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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. 101
    Susan Anderson says:

    Does anybody know what’s up with the WattsUp world’s embrace of Hans van Storch at der Spiegel? This phony skeptic promotion is showing up hither and yon, and seems to be flying under the radar. The only reasonable comment I could find was on Breitbart (!!) news (aka Fox extreme) saying that he is being overinterpreted in commenting on how temperatures have flattened and still expects 2C increase by century’s end. fwiw, von Storch resigned over the publication of inadequately reviewed science at E&E and seems to have quite good standing.

    Chris Korda @~96, that is a terrific analysis/statement.

  2. 102
    Hank Roberts says:

    Global warming could change strength of El Nino

    What’s the original paper? Please, please — use DOI.
    Give the DOI because it’s a permanent reference.

    The above is:

    — a link, that opens a reprint page at ClimateState,
    — which reprints from and gives a link to a page at PhysOrg,
    — which attributes to Nature Geoscience without cite nor link

    Please post the DOI.
    Point to original sources.

  3. 103
    Susan Anderson says:

    Hank, here (not what you asked for but will probably help)

  4. 104
    Hank Roberts says:

    Thank you Susan, for the link to Tamino — excellent pointer.

  5. 105
    David B. Benson says:

    Hottest Days in Some Parts of Europe Have Warmed Four Times More Than the Global Average
    Regional warming is not global warming.

  6. 106
    David B. Benson says:

    Global Warming Could Change Strength of El Niño
    It certainly will alter the frequency, as noticed in
    Variability of El Niño/Southern Oscillation activity at millennial timescales during the Holocene epoch
    where going back about 6 millennia is what we are headed for. (Although the authors state that the 2000 year quasiperiod band is statistically significant, I assert it is simply more pink noise.)

  7. 107
    Phil Mattheis says:

    Chris Colose raised a topic that’s gotten only a little attention since all the way back on Monday (#80 – Sept 9 at 7am). While this year’s arctic ice area and extent have both regressed toward the mean from 2012’s record minimums, thickness continues to dance along the defining lower bounds.

    Neven’s graph
    places this year’s average ice thickness below 2012 for at least the past month, and suggest it is likely to keep that status at least through September. The remaining blended slurries of slush will no doubt solidify with the onset of winter, along with surface freezing of a lot of open water, but the result is unlikely to be “thick”. We don’t need record low volume or area to have average thickness remain in the “very thin” (if not record low) range.

    That point spins to an interesting tangent shown on another graph at
    The displayed trends suggest that the issue we’re dealing with is not so much a huge increase in summer melt of arctic ice, as is a failure of winter freeze to regain previous thickness. Yearly ice loss (volume) has hovered around a relatively stable 16(1000 km3) (+/-3) over the past 30+ years, while the yearly maximum has dropped by more than 10. That leaves a meager and melting volume around 4 at the low end, which translates to less than a meter in average thickness.

    Hard to see a use for the word “recovery” in this. Add back the context of very friable needle ice as that thin new stuff, and we’re about one El Nino away from open ocean.

  8. 108
    Phil Mattheis says:

    I stumbled onto this site closure note this morning, and attach it here for the irony: “NSIDC is closed today because of severe weather and flooding. We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause you.”

  9. 109
    Hank Roberts says:

    > NSIDC … flooding

    Ironically perhaps, much of the Front Range was shaped by extreme rainfall events the last time climate lurched dramatically, at the end of the last ice age — and since developers arrived, those nice slopes of debris washed out of those mountain canyons have been built on because, hey, it hasn’t flooded since we arrived.

    The Cassandra File: boulder creeks760.jpg

  10. 110
  11. 111
    Susan Anderson says:

    re NSIDC caveat:

    NCAR was threatened by wildfire last year, which makes flooding worse, since it removes a lot of natural environmental protections. Tweet stolen from Neven comment:

    Tweet from @spogburn in Boulder, 2013’s missing Arctic ice located: after a phase change it’s headed down Boulder Creek towards #NSIDC.

    Posted by: Doug Lofland | September 12, 2013 at 23:30….
    (great article)

    “Climate Change Hits Home: A warming Arctic affects all of us” Glenn Scherer 10/10/12

    This is no laughing matter … wildfires last year leave earth there and elsewhere strained …

  12. 112
    AIC says:

    Re #446 Unforced Variations last month:

    Thanks, Dr. Mann. I have your “Dispatches” book.
    I guess I’ll keep coming back here with questions as needed.

