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Unforced Variations: Jan 2014

Filed under: — group @ 2 January 2014

First open thread of the new year. A time for ‘best of’s of climate science last year and previews for the this year perhaps? We will have an assessment of the updates to annual indices and model/data comparisons later in the month.

662 Responses to “Unforced Variations: Jan 2014”

  1. 51

    #45–Pete, thanks for checking out the “Climate stories 2013” piece!

    Yes, 20 C–I suppose I should really write -20 C–is a reasonable estimate. Unfortunately, I don’t remember where I specifically sourced that from originally, but see for instance this reconstruction (Figure 7), based on the GISP-2 ice core from Greenland.

    And thanks for the mention of the Argentine heat wave; I’ll have to have a look at that.

  2. 52

    On waste–it seems to me that a big part of the problem is the systematic incentivizing of shoddily-made (often disposable) products. Cf:

    It’s not just cheap DVD players, either–how much pollution was avoided by the advent of more durable automobiles in the US following the ‘Japanese invasion?’ And how much more could be avoided with still more durable ones that could potentially be engineered and built, if doing so were profitable?

    And how could you incentivize reliability across wide chunks of the economy? Reliability standards, perhaps calibrating corporate tax rates to some sort of reliability index over time?

    This is clearly relevant:

    “Treloar, et al. have estimated the embodied energy in an average automobile in Australia as 0.27 terajoules as one component in an overall analysis of the energy involved in road transportation.” Given that “About 63 terajoules were released by the atomic bomb that exploded over Hiroshima,” that works out to something like the energetic equivalent of 8,500 pounds of TNT per car… good thing even Pintos couldn’t realize more than a tiny fraction of that in actual explosions…

    It’s also rather piquant to think that the TNT would mass roughly twice what the actual vehicle does. (Model year 2012 US cars and light trucks averaged 3,997 pounds, according to the EPA.)

  3. 53
    prokaryotes says:

    Turns out i’m now registered at Coursera. Though no idea how i managed to enroll :)

  4. 54
    Hank Roberts says:

    Well, if you want to talk about efficiency ….
    Modern Finance

    …. seemed to me that a world short of risk-bearing capacity needed virtually anything that induced people to commit their money to long-term risky investments.

    In other words, such a world needed either the reality or the illusion that finance could, as John Maynard Keynes put it, “defeat the dark forces of time and ignorance which envelop our future.” …

    But ….

    … A back-of-the-envelope calculation of mine in 2007 suggested that the world paid financial institutions roughly $800 billion every year for mergers and acquisitions that yielded about $170 billion of real economic value. That rather poor cost-benefit ratio does not appear to be improving.

  5. 55
    Martin Smith says:

    Prokaryotes, I don’t think that explains this. This is the daily anomaly map for the last week:
    All of Antarctica is blue and purple, and it has been that way for weeks. But this is the weekly anomaly map for those weeks:
    There is no blue or purple in Antarctica at all for several weeks. How can that be? There must be something wrong in the software.

  6. 56
    DIOGENES says:

    Two more points on Hansen’s/Anderson’s recommended solutions. Hansen’s Plos One paper emphasizes “contributions are surely required from energy efficiency, renewable energies, and nuclear power, with the mix depending on local preferences.” Anderson has focused mainly on demand reduction and improved energy efficiency. While they both agree upon improved energy efficiency, the other recommendations pull in different directions. Again, not only their temperature ceiling targets and assumptions differ, but the approaches to alleviate the problem differ as well. Again, not the clear, simple, and unified (and credible) message required to assemble the critical mass of people necessary to alleviate the climate change problem.

    Reforestation is an important component of the emissions reduction scenario postulated by Hansen. According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) secretariat, the overwhelming direct cause of deforestation is agriculture. Subsistence farming is responsible for 48% of deforestation; commercial agriculture is responsible for 32% of deforestation; logging is responsible for 14% of deforestation and fuel wood removals make up 5% of deforestation.

