime in the last few months.

  17. 767
    Hank Roberts says:…42..567E
    Space-based solar shield to offset greenhouse effect
    British Interplanetary Society,
    Journal (ISSN 0007-084X), vol. 42, Dec. 1989, p. 567-569.
    `Sunshade World”: A fully coupled GCM evaluation of the climatic impacts of geoengineering

    and much else. Remember L1 was going to be Triana’s position; as I recall, Gavin pointed out here years ago that in addition to Triana on the bright side, an L2 equivalent (at least) was needed to get dark side measurements, to be able to determine the planet’s energy balance and what changes were occurring.

    Adding a parasol at L1 would require the L2 instrument, even more so.

  18. 768
    Jim Larsen says:

    Steve Fish,

    The reason I used the thermostat analogy was to avoid the need to cite, as I was busy. Otherwise I’d have said something about hundredths of a degree and regional effects (I’m mostly concerned about temps in the arctic) and provided documentation. Height of injection, timing, location, lots of stuff involved, and obviously, since our subject is “studying”, fully formed answers are impossible.

    My last post said I would re-research and post responses to your quite valid questions and concerns, and you come back and complain that I’ve not completed the task yet, and you call me lazy because I believe that science advances so relying on old cites is foolish. Doing more work more accurately is “lazy”? Perhaps you meant “inefficient”?

    You said, “Even sloppy household like control would be useful if geoengineering were a viable option, but it isn’t.” I totally disagree with your claim. Back it up. To ensure I satisfy you, I’ll use your substantiation of your claim as my blueprint for how to substantiate mine.



    You’re focused on subtraction, when little subtraction is required. My house, and from what I’ve read many folks here’s houses use a fraction of the energy of a small condo. Why should we downsize?

    My car gets double the average MPG, and it’s a horrid gas-hog in my mind. 50mpg is awful! We went through the 100mpg discussion. Refer to it and accept or not as you see fit, but please don’t try to re-open it. 100mpg is a 75% reduction from the current fleet.

    Pretty much across the board in energy-intensive consumer goods, it’s easy to drop carbon emissions in half or three quarters – IF you put policies in place that count energy costs the same as capital costs. My example is probably 80%, but that’s just a guess. A bit for electricity (I posted my monthly electric bill during the heat wave earlier as reference), a bit for gasoline (~50 gallons a year), a bit for clothes and food.

    80% won’t happen everywhere, but 50% is “easy”, and will increase comfort and utility, especially in housing. Since 32% of electricity in the USA is generated with non-carbon sources, a 50% reduction in demand would lead to a 74% drop in carbon emissions. Raising MPG from 25 to 50 is a 50% drop in emissions. Since over half our emissions are absorbed, that means atmospheric carbon will begin to drop. (and OA will continue to worsen)

    it gets complicated as other countries exist, as do commercial ventures, but tell us why we need to seriously change our lifestyle. I think we just need to get more efficient about it.

    On ground source heat pumps:

    “allows the system to reach fairly high efficiencies (300% to 600%) on the coldest winter nights, compared to 175% to 250% for air-source heat pumps on cool days.” … “Even though the installation price of a geothermal system can be several times that of an air-source system of the same heating and cooling capacity, the additional costs are returned to you in energy savings in 5 to 10 years.”

    (Note the deliberately unfair comparison – coldest to cool.) So, huge carbon savings, and since interest rates are below 10%, most any builder would install a GSHP and/or super-insulation and/or passive/active solar and/or whole house ventilation instead of a conventional HVAC system if the buyer had to consider monthly energy costs the same as monthly payments when facing the bank.

  19. 769
    prokaryotes says:

    Re Aerosols

    Aerosol-driven warming

    Carbon aerosols are made up of two components: the more commonly known black carbon, and organic matter. Whereas black carbon is a strong absorber of solar radiation, organic matter both scatters and absorbs radiation. The absorptive component of organic matter is brown carbon, and is currently ignored in…

  20. 770
    wili says:

    Both Cuomo and Bloomberg have mentioned global warming in reference to Sandy and future storms.

    What would the good scientists and well informed layfolk here suggest to the people making policy for NYC and other coastal areas?

    Should they build sea walls? If so, how high?

    Are storms like Sandy going to become more and more likely to happen? More and more intense?

    Does the combination of slr and more intense (and frequent?) storms mean it will be more and more difficult to maintain infrastructure along the coast?

    Should they start planning the permanent abandonment of much of the Eastern seaboard?

    That may seem extreme, but aren’t we now facing the very extremes we have been warning may come?

  21. 771
    Jim Larsen says:

    766 Patrick, thanks for the grand links. I’d like to use one to address Steve Fish’s cost question. Brad Arnold posted at 43 on the Climate Change Methadone post:

    “But: “The economics of geoengineering are—there is no better word for it—incredible. According to Teller et al. (2003: 5), engineered particles would be even cheaper (mainly because of the reduced volume of material that would need to be put into the stratosphere); they estimate that the sunlight scattering needed to offset the warming effect of rising greenhouse gas concentrations by the year 2100 would cost just $1 billion per year.” –”The Incredible Economics of Geoengineering,” Scott Barrett, 6 December 2007

    The scheme of dimming the sun with engineered particles injected into the upper atmosphere is a short run strategy of buying time to impliment the long run scheme of changing the carbon budget of the Earth.” (endquote)

    I assume Teller et al used a high GHG concentration for 2100, when compared to what I would consider prudent, so costs should be lower. But even if they’re an order of magnitude higher, it’s still cheap.


