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Unforced variations: Sept. 2013

Filed under: — group @ 2 September 2013

This month’s open thread… Expect pre-IPCC report discussion (SPM due on Sep 27, full report (pre-copy-editing) Sep 30th), analysis of this years Arctic ice cover minimum, and a host of the usual distractions.

296 Responses to “Unforced variations: Sept. 2013”

  1. 51
    Peter O'Donnell Offenhartz says:

    I have a technical question regarding radiative heat transfer in the stratosphere, and I’m hoping someone will help me out. When satellites look at the earth in the 15 micron band where carbon dioxide absorption is strongest, they see an effective source temperature around 220 K, or – 50 C. This presumably reflects a source in the tropopause. However, up to altitudes far above this level, until pressures below 10 millibar, the atmosphere is still optically thick in this band and, furthermore, the temperature is increasing with altitude, preventing outward net heat transfer except for photons in the weakest carbon dioxide bands. Is all the heat transfer in the stratosphere in this band due to photons emitted from the weakest lines?
    I also have a second related question: Carbon dioxide is known to enhance stratospheric cooling via collisions with ozone, providing a path for the stratosphere to emit (as infrared) energy absorbed in the ultraviolet. Does this affect the apparent source temperature of the 15 micron band?
    I’d be happy just to get some links!

  2. 52
    Hank Roberts says:

    The leaky clathrate stuff would make using CO2 to displace methane kind of iffy, wouldn’t it? Poking more holes in an already leaky cap … or is CO2 clathrate more stable at a given depth/temperature than the methane it would replace?

  3. 53
    Jim Larsen says:

    ” or is CO2 clathrate more stable at a given depth/temperature than the methane it would replace?”

    I’ve read that CO2 clathrate is more stable than CH4.

  4. 54
    David B. Benson says:

    Global Warming Has Increased Risk of Record Heat

  5. 55
    David Miller says:

    Jim says “I’ve read that CO2 clathrate is more stable than CH4.”

    I’ve read that too.


    The idea that we can replace methane with CO2 in existing clathrates and safely sequester the CO2 strikes me as absurd.

    Think about the engineering challenges: Take CO2 (from where?) and pump it into clathrates that stay frozen. Extract methane from same. This all in an environment that is near the surface without significant cap rock. Seal all hydrate so that carbon stays sequestered in near-surface conditions in a hostile environment. Keep hydrate frozen despite ocean warming several degrees.

    The very proposition strikes me as sheer madness. I’m sure we’re much better off with other efforts for both adaptation and mitigation.

  6. 56
    Richard says:

    0^0 says:

    4 Sep 2013 at 3:09 PM

    Anybody having checked what Svensmark has been up to lately?

    About 20 mins in

  7. 57
    prokaryotes says:

    Why the jury’s still out on the risk of Arctic methane catastrophe

    Can scientists overcome huge uncertainties to pin down how close, or far, we might be to a tipping point? Link

  8. 58
    owl905 says:

    Just when you think the world is worried about everything else, but …
    “An open poll conducted by a Vermont senator on his website has global warming tracking far above chemical weapons as a concern that voters think members of Congress should care most about.”
    A record response of 18,000, chemical weapons (dead last, which may indicate something else to worry about), but the selection was:
    “chemical weapons in Syria, jobs and unemployment, health care, education, immigration, global warming, NSA phone and Internet surveillance, gun policy, the federal budget deficit, or something else”

    … Survey Says care warming

  9. 59
    Jim Larsen says:

    55 David M,

    All true, especially the madness part, but when the clathrates are melting anyway, we’ll have no choice but to harvest and burn.

  10. 60
    Radge Havers says:

    Gavin quoted on climate models:

    Why trust climate models? It’s a matter of simple science

  11. 61

    #60–Good article; thanks for the link.

  12. 62
    Shizel says:

    The acidity of the oceans will more than double in the next 40 years. This rate is 10 times faster than 55 million years ago when when a mass extinction of marine life occurred. It is also faster than during 4 of earth’s biggest mass extinction events during the last 300 hundred million years — faster than even the great Permian mass extinction event where 95% of life on earth vanished 250 million years ago. The oceans are now 30% more acidic than in pre-industrial times. In less than 40 years they will be 60% more acidic than then.

    When ice ages come and go the planet can change temperature 5°C in as little as 5,000 years. 50 times slower than what we are doing to earth now. In the past, a 5°C change normally takes 20,000 years, we are going to do 5°C in 50-100 years, 200 times faster.

    Climate change is happening 100 times faster than in the past.

    By 2025, humans will impact 50% of earth’s biosphere. This will cause a planetary ecological state shift leading to a mass extinction event that is unstoppable and irreversible once started.