    [Response: Thanks AIC. I look forward to it :-) -mike]

  13. 113
    KR says:

    Susan – Von Storch and Zorita have posted a blog entry on the response to their paper at Klimazwiebel.

    Their manuscript (not accepted, but posted online) argues that recent 10-15 year trends are at the margins of CMIP3 and CMIP5 model variations, and that this might mean some issues with the modelling. To correct various misinterpretations, they state “This main result does not imply that the anthropogenic greenhouse gases have not been the most important cause for the warming observed during the second half of the 20th century.”

    They list possibilities such as (1) underestimation of natural variability, (2) too large a climate sensitivity in the models [but that there is insufficient data to make that conclusion], (3) missing or incorrect external forcings in the models [aerosols, solar variability], or (4) the last 15 years are just an outlier, esp. considering the 1998 El Nino as a starting point.

    IMO 15 years is simply too short a time period, starting with a cherry-pick 1998. Trying to draw trend conclusions over a statistically insignificant time period, starting with a 3-sigma extrema, is just silly. See Rahmstorf et al 2012 for a discussion of how temperatures are right on IPCC predictions once you account for short term variations.

  14. 114
    Hank Roberts says:

    More on the topic of late lessons from early warnings:

    Remember acid rain, one of the early bad consequences of large scale coal burning? Controls on acid rain went into effect a few decades ago. Was that soon enough?

    Nope. Unexpected consequences and tipping-backwards events:

    “… rural rivers and streams have been growing more alkaline over the past 25 years, too.

    Acid rain is largely behind the phenomenon, the scientists say. It’s been eating away chunks of rock, especially limestone rock, and the runoff produces carbonates that flow into rivers. “We’re basically dissolving the surface of the Earth,” says Kaushal. “It’s ending up in our water. It’s like rivers on Rolaids. There’s a natural antacid in these watersheds.”

    Now, that’s not an immediate health threat, but it has environmental effects. Kaushal invited me to wade into the stream. Mops of stringy green stuff coated the rocks. It was thick and slippery underfoot.

    “You can feel that?” he asks. “All that scum, all that slime is algae and bacteria.” The alkalinity stimulates the growth of certain types of algae. And too much algae will suck the oxygen out of the water — bad news for whatever else lives there.

    Something else is worrisome about alkaline water: If it mixes with sewage, it creates a particularly toxic stew by converting ammonia in the sewage into a more toxic form….”

  15. 115
    Hank Roberts says:

    climate skeptic Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute says slowing the pace won’t change his organization’s stance on the bill. “There’s no way to make it work,” Ebell says. “It would still give scientists an opportunity to pontificate, and we’re opposed to it.”

  16. 116
  17. 117
    David B. Benson says:

    Tiny Plankton Could Have Big Impact On Climate: CO2-Hungry Microbes Might Short-Circuit the Marine Foodweb
    Another unforeseen and undesirable effect of global warming.

  18. 118
    jgnfld says:

    One of the worst headline choices (editors make up headlines) I’ve seen recently on WaPo editorial page. Headline on Lomborg piece says: “Don’t blame climate change for extreme weather”. Lomborg then proceeds to lay out many extremes that he thinks will occur.

    The point appears to be that since it doesn’t the variance doesn’t change, a shift in the mean is only “extreme” on the upper side of the change but not the lower side which apparently is a change for the better.

  19. 119
    JABowron says:

    Here is the concluding paragraph from an Op-Ed piece in today’s NYT. The title is “Overpopulation is not the Problem”, written by Erle C. Elliss;
    “The only limits to creating a planet that future generations will be proud of are our imaginations and our social systems. In moving toward a better Anthropocene, the environment will be what we make it. ”
    In my opinion, we are going to have to quickly modify ‘our social systems’ if we are going to move ‘toward a better Anthrapocene’,- otherwise our current social systems do not seem destined to take us to the kind of world that ‘future generations will be proud of’.

  20. 120
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Elliss … limits

    When taking firm hold of some part of a complicated system makes its start getting increasingly erratic, there are two possible: release your grip and see if it settles down, or grab harder and try to force the change you want.

    The first one is known to work. The second one, not so much.

