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Unforced Variations: Nov 2012

Filed under: — group @ 1 November 2012

I can’t think what people might want to talk about this month…

476 Responses to “Unforced Variations: Nov 2012”

  1. 201
  2. 202
    sidd says:

    “Melting of Northern Greenland during the last interglaciation” from suggests we pay close attention to NEGIS


  3. 203
    Michael Schnieders says:

    Hey All,
    Several days ago I stumbled across a program, ‘Channel4’ with Tom Clarke. In this particular episode Mr. Clarke mentions how the weather is warmer, and I quote,”When we arrived in northern Greenland in the first week of October it was still raining. Typically the first snow would arrive at the end of August.”
    His comment got me thinking about the affects of rain on ice. Unfortunately I have not been able to locate any useful information regarding rain’s erosive(?) affects on an ice sheet.
    Can anyone point me in the right direction?
    Thank you

  4. 204
    Hank Roberts says:

    For Michael Schnieders: search for “rain on snow” in Scholar — that’s the phrase used in many papers.
    (may break, the blog software here doesn’t always handle a quoted string; if not just copy the whole line and paste it into a web browser).

    Look for papers by time span (left side of the Scholar page, for example click “2012”) and look for papers that say “cited by” a number — papers in which other researchers followed up or mentioned them.

    Lots of effects, lots of studies.

  5. 205
    Chris Dudley says:

    I missed this originally but it turns out that raypierre does not put a lot of stock in the new study by Trenberth and Fasullo. He ‘described the paper as “another useful data point on the spectrum of estimates of cloud sensitivity,” though not “an absolute game changer.”

    He pointed out, for example, that the correlation between water vapor and clouds was drawn from short-term seasonal fluctuations. Researchers cannot be certain that those same correlations would hold true in response to a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in the future, Dr. Pierrehumbert added.

    “The whole problem is really the nature of the observations,” he said. “We don’t have long enough satellite records of cloud observations to really do this kind of study by directly looking at which models get the low clouds right, so we try to indirectly run around the inadequacies of the satellite record.”’

    So, no cartwheels.

  6. 206
    Patrick 027 says: – cooling upper atmosphere causes satellites/debris to “draw collectively closer to Earth and increases the chances of pieces crashing into one another.” … okay, you’d think a reduction of drag would slow the rate of fall – well, I’m assuming what they mean is that by keeping more stuff up there for longer, they’re more likely to crash into each other and fall out relatively unpredictably verses the nice smooth glide you’d get with greater drag and no collisions? (This would make even more sense if satellites still higher up continue to fall in just as fast, leading to a sort of pile up. But what would cause that? I know there’s never a pure vacuum, and there’s radiation pressure, but…)

  7. 207
    Hank Roberts says:

    Patrick, the guy you link to has it backwards, as the commenters there tell him. Notice he gives no source, and no date, for whatever he read to invent his misinterpretation.

    Want to guess where and when that was news?
    You can look it up. identifies a source for the cooling upper atmosphere info — from 2009.


    [Response: See also: “The sky is falling” from Nov 2006. – gavin]

  8. 208
    Patrick 027 says:

    re my earlier comments on wave propagation

    I had refered to Cushman-Roisin and didn’t say what that was. I also gave an incomplete explanation of wave propagation. It may be impossible for me to give a complete explanation even if I knew it, but I think I can do better…

    more later, but in the meantime, briefly, for a narrow jet (like on a PV front), I think if the wavelength is large relative to the ‘Rossby radius of deformation’, then the wave can’t really just propagate across the wave’s own ridges and troughs (as it could if the PV gradient were spread out over a substantial width) – instead it has to propagate along the length of the jet, which is of course longer for higher-amplitude waves. this works both ways: if the effect of beta (df/dy = gradient in planetary vorticity) were strong enough to allow wave propagation westward, I think this would be slowed (although beta would make the flow structure a bit more complicated because there would be some broader regions of nonzero flow if the PV is truly constant on either side of the jet, and otherwise… ), while the flow of the jet itself takes longer to get over a full wavelength and so it takes longer for the wave to be advected eastward.

  9. 209
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re Hank Roberts – thanks. was a link in the duckduckgo list. except for the leap to stuff falling to the surface, this seems to indicate that atmospheric contraction is a problem via space junk build up (I jumped to the last part since I already get the CO2 – cooling upper atmosphere part).

    contains. eeserre

    PS not that atmospheric jets are always on PV fronts (so far as I know). I’m using that as a sort of limiting case in contrast to a completely evenly-distributed PV gradient.