    In the food security article, “The team found that, in the model, sunshade geoengineering leads to increased crop yields in most regions, both compared with current conditions and with the future projection of doubled carbon dioxide on its own.” They also mentioned wars and disputes. Agreeing to methods and amounts would be very problematic. Heck, lots of folks are relishing the demise of the sea ice…

  22. 772
    Jim Larsen says:

    Steve Fish, look at the graphs in the Climate Change Methadone post. GE results in rock-solid temperatures with what appears to be quite normal natural variation. The graphs assume ludicrously high GHG emissions, with concentrations actually increasing through 2100, while a sane plan would peak by 2030-2040, but that doesn’t detract from the message. This should put to bed the “thermostat” issue. Do you agree, or do we need to dig deeper?

  23. 773

    Some thoughtful material on hurricane Sandy here:

    Is an article planned? I’d like to see some science on how significant an event this really is.

    Meanwhile tea party supporters who believe in divine intervention in matters like rape may be wondering what the significance of the hurricane is for those who don’t believe governments should be big enough to act on major disasters.

  24. 774
    J Bowers says:

    George Lakoff’s excellent article at AlterNet on systemic causation. Very clear.

    Global Warming Systemically Caused Hurricane Sandy

  25. 775
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re ‘GE’ – I don’t have time to get into particulars about solar shades in various plans; just want to add to the asteroid dust idea:

    Earlier I pointed out that it could/should be better to specifically block solar IR, or in particular those wavelengths absorbed by H2O vapor, other gases and clouds, in the troposphere, rather than block all solar wavelengths indiscriminately (because selective shading could reduce the effect on convection and precipitation – caveats about cloud and H2O distribution… etc.).

    Okay for thin engineered sheets? – but – how would you engineer particles to put in orbit around an asteroid at L1? A scattering peak at intermediate wavelengths would require some precision… maybe genetically-engineered virus particles…? Oh, but a simpler idea: what if asteroid dust single scatter albedo decreases from visible to solar IR? Okay, then block a larger amount of radiation within the disk of the sun and use forward-scattered visible radiation, within or outside the disk of the sun, to make up some of the difference.

    But I’m not suggesting this is answer. I’m partial to dunite dust and biochar/soil management on Earth.

  26. 776
    wili says:

    “Ocean temperature variability for the past 60 years on the Norwegian-Svalbard margin influences gas hydrate stability on human time scales”

    Does this change anyone’s views on the relative level of near-term potential threat from seabed methane hydrates?

  27. 777
    Superman1 says:

    Somehow, my larger detailed post on this topic disappeared. Here is the summary.

    Roger Angel, Professor of Astronomy, University of Arizona. Proposed solar shield blocks 2% of the sunlight, reflecting it off into space: 16 trillion small disks; 0.6 m dia; 5 micrometers thick; one gram; at the Sun-Earth L1 Lagrangian point, 1.5 million kilometers above Earth; total weight ~ 20 million tons; total area of 4.7 million square kilometers; launched by large railguns or coilguns firing a capsule containing a million shades into space every 5 minutes for 10 years using 20 separate launch sites; estimated total cost is 5 trillion dollars; assumes launch costs of ~$50/kg, down from the launch cost Angel estimated in 2006 of $20,000/kg; 50 year lifetime.

    I personally would not refer to such a project as ” This is an exercise in what can be done, on a small scale”, as #755 does. I have some experience with electromagnetic launchers, and the reliability and proposed project cost would need to be increased substantially for credible operation. I suspect the cost would be closer to twenty trillion or so dollars for a project of this magnitude.

  28. 778

    I suspect the cost would be closer to twenty trillion or so dollars for a project of this magnitude.

    Well certainly you don’t need lunar rail guns and you wouldn’t want to do it that way anyways. It has to be active and dynamic to work. As far as costs are concerned you don’t seem to be getting the point. You have no choice now.

    This is all you got. The commitment to a solar L1 occultation solution was made a few decades ago. Think of it from a Liz Mitner and Robert Oppenheimer perspective.

  29. 779
    prokaryotes says:

    more numbers on solar in space

    Japan Plans $21 Billion Solar Space Post to Power 294,000 Homes

  30. 780
    Superman1 says:

    Thomas Elifritz #778,

    “Well certainly you don’t need lunar rail guns and you wouldn’t want to do it that way anyways. It has to be active and dynamic to work. As far as costs are concerned you don’t seem to be getting the point. You have no choice now.

    This is all you got. The commitment to a solar L1 occultation solution was made a few decades ago. Think of it from a Liz Mitner and Robert Oppenheimer perspective.”

