Unforced Variations: Oct 2013

This month’s open thread. We’re going to guess that most of what people want to talk about is related to the IPCC WG1 AR5 report… Have at it!

286 comments on this post.
  1. Victor Venema:

    I have just published a review what the IPCC WG1 report writes about my area of expertise (homogenization of station data). I personally expect uncertainties in the global mean temperature to be larger, but would say that the IPCC gives an honest summary of the scientific literature. That is what the IPCC is supposed to do.

    Such reviews are a good way to judge the quality of an information source. Please help me by finding or writing further reviews.

  2. P. Lubitz:

    Lost in the media coverage of the IPCC report and its definitive confirmation of the evidence of global warming, and its almost certain cause as human activity, was any mention of the dramatic new data on temperature reconstructions for the past 10K years, and of the ocean warming, especially as measured down to 6000 meters as discussed in the previous two RealClimate posts. These offer stark confirmation that the moderation of atmospheric global warming in the last decade is ephemeral and mainly the result of increased mixing of the increasing heat input into the deeper ocean. These results should be promulgated to the media with all means and urgency available! Also to be remarked, again as gleaned from earlier RC posts, is the slight cooling effect of the present solar minimum, and the more significant effects of increasing emissions, mainly of sulfates, in growing economies, mainly but not only, China. I l

  3. prokaryotes:

    Victor is the a WUWT fail compilation? Thanks.

  4. prokaryotes:

    the = “there”

    Btw what kind of climate sensitivity is used in the RCP scenarios? On the bottom line, it should be more clear that we heading to a early Pliocene state (+20 m SLR). Re +2 C is a disaster target.

  5. Lauri:

    The new report illustrates how crucial the ocean – atmosphere interaction is for the atmospheric temperature development. Are there any analyses about the uncertainty range that the heat exchange between these two creates? Is that included in the spread of temperature constructions in the model runs? If not, is there any idea about the possible rates of acceleration or deceleration due to changes in ocean uptake?

  6. Ray Ladbury:

    Gavin et al., In all of the copious spare time you will undoubtedly have during the shutdown, might you consider an update on developments in climate sensitivity?

    In looking at new developments in the latest IPCC report, one notable change is the decision not to give a single best estimate. The denialosphere has gone ape caca over this. However, there is actually something interesting here–that is that the distribution of sensitivity estimates has bifurcated in the last 7-8 years. During this period, you have several estimates that find relatively low sensitivities (1.5-2.3) and several estimates with sensitivity in the 3-4.5 range and not much in between. What’s going on?

    It occurs to me that they could be measuring two different sensitivities–one with rapid equilibrium time yielding low sensitivity (e.g. Schwarz 2007) and another with added slower feedbacks yielding a much higher sensitivity. The paper:
    “On the diagnosis of climate sensitivity using observations of fluctuations” – Kirk-Davidoff (2009)

    seems to support this, as do the studies showing more significant warming in the deeper oceans.

  7. prokaryotes:

    NASA | IPCC Projections of Temperature and Precipitation in the 21st Century

  8. Victor Venema:

    prokaryotes, as far as I know, a list with WUWT fails does not exist yet. It would be nice if someone would make a list. Or maybe someone can make a pre-selection and then everyone can vote for his favourite WUWT classics.

    My contributions to that list would be:

    A view of climate “on the ground” from a reporter who was there at the beginning

    On the plus side, there’s no reason for William M. Connolley to comment here anymore

    Careful post selection at WUWT

    I only have a few posts on misinformation by WUWT. The experts are: Wotts Up With That Blog, Hotwhopper, Wott’s Up With That?, What’s Up With That Watts?, VVatts Up With That. They regularly explain WUWT’s errors.

  9. Joseph O'Sullivan:

    According to the IPCC homepage, the section of WGII that addresses ecosystems effects will be released in March. Does anyone know of any recent papers that deal with ecosystems and anthropogenic global warming (AGW)? A review paper would be ideal.

    On the mitigation front, there were nine legal challenges to the EPA’s current plan to reduce AGW pollution. All were rejected, so the small amounts of progress will continue.

  10. Nick O.:

    #6 Ray

    Could you say a bit more about this, please, as it strikes me as being a particularly important point. For example, what difference is being used to distinguish between a “rapid” equilibrium time and a presumably longer time (but higher sensitivity).

  11. Ray Ladbury:

    Nick O.,
    We’ve known for a long time that a rapid equilibrium time tended to imply a low sensitivity–that is the mistake Schwarz made. The thing is that it all depends on how long one must wait for the system to approach closely enough to equilibrium. If it’s rapid, then whatever temperature rise we’ve had in that period determines the sensitivity. For a longer equilibration time, we heat the air and shallow ocean, then the deep ocean, then the air/shallows some more and so on. Slower feedbacks come into play. This latter scenario seems to be what is going on wrt the Skepticalscience escalator. Anyway, this is the way I understand things.

    It also seems to be supported by the study in Kirk-Davidoff. And if this is the case, then depending on what data you use, you will get a sensitivity in either of the two modes.

  12. FP:

    There have been a lot of fires. Australia, California, Denver, etc… I would be surprised if they didn’t effect the climate and weather. Perhaps causing some cooling? The soot certainly transfers heat into ice rather than bouncing it back up into the air. Is fire smoke different than volcano smoke?

  13. Hank Roberts:


  14. David B. Benson:

    Source Of 13th Century Volcanic Calamity Discovered
    Can you find this in the GRIP ice core data?

  15. prokaryotes:

    Thanks Victor for the overview, but please don’t hyperlink to WUWT, part of this is the reason why WUWT is listed on many climate related search queries at Google. Use a link shortener instead. The misjudgement and the debunked claims from WUWT should be used to derank WUWT at Google.

    What is missing is a website which explains current climate science – on a daily basis – accurately, written for the average Joe.

  16. prokaryotes:

    Review Article
    Climate sensitivity in the Anthropocene

  17. Gordon Kenney:

    AR5 is an amazing collaborative achievement. The report was released on Friday, (when most news wishing to be buried appears). During press coverage, the IPCC consensus was compared to the views of the usual suspects, without voice to those who believe that the situation may be a little more dire than RCP 8.5.

    A general lack of discussion in the media about the unknown implications of albedo change, future ice sheet dynamics, and other feedbacks is understandable given that these concepts are not well understood; the IPCC ignores chaotic factors in its assessment.

    In translation to a social context this scientific rigor unfortunately downplays the severity of our current situation, and promotes inaction by the public. ie “A RCP 2.6 is possible too and didn’t you say the temperature is not rising very quickly”? An average citizen does not understand the social transformation required to attain RCP 2.6, nor the consequences of a 4 degree C change by 2100. The vested interests surely wish to obscure the truth.

    My question is; how can the findings of climate science be effectively communicated more frequently than the IPCC in a language that can transcend propaganda?

    Sincere thanks to those who seek truth!

  18. Nick O.:

    #11 Ray L.,
    Many thanks for this, it makes sense. I’ve been concerned for a long time that the sensitivity is higher than supposed, and likewise that the mixing of the extra retained heat within the Earth system will be very complex and take much longer than supposed. Anyway, I’ll try to have a look at the Kirk-Davidoff paper at some point, and get this clearer in my mind.

  19. Juerg:

    @1 Victor, thanks very much for the nice review!
    Please note, IPCC did not a review but an assessment!

  20. prokaryotes:

    “This provides evidence that some CMIP5 models have a higher sensitivity to greenhouse gases and a larger response to other anthropogenic forcings (dominated by the effects of aerosols) than the real world (medium confidence).” The ASK results and the initialised predictions both suggest that those CMIP5 models that warm most rapidly over the period (1986– 2005)–(2016–2035) may be inconsistent with the observations. (page 123) Link

    The IPCC report is not making it very clear that the lack of projected ground temperature records is related to the current IPO state, which distributes heat energy to the deep sea rather than atmosphere. Do these models of the past, account for that IPO related heat distribution?


    Another approach to making projections involves weighting models according to some measure of their quality (see Chapter 9). A specific approach of this type, known as ASK (Allen et al., 2000; Stott and Kettleborough, 2002) is based on the use of results from detection and attribution studies (Chapter 10), in which the fit between observations and model simulations of the past is used to scale projections of the future. ASK requires specific simulations to be carried out with individual forcings (e.g., anthropogenic greenhouse gas forcing alone), and only some of the centres participating in CMIP5 have carried out the necessary integrations. Biases in ASK derived projections may arise from errors in the specified forcings, or in the simulated patterns of response, and/or from non-linearities in the responses to forcings

  21. Urs Neu:

    There are a number of possible reasons that are discussed, and probably it is (as usual) a combination of some (or all) of them. A short summary with some comments, (the ‘slow-down’ being a reduction of the global temperature trend from about 0.17°C per decade 1976-2000 to about 0.05°C per decade 1998-2012, i.e. by about 0.12°C per decade):

    1. ENSO: The negative trend of ENSO over the last 15 years can explain – depending on the analysis – from only a small contribution (Fyfe et al. 2013) over about two thirds (Foster and Rahmstorf 2011) to almost all (Kosaka and Xie 2013).
    2. Volcanic Aerosols: The increase in volcanic aerosols over the last 15 years can explain from a very small contribution (Foster and Rahmstorf 2011) to about a third of the slow-down (Solomon et al. 2011)
    3. Solar activity: The negative trend of solar irradiation over the last 15 years (due to the current low maximum of solar cycle 24, showing about half the activity of the maximum in cycle 23) might explain from only a small contribution (based on the direct forcing value) up to more than half of the slow-down (based on several regression analysis)
    4. Heat uptake by the ocean: Some studies explain the slow-down by heat uptake in the deep(er) ocean. This explanation involves important uncertainties and relatively short time series in deep ocean measurements. It is important to note that this explanation might overlap quite strongly with the influence of ENSO, since the ENSO effect mainly works through heat exchange with the ocean.
    5. Overestimation of climate sensitivity by (some) climate models: there is some evidence that at least some climate models might overestimate climate sensitivity. However, this can hardly explain the slow-down (i.e. a strong change in the trend), since climate sensitivity of the models has not changed in the year 2000. The argument is the other way round: the slow-down might point to a somewhat slower climate sensitivity, because it lowers the long-term trend over 50 years or so.
    In summary, external (solar volcanic) and internal variability (ENSO) might well explain the slow-down, since the latter is by far in the combined range of explanations 1-3.

    An interesting point when trying to investigate these factors is the fact that the slowdown is more or less restricted to the Northern hemisphere winter (see e.g. http://tamino.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/seasonal-nino/). Therefore one should discuss these factors in the light of a possible mechanism leading to an influence mainly in winter time on the Northern hemisphere. Let’s look at these influences:
    – ENSO: Kosaka and Xie have a corresponding explanation, arguing that the meridional heat exchange out of the tropics is much larger in winter, and therefore the ENSO tropical warming/cooling affects the higher latitudes much stronger in winter. Something to consider might be that El Niño/La Niña events normally are most pronounced in winter/spring, but regression analysis shows that the corresponding effect on global temperature has a time lag of a few months and therefore might be most pronounced in summer/autumn…
    – Volcanic aerosols / solar activity: Both factors influence solar irradiation, which has its strongest effects in Northern hemisphere summer, therefore this is inconsistent with a main effect in winter.
    – Heat uptake by the deep ocean: at first sight I can’t see a reason, why this should have a distinct effect in winter. While mixing and heat uptake in the upper layers have seasonal characteristics, the mixing down to deep layers might less depend on seasons. Any thoughts by oceanographers?
    – Climate sensitivity: I don’t know an effect explaining a distinct winter effect.

    Another effect not in the list above has been discussed by colleagues during the last days:

    6. Energy put into the melting of ice: The strong increase of ice sheet melting over the last 10 years has absorbed quite a lot of energy. This seems to be not a negligible amount, at least when compared to the energy taken up by the atmosphere. Does somebody know a recent calculation of the energy budget including recent ice sheet melt increase? However, it is not clear either, why ice (sheet) melt, which absorbs energy mainly in summer, should lead to the slow-down in winter… On the other hand, this effect is the only one, that is not due to variability and therefore will not disappear after some years. Thus it should be considered carefully…

    Any thoughts?

  22. Ray Ladbury:

    BTW, the two modes are centered at roughly 2.16 and 3.64 degrees per doubling–even the lower mode is not cause for celebration.

  23. Victor Venema:

    prokaryotes, you criticise the wrong person. ;-)

    I have just written a long blog post about linking to WUWT and Co: NoFollow: Do not give WUWT & Co. unintentional link love.

    In short: you can link to WUWT in comment below blogs. The software typically automatically adds a tag NoFollow, which tells Google not to count this link as a recommendation. URL shorterners do not always have this effect. In Forums you sometimes have to add the NoFollow tag yourself. In a blog post you always have to add it yourself. There are apps to help you see which links as NoFollow and which are DoFollow.

    A blog with daily climate science would need funding. WUWT can report daily because they do not have any quality standards, but a pro-science blog would have to have standards. ThinkProgress Climate reports daily about climatic issues, both science and politics.

    Juerg, I am just a scientist and also not a native speaker. What is the difference between a review and an assessment and a synthesis?

  24. Dan H.:


    You may want to add heat loss due to open Arctic waters. The decrease in sea ice area (or extent) was only about 7% between 1979 and 2001, but a whopping 30% since. At the end of summer, the warm open waters mixing with rapidly cooling Arctic air creates the potential for large evaporation, and subsequent cooling. Both GISS and CRU show temperature decreases starting around 2002, immediately following the higher (relative) sea ice minimum of 2001. Prior to then, changes in heat loss in the Arctic would have been relatively minor. See the following:


  25. prokaryotes:

    Victor, that is interesting and thanks for pointing latest linkage features out. CP is a good blog but the scope is somewhat to specific around Washington politics and Energy. There are many different concepts but most can be considered to be publications from academic sources written for this audience. What i have in mind is a bit like HuffPost or The Guardian, but both sources only cover climate within a broader news coverage.

  26. Ray Ladbury:

    Preaching to the choir. I haven’t gone to Tony “Micro” Watts blog in years except by accident.

  27. WebHubTelescope:

    “ENSO: The negative trend of ENSO over the last 15 years can explain – depending on the analysis – from only a small contribution (Fyfe et al. 2013) over about two thirds (Foster and Rahmstorf 2011) to almost all (Kosaka and Xie 2013).”

    I am beginning to think the latter, and so are several other analysts.
    The Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) which you can get a detailed record from NCAR, maps to the vast majority of the fluctuations in the GISS global temperature record. Since the SOI has a reversion to the mean property and the mean is zero, when used as a correction to GISS it essentially completely wipes out the pause-like variations leaving the warming trend behind.

    A tool such as Eureqa is fun to play around with and will do all the compensation automagically.

    I have been pushing this view at Curry’s blog, and some denier said that GISS is already doing this SOI correction in its data set and that it was a fudge. I responded that if they are, they can certainly do a lot better!

  28. Yvan Dutil:

    #24 I am wondering if the world climate might simply had shifted from a state to another around that date. Tamino graphics from Kosaka and Xie 2013 seem to indicate the present slowdown in winter is anomalous.

    Do we have pass trough a magic door without noticing it?

  29. Nick O.:

    #22 Ray L.
    Quite so, Ray, neither figure is at all reassuring.

  30. MARodger:

    Urs Neu @21.

    It perhaps could be pertinent that the decline in sea ice and the ‘slow down’ both appear to be challenging climate models.

    We can be a little more precise about the timing of the ‘effect’ during the winter. If you look at the GISS NH data by the month, the period that is responsible for most of the ‘slow-down’ is actually December to February.
    HadCRUT4 gives similar results although March has been showing more decline in the last couple of years than it does within GISS.

    With all the fluctuating values, the year of the start of this phenomenon is more ambiguous from NH anomalies for individual months of the year. Feb has been declining since 2000 but most months are turning nearer 2006/7. Geographic data may show further clues regarding the start year. For instance, this graph shows the CET 5-year rolling ave anomaly & the SST for the surrounding seas turning down in 2005.

  31. Victor Venema:

    # 25, @ prokaryotes
    An alternative that may be doable and would be interesting would be a weekly podcast on climate. An example could be Econtalk. Typically, they discuss a recent article or book. From the article you learn economics, from the discussion scientific thinking. Especially in the podcasts where the libertarian host is confronted with reality, the discussions can be quite enlightening and interesting. I could imagine that RealClimate could do something similar for climate.

    #27, @WebHubTelescope
    The Climate Abyss has made a beautiful plot showing the relationship between global mean surface temperature and SOI. By given El Nino and La Nina years a different color and symbol you can see the influence of SOI, without having to “fudge” the data.

  32. sidd:

    ” What is the difference between a review and an assessment and a synthesis?”

    Heehee, lemme try

    X says this and that and such and so, agreeing with Y who says this and that and such and so but disagreeing with Z who says this and that and such and so.

    X and Y are wrong. Z is correct.

    X,Y and Z are all correct.

    (This is to be contrasted with some professors and others whom I have known, who seem to live by:If the article supports my work, it is redundant. If it disagrees, it is wrong. If it does neither it is irrelevant. In any case, therefore, it should not be published.)


  33. SimplyConcerned:

    About 5 years ago, and again on this blog in 2010, there was a great deal of criticism of a paper published by Keenlyside et al in Nature (back in 2008). The abstract for that paper stated that:

    “Our results suggest that global surface temperature may not increase over the next decade, as natural climate variations in the North Atlantic and tropical Pacific temporarily offset the projected anthropogenic warming.”

    At the time, the paper was heavily criticised by this blog and others both on scientific grounds and, as far as I can tell, because the arguments advanced might be misused by climate scientists. At the time, when I read the paper, it seemed clear to me that the predicted offset of warming would be TEMPORARY, so I could not understand some aspects of the criticism. Frankly, to an outsider it looked like a little bit of jealousy and professional rivalry between modelers about a high profile paper.

    I wonder whether now, given the pause in warming which is being attributed to atmosphere-ocean interaction and subsurface heat storage changes, whether it would be worth a reinvestigation of that 3-5 year old debate.

    Personally, as a non-modeler, I suspect that a little less grandstanding by this blog and others would have been appropriate, given the way things have worked out to date.

    [Response: Sorry – but I disagree. The Keenlyside et al predictions were flawed from the get go, and were quite wrong for their first prediction period and will very likely be wrong for their second prediction period as well (ending in 2015). There is little or nothing to be learned from those simulations about recent trends. – gavin]

  34. WebHubTelescope:

    “The Climate Abyss has made a beautiful plot showing the relationship between global mean surface temperature and SOI. “

    That is a nice qualitative view.

    One can further reduce the variability of the GMST by subtracting out the AMO Index. This is more questionable though because the AMO Index is detrended from SST so the variability reduction may be baked in.

    This is how smooth a reconstructed curve looks like when the SOI,volcanic, and AMO components are removed from the GISS temperature record

    The smooth curve was the trend calculated by Eureqa.

  35. Nick:

    #3,#8. There is a list of WUWT fails…it’s called WUWT.

  36. owl905:

    @21 who wrote: “the slowdown is more or less restricted to the Northern hemisphere winter” – that highlight may be the boat anchor, but the observations were clear: the Jet Stream went haywire with enormous north-south gyrations and breakdowns. Record-setting cold spells snapped south into Siberia and flooded west & south (snow in Libya). Iirc, 2010’s record high tail-ended with the opposite – a northern hemisphere ‘summer in winter’ when the Jet Stream buckled.
    The mission is really to determine if the La Nina’s and the Jet Stream anomalies are linked, or collateral co-incidences.
    NOAA monthly climate recaps would be helpful, but they’ve been shut down by the pro-pollutionist TeaPartiers. It’s worth checking, if America ever gets back its democracy.

  37. JesusR:

    I feel a bit disapointed, the AR5 makes me feel as if I couldn’t read. I’ve been spending the last 5 years on the net denying there was any hiatus in temperatures, defending that the latest estimates of future sea level rise were more than 1 meter, that climate sensitivity estimates were the same as in AR4 and that the model ensemble wasn’t running too warm. Now the AR5 acknowledges that there is an hiatus in temperatures and that a possible source of error are models; projected sea level rise is lower than 1 meter and semi-empirical models are disregarded; the lower bound of likely sensitivity is 0,5 ºC less and there’s no “most likely value” any more (however, in the combination section (Box 12.2 Figure 1 bottom) you can see that combined results tend to lie below 3ºC, with one result lying even below 2 ºC and no result above 3 ºC; it also seems that some climate models of the ensemble are inconsistent with observations (running too warm) (Chap. 11, p 23, about the ASK apporoach).

    I understand that the basic message (the politically relevant) remains the same, but then I don’t see the point of arguing with the deniers about the nuances (how fast things will hapen).

  38. prokaryotes:

    IPCC: Climate Change Report Highlights

  39. Nick O.:

    #31 Victor (and others)

    Have looked at the Climate Abyss site – http://blog.chron.com/climateabyss/2012/04/about-the-lack-of-warming/ – and it is a very striking presentation of the data, well worth looking at. Not much sign from that of any pause in the rate of warming.

    Just out today is the state of the oceans report, which is rather bleak reading:

    Not much in there about a pause in global warming either. I do just wonder how well the current GCM’s can account for increased acidification of the oceans and the likely reduction in CO2 drawdown that might result.

  40. Theo Hopkins:

    I have just been trying to link from a Wiki article to the (USA) NAOO.

    The home page announces


    Is this the real reason for the temperature pause?

  41. prokaryotes:

    Here is the executive summary from the State of the Ocean report 2013 by IPSO.

  42. prokaryotes:

    Water in stratosphere plays key role in Earth’s climate

    “A better understanding of the stratospheric water vapor feedback could help explain some of the spread among predictions of future climate change from different models,” referring to the projections made by the recently released 5th Assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) last week.

    Since Drew Shindell (NASA) wrote on this over a decade ago it would be great to have some input from him on the latest water vapor methane connection in the stratosphere.

    ps. for some reason many NASA webpages are unreachable. Such as “Reaction of Ozone and Climate to Increasing Stratospheric Water Vapor” http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/briefs/shindell_05/‎

  43. prokaryotes:

    Due to the Federal government shutdown, usgs.gov and most associated web sites are unavailable.

    Was trying to reach Unprecedented Rate and Scale of Ocean Acidification Found in the Arctic

    Wow, the US gov shutdown, it affects education and science.

  44. prokaryotes:

    Ocean acidification due to carbon emissions is at highest for 300m years
    Overfishing and pollution are part of the problem, scientists say, warning that mass extinction of species may be inevitable

  45. Hank Roberts:

    > I’ve been spending the last 5 years on the net
    > denying there was any hiatus in temperatures

    This is a teachable moment, an opportunity to explain that the warming signal is small compared to natural variability, but that the warming signal is a trend, that can be detected with enough data points.

