Unforced Variations: March 2013

A new open thread – hopefully for some new climate science topics…

350 comments on this post.
  1. Killian:

    For your perusal:

    Car companies gang up on renewables – hydrogen, Fortune, 2/4/13: http://management.fortune.cnn.com/2013/02/04/auto-partnerships-hydrogen-cars/

    Related to previous: Electric Cars Head Toward Another Dead End? TOD via CNBC via Reuters, 4 Feb 2013 http://www.cnbc.com/id/100430620

    [NOTE: The most intractable problem with cars is not fuels, not to minimize the barriers there, but is resources. Cars for 9+ billion, for how many generations? The math doesn’t work in a resource-constrained world. Cars are a moot argument, IMO. They should be eliminated ASAP, regardless of type, except for specific, irreplaceable uses.]

    Drumbeat, TOD, link: http://www.theoildrum.com/node/9818#comment-944074
    Fairly extensive posts, links and discussion on hydrogen via the Drumbeat on TOD, OP is sfhaze on August 15, 2012 http://www.theoildrum.com/node/9418#comment-911349

    Fuel cell trams and trains via the Drumbeat on TOD, August 15, 2012 http://www.theoildrum.com/node/9418#comment-911429

    Various posts and comments on hydrogen via the Drumbeat on TOD, October 22, 2012, Leanan, October 22, 2012, http://www.theoildrum.com/node/9577

    The Hydrogen Dream, Luis de Sousa, January 31, 2012, TOD: http://www.theoildrum.com/node/8884

    The Hydrogen Economy and Peak Platinum, Big Gav, August 13, TOD 2008http://anz.theoildrum.com/node/4405

  2. Lawrence Coleman:

    144: Secular Animist. Thanks for the response. I agree that we have many of the means available to dramatically cut emissions. However the problem is our out of control population (had to mention the elephant in the room) and the extra energy that this dramatic growth requires. Simultaneously because of the little issue above we are cutting the very forests that have always been the planet’s principal carbon sink. I have heard a dozen times that livestock are carbon neutral..rubbish. If cattle were at the same numbers then maybe, but they also are growing rapidly in number to sustain the appetites of the world’s rising middle classes. Whilst the bovine pop. is growing they cannot be carbon neutral. Trying to persuade China and India into steep emissions reduction mught be challenging owing to China’s bloody mindedness. You have the means in America to start immediately. We in Australia have the same means in fact everybody in the 1st world has. The only way to practically cut emissions is through a collective response by world leaders and a few bold public sector corporations. By installing solar panels on 1/5 of the houses and buildings of the industrialised world we can make a huge dent in emissions. Even nuclear is a viable if costly option. What I don’t see a glimmer of is any urgency by world leaders to do anything concrete lest that might jeopardise their reelection chances. The technology is there but trying to change people’s attitudes might well be impossible.

  3. JCH:

    Wood for Trees has not updated Gistemp LOTI since November, 2012. Does anybody know why, or whether or not it will ever again be updated?

  4. Hank Roberts:

    > Woodfortrees

    Encourage him: https://www.justgiving.com/WFT

  5. John Burgeson:

    I just read Hertsgaard’s book HOT. Is it credible? Is it useful for redistribution?

  6. perwis:

    John #155

    For what’s it worth: i’ve read most of it and as I remember it seemed accurate. Any particular issues that you worry about?

  7. tamino:

    Since the subject of Arctic sea ice came up recently, I’ve been doing some posts on that topic. Part 1 is here:


    Part 2 here:


    Part 3 soon to come.

  8. Jim Larsen:

    152 Lawrence C said, ” However the problem is our out of control population (had to mention the elephant in the room) and the extra energy that this dramatic growth requires… …By installing solar panels on 1/5 of the houses and buildings of the industrialised world we can make a huge dent in emissions.”

