Unforced Variations: Apr 2013

Open thread for April…

172 comments on this post.
  1. SteveF:

    Nic Lewis climate sensitivity paper published:


  2. mrlee:

    Can any one of you knowledgable people guide me to an explantaions for the high temperatures on Svalbard in the thirties? I found an article by Rasmus and others, but they were more focused on the recent rise.

  3. Salamano:


    Isn’t it true that the math matches what is observed to the point where the results of Balmaseda et al are significantly weighted to the math involved in the modeling that fills in the gaps of data? Not that the results are nullified without the actual data, but that a non-zero portion of the reanalysis is self-fulfilling?

  4. sidd:

    Nice paper by Dutrieux et al. on cryosphere discuss

    87Km^3/yr from 2008-2011, say 1/4 mm/yr

    Now, what about Thwaites ? Not to seem impatient or anything …


  5. Chuck Hughes:

    So has anything changed as far as sea level rise predictions for the end of the Century? Are we still looking at 1 to 3 meters by 2100? I’ve been reading articles like this: http://www.climatecentral.org/news/study-cutting-short-lived-pollutants-can-slow-sea-level-rise-15877

    Does this mean there is a solution on the horizon? Is the West Antarctica Ice Sheet still set to collapse along with the Greenland Ice Sheet? I’m reading conflicting stories about what’s happening and can’t tell if there are any real viable solutions or hopeful signs or not. The President doesn’t seem to be taking any action toward mitigation and I’m not hearing Climate Change being discussed other than on forums like this one. Certainally not in the news media. We seem to have had a fairly normal Spring compared to last year so I’m wondering if the trend toward a warming climate is still accelerating as fast as it seemed to be in 2011?

  6. Chuck Hughes:

    Here’s another example:


  7. perwis:

    Interesting (and important?) new papers:

    1. James Hansen has a new paper forthcoming in RSA, finding a high climate sensitivity:

    Climate Sensitivity, Sea Level, and Atmospheric CO2 by James Hansen, Makiko Sato, Gary Russell, Pushker Kharecha (NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University Earth Institute): http://arxiv.org/abs/1211.4846

    2. James Hansen discussing his retirement, justification for his views and some of the results from the above paper: http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2013/20130415_Exaggerations.pdf

    3. Troy Masters have a new paper in Clim. Dyn. finding a low climate sensitivity: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00382-013-1770-4#
    Here is a post by him on his findings: http://troyca.wordpress.com/2013/04/16/sensitivity-cmip5-comparison-paper-now-in-press-at-climate-dynamics/

    Thoughts on these papers?

  8. SteveF:

    Yet more climate sensitivity, this time from Troy Masters:


  9. perwis:

    Chris Hughes @105:

    Sea level rise is till very uncertain over century timescales. The largest uncertainty is what will happen in Greenland and Antarctica. Much progress seems to be happening in ice sheet modelling in simulating the processes of disintegrating ice sheets and glaciers. Two large projects have recently been finished: the EU-led Ice2Sea project and the US-led SeaRISE (just google them). However, the question is how much confidence we can in ice sheet models. see this discussion by Stefan Rahmstorf http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2013/01/sea-level-rise-where-we-stand-at-the-start-of-2013-part-2/

    Another interesting area of research is in probabilistic based risk assessments. Two papers in this area have recently come out of Princeton (from Michael Oppenheimer’s group): http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S36/50/04K42/index.xml?section=topstories

    Mark Siddal of Bristol Univ also presented a probabilistic risk-based approach to assess the risks from Antarctica at the EGU last week.

    And then there’s more systematic expert elicitation, like this: http://www.bristol.ac.uk/news/2013/9040.html

  10. Chuck Hughes:

    Perwis #107

    I’m very curious about this Dr. James Hansen article. Again, I’m pretty ignorant when it comes to understanding what all this means. Is Dr. Hansen trying to walk back his predictions? Are things not as bad as what we’ve been told or are they worse? I’m really interested in human time scales vs. consequences and it’s really hard for me to determine what the next century will look like based on what I’m reading.