    How many data points? More than 15 for annual global temperature data (at one point per calendar year), usually, although it’s possible to cherrypick to find, or avoid, results. That’s right out of Statistics 101.

    And you can explain that natural variability averages out to zero trend — over periods longer than fifteen years. How many? More Statistics 101.

    And then you can explain how long we’ve known about CO2 and the climate trend.

    Then point out how they can be misled if they believe the stuff constantly being shoveled out by Morano — and, to be clear, you can point out that there have been for many years sincere, worried and concerned people who have been exaggerating what we can know.

    Nuance is hard.

  46. Chris Dudley:

    prokaryotes (#43),

    The pseudoscience is still available:



    Maybe that is what this is all about.

  47. Ed Barbar:

    I’ve been wondering what temperatures would look like today in the absence of CO2, and assuming the models are correct.

    Figure 9.5 of AR-4 indicates temperatures without CO2 forcing would be the same as the 1900s, in the year 2000.

    figure 1.4 from the second order draft of AR5 indicates AR4 models would increase temperatures up to .4 degrees between 2000 and 2013 using the eyeball (and paper) method (note the zero baseline of the two graphs is different), yet temperatures have not increased, so presumably some natural variation sucked out extra heat.

    This means temperatures could be up to .4 degrees colder than in 1900. This historical temperature graph puts the 1900s about .2 degrees “C” above the historical low. Doing the simple math from the IPCC papers, this means the temperatures would be up to .2 degrees lower than in recorded history.

    It seems to me this is a reasonable back of the napkin calculation.

    A) Does anyone know whether AR5 has a similar graph to AR4?
    B) Anything obviously wrong in the above calculations?

  48. flxible:

    “Wow, the US gov shutdown, it affects education and science.”

    Exactly the effect some wanted. More importantly, even cancer treatments for some children are affected. But take heart, at least they’re not currently monitoring your internet activity. ;)

  49. Robert:

    @43 Prokaryote

    Slight correction on terminology: “US Govt Shutdown” ==> “GOP Shutdown of US Govt”. : )

  50. Anonymous Coward:

    note to mods:
    I’m not up-to-date on your policies but Chris Dudley has posted links about nuclear power (not obvious unless you check them out) over at the September Unforced Variations in the last few days which were followed by discussion of nuclear power as people read the links.
    And now he’s starting to post the same links here as well…

  51. nico:

    FP @ 12 you ask about smoke from Australian and US bushfires. I’ve attended lectures by Mike Fromm, USN, who is interested in pyrocumulonimbus clouds created by large fires. Why is the US Navy concerned about fires? It seems they rely on satellites to observe the “enemy” and – well – smoke gets in your eyes. See for example: http://www.bushfirecrc.com/sites/default/files/managed/resource/thur_p110a_1520_mike_fromm.pdf

  52. nico:

    FB @ 12 you ask about the smoke from Australian and US wildfires. See the work on pyrocumulonimbus clouds by Mike Fromm, USN. Why is the navy interested in fires? Because they use satellites to observe the “enemy”. And smoke gets in your eyes …

  53. Watcher:

    I’ve appreciated Gavin stepping in from time to time with the questions I have posed. I’m hoping it will happen again.

    Unlike some of you folks (the childish stuff going on with 15 and 25, for example) I feel no compunction about visiting a variety of websites which discuss AGW issues. One of them is Judith Curry’s. The other day she posted a graphic showing the output of a bunch of GCMs. Sorry, I don’t know how to post images so here’s the link:


    The accompanying text indicated that what are normally shown are anomalies, i.e. each GCM run is normalised by subtracting off a baseline value, however determined, to line up observations and calculations at some chosen reference point. Honestly, this took me by surprise at the time and I continue to find my thoughts returning to it. I had always assumed that GCM results were plotted “as is”, and that the process of tuning ensured they would match observations over some sort of calibration period.

    In contrast, the graphic posted by Dr. Curry shows a large spread in temperature between the various models and is not at all like the graphics normally used to present the results. In fact, the spread in models is just as large as the spread in RCP85 and RCP26 scenario projects, which I take it are “business as usual” and “boy we did a great job” emission scenarios.

    To the question, then:

    Is this graphic right? Does it provide an accurate description of the sort of output one obtains from a representative set of ‘current’ GCMs?

  54. Peter Cook:

    First let me express my appreciation to all contributors for the immense effort you put in to providing accurate information and rigorous interpretations. I am a non-scientist.

    I notice in a recent post by Richard Heinberg, he states the following at http://www.resilience.org/stories/2013-10-01/fingers-in-the-dike:

    There’s no way to know how long this current cool cycle will last, though the previous Pacific cool phase, which started in the 1940s, continued for about 30 years. If the present cycle is of the same duration, then in about 15 years much of the heat currently being dumped in deep oceans may begin instead to remain in the atmosphere. At that point we will likely see unprecedented rates of climate warming, and far worse episodes of extreme weather.

    Aside from the perhaps inadvisable use of the term ‘cooling’ for the current situation, what do people think of the prospects that this current slower rate of warming (‘pause’) could continue for another 10 or 15 years?

  55. Hank Roberts:

    > Exactly the effect some wanted.

    And for others, other advantages no doubt happen to accrue.

    A few days or a week in which there’s nobody watching the financial transactions, or the toxic waste truck’s pickups and deliveries, or the stuff going on in the slaughterhouses, or the pension plans.

    A few things that get default approval if nobody says hold on, within some span of days, maybe.

    …. hey, what could go wrong?
    And if some well meaning ‘ibbertarian who’s one of the self-identified good guys could stumble across a bit more profit just by happenstance when the inspectors and regulators are all off on unpaid leave, well, would that be so terrible?

    / sarcasm

  56. Steve L:

    I seem to recall a study highlighted a few years ago indicating that surface temp increase could take a 30 year hiatus. I don’t think it was Swanson and Tsonis 2009. Was there another paper like that?

  57. Chris Dudley:

    The anonymous coward (#50) has mischaracterized my posts. I’ve been pointing out that while good science is censored by the shutdown of the government, junk science promoted by the government is still up on the web. I’ll admit that junk science is confusing and intended to confuse, but it is a bit of a stretch to say that a false claim that using coal increases radiation exposure, promoted by Oak Ridge National Laboratory in what amounts to a national embarrassment, is about nuclear power. It isn’t. It is about coal power.

    I lived there at the height of the damage that strip mining for coal was doing to the land around the laboratory and I can certainly understand an animosity to coal power stemming from that as well as from their uncritical lust for nuclear power, but making things up out of whole cloth and claiming that it is science is completely inappropriate for a government laboratory.

  58. Magma:

    @ Watcher (comment 53) the figure is correct, although grossly misrepresented or misunderstood by Curry on her blog (http://judithcurry.com/2013/10/02/spinning-the-climate-model-observation-comparison-part-ii/). It is Figure 1 from ‘Tuning the climate of a global model’, Mauritsen et al. (2012), Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems (open access at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2012MS000154/abstract).

    The CMIP3 and CMIP5 1850-2000 model runs in question were started using initial 1850 global mean temperatures ranging from 12 to 15 °C, a +/- 1.5 K range around the best reconstructed estimate of 13.5 °C. The intent was clearly to examine the robustness of the modeling with respect to initial conditions, and in this sense the broadly similar results (0.7 K 20th century warming) showed a low sensitivity to starting temperatures.

  59. Magma:

    @ Watcher (comment 53) the figure is correct, although grossly misrepresented or misunderstood by Curry on her blog (http://judithcurry.com/2013/10/02/spinning-the-climate-model-observation-comparison-part-ii/). It is Figure 1 from ‘Tuning the climate of a global model’, Mauritsen et al. (2012), Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems (open access at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2012MS000154/abstract).

    The CMIP3 and CMIP5 1850-2000 model runs in question were started using initial 1850 global mean temperatures ranging from 12 to 15 °C, a +/- 1.5 K range around the best reconstructed estimate of 13.5 °C. The intent was clearly to examine the robustness of the modeling with respect to initial conditions, not to accurately match the actual global temperatures themselves. In this sense the broadly similar changes shown by the different models (0.7 K 20th century warming) indicated a low sensitivity to starting temperatures.

  60. Steve Fish:

    Re- Comment by Steve L — 3 Oct 2013 @ 10:46 PM

    See here- http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/11/so-how-did-that-global-cooling-bet-work-out/


  61. Ray Ladbury:

    See, Watcher, that’s what you get when you go to Aunt Judy’s blog–confused. It’s her product. Your question betrays a deep misunderstanding of what climate models are and how they work. Just because you have the same starting point doesn’t mean that the weather is going to be the same for every model run. Our particular climate is only one possible realization out of an infinite variety of possible realizations.

  62. CM:


    A question, if I may, about your recent Santer et al. PNAS paper (doi:10.1073/pnas.1305332110). I’m looking at the charts of zonal-mean atmospheric temperature trends, specifically for CMIP5 models with all the forcings (fig.2A). The warming trends appear to be strongest near the surface and decrease with height. Why is there no tropical tropospheric amplification to be seen? What happened to the “hot spot”?

    I’d naively expect to see a less pronounced version of the baleful Eye of Sauron that glared from the graphs in your “Tropical Troposphere Trends” post, and I can’t make out what makes these graphs different.

    [Response: Different vertical extent. The Santer et al figures are from 700 hPa on up for matches to the MSU records, not the surface. – gavin]

  63. Brennan:

    Re 53 & Judith Curry.

    Curry’s blog was brought to my attention recently in an exchange on the Guardian website. It took me a while to get my head round something she had posted. The reason it took a while is that you don’t expect such a colossal misrepresentation of the facts. The figures she had on a graph of Arctic Sea Ice Extent bore absolutely no correlation to the figures she was talking about or the figures I have seen elsewhere. It was as if she had just made up a graph to suit her argument and mislabelled the axes.

    Looking now, she made a recent post about how the IPCC wasn’t mentioning the ‘pause’. Then she made another post about how the pause was being ‘reasoned away’ but still wasn’t mentioned. Then she quotes from the report “Box 9.2: Climate Models and the Hiatus in Global-Mean Surface Warming of the Past 15 Years”. Did she just miss the word Hiatus? Maybe she doesn’t know what it means? But the n she quotes a big chunk of text which repeatedly mentions the slowdown in atmospheric warming and again uses the word ‘hiatus’.


    I’ve noticed a more desperate tone about the ‘sceptics’ of late. Curry seems a good example of one just making it up as she goes along. I wouldn’t trust anything from her at all.

  64. Hank Roberts:

    Radiological impact of airborne effluents of coal and nuclear plants”>JP McBride, RE Moore, JP Witherspoon, RE Blanco – Science, 1978 – sciencemag.org
    December 1978: Vol. 202 no. 4372 pp. 1045-1050
    DOI: 10.1126/science.202.4372.
    Cited by 133

  65. Hank Roberts:

    that’s cited by 133 subsequent papers

  66. Chris Colose:


    The model-tuning process is done to give a stable climatology (e.g., cloud properties to get an appropriate albedo in the climatology). This is not the case for future climate change projections or for out-of-sample (paleo) validation.

    It is not self-evident that the different absolute temperatures amongst the CMIP5 ensemble members would be independent of the things we are interested in (e.g., their equilibrium climate sensitivity). But this is a hypothesis that can be tested, and was done in Figure 9.42 of the new IPCC report.

    In that graph, they plotted the equilibrium sensitivity against the global mean surface temperature in the CMIP5 models. There is no correlation whatsoever between these, and thus no evidence for (and in fact strong evidence against) the hypothesis that a model with an absolute temperature e.g, 1-2 C “below observations” (which themselves are much more uncertain in an absolute than in an anomaly sense) vs. one “above observations” will give a biased estimate in one way or the other of the sensitivity. It would be interesting to explore this dependence for other variables like e.g., the sea ice edge. This is a technical issue, however, and Judith Curry’s blog is not an appropriate resource for trying to gain insight into the implications of these things.

  67. Steve L:

    Thank you Steve Fish @ #60!

  68. Hank Roberts:


  69. CM:

    Gavin @62, thanks for bothering to answer, and sorry about the noise. I really should know how to read a y axis. (Slaps forehead, repeatedly).

  70. Peter Cook:

    Re 53, 63 and 66 (Judith Curry)

    The Australian newspaper (part of the Murdoch stable) has adopted Judith Curry as their favourite ‘climate scientist’ as part of their ongoing campaign to muddy the waters about climate change. For more details see http://www.peakdecisions.org

    I appreciate you all have much better things to do, but any efforts to assess the validity of Curry’s postings (and explain, step-by-step, your reasoning) is a great help to those of us in the lay public wanting accurate and rigorous analysis.

  71. Chris Dudley:


    Try using your noodle. It almost rhymes with google but allows perception rather than recitation. Why is there uranium in coal? Because there is uranium in dirt. Dirt is where forests grow and that is what turns into coal. Why does coal have ash when it is burned? Because dirt is hard to burn. What happens to the uranium? it is in the ash just like it was in the dirt. What happens to radiation? Nothing. There is just as much screening from ash as there is from dirt. It is like pushing dirt around with a bulldozer. Nothing changes on the Geiger counter. The background level does not go up.

    [Response: That would only be true if there were no changes in concentration – but burning coal and producing ash will concentrate the ‘dirt’ as you put it. – gavin]

  72. WebHubTelescope:

    Ed B :

    “I’ve been wondering what temperatures would look like today in the absence of CO2, and assuming the models are correct.”

    FYI, I spend way too much time on Curry’s blog, trying to battle the nonsense comments. I put together this post which shows how the current “hiatus” or “pause” is simply the result of transient SOI effects.


    What is very interesting is that a simple log regression fit between land warming and CO2 concentration can extrapolate backward to more than a 25C cooling as CO2 approaches 1PPM. Modtran shows that CO2 loses its GHG warming effectiveness as its concentration dips below 1 PPM.

    This assumes the best fit of ECS of 3C for doubling of atmospheric concentration of CO2. I hope this answers your question Ed Barbar, of what happens if the CO2 is removed. Now you can figure out for yourself what happens when CO2 is doubled or tripled from the pre-industrial levels.

  73. Watcher:

    Re 58: Magma, thanks very much for that reference. Now that I go back I see Dr. Curry had posted it herself.

    I don’t agree that Dr. Curry grossly misrepresented that figure at all. Her point was simply that it seems odd that models can differ so much when important underlying processes — specifically phase transitions of water — are highly dependent on absolute temperature. This is a point echoed — or should I say presaged since they said it first — in the article you link to:

    To parameterized processes that are non-linearly dependent on the absolute temperature it is a prerequisite that they be exposed to realistic temperatures for them to act as intended. Prime examples are processes involving phase transitions of water.

    The point is reinforced in their discussion of model tuning,

    To us, a global mean temperature in close absolute agreement with observations is of highest priority because it sets the stage for temperature-dependent processes to act.

    Given all of this, I do find it troubling that models that differ by 3 degrees can continue to run parallel to each other. I don’t think the text indicates they are testing ‘robustness’ to initial conditions; but even if they were, a simulation that was ‘robust’ to initial temperature should relax to some ‘proper’ temperature, and not depend linearly on it. Given that they fail to converge to a common value, how is it that a second order property (i.e. trends) can be regarded as more ‘robust’ than a first order property (i.e. temperature)?

    Dreadful word. And now I’ve used it three times!

    Here’s something else I find troubling: their statement in SS2.3 “Climate models may not exactly conserve energy. Indeed they seem to go on to discuss energy “leakages” in the models that arise from e.g. artifacts due to gridding, etc, that are of exactly the same order of magnitude as one of the key model outputs, the TOA imbalance (around 0.5W/m-2).

    Though I sense a swat coming on, let me press on: that paper itemises 25 separate parameters (Their Table 1) used to tune their model. They refer to several more in the text, with the sensible statement that where possible they use published values for things that can be independently measured. They also make the statement that
    By doing so [tuning] we clearly run the risk of building the models’ performance upon compensating errors

    and go on to give examples. I did not get the sense that they have 25 (or more) separate observables to constrain the parameter choices, which would be the minimum necessary to get a unique solution. I’m not knocking them: they’ve laid out several issues that obviously trouble them, and that’s what research is all about.

    So where am I going with this? Maybe just to say that the way I read Dr. Curry’s position is that climate models are a work in progress. Having read through Mauritsen et al I’m inclined to agree with her.

    [Response: You conclude this as if it were a profound statement and the sum total of what is being alleged. That is wrong on both counts. No-one has claimed that models are perfect or that further development is not needed so that is not the point in question. As I stated above, tuning for the absolute planetary temperature is not trivial and generally not done. But Figure 9.42 in the AR5 shows that sensitivity is not dependent on this (mainly because the global mean offset is small compared to the spatial and temporal ranges of the temperatures that local feedbacks are sensitive to). As for energy conservation, this is something that all models should strive for, but some of the terms are subtle and it takes work to track all the ‘leaks’ down. (FWIW the GISS models conserve energy to machine precision). However, while these small leaks do not have as much of an impact on the simulation as you might think, fixing them does allow you to ask a wider and clearer range of questions. – gavin]

  74. Magma:

    And then there’s Curry’s caricature of a post today, “Skeptics vs. academics”.

    Perhaps somebody with more time and patience than I have could answer whether Curry’s professional standards have eroded with time, or whether they were always this poor.

  75. Hank Roberts:

    > The background level does not go up.

    So, your noodle tells you that?

    Follow the links in Scholar; read at least some of the cited papers. On average and approximately, the level doesn’t go down as you claim to believe — diluting the atmosphere with fossil carbon isn’t significant.

    CO2 is well mixed, unlike heavy metals.

    Know how and why the metals got -into- the coal?
    You can look this stuff up.

    Your logic led you to your opinion not supported by science.
    Do you like the result? Why?

  76. Hank Roberts:

    PS, I suggest pursuing the tangent in the currently available discussion at SciAm’s blog, that cites sources:

  77. Watcher:

    Re: 73


    Thanks much for your response.

    My apologies if I made it sound as if this were a profound observation. All I was trying to say was that it represented a revelation to me. It can’t have escaped you from other threads that I am nothing more than a dilettante in this climate business. Perhaps I should preface each post with an acknowledgement that anything I think I know about the subject should be considered fragmentary at best.

    Clearly, since you still have a job (if not a paycheque at the moment!) there is a continuing need to develop the models. At the same time the tenor of many of the pronouncements I have read (though not here, admittedly) is that the models are pretty much dead on. So dead on that it’s a no-brainer that the world needs to spend bazillions of $$ to fundamentally reorganise itself or we’re all going to die. Hence my bemusement when I see just how much development there is left to do.

    You commented that the absolute temp didn’t matter much since the annual/daily/latitudinal variations are so much bigger. Does that imply that for a higher-running model these cyclic variations are larger (to e.g. match ice coverage at the poles) and vice versa?

    Finally, I assume you had a hand in the GISS models’ conservation of energy. Good on ya, then.

  78. Watcher:

    Re: Gavin’s response to 73, and 74.

    I thought it best to separate my reply to Gavin’s answers about modeling and address four of his words separately, mostly because Magma’s comment 74 irked me.

    Gavin first:

    As to “what is being alleged”. I take it you are referring to Dr. Curry’s discussion of the differences between the draft and released SPM. I read her post as a recap of what others have said — something generally true of her blog, I might add. That there are significant differences I don’t think can be disputed. The two versions of Figure 1.4 could hardly be more different in the view they present of the consistency between models and observations.

    Then there are the statements she quotes:

    “Models do not generally reproduce the observed reduction in surface warming trend over the last 10?–15 years.” from the draft, and

    the observations through 2012 generally fall within the projections made in all past assessments from the released version.

    On the face of it these are pretty different. As I understand it, the IPCC position on this discrepancy is pretty much, “oops, my bad”. Whatever your take on the subject, surely it’s valid for interested parties to want to discuss it? Again, as far as I can see Dr. Curry merely summarises other peoples’ discussions about which is the better approach and whether it was sneaky to make the change during a POLITICAL meeting set up to discuss a final SCIENTIFIC draft. Another valid point, I would say. To the extent that she comes to any conclusion of her own, all I get is this one:
    What is wrong is the failure of the IPCC to note the failure of nearly all climate model simulations to reproduce a pause of 15+ years. It’s hard to consider this off-the-wall crazy when it clearly had the support of those writing the draft version.


    Having looked at the post you refer to I see no way you can impugn anybody’s “professional standards”. Your very words are evidence that there is a vituperative aspect to almost any climate discussion that doesn’t toe the IPCC line. Whatever your take on whether “the science is settled” or not, surely the often vicious interactions are a valid point of discussion?

    [Response: I find that discussions predicated on the supposed fact that the IPCC is incompetent and corrupt are generally not productive explorations of the true state of climate science. And this. And this. – gavin]

  79. Ray Ladbury:

    Your comment@73 reveals a profound ignorance of how scientific modeling–especially, physics-based modeling–works. First, to quote Richard Hamming, “The purpose of computing is not numbers, but understanding.”

    Let me repeat that–the numbers are less importance than the insight we gain from the models. Imperfections in the models are not a barrier to their yielding that insight.

    Second, no computer-based modeling technique reproduces 100% conservation laws such as energy, momentum, angular momentum, etc. They are models, not the physical systems, themselves.

    Third, of course the models are works in progress. This isn’t a fricking science-fair project where you know the outcome in advance.

    Fourth, it is not terribly surprising that the results would be robust within some temperature range.

    Finally, I don’t think Aunt Judy has any choice but to misrepresent research. I don’t think she herself understands the research sufficiently to present it correctly. One of the reasons she is so good at confusing her readers is that she is mightily confused, herself.

  80. Chris Dudley:

    Gavin (#71),

    You raise a fair point. But recall, the carbon in the coal initially diluted the uranium concentration. It came from the air, not the soil. So, re-concentration is only back to the level of a clay soil, not heightened concentration. The ash is chemically active and nasty in that way, but it is not particularly radioactive. That is, it is radioactive the way dirt is radioactive, being the same composition, and so is neutral in terms of exposure.

  81. Hank Roberts:

    > dirt
    That’s a belief.
    But facts are available.
    You can look this stuff up:

  82. Watcher:

    Re: 79


    I’m not trying to sound like a dick-head here, but my career for the past 25 years has largely consisted of physics-based modeling. If it is a ‘profound misunderstanding’ to expect my models to give accurate predictions of how the real world is going to behave then mea culpa. If they didn’t I expect my customers would be … well, not my customers any more.