    Why does nobody talk about the thousands of 1-kilometer wide bubbling methane seabeds first recorded in 2011 and now found to be 150 kilometres wide?
    Do you believe scientists
    who spent 30 years in the arctic
    or do you believe scientists
    who spent 30 years at their computer?

  13. 63
    wili says:

    Wow, thanks for all those links, Shizel.

    From prok’s link at 57:

    “Can scientists overcome huge uncertainties to pin down how close, or far, we might be to a tipping point?

    a 2007 Royal Society paper by NASA scientist Drew Shindell backs this up:

    “… the rarity of palaeoclimate evidence for hydrate-induced climate changes argues that this is a fairly unlikely candidate for near-term sudden climate change. Unlike the others, however, anthropogenic climate change may alter the probability of hydrate release when compared with the past, making the overall probability of near-term release extremely difficult to estimate…

    Massive methane release by hydrates or from peats also seems to have been extremely rare in the past, but could become more probable in the future world under the influence of anthropogenic forcing. However, at present, it is not possible to judge the probability for such changes reliably.”

  14. 64
    Watcher says:


    Re: 62 — Not a lot going right for these days, I guess. Must be hard getting out of bed in the morning.

  15. 65

    Ok, Watcher, let’s look at the bright side, carbon dioxide is a remarkable planetary thermostat, it converts readily to methane, hydrocarbons, cellulose, carbohydrates and sugars, spices, herbs and vegetables, even alcohol, and it’s relatively easy to condense and transport. Supercritical carbon dioxide has highly valuable industrial properties. Plus we have a large polar land and ice mass which appears to be a good place to store it.

    So, other than no longer injecting large quantities of it into the atmosphere, what we need to do is extract it and remove it from the planet. Fortunately, carbon dioxide is the raw material of space habitats when one ignores the poisonous effect of not adequately controlling it.

    So, space elevators anyone? After reusable launch vehicles and space solar power, of course. That appears to be the best and only way to get rid of it in a hurry, otherwise it’s going to take a whole lotta deciduous trees, hemp fields, fresh water and electricity, plus a very long time. What we need are some quick fixes so that we have that time. These are not insoluble problems, it just requires a dramatic change in thinking.

    So from a practical standpoint, with unlimited space solar power you just convert it to methane, release to hydrogen to convert to water and store the carbon in a big bag. Or make things out of it. Preferably in space.

  16. 66
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Thomas, perhaps you would care to enlighten me on the idea of a space elevator. Particularly:

    1)Where do you park the orbiting platform? Presumably above the altitude for geostationary orbit, since the center of mass must be at GEO
    2)If the platform is above GEO, then pray, what do you make it out of that will not degrade due to exposure to the radiation belts on a timescale of months?

    I’ve never gotten a satisfying answer to either question, and it’s not for lack of trying.

  17. 67
    pete best says:

    I don’t know why the UK right wing media choose to ignore any sound science but they cant help but scream out at the slightest natural variability turned into a trend can they

  18. 68

    I have no idea, Ray, that’s just a thought exercise to give you a glimpse of the scale of the problem. Certainly we are not going to launch thousands of gigatons of dry ice off the planet, even with large reusable heavy lift launch vehicles. Clearly we’ll have to deal with the problem on the ground, as in carbon production. It would be easier to launch the raw carbon into space, but again, carbon is not particularly toxic and easy to store. The idea is to get you used to space based solutions because if you intend to be sticking around on the surface of this planet for the next one hundred, one thousand or one million years, that is indeed what is coming, what must come. Any way that I look at it, any credible solution will involve orders of magnitude more energy than we now enjoy just to make things right again, and orders of magnitude less people and industry on a finite two dimensional planetary surface shared with an active biosphere.

    Space is the only solution to this problem, obviously. There are a lot more practical approaches than space elevators, if you look at it clearly. What I am saying is that this problem is not insoluble, it just requires a completely new approach on a scale vastly larger than anything previously imagined. If you look at humanities accomplishments so far, it’s doable.

  19. 69
    Steve Fish says:

    Gavin’s post reply to “Why the jury’s still out on the risk of Arctic methane catastrophe” in the Guardian by Nafeez Ahmed-

    The original article (previously linked by Prokaryotes)-


  20. 70
    Steve Fish says:

    My error above. In the comments section of Nafeez Ahmed’s “Why the jury’s still out…” article, Gavin was responding to a follow up comment by Ahmed.


  21. 71
    Martin Smith says:

    Here is the one day anomaly animation:

    Why is it that most of the area over the sea is normal all the time? Is it because we don’t have data for those areas?