    I would like to also point out that the vast majority of people reading this in the media are NOT scientists but highly concerned citizens with children and grandchildren. I would like to have some sort of real time assessment of our situation and what the reasonable expectations are for this century. Here’s the Dr. Hansen article reposted: http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2013/20130415_Exaggerations.pdf

    I realized I’ve asked this question before but in light of some new information would any of you be able to provide a dumbed down interpretation for the likes of me and people like me who don’t quite understand all of this? Thank you in advance for your patience. Chuck

  11. David B. Benson:

    Chuck Hughes @110 — At a sufficiently elevated global temperature, around 6 K above pre-industrial, Thermohaline circulation (THC) ceases and there is a global
    One can read more about this in Peter Ward’s Under a Green Sky and in Mark Lynas’s Six Degrees:
    But even the 2 K limit suggested as not-too-bad will be purgatory, at the very edge of

    There are means to avoid even that which first require the ending of coal burning and then the addition of some massive sequestration scheme, for example Irrigated afforestation of the Sahara and Australian Outback to end global warming

    It is obviously better to start now, but insufficient change has been forthcoming:

    If this does not suffice, inquire further.

  12. Hank Roberts:

    > massive sequestration scheme, for example Irrigated afforestation

    We all likely have our favorite candidates for this. My own candidate would be the natural process formerly responsible for iron fertilization of the upper ocean, which our great-grandparents’ generation burned and wasted and almost lost before we moved on to the current screwup.

    That one isn’t beyond the possibility of reversing quite yet. Although we could certainly screw it up worse and faster by pushing the wrong direction

  13. Mark E:

    “…massive sequestration scheme, for example Irrigated afforestation…”

    Seeing as how oil/coal/gas are *already* sequestered, it makes ZERO sense to un-sequester it (via producing and combustion) only to then look for ways to RE-sequester it. In other words, is’ ALREADY sequestered so we should start by just leaving the damn stuff in the ground.

  14. Hank Roberts:

    I mentioned pushing the wrong direction; that stupidity has already been suggested.

    Human-driven top-down predation and trophic collapse is the problem.
    Making that worse isn’t going to help anything but short-term profits.

    … Oh, wait ….

    “woof woof woof woof woof PROFIT woof woof …”

  15. Hank Roberts:

    > Chuck Hughes …. Hansen …

    Hansen is such a scientist:

    “The concept of a runaway greenhouse effect was introduced by considering a highly idealized situation … appropriate for introduction of a concept…. recent studies relax some of the idealizations and are sufficient to show that Earth is not now near a runaway situation, but the idealizations are still sufficient that the studies do not provide a picture of where Earth is headed if all fossil fuels are burned ….”

    Try reading it with this handy translation list (my quick take on the words)

    “the concept” = worst case introduced in his earlier paper
    “highly idealized” = worst case assumptions
    “runaway” = millions of years
    “recent studies” = others’ later work improving assumptions in his earlier paper
    “relax” = improve
    “some of the idealizations” = newer, perhaps better constrained assumptions
    “the studies” = the aforementioned “recent studies”
    “boil” = ‘… to be corrected in the next edition: even with burning of all fossil fuels the tropical ocean does not “boil”.’

  16. MARodger:

    Chuck Hughes @110.

    The answer to your first two questions are “no” and “neither”. And your problems may be because the “Exaggerations” piece is not good writing to the point of obscuring the message. I read it as the following:-