    Yes, the systems are simpler than a global climate and, yes I can augment them with things I can measure in a lab; but the central requirement of a scientific model is to produce measurable predictions. It has no value otherwise. Yes, during development one can tinker with poorly understood parameters to make a better fit, but this doesn’t always lead to understanding. Indeed, Mauritsen et al lament that they encounter situations in their climate model where one wrong parameter is offsetting one or more other wrong parameters but they don’t have a ready way to disentangle the errors. In some cases they can identify the parameters in the trade-off, in which case understanding is gained even though they still can’t pin down the balance; but in other cases they admit to not even knowing what parameters will affect the metric they want to change,

    In many cases, however, we do not know how to tune a certain aspect of a model that we care about representing with fidelity

    so it’s hard to say that getting a better fit can be called an improvement in understanding.

    Again, from the same paper the single most important performance metric is the system temperature,

    To us, a global mean temperature in close absolute agreement with observations is of highest priority because it sets the stage for temperature-dependent processes to act.

    And besides, that’s what all the hand-wringing is all about. Striving to model that has to be of importance, and observing that the models as a group don’t do a very good job yet can hardly be dismissed as irrelevant. What’s a ‘very good job’? If the spread in models is 3K, and the ‘dangerous threshold’ is 2K …. Like they say, the models are a work in progress.

    Finally, I can’t help but notice that “Judy’s stupid” seems to be the crux of the rebuttals presented in a several posts, not least of them yours. I’ll take that as supporting the second part of my post 78.

  83. Hank Roberts:

    > physics-based modeling…. to give accurate
    > predictions …. my customers ….

    Very different kind of model, right?

    Watcher — I’m guessing you are not creating models that include random events?

    Running a climate model repeatedly gives a spread of results because elements are inescapably randomn (like volcanic different for each run of the model).

    Maybe I”m guessing wrong, but I’d guess Watcher is modeling clockwork kinds of physics.

    Watcher — care to say more specifically what systems you model for your customers? Do you get a spread of results when you run the model repeatedly, as a normal result?

  84. Chris Dudley:

    Hank (#81),

    Here your noodle will help you. What is fly ash? Quick lime and pozzolan. An exothermic reaction involving water and carbon dioxide rather rapidly dilutes the radioactivity back down to the soil range in your link.

    Your noodle can help you again. If these exaggerated claims about radioactivity of coal were true, then we could add coal ash to soil, grow some trees, make some charcoal, and produce even more uranium. Eventually, we could turn all of the stuff into uranium using this form of alchemy.

    But transmutation requires nuclear reactions, not chemical reactions. So, your leg is being pulled.

    In fact, burning coal cuts radiation exposure owing to the reduction in carbon-14 in our food. That is not a good reason to burn coal. But, it is a good reason, along with evidence of data falsification by government scientists at Yucca Mountain, to be distrustful of government nuclear power enthusiasts. Their devotion to truth seems to be too weak to be compatible with science.

  85. Hank Roberts:

    > http://web.ornl.gov/info/ornlreview/rev26-34/text/colmain.html
    You’re stating your belief, not a fact.
    Levels have been measured.
    Numbers are published.
    You can look this stuff up:


    Far be it from me to tell you what you should believe.
    I believe I get better information from the science.
    You believe you can trust whatever source you rely on.

    Are you reasoning to your own conclusion, or drawing from some external source you trust for what you believe?

  86. Retrograde Orbit:

    I find this whole discussion on the inability of the models to reproduce recent global temperature (‘the hiatus’) disturbing. Very disturbing.
    Let me explain: Skeptics have always made the baseless accusation that global warming is a fraud and climate scientists are ‘covering up’ the truth. Now I am afraid this might become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If it hasn’t already.
    Consider: There are errors in the scientific results we publish. Always will be, models are no exception, Gavin has nicely explained it. However, when skeptics look at these errors they will say: “Aha! Told you so! There is no global warming!” Which is nonsense, but embarrassing. And so there is a growing temptation to researchers to downplay the errors in their research – even if there is no rational reason to do so.
    That troubles me. And I could easily see that Watcher is insinuating exactly that.

  87. Dave123:

    My own modeling experience in chemical reactor design gives me a different perspective from what I see Watcher saying. Watcher appears to be agreeing with Professor Curry that an error in absolute temperature of a degree or two is significant. First, based on my experience I’m not inclined to agree. Second, I’m seeing a ‘god of the gaps’ argument that appears to have no target for how close the absolute temperatures need to be before some folks pick up their knitting again.
    Let me elaborate on the first: An error of 1K out of numbers that could be from 220-340 K (stratospheric to desert surface) is an error of well less than 1%. A typical rate equation Ae^-(kT[c1]^i[c2]^j… (sorry no good way to write equations like this) probably has larger errors in the estimates of A and k and concentrations influencing the rate than the error in T. Concentration and partial pressure estimates would seem likely even less influenced by an error of 1 part in 293 (room temperature in K).
    I guess if I had a climate model in hand to tinker with, I could test for how results would differ if I could systematically bias calculated temperature through the iterations by steps of 0.01, 0.1, 1, 2 and 5 K with appropriate precautions to censor wandering into physically absurd outputs.
    Which is back to the second point: How close on an absolute scale is good enough? How would you know? When the trend is what you’re after, how does have agreement at some point in time to an arbitrary closeness to absolute temperature improve your confidence in the trend?
    Let me add that chemical reactor modeling of in my experience is pretty clockwork, yet to my experience the errors I describe don’t prevent them from being used, as we did, to great effect. I’ll save comments on how I see scenarios, uncontrolled variables (atmospheric humidity) for some other time.

  88. Thomas:

    I don’t think you can consider your assumption that coal will have the same radioactive concentration as original peak plus dirt. It has lain underground for millions of year, exposed to groundwater flows. Material would be exchanged between the coal and groundwater. It could either absorb radioactive substances, or have radioactive substances dissolved and carried away. Only detailed investigation -also guided by experimental results can resolve such as issue.

  89. Kevin McKinney:

    “There is just as much screening from ash as there is from dirt.”

    Major fail–as ‘thought experiments’ arguing in the face of actual data tend to be.

  90. Patrick 027:

    re Watcher – the climate models of the sort being discussed (covering the globe in latitude, longitude, height, and time – as opposed to 1-dimensional models (height… oh, they might have time, too, but they don’t resolve synoptic-scale storms or Hadley cells, or ocean circulation, obviously; … but the true 1-dimension model is useful for finding equilibrium given some simplifications*, and it is interesting to compare that to the fuller behavior of the climate in other models or the real world(s)) reproduce much of the behavior in the real climate system, including internal variability – that’s not to say it’s perfect (last I heard – which was a while ago – there was trouble with MJO, but I’m not up on all the details of that – I still don’t really understand what MJO is, to be honest, though I think it’s based in the tropics). Some of that internal variability produces temporary disequilibria in the climate system on the global annual average scale. So there are decades that warm up faster or slower, or warm up and cool down if there is no underlying trend. The observations of global surface temperature fit that behavior.

    * a 1-dimensional model may find an equilibrium temperature profile, given external forcing, by finding the temperature distribution for which upward net LW radiative flux + convective heat flux = net downward SW flux at each level . Globally and temporally averaged, that actually is the case for an equilibrium climate, so this isn’t totally removed from reality. Convection may be parameterized by setting a maximum-allowable lapse rate; if temperature drops with height too quickly, convection must be increased. There will be some feedbacks as a change in the temperature profile caused by convection will alter the radiative flux. Clouds in such a model might be set as a boundary condition (external forcing), which of course is unrealistic, but if realistic clouds are used, you still get something realistic. Etc.

  91. Hank Roberts:

    > we could add coal ash to soil …
    > and produce even more uranium


    I see where you’re coming from.
    Far out.

  92. Dave123:

    Attempt 2- having captcha problems

    My own modeling experience in chemical reactor design gives me a different perspective from what I see Watcher saying. Watcher appears to be agreeing with Professor Curry that an error in absolute temperature of a degree or two is significant. First, based on my experience I’m not inclined to agree. Second, I’m seeing a ‘god of the gaps’ argument that appears to have no target for how close the absolute temperatures need to be before some folks pick up their knitting again.

    Let me elaborate on the first: An error of 1K out of numbers that could be from 220-340 K (stratospheric to desert surface) is an error of well less than 1%. A typical rate equation d[C]/dt= Ae^-(kT[c1]^i[c2]^j… (sorry no good way to write equations like this) probably has larger errors in the estimates of A and k and concentrations influencing the rate than the error in T. Concentration and partial pressure estimates would seem likely even less influenced by an error of 1 part in 293 (room temperature in K).

    I guess if I had a climate model in hand to tinker with, I could test for how results would differ if I could systematically bias calculated temperature through the iterations by steps of 0.01, 0.1, 1, 2 and 5 K with appropriate precautions to censor wandering into physically absurd outputs.

    Which is back to the second point: How close on an absolute scale is good enough? How would you know? When the trend is what you’re after, how does have agreement at some point in time to an arbitrary closeness to absolute temperature improve your confidence in the trend?
    Let me add that chemical reactor modeling of in my experience is pretty clockwork, yet to my experience the errors I describe don’t prevent them from being used, as we did, to great effect. I’ll save comments on how I see scenarios, uncontrolled variables (atmospheric humidity) for some other time.

  93. Ray Ladbury:

    Ah, I see. You use physics-bases models. You just don’t understand them.

    Yes, of course we must compare model performance to reality. However, we have to make meaningful comparisons. Reality is only one possible realization of the climate system. Are you actually saying that not a single realization of the model runs produced a “16 year hiatus”? Are you really calling it a hiatus when it indicates that a La Nina year now is as warm as a big-assed El Nino 15 years ago?

    What is more, we often learn more from models that fail in interesting ways than we do from models that reproduce the trends exactly.

    As to Aunt Judy, I have never learned anything from her. She provides no insights, no clarity, nothing useful. She is often flat wrong are never even in an interesting way. Judy is worse than a waste of time.

  94. Watcher:

    Re: 91 etc.

    Dave123 (and others) I appreciate your thoughts.

    I’m not really trying to insinuate anything but the glaring changes between the draft and final SPM concerning model/observation agreement surely has to give one pause. I’m merely defending Dr. Curry’s right to say, “WTF?”

    As for Dave123’s comment about models being good to 1%: in many if not most cases that would be ‘good enough’. However, given the absolutely key role of water in the climate system and its well-known phase transition at 273.15K I would think that some explicit test of what is ‘good enough’ would be in order. I have no idea how small ‘the gaps’ need to be before I believe in ‘the god’, I’m just saying that it makes me uneasy.

    Furthermore, to continue the point, if you had a model that was known to be good only to 1% and it told you some process was going to change by 1%, what would be your confidence in the prediction? Myself, with what is being called my clockwork models, I would say pretty close to zero.

    And since you ask, yes you could call them clockwork models: laser cavity dynamics, non-linear fibre processes, that sort of thing. Non-random except in the trivial sense that Maxwell-Boltzmann statistics can be assumed or to generate bit patterns. However, my understanding of climate systems (close to pathetic, admittedly) is not that they are random, but rather chaotic. Thus, the presence of multiple, interconnected, non-linear interactions leads to unpredictability on large scales. This is not the same as randomness, which I would call unpredictability on small scales, but when taken in the aggregate becomes predictable.

    The implication of a chaotic system is that there are multiple possible large scale states which can arise from infinitesimally different initial conditions. However, if you look at that figure from Mauritsen et al again, you can see that while each of the hindcasts wiggles up and down, if it starts out high it pretty much stays high. So the randomness or chaos or whatever you want to call it doesn’t look as though it accounts for the differences between the runs. Magma way back in 58 said he thought they were testing different starting temps. I got the impression from Mauritsen’s paper that it was more about different tuning strategies and that the plot was a randomly chosen set of archived runs, but I didn’t see an explicit statement. Whatever the case, each ‘solution’ seems pretty stable.

    Of course I’m only guessing about this. It would be interesting to get an answer from a climate modeler (you know who you are!) about whether the same set of forcings and tuning parameters can generate runs that differ by 3K. In other words, is the chaotic nature responsible for only the fluctuations within a given ‘solution’, or is it responsible for the ‘choice’ of solution?

  95. Radge Havers:

    Retro’ @86

    It troubles me too.

    You know, it takes a certain willfully obtuse mean spirit to try to wipe out of discourse a pretty basic intuition that almost everybody already understands: You don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. That goes for pretty much everything in life, except apparently if you’re an ideological bampot. Just a reminder that you shouldn’t be too passive in responding to such malicious propaganda.

  96. Steve Fish:

    I have been staring at the decadal average surface temperature anomaly graph, under the new IPCC Climate Report topic here on RC, and wondering where the 15 year slowdown in warming is. The 2000 to 2010 step is completely contained within the last 15 years, yet is as big a step up as the previous two. I would like for all those trying to distract, with talk about how models don’t show something that they admittedly can’t (short term variation), to climb up those steep steps, stand on the top one, and point out the slowdown for me.


  97. Mike Donald:

    Booker’s at it again and I’m sure you good folk will have something to say.


    [Response: Christopher Booker is wrong about the history, wrong about the present, and will be wrong about the future. -gavin]

  98. Retrograde Orbit:

    Bampot? Hmm, whatever. Don’t forget, most of us here are human.

    The problem is that most skeptics are in essence wishful thinkers (e.g. model discrepancy => wishful thought => maybe the models are incorrect in their long term predictions too and it won’t be as bad as they predict).
    You can encourage this kind of wishful thinking by simply asking pointed questions. And it’s effective. Wishful thinking consistently trumps rational arguments. I don’t think we should give Dr. Curry (or anybody) a free pass on that.

  99. Retrograde Orbit:

    Which leads me to a question for Gavin:
    Isn’t this whole discourse on models way over the top? I had that feeling already when I read your model-error post (after somebody claimed that all models were “falsified”).

    What is wrong with simply saying: The actual temperature is within the error margin of the models and therefore we cannot draw any conclusion from this discrepancy? And that – in particular – the idea that long term model predictions may be incorrect because of the short term discrepancy is merely a wishful thought?

  100. Patrick 027:

    re 94 Watcher

    Would you have confidence in a model’s trend if the absolute value were 1 % off but the trend, integrated over time, produced a 10 % difference? If so, what would you expect if you reduced the change in external forcing to 10 % of the original value. Even if you had no knowledge of the general behavior (is it a sinusoidal dependence? Parabolic?), a fair best first guess, albeit with minimal or no confidence, would be a 1 % change. But say you did know something about it’s behavior, enough to have some expectation of roughly/approximately linear proportionality, at least within a range of conditions that this case falls into. Then a 1 % result has more confidence.

    With regard to the Earth’s climate system, there is some highly nonlinear behavior well outside the range of conditions being dealt with – runaway H2O vapor feedback (which, from what I’ve read, is hard to get to with non-feedback GHG forcing – it requires solar brightening) and snowball Earth (hysteresis, runaway albedo feedback). There are certainly other complexities, especially if we consider Earth-system sensitivity (includes feedbacks on CO2 amount, ice-sheets, vegetation albedo, aerosols) rather than just Charney sensitivity (includes the Planck response (the increase in outgoing LW radiation due to an increase in temperature, and H2O vapor, lapse rate, cloud, and if I’m not mistaken, snow and sea ice(? – I always forget whether sea ice is included, but it would make sense)). Charney feedbacks are not perfectly linear over very large ranges of conditions but I think they tend to be smooth enough to be approximated as such over smaller ranges – of course snow and sea ice feedbacks approach zero at sufficiently high temperatures. Charney feedbacks are fast-acting relative to the equilibration time given by heat capacity and climate sensitivity. The response of the climate to orbital forcing is a great example of the complexity of the full Earth-system response; the global annual average forcing in that case is quite small, and what is really important is the redistribution of solar radiation over latitude and season, where feedbacks to changes at some locations have a global-annual average impact. The importance of such spatial and temporal distributions in forcing could be measured by their effect on efficacy – the global time-average sensitivity to a particular type of forcing relative to a standard type of forcing.

    But as far as the effect of absolute temperature errors are concerned, consider that the troposphere varies from above 293 K at the surface in many places (~288 K global average) to ~220 or even less at the tropopause. How far up or down, and for that matter, north or south, does the 273.15 K isotherm shift among models for the same forcing? The snow and ice are still there, there is still a freezing level in many clouds, etc. Consider the changes expected with global warming – shifts in storm tracks will leave some places dry and others wetter, and a shift in precipitation toward heavier downpours will occur, and we’ll lose snow and ice, and yet, at least within some limits, we’re still going to be within the range where there’s still significant snow and ice coverage, there will still be significant extratropical storm track activity, etc.

    When and if we get to the point that feedback values change rapidly over temperature, we’ll probably be farther along than we’d ever want to be, wouldn’t we? (and it will probably take time for Greenland and Antarctica together to lose much of their ice – not as long as many of us would prefer, but…)

    Except for the possibility of stepped sensitivity – for example, if (for illustrative purposes I constructed this example) there were a series of ice fields which remained intact up to some threshold and completely disappeared above that – then the equilibrium sensitivity would have a series of jumps – but if these jumps were not too large and were not tightly clustered in a bundle (relative to the temperature range considered), then it can be approximated by something more smooth – especially for the predictions if the thresholds have uncertainty.

    Concerning chaos: Weather is chaotic, with small changes in initial conditions resulting in large changes in conditions at any point in time, after some period of time over which predictability is lost. But general characteristics of weather may remain the same – in the sense that nothing seems out-of-whack if there’s 4 blizzards instead of 6 in one year and 7 the next, or a tornado hits one place rather than another. You weren’t expecting the alternative scenario in the first place – you couldn’t predict it that far ahead with any confidence. The general characteristics are the climate. It’s more than just averages; I like the analogy of texture – consider two lawns with the same variety of grass, same soil, maintained the same way – on a climatic level they tend to look the same, although each individual blade of grass is different – there isn’t even necessarily a one-to-one correspondence between the two sets.

    What is weather and climate can shift depending on scale – for example, each individual snow flake is like a weather event in a blizzard climate – an ice age that lasts maybe a few hours to a day or so. On that timescale the blizzard is predictable. The mantle has weather – and so far as I know we can’t model exactly where the continents will be or have been beyond some time horizon even if we could model mantle convection as well as the atmosphere (of course, we have the geologic record to tell us about continental drift in the past), but there is a climate of mantle convection and plate tectonics behavior – which will change over Earth’s history as there is cooling and associated effects (layered convection due to the thermodynamics of the Perovskite phase transition may (have/will?/is) shift(ing?) toward whole mantle convection).

    Climate is predictable because the chaos of weather is bounded. There are conservation laws to consider, for example – the whole ocean won’t spontaneously heat up or cool off – there must be a heat source or sink. A thunderstorm, turbulent eddy, or extratropical cyclone may grow from some instability (instability from CAPE, Kelvin-Helmholtz, baroclinic wave instability (although latent heating is there too)) but can’t grow forever due to limits (spatial, material, energetic) or keep reforming without a source of energy to drive it. Some freak events may occur rarely due to some random (in effect, chaotic in origin) alignment; they can’t be expected to occur all the time unless climate changes sufficiently. If there are two distinct equilibrium states for the same external forcing, then climate is stuck in one or the other until the forcing puts it on a trajectory which connects the two. If the states are not truly fully equilibria, then the climate may fluctuate between them, and thus a complete description of climate encompasses both states and the shifting behavior (ENSO, NAM, SAM, NAO, MJO, PDO, AMO, QBO – actually, not all of these have two or more distinct (approximate and/or partial) equilibria – the QBO (the one I believe I understand the best, except of course for whatever aspects I don’t yet know :) ) has no separate equilibrium states; each state in a continuum leads as smoothly to next as any other, so far as know; I have a vague understanding of ENSO, NAM, and SAM; can’t explain what MJO even is).

  101. Radge Havers:

    Perhaps, although since we’re looking at a time-worn political tactic, and we’re living in strangely charged political times (also human), I’m more inclined to ascribe a secondary role to simple wishful thinking. That’s in general, as I’m also thinking of exchanges that have taken place on other threads as well as what goes on outside the RC enclave.

  102. Watcher:

    re 93:


    If you look at my posts you will note that I have made no mention of the “16 year hiatus” except tangentially (#78) in defending Dr. Curry’s right to wonder at the differences between the draft and final AR5 SPM. You’re the one telling me I’m talking about a hiatus. As for whether a 16 year hiatus has ever been simulated, I would defer to von Storch:

    At my institute, we analyzed how often such a 15-year stagnation in global warming occurred in the simulations. The answer was: in under 2 percent of all the times we ran the simulation.

    Rather, the point of my posts was to discuss something that was new to me: why the modeling community doesn’t appear to consider an accurate simulation of absolute temperature important, despite (once again) Mauritsen:

    To us, a global mean temperature in close absolute agreement with observations is of highest priority because it sets the stage for temperature-dependent processes to act

    And yet both the figure that drew my attention and Gavin’s comments seem to indicate that it’s not considered a big deal, since what they are after is the trend. Other comments from yourself and Magma are in the same vein, but I’m not convinced that you are climate modelers so I don’t want to use them as an example of the community. One should try to avoid putting words into other peoples’ mouths, don’t you think?

  103. Patrick 027:

    It’s also worth pointing out that the range in model results are what they are, whatever the errors in baseline temperature; and they are clustered into a bundle. And also, there are sensitivity estimates from observations and paleoclimatic studies.



  104. Watcher:

    Re: 92


    Assume you have an aqueous reaction mixture. Try running your simulation at 294K, and at 292K — straddling the freezing point of the mixture of course. My guess is very little change in your reaction rate model, but a very big change in real life.

    Latent heat makes a huge thermodynamic difference when the temperature is swinging through a phase transition, which it will do repeatedly in a climate simulation. I wouldn’t think this is news to any climate modelers.

  105. Dave123:

    @Watcher – What I think you’re missing in your focus on the freezing point of water is so far as climate models go, it means that you move a few meters higher or lower in the atmosphere when there’s a temperature error around the freezing point, and otherwise it doesn’t make much difference in kinetic expressions, especially compared to the other approximations that are being made. Same thing on the ground, a few days earlier or later, a few meters higher or lower, a few degrees further north or south. As long as the error is reasonably consistent, the trends will emerge. Now I’ll stand ready for correction from someone who can point to a specific equation/scenario that’s very sensitive and tightly coupled, but in the general sense of things those are the consequences I see from the kinds of equations I understand.

    Going back to reliability- in our systems the objective function was economic maximization- which meant “more”. More of course had upper limits because of dangerous runaways. Running my model simulations with dozens if not hundreds of scenarios provided guidelines and boundaries that would have been obscenely expensive and risky to try to produce experimentally. That’s where good enough comes in- stopping short of that last 1/2 %yield/productivity in order to have a 3 degree margin on temperature measurements.