    If you use “industrialized” in a scientific sense, then the industrialized world is growing rapidly while the third world is shrinking just as quickly. This won’t stop until the entire world is industrialized. Given this, wouldn’t it make more sense for the industrialized world to continue using old fossil sources and use the world’s renewable production in the 3rd world? It makes no scientific sense to build solar cells in China and ship them to the West while ripping down old coal plants in the West and rebuilding them in China…

  9. Edward Greisch:

    Book: “Requiem for a Species”by Clive Hamilton 2010

    Chapter 1: The species involved is us humans.

    Chapter 2: Growth fetishism. Economic Growth has become a religion. The denialists accuse us of what they are guilty of. Economics or money is a very strange religion.

  10. MalcolmT:

    Thanks for the heads-up on ‘Greedy Lying Bastards’, Chris K @113.
    The targets of that movie include the Koch brothers, whose names pop up repeatedly, as we know, amongst those funding climate change disinformation. They also popped up on Forbes magazine’s latest ‘rich list’, as reported on the ABC on March 5 (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-03-05/rinehart-again-tops-list-of-australian-billionaires/4553040 ) – “Tied at sixth were brothers Charles and David Koch, with $US34 billion each, fortunes built on their US oil refining, pulp and paper and chemicals empire Koch Industries.” If you add their separate fortunes together, which for this purpose I think is reasonable, they are third on the list, not equal sixth.
    Perhaps we need to ask another rich-list leader (Bill? Warren?) to counterbalance their influence?

  11. Philip Machanick:

    Weird article at IEEE Spectrum on anthropogenic vs. volcanic sulphur dioxide pollution; here’s my response:

    The way this article is framed is a tad misleading. It comes across as saying that human emissions are dwarfed by volcanic emissions. If you read almost to the end you find that anthropogenic emissions are about half the total, and it’s the INCREASE from China and India that’s not that large a factor.

    The author appears to have confused VARIABILITY with TOTAL IMPACT (at least in the way he has expressed himself).

    Also I unfortunately can’t access the original paper to answer this question: if “AOD has increased by between 4 percent and 10 percent per year since 2000”, why is it so clear that a 4% pa increase from China and India is not a significant component of this incease? Is this period large enough for statistical significance? And why anyway is this important, because there is no driver we know of for volcanic output to increase continuously, whereas any unconstrained growth in industrial pollution will eventually break out of the natural background signal (unless, as I say, something is forcing unconstrained growth in volcanic activity)?

    And there’s also a pretty good reason for carbon dioxide to have a bad press: it doesn’t clean out of the atmosphere as acid rain (which may seem a good thing) but that means an increase is long-lived. After about half of the increase is absorbed by the environment; the rest is absorbed by much slower processes, with a significant fraction of the increase still present in 1,000 years.

    This article raises more questions than it answers, that can only really be answered by reading the original source, once again illustrating the problem of academic publications hidden behind a paywall.

  12. Russell Robinson:

    A very rough back-of-the-envelope calculation indicates that the rate of C02 emission from melting Greeenland ice is about 0.01 times the human rate.

  13. Lawrence Coleman:

    158 Jim Larsen..actually just now you could well be right considering the plummeting price of solar cells around the world. If one could convince China and India of the merits of a mass roll out of renewable energy in their own respective countries fronted by solar cell energy production would place them at an economic advantage over the west who is still uing increasingly expensive fossil fuel technology, that should be a clear win win. I believe the Chinese gov has now got to be considering a cleaner future for it’s cities after seeing the footage of Shanghai and Beijing choking under a thick acrid layer of smog. I like your logic Jim.

  14. Kevin McKinney:

    #163–Lawrence, China is aggressively installing wind and solar. See this graph:


    Things have shifted in India, too:


  15. SecularAnimist:

    Lawrence Coleman wrote: “If one could convince China and India of the merits of a mass roll out of renewable energy in their own respective countries …”

    China is a world leader in deployment of wind and solar, and India is on the way.

    It makes no sense to speak of “China” and “India” as though they are monolithic entities that act with one mind.

    Both are complex societies, and while their power structures of government and industry don’t map exactly to those of the USA, they are like the USA in that there are those who ARE “convinced” of the urgent need to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, and there are also powerful interests that are heavily invested in fossil fuels and want to perpetuate their use.