    Hansen says he has been accused of exaggerating climate sensitivity (magnitude) and of the speed of its onset. This he denies, the first with a yet-to-be-published reference (his ref 4 abstract). the second he says is people confusing the speed of climate change (slow) with the speed requirements for preventative actions (fast). He says he is also accused of “jumping the gun” in the past, of warning of man-made climate problems before the scientific evidence was established. Yet he says that in the late 1980s the evidence was there. It is more so now & we are now running out of time to take preventative action so any reticence from scientists for this message is misplaced. He describes the difference between Venus-type run-away warming which have no Earthly chance and mini-run-away events which do – although direct preventative measures are not entirely impossible – they are slower than AGW. He also considers changing climate sensitivity with high (4-8 x pre-industrial) CO2 resulting from total fossil fuel use plus PETM-type feedbacks. He describes what I call “the steam doughnut Earth” which is uninhabitable outside the high Himalayas (and I would add air con) by Hansen’s assessment.
    His one retraction concerns his “Storms..” book which states incorrectly that tropical oceans would boil with total FF use.
    In his Summary Discussion he talks of future work load & involvements. He also admits he failed to address fully “climate groundrush” (my words) in this paper, how we went from a future potential problem to unavoidable imminent climate problems with no intermediate step. The answer is big, think political systems, he says.

    His version of “steam doughnut Earth” sound a bit more extreme than my previous understanding. The doughnut starts cooking in the tropics at +7ºC and becomes very widespread by +14ºC. Hansen talks of 10W/m^2 for his Himalaya version, which is 2.5 x 2 x CO2 forcing, so +10ºC? Would the significant increase in sensitivity discussed by Hansen (or with some juicy PETM-type feedbacks) create such an extensive “steam doughnut Earth” at +10ºC? I say, does it matter if they don’t? Both such outcomes will be entirely hypothetical for the majority of humanity.
    And Hansen makes no mention of timescale for these outcomes but really the only timescale to be considered is how fast we need to reduce our emissions, not how long before we could be toasted.

  17. SecularAnimist:

    Chuck Hughes wrote: “So has anything changed as far as sea level rise predictions for the end of the Century? … I’m really interested in human time scales vs. consequences and it’s really hard for me to determine what the next century will look like based on what I’m reading.”

    In the time frame that you are concerned with, drought will almost certainly have a much greater impact than sea level rise — namely, the failure of agriculture all over the world and ensuing global famine.

    Having said that, the sea level rise that has already occurred is sufficient to increase storm surges to levels that could force the evacuation of millions of people from vulnerable coastal cities. New York City has had a couple of close calls already.

  18. perwis:

    Chuck Hughes @105,110

    MARodger does a great job translating Hansen’s latest communication into plain languague.

    It is a matter of degrees in hell I would say.

    And unfortunately the climate is an even bigger worry today, as we are far from the required emission reductions, and due to the inertia of the energy system, climate system and ice sheets.

    The good news is scarce, but there have been some lately:
    Maybe there is less risk of a high climate sensitivity
    Maybe the Antarctic ice sheet will not shred so much ice in the next hundred years
    Maybe the Amazon is not as sensitive as before.

    But these are very uncertain, only from a few studies, and there are other bad news, in addition to the general picture (inertia etc):
    The Arctic sea ice is disappearing faster than models expected
    Greenland and Antarctica is contributing ot sea level rise faster than expected.
    Extreme events seem to become more common.

    So. I would say that the overall outlook looks worse today than for, say 10 years ago.

  19. Edward Greisch:

    The problem with lawyers: “People who have not so much as been conceived, let alone born, hypothetical people who may or may not exist no matter what happens, do not have rights, and I do not have the right to “self defense” defending grandchildren I do not have. If you insist on demanding the right to “defend” people who do not exist, we do not have common ground to meet on.”

    “Therefore, we cannot do anything about GW.” We knew we had a problem with the general public. Now we know another group that is a problem. We cannot try the Koch brothers for genocide before it “happens.”

  20. Hank Roberts:

    “cli-fi” (climate fiction) featured on National Public Radio News – Weekend Edition today; interviewing among others Judith Curry.

    [Response: link – gavin]

  21. Hank Roberts:

    > Edward Greisch … lawyers (followed by direct quotation)

    Who are you quoting? What’s the source of that?

    It sounds like you’re quoting someone from before Nixon was president — which is when the Environmental Protection Agency was created, specifically to protect people not yet alive.

    I’d really like to know where you got that quotation. It sounds to me like you’ve come across something someone made up to try to scare people, and fooled you into thinking it’s an actual statement of the law.