    The reason for the railgun was to reduce the cost by a factor of 400. Since his costs turned out to be five trillion with the railgun, multiply by 400 to get the costs with conventional launcher. Now we’re starting to talk real money.

    Oh, I get the point alright. We’re basically at the stage where a Hail Mary pass is required. But, world cooperation would be required for such an effort, and we can’t get one iota of cooperation going in our own Congress.

  31. 781
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by Jim Larsen — 31 Oct 2012 @ 3:02 AM:

    You say- This should put to bed the “thermostat” issue.

    There was never a thermostat issue; there was an issue about whether geoengineering is useful. You started this with an unreferenced comment 4 days ago and you were questioned about it repeatedly by several commenters, but you didn’t provide any answers until you looked at some of Patrick 027’s links (note that there is a Patrick w/o numbers that posts, so it is helpful to use the correct name). The model in the RC link does not have any information about practicality.

    Here is how this should have gone. When questioned you should have provided supporting references and provided links. It should be obvious to you now that searching this site for information is always a good idea because of the content and the links to supporting information that are provided. Check out the links in the “methadone“ piece.

    If you have been paying attention to Hank Roberts posts you should know that Google Scholar is an important source of information if you don’t have access to a university library. . Put this link in a handy place.

    Suppose you want to know how global dimming would affect agriculture, enter something like- “geoengineering dimming agriculture” (without the quotes) in scholar and search to get- . Notice that the first link to “Assessing the benefits…” by Singarayer is about geoengineering crops to increase their albedo. Now there is an odd concept.

    Next is “Crop yields in a geoengineered climate” by Pongratz that is about what you want. Notice that to the right there is[PDF] that is a free access download. If not .edu it probably isn’t free. Click the “Crop Yields…” link to see the abstract in Nature Climate Change with no free access.

    Click back to the search list and notice at the bottom of the Crop yields… link is “All 4 versions.” Sometimes one version is free access. If not try copying the complete title of the article and pasting it into a regular Google search. Sometimes this finds a free full text copy. Usually this would be a prepublication version on the author’s website, or on some interest groups website. If you try this with “Crop yields…” you will find Julia Pongratz’s website and can see what else she has published that might be useful.

    Next you might want to look at “Related articles,” left of “All 4 versions” that gets you a search of similar papers. This is a quick way to get a narrowed search, but you can also click the little down pointing triangle at the right side of the search term field for Google Scholar to narrow a search with several factors.

    Finally, in trying to dig up scientific information the Cited References list at the end of an article will consist of earlier work that might be of interest. To search forward, note “Cited by 6” just left of “Related articles” under the “Crop yields…” link on the search page. This finds more recent articles that have this paper listed in their “Cited References” section.

    I started doing this process in a university library 40 years ago using the sneaker net and a box of 5X7 notecards. With Scholar you can find research papers much more quickly, but getting past the paywall barrier is problematic. Steve

  32. 782
    Jim Larsen says:

    Steve Fish,

    Thanks for the comments. You seemed quite focused on the thermostat issue right up until it was proven true not just in the literal sense (which I defended), but also in every sense, and now you say it wasn’t an issue? I absolutely agree that it was never an issue. Thanks for coming around to my position.

    On other things, I repeatedly asked for clues as to what to substantiate. Truly a reasonable request, and surely one who refuses to identify what one wants substantiated is being an impossible roadblock for compliance. Taking me to school for not answering questions never asked is kinda, well, strange. Do you disagree?

    You were the first to step up and give actual questions. I thank you for that, and my immediate response was that I’d work up the answers and post them. Truly a reasonable stance. Do you disagree?

    OTOH, you claim that:

    “Even sloppy household like control would be useful if geoengineering were a viable option, but it isn’t.”

    Quite a sweeping statement, yet you haven’t provided substantiation even when asked. Why? Are you saying that since you spoke second, the rules are different?

    If you do substantiate (or retract), please take into account that we aren’t talking about a scenario with rising concentrations through 2100+, so much of what you find won’t be so relevant. Here’s something that is. Patrick’s first link said:

    ” We found that tailored solar geoengineering might limit Arctic sea ice loss with several times less total solar shading than would be needed in a uniform case.”

    and concluded:

    “While more work needs to be done, we have a strong model that indicates that solar geoengineering might be used in a far more nuanced manner than the uniform one-size-fits-all implementation that is often assumed. One might say that one need not think of it as a single global thermostat. This gives us hope that if we ever do need to implement engineered solutions to combat global warming, that we would do so with a bit more confidence and a great ability to test it and control it.”

    thus suggesting that the path I’m proposing to investigate may be precisely the GE path to maybe take.

    I’ll repeat, adding emphasis: “a GREAT ability to TEST it and CONTROL it.” Awfully strong language for a scientist, eh?

    So, please show how Ken Caldeira is wrong and you’re right that GE is already known to be “not viable”. (Or show how his words mean something other than what I think they mean.)


    PS, one of the reasons I like to use other folks’ cites is that it prevents cherry-picking, and when “my” arguments are based on “your” cites, “you’ve” got much less wiggle room. (random “you”)

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