  10. 210
    Patrick 027 says:

    while the flow of the jet itself takes longer to get over a full wavelength and so it takes longer for the wave to be advected eastward.” … um, hold on… not sure… well I’ll get back to that. Just note that, if f were constant, wave propagation would depend on variation in curvature along a PV front; a circular arc would tend to just sit there.

  11. 211
    Steve Fish says:

    I think that it is worthwhile for knowledgeable posters here to remember that those at the beginning of the climate science learning curve don’t know all of the acronyms that are used. For example, “PV” (which is also a common acronym for photovoltaic) has not been defined in this thread and is not in the Real Climate Acronym Index. It is only polite, and typical of almost any research paper, for all acronyms to be defined upon their first use. Here, for maximum teaching effect, the first use within a single post would be appropriate.

    For the “PV” example AcronymFinder has 85 meanings including “Polevault, Plasma Density, Per Vaginal, and Pizza Villege.” Is it so hard to just type it out? Steve

  12. 212
    Chris Colose says:

    Steve Fish-

    Patrick 027 is referring to Potential Vorticity, a common quantity discussed in the atmospheric dynamics, forecasting, and synoptic meteorology communities.

    Essentially, if flow is constrained to stay on isentropic surfaces (another way of saying that it is adiabatic) then parcels of air effectively exchange stratification for circulation, and vice versa. In other words, the product of the vertical gradient of potential temperature (a measure of atmospheric stability) and the vorticity (a measure of the “spin” of a fluid) is conserved. In an adiabatic and frictionless universe, a parcel of air will conserve its PV forever.

    Why this should be the case, and the exploitable characteristics of such a fact, may be mysterious at first glance. Entire books have been written on the consequences of it. Personally, it’s not very intuitive to me, though I have been told by many dynamicists that it is a more natural variable to use and would dominate how we look at weather maps if history could be re-written.

  13. 213
    Hank Roberts says:

    > The cooling also could have implications for the buildup
    > of so-called “space junk” ….. Less drag means this junk
    > gets speedier and could pose more of a threat.

    (I take that to mean ‘a threat for a longer period of time’ — less drag means a longer time goes by before the drag slows a piece of junk, its orbit decays, it spirals inward, and it burns up.)

  14. 214
    Hank Roberts says:

    This might be (guessing from the long publications list for the mission)
    the paper; doi:10.1029/2009JA014713
    if so it may be in the data sources list already:

  15. 215
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by Chris Colose — 13 Nov 2012 @ 9:51 PM

    Thanks Chris for the explanation but my complaint is not about the specific PV acronym, but about the use of undefined acronyms here by non-expert but knowledgeable commenters who should know better. Without definitions of acronyms many posts are gibberish to many folks here to learn.The new King et al. post, “Weighing change in Antarctica,” is a good example of how this should be done. Steve

  16. 216
    Michael Schnieders says:

    To Hank Roberts – thank you for the “Rain on Snow”, very helpful I’m sure I will find what I’m looking for now.

    to Hank Roberts and Patrick 027 – In regards to the space debris; with a colder upper atmosphere, the air contracts(you already know that part (: ) which allows ‘junk’ to orbit at a lower altitude. Orbital mechanics demands that with a lower altitude the velocity will be greater. for example, alt.-350 miles, velocity 17,700 mph; 300 miles, velocity 19,000 mph.
    Also, orbits are almost always elliptical, usually with one side closer to the planet than the other(another variable). If the debris has the right shape and encounters the atmosphere at an appropriate angle it can ‘skip’ off, altering its orbit(another variable) allowing it to possibly interact with other debris, and maybe creating even more debris(another variable).

    I could go on, but it will involve more variables and increasing the complexity with every variable, some of them are even “random”.
    Sound familiar?
    Only difference: no one argues that it is Man made. ;)

  17. 217
    Hank Roberts says:

    > ‘skip’ off, altering its orbit
    I knew that. I just didn’t remember I knew that (grin).
    Helpful, thanks.

  18. 218
    Hank Roberts says:

    So let’s say — leaving aside the other effects, if we just count sea level rise — will the money made from the fossil fuel economy be enough to buy the coastal land that is going to be submerged as a result? Will there be any money left over to call profit? Or is this one of those “lose money on every transaction but make it up by taking a slice of each as profit” kinds of deals?