    But if we are going to speak in terms of “convincing” nations, then I wish we could convince “America” of the merits of a mass roll out of renewable energy that would match what China is already doing.

    And if “America” is serious about convincing “China” to phase out fossil fuels, one thing we could do is to stop exporting huge amounts of coal to China.

  16. MARodger:

    Russell Robinson @162.

    A most intriguing question posed by David Werth @29 – how significant will the CO2 trapped in ice sheets when released by its melting be as a source of atmospheric CO2? You calculate that from the GIS it would roughly add 1% to the CO2 mankind is releasing via FF use etc (thank you) which sounds a rather a lot but then today’s net loss of Greenland ice is also rather a lot.

    Yet the melting ice presumably also releases the rest of that ancient air trapped with the CO2. So, me thinks, would that not make the gaseous emissions from melting ice (having lower CO2 content than today) act to dilute today’s CO2 levels?
    But then does CO2ppm still hold as the value to be watched? With the release of the ancient air from the ice, there is more atmosphere for IR energy to escape through, a blanket that will also support more H2O to work alongside that extra CO2.

    Which is why I say ‘most intriguig.’

  17. AIC:

    Muzzling of scientists in Canada worsens:


  18. wili:

    SA wrote: “Shall we all just sit around crying in our beer?”

    Has someone proposed this? If so, please point it to us. If not, please do not make up straw men and imply that someone here holds a position they don’t hold.

    I agree with most of what you said up to that quote, by the way. I just want to continue to be able to discuss the science and its implications without constantly being accused of colluding with the oil companies or advocating lacrimonious beer dilutions. (In any case, don’t much care for salt in my yeasty beverages ;-)

  19. David B. Benson:

    Canadian Arctic Glacier Melt Accelerating, Irreversible, Projections Suggest
    18% gone by 2100 CE.

  20. Lynn Vincentnathan:

    Just saw this link by a denialist, supposedly “climategate 3” and the password to all the emails that supposedly prove scientists were fudging the data, etc — http://tomnelson.blogspot.com/2013/03/mr-foia-speaks-time-to-tie-up-loose.html

    Does this need to be addressed?


    Subject: FOIA 2013: the password

    It’s time to tie up loose ends and dispel some of the speculation surrounding the Climategate affair.

    Indeed, it’s singular “I” this time. After certain career developments I can no longer use the papal plural ;-)

    The “all.7z” password is [redacted]

    …I prepared CG1 & 2 alone. Even skimming through all 220.000 emails would have taken several more months of work in an increasingly unfavorable environment.

    Dumping them all into the public domain would be the last resort. Majority of the emails are irrelevant, some of them probably sensitive and socially damaging.

    To get the remaining scientifically (or otherwise) relevant emails out, I ask you to pass this on to any motivated and responsible individuals who could volunteer some time to sift through the material for eventual release….

  21. Bojan Dolinar:

    Your thoughts on the science planned during the The Coldest Journey? I think it’s worth the risk … and the fuel, as seems to be the problem with the usual suspects who are – quite predictably – downplaying the expedition.

  22. MARodger:

    Further to comments @29, @162, @166.

    I thought to reverse the back-of-envelope calculation of Russel Robinson to find how much air there is in ice but I came out with 100%.

    600Gt GIS ice melt. 30Gt human CO2 emissions. CO2 500ppm(by weight) in the trapped ancient air. It would take ice made of solid air for GIS to release 1% of human emissions.

    So what would be a good % for an ice cap’s air content by weight. The best I could find was this (looking at the structure of Alpine ice) which gives a range, possibly 10% as a useful single value, but is that by weight or by volume?

  23. Hank Roberts:

    Thanks AIC for that link — those Canadian scientists aren’t being just muzzled, they’re being throttled. The government changed the rules about publication, lied about that, got caught, lied again, changed the rules about applying for grants.

    Sounds like the Canadian government has realized they’re in big trouble with climate change and are desperate to hold off public information for a while.