    > the environment will be what we make it.

    Are we smart enough to make a net increase in dirt, yet?

  21. 121
    Chuck Hughes says:

    Since we have a house in Colorado on the border of Jefferson and Boulder counties this has a direct effect on my neighborhood and friends. Placing this event in context with all the other recent flooding events in places like Calgary and Russia this year, I’m not sure what to make of this:

    There certainly seems to be a dramatic increase in flooding events as this article points out. I was wondering if anyone has any additional insights or observations concerning the increase in frequency of these floods. Having spent 52 years in and around Colorado I have personally never witnessed anything as widespread as this. There have been severe floods but not 1400 square miles worth including New Mexico. We seem to be in a pattern of drought/flood/fires in rapid succession with increasing intensity. At what point would what we’re seeing be considered a “Climate Catastrophe” as opposed to just another freak weather event?

    Thoughts? Observations?


  22. 122

    “…The displayed trends suggest that the issue we’re dealing with is not so much a huge increase in summer melt of arctic ice, as is a failure of winter freeze to regain previous thickness.”

    Yes, that’s what appears to me to be the case. Perhaps not coincidentally, it’s winter temps that are warming in the central Arctic Basin, not summer ones–the latter remain fairly well ‘clamped’ close to the freezing point. This DMI graph illustrates the point if you scan back through the years (though note it’s reanalysis ‘data’ with known inhomogeneities.) Coincidentally, it also illustrates how remarkably consistent cool weather was in the central Arctic this summer.

  23. 123

    #118–“The point appears to be [since] the variance doesn’t change, a shift in the mean is only “extreme” on the upper side of the change but not the lower side…”

    Dangerous to opine without reading the original, I suppose, but given that climate change is expected to change variability in some dimensions at least–increasing both drought and flood, for a leading instance–the argument seems a strawman at best.

  24. 124
    jgnfld says:

    @123…Yes. But Lomborg’s points really ignore that. To wit:

    –“Global warming, in general, will mean higher temperatures. This causes more heat waves — more extreme weather. But it also causes fewer cold waves — less extreme weather. Many more people die from excessive cold than excessive heat, so fewer people will die from cold and heat in the future.”

    –“Global warming will also cause more heavy rain; this is clearly more extreme. But warming will also help alleviate water scarcity — less extreme.”

    –“Hurricane wind speeds are likely to increase (more extreme), but the number of hurricanes is likely to decrease or hold steady (less extreme).”

  25. 125
    David B. Benson says:

    Chuck Hughes @121 — From Ray Pierrehumbert’s “Principles of Planetary Climate” in an exercise one determines that global precipitation increases as the square of the temperature increase. Measurements so far indicate a nonlinear increase, but not quite the square. In any case, one expects more extreme precipitation events of the sort Colorado just experienced.

    jgnfld @124 — Very few die from excessive cold; it is ordinarily possible to provide enough insulation together with an external thermal source. Many die from excessive heat as it is hard to lower the temperature.

  26. 126
    prokaryotes says:

    The 5 stages of climate denial are on display ahead of the IPCC report
    Climate contrarians appear to be running damage control in the media before the next IPCC report is published

  27. 127
    Russell says:

    Those wishing to give Fred Singer’s latest masterpiece the reception it deserves should attend this event in Raypierre’s neighborhood:

    Press conference announcing release of Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science

    10:00 a.m., Tuesday, September 17.

    James R. Thompson Center
    100 West Randolph Street
    Press Room (15th Floor)
    Chicago, Illinois USA

    Lead author S. Fred Singer, Ph.D.,
    Lead author Craig Idso, Ph.D.,
    Co-author Willie Soon, Ph.D.,

    Media: Open to all credentialed press

    Book Launch Luncheon, Wednesday September 18, 11:30 to 1:30pm

    Presenters: S. Fred Singer, Craig Idso, and Willie Soon

    The Heartland Institute, One South Wacker Drive # 2740; Chicago, IL 60606

    Cost: $15.00; Contact Tonya Houston at or call 312-377-4000

  28. 128
  29. 129
  30. 130
  31. 131
    Chuck Hughes says:


    Lemme get this straight…

    The Heartland Institute is located at One South Wacker Drive and one of the presenters is “Willie Soon”???

    Put me down as “Not Attending.”