    From another reference:

    Causes of Deforestation

    1. Agricultural activities: As earlier mentioned in the overview, agricultural activities are one of the major factors affecting deforestation. Due to overgrowing demand for food products, huge amount of tress are felled down to grow crops and for cattle grazing.
    2. Logging: Apart from this, wood based industries like paper, match-sticks, furniture etc also need a substantial amount of wood supply. Wood is used as fuel both directly and indirectly, therefore trees are chopped for supplies. Firewood and charcoal are examples of wood being used as fuel. Some of these industries thrive on illegal wood cutting and felling of trees.
    3. Urbanization: Further on order to gain access to these forests, the construction of roads are undertaken; here again trees are chopped to create roads. Overpopulation too directly affects forest covers, as with the expansion of cities more land is needed to establish housing and settlements. Therefore forest land is reclaimed.
    4. Desertification of land: Some of the other factors that lead to deforestation are also part natural and part anthropogenic like Desertification of land. It occurs due to land abuse making it unfit for growth of trees. Many industries in petrochemicals release their waste into rivers which results in soil erosion and make it unfit to grow plants and trees.
    5. Mining: Oil and coal mining require considerable amount of forest land. Apart from this, roads and highways have to be built to make way for trucks and other equipment. The waste that comes out from mining pollutes the environment and effects the nearby species.
    6. Fires: Another example would be forest blazes; Hundreds of trees are lost each year due to forest fires in various portions of the world. This happens due to extreme warm summers and milder winters. Fires, whether causes by man or nature results in huge loss of forest cover.

    Given that agriculture, logging, and urbanization are the big three, with agriculture dominant, and given that world population is projected to grow another 30% before supposedly peaking by mid-century, where exactly are we going to find the land to reforest? Given that a main near-term consequence of climate change is expected to be reduction in arable land, do we really believe that conversion of arable land back to forests is realistic, or even desirable? Do we also believe that conversion of land used for urbanization infrastructure back to forests is credible or desirable, given the prospects of an increasing population?

    How realistic are the reforestation numbers that Hansen includes in his computations? Going to zero deforestation is not a small challenge, given the increasing needs for land for reasons stated above. If we use zero reforestation in Hansen’s computations, what level of emissions reductions are required to meet the ceiling targets he postulates? If they are in the 15%-20%/year range, which of his proposed solution options are available today to allow those targets to be met? Anything that requires long development times or long construction and licensing times seems somewhat out of sync with the required time scales.

  7. 57
    Hank Roberts says:

    > where exactly are we going to find the land to reforest?

    How exactly do you mean?

    Urban Forests
    Replanting Forests Around the Globe

  8. 58
    Hank Roberts says:

    By the way, besides using the Internet to find sites in need of trees, look in your local For Sale section for raw, abused real estate, and study up.

    And don’t forget to contribute to those doing excellent work, like Woodfortrees

    … a self-funded personal project by Paul Clark, a British software developer and practically-oriented environmentalist and conservationist. You can provide support through my Charity Tip Jar if you like.”

  9. 59
    prokaryotes says:

    Martin Smith, you compare operational with reanalysis data (different base line, different model) and it turns out the “operational” data is considered in error.

    This page plots the operational NCEP analysis. The model used to compute these values changes through time so it is not as appropriate for anomalies or examinging climate. For most purposes, using the NCEP/NCAR Reanalysis with its consistent model and longer climatology is preferred. That page can be found at The variables RH and air temperature have been removed as the climatology is very bad and the older years do not match the reanalysis very well. We suggest users use the daily composite page or look at the latest FNL plots from the maproom.

  10. 60
  11. 61

    #56–A couple of thoughts.

    1) >”While they both agree upon improved energy efficiency, the other recommendations pull in different directions. Again, not only their temperature ceiling targets and assumptions differ, but the approaches to alleviate the problem differ as well.”

    Well, sure. The ‘approaches’ are ipso facto policy, and as such include differences in values resulting from non-scientific aspects of the scientists’ personalities. It’s unfortunate to the extent that, as you say, it detracts from a “simple, direct, and unified” message–but it’s inherent, IMO, and I believe (yes, that is a matter of ‘faith’ as well as judgment) more of a ‘feature’ than a ‘bug.’ I think that competing visions and ‘approaches’ will ultimately (hopefully not *too* ‘ultimately!) be more likely to provide a reasonably optimized strategy.

    Sure *hope* I’m right about that…

    2) “…given that world population is projected to grow another 30% before supposedly peaking by mid-century, where exactly are we going to find the land to reforest?”

    Well, the eastern US has reforested very considerably during the last century, even as its population has increased just as considerably. There was this thing called ‘urbanization’, which resulted in much denser mean population, even as farming became less profitable on average, and more land-efficient. At the same time, wood became less ubiquitous as a structural material, supplanted by metal, modern composites and plastics.

    That’s not to say that the same will, or even necessarily can, happen everywhere. But it’s certainly a good example that increasing population and increasing forest can coexist in the same region in the ‘real world.’