  19. 219
    wili says:

    Good question, Hank.

    Better question: Will the money made from the fossil fuel economy be enough to buy back the hundreds of species that are being driven to extinction by climate change and ff-driven habitat destruction?

    Perhaps we can wait till the species store has a sale (though at this point it might be a going-out-of-business sale).

  20. 220
    DP says:

    I see the current El Nino seems to be over almost before it has begun. We seem to be in a semi perminent La Nina. Will this nhave an effect on temeratures in the next few years?

  21. 221
    prokaryotes says:

    FILM: Arctic Methane: Why The Sea Ice Matters

    Featuring: James Hansen, Natalia Shakhova, Peter Wadhams & David Wasdell

  22. 222
    flxible says:

    DP@220 – ENSO began moving out of LaNina sometime ago, and remaining below a certain threshold for some months, has been judged to be in a neutral phase – it is not now and has never been been “semi-permanent” anything, it is episodic.

  23. 223
    Hank Roberts says:
    has weekly updates — as of Monday it says going on neutral for a while longer most likely.

    Another bit there says:

    “A common finding among scientific studies is that these long-lived weather extremes are associated with recurrent atmospheric flow anomalies. Numerous studies have found that the poor forecast skill beyond a few days results principally from the inability of numerical weather prediction models to simulate the onset and evolution of blocking flows.”

    The European model that did best with Sandy:
    Others not so much.

  24. 224
    David B. Benson says:

    Airborne Particles Smuggle Pollutants to Far Reaches of Globe

    Another bit of the puzzle partly understood.

  25. 225
    Chris Korda says:

    Ice geeks and those who love them: You may not have heard about the new film Chasing Ice. I’ve been waiting a long time for this one. It’s one of those films that only plays for a week at your local art cinema, if you’re fortunate enough to have one, else you’ll have wait for the DVD. I’m beside myself with anticipation! Time lapse photography, bottomless moulins, skeptic conversion, it’s got it all.

  26. 226
    David B. Benson says:

    Himalayan Glaciers Will Shrink by Almost 10 Percent, Even If Temperatures Hold Steady

    In Bhutan anyway.

  27. 227
  28. 228
    Susan Anderson says:

    Found this hooror in ClimateCentral today. Suggest people stand up and take notice. Eucalyptus are not nice trees, and my expert friends point out they are water hogs and prone to fire.

    Article says its a reprint from the Guardian, so reaction there might also be useful.

    [Response:There’s a whole litany of issues with the claims made therein, ranging from fanciful to ludicrous.–Jim]

  29. 229
    Susan Anderson says:

    Sorry, can’t resist. This is not exactly about climate science, but Dad and I share an idea that common sense makes cold fusion a non-starter. Well, here’s Ugo Bardi on pseudo science and claptrap, and if nothing else, it might be good for a giggle!

    Every time that I find myself discussing “cold fusion,” I need to explain why I think there exists a “good” science and a “bad” science; the latter sometimes defined also as “pseudo-science” or “pathological science.”. It is a point which is perfectly obvious to scientists, but very difficult to explain to non scientists. So, let me describe a discussion that I had with Steven Featherstone, American journalist and writer, who came to visit me as part of an investigation of the cold fusion phenomenon in Italy, that he recently published in the November issue of “Popular Science”. I’ll report our conversation in a novelized form that – I think – keeps the essence of what we said to each other in more than four hours of talking. These are not, obviously, the exact words said in this occasion, but Steve has been so kind to approve this version. So, here it is.

  30. 230
    Russell says:

    One moment of stunning candor burned through the fog of Thursday’s Watts telethon- here’s the screen capture

  31. 231
    prokaryotes says:

    Why does it cost 152 $ to read nature publications? (Subscribe to Nature Geoscience for full access: $152) Why is the science not freely available? This is another dent to the challenges we face. We need all the information we can get!

    [Response:Not an ideal situation for sure. Always email the corresponding author directly and ask for an electronic reprint of any article you cannot otherwise obtain–they will send it to you most of the time, IME–Jim]

  32. 232
    Peter Backes says:

    Lomborg is at it again:

    Can someone tell me why Slate would give this [ad hom deleted] guy a platform??