  22. 72

    As a newly-certified Climate Reality Project leader (Chicago 2013), I’m very distressed by the seeming confusion of the climate science community regarding the “pause” in warming. I need to speak on climate disruption in public forums and cannot formulate in my mind a convincing retort to this trend. Please advise and thank you, Charles

  23. 73
    David B. Benson says:

    Charles Stack, MPH @72 — There is no pause. See Foster & Rahmstorf (2011) and also
    where one of the comments provides a link to the Texas State Meteorologist, John N.-D., analysis.

  24. 74
    prokaryotes says:

    Re #63 Wili,

    Can scientists overcome huge uncertainties to pin down how close, or far, we might be to a tipping point? Link

  25. 75
  26. 76
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Why does nobody talk about the
    > thousands of 1-kilometer wide
    > bubbling methane seabeds

    Just google it.

  27. 77
    David B. Benson says:

    Hank Roberts @76 — I recommend using DuckDuckGo
    instead of Google.

  28. 78
    Chuck Hughes says:

    From the article:

    “John Light: What’s been going on with Syria’s water resources over the past several years?

    Francesco Femia: Essentially, a massive, five-and-a-half-year drought. From 2006 to 2011, 60 percent of Syria’s land experienced, in the words of one expert, the worst long-term drought and most severe set of crop failures since agricultural civilizations began in the Fertile Crescent many millennia ago. That, on top of natural resource mismanagement by the Assad regime — subsidizing water-intensive wheat and cotton farming and unsustainable irrigation techniques — led to a large amount of devastation.”

  29. 79
    Jim Larsen says:

    66 Ray L wondered about space elevators.

    The platform would be at any point desired. The only thing that would have to be higher than GEO is the counterweight. Doesn’t mean I think an elevator can be built (or not).

  30. 80
    MARodger says:

    pete best @67.
    If you buy a better ‘quality’ Tory newspaper you get better quality denial. That Torygraph article you link to is but a diluted version of the original Daily Rail article.
    In the original you are rewarded with the full story, how investigitive reporter David Rose (in the true tradition of British tabloid journalism – ‘don’t let the facts spoil a good story’) influenced the IPCC. “The continuing furore caused by The Mail on Sunday’s revelations … has forced the UN’s climate change body to hold a crisis meeting.
    He also uncovers the data by “climate historians” showing “a massive (Arctic) melt in the 1920s and 1930s, followed by intense re-freezes that ended only in 1979 – the year the IPCC says that shrinking began.” That sounds like compelling evidence of IPCC conspiracy to me. (A bear with less brain would be asking ‘Where is the pre-1979 ice data? Why do you hide the facts from us?”) Unfortunately for Rose, he relies on Judy Curry for his “US climate expert” quotes and I don’t see that Curry has fully understood the modus operandi of UK tabloids.

    As for understanding why “the UK right wing media choose to ignore any sound science,” you perhaps have to understand the UK right-wing. Anne McElvoy’s 12 episode radio series “British Conservatism: The Grand Tour” is so far half way through and has demonstrated pretty conclusively how the more moderate and thoughtful side of the Tory party was almost completely wrong on all the major issues throughout the 19th century (on industrialisation, welfare, free trade, democracy). So being completely wrong on climate change – it is but traditional that they must take the wrong side.

  31. 81
    Chris Dudley says:

    At the end of August, Arctic average sea ice thickness for 2013 nudged below the thickness at the same time in 2012, a record low year in volume and extent. 2011 holds the record for lowest average thickness at just below 1 m in November. 2012 also got below 1 m briefly. It will be interesting to see what kind ice the world is skating on this coming November.

  32. 82
    Dan H. says:

    The reason for the lower average thickness was the much higher area compared to volume. While the volume was 1400 km3 higher than 2012, the area was more than one million km2 higher than last year. Neither value is likely to approach last year’s record low.

  33. 83
    Karsten V. Johansen says:

    Any comments on this?

    I note that no scientific sources are mentioned whatsoever. It’s all very cloudy, to say the least.

    60 pct. more seaice in the arctic than last year at the same time could seem to fit with this: (the daily figure) but is this really as dramatic as it is presented here? After all it’s all only one-year-ice, which could easily melt away next summer. And after all, the summer of 2009 had the same amount of ice at the same time of year.

  34. 84
  35. 85
  36. 86
    MARodger says:

    Karsten V. Johansen @82.
    You link to the same Torygraph story as pete best who I replied to @80. And the idea that some grand reversal of the declining Arctic sea ice is happening is seriously demented although The Guardian suggest it is but deluded. Note Chris Dudley’s link @81 which shows PIOMAS with thinner ice than in 2012. So I think I’ll continue calling talk of a cooling Arctic in coming years as “demented.”” It is pure madness.