    I suggest that how I used reactor models is more like how we use climate models….looking for trends, responses and safe margins, not absolutes.

  106. Hank Roberts:

    > Reality is only one possible realization of the climate system.

    Could someone put that in understandable fifth-grade English?

    If I’m the one who started “clockwork model” forgive me. I made that term up handwaving. Is there really a kind of model meant to behave consistently, much the same way each time it’s run?

    ‘Cause I’m contrasting that to a climate model in which significant events occur with some range of likelihood and timing, not tied down because the model includes modeling natural variability. When and how big and where the volcanos erupt in each century, the usual example.

    I think of climate as more like a variant or mutant Rube Goldberg machine — one that ends up reaching one of a variety of different likely outcomes each time it’s run.

    (was such a thing ever built in hardware? something like the Diskworld hydraulic model of money flow in AnkhMorpork …).

  107. Doug Bostrom:

    Booker’s “Climate change ‘scientists’ are just another pressure group” is remarkably brazen, a heroic attempt at establishing an expedient cognitive short-circuit. If Booker can only lead people to believe such a thing, then it’s no longer necessary to scrutinize, understand or acknowledge any of the details of difference between a broad scientific consensus and a demagogue’s appeals to emotion.

    “Both sides are the same, just pick the one that fits your predisposition.

    No, but nauseatingly cynical.

    “…why the modeling community doesn’t appear to consider an accurate simulation of absolute temperature important…it’s not considered a big deal, since what they are after is the trend.”

    There you go, you said it. Simulation or physical experiment, if you’re trying to predict the statistical reliability of a population of light bulbs it doesn’t matter which particular bulbs fail, the numbers are still useful. If your simulation is also trying to predict which particular light bulb will burn out first, second or later then the the model will of course “fail” even as it continues to produce useful statistics.

    In order to have a lot of pointless discussion and doubt it’s imperative that we forget the fundamental purpose of climate simulations.

    Judith Curry is not stupid but she is deeply mysterious.

  108. Watcher:

    Re: 102 & 104

    Patrick 027 — I dunno, it’s hard to see anything clustered in this figure.

    Dave123: I expect you’re right for a reaction vessel where you’re trying to supply energy to get over an activation barrier. Can I assume the reactions are essentially irreversible once they occur and you’re mostly tweaking which pathways are favoured?

    In a climate model it is precisely those few metres of altitude or few degrees of latitude that are at issue. Essentially one is modeling a reversible system (in the sense of a local equilibrium rather than a strict thermodynamic reversibility) in an almost-steady state situation: heat is being pumped in, transported by storms, currents, etc., contributing to melting/freezing … gads. An unholy mess and while I do go on I have to take my hat off to people who are willing to tackle it.

    Anyway, exactly where all of this is going on (i.e. what latitide, altitude, etc.) is at the heart of the predictions people care about: whether the methane clathrates will be released or Greenland melts or what have you. Hence, I think it matters more than in a chemical reactor.

  109. David B. Benson:

    Magma @74 — Eroded and that in just the past few years,

  110. Dave123:

    @Watcher- It will take someone with more of an inside view of the models, but the errors in the various other components besides temperature are more likely to be limiting factors. But no, the few meters or degrees of latitude are precisely not the issue. You need a sensitivity analysis on the estimated errors in lots of other variables and ‘constants’ before you can get too interested in temperature by itself. Look at the error bars on known forcings going into climate models. Those are bigger on a percentage scale than temperature. (See approved summary for policy makers SPM.5: All of the error bars are far greater than 1 degree out of 300.

  111. Dave123:

    Watcher- no the problem with the reactor wasn’t putting heat in, it was taking heat out….hence the concern about runaways. The concern was also that if you assumed a normal error distribution on your temperatures measurements (despite calibration), the possibility that 1 error in 10000 could be measuring low enough to significantly miss boarderline runaway conditions had to be reckoned with.

  112. Chris Dudley:

    Hank (#91),

    Yes, it is a matter of conservation. Thomas has a fair point, but most dirt has seen its fair share of ground water as well. There is heterogeneity in the distribution of uranium in soil, and it is also expected in coal ash for that reason alone.

    Regarding screening, perhaps I should make that clear. There is radioactivity occurring throughout the Earth’s crust. We are subject to very little of it because it is also blocked by the Earth’s crust. Laying down a layer that has the same concentration of radioactive isotopes as the rest of the crust makes no difference in radiation exposure because it screens the layer below. That is why bulldozers don’t raise radiation levels. They may have made a bigger pile of stuff that has some radioactivity, and there is indeed a greater number of decays in that volume than before the pile was there, but the old surface is screened by the new material and no longer contributes to the surface radiation.

  113. Dave123:

    @hank 106- My guess is that there are two broad categories of physics based models, and that you can split them into clockwork and non-clockwork. The kinds of reactor modeling I did is very clockwork, because there were no random inputs. We controlled the horizontal, we controlled the vertical. Given a scenario, the same result pops out every time you run the model. Thing is these models contained so many elements of a climate model: heat transfer, mass transfer, rate of reaction, temperature and concentration dependence, and parallel to uncertainties in forcings, we had uncertainties (albeit small) in some heats of reaction, the rate constants and some exponents (order effects) on concentrations due to gas and solid phase adsorption/desorption effects. We had to tune around those. In the end, everything was uncannily, eerily accurate, down to a little ‘hiccup’ that I thought was below the noise threshold being reproduced and observed large scale.

    But we didn’t have random events thrown in, such as volcanoes or ENSO. ENSO might relate because it would affect humidity and that had strong influence on one system (but not the other), but even there, given a the same input we obtained the same output, and we were only concerned with steady states.

    Climate is different- its not steady state. There’s no control panel to tweak anything to compensate for an uncontrolled variable. It’s vastly more complex. We could simplify out the CFD in our systems at both macro and micro scales because we had consistent turbulent flow and appropriate time scales compared to diffusion vs convection, you can’t do that in climate models.

    In fact, with all of the uncertainties going into climate models (from what the true values of forcings are ….and whether there’s local, contingent or emergent variation in forcing values) I’m sometimes amazed that they come as close as they do.

  114. Ray Ladbury:

    If you wish to avoid misunderstanding, then might I suggest expressing yourself clearly? Do not take a cue from Aunt Judy where you advance to the very verge of taking a position and then withdraw into plausible deniability.

    Unfortunately, von Storch is engaging in his penchant for doing science by press–long before he has allowed his peers to have their say of his analysis. Everything depends on how von Storch asked the question. If one asks whether a particular 15 year period will show insignificant warming, then, yes, the odds will be small. If however, one asks whether some 15-year period in a span of 50 years will show low warming, then the odds will be a whole lot higher. And finally, if one asks whether a 15-year trend beginning with an El Nino that was about 2 sigma higher than the trend might show negligible warming, I might take those odds. And finally, when you specify that the two end years be La Ninas, it’s damn near a lead-pipe cinch. But Judy is not interested in lead-pipe cinches. She’d rather be mystified. It makes it easier to fool readers like you.

  115. Flakmeister:

    CERN Cloud experiment press release:


    Cosmics have negligible effect on aerosols associated with Amines and sulphuric acid…

    Oh my, Jasper K. has let down denialosphere yet again…

  116. Hank Roberts:

    > Chris Dudley

    What you believe is inconsistent with the measurements reported in the published literature on the subject. You’re entitled to your own beliefs. Repeating your conclusions doesn’t improve the mismatch: whatever source you’re relying on isn’t published. I rely on the published science. Enough, eh?

  117. Chris Dudley:

    Hank (#116),

    Actually, you have not demonstrated anything here. You cite the paper that has been disproved as evidence. That is both a false appeal to authority and circular. You provide links that show that coal ash and soil have an overlapping range of radioactivity to claim that they are different when you link shows they are not. If you can’t argue cogently, you can’t be persuasive. Read more carefully and do some thinking. You’ll understand eventually.

  118. Doug Bostrom:

    Amazing how we can make something that is fairly simple in its broad features unnecessarily complicated to think about, but that’s a common problem these days with the epidemic application of tactical and strategic confusion.

    Combustion of coal to ash: does it concentrate any elements and/or compounds?

    If we start with coal that includes various impurities and burn it, we end up with a residue chiefly consisting of those impurities, in particular those that are not volatile at the combustion temperatures involved.

    But apparently we’re supposed to believe that the properties of coal ash are the same as coal. How does that work?

    Meanwhile, it’s known that particular deposits of coal are associated with particular impurities.

    I’ve a feeling we’ll next be hearing that the mercury found in coal to a greater or lesser extent magically vanishes as the coal is burned.

  119. prokaryotes:

    New finding shows climate change can happen in a geological instant

    [Response: My sources tell me that the inference that the banding is annual (and hence the ‘instant’ conclusion) is quite controversial. More study is definitely needed on this. – gavin]

  120. Hank Roberts:

    > the paper that has been disproved
    Please get help. Ask a librarian.

  121. Doug Bostrom:

    That article on what we might be able to infer are varves is amazingly devoid of any useful content. Apparently there’s disagreement on whether the layers are actually varves?

    Anyway, here’s the abstract:


  122. Doug Bostrom:

    Beef: In a perfect world I’d get free access to some number of (one, even) PNAS articles for each bleary-eyed 6am delivery of a passenger to the airport made so that the passenger could attend a NAS meeting across the country, in the swamp. Meetings which– by the way– are essentially a gift.

    It’s just not a fair world. :-)

  123. Hank Roberts:

    > geological instant

    The linked story quotes the authors:

    Wright and Schaller surmised that …. “It’s giving us a yearly account through the sediments.”

    The bands could contain many possible proxies, many quite recently discovered. http://scholar.google.com/scholar?as_ylo=2013&q=paleo+core+proxies

    They could be layers of mud from annual extreme rainfall events if these cores are from near shore locations; they could be sediment from plankton blooms. Or much else.

    The bands are layers at some particular location — which could be due to local extremes while global CO2 was changing relatively slowly. Or so I’d guess.

  124. Hank Roberts:

    More better info on location and what’s in the bands
    > Wright and Schaller

    doi: 10.1073/pnas.1309188110
    PNAS October 1, 2013 vol. 110 no. 40 15908-15913

    supporting information online at http://www.pnas.org/lookup/suppl/doi:10.1073/pnas.1309188110/-/DCSupplemental.

  125. Watcher:

    Re: 100

    Patrick 027,

    You ask

    “Would you have confidence in a model’s trend if the absolute value were 1 % off but the trend, integrated over time, produced a 10 % difference?”

    Well perhaps I would, but the trend as measured (and modeled) from 1900 to present integrates to less than a 0.3% difference in absolute T. And there are no “random” events in there, since historical forcings are used to generate the curves and the models are aligned to data. The very scariest IPCC scenarios when carried out to 2035 or so (the approved SPM Figure 1.4 ) end up at +2K relative to 1950, so call that 2.5K above 1900. That makes it somewhere around 0.8%.

    You also ask,

    “How far up or down, and for that matter, north or south, does the 273.15 K isotherm shift among models for the same forcing?”

    A good question, which is rather the point I was after but was too lazy to look up. According to various Googled references, I would say around 500m of altitude and 1000km of latitude for the observed 3K spread in the hindcast models shown in Mauritsen et al. That takes in the entire extent of Greenland and its ice shelf, for example.

    By the way, thanks for your extensive comments on chaotic aspects of climate (and geology, of all things). You’ve obviously given this some thought and I appreciated some of the insights.

    And finally Ray, from 114:

    “If you wish to avoid misunderstanding, then might I suggest expressing yourself clearly? Do not take a cue from Aunt Judy where you advance to the very verge of taking a position and then withdraw into plausible deniability.”

    OK, how’s this. Gavin once advised me to go softly and not say I think something is absurd when it’s been pronounced on by someone who has studied it extensively. I’m trying to follow that advice.

    In my trivial, stunted world of clockwork modeling I would consider it absurd to take a model that is only “good” to 1% and use it to predict things occurring on a scale of less than 1%. Apparently, models infinitely more complex than mine, that contain chaotic features and dozens of poorly characterised parametrisations should not be judged by the same standards. I know that sounds sarcastic, but it is the gist of what has been suggested to me here.

    I find this surprising and so apparently does Dr. Curry. I’m trying to be polite because this is a legitimate field of study of no little importance and still being actively pursued. Happily, for the most part discourse here remains civilised, but that’s not universally true.

    Is that clear enough?

  126. Hank Roberts:

    > integrates to less than a 0.3% difference in absolute T

    Variations in insolation are about one part in about 1300.

    Climate models aren’t “infinitely” more complex.

    > my trivial, stunted world of clockwork

    There, there, it’s not so bad as all that.

    But do you model anything that includes natural variability? So your model runs are different?

    We have one run of the Earth (or rather we have scattered little bits of the run to date, from various proxies, collected where someone drilled a hole carefully).

  127. Ray Ladbury:

    Fine, except I don’t know of any basic conclusions on which the basic science depends that are contingent on the models being right to 1%. And again, one is not looking at absolute numbers from the models but rather at trends and how robust those trends might be over various ranges of initial conditions and parametric values. That is more than sufficient to reach conclusions.

    As to what Aunt Judy presents, it relies on a thorough misunderstanding of statistics and confidence intervals. If you want to understand where she went wrong, Watcher, that is where I would start. If you can understand it, maybe you can explain it to Judy–Dog knows many have tried.

  128. sidd:

    Thanx for pointing out the Wright paper.

    1)delta-O18 variations are quite strong evidence for the layers being annual

    2)The ability to temporally differentiate delta-CaCO3 and delta-C13 response is another huge argument for the layers being annual

    3)The speed of CaCO3 decrease is astonishing, ” … %CaCO3 shows a more abrupt decrease, from 6% to 1% within one layer.” Acidification occurred in an eyeblink. “Precipitous” is the term the authors use.

    4)3000 GT carbon release estimate: “Given the rapidity of the onset, magnitude of the δ13C excursion, and that the observed calcite compensation depth shoaling in deep ocean requires ∼3,000 GtC(3), two mechanisms meet these criteria: large igneous province-produced thermogenic methane (6, 7) and cometary carbon (11,12). The latter is consistent with the recent discovery of a substantial accumulation of nonbiogenic magnetic nanoparticles in the Marlboro clay, whose origin is best ascribed to impact condensate (71).”


  129. Patrick 027:

    re coal ash (vs coal – 121 Doug Bostrom ; PS I think I read once that Vanadium is particularly concentrated in petroleum (?) … tunicates? okay, never mind that…), dirt, groundwater – actually, surface dirt is exposed to rainwater (or ice) :) except when the water table comes up to meet it. I don’t know a lot about groundwater but there’s a diagram in a geology book, “Continents and Supercontinents”, which shows how ‘groundfluid’ changes with depth – go far enough and it’s NaCl or even CO2 (be careful on framing that last one in any climate context to avoid confusion). Anyway,

    re Watcher @104 – maybe I missed something earlier, but wouldn’t such a model easily take the latent heating and phase change into account? If you’re point is that a T error is important, that’s a good example of when it would be.

    Although – maybe a bit nitpicky but – the phase transition process generally requires nucleation and growth of new phases. Growth can be delayed, relative to thermodynamic equibrium of a whole volume, due to any nonzero diffusion of heat and/or matter requiring a thermal and/or compositional gradient, so at some distance from the new phase there may be some supersaturation or supercooling (or superwarming?) – itself making nucleation at those places more likely (unless it is too cold). But nucleation takes space and time, or else seeding…

    (in a “Good Eats” episode on chocolate, Alton Brown added cocoa butter already in the alpha phase (or beta?) to melted chocolate (as I recall, it was still molten at that point) to seed alpha (or beta?) cocoa butter. There are six different ways for cocoa butter to crystalize; I got the impression alpha is the the one at thermodynamic equilibrium under typical eating conditions – and it’s the most desirable for eating solid chocolate; beta decays to alpha readily, so beta’s acceptable. Martensite is a (brittle) form of steel which is in thermodynamic disequilibrium indefinitely; from memory, I think it would, given the opportunity, decay to Fe + cementite, but cementite itself is a disequilibrium phase, and would change into Fe plus graphite if it could. But graphite crystals often don’t form in the cooling process, unless you add, for example, (enough) Si (as best I can recall) to the mix. (if you really need to know that, double check for yourself first))

    …more to the point, though, homogeneous (no seed crystals like silver iodide) nucleation of ice occurs at a certain rate per unit volume at a given temperature; -40 deg C and F (it’s the same at that point) is considered the temperature at which pure liquid water (even down to cloud droplet size) will freeze without ice nuclei (aerosols effective in nucleating ice – from a show on the Weather Channel, that can include (at least one species of) bacteria ) without waiting too long (I infer based on the concept of nucleation rate). Aerosols vary in their ability to nucleate ice and, at least in updrafts, there is generally a population of supercooled liquid cloud droplets above freezing level. Of course, once ice is present, you’ve got the Bergeron process…

    (Also, condensation of liquid water can be delayed, although condensation may start below 100% RH (relative humidity) (relative to a flat surface of pure liquid H2O) because of aerosols which are soluble in water – forming haze particles which for a given concentration of solute and radius are in equilibrium with a given RH; concentration decreases with radius and so RH needs to rise for growth. It (typically, at least, from what I learned) needs to rise above 100 % RH eventually because as solute concentration becomes smaller (with radius^-3), the effect of the small radius, which increases the pressurization of the droplet from surface tension, starts to dominate. When the droplet grows to a size where equilibrium RH peaks, the haze particle turns into a cloud droplet. See Kohler Curve)

    Although none of that necessarily counters your argument, but it may be worth knowing.
    re @108:

    Which figure? (in http://judithcurry.com/2013/10/02/spinning-the-climate-model-observation-comparison-part-ii/ )

    I should clarify – I was specifically thinking of equilibrium climate sensitivity. Of course, trends (averaged over internal variability) should generally be proportional to that, given the same heat capacity and forcing (although the trends could vary independently of equilibrium sensitivity if models have different rates of heating of the deep ocean, for example).

    (regarding recent trends and models, I remember reading something (at RC or maybe SkepticalScience ?) relatively recently, that a correction had to be made to a figure in the IPCC because the model results were not properly aligned with the observations for a good trend comparison. I don’t know which version of that graph, if either, that Judith Curry is using.)

    See the last figure in the second link in my 103 for what I had in mind (about equilibrium sensitivity) (although that doesn’t actually show clustering by individual models, but it compares the probability curve derived from models with that derived from other lines of evidence. One of those lines is climate reaction to individual volcanic eruption(s?) (Pinatubo)).

    As to the sensivity of climate sensitivity to temperature – well,

    Is there a correlation between modelled T and modelled change in T? (I don’t know.)

    How much difference is there in the same model sensitivity, for a doubling of CO2 vs. quadrupling vs. halving of CO2 (technically, when forcing is expressed as W/m2, though each doubling of CO2 has a similar forcing to the last within some range of CO2 values (Venusian conditions are outside of that range)? I’ve gotten the impression there isn’t much (at least for Charney sensitivity, or otherwise not including ice sheets). Compare to geologic history – e.g. the first figure in the second link in my 103 – here again: https://www.skepticalscience.com/hansen-and-sato-2012-climate-sensitivity.html – farther down that page, in the “Earth System Sensitivity” section (emphasis mine):

    Hansen and Sato examine the longer-term Earth System Sensitivity by adding in slow feedbacks one-by-one, starting with surface albedo. Hansen and Sato note the longer-term sensitivity is

    “…more dependent on the initial climate state and the sign of the forcing. The fast-feedback climate sensitivity is a reasonably smooth curve, because the principal fast-feedback mechanisms (water vapor, clouds, aerosols, sea ice) do not have sharp threshold changes. Minor exceptions, such as the fact that Arctic sea ice may disappear with a relatively small increase of climate forcing above the Holocene level, might put a small wave in the fast-feedback curve.”

    This initial state dependency is illustrated by the more complex shape of the upper curve in Figure 1 above. For example, during a cooling event to a glacial period like the LGM, the long-term Earth System Sensitivity is approximately 6°C for an equivalent forcing to a doubling (or in this case halving) of CO2. This is primarily due to the increase in the Earth’s reflectivity as large ice sheets form.

    During a period like the Holocene while warming to a Pliocene-like climate, slow feedbacks (such as reduced ice and increased vegetation cover) increase the sensitivity to around 4.5°C for doubled CO2. However, a climate warm enough to lose the entire Antarctic ice sheet would have a long-term sensitivity of close to 6°C. Fortunately it would take a very long time to lose the entire Antarctic ice sheet.

    Although it is noted at the end of that section that the first figure is a schematic, the quote contains the reasoning behind expecting the fast-feedback sensitivity to be as such (smoothly varying).

    Note that the link implies (See forcings vs. feedbacks) that Hansen and Sato 2012 (HS12) includes aerosols in the fast-feedbacks (it says that HS11 argue that it should be treated as such).

    The “Earth System Sensitivity” section implies CO2 is still treated as a forcing, which is necessary if you want to consider sensitivity to atmospheric CO2. I’m unclear on how CH4 is treated. But if you are modeling climate responses to atmospheric CO2 and CH4 (and CFCs and N2O, etc.) changes, you can’t have CH4 and ultimately /or CO2 emissions from hydrates, thawing permafrost, and ecosystems in general as feedbacks in the model. And I don’t think the models used (or cited) in the IPCC generally include such feedbacks. This isn’t to say such feedbacks haven’t been studied, and if they occur and are sizable, the models which treat them as forcings would still be useful – just adjust the forcing to the known additional feedback, at least to start with.

    From what I’ve read, (one?/the?) reason for the longer tails in the distributions in the last figure of the above link on the side of higher climate sensitivity is that, if sensitivity varies with climate, it is more likely to change by more than some amount for a larger climate change; thus, for smaller climate sensitivities, sensitivity is less likely to change over the course of a given climate response to a given forcing, whereas for a larger sensitivity initially, the climate change may either be more limited when reaching a range of small sensitivity, or enhanced farther by increasing sensitivity.


    Two final points:

    As one factor which would affect Earth system sensitivity is the loss of ice sheets – if ice sheets melt sooner rather than later, sensitivity would be decreased for farther warming sooner rather than later, though averaged over the range from recent past to ice-free, the equilibrium response would be unaffected by the excact ice sheet dependence on climate (and rate of equilibration), because the start and end points would be the same.

    Concerning the sensitivity at this point, do the different models start with different ice sheets, and if modelled, do the ice sheet losses correlate with starting temperature, and/or are the ice sheet losses contribute significantly to the modelled sensitivity? Etc. for seasonal snow and sea ice (whose losses have been underestimated by models, from what I’ve read). I’m not sure about the last parts but I’d think ice sheets are initialized to be as they are in reality.