  32. 132
    Hank Roberts says:

    A cautionary book review, and a particularly good reminder to those who think of themselves as liberals and progressives and environmentalists that having your heart in the right place is no protection against being fooled, and how passionately held beliefs may reflect effective PR funded by industry.

    A review from DC’s Improbable Science of:
    Do You Believe in Magic by Paul Offit

    The conspiratorialist public lapped up this abuse, but appeared not to notice that many quacks have become far richer by peddling cures that do not work.

    One lesson from this sad story is that we need to think more about the potential for money to lead to good science being disbelieved, and sometimes to corrupt science.

    Everyone should buy this book, and weep for the gullibility and corruption that it describes.

  33. 133
    Russell says:


    You’d better go, Chuck, lest Mark Morano and James Taylor announce that your comment signifies perfect agreement with Willie Soon.

  34. 134
    Hank Roberts says:

    Climate state means lower climate sensitivity?

    (Tossing this out for the real scientists here, curious if this is attracting much interest)

    GeophysicalResearchAbstracts Vol.15, EGU2013-1497, 2013

    Correcting for the background state dependency of palaeo climate sensitivity
    von der Heydt, Anna S.; Köhler, Peter; van de Wal, Roderik S. W.; Dijkstra, Henk A.
    EGU General Assembly 2013, held 7-12 April, 2013 in Vienna, Austria, id. EGU2013-1497

    The equilibrium (Charney) climate sensitivity, here indicated by Sa …. Palaeo data … – if slow feedback processes are adequately taken into account – indicate a similar range as those based on climate model results used in IPCC AR4.

    In most of these palaeostudies it is implicitly assumed that the (fast) feedback processes are independent of the background climate state, e.g., are equally strong during glacial and interglacial periods.
    Here …. Sa is found to be higher in cold periods than during warm times. … we determine a new value of the Charney sensitivity Sa = 0.71 ± 0.40 K (W m-2)-1 (corresponding to a warming of 2.6 ± 1.5 K for 2 ? pCO2), which is lower than present estimates in which state dependency is neglected.

    (para. breaks added for blog readability; no DOI found, sorry)

  35. 135
    SecularAnimist says:

    Hank, that review of Offit’s book is little more than an ill-informed rant.

    If anything it expresses exactly the “I know it ain’t so ’cause it can’t be so, and it can’t be so ’cause I just know” attitude of many pseudo-skeptical AGW deniers, accompanied by similarly absurd conspiracy theorizing.

  36. 136
  37. 137
    prokaryotes says:

    Climate sensitivity depends on the initial climate state

    Hansen et al. 2013.

    It is unclear how the new study from Heydt et al. is (if at all) accounting for human forcing today in their conclusions. The paleo forcing was also much closer to climate equilibrium. Hence why Hansen et al. is explicit referring to the initial state rather than the paleo background state.

  38. 138
    Hank Roberts says:

    von der Heydt, A. S. , Köhler, P. , van de Wal, R. S. W. and Dijkstra, H. A. (2013): Correcting for the background state dependency of palaeo climate sensitivity , EGU General Assembly, Vienna, Austria, 7 April 2013 – 12 April 2013 .
    Cite this page as: hdl:10013/epic.41186

    link to pdf at the source page


  39. 139
    Hank Roberts says:

    oh, that’s just a pdf of the abstract; still looking for the paper, if anyone’s seen a copy

  40. 140
  41. 141

    #127–“Climate Change Reconsidered?”

    When did they ever consider it in the first place? Must’ve missed that.

  42. 142

    I have a question about the recent Santer et al PNAS fingerprint paper (

    The paper mentions that “The decrease in TLS is primarily a response to
    human-caused stratospheric ozone depletion, with a smaller
    contribution from anthropogenic changes in other greenhouse

    The paper uses the fact that stratospheric cooling would be expected for a GHG driven warming and not for natural warming to argue for a specific fingerprint in the vertical thermal structure of the atmosphere.

    Question: How can the GHG signal can be distinguished from the ozone depletion signal? Does the paper address this issue? I saw mention of the effect of ozone depletion, but no analysis to show such a distinction being made.

    [Response: TLS is more strongly affected by ozone depletion than CO2 – you need to go the higher levels for CO2 to dominate (SSU records for instance). In the paper, ‘ALL’ and ‘ANT’ runs use both ozone and GHG forcings and the paper does not further breakdown the contributions. You can do that by looking at the single forcing runs in CMIP5, but few groups submitted these (GISS has the most complete set). – gavin ]

  43. 143

    #142–Thanks for that link, Bart. Very interesting.