  37. 87
    Mal Adapted says:

    Charles Stack:

    As a newly-certified Climate Reality Project leader (Chicago 2013), I’m very distressed by the seeming confusion of the climate science community regarding the “pause” in warming. I need to speak on climate disruption in public forums and cannot formulate in my mind a convincing retort to this trend. Please advise and thank you, Charles

    Statistically speaking, there is no pause, as Dave Benson points out. It’s true that the average global surface temperature hasn’t risen as fast in the 21st century as it did previously. The blog posts by John Nielsen-Gammon, Learning from the hiatus and Learning more from the hiatus should be helpful to you. The executive summary: more of the excess greenhouse warming is going into the oceans due to La Nina conditions, thus the total heat content of the Earth continues to increase unabated; and when El Nino returns, we’ll see a 1998-like spike in surface temperature.

  38. 88
    deconvoluter says:


    The latest nonsense from the Telegraph and Mail has been commented upon by

    Dana Nuccitelli

    It might be worth worth archiving this sort of thing somewhere under say Barclay Brothers, Rothermore, owners of the above two examples , Murdoch etc.

  39. 89
    prokaryotes says:

    The impact of temperature on marine phytoplankton resource allocation and metabolism

    Marine phytoplankton are responsible for ~50% of the CO2 that is fixed annually worldwide, and contribute massively to other biogeochemical cycles in the oceans1. Their contribution depends significantly on the interplay between dynamic environmental conditions and the metabolic responses that underpin resource allocation and hence biogeochemical cycling in the oceans. However, these complex environment–biome interactions have not been studied on a larger scale. Here we use a set of integrative approaches that combine metatranscriptomes, biochemical data, cellular physiology and emergent phytoplankton growth strategies in a global ecosystems model, to show that temperature significantly affects eukaryotic phytoplankton metabolism with consequences for biogeochemical cycling under global warming.

    In particular, the rate of protein synthesis strongly increases under high temperatures even though the numbers of ribosomes and their associated rRNAs decreases. Thus, at higher temperatures, eukaryotic phytoplankton seem to require a lower density of ribosomes to produce the required amounts of cellular protein. The reduction of phosphate-rich ribosomes2 in warmer oceans will tend to produce higher organismal nitrogen (N) to phosphate (P) ratios, in turn increasing demand for N with consequences for the marine carbon cycle due to shifts towards N-limitation.

    Our integrative approach suggests that temperature plays a previously unrecognized, critical role in resource allocation and marine phytoplankton stoichiometry, with implications for the biogeochemical cycles that they drive

  40. 90
    pete best says:

    RE #80

    The Daily Mail is not a newspapers in any meaningful sense. It might be more right wing but intelligence carries with it sometimes at least, less drivel.

    Yes we are know about Judith Curry and she probably does want to quoted out of context so that the damage is done before refuting her out of context quotes in six months time.

    at present rates of fossil fuel extraction and usage we are still heading for a 2C future at the very least. The time line is shrinking to do something meaningful about our climate and when looking at global emissions annually we are not reducing it by nearly enough but are we putting in place the plans, the politics and the finance to mitigate our emissions significantly enough is the question? its presently debateable if we are and debateable if we will.

  41. 91
    wili says:

    “Web of life unravelling”

    “Economic growth is the biggest destroyer of the ecology,” he says. “Those people who think you can have a growing economy and a healthy environment are wrong. “If we don’t reduce our numbers, nature will do it for us.”

    He isn’t hopeful humans will rise to the challenge and save themselves.

    “Everything is worse and we’re still doing the same things,” he says. “Because ecosystems are so resilient, they don’t exact immediate punishment on the stupid.”

  42. 92
    Hank Roberts says:


    The impact of temperature on marine phytoplankton resource allocation and metabolism

    Nature Climate Change (2013) doi:10.1038/nclimate1989

  43. 93

    Did I forget to mention fruit? Carbon dioxide can enable deciduous trees to produce almost immediate soil from the leaves, and produce nuts and fruits! Fruits that can be fermented to alcohol so we can forget about these problems! We’ve been discussing this quite a bit lately and the way I see it, any advanced sustainable planetary civilization will have used their wonderfully fortuitous and numerous Lagrange points to implement weather and rainfall modulation, temperature control and radiation balance, asteroid detection and mitigation procedures, and unlimited space solar power, and will have moved the vast majority of their population off of the planet.