    Very broadly, it is possible to imagine systems where changes can be modelled with much more confidence than absolute values, even independently of them. Take any mass, and add 1 g to it, and the result is 1 g more, so it will weigh 1 g * gravitational acceleration more (for a ‘clockwork’ example).

    @ 125: see above on ice sheets;

    And there are no “random” events in there, since historical forcings are used to generate the curves and the models are aligned to data. The very scariest IPCC scenarios when carried out to 2035 or so (the approved SPM Figure 1.4 ) end up at +2K relative to 1950, so call that 2.5K above 1900. That makes it somewhere around 0.8%.

    From what I’ve read, models, when tuned, are tuned to best match a given average climate, not to match trends (see http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2008/11/faq-on-climate-models/ , http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/01/faq-on-climate-models-part-ii/ ). Historical volcanic eruptions should be matched in timing, though models are not generally tuned for climate sensitivity so the amplitude of the responses would be matched except by the realistic performance of the model. Internal variability can’t be matched up by tuning, so far as I know (if it could be, that would imply it is predictable over such a span of time. But we can’t predict ENSO even a decade in advance. We could confirm that this matching isn’t done by looking at individual model runs for the historical period, but I don’t have time right now to find that.

  130. Brian Dodge:

    Watcher – Assume you have a flat aqueous reaction vessel, running with a 10 degree temperature gradient from side to side. Run your simulation with the cool side at 292K, and again at 291K. Do you see a big difference?

    Antarctic sea ice is increasing in the winter. Since the sun is below the horizon, the change in albedo this causes has no effect on forcing. The radiating surface temperature of water is about 270 degrees K; the radiating surface temperature of sea ice varies from ~270 to ~250 K; how much less heat is radiated away by ice, and is this increase in Antarctic ice a positive or negative forcing?

  131. Hank Roberts:

    > Wright … argument for the layers being annual

    No problem there. I’m just wondering if it could be a local plankton or algae blooming. That would be of one of the nastier sorts — blooming in season, then dying off, acidifying the local area and making a sedimentary layer, over several years perhaps. Not sure how they go from the layers in the drill core to a global change.

  132. Doug Bostrom:

    128 Sidd vs 119 Gavin:

    Looks like varve deposit, then? What’s the basis of the controversy over the interpretation as such?

    Leaving the objection hanging undefined is kind of like “I should tell you that… oh, never mind.” :-)

  133. Hank Roberts:

    PS, I was thinking about this sort of thing. It would change the pH of the water, I think:

    The event, which has occurred in the same region over the past six years, always during the summer, has grown exponentially since its last noteable interference in 2008. This year’s growth is reportedly double in size, measuring in at more than 11,158 square miles.

    While strange in appearance, the algae is reportedly nontoxic to humans but can, however, leave behind the toxic gas hydrogen sulphide.

    Get local severe precipitation, lots of runoff, etc. and I’d imagine this could cause, locally, the deposition of such annual layers.

    Now, if they’re global, then we’re due to add our comparable layers real soon.

  134. MARodger:

    Yesterday the Guardian presented two interactive graphs to sum up the essence of IPCC AR5.

    Myself, I feel it really only requires the first of these graphs. It is presented to demonstrate the impact of the revisions in the AR5 ECS estimate from AR4, something described by the Guardian as not very important although, as the Guardian points out, to denialists such a revision is seen as of great importance, a game-changing development. The impact of the ECS revision is shown by clicking alternately on the right-hand buttons.

    The left-hand buttons show the impact of changing CO2 mitigation strategies. And of course, these are the strategies that denialists always consider to be irrelevant. So presumably, clicking on different ones would make only minor changes. Such is the power of denial.

  135. MARodger:

    Ooops. Graph with lef-right buttons here.

  136. Chris Dudley:

    Doug (#118),

    The mercury is volatile and disperses. That is the reason why you can’t eat much fish anymore. In large parts of the country, pregnant women are not supposed to eat any stream or lake caught fish owing to the risk of mercury induced birth defects. This a problem for coal. Natural gas does not pollute in this manner when it is burned. Interestingly, the Reagan crime wave may well have been induced by lead added to gasoline. http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/01/lead-crime-link-gasoline

  137. Doug Bostrom:

    Yeah, Chris (136). Sorry about that; I was alluding to the magic implied by an assumption that the properties of coal ash are the same as coal.

    The same magic that we wish would make mercury vanish but does not also fails to stop the concentration of less volatile impurities in coal combustion ash. The ash is effectively a concentrate and to the extent the source coal contained element X and element X doesn’t go up the stack, element X is found in the ash, concentrated.

    Because of geochemistry, movement of water etc. some coal contains more of particular impurities than other coal.

    Lots of coal is burned for a given thermal output so there’s lots of feedstock used for the production of a particular quantity of ash and hence concentration of impurities in that ash.

    Ash does not magically vanish but instead has to be disposed of. “Disposal” include such things as fill for concrete products, wallboard, fill in construction sites.

    Because of the concentration effect of combustion, coal ash falls into the category of something called “technologically-enhanced, naturally-occurring radioactive materials,” or “TENORM.”

    TENORM is not dirt. Note that we don’t add dirt to wallboard or concrete products and other applications of coal ash TENORM.

    Equating dirt with TENORM is not based on facts.

  138. Arne Melsom:

    I am a bit puzzled by the IPCC’s assessment of the confidence in the projected changes in the overturning circulation in the Atlantic Ocean (AMOC). There is no observational evidence of trends (p. SPM-5); it is likely that the AMOC will weaken by 2050 (p. SPM-17); and it is very likely that the AMOC will weaken in the 21st century (p. SPM-17).

    My understanding is that the basis for this evaluation is simulations that reveal an increasing atmospheric freshwater flux from the subtropics to mid-latitudes and beyond. The resulting decrease in upper ocean salinity makes the water column more stable, and less deep water is formed. At least, that’s what the model results reveal.

    Here’s my take on this topic: (1) The water masses that sink (or is mixed vertically) in the north are relatively salty due to a significant influence of northward transport from the subtropics, where the waters are projected to become more salty. So the projections for changes in overturning depend on the models’ description of how the originally saltier waters are mixed as they flow northwards and are cooled. (2) The sinking at high latitudes is a compensation to vertical mixing driven by wind forcing and breaking of internal waves (e.g. Wunsch & Ferrari; Ann. Rev. Fluid Mech., 2004). Again, the projections for changes in the AMOC depend on mixing parameterizations in the models.

    (1) and (2) are both small-scale mixing processes that I believe must be highly non-isotropic. Isn’t it notoriously difficult to accurately parameterize such processes? E.g. do the model results agree with the confinement of vertical mixing to complex topographical features, as reported by Wunsch & Ferrari? As quoted above, we have no observational record of trends in the AMOC, so it seems to me that it is difficult to assess the models’ performance in the present context. Although I understand that there are large-scale changes that may give rise to a reduced overturning, I must admit that I’m wondering how the IPCC finds it *very likely* that the AMOC will weaken in the 21st century, if this is based more or less solely on model projections of trends that cannot be validated by an observational record.

    But I’m not familiar with neither the full literature of relevance, nor of details in the evaluation of the model results. Did I perhaps go wrong somewhere?

  139. sidd:

    Re: Wright(2013)

    Fig. 4 shows the effect of ocean depth of sediment deposition upon the size of the delta-C13 excursion.

    1)This is very nice becoz it shows a path to reconcile deep and shallow sediment records from PETM.

    2)This is also nice becoz it uses the Archer model

    3)Coupled with the time differentiated CaCO3 and delta-C13 response, it is a nice test of the Archer model.

    4)Wouldn’t it be nice if Archer would comment ?

    5)I do hope someone does delta-N15 measurements also to illuminate the nitrogen pathways


  140. Brucie A.:

    James Hansen has another paper out: http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2013/20130926_PTRSpaperDiscussion.pdf

    Says that climate sensitivity is high (from the Joe Romm article):

    The Earth’s actual sensitivity to a doubling of CO2 levels from preindustrial levels (to 550 ppm) — including slow feedbacks — is likely to be larger than 3–4°C (5.4-7.2°F).

  141. ozajh:

    Meanwhile here Downunder we’re enjoying our mid-Spring weather. Now that those pesky lefties have been vigorously (and, I have to reluctantly admit, deservedly) thrown out of power, all that nonsense about AGW and taxing carbon emissions can be made to disappear and a story such as

    NSW Fire Ban

    can run in the Mass Media without even a suggestion of possible causation.

  142. Chris Dudley:

    Doug (#137),

    If, for example, you evaporate water to get back the salt crystals you mixed into it, you don’t get more salt back. The carbon in coal came from the air, and on becoming solid, diluted the dirt in its vicinity. When combustion turns the carbon back into air, you don’t get back more of the diluted material than you started with.

  143. Chris Dudley:

    Doug (#137) cont.

    You may wish to argue that the hydrous or carbonate components of the original dirt were driven off as well during combustion, but they’ll come right back exothermically, as you point out, in concrete products. So while it isn’t dirt, coal ash is no different than (clay-type) dirt in its radioactivity. Thus, the claims of the nuke boosters are untrue. Burning coal does not increase radiation exposure. Rather it decreases it owing to the dilution of carbon-14 in the food supply.

    Now, if we had build houses out of coal to shield ourselves from background radiation, and those houses had burned down, then our radiation exposure would increase owing to coal combustion. Not because of any increase in the background, but rather because of the loss of shielding. But we don’t use coal that way. Who knows? A few more Fukushima’s and maybe we’ll want to.

  144. Doug Bostrom:

    “Now, if we had build houses out of coal…”

    Well, we do in part, but from concentrated residue from coal. Coal isn’t coal ash.

    Whatever. We’re dancing on the line between fact and wish.

    For people interested in facts, EPA’s info is still available as of this writing:


    Or go with wishful; I don’t have a pointer for wishes because they mostly exist between our ears.

  145. prokaryotes:

    Video: Rate-dependent hysteresis and observed thermophoresis in electronic circuits.

    Can the memristive equations help in modelling ice sheet dynamics one day? Is this useful at all?

  146. Killian:

    Brucie A. said, James Hansen has another paper out: http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2013/20130926_PTRSpaperDiscussion.pdf

    Says that climate sensitivity is high (from the Joe Romm article):

    The Earth’s actual sensitivity to a doubling of CO2 levels from preindustrial levels (to 550 ppm) — including slow feedbacks — is likely to be larger than 3–4°C (5.4-7.2°F).

    I stated as long ago as 2007, I believe, and possibly on this site, that the sensitivity had to be on the high end, likely more in the 4 – 6 range, because the changes we were seeing were already so far beyond what we were supposed to be seeing. This was prima facie evidence that the models were off.

    One example? Look at the ASI extent charts going all the way back. We start to see the decline not in 1979, the oft-cited beginning of the satellite record (the citation of which causes the layperson to think ice started declining in 1979 and also skews the total actual decline), but in 1953. CO2 ppm at that time was around 315. Yet, we all know that the ice doesn’t respond to a 0.8 or what have you yearly change all of a sudden, but responds to the collective rise in energy/heat in the oceans and atmosphere. The simple conclusion? The planet started responding long before 1953 and the *effect* was seen in 1953 in the form of melting ASI.

    Pretty clear that planet started responding in real, visible ways once we passed the 300 ppm threshhold, give or take a few ppm.

    Again, prima facie. Without a single scientific study and nothing but the ice record we can draw these conclusions. Does that not indicate a need for greater flexibility in our thinking and public discourse by not just laypersons, but the scientific community, too?

    Gavin, on the other hand, continues to take what I consider to be an overly cautious view of possibilities. The other day he immediately posted that the short-term reaction at the PETM from the recent paper ( http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/10/08/2750191/petm-co2-levels-doubled-55-million-years-ago-global-temperatures-jumped/ ) was controversial and should be treated with caution.

    Note the differences in reaction: Wow, that confirms what our eyes see vs. is that really there?

    Scientific reticence is a maladaptive behavior when you’re going 100 mph and the wall is clearly visible in the headlights.

    I hope we figure out how to combine policy risk analysis and the science before it is too late.

    A starting point? Talk to scientists in terms of .05 and .01 validity; talk to the public in terms of what those numbers mean in the real world: Certainty. Not mostly certain or kind of certain or pretty much all certain… call it what it is: Dead certain in any sense that is meaningful. Remove the wiggle room since it’s not really there anyway.

    Were we to do this, scientists could still maintain their reticence in halls of science while helping move policy forward in the halls of government and streets of communities.

  147. SecularAnimist:

    FYI …

    The projected timing of climate departure from recent variability
    Nature 502, 183–187 (10 October 2013)


    Ecological and societal disruptions by modern climate change are critically determined by the time frame over which climates shift beyond historical analogues. Here we present a new index of the year when the projected mean climate of a given location moves to a state continuously outside the bounds of historical variability under alternative greenhouse gas emissions scenarios. Using 1860 to 2005 as the historical period, this index has a global mean of 2069 (±18 years s.d.) for near-surface air temperature under an emissions stabilization scenario and 2047 (±14 years s.d.) under a ‘business-as-usual’ scenario. Unprecedented climates will occur earliest in the tropics and among low-income countries, highlighting the vulnerability of global biodiversity and the limited governmental capacity to respond to the impacts of climate change. Our findings shed light on the urgency of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions if climates potentially harmful to biodiversity and society are to be prevented.


    Discussion at Climate Central:


  148. sidd:

    Hansen states in his latest missive: “In my opinion, multi-meter sea level rise will occur this century, if the huge business-as-usual climate forcing actually occurs.”

    I fear worse. I have stated previously my reasons for thinking that we are locked into 1m SLR from GIS+AIS alone this century. I believe we have already pumped enough heat into the ocean to destabilize WAIS, regardless of future emission trajectory.


  149. prokaryotes:

    I think what people describe with the car heading towards a cliff is best described with a large impact ice sheet disintegration event. This is in the cards…

    New iceberg theory points to areas at risk of rapid disintegration

  150. Hank Roberts:

    Have a read through this and its antecedents; I’m old and gray enough to remember back when drumlins were thought to have been created by long slow processes under the icecaps — then one day they watched one happen, and time stood still. Or speeded up. Or something.

    “Rapid Sediment Erosion and Drumlin Formation Observed Beneath a Fast-Flowing Antarctic Ice Stream – AM Smith, T Murray, KW Nicholls, K Makinson, G … – American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2005

    mentioned at http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2007/02/05/why-do-science-in-antarctica/

    Current link to the abstract is:

    I’m hornswoggled to see only one subsequent cite. This was, I thought, one of the early cracks in the long-held idea that the Antarctic could not change rapidly.

  151. sidd:

    Let us blind ourselves, so we will not see



  152. Susan Anderson:

    Thanks to those responding to the instant of geological time thing. Clearly one needs a big dose of skepticism, the real kind.

    I believe it’s very much on our minds the idea that this is all accelerating in unpredictable ways, while people are encouraged to fiddle away by some skilled and enterprising (and in many cases well paid) entrepreneurs of deception. In spite of all the social science I believe the general population needs to become more aware of the danger, that’s the only thing that penetrates our Roman Circus entertainment nexus, and gets the attention of people who are struggling from day to day, an increasing part of the population, and don’t have time for all this highfalutin’ stuff.

    However, I popped up here to ask a question because the issue of expertise is one that is exploited mightily. Thanks to a couple of experts who made me think about epistemology (which I was inclined to dismiss as being one of those abstrusities inaccessible to the 99%) and its converse, the important fact of acknowledging that one does not know.

    Wandering, finally, to my intended point and request:
    Somebody once summarized the amount of time and education (not to mention intellectual ability) required to get an education to qualify as an expert in climate science. I know there are a few outliers who actually put in the work and still spout anti-sense, but in general the pseudos need only copy the look of some legitimate work and insert a few links to the vast mirror universe such as WUWT, Curry, von Storch, or who have you. The fakers may have some minor expertise (more maths than myself, for example, some but not enough statistics) and have put in a few years in some other discipline (engineers and meteorologists come to mind, though there are many thoughtful open-minded people in these disciplines).

    I make it 4 years undergraduate, and about 8 years to a Ph.D., a postdoc (2-3 years?). When I was young that second bit was only 4 years. Then there’s the low EROIE in terms of salary.

    Any thoughts? Details? Looks like I answered my own question, but I’m hoping to see that partial answer improved.

  153. Hank Roberts:


    Somewhere along the ramifying pathways of the possible, I became an energy consultant. I’m not sure how that happened. Part of me thinks it’s because life proceeds haphazardly. Another part of me thinks it’s because I’m passive, irresolute, cowardly, and amoral. Now I analyze utility tariffs, natural gas prices, carbon emissions, and all the other glyphs and runes by which the hidden world of energy communicates with we who scuttle on its filmy surface…..
    Anyone who pays attention to this data must come to the same conclusion as I, but few are paying attention, or want to. That feeds my secret, this blitheness.

  154. prokaryotes:

    Any thoughts on Curry’s stadium hypothesis? Link

  155. prokaryotes:

    Re Ocean heat

    Global Warming’s Missing Heat: Look Back In Anger (and considerable disbelief)

    What it doesn’t address (IPCC AR5) is why the oceans might have started taking up more heat recently, and there’s a good reason for that.

    It was published in 1979.

    It’s the Charney Report; “Carbon Dioxide and Climate: A Scientific Assessment”, drawn up by a National Research Council study group led by Jule Charney, at the behest of the US National Academy of Sciences. They also took advice from experts in the field, James Hansen and Richard Lindzen among them.

    It is clear that even back then, climate science was aware of the role the oceans could play in the suppression of surface temperatures. Reading the report is fascinating, not least because these guys made quite a few educated guesses that have proved remarkably robust. Of course, the models they referred to were very crude, and temperature estimates were agreed more by committee than science, but the take-home points must not be lost: nearly a decade before the foundation of the IPCC, scientists were warning us very clearly of the potential danger in which we were placing ourselves. And they understood that the oceans could disguise the warming – which makes a mockery of claims that the hiatus was not anticipated.

  156. Radge Havers:


    For aquisition of expertise you often hear about 10,000 hours of quality study/practice time on average for various fields. But by emphasizing formal schooling, your question highlights a point that’s been made here before for climate science about the importance of the collaborative social environment in which education takes place — as opposed to trying to learn it in isolation.

    And then if this chart is to be believed, natural scientsts also tend to be smarter than the average bear:

    Anyhoo, some experts are no doubt more expert than others. That’s why I just keep it simple and go straight to RC for perspective.


  157. sidd:

    For those interested, I have made some small comments on the Wright paper, and reproduced Fig. 3 and Fig. 4 at



  158. Patrick 027:

    re 154 prokaryotes; from the link: The linear trend was removed from all indices to focus only the multi-decadal component of natural variability. – but the forced trend isn’t linear over that time period, which makes me concerned that some of that stadium effect may be an artifact (I’m just going by that link; haven’t looked at the actual paper.)

    OTOH, I would really like it if this were true in some way, because the physics could be fun to learn about. (Since AMO was emphasized, I’ll just mention the little tiny bit about it(? or something like it?) that I might know (from something I read well-over a decade ago, so…) – as best I can recall, filling in the blanks with logic, I think there was an idea that the rate of oceanic circulation would affect the dilution of the more saline contribution from the Mediterranean. A slower gyre would, going past the Straits of Gibralter, get saltier. Some decades later, this saltier water would have flowed through the Gulf Stream and enhance sinking, which would increase the thermohaline component of the currents, and if this added to the gyre, the North Atlantic would then get less salty, and in a few decades this would make the current slow down… etc. It’s a really cool idea; not sure how it pan(s/ned) out. If that’s what’s happening, then a dryer Mediterranean climate would amplify AMO, other things being equal, I’d guess.

  159. Hank Roberts:

    A prediction: drawn in 1900 for a century in their future, this predicts polar bears and open water at the North Pole in 2000

  160. VendicarDecarian:

    “Let us blind ourselves, so we will not see. – sidd

    That is exactly what Republicans want. Ignorance is their stock and trade.

  161. MARodger:

    prokaryotes @154.
    It is called the “stadium wave” (what we Brits call a ‘Mexican wave’) hypothesis not the “stadium” hypothesis although, as this is more the work of Wyatt, it may be that Curry is engaged in a bit of ‘grandstanding’ by getting in as joint author on the paper you link to.
    Curry is a declared Pacificite (“It’s the PDO wot dun it!”) not an Atlanticist (It’s all due to the AMO.) but the “stadium wave” formula neatly achieves a truce between such wild theorising by tying them all up together.
    So is this “stadium wave” but more curve-fitting nonsense? I am always a tad suspicious when an analysis only ever presents smoothed curves that have filtered the bejeebers out of the original data. And when these curve-fitters figure their job is done when the curve appear to fit over the first period they looked at and are not eagerly extending it back to older data or forwards to data freshly measured, I am doubly suspicious.
    So guess what? All the graphics I see with this “stadium wave” are 1900-2000 and heavily filtered. True there is also talk of analysis of proxy data 1700-2000 but, whatever that comprises, it doesn’t appear to be worthy of presentation beyond Wyatt’s PhD thesis. And the main author does appear to be lacking in the basics. The “stadium wave” has an alleged period of decades but Wyatt is happy to be quoted as saying “Hence, the sea ice minimum observed in 2012, followed by an increase of sea ice in 2013, is suggestive of consistency with the timing of evolution of the stadium-wave signal.” It appears that the period of the signal has been nailed down with incredible accuracy. I bet if we ask nicely Wyatt could even tell us the day of the week that this cycle peaked at.

  162. Mal Adapted:

    Radge Havers:

    And then if this chart is to be believed, natural scientsts also tend to be smarter than the average bear:

    If that chart is to believed, those in legal occupations tend to be smarter than the average natural scientist. What are we to make of that?

  163. Chris Dudley:

    Doug (#144),

    Compare those numbers with low carbon soil and you’ll find them quite similar. Coal itself has radioactivity lower than the lowest soils. The carbon has been out of touch with the atmosphere for long enough to lose most of its carbon-14 so the carbon itself contributes almost nothing while the (future) ash is highly diluted. Makes a great shield.

  164. Radge Havers:

    Re: @162

    Beats me. I didn’t dig into it. Assuming it’s not something in the methodology, I’d guess maybe the bar exam acts as a filter– so perhaps being a more broadly collaborative enterprise, natural science is more accepting of diverse contributors?

    There! I managed not to crack wise about lawyers… or social scientists, who also fared better… on the chart that they created…

  165. Doug Bostrom:

    Chris, if you look at a typical coal-fired generation plant you’ll see that these machines are not fueled by soil. If they were, they’d be called “soil-fired generation plants.”