  22. Hank Roberts:

    Another rate of change problem

  23. Edward Greisch:

    121 Hank Roberts: Thanks. I was arguing with a friend. It wasn’t a direct quotation of the law, but it does say something about the legal mindset, or at least one person’s attitude on GW.

  24. Killian:

    50 Lawrence Coleman says: “are these latest disasters in Australia the direct result of CC” and Tim had to say it’s impossible to say whether they are directly related because CC is such a complex issue blah blah which of course is scientifically correct

    It’s not scientifically correct. Fact is, the generation of some storms must be driven by increased energy in the system. But even if we dismiss that, the magnitude of climate events is definitely impacted. So, the correct answer is, “Yes, in the sense that even if the number of storms isn’t directly affected, the location, speed and intensity of pretty much all weather events are affected by climate changes.”

    I’m blanking on the name at the moment, but our eminent cliamte scientists who passed away last year made this point more than once. I agree. Stop pussyfooting around with the reality: Everything is changing because cliamte is changing. No more weasel words. The answer is YES in any sense that matters.

  25. Killian:

    52 Todd Bandrowsky says: What -is- the best consensus right now for how long it would take CO2 to revert back to pre-industrial levels if we halted all emissions? I saw an online model that suggested 900 years but I don’t know at all how well vetted it is.

    Irrelevant. Asking he right question is key: How quickly can we speed up sequestration using natural processes that have little risk of unintended consequences? Answer: 20 – 100 years.

    50 ppm via reforestation. (Hansen)
    Some fraction of that for afforestation, preferably Food Forests
    50%+/yr of current emissions yearly via regenerative farming and home food production.(Rodale)
    Claimed 100 ppm via grassland sequestration. (Savory and new study linked in comments somewhere above. NOTE: We used to have *meters* of soil in the our prairies, now we perhaps 1 – 2 meters in best cases.)

    And all this with none of the unavoidable reduction in consumption necessitated by GHG’s and resource limits.

    Simple, simple, simple to do. Sad none of this gets much serious conversation, yet people get all excited about high-risk geo-engineering.

    All linked multiple times.

  26. Rick Brown:

    Edward Griesch:

    #119 “lawyers”

    #123 “. . . or at least one person’s attitude on GW.”

    It’s the latter, why give it air time?

    Some lawyers worth paying attention to: http://ourchildrenstrust.org/

    “The most basic role of a government is to protect its citizens from dangers too large and complex for individuals to deal with on their own. Global warming is just such a danger. Any legitimate government has a duty to protect the air, the water, and all the other natural systems that sustain its people. Everyone has a right to a livable environment — the young and the old, the powerful and the voiceless, present generations and those not yet born — but runaway climate change threatens us all.”

  27. Hank Roberts:


    “… At least five international treaties and three declarations
    refer to future generations.
    Domestic laws, such as those in the United States, also often recognize the
    interest of future generations. For example, at least eight U.S. federal statutes make specific reference to the protection of the environment for future as well as present generations. At least four U.S. state constitutions and five state statutes similarly reference such interests….

    … Numerous legal sources establish a duty for present generations to act. Some sources specifically recognize the existence of rights of future generations….”

    Details are in the footnotes at the link. This is just one example found with a few seconds’ searching online, not the best or newest reference.

  28. Edward Greisch:

    126 Rick Brown & 127 Hank Roberts: Thanks

  29. sidd:

    My attention is drawn by Mr. Bob Everett at skepticalscience to Byalko(2012)
    Phys. Usp. 55(1) 103-108 (2012), where he teases out a 40Kyr period from a very simple model and analysis of the last 780Kyr Antarctic core. (An earlier paper available in English at Doklady Physics, 2010, Vol. 55, No. 4, pp. 168–171, contains some analysis of stability regimes based on temperature data from the instrumental record, but i like the 2012 paper more…)
    This reminds me of Saltzman’s work, for some reason. See, e.g. Saltzman and Verbistsky,Paleoceanography, Vol 9 Issue 6, (1994)


  30. Edward Greisch:

    Is it my imagination or have my Google Alerts for Global Warming become a lot more like our opinion over the past year or so?