  24. JABowron:

    We may not have to wait for the release of methane hydrates because of climate change.. A story in our local paper says that Japan has “extracted natural ‘ice gas’ from methane hydrates beneath the sea off its coast, opening up a super-resource that could meet the country’s gas needs for the next century…” The story (Edmonton Journal March 15, 2013) points out that they “must find a way to avoid releasing large quantities of methane” into the air.

  25. Doug:

    The commenter “Killian” posted the below two links in February’s unforced variations. They essentially cast doubt on the claim heard everywhere that fracking contributes only half of the greenhouse gas emissions of other fossil fuels. I am curious what the take is on this claim by the scientists of Real Climate? Thank you.



  26. Hank Roberts:

    > the claim heard everywhere

    Claims you hear — often called “Heard-a-guy-in-a-bar” citations — ought to be checked

    A search on the subject in Scholar doesn’t find support for the barfly estimate. I’d guess that’s being copypasted by folks who don’t check facts.


    Just the first page of results has two papers giving more credible numbers.

  27. Killian:

    Hank Roberts unsurprisingly said drivel drivel barflies drivel.

    Not impressed with Ivory Tower, unfounded, elitism. Not good enough for you so you call legitimate feedback “barfly estimate?” Does not reflect well on you.

    The first is from Cornell. Full of barflies, Cornell, certainly.

    The second is from the NOAA. Barflies all, there, too. The findings were published in the dive bar rag, Nature. The findings supported earlier findings of 4% leakage and made more menacing the IEA’s (that’s the International Energy Agency, made up of mostly foreign barflies so doubly suspect) findings that substituting methane for coal doesn’t appreciably change the outcomes of BAU FF use since up to 9% leakage was found during this study.

    The article notes Ken Caldeira, the useless cad, and Tom Wigley (of the noted barfly clan NCAR – probably hip-hop barflies given that silly shortened moniker) found that even conservative rates of leakage, i.e. 2%, would make no appreciable difference in temps for at least 250 years.

    The “reliable” estimates you support as non-barfly make no effort to measure leakage or underestimate it, which is why they considered methane to be half the emissions of coal. It is when the full process is considered *and measured*, as noted above, by barflies, of course, that the numbers move back toward equilibrium.

    This is not hard to comprehend unless one closes one’s Ivory Tower to all inputs.

    I’d guess that’s being copypasted by folks who don’t check facts.

    And I’m certain you’re an arrogant so-and-so to call Cornell, the NOAA, the journal Nature, etc., barflies.

    Shame, shame, shame.

    I realize you probably saw my name attached and let your brain go to mush, but that sort of prejudice and arrogance is not excusable, particularly when it leads to libel of good scientists and knee-jerk dismissal of their work.

    While I am of the opinion a healthy society listens to all voices, there is a prerequisite that the voice not be spouting drivel. To coin a phrase from a movie I can’t remember the name of, these are serious times for serious people. If you aren’t a serious person, please exit stage right. Or left. Don’t really care. Just go if you’re going to spout disrespectful drivel.

  28. DP:

    Re 175 I have heard that the claims about relative fracking methane emissions ignore the methane emissions caused by mining coal.If you factor that in emissions from gas fracking are a lot less.

  29. JMcDonald:

    A question:

    We’ve all seen the various projections for CO2 increases over the next century under various scenarios.

    Has anyone translated those to estimated economic impacts?

    If such graphs were feasible, it would be possible to make rough estimates of things such as the global return on investment for switching from one level of CO2 production to another, which then could be compared with estimated costs of making such a switch (probably an easier calculation).

    That would seem to useful for countering arguments to the effect that “ideally” we should do something about climate change, “but it’s just too expensive”.

    Have economists and climate scientists collaborated on anything like this?

  30. flxible:

    Killian @177, not unsurprisingly said ‘I have such a persecution complex’.

    Hank was responding to the comment of “the claim heard everywhere“, not to your cited articles which were mentioned in the same comment . . . you may find Hanks propensity to encourage folks to make their own checks frustrating, but misdirected rants based on misinterpretations of such simple comments, leaves one wondering about any of your assertions.