    This is boring. Enjoy your beliefs but please try not to infect other people.

  166. Susan Anderson:

    re climate education: thanks for the information. I agree the collegial work is an important part, too, and missing from self-appointed critics who hang out with each other. I get a lot of attacks for preferring expertise from experts rather than doing my own, but do not agree that understanding how science works is the same as knowing how to do it. It’s a huge problem with a lot of the criticism, and for the gullible, a clever argument.
    The collegial nature of science might explain why I have such an easy time accepting science where others way more science literate than I go astray.

    However, on distribution of intellect, I’d say my auto mechanic is pretty brilliant with cars, intelligent in other areas, good with people, and he gets climate change too. Looks like that measure is skewed on traditional education.

    Deniers (tired of hearing calling deniers deniers is something Goebbels or Stalin might do … go figure!) are a special class; they seem to give meaning to “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.”

  167. Hank Roberts:

    > Compare those numbers with low carbon soil

    > (future) ash is highly diluted

    “burning removes organic constituents, leaving minerals and concentrating trace quantities of naturally occurring radionuclides: uranium thorium potassium their radioactive decay products including radium. (The amount radium in coal can vary by more than two orders of magnitude depending upon the type of coal and where it was mined.)”

    ‘if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain’t. That’s logic.’

    Chris, your faith in your beliefs is obviously unshakeable.
    But you’ve never yet cited a reliable source, other than to cherrypick from the sources I pointed you to. That’s weak.

  168. Chris Dudley:

    Hank (#167),

    Glad you agree that the sources you link to support what I’ve been saying. Also, reread the original link. You’ll see that low carbon soil is specified there as well. Why? Think about it. What makes coal very low on radioactivity?

  169. Hank Roberts:

    Sorry, folks, I should’ve known not to reply to that.

  170. Chris Dudley:

    Doug (#165),

    I agree it is a rather dull topic. However, there are those that complain that coal plants should be regulated owing to their high radioactive waste output. These complaints are based on deceptive claims. This issue distracts from actual pollution from coal plants such as sulfur, NOX, mercury, particulate emissions, chemically toxic materials in ash and carbon dioxide and the devastating effects on both the environment and lives that coal mining and shipping has.

    Since the Supreme Court has insisted that science be used when regulating coal, this pollution of the scientific literature with deceptive claims makes that effort more difficult and could lead to delays in action on carbon dioxide emissions. Clearly, your mind has been infected by these false claims, so my effort in educating you is worth a pass through dullness so that you might be inoculated against them.

  171. Rob Nicholls:

    prokaryotes #154 and MA Rodger #161: Having not been able to access the new Wyatt and Curry paper, and given that I don’t understand the AMO, I don’t want to judge, but the quote from Wyatt, quoted by MA Rodger (and on various websites) did make me chuckle:

    “Hence, the sea ice minimum observed in 2012, followed by an increase of sea ice in 2013, is suggestive of consistency with the timing of evolution of the stadium-wave signal.”

    I can see a number of things wrong with that statement: 1) the incredible accuracy being claimed for a wave with such a long period, as noted by MA Rodger; 2) I would think a minimum value one year being followed by a less extreme (i.e. higher) value the next year is not unexpected given the noise-to-signal ratio. 3) there have been several succcessive arctic sea ice minima in recent years; I’m guessing that the stadium-wave doesn’t necessarily predict or fit neatly with those previous minima (and if it did predict them all then this might be interesting but I’d be just a little suspicious that the wave was fitted a tiny bit too much to the ‘noise’); it seems to me that the only particularly special thing about the arctic sea ice minimum in 2012 is that it’s too recent to have been beaten yet, given the downward trend.

    I don’t want to presume that the whole paper should be dismissed on the basis of one statement from one of the authors, and it would be great if there was a post about it, but I know there aren’t enough hours in the day for this and other excellent websites to respond to every single paper that gets thrown around the blogosphere. I really should read some of those posts about AMO again and try to get some of it to stick in my head this time.

  172. Mal Adapted:

    Radge Havers:

    Beats me. I didn’t dig into it. Assuming it’s not something in the methodology, I’d guess maybe the bar exam acts as a filter– so perhaps being a more broadly collaborative enterprise, natural science is more accepting of diverse contributors?

    Well, if nothing else, we can say to the deniers “If climate scientists were in it for the money, they’d be lawyers!”

  173. Patrick 027:

    from the abstract, this sounds a bit like it could mesh with Wyatt-Curry http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/JCLI4174.1
    “Dima, Mihai, Gerrit Lohmann, 2007: A Hemispheric Mechanism for the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. J. Climate, 20, 2706–2719.
    doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/JCLI4174.1
    … where, if I understand the abstract correctly:
    North Atlantic SST anomaly
    -> zonal wave number 1 pattern in SLP (sea level pressure) anomaly, amplified by feedback in North Pacific,
    -> change in sea ice going through Fram Strait
    -> North Atlantic salinity anomaly
    -> change in thermohaline circulation
    -> North Atlantic SST anomaly (opposite sign)
    … and no mention of the Mediterranean

    “Polyakov, I. V., U. S. Bhatt, H. L. Simmons, D. Walsh, J. E. Walsh, X. Zhang, 2005: Multidecadal Variability of North Atlantic Temperature and Salinity during the Twentieth Century. J. Climate, 18, 4562–4581.
    doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/JCLI3548.1

  174. Jim Larsen:

    On coal and radioactivity:

    You guys are all talking ashes. I thought the radioactive stuff mostly goes up the chimney, so a claim that coal ash is low in radioactivity doesn’t surprise me. It’s also irrelevant, as the ash is easy to dispose of. Tossing it into a mix of concrete is a popular method.

  175. Hank Roberts:

    coal and coal ash op. cit.

  176. MARodger:

    Patrick 027 @127.

    Dima & Lohmann 2007 present the theory of AMO being driven by ice export from the Fram Strait. This isn’t the only theory kicking about. And I recall the point made by others (?) investigating the same mechanism that the decline of Arctic Sea Ice may in due course make such a cooling mechanism diminish/switch off.

    Dima & Lohmann 2007 is perhaps now rather past its sell-by date. Note the prediction in its conclusions “According to our mechanism, the minimum in the Fram Strait sea ice export around the year 2000 will result in increased THC in the years 2010–15, which would translate into warmer conditions over Europe and North America in the next decades.”

    The paper does provide one rather good exemplar of what I consider to be the dodgy work that is often employed by this sort of analysis. D&L2007 Figure 3 shows the record of Fram Strait ice export in the top panel which features, for instance, two five year periods of +500 cu km in the 1960s & 1980s. This has been converted by the last panel into a nice smooth +/-200 cu km sine wave. If the volume of ice thro’ the Fram is truly the driver of the AMO, how is it that those 5-year periods of high export get entirely fuzzed out of existence before they impact onto the AMO?
    Indeed, a long-term component “that explains 46% of the variance” in the Fram ice export has been jettisoned from the analysis by the second panel of Fig 3. I find it rather surprising that 46% of the variance would have no impact worthy of comment on the proposed mechanism.
    Thus my considered opinion as to the veracity of this particular paper.

  177. Joseph O'Sullivan:

    #13 (Hank Roberts) I was thinking about a global report similar to this paper:
    Ecological and Evolutionary Responses to recent Global Climate Change (2006)
    or this Pew report (2004)
    but more recent.
    I have looked online, but haven’t seen anything.

    #172 (Mal Adapted) In the U.S. at least, law is highly competitive to get into, from first getting into law school and then passing the bar. The American Bar Association pushes law schools to be highly selective to maintain the highest possible bar passage ratings.

    A lot of this is to make sure people are getting effective counsel, but there is some protectionism, i.e. fewer lawyers = more work for current lawyers, particularly now with the tough times that have hit the legal profession. I am personally relieved to no longer work in the field because of the lack of jobs.

  178. Hank Roberts:

    > Joseph O’Sullivan says:
    > 14 Oct 2013 at 9:20 AM

    Those 2 links you give are to two copies of the same Annual Reviews article; the “stable” link is: http://www.jstor.org/stable/30033846

    I’m not an academic so I can’t see the full text.
    Ordinarily Annual Reviews comes out with these on a regular basis (not necessarily annually).

    Take the title of that article you found and paste _that_ into Scholar, and you’ll find subsequent work citing it:


    Since that particular 2006 review has been cited more than 2000 times, limit your Scholar search to, say, this current year:


    For most of these you’ll do best by asking your local reference librarian for help — any public library can borrow a copy for you, assuming you don’t have access through a university library.

    The IPCC is in the business of reading and summarizing this sort of material and will be coming out with their latest report over the next few months; that’s probably the best review.

  179. prokaryotes:

    The Herald Sun, however, has obtained a secret draft report of the second working group of the IPCC.

    The Working Group II AR5 report examines the extent of the impacts of climate change in different regions of the world. Link

  180. Hank Roberts:

    > can’t see the full text.
    Forgot I’d created their free account; they let you read online, though not copy text, and they don’t show the 2000 subsequent citing papers that way.
    Use the scholar link to see subsequent work citing that one. THat’s your best bet to find new work similar to what you found.

  181. Hank Roberts:

    > obtained a secret draft report

    Why do you trust these people? Anyone who has a real draft copy agreed to keep it confidential while it was worked on. You can put anything in a draft — if you can support the claim.



  182. prokaryotes:

    James Lovelock thinks(2009) that England is a rather save place in the future, when it comes to climate impacts. The same conclusion is made by Gwynne Dyer(2012). Looking at today’s political actions and climate progress it appears as if decision making and opinions are in part based on these assumptions. But what if they are wrong? I think it is very reasonable to assume that there will be failed crops from massive rainfall. There could be impacts from increased seismic activity, the last time SLR rose quickly volcanic activity increased by 300 percent. And this can create conditions which destroy entire crops.

  183. prokaryotes:

    Why do you trust these people?

    The question is how accurate is the data presented, and how valid and up to date is the data? And you cannot put anything in the draft, since the IPCC could publish the original draft based on the work of the several hundreds of scientists involved. The misrepresenting begins with picking regional impacts but leaving out the big picture, which also affects directly or indirectly.

  184. Joseph O'Sullivan:

    #178 & 180 Thanks Hank Roberts, your advice is helpful.

    I haven’t had the time I used to do even online research. I put up the question to see if anyone knew of any papers offhand before I sunk the time into finding a wide-ranging review of ecological effects. I thought there might even be a ecologist reading RC who could answer.

    I’m content to wait for the IPCC release for now. I wonder if journals defer to the IPCC around the time of IPCC releases by not publishing synthesis or review papers.

  185. Brucie A.:

    More climate sensitivity: Nature CLOUD Study Author: ‘The Climate May Be More Sensitive Than Previously Thought’

  186. Rob Nicholls:

    Thanks Patrick027 #173.
    I’ve looked through Wyatt & Curry’s stadium wave paper manuscript in full now (as at http://curryja.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/stadium-wave.pdf).
    Dr Curry’s website says “This paper will change the way you think about natural internal variability.” I’d love to hear what climate scientists make of it.

    I’m in no position to judge, but through my amateur eyes it looks like there are rather a lot of diverse indices (including proxies such as Japanese sardine populations), some complex stats have been performed, and then a rather complex hypothesis, culminating in a handy wheel diagram (at the end of the pdf) has been derived, and I’m left wondering how many indices and stats were chosen a priori, and how many indices, stats and hypotheses were discarded en route to the final paper.

    [Response: There is a long history of convoluted feedback loops being proposed to explain low-frequency variability – for instance, Mysak and Venegas (1998) or Mysak and Power (1992). They do generally have some merit in pointing to specific linkages, but the more complex they are, the less predictability they tend to have. I am reminded of an old critique “This work contains much that is new and correct; Unfortunately, that which is correct is not new, and that which is new is not correct”. But how much that applies in this case remains to be seen. – gavin]

  187. WebHubTelescope:

    I have been needling readers at the Climate Etc blog about what the “Stadium Wave” approach is inferring. In particular, I have tossed it back at Curry to suggest that understanding the internal variability is helping to reduce the uncertainty — in opposition to her seeming desire to have it widen the uncertainty; remember the “Uncertainty Monster”?

    Proxies related to Length-of-Day (LOD) and differential atmospheric angular momentum have some power in modeling the underlying natural fluctuations. AAM maps to the SOI extremely well, so that the longer term LOD may represent the multidecadal variations as Dickey has noted.

    J. O. Dickey, S. L. Marcus, and O. de Viron, “Air Temperature and Anthropogenic Forcing: Insights from the Solid Earth,” Journal of Climate, vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 569–574, 2011.

    The connection is that one of Curry’s Stadium Wave components is LOD.

    The following link is an interactive page I put together that composes the fluctuation terms of SOI, aerosols(volcanic), LOD, and TSI to allow one to understand the variability and deduce the underlying GHG trend.

    This is really not new but another interesting way to represent our understanding of natural variability and the relentless underlying GHG forcing.

  188. Hank Roberts:

    > Brucie A. says:
    > More climate sensitivity: Nature CLOUD Study Author:
    > ‘The Climate May Be More Sensitive Than Previously Thought’

    Quote from the Letter, free at Nature:
    Nature (2013) doi:10.1038/nature12663
    Rec’d 04 Mar., Accepted 17 Sept., Published online 06 Oct. 2013
    Molecular understanding of sulphuric acid–amine particle nucleation in the atmosphere

    … galactic cosmic rays exert only a small influence on their formation, except at low overall formation rates. Our experimental measurements are well reproduced by a dynamical model based on quantum chemical calculations of binding energies of molecular clusters, without any fitted parameters. These results show that, in regions of the atmosphere near amine sources, both amines and sulphur dioxide should be considered when assessing the impact of anthropogenic activities on particle formation.

    The results reported here show that the uncertainty is even greater than previously thought, because extremely low amine emissions—which have substantial anthropogenic sources and have not hitherto been considered by the IPCC—have a large influence on the nucleation of sulphuric acid particles. Moreover, amine scrubbing is likely to become the dominant technology for CO2 capture from fossil-fuelled power plants, so anthropogenic amine emissions are expected to increase in the future30. If amine emissions were to spread into pristine regions of the boundary layer where they could switch on nucleation, substantial increases in regional and global cloud condensation nuclei could occur. This underscores the importance of monitoring amine emissions—as well as those of sulphur dioxide—when assessing the impact of anthropogenic activities on the radiative forcing of regional and global climate by aerosols.

  189. Hank Roberts:

    > amine scrubbing is likely to become the dominant
    > technology for CO2 capture from fossil-fuelled power
    > plants, so anthropogenic amine emissions are expected
    > to increase in the future

    Oh, this is going to be bad.

  190. Hank Roberts:

    This is rather good:

    For those already fulminating on reading the title — do read the piece and the comments and the author’s reply to the comments. The reflex responses are pretty much all wrong.

  191. prokaryotes:

    An ambitious new study describes the full chain of events by which ocean biogeochemical changes triggered by manmade greenhouse gas emissions may cascade through marine habitats and organisms, penetrating to the deep ocean and eventually influencing humans.

    Read more at: Link

  192. Hank Roberts:

    Rapid change.
    I can’t post a working link that mentions so ma li — so fix the link yourself to read it. Delete the spaces from this:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/10/how-so ma li-pirates-almost-but-not-quite-halted-vital-climate-change-research/280621/

    Tierney and deMenocal:

    the climate in the Horn of Africa changed in perhaps as little as 100 to 200 years ….

  193. john byatt:

    petition just started, please consider and share


  194. Patrick 027:

    re my 129 re 108 Watcher : http://www.skepticalscience.com/curry-mcintyre-resist-ipcc-model-accuracy.html

  195. Hank Roberts:

    Abrupt climate change: that’s
    Tierney, J.E., deMenocal, P.B., Abrupt shifts in Horn of Africa hydroclimate since the Last Glacial Maximum.
    Online October 10 2013
    Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1240411

  196. Retrograde Orbit:

    Mal Adapted: “… in Inhofe’s case there is ample support for an inference of malice …”
    If I have ever heard a half-hearted indictment this must be it :-)
    I suggest we do not approach the skeptics with the expectation of malice, lest we shall find it.

  197. Mal Adapted:

    Retrograde Orbit:

    If I have ever heard a half-hearted indictment this must be it :-)

    I assumed you were aware of Inhofe’s public persona. This is the kind of malice I was referring to:

    As I said on the Senate floor on July 28, 2003, “much of the debate over global warming is predicated on fear, rather than science.” I called the threat of catastrophic global warming the “greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people,” a statement that, to put it mildly, was not viewed kindly by environmental extremists and their elitist organizations.

    There’s plenty more where that came from, RO. Last year he published a book full of it: “The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future”. You should have no trouble finding it.

    Do some research on your own, and decide for yourself whether I’ve approached him with unfair expectations.

  198. Susan Anderson:

    Oh sigh, it seems to be going the rounds, how we must not “approach [fake] skeptics with the assumption of malice.” I’m seeing a lot of that – very clever tactic, but not good. It ties up the time of people who have better things to do.

  199. Ray Ladbury:

    Susan and Mal,
    Beyond doubt, there are some denialists who are malicious. Also, beyond doubt, there are some who profess worry about climate change, but have an agenda that goes beyond merely keeping the planet’s temperature within bounds. It is my contention that we gain nothing and stand to lose much if we impute ill intent to all who oppose us.

    When we look at those in denial of climate change, we find all sorts of political ideologies (James Inhofe to Alexander Cockburn), a moral spectrum from saint to Satan, a broad range of intelligence (from Tony “Micro” Watts to Freeman Dyson) and an equally broad range of scientific understanding. If we want to make inroads–at the very least with those of moderate good will and intelligence, we have to better understand the source of their difficulty in accepting the science.

    Blaming it all on political ideology, malicious intent and lack of intelligence gets us nowhere.

  200. SecularAnimist:

    Ray Ladbury wrote: “Blaming it all on political ideology, malicious intent and lack of intelligence gets us nowhere.”

    First of all, it depends on what is meant by “malicious intent”.

    Do the Koch Brothers actively WANT to destroy the capacity of the Earth to support human life? Is it their deliberate “intention” to bring about the collapse of human civilization and mass extinction? Are they James Bond movie villains using coal as a weapon for the specific purpose of killing off humanity? I don’t think so.

    On the other hand, is it plausible that they simply DON’T CARE if the success of their business model kills off the poorest half, or even the poorest ninety percent, of humanity?

    Is it plausible that they are the sort of “Type A” megalomaniacal risk-taking sociopaths who are willing to gamble on risking much worse outcomes of AGW for a chance to “win” vast wealth and power, albeit in a degraded and impoverished world?

    I think that’s more than plausible. Does that mindset count as “malicious”?

    As for the others, the Soviets had a term that applies here, “useful idiots”.

    It’s not hard for those who DO have a deliberate intent to deceive, deny, delay and obstruct, to manipulate a variety of “difficulties accepting the science”, whether those difficulties are ideological, or the result of ignorance, or ego, or whatever.

  201. SecularAnimist:

    Retrograde Orbit wrote: “I suggest we do not approach the skeptics with the expectation of malice”

    Those like Inhofe who deliberately, repeatedly and loudly proclaim what they know to be lies, who abuse their positions of power to attack climate scientists, are not “skeptics”, and they are by definition malicious.

  202. Mal Adapted:

    Ray Ladbury:

    Blaming it all on political ideology, malicious intent and lack of intelligence gets us nowhere.

    I think we’re in vehement agreement, Ray. I certainly can’t blame my own non-zero carbon footprint on any of those 8^}. OTOH, naive presumption of sincerity and good will on the part of motivated deniers like Inhofe won’t get us anywhere, either.

    I honest don’t know how to make further inroads. I’m afraid only the obvious impacts of warming on people’s daily lives will. Those will fall unpredictably on accepters and deniers alike.

  203. Patrick 027:

    re 197 Mal Adapted – technically that doesn’t prove that he doesn’t believe what he’s saying (not that this nuance prevents me from having harsh feelings). Not that I’ve been pouring over the evidence myself, but I’d zero in on an interview by Rachel Maddow for a possible hint of that (?) (I didn’t watch it, actually, I only read about it, so there’s nuances I could be missing, but the gist I got was that he decided global warming wasn’t real when he found out it would cost money. But was he joking?)…

    re Ray Ladbury – as to your question of what would I do (http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2013/10/the-ipcc-ar5-attribution-statement/comment-page-2/#comment-417699 ) (sorry for being lazy about link formatting), aside from the science itself, I might try to make an appeal based on the party branding ‘personal responsibility’. (Although I’m not sure if that term is meant to mean what I assume it does.) Also, the economic argument – AGW will cost us; when people pay for the costs of their choices the market tends towards greater efficiency. There’s also the property rights angle, although that gets fuzzy.

    (I think it’s really hard to just have an off-the-cuff conversation where you find out someone doubts AGW or the seriousness of it (or the solutions for it) and just try to argue against that position. I think it helps to ask why, first, so you know which issue to address.

    You also have to know when to give up on someone, so you don’t wear yourself out.)

  204. Patrick 027:

    totally off-the-wall correction – at the end of my July 190 http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2013/07/unforced-variations-july-2013/comment-page-4/#comment-396472 , I wrote: “so we have a map of varying wave vector over space, and in some places intrinsic frequency goes to zero (critical lines) and becomes imaginary, etc.” I should have said that a component of the wave vector becomes imaginary. Imaginary wavevector components indicate exponential decay (or growth) over space ((can be?) indicative of total internal reflection); imaginary frequency indicates exponential growth (or decay) over time.

  205. Patrick 027:

    … and there’s more to what a critical line actually does but I’ll get to it in a time and place where I can do a good job of it (for now, wavevector component becomes imaginary specifically if it is necessary to satisfy the dispersion relation for whatever frequency is being imposed. Is that always across a critical line? I need to go back and check.)

  206. Gator:

    Ray L — the one thing Inhofe and Cockburn have in common is an emphasis on denying that climate change is happening because they refuse to deal with the implications. I.e., climate change could require big changes therefore it is not happening. Inhofe refuses to believe it because of taxes and his oil company friends; Cockburn apparently refused to believe it because it might lead to more nuclear power plants and fear of how dealing with CO2 generation might impact the third world.

    The common thread is not seeing the world for what it is, but what they want it to be and working backwards.

    Political ideology drives this. Malicious intent drives this. Lack of intelligence drives this.

  207. Ray Ladbury:

    Gator, You can hardly claim that Cockburn was unintelligent or malicious. Likewise Freeman Dyson.

    The problem is that both have fallen victim to a logical fallacy–argument from consequences–because having to deal with climate change is an unwelcome distraction from their higher priorities. These are people we should want on our side. Inhofe…well, let’s just say I’m not sad he’s on the other side.