  44. 144
    Hank Roberts says:

    Prokaryotes, you wrote:
    “It is unclear how the new study from Heydt et al. is (if at all) accounting for ….”

    Have you looked at the study?
    Your link was to the Abstract.

    It’s not clear whether you read the study.

  45. 145
    Hank Roberts says:

    > similarly absurd conspiracy theorizing.

    Are you disagreeing with the review, or with the book reviewed?

    The examples given are not theoretical.

    Look at other uses of the tactic — funding several opposing points of view on an issue, to generate controversy, to empty out the center where policy can be effectively made, to delay action — is proven effective.

    Point is, for each of us — no matter how sure our hearts are in the right place, no matter that we’re deeply sincere — we can be fooled.

    Big money is being spent to fool us and divide people, to empty out the center where policy change can occur, to sell crap.

    It’s like the game called “Let’s you and him fight.”

    Let’s not.

    Just because you’re on their side doesn’t mean they’re on your side.”

  46. 146
    Hank Roberts says:

    Atmospheric rivers

    It all began with the measurements of carbon monoxide for the Air Pollution from Satellite (MAPS) project in 1990. A puzzling feature was the presence of high carbon monoxide values well removed from their sources. Newell et al. (1992) were first who used this satellite data to shed some light on the transport problem. They found corridors of vertically integrated water vapour fluxes over the ocean and used the term “tropospheric rivers” to emphasize the large amounts of water vapour being transported in the troposphere. This striking finding was further investigated by Zhu and Newell (1998) at MIT using observations from polar-orbiting satellites and research aircraft over the eastern Pacific Ocean in the winter of 1997-98. Their result showed that these filamentary features, which they called atmospheric rivers (ARs), constitute a significant fraction of the total moisture transport, and almost all the meridional (south to northward) transport atmid-latitudes.

    The interest in studying ARs has increased in recent years because of their strong link to several flood events …

    Seems this should completely change all the “100-year” and “500-year” flood data, because the chance that one of these atmospheric rivers will be blocked by a large weather system is increasing with climate change — and the amount of water carried by one may increase as well. Then add the odds that this narrow stream of water is going to impact a given geographic location.

    Seems like “the worst that can happen” isn’t the 500-year or 100-year flood from history, it’s more like the “impossible unimaginable no-mechanism” event that happens anyhow.

    You think the Colorado floods are bad?

    California Megaflood: Lessons from a Forgotten Catastrophe

    A 43-day storm that began in December 1861 put central and southern California underwater for up to six months, and it could happen again…

  47. 147
    Hank Roberts says:

    May 2013, NPR’s “This American Life” included an interview worth revisiting

    Colorado’s State Climatologist, Nolan Doesken…. has long believed the humans are driving climate change, but never connected it to his own life. Even after several years of some of the most devastating weather his state has ever seen, Nolan considered climate change a worry for the future. Then, last year, he watched as his state experienced some of the most extreme weather it has ever seen. For the first time, Nolan felt like he was looking at what the future would be like where he lives. He felt scared. Julia tells the story of how this has all changed Nolan, and changed what he’s saying to the people of his home state.

  48. 148
    prokaryotes says:

    Hank, the Heydt study is interesting (Colder climate more CS – probably linked to ice sheet behavior – i guess) but it is an assessment based on 800k paleo data and not considering today’s state. I think this is clear from the abstract alone, otherwise they would have mentioned it. I too would welcome some other opinion on this, to verify my abstract judgement.

  49. 149
  50. 150
    SecularAnimist says:

    Hank Roberts wrote: “Point is, for each of us — no matter how sure our hearts are in the right place, no matter that we’re deeply sincere — we can be fooled.”

    That’s a good description of people who believe that ginger or turmeric cannot possibly have any medicinal value, regardless of the mountains of empirical evidence showing that they do, because they already know that “herbal medicine” is “unscientific” — while at the same time they support “scientific” procedures and treatments that are ultimately rejected by the medical community as lacking efficacy and even being harmful only after they have been performed on thousands of people for years.

    Climate science is not the only target of organized pseudo-skepticism.