  31. Richard Palm:

    While researching a question raised by one of my denier friends, I came across a couple of graphs near the bottom of the linked NSIDC Web page that shows Arctic sea decreasing, but Antarctic sea ice staying about the same. Can anyone point me to an explanation of why this is happening?


  32. Hank Roberts:

    Killian, dear, bless your heart, you’re leaping too fast.

    If you’d looked — the search link I posted showed people how to find some of the research that _supports_ what you said.

    Your statement about gas/methane/fracking _is_ correct.
    Your assumption that nobody but you has the truth is … not helpful.

    C’mon. Read the science, share the information behind your opinions.

  33. Doug:

    I logged on here specifically because I found Hank’s response to my question so offensive Killian. I was merely asking a question of the climate scientists on here, as to their take on the studies. Then I was greeted with a response to “look it up” from someone who isn’t a climate scientist. (Hank)

    To tell you the truth, even if I tried to “look it up” I wouldn’t know if what I was reading was the best science on the topic. That’s why I came on here to ask climate scientists. Not all of us Hank, come from a science background nor have the researching prowess you do…

    Hank, you also seemed rather dismissive of my statement that the fracking claim is heard “everywhere”. Well….that is all one hears in the media, and I would guess that 99% of the American public anyways who have thought about it at all, think that fracking contributes about half of the greenhouse gases specifically because it is heard everywhere in the media.

    Lastly, thank you DP at #178 for your response.

  34. Hank Roberts:

    For JMcDonald, yes, those economic estimates are made quite a bit. Scholar will find them. For a critique of some of them, this might be an amusing place to start: http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2010/06/13/richard-tol-is-being-oppressed/

  35. Doug:

    I logged on here specifically because I found Mr. Robert’s remarks at #176 to my question so offensive. I was merely asking a question of the climate scientists of their opinion of those studies. Instead I get a command from Mr. Roberts (not a climate scientist I believe) to “look it up”. Well, I thought the purpose of this site was for climate scientists to communicate with the public. I do not come from a science background and even if I knew how to use “Google Scholar” I wouldn’t know if what I found was the best science on the topic. That’s why I wanted to ask the climate scientists their opinion. I thought the purpose of this site was to increase the understanding of the public, but if we are going to be met with snide remarks for merely asking a question, it will discourage the understanding of people like me. -Doug

  36. Richard Palm:

    In #181, “Arctic sea decreasing” should read “Arctic sea ice decreasing.”

  37. flxible:

    . . .my statement that the fracking claim is heard “everywhere”. Well … that is all one hears in the media …

    What I hear in the media is that using gas in place of coal in power plants contributes much less CO2, NOT that obtaining gas from the process of fracking does – if folks misinterpret that to mean that obtaining gas by way of the fracking process is best, ignoring other problems wrt storage and transport of either fuel …. well, Hank suggests you research the whole picture, from those who’ve actually done research on that particular question, and form your own opinion [even pointed you to authoritative papers] rather than asking for opinions from folks involved in way different areas of climatology.

  38. Ray Ladbury:

    First, I would point out that Hank suggests that everyone do their own research.

    Second, I would point out that Hank’s advice is actually very good advice as it increases the chances that one will find reasonable understanding whether one starts at WTFUWT or at Realclimate.

    Third, I would point out that the scientists who run this site all have day jobs and run this site as a kindness to those of us interested in science.

    Fourth, I would point out that the questions you ask are not really climate related.

    Fifth, it doesn’t speak well when one takes offense at a suggestion to do one’s own research.

  39. Hank Roberts:

    Doug, you’re right, I’m not a climate scientist, I’m a regular reader.
    I regret you were offended. I use Scholar often as a first place to check when I’m told that a claim is “heard everywhere” — it’s worth trying.

    Glad you came back and asked again. Someone else will be able to help better.

  40. MARodger:

    Richard Pam @181 &186.
    There is a SkepticalScience take on the contrarian argument that says “Antarctic Sea Ice is increasing so ya-boo sucks to your CAGW!!!!” I’d reckon it’ll stretch to explaining why Antarctic Sea Ice is “staying about the same.”