  208. Radge Havers:

    Case by case, “know your audience.”

    Thoughts on investigating the crowd psychology of certain primates:

    “Biased self-perception,” the authors write, “predicted voting behavior in the 2012 presidential election even after controlling for objective political-orientation scores.” So it doesn’t really matter what they believe, the authors are concluding. Sorting people by shared belief is a failed exercise.

    (insults PO’d tea partiers hurled at Boehner)

  209. Hank Roberts:

    Climate models have trouble with clouds — and so do weather models; here’s a good summary about the difficulty of predicting low clouds even one day ahead:

    Why Do Low Clouds Burn Off on Some Days and Not Others?

    … predicting low clouds is very hard and our computer models are very poor at dealing with them. To show how bad it can get, here is the forecast from the UW high-resolution model of low clouds at 8 AM this morning. Nearly no clouds over Puget Sound. Embarrassing. And this weaknesses in shared by most other weather prediction systems.

    Forecasting low clouds plays to all my profession’s weaknesses. Our computer models often don’t have enough resolution in the vertical to properly simulate shallow clouds. Our boundary-layer schemes, the software used to simulate the lowest layers of the atmosphere, often fail when the atmosphere is stable (warm air above cold air is an example of a stable situation), producing anomalous mixing in the vertical that destroys low clouds. We often don’t have enough information from observations to properly describe the lower atmosphere, a description that forecast models need to make skillful forecasts.

  210. Walter Manny:

    Haven’t posted here for a long time and curious to know what RC’s stance is these days on the so-called pause in global warming. There was a post dedicated to the topic in October 2009 (Stefan), but has there been or will there be an update that reflects current mainstream thinking about it?

  211. Patrick 027:

    re 210 Walter Manny – see
    there’s also http://www.gfdl.noaa.gov/blog/isaac-held/2013/09/23/41-the-hiatus-and-drought-in-the-u-s/ ; I think both refer to the same Kosaka and Xie.

  212. Hank Roberts:

    For those who haven’t been reading for a few years,

    this particular fairly short thread is well worth reading — particularly John Mashey’s comments there: http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2008/07/31/monckton-flunks-latin/comment-page-1/

    You’ll see much that gets repeated.
    As I recall, the much-needed category “goldfish troll”* was defined somewhere around that time at that site.
    * “… makes simple-minded arguments, which are debunked forthwith…. shows signs of understanding why his arguments are bogus at the time – but then swims around the bowl a couple of times and breathlessly repeats them again.”

  213. Walter Manny:

    Thanks, Patrick, for the reference, and Hank for the reminder of not my finest hour! Good to see you’re still here.

  214. Hank Roberts:

    I think most of us oldtimers have gotten to understand that “what’s your source for that belief, where can I read what you rely on for it?” is appropriate to ask someone who proclaims a belief — no matter what the belief. There are lots of scary stories out there.

  215. Hank Roberts:

    a science fiction writer’s comment:
    What the astronaut said.

    Those needs aren’t just about inspiring scientists and explorers. Those of us watching from the periphery need to think about why their work is important, and why we should throw our weight behind it. Public enthusiasm for space exploration is still alive, but it’s fragile, and it won’t be helped along if we don’t look past the narrow view of our present circumstances. From a human standpoint, space has only ever been the realm of society’s upper echelons—the military elite, the intellectual elite, and now, the affluent elite—but it belongs to all of us. That’s a hard thing to see, though, if we focus only on the here and now. We have to keep telling the stories that drive us to make steps forward. Maybe those steps aren’t for us. Maybe they’re not for our kids, or even our kids’ kids. But if we keep moving, some of those futures we’ve imagined might one day become reality. It’s possible. Truly, it is.

    Like the astronaut said, we just have to keep getting them up there.

  216. Andreas T:

    I have been keeping an eye on antarctic temperature (anomalies) and if I am seeing this right http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/map/images/rnl/sfctmpmer_180a.rnl.html
    it has been unusually warm all of SH winter in east antarctica especially. I would like to know more about this, does anybody know of sources on this? I know it is rather soon for a fully reasoned comment, but I’d like to know if it could be significant and worth following up.

  217. Hank Roberts:

    Andreas, this is on the west antarctic, but poking along these lines with Scholar may help: http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v6/n5/full/ngeo1778.html
    Nature Geoscience 6, 372–375 (2013)

    It is unknown whether these changes are part of a longer-term trend. Here, we use water-isotope (δ18O) data from an array of ice-core records to place recent West Antarctic climate changes in the context of the past two millennia…. anomalies comparable to those of recent decades occur about 1% of the time over the past 2,000 years.

  218. Dave123:

    Ray@200- I’ll suggest another analysis of the Koch Bro’s thinking. There is no malicious intent there, but they do see malice from others. These guys both have engineering degrees from MIT and they’re no dummies. But as the inheritors of an ongoing business they’ve experienced life at the top. If like most people you remember your successes, and forget your slip-ups, they’ll remember the times they knew better than their technical staff, for what ever reason. The times the staff was right don’t count. So they have an improperly inflated sense of their own judgement. (I’ve seen this in all kinds of people at the top of organizations- it may also be a survival trait- if you can’t shake off being wrong, and focus on how right you are, you’ll get depressed)

    This kind of self-reinforcing ego isn’t something owned because of one’s political leanings…it’s just a matter of being/getting to a seat of power. So there is also a tendency to see disagreement as attacks, and hence malice. Environmentalists are out to get them.

    And those coke piles in Chicago…well, that’s just the realities of the petrochemical business…don’t expect a white-gloved world.


    … at least that’s how real, free American men see it.

  219. Patrick 027:

    …well, that’s just the realities of the petrochemical business…don’t expect a white-gloved world.“…”… at least that’s how real, free American men see it.

    Um, what?

    (Is that a parody of tea partier/conservative views liberals/enviromentalists? (If so, and if accurate… Do they think the mud at Woodstock was some sort of exclusive spa treatment? Then why can’t the Kochs be ‘real, free American men’ and just pile the pet. coke up in their living rooms.) PS it might be easier to accept if it were at all necessary – nobody really needs people to be digging around in Alberta for that stuff.)

  220. Nigel Williams:

    I’ve only read the abstract and some news reports, but this is pretty alarming stuff:


    The work:-
    The projected timing of climate departure from recent variability.
    Camilo Mora, Abby G. Frazier, et al
    University of Hawaii.

    ‘ Here we present a new index of the year when the projected mean climate of a given location moves to a state continuously outside the bounds of historical variability under alternative greenhouse gas emissions scenarios.’

    Dates like 2020 and 2047 occur often in the absence of effective mitigation scenarios.

    The implication is that the study identifies when the current historic maximum temperature at various locations becomes the minimum temperature experienced at that location.

    Every place I can live in my country has regular maximums over 30 degrees Celsius ‘historically’. Life where that becomes the minimum will not be livable, and nor will low-energy low-input agriculture.

    Not looking good.

  221. Hank Roberts:

    > Mora
    See also Morano attacks Mora

  222. Ray Ladbury:

    Patrick027 and Dave123,
    Yes, definitely satire–albeit perhaps too close to reality. Frankly, I don’t think the Koch bros. care whether they are right or not. They tend to view the world in terms of what they can impose on the rest of us rather than what is real and what is not. And yes, they are likely intelligent men. However, one can use intelligence to fool oneself as well as to realize the truth.

  223. Mal Adapted:

    Ray Ladbury:

    Frankly, I don’t think the Koch bros. care whether they are right or not. They tend to view the world in terms of what they can impose on the rest of us rather than what is real and what is not. And yes, they are likely intelligent men. However, one can use intelligence to fool oneself as well as to realize the truth.

    I strongly suspect you’re right that they don’t care whether they are right or not. I’m pretty sure they’re both highly intelligent men (if I’m so smart, why aren’t I rich?).

    I don’t think they’re necessarily fooling themselves, either. They might be well aware that AGW is real, and that they’ve gotten rich by externalizing the climate costs of the way they got their money. By rational calculation, they may decide it’s cost-effective for them to ignore that.

    They may expect that (by the definition of externality) their climate costs will mostly be paid by other people, while their wealth will insulate them from the consequences of AGW. After all, when you’re that wealthy, you can choose where you want to live, you can afford to pay a little more for food, you can hire bodyguards, and on and on. ‘Twas ever thus!

    Once again, “stupidity” (or self-deception) isn’t always the least hypothesis.

  224. sidd:

    I have been staring at Reichstein(2013) for a while


    (seems to be freely available thru a search at scholar.google.com)

    especially Fig 3c. That figure exhibits remarkable power law distribution of the probability of a given size of loss of primary production in response to climate stress in temperature or precipitation across 5 continents and Oceania over four orders of magnitude.

    This graph seems to be saying something important about the global uniformity of the size distribution of fluctuations in the response of ecosystems to climate stressors. I am impressed by the power law behaviour across three or four orders of magnitude (but perhaps there is a slight droop at the very large magnitude events)

    1)A priori, would one expect power law behaviour? I know one sees it all over the place, but I mean, is there a physical argument for this be so ?

    2)Why would the exponent be the same globally, over very different ecosystems and climate regimes ?


  225. Jim Larsen:

    Here’s an article about the shutdown’s effect on Antarctic research.



  226. Walter Manny:

    To the so-called pause, from the IPPC draft, for others to comment on:

    “There is very high confidence that models reproduce the general features of the global and annual mean surface temperature changes over the historical period, including the warming in the second half of the 20th century and the cooling immediately following large volcanic eruptions. Most simulations of the historical period do not reproduce the observed reduction in global-mean surface warming trend over the last 10–15 years. There is medium confidence that the trend difference between models and observations during 1998–2012 is to a substantial degree caused by internal variability, with possible contributions from forcing inadequacies in models and some models overestimating the response to increasing greenhouse-gas forcing. Most, though not all, models overestimate the observed warming trend in the tropical troposphere over the last 30 years, and tend to underestimate the long-term lower-stratospheric cooling trend.”



  227. Ray Ladbury:

    Good to see you. A question–since we are still seeing temperatures rise throughout the depth of the ocean, even down to 2000 meters, and given that the oceans constitute over 98% of the thermal mass of the climate system, does that not imply that an energy imbalance persists?

  228. Walter Manny:

    Hi, Ray,

    I’m not here to comment, simply to ask questions and let those those who actually know what they’re talking about comment as they wish, as you have with your own rhetorical question, and thanks. Also from the IPPC draft, perhaps more to the point, perhaps not:

    “The observed reduction in surface warming trend over the period 1998–2012 as compared to the period 1951–2012, is due in roughly equal measure to a reduced trend in radiative forcing and a cooling contribution from internal variability, which includes a possible redistribution of heat within the ocean (medium confidence). The reduced trend in radiative forcing is primarily due to volcanic eruptions and the timing of the downward phase of the 11-year solar cycle. However, there is low confidence in quantifying the role of changes in radiative forcing in causing the reduced warming trend. There is medium confidence that internal decadal variability causes to a substantial degree the difference between observations and the simulations; the latter are not expected to reproduce the timing of internal variability. There may also be a contribution from forcing inadequacies and, in some models, an overestimate of the response to increasing greenhouse gas and other anthropogenic forcing (dominated by the effects of aerosols).”



  229. Hank Roberts:


  230. AIC:

    Ray @ 200, Mal Adapted @ 223 :

    I’m thinking that the Koch brothers see that there will eventually be regulation (hopefully, prohibition) of fossil fuel CO2 emissions, and are using their oil money to diversify, buying non oil companies, like Georgia Pacific lumber and Invista fabrics (spandex, anybody?). http://www.kochind.com/Companies/ shows quite a long list. In the meantime, they are working to keep the money coming in for as long as possible, like all the other fossil fuel companies.

  231. AIC:

    Has anybody tried working with this outfit?
    Help A Reporter Out


  232. Ray Ladbury:

    Have you looked at the Skepticalscience Escalator? This makes it pretty clear that surface warming takes place in bursts. The Heartland Idjits have unwittingly done the same thing with their latest missive.

    This is in and of itself interesting, as so-called internal variability is one of the least understood aspects of climate change. The recent work on the role of the deep oceans is particularly illuminating in this regard. To me, it says that the equilibration time may be substantially longer than had been assumed by some. That has some important implications for climate sensitivity. I don’t know if you caught my discussion earlier this month of a study I did (while on an unexpected and unasked for 2-week vacation) on climate sensitivity estimates. The distribution is now pretty clearly bimodal, with one mode around 2.16 degrees per doubling and the other at around 3.64 degrees per doubling. I think this is a result of different assumed equilibration times for the studies–short times producing low estimates and longer times producing the higher mode.

    What this means is that we may warm more slowly, but the warming “in the pipeline” will be a bitch. Hope you have a good crop of students this year.

  233. Kevin McKinney:

    #228–And the question was what, exactly?

  234. Kevin McKinney:

    #232–Ray, I for one did not catch that discussion. I’d be interested to read more about it, though; do you have a pointer for us?

  235. stranger:

    Concerning the articles I’ve read today on mosses determining that Arctic temperatures now are the highest they’ve been in 44K years. I was told that you can’t carbon date the moss. When the moss died it would have stopped generating C-14. There is no way to differentiate between dead moss and dead moss covered by ice. So the researchers can say they have “old” dead moss but they can’t say anything about ice unless they can prove that without the ice the moss would have mysteriously come back to life and the C-14 started accumulating again.

    I know nothing of how carbon dating works on moss. An explanation would be appreciated.

  236. Walter Manny:

    Ray, I did see that a while back, though I can’t recall what took me there as I don’t read that blog generally. Trenberth also talked about a ‘staircase’ in his NPR interview — I assume the same idea, that we have cold natural variability cancelling out artificial heat and will soon have hot on top of hot, so to speak? Has this theory arrived too late for AR-5, or has it been addressed in there somewhere? I’m reading it in pieces.

    And I’ll have a peek at what I assume will become known as the Ladbury Furlough Study tomorrow.

  237. Walter Manny:


    Sorry, not clear — I was referring to #210. #226/8 would be a follow-on reference, topical I hope, from the IPPC. I should have asked if RC was planning to do an update in light of AR-5’s discussion of the hiatus.

  238. Hank Roberts:

    MEAGHAN CARPENTER A Slow Catastrophe

    … ephemera, collected plastic bags, balloons, science beaker with water and gravity

    A Slow Catastrophe is a shrine that comment’s on the slow but catastrophic degradation of our natural environment …. After a few days the balloons slowly deflate and float to the floor literally collapsing the piece ….

    Artist understands and conveys rate of change and eventual consequences. Nice piece, for those who like this sort of thing.

  239. Ray Ladbury:

    Kevin and Walter, I made reference to what I found in the 6th comment of this month’s Unforced Variations (I get bored doing nothing pretty quickly).

    It is not much of a “study”. I was just curious why the AR5 did not identify a “best” value for sensitivity and looked over the estimates given on the AGWObserver page on climate sensitivity estimates. There’s a clear bimodality, and remembering back to efforts by Schwarz and Lindzen, I speculated that assumed equilibration time might have something to do with the differences.

  240. Walter Manny:

    Ray, thanks for the pointer, and I’m not sure what to make of it. What is the overarching significance, do you think (or could you restate), of the bifurcation you have identified? I assume not that there are two climate sensitivities that take it in turns somehow, that there are two sets of physical phenomena somehow at work? Sorry, only one cup of coffee into the day…

  241. MARodger:

    Stranger @235.
    I’m pretty sure carbon dating moss is not much different in principle to any other carbon dating which relies on the 5,730 year half-life of carbon-14. Thus the 44,000 year result is at the point where C-14 has almost gone. Therefore the upper age of the sample could then be even older and stretch back to the Eemian interglacial 120,000 years ago, a more sensible result than 44,000 years which would place it well into to last ice age.

    Of course Cap’n Watts, Lord Denier of Wattsupia, is highly sceptical of these Baffin Island results, saying there is a “logical failure in the claim being made.” (And the good Cap’n has a lot of experience of claims that later fail due to his illogical thinking.). He suggests the ice could have ‘melted’ due to sublimation and since been re-covered but this is crackpot thinking as the thesis is solely that it has not been warm enough to melt the Baffin Island ice fields over the +44,000 years. If there had been melting due to temperatures above freezing, the moss would re-colonise the ground, but that hasn’t happened.
    His second take is that the result only applies to a bit of Baffin Island and is not representative of the Arctic. Yet this does not detract from the claim that today’s Baffin Island ice cap temperatures are unprecedented over at least 44,000 years – although with the time period not mentioned in the paper’s title, the good Cap’n tells us it cannot be “unprecedented” as the now-dead moss has to have grown at some point in the past and that requires today’s high temperatures. (Myself, I think the good Cap’n has been spending too much time with Peter Pan and his chums.)
    And as he makes an appended admission that today’s receding ice is due to high temperatures, the good Cap’n proposes this could be due to decreasing albedo due to soot, something the naughty researchers failed to mention, apparently. The coverage here suggests the researchers do consider GHGs are the “likely culprit” although the actual quote of lead author Gifford Miller is “Natural variability can’t be the main contributor.” This of course is the basic take on the research being bounced around the media and is something the poor Cap’n Watts appears at a loss to explain properly.

  242. Ray Ladbury:

    Walter, bimodality is usually an indication that one is sampling from two different parent distributions. One way this could happen is if you have a system with multiple equilibration times. Tamino discussed this with his two-box model, where he had a 1-year time for the atmosphere and a 30-year time for the ocean. It could be that the 30-year time should be longer or that there is a third box with a longer constant.

    Both Schwarz and Lindzen managed to get very low sensitivities in part by assuming rapid equilibration of the climate. The recent results that show more mixing into the deep ocean than thought support a longer equilibration time as well as explaining the escalator structure. The article I cited also seems to bear this out.

  243. L Hamilton:

    @stranger #235

    In their paper the authors explain how they know that some of the ancient plants they analyze must have been must have been continuously ice-covered for at least 44,000 years. If the plants had died without becoming ice covered they would rapidly erode or be re-colonized by new plants.

    “Our field observations, and the presence of extensive vegetation-free regions surrounding most retreating ice caps [Locke and Locke, 1976] indicate that most long-dead tundra plants exposed by ice recession are rapidly removed from the landscape by wind-blown winter snow or by run-off during the melt season. Re-colonization may begin within a few years of exposure, and the few moss clumps that escape rapid erosion commonly regrow [Yashina et al., 2012; La Farge et al., 2013].”

  244. Walter Manny:

    Ray, thanks, helpful. Here’s another question, if you’re willing to have at it.

    I can’t be the first to ask, but I’m trying to get my head back into the game, and I’m wondering if it’s possible to fit all the [necessarily] complex models into a bigger, cruder one, at least to help illustrate on a large scale. Granted the greenhouse effect does not exactly mimic a greenhouse, is it in any way analogous to think of the earth as an insulated system and excess CO2 as extra insulation, such that it there is a exit delay, so to speak, a “cooling delay” and thereby overall warming as a result? If so — I expect such a simplistic is no good, but what the heck — would there not also be an entry delay? Please forgive the grade-school nature of the question and, if possible, point me in the appropriate direction.

  245. Nigel Williams:


    OK, now I’ve read the paper the data gives:

    Figure 2 | The projected timing of climate departure from recent variability. a, b, Projected year when annual (a) or monthly (b) air temperature means move to a state continuously outside annual or monthly historical bounds, respectively…’

    They observe:-
    ‘It is remarkable, however, that after 2050 most tropical regions will have every subsequent month outside of their historical range of variability (Fig. 2b). Although this is later than the yearly averages, we stress that this is an extreme situation, in which every month will be an extreme climatic record.


  246. Hank Roberts:

    > would there not also be an entry delay

    Wait, what do you teach, at what level?

    How complicated would you like that answer to be? Suggestions:


    Joseph Fourier in the 1820s …. energy in the form of visible light from the Sun easily penetrates the atmosphere to reach the surface and heat it up, but heat cannot so easily escape back into space.


    The Earth’s atmosphere is effectively transparent to solar radiation between .34 and .7 microns. Consequently 22.5 percent of incoming solar radiation goes directly to the surface of the Earth and is absorbed.


  247. Anonymous Coward:

    Walter Manny wrote: “is it in any way analogous to think of the earth as an insulated system and excess CO2 as extra insulation, such that it there is a exit delay, so to speak, a “cooling delay” and thereby overall warming as a result?”
    I’d say so.
    There is a difference however: insulation typically works because there are heat sources in the insulated space. CO2 on the other hand causes warming because…
    “would there not also be an entry delay”
    … there is a massive asymmetry. Exit is delayed much more than entry because of the different radiating temperatures and therefore wavelengths. And that is main cause of the warming rather than internal heat sources (which also exist of course).

    Just in case that’s what you had in mind: the delay between CO2 emissions and warming is not caused by your “entry delay” (which mainly affects the equilibrium temperature) but rather by what might be called thermal inertia.

    “if possible, point me in the appropriate direction”
    Watch the relevant parts of a course like David Archer’s.

  248. stranger:

    Thanks LHamilton and MARogers, your information is quite helpful.

  249. Ray Ladbury:

    The simplistic model I use is that you start with a climate system in thermal equilibrium. All energy into the system comes from the Sun. All energy leaving the system is in the form of thermal radiation–long-wave IR (LWIR). At equilibrium, energy in equals energy out. Now you block some of the energy leaving–it doesn’t matter how, but for ghgs you take a big bite out of the spectrum of outgoing LWIR. Since energy in is now greater than energy out, the temperature of the system must rise. In particular the temperature at the top of atmosphere must rise, since this determines the spectrum and amount of LWIR emitted. The TOA temperature must rise until the energy in the outgoing LWIR spectrum again equals the incoming energy. Whatever goes on below TOA is secondary. Energy may heat up the deep oceans–that doesn’t affect outgoing LWIR. Energy may cause storms–that also doesn’t, to first order affect outgoing LWIR. You can have changes in albedo–they only affect outgoing LWIR inasmuch as they ultimately affect energy in and TOA temperature. So, ultimately, the sensitivity is determined by how much surface temperature must rise to restore equilibrium at TOA.

    I don’t know if that helps or not.

  250. Walter Manny:

    Thanks, Ray et al, for your response and your patience. I’ve not been thinking at all about this stuff for a while, it’s easy on the way back in to get bogged down in the more “entertaining” aspects of the back-and-forth surrounding it, so time for me to hit the reset button, thus the annoyingly 101 nature of my questions.

    Three others, then, the first trivial, I suspect: Since we can see the Earth from space, I assume some energy escapes the planet as reflected light. Is it negligible relative to the LWIR or part of it?