    [Response: What a terrible article – the problems would be obvious by simply looking at a map of New York Bight and trying to see exactly how sea walls are going to be able to protect the southern shore of Long Island (including JFK) or the Jersey shore. A barrier across the Verrazano Narrows is possible (maybe even likely over the next few decades), but the idea that provides permanent protection under ‘business as usual’ continued emissions or can be applied to all areas at risk from storm surges is a fantasy. In fact the whole article is selling a convenient fantasy that adaptation to a continually worsening baseline is trivial and universal – it is neither, and claims to the contrary are pathetic. – gavin]

  33. 233
    wili says:

    Listen and weep:

    Kevin Anderson on why so many climatologists won’t admit that we are on track for over 2 degrees C global warming rise, likely 6 degrees by the end of the century. (In the latter assessment he joins, Hansen, Birol of IEA, MunichRE, PWC, Joe Romm at ClimateProgress, and some others.)

  34. 234
    Hank Roberts says:×277.jpg

    Wow. That’s a ‘dog hair’ forest for sure.

    That kind of plantation would burn awful fast, tho’ not quite as fast as, say, switchgrass — nothing like an ordinary forest.

    Interesting stuff, but not simple. Jim, I’d sure welcome more attention to all the issues raised by that approach. I wish you and my old friend who wrote that switchgrass cautionary page could collaborate.

  35. 235
    Susan Anderson says:

    inline [Response:There’s a whole litany of issues with the claims made therein, ranging from fanciful to ludicrous.–Jim]

    Would you be so kind as to point to some further information about this? I didn’t get fanciful/ludicrous from it, but rather scary as it’s possible to be. In your opinion, am I wrong? Eucalyptus trees in my brief experience didn’t seem like the right kind of tree to multiply. It appears the author was thinking more about fuel than emissions, which is also against it.

    If you feel able to answer or point to some sources, I’d be grateful.

    [Response:I think we probably just differ on what concerns us about it Susan. Will try to make some comments later.–Jim]

  36. 236
    Hank Roberts says:

    To make it explicit, a quote from that switchgrass cautionary blog post:

    “… Other cellulosic feedstocks will have similar fire problems, even hybrid willow. In order to be economic, these intrinsically flammable materials have to be grown in the highest density possible- increasing the fire hazard. Regardless of climate, a dry spell will occur ….

    … My plea is for hard, hard thinking, before we commit our hope and precious resources to blind fantasies. We don’t have time or resources to waste…..”

  37. 237

    PBS NOVA is covering Sandy NOW, quite good stuff.

  38. 238
    Steve Fish says:

    Hank Roberts’ link to the Fuelish Fantasies article reminded me of another question about biofuel that Jim Bouldin might be able to comment on. When I garden I have to maintain the soil, so what happens when one removes all of the above ground growth of switchgrass, or eucalyptus trees, or whatever crop over and over. Wouldn’t this type of agriculture require a lot of fossil carbon for fertilizer just like corn?


  39. 239
    Patrick 027 says:

    re 216 Michael Schnieders – Thank you.

  40. 240
    Susan Anderson says:

    Blabbosphere alert: PBS NOVA on Sandy back to back with Ken Burns Dustbowl, showing now on the east coast.

    The former is, so far, excellent IMHO.

    too good, try not to do this but,
    Gutenberg apprope

  41. 241
    Patrick 027 says:

    re 238 Steve Fish – related: I’ve wondered about how well it could work to use lawn grass clippings for biofuel; couldn’t the processing of grass to make fuel also produce as a byproduct the necessary fertilizer to make up for not leaving grass clippings on the lawn, and would it stay put and work rather than run off, etc?

  42. 242
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by Patrick 027 — 18 Nov 2012 @ 7:50 PM:

    I always thought that the products of the enormous suburban grass farms should be put to use. Actually, there are many municipalities that pick up yard waste (lawn clippings and fall leaves) free and they supply colored trash bags that are picked up on a specific day. They are producing compost from the waste for plantings around public buildings and in parks.


  43. 243
    Hank Roberts says:

    > lawn clippings … biofuel

    Chemistry doesn’t work at room temperature, not even close.

    Look at the older articles in the sidebar there from four, six, eight, ten years ago — each promoting some new idea as a possible breakthrough — and look a few up in Scholar, then follow those by looking at “cited by” and see how they have worked out.

    That’s what most people don’t do when they hear about a ‘breakthrough’ from some university’s hard working PR department. Check their track record for assessing promising new work.