    25 July 2009: “Why people are cool to global warming”
    18 August 2011: “Some say global warming is a hoax.”
    28 April 2012: “Iowa Corn Market Expected to Stuggle [sic] Because of Global Warming”
    21 April 2013: “Research backs global warming theory: Financial Times”

    NOT a scientific sample. Just my non-random picks. I happened to look at Google Alerts for Global Warming yesterday and today after a long pause. They seem different, like we are winning. Are we?

  31. Icarus:

    Ocean heat content studies find that global warming has accelerated in recent years – for example, Levitus 2012 finds a rise in OHC of around 10^23 Joules over the last decade, twice that of the previous decade.

    At the same time, the growth rate of CO₂ forcing has declined slightly – i.e. we are putting more CO₂ into the atmosphere, but the airborne fraction has declined, so the CO₂ forcing hasn’t been rising quite as steeply since about 1990. This means that the net climate forcing, according to GISS, hasn’t risen since about 2000 –


    We know that the existing planetary energy imbalance will cause continuing warming for many decades due to ocean thermal inertia, but we wouldn’t expect warming to be *accelerating* if the climate forcing hasn’t increased for 13 years. That’s a puzzle, it seems to me.

    One explanation could be that the acceleration in OHC accumulation isn’t real. Another could be that it’s real, and that additional natural positive feedbacks have been kicking in to accelerate the warming despite the known forcings being level for 13 years. A third explanation might be that we have overestimated the negative forcing from atmospheric aerosols – since this is largely assumed or estimated rather than measured, perhaps it’s not been offsetting the greenhouse gas forcing as much as expected in recent years, meaning that GISS are underestimating the net climate forcing.

    I don’t know what the answer is, but it seems like an interesting question, and one I haven’t seen addressed anywhere.

  32. Radge Havers:

    Define winning.

    My take for the next decades: hope for the best and savor the bright spots wherever you can, but prepare yourself for a big effin’ mess.

  33. Hank Roberts:

    for Edward Greisch:

    “Google Alerts are email updates of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on your queries.”

    Google’s search results show you what you’ve been wanting to see.
    The search results do not show an accurate picture of what’s happening.

    The illusion that things are “going your way” is pervasive.
    It keeps you coming back and seeing more advertising.

    Remember, you’re the product they’re selling to the advertisers.
    Don’t trust them to be leading you to greener pastures.

  34. WebHubTelescope:

    Icarus said:
    “At the same time, the growth rate of CO₂ forcing has declined slightly – i.e. we are putting more CO₂ into the atmosphere, but the airborne fraction has declined, so the CO₂ forcing hasn’t been rising quite as steeply since about 1990. This means that the net climate forcing, according to GISS, hasn’t risen since about 2000 -“

    The airborne fraction has decreased slightly but not the net. This is a detailed look at the fraction, along with a model based on carbon emissions and a diffusive sequestering response.

    The left is straight response, and the right side includes outgassing of CO2 based on the temperature. This adds noise due to the yearly temperature fluctuations.
    The fraction is holding steady around 0.55 or 55%.

  35. MARodger:

    WebHubTelescope @134.

    I’m always surprised that the estimated CO2 emissions from changing land use aren’t included in CO2 airborne fraction calculations. Unlike FF & cement emissions, land use emissions haven’t risen but instead are shown in decline, so as well as reducing the fraction to 43% or so, it also has a slight inclination up rather than down.

  36. Icarus:

    Thanks WHT.