    Is it a logical consequence of the simple model that holding CO2 where it is would give us a new [hotter] equilibrium?

    Finally, though this one is too big, I think, which of the working hiatus theories (in addition to deep ocean) do you believes merits more consideration (e.g. reduced atmospheric water vapor)?

  251. Hank Roberts:


    Each part of the Earth’s surface emits heat in the form of infrared (IR) radiation. The peak of this emission is right at the wavelength where CO2 absorbs strongly. While the proportion of CO2 in the atmosphere is small, 380 parts per million or 0.038%, this is still a large number of molecules, large enough that near the surface, at wavelengths where CO2 absorbs, the average distance light will travel before being captured is a few meters (a couple of yards).

    Greenhouse gases, as well as absorbing IR radiation, emit it. In just the same way the distance that the emitted radiation can travel is short near the surface, but increases as one climbs through the atmosphere because density, pressure and temperature decrease as we climb. Each of these lengthens the distance radiation emitted from a molecule travels before being absorbed,** until about at 10 km altitude where the temperature is -50 C (or ~-60 F or~220 K) and the density has decreased by a factor of ~3, it becomes possible for it to reach space, carrying thermal energy away from the Earth. Below that level, energy emitted by a greenhouse gas molecule is soon absorbed by another relatively nearby one. Thus the energy simply cannot be radiated to space to balance the incoming solar energy.

    Decreasing temperature slows down the rate at which each molecule can emit while decreasing density means there are fewer greenhouse gas molecules available to absorb or radiate the energy.

    Taken together this means that the doorway to space is very narrow at wavelengths where CO2 can absorb. Since the same amount of energy has to be radiated to space as is coming from the sun, something has to increase, and that is the temperature of the surface. As the surface warms, the rate at which it can radiate energy increases, pushing more thermal IR radiation out into space.

    If we increase the proportion of CO2 in the atmosphere, the level at which energy can be radiated to space rises also, but since this higher level is colder and the pressure and density are lower, the doorway becomes narrower, and the surface has to warm more in order to shove the same amount of energy out and restore the balance with the incoming energy carried by the sunlight.

  252. Hank Roberts:

    > some energy escapes the planet as reflected light.
    > Is it negligible relative to the LWIR or part of it?


  253. Hank Roberts:

    > which of the working hiatus theories

    There’s a list?

  254. Patrick 027:

    re 250 Walter Manny – solar radiation is mostly SW (shorter than 4 microns, or something like that), and is distinguishable from LW radiation emitted from the Earth (surface or atmosphere) for that reason (Of course, it also has a rather different spatial-temporal distribution, peaking from clouds where OLR would dip, limited to dayside, etc.). ~ 30% of solar radiation is reflected; since the 70% absorbed must be balanced by OLR (outgoing LW radiation) at equilibrium, OLR flux will tend to be 7/3 of the reflected SW flux (global time average).

    (PS TOA temperature doesn’t generally match that of OLR; OLR sources are distributed through the atmosphere and some does come directly from the surface (cloud free regions, not too humid near surface, between ~8-12 microns). Absent direct solar heating, TOA approaches a skin temperature that is colder than the effective emitting temperature for the broadband OLR flux – at least, if there isn’t a particularly special distribution of different greenhouse gases at different heights with different spectra.

    I assume Ray Ladbury’s description was specific to the simplified energy balance model (?))

  255. Hank Roberts:

    Phenology continues to be news:

    TI – Large-scale variations in the vegetation growing season and annual cycle of atmospheric CO2 at high northern latitudes from 1950 to 2011
    JO – Global Change Biology
    UR – http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/gcb.12283

    … During the last three decades, the thermal potential growing season has lengthened by about 10.5 days (P < 0.01, 1982–2011), which is unprecedented in the context of the past 60 years.

    The overall lengthening has been stronger and more significant in Eurasia (12.6 days, P 0.05).

    The photosynthetic growing season has closely tracked the pace of warming and extension of the potential growing season in spring, but not in autumn when factors such as light and moisture limitation may constrain photosynthesis.

    The autumnal extension of the photosynthetic growing season since 1982 appears to be about half that of the thermal potential growing season, yielding a smaller lengthening of the photosynthetic growing season (6.7 days at the circumpolar scale, P < 0.01). … when integrated over the growing season, photosynthetic activity has closely followed the interannual variations and warming trend in cumulative growing season temperatures.

    This lengthening and intensification of the photosynthetic growing season, manifested principally over Eurasia rather than North America, is associated with a long-term increase (22.2% since 1972, P < 0.01) in the amplitude of the CO2 annual cycle at northern latitudes.

    The springtime extension of the photosynthetic and potential growing seasons has apparently stimulated earlier and stronger net CO2 uptake by northern ecosystems, while the autumnal extension is associated with an earlier net release of CO2 to the atmosphere. These contrasting responses may be critical in determining the impact of continued warming on northern terrestrial ecosystems and the carbon cycle.

    extra (that is, all) paragraph breaks in the above block quote have been added to the original big-hunk’o’abstract, for screen readability — hr

  256. Ray Ladbury:

    Walter, your first question concerns what scientists call albedo–the fact that Earth reflects some of the incident light at whatever wavelength. Reflected light never really enters the system. However, changes in albedo can change the energy balance. That is one of the big long-term feedbacks.
    2)It is inescapable that increased CO2 must increase temperature. No credible scientist disagrees on this. They merely argue about the amount of warming. Since CO2 is taking a chunk out of the outgoing IR, then the initial amount of outgoing LWIR must increase to compensate for the chunk taken out. The only way LWIR increases is to increase radiating temperature. Most geoengineering palliatives rely on increasing albedo so that less SWIR is absorbed, so that would be one way to avoid the temperature increase in the short term. However, these efforts would likely not be sustainable on a timescale of centuries due to cost and side effects.

    3)It is very much early days when it comes to understanding internal variability. We are not even sure whether the amount of variability would increase itself as the temperature warms (some of the ocean work hints in that direction). If that were the case, then a 15 year “hiatus” might not be unusual in the future. In my opinion, the escalator structure of warming is begging for a multi-box solution, probably involving an increased role for the mid-to-deep ocean Most indications are that relative humidity doesn’t vary all that much, so I have my doubts about “reduced atmospheric water vapor”. I would point out, though, that if this is a contributor, we are really in the soup, as it means drought is going to be a much bigger problem going forward.

    Finally, I stress that I am no expert in this field–merely an interested amateur. I trust Gavin et al. will weigh in if I’ve said something stupid.

  257. Ray Ladbury:

    Yes, I’m dealing with a very stripped-down model, and when I’m talking about TOA equilibrium, I am not assuming that all radiators are at TOA. I am not even assuming that TOA is an isobar or the same at all wavelengths. I’ve found that the multi-box model is a useful, wrong model for illustrating the basics.

  258. Radge Havers:

    In the news. Getting at catastrophe?

    Universal rules discovered that allow anticipation of critical transitions

    At first glance, it appears improbable that a climate shift, an epileptic seizure, the collapse of a fish population or a sudden transition in a financial system have something in common. However, the article in Science, a consortium of scientists headed by Marten Scheffer from Wageningen University, part of Wageningen UR, shows that completely different systems – such as the brain, the climate and financial markets – obey certain universal laws when they are at a critical transition point that make it possible to recognise early warning signals. This has to do with a phenomenon that is known in mathematics as ‘Critical Slowing Down’, implying that recovery from small perturbations becomes slow in the vicinity of tipping points.


  259. Hank Roberts:

    Hat tip to Slashdot:

    … the National Institutes of Health has launched a project to remake its researchers’ approach to publication. Its new PubMed Commons system allows qualified scientists to post ongoing comments about published papers. The goal is to wean scientists from the idea that a cursory, one-time peer review is enough to validate a research study, and substitute a process of continuing scrutiny, so that poor research can be identified quickly and good research can be picked out of the crowd and find a wider audience. ‘The demand for sexy results, combined with indifferent follow-up, means that billions of dollars in worldwide resources devoted to finding and developing remedies for the diseases that afflict us all is being thrown down a rathole,’ says Hiltzik. ‘NIH and the rest of the scientific community are just now waking up to the realization that science has lost its way, and it may take years to get back on the right path.'”

  260. Walter Manny:

    Thanks, Ray, and I’m sorry I can’t recall where it was I read or heard about relatively low concentrations of water vapor being of potential interest to hiatus explorers, among other things such as sunspots and, more intriguing, deep ocean. Thanks for your time and your willingness [lame humor alert] to think outside the multi-box. Better equipped, I’m going to have a crack at Xie & Kosaka now, see if I can grok some of it…

  261. Hank Roberts:

    apropos ongoing comments and discussion among scientists, the biologists are continuing to make effective use of Usenet:

    IOSCI/Bionet is a set of electronic communication forums – the bionet USENET newsgroups and parallel e-mail lists – used by biological scientists worldwide. No fees are charged for the service.

    BIOSCI promotes communication between professionals in the biological sciences. All postings to the newsgroups should be made in that spirit. While the general public may “listen in” to the discussions, these newsgroups are intended primarily for communications between researchers. There are other forums on Usenet such as sci.bio.misc for the asking and answering of biological questions from lay persons.

    There’s a lot to be said for the old Usenet (and before that FIDOnet) approach: text-only, slow, not easy to choke off.

  262. Hank Roberts:

    I’ve been wondering why the two climate scientists associated with their respective Navy submarine operations are on record expecting the Arctic sea ice to go away sooner.

    It makes sense to me logically that they could have access to information that’s kept secret — and be able to disclose conclusions but not the reasoning.

    EOS for 8 October 2013 in their brief back page items (p. 372) mentions

    Dokken et al., Paleoceanography, doi:10.1002/palo.20042, 2013

    which suggests the past record of extremely fast Greenland temperature increases (“DO events”) could be caused by a breakdown of the layering of Nordic seas: sea ice, then cold fresh water, then below that salt water — and the salt water is circulating so when warmer ocean water moves into that area it first replaces cold bottom layer salt water. Eventually it “breaks the halocline” and the warmth reaches the sea ice, which disappears.

    So where’s the halocline, and is it changing?

    Well, ask the submariners (and check whatever can be told or inferred from data collected by the no doubt extensive secret monitoring gear the nuclear-capable Navy departments must have spread all across the Arctic ocean over the past 40 years).

    I know submariners use the halocline — and any other difference in water salinity or density — to hide, and to channel sound. So do whales and dolphins, of course. But if anyone’s able to ask them, it’d be the Navy.

    (Decades ago when I was a marine biology student, a lecturer told us how all the various marine biology labs got their echo-sounding equipment from their countries’ Navy people, and the gear given the scientists had cut-outs to prevent them from working in the frequencies useful for detecting submarines. But each of the nations had cut out different bands, so the marine biologists would get together annually and trade records to fill in the gaps in their pictures)

  263. Hank Roberts:


    23 February 2012
    UK submarine data de-classified to aid climate science

    A dataset from one submarine mission will be released to give a snapshot of conditions under the ice.

    … Water temperature and salt content are among the environmental data monitored by submarines.

    But only a handful of people have access to such information because they could be used to track where UK submarines go.

    As part of the Submarine Estimates of Arctic Turbulence Spectra (SEATS) project, the MoD will release measurements to researchers at the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) in Southampton.

  264. Hank Roberts:

    15 years ago, autonomous undersea vehicles were laying cable under the ice:

    The Theseus program began at ISE in 1985 as part of a Canada-U.S. program to lay cable under Arctic ice. ISE and the Defence Research Establishment Pacific (DREP) of Canada’s Department of National Defence worked together to develop a large AUV for laying cable from a site near the shore of Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic to a scientific acoustic array in the Arctic Ocean about 200 kilometers from shore. Two under-ice cable-laying missions were conducted from Ellesmere Island in 1996 in water depths that varied from 50 meters at the launch site to about 600 meters at the array site….

  265. wili:

    Interesting comment, Hank (@ #258). But which two scientists exactly were you referring to here: “the two climate scientists associated with their respective Navy submarine operations”

  266. Hank Roberts:

    Maslowski and Wadhams

    ‘oogled, plenty available, e.g.


    Apr 29, 2012 – Wadhams, P., N Hughes and J Rodrigues (2011). Arctic sea ice thickness characteristics in winter 2004 and 2007 from submarine sonar …

    Just sayin’ — I have to wonder how much more data the Navies of the planet have accumulated, over 50 years of travel and stationkeeping under the Arctic ice.

  267. Kevin McKinney:

    #265 & 266–Yes, Dr. Wadhams has done research from aboard one (or more? I don’t know a lot of detail on this) of Her Majesty’s nuclear subs cruising under the Arctic sea ice. Perchance he may have had something to do with the release of the UK data? (Pure speculation on my part.)

  268. Hank Roberts:

    Yeah. And if there’s a trend — the Navy will know about it.
    They have more data than what’s being released. As quoted above:

    A dataset from one submarine mission will be released to give a snapshot

    Well, duh. Not much of a trend can be calculated from that.

    And if this paper is right, and the D-O warming events are explained as they suggest, prepare for the surprise when it happens.

    You can find the paper, just ‘oogle the name and look for a copy that’s not paywalled.

  269. wili:

    Thanks, Hank. I think that is an important consideration. I hope you don’t mind if I share it on other sites (properly attributed, of course).

  270. Hank Roberts:

    Eh? I’d wait on the climate scientists to opine
    eventually. You’ll have noticed there are several different kinds of inference in that paper from proxies. These new ideas need to be kicked around a bit. Don’t assume the conclusion — which is clearly a suggestion of a new idea — is correct.

  271. Hank Roberts:

    I found a bit of history, a reminder that typically that kicking around a new idea is well underway before publication:


    DIRECTOR’S NOTE Sep 16, 2013 – … the Dokken et al. paper on. D-O Events out now in Paleoceanography, which in my opinion gives a novel and convincing explanation for abrupt climate changes…. is finally out after various versions and problems with biased reviews. Thanks to the author team of modelers and observationalists on keeping the process going….”

  272. Nigel Williams:

    If I may put it politely; ‘We’re screwed.’

    Figure 4. 1000 billion barrels of oil used to date. Over 10,000 billion barrels still available at less than $50.00 a barrel.

    Any questions?

  273. wili:

    Nigel, I’m too busy too read it right now, but if there is that much cheap oil around, why isn’t the price of oil already well below $50/barrel. Are they really that good at price fixing? Isn’t it a bit…difficult to artificially fix the price of anything at a global level and make it stick for year after year?

    But your conclusion is, none-the-less, almost surely right.

  274. wili:

    To clarify ‘conclusion’ I meant the quoted bit about the nature of our screwedness.

    Hank, ok, I’ll include that caveat. Thanks for the insight.

  275. Nigel Williams:

    wili, I think the paper is saying that there are viable ways to produce oil at prices we have shown we can afford for a while yet. Mainly Gas to Liquid (x fracked natural gas, for example (ignoring the short future of fracked wells)) and Coal to Liquid that is being /has been done by China, South Africa and wartime Germany, among others. And there is a lot of coal good and bad out there still.

    So the ‘race’ between the curves is that there is clearly a depleting natural oil resource of finite size and increasing extraction cost, while there is another curve which represents the construction of sufficient Gas and Coal to Liquid capacity to replace the falling natural supply.

    If the natural supply issues crash the economy before the x-liquid capacity is built, then we loose the opportunity to transfer to the x-liquid option.

    All of which goes to extend the business-as-usual burn of carbon from increasingly bad sources which will only reduce the chance of effective reduction of GHG emissions and avoidance of climate catastrophe.

    As a peak-oiler of old its hard for me to accept that the x-liquid option could offer a continued supply for a while yet if (and that’s the big IF) sufficient x-liquid capacity is built fast enough. But the idea of peak oil was an attractive way to see a major wind down in emissions forced upon us.

    However (as the recent Do the Math work has shown us too) there is far more carbon readily available at viable prices that we should ever burn. So it seems that resource depletion will not be of much assistance to the climate battlers, and instead we will have to rely virtually entirely on social and political measures to reduce emissions and keep the climate from tipping over a very nasty edge.

  276. sidd:

    Any new results from GRACE on 2013 Greenland melt ? Some came out about this time last year …

  277. Jim Larsen:

    273 wili wondered about oil prices.

    Yes wili, they are that good. The most expensive oil today is tar sands, at about $25 a barrel.

  278. sidd:

    Mr. Jim Larsen wrote: ” … tar sands, at about $25 a barrel.”

    This is, as I recall, a Syncor estimate of operating cost, which does not include capitalization cost for the facilities (which in Syncor’s case is paid off.) If one were to include cap costs for a new facility, the number was around $60-$70 a few years ago, and more now, since the risk of unburnable reserves is recognized by the banks …


  279. wili:

    Thanks, all. But it still seems to me that if there were lots of oil out there right now that could be produced at about half what the current market price is, it would be getting produced now already in massive amounts. But, asfaik, there is very little coal-to-liquid gas being produced nor shale oil.

    But of course price is a pretty fungible thing. If we go through another global financial crisis and the price of everything crashes, oil prices will likely follow suit, wherever it comes from. It is the number of people who still have jobs to afford the oil/gasoline at any price that will change.

    Jim, I hadn’t seen that price for tar sands oil, but I haven’t been following the industry as closely as I used to. Do you have a source for that figure? Is that just on-site production, or the final price once it has been shipped and processed?

    I’ve never been one to believe that peak oil would save us. But I have been surprised at how viable very low EROEI oil like tar sands ended up being.

    And yes, screwed we all almost definitely are.

  280. flxible:

    Find some discussion of tar sands production costs here – not as “cheap” as Jim suggests, but it’s still profitable.

  281. SecularAnimist:

    Nigel Williams wrote: “Over 10,000 billion barrels still available at less than $50.00 a barrel.”

    Jim Larsen wrote: “The most expensive oil today is tar sands, at about $25 a barrel.”

    Where are these numbers coming from?

    Bloomberg Energy is showing crude oil spot prices at $96.25/bbl (WTI) and $108.90/bbl (Brent).


    The US Energy Information Administration has similar figures:


    And the Wall Street Journal reports that “Light, sweet crude for November delivery settled 1.6%, or $1.56 lower, at $96.77 a barrel, the lowest price since June 28.”


  282. Nigel Williams:

    SecularAnimist, my point is based on the paper I quoted.

    As I’ve commented above, its well-proven technologies like coal to liquid that are the potential game-changers.

    South Africa and a few others have been operating with coal to liquids producing significant proportions of their liquid fuel supplies for many years when oil was in the $10 to $40 a bbl range. There is an awful lot of coal out there (down to horrible lignite) that still that can be converted to liquids using that process.

    The result of this appreciation is of course merely another confirmation that humanity has economically viable access to liquid fuel resources for some time to come.

    The take home point really is that – as Bill McKibbon and others have reminded us – we have to configure the planet socially, politically and promptly so that virtually all of the remaining carbon is left in the ground unused for a very long time.

    There is really nothing else to do that’s relevant. We have enough information to make that decision. All the measuring and reporting that’s going on now is great, but the evidence is already way past the tipping point.

    Our global effort now has to be focused on the ways and means of halting our impact on our global climate before it too passes a tipping point beyond which neither we humans or the biota upon which we depend for our lives can survive.

    And of course it has to start ‘at home’, to lead by example, otherwise we have no moral ground to preach change from at all. Which is why I am fixing up an old house (rather than building new) and busily planting the shelter belts and vegetables on half a hectare of land we own on a site that is as close as we can find to being on the cusp of wetter/dryer climate conditions as predicted by IPCC et al. There we are aiming for a high level of self-reliance and very low carbon footprint. Only when I’m established there will I have a platform to preach change from to those who still see the ‘Western Way’ as being ‘progress’.

  283. Patrick 027:

    re 257 Ray Ladbury – thanks; I tend to think of TOA as being p = 0, which of course doesn’t exist *, but it’s a useful approximation, to put a definite upper bound on the atmosphere.

    (* actually I’m not entirely clear on what’s going on way up there, in so far as … if pressure is no longer isotropic at some point due to the magnetic field ? … do they assign an isotropic component and call the other terms tensile and shear stresses (and would they be different between electrons and protons, and He++,…)? Would that make any sense? Fortunately I don’t need to know to discuss the energy balance of the climate.)

    re 260 Walter Manny – changes in stratospheric water vapor

    older (2010):
    http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/stratospheric-water-vapor-decline-credited-with-slowing-global-warming (question posed – a negative feedback? limited data isn’t clear) also, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100131145840.htm\

    newer (2013):
    http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/09/26/1310344110 (more recent – says it’s a positive feedback.) Also http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130930161525.htm

    (Well, if it’s possible for a brightening sun hundreds of millions of years from now to dry out the oceans because so much H2O is getting into the upper atmosphere and breaking up by UV… OTOH, CO2 greenhouse forcing cools the stratosphere. Would this positive feedback be stronger for solar forcing? Would the FAT feedback be less strong for solar forcing?)

    re oil price –
    considering only the cost of ongoing production makes sense in the context of figuring out what the lowest price could be before the oil company throws in the stinky inky greasy towel – if they sold it for less they’d be losing money in proportion to production. But only selling it for that much still represents a loss because of capital costs and stuff I don’t know about. So prices shouldn’t come down to that unless they get desperate.

    Production rates are limited by infrastructure in place (capital) … and by long term goals – I’ve read several years ago that pumping oil out too fast reduces the amount that can ultimately be extracted. Whether newer technologies change that picture, I’m not sure)

    It occurs to me that the capital cost portion of the price paid for a barrel of oil isn’t necessarily assignable to the capital costs that went into that barrel – some of it could be for the next barrel. In that case, prices should decline if exploration, etc, slow down or halt (considering that effect in isolation, of course).

  284. Patrick 027:

    PS there’s a new series on The Weather Channel, “Tipping Points”

  285. Hank Roberts:


    Notes that usually the ocean end of a glacier is floating over a layer of cold fresh meltwater, which in turn is floating on top of warmer salty ocean water.

    Then what happens?

    Rapid submarine melting driven by subglacial discharge, LeConte Glacier, Alaska
    Geophysical Research Letters
    Volume 40, Issue 19, pages 5153–5158, 16 October 2013
    DOI: 10.1002/grl.51011

    Having read only the abstract, I paraphrase:

    Rainfall on glacier
    Increased outflow of fresh meltwater, and
    for a glacier ending at the ocean, fresh is floatier than salt water, so
    the fresh water flows out out along the bottom of the ice, and below that is warmer seawater
    and with the flow of fresh water moving fast along the ice,
    the warmer sea water gets pulled up (entrained) and mixes in,
    so that makes contact with and warms the bottom of the ice.

  286. Doug Bostrom:

    “…tar sands, at about $25 a barrel.”

    Cost to produce, not buy.