  44. 94
  45. 95
    Chuck Hughes says:

    Does anyone have any information regarding a connection between the Arab Spring and Climate Change or know where any information can be found? I’m wondering if there is any sort of distinct connection between the two events or if Climate Change is in any way related to what’s happening in Syria? The Bill Moyers article I posted above claims the events are related. Thanks

  46. 96
    Chris Korda says:

    You may have read Naomi Klein’s recent Salon interview in which she posits that “Green groups may be more damaging than climate change deniers”, and Joe Romm’s noticeably shrill response on ClimateProgress. In my view Romm was honor-bound to give the critique he gave. The one thing he can’t allow Klein or anyone else to say is that the fix is in, i.e. that fossil fuel corporations have captured government, because if that’s so, his chirpy “better living through green technology” spiel is irrelevant, if not duplicitous. Yet the latest IEA numbers clearly show that the global plan is to extract and burn more fossil fuel, not less, while simultaneously testing and deploying a mixed bag of geoengineering methods (“all of the above”). Research into both CDR (Carbon Dioxide Removal) and SRM (Solar Radiation Management) is already well underway in many countries, thanks to major funding from the usual suspects.

    The remaining fossil fuels and their corresponding infrastructure are the most valuable assets ever to exist in human history, by far, but they’re also the largest sunk cost ever to exist. In economic theory, sunk costs aren’t supposed to influence decisions, but observed behavior is frequently less than ideal. To suppose that fossil fuel corporations and their equivalent state actors would willingly abandon such monumental investments, and write them off as stranded assets, is naive. On the contrary, their business model assumes that the remaining fossil fuels will not only be sold, but sold at ever-increasing prices, i.e. the plan is to profit from scarcity. Geoengineering is seen as just another cost of doing business, its risks quantifiable and subject to standard depreciation.

    Between now and 2040, humanity will emit another teraton* of CO2, because the alternative is collapse of the ultimate scam, i.e. the world economy, which operates by looting posterity. China is already the world’s largest consumer of automobiles, and is busily constructing an interstate highway system three times the size of America’s. We’re reduced to helping them: the Alberta sands are destined for them, not us. This is not only because the fossil fuel dynasties seek to preserve their advantages, but more deeply because geoengineering is compatible with humanity’s exceptionalist narrative, which claims that our success flows directly from our specialness, heroism, and ingenuity. The possibility that our success was merely a predictable consequence of the fossil fuel windfall, and therefore temporary and doomed from the start, is as unspeakable as comparing humanity to yeast in a bottle (as William R. Catton and many other biologists have).

    Klein might argue that a sufficiently militant and global popular revolution could delay or even prevent this grim development, but I wouldn’t count on it. I’m not a religious person, but if I were, I would pray that geoengineering works.


    *see e.g. IEO 2013.

  47. 97
    deconvoluter says:

    Re: #80

    If you buy a better ‘quality’ Tory newspaper you get better quality denial.

    The following from the DT a few years back was a ‘report’ not an opinion piece

    Filling the atmosphere with Greenhouse gases associated with global warming could push the planet into a new ice age, scientists have warned.

    By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent
    Last Updated: 6:51PM GMT 01 Jan 2009

    In this particular case, the ‘better quality’ meant that the journalist had ensured that the free


    would not trivially undermine the DT’s version * and would even act as a deterrent to the curious because of its technical nature. The full version of the research was behind a pay-wall and the actual statement by Professor Fairchild who was one of the authors of the research

    Contrary to the headline about our scientific work that appeared last week on the Telegraph website, high levels of greenhouse gases did not trigger an ice age.

    was censored. He eventually got it discussed properly here:

    Ben Goldacre

    In case you think this sort of thing, has no effect, I once heard the economist

    Ruth Lea

    stating in her usual confident manner, that climatalogy was incapable of distinguishing between warming and cooling.
    * That this should not be taken for granted can be seen in an even earlier example from the DT, for which the link is given after my earlier comment:

  48. 98
    Radge Havers says:

    CH @ 95

    Good luck trying to separate out the role of water from everything else that’s going on there. Much has been made of bread prices and food scarcity. Certainly water is a source of tension between nations. Easy enough to Google if you tolerate frustration well. Discussions:

  49. 99
    prokaryotes says:

    Life found in the sediments of an Antarctic subglacial lake for the first time

    Key Findings

    DNA of the microbes survived throughout the millennia
    Surprising high biomass and diversity was found
    One DNA sequence was related to the most ancient organisms known on Earth
    Life can exist and potentially thrive in extreme environments

    Finding ancient organisms in this environment and high biomass layer raises questions about the origin of life on Earth and Glaciation.

  50. 100