    Lawn grass hasn’t much ferment — you can’t make make alcohol (lacking the magic enzyme we don’t have that would break up lignin cheaply, and if that’s ever invented say byebye rainforest).

    Lawn grass doesn’t make much oil either, so no biodiesel.

  44. 244
    sidd says:

    Mr. Steve Fish writes on the 18th of November, 2012 at 7:12 PM:

    “When I garden I have to maintain the soil, so what happens when one removes all of the above ground growth of switchgrass, or eucalyptus trees, or whatever crop over and over. Wouldn’t this type of agriculture require a lot of fossil carbon for fertilizer just like corn…”

    Precisely. If you remove the produce of the earth every year, you will destroy the tilth, which cannot be replaced with fossil fertilizer. I am seeing this up close and personal, and trying to fix. You must return the much of the bounty of the land to the land. Or else the good earth will disappear and the land will do nought but grow stones.

    This is why all healthy farms have livestock. Not batteries of fowl, or miles of feedlot, but free range.

    Eat less meat, and more vegetables. Pay more for it, from careful farms. You will be healthier, and so will the land.


  45. 245
    Hank Roberts says:

    > livestock

    The “free range” notion doesn’t mean unconstrained — consider for example Salatin’s Virginia farm, which is famous for having demonstrable success by managing grazing intensively for short and carefully timed spans with long breaks:

    That doesn’t work with large herds grazing public lands, as has been amply demonstrated. This thesis (which I’ve just skimmed) is worthwhile reading for anyone who’s slightly familiar. He quotes Aldo Leopold:

    “just because the situation is hopeless does not mean we should not keep trying to do our best.”

  46. 246
    flxible says:

    I always thought that the products of the enormous suburban grass farms should be put to use. Actually, there are many municipalities that pick up yard waste (lawn clippings and fall leaves) free . . .

    Those ‘grass farms’ should be put to use – growing vegetables. Anyone who insists on growing grass should be required to leave the clippings where they fall behind the manual push mower, or compost the clippings themselves. The govt does nothing for “free” even trucks with good purposes use fossil fuels, and require crews to operate – grass clippings are not a ‘product’, they are an ‘externality’ of the tons of fossil fuel derived fertilizers and pesticides sold to suburbia, not to mention all those snarling lawnmowers and weed whackers and leaf vacuums.

  47. 247
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by sidd — 19 Nov 2012 @ 12:25 AM

    And, raise and grow as much of your own food as you can. Steve

  48. 248
    wili says:

    Yes, all these schemes forget that we actually owe a debt to the land. We have already drawn down tilth across much of the most productive land in the world. We owe it to the future to actually build up that soil, not mine it more intensively for diminishing returns.

    Meanwhile–Did anyone listen to the talk by Kevin Anderson? Any reactions?

    Here’s a link to the power point that accompanies the talk:

    Here’s the link to the (ecoshock coverage of) the talk:

    Or, as Anderson suggests, is this topic truly tabu among climate scientists? No ‘real clothes’ at RealClimate?

  49. 249
    Hank Roberts says:

    > should be required to leave the clippings where they fall
    > behind the manual push mower, or compost the clippings
    > themselves. The govt does nothing for “free” ….

    I just cain’t HEP mase’f sometimes …

    Got your proposal to fund the budget for establishing the Department of Lawn Clipping and Manual Push Mower Enforcement?
    I believe this will require establishment of local, state, and national offices, at least one per ZIP code.

    Of course staffing will be seasonal in any areas where snow continues to fall during the winter. Say North Dakota and Minnesota. All others will require year-round patrols on at least weekly intervals.

    Perhaps we can acquire the leases on the Post Office buildings, once that’s privatized.

    Or were you thinking that local militias can handle suppressing these nefarious lawn-makers without any cost to the government?

    I suppose the penalties will be severe. How’s prison space looking?

    But seriously.
    If you think the world needs to address the real problem,
    (and that’s why most of us participate here, isn’t it?)

    Consider that you’re writing for an audience now and in the future.

    Speak to the real problem.


  50. 250
    Ray Ladbury says:


    Sigh! [edit – stay classy please] Climate scientists have been out in front on this issue since Kevin was a frigging wet-behind-the-ears graduate student.

    That there are differences among scientists in exactly how to deal with this issue is not surprising. However, if policy makers and industry had taken action when the evidence presented to them by the scientists exceeded any reasonable doubt, we wouldn’t be talking about an unfolding catastrophe. [edit]