  37. Susan Anderson:

    Wunderground has put together some fine material:

    “Mother Nature’s face is not aging slowly or gracefully, the wrinkles and scars caused by accumulating greenhouse gases are already visible. The good news? Extreme weather is also chiseling fissures and gaping holes in the climate deniers’ bunker, leaving a crumbling foundation for their arguments. Moving on, it’s time to prepare for the unusual weather ahead that is likely to become usual.” So writes Dr. Jennifer Francis of Rutgers in her short essay for Earth Day 2013, “The Changing Face of Mother Nature.” Dr. Francis’ piece is part of a special Earth Day 2013 microsite

    cite: http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=2390


    I try to stay away from these, but it’s too good a humdinger to hone:
    academical honedng

  38. Mal Adapted:

    Once again, I’d like to call attention to Sharon Astyk’s excellent blog. She has an enviable ability to cut through the crap. If you think “Earth Day” is just an opportunity to greenwash the root of the problem, then you’ll appreciate Why I hate Earth Day.

  39. David B. Benson:

    Asian Monsoon Is Getting Predictable: Strong Correlation Between Summer Monsoon and Preceding Climate Pattern
    El Nino.

  40. David B. Benson:

    Plant Life Floods Earth’s Atmosphere
    Transpiration matters, quite a bit it seems (despite the writing style).

  41. Patrick:

    Solar power produced 100% of new energy on U.S. grid in March.


  42. flxible:

    “Solar power produced 100% of new energy on U.S. grid in March.”

    A much more interesting metric would be how much coal and oil fired energy was removed from the grid or replaced by renewables. Additions to the amount of energy consumed from any source is a step backward.

  43. prokaryotes:

    Carbon dioxide now at highest level in 5 million years http://www.usatoday.com/story/weather/2013/04/24/carbon-dioxide-keeling-curve-global-warming/2110445/

  44. prokaryotes:

    US national security advisor says climate change is threat, calls for emissions reductions http://www.theverge.com/2013/4/24/4261458/national-security-advisor-donilon-climate-change-emissions

  45. sidd:

    Meet my new best friend, Giovanni.

    and here is something he came up with about the evolution of precipitation distribution over the last three decades.


    just like temperature, precip. dist. gallops to the right, easily a full std dev in 30 yr.

    We do live in interesting times.


  46. Dave123:

    In the current (May-June 2013) issue of American Scientist, Andrew Gelman documents serial plagiarism by Wegman. Wegman’s behavior with Mann is part of a chronic problem of academic misconduct (apparently). (I’m not sure if the link is inserted correctly please cut and paste into your browser: http://www.americanscientist.org/issues/pub/to-throw-away-data-plagiarism-as-a-statistical-crime

  47. Hank Roberts:

    > In Wegman’s case, no such argument about a larger context has been made

    I thought he said he’s one of the good guys; few if any larger contexts could be claimed, eh?

  48. Chuck Hughes:

    I went to the article you posted:

    “US national security advisor says climate change is threat, calls for emissions reductions http://www.theverge.com/2013/4/24/4261458/national-security-advisor-donilon-climate-change-emissions

    Comment by prokaryotes — 24 Apr 2013 @ 7:26 PM”

    Then you scroll down and read the inane, stupid comments from some of the posters and you realize why we’re in serious trouble. This is what frustrates the hell out of me. And the stupid comments out number the smart ones 10 to 1. So what do you do?????

  49. MARodger:

    prokaryotes @143.

    I was surprised by the “roughly 5 million years” quote at USA TODAY as the time since we last saw 400-ppm CO2 – 3.5 million is the usual number I encounter.
    The USA TODAY quote is actually a translation of “probably the Pliocene epoch, between 3.2 million and 5 million years ago” which is how Scripps News describe it.
    I have had occasion to argue how “probable” a Pliocene 400-ppm is. The alternative is a Miocene date at some 14 million years ago. I would argue that the evidence points to the 14 million years being more likely. And more impressive.

  50. prokaryotes:

    Re Chuck Hughes

    Comments need to be judged carefully, since the deniers are on record to use sock puppets – automated bots posting ad hominem and shit like that. Secondly when you have a minority, these are often very vocal. But judging from some comments i think most are motivated through denier actions, because you can not argue on a rational basis.

    Also make sure to check the Whitehouse link from said article and read the rest of Donilon’s speech.