  41. Richard Palm:

    MARodger @190

    Thanks, that answers the question very well. I’ll have to remember to check Skepticalscience.com in the future.

  42. GaryM:

    I have a question I have been unable to get answered elsewhere, so I thought I might try here.

    I read frequent references to the effects of El Ninos and La Ninas, as well as the AMO, on global average temperatures. And not just in the sense of surface air temps. The sharp increases in temps during El Ninos in particular seem to cause a spike in the GAT. 1998 being the best example.

    It is not uncommon when partisans of both sides of the climate debate are arguing whether the climate is currently warming, cooling, or in a pause, for the commenter to pick a start date that either includes, or omits 1998, depending on which point they want to make.

    My question is, how does the concentration of heat in one area of the climate system, raise the average temperature of that system? As I understand, the various ocean oscillations are the result of winds and currents concentrating, or dispersing, heat within the climate system. They are not phenomenon related to an increase in external heat/energy added to the system.

    Yet if you compare reported global average temperature trends, El Nino years show a correlation with a significant increase in global average temperature. 1998 in particular shows a severe increase in average temperature. But how does an El Nino, super or otherwise, increase the global average temperature?

    Where is the additional heat/energy coming from?

  43. JCH:

    Richard Palm says

    I do not know what others here think, but I think this paper makes some very reasonable explanations given that in some areas of the Antarctic sea ice extent is declining and in others expanding. It is hard to believe an Antarctic “cooling” could do both. The wind explanation can do both.

  44. David B. Benson:

    GaryM @192 — I’m an amateur at this but I’ll attempt answers to your questions.

    First of all, the AMO is most likely of no interest. It is well correlated to global temperature changes since it is just the temperature changes of the North Atlantic.

    More interesting is ENSO. During ENSO neutral conditions warm water piles up in the Pacific Warm Pool. During El Nino conditions this warm water rushes east along the equator and shuts off the cold Humboldt current along the coast of Peru. This combined effect increases the average temperature of the globe as opposed to the situation during ENSO neutral conditions when only the Pacific Warm Pool is warmed.

    I hope I have that both nearly correct and understandably so.

  45. GaryM:

    David B. Benson @ 192

    Thanks for the reply, but I don’t think that answers the question. Movement of heat from the ocean to the atmosphere will certainly raise the average temperature of the atmosphere, but the heat gained by the atmosphere is lost by the ocean. And the heat “piled up” in one part of the ocean means there is less heat where it would otherwise have been had the heat not concentrated. But neither phenomenon adds any heat/energy to the climate system. It is just moving it around among the various components of the system. The average should, as far as I can see, stay the same.

    So why does the global average temperature rise with an El Nino, and/or fall with a La Nina?

  46. Hank Roberts:

    Trying again to include a link that failed to post above:
    how to use Scholar

    chuckle — and reCaptcha says: “now oaitoll”

  47. JCH:

    GaryM, if I am correct, misunderstands what the surface air temperature represents. So start with that. He’s thinking the GMT is a measurement of entire earth system; therefore, he thinks sloshing heat between ocean and atmosphere, or different depths of the oceans, should not change the GMT as what is being sloshed around is already in the GMT, and should not change the GMT. I could be wrong, but I’ve read his question several times and people always explain how El Nino warms the atmosphere, and he seems to think such a process should have net zero effect on GMT.

  48. MalcolmT:

    JMcDonald @179: I think you will find what you want in the Stern Review – http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http:/www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/sternreview_index.htm

  49. David Werth:

    MARodger’s comment @166 is well taken. I hadn’t thought about the other components of the atmosphere that would be there. So that means the release of air from glacial ice would tend to move the CO2 level toward the level in the trapped air which as MAR said would dilute the atmospheric level slightly. Thanks for helping me clarify my thinking.

  50. jimmy:

    Re 192-gary m. the heat is coming from the oceans which does not get measured in global averages that usually take surface temps only