  12. 62
  13. 63
    SecularAnimist says:

    Ray Ladbury wrote to Tony Weddle: “You confidently claim that economic interests will ensure that the last lump of coal will be burned.”

    Economics no longer favor burning coal for electricity generation. Economic interests are already causing utilities to cancel long-term contracts for coal-fired electricity and to close fossil-fueled power plants.

    Indeed the explosion of distributed rooftop photovoltaics in Germany and Australia — which the grid “sees” as demand reduction — is making the economic future of large, centralized power plants uncertain.

  14. 64
    prokaryotes says:

    In early 2013, David Bromwich, a professor of polar meteorology at Ohio State University, and a team including Antarctic weather station experts from the University of Wisconsin, published a paper in Nature Geoscience showing that the warming in central West Antarctica was unambiguous—and likely about twice the magnitude estimated by Steig et al. The key to Bromwich et al.’s work was the correction for errors in the temperature sensors used in various incarnations of the Byrd Station record (the only long record in this part of Antarctica); miscalibraiton had previously caused the magnitude of the 1990s warmth to be underestimated, and the magnitude of the 2000s to be overestimated. The revised Byrd Station record is in very good agreement with the borehole temperature data from nearby WAIS Divide.

    Reconstructed Byrd temperature record (1957-2013)
    (revised version)

    This webpage provides the near-surface temperature dataset from Byrd Station, in central West Antarctica, used by Bromwich et al. in the 2013 Nature Geoscience article entitled Central West Antarctica among the most rapidly warming regions on Earth. A detailed description of the methods used to fill in the gaps in the temperature record can be found in the Methods section of the paper and in its Supplementary Information.

    The revision mentioned above in the ‘Important Note’ is described in a Corrigendum published in the January 2014 issue of Nature Geoscience. This corrigendum is accompanied by a Supplementary Information describing in detail what we learned from the newly-discovered 6-hourly temperature observations from 1957-1975, how/why we corrected the original monthly mean temperatures from this period, and what impacts these corrections had on the results presented in the original paper. As we underscore at the end of the corrigendum, ” the main finding of the study, namely that the total annual temperature increase at Byrd between 1958 and 2010 still ranks among the fastest warming rates on Earth, remains valid.”

  15. 65
    prokaryotes says:

    Furthermore, there are actually good reasons to expect the overall rate of warming in the Southern Hemisphere to be small. It has been recognized for some time that model simulations result in much greater warming in the high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere than in the South, due to ocean heat uptake by the Southern Ocean. Additionally, there is some observational evidence that atmospheric dynamical changes may explain the recent cooling over parts of Antarctica. .

    Thompson and Solomon (2002) showed that the Southern Annular Mode (a pattern of variability that affects the westerly winds around Antarctica) had been in a more positive phase (stronger winds) in recent years, and that this acts as a barrier, preventing warmer air from reaching the continent. There are also some indications from models that this may have been caused by a combination of stratospheric ozone depletion and stratospheric cooling due to CO2 (Gillett and Thompson, 2002 ; Shindell and Schmidt, 2004). It is important to note, though, that there is evidence from tree-ring based climate reconstructions that the phase of the Southern Annular Mode has changed similarly in the past (Jones and Widman, 2004). We cannot, therefore, ascribe observed recent temperature changes to any one particular cause.

    So what does this all of this imply? First, short term observations should be interpreted with caution: we need more data from the Antarctic, over longer time periods, to say with certainly what the long term trend is. Second, regional change is not the same as global mean change. Third, there are very reasonable explanations for the recent observed cooling, that have been recognized for some time from model simulations. However, the models also suggest that, as we go forward in time, the relative importance of increasing radiative effects, compared with atmosphere and ocean dynamic effects, is likely to increase. In short, we fully expect Antarctica to warm up in the future.

    – See more at:

  16. 66
    prokaryotes says:

    Notice above post is from 2004, one of the first RC post and interesting to read in full. Though even if it were to cool it is supported by observations – in line with what had been suggested.

    Shouldn’t the surface air getting cooler when the upper most ice melts, because of phase transitioning?

    And what is the impact from the ozone hole cooling on the Katabatic wind transport to the surface?

    In the case of the Santa Ana, for example, the wind can (but does not always) become hot by the time it reaches sea level. In the case of Antarctica, by contrast, the wind is still intensely cold.
    The entire near-surface wind field over Antarctica is largely determined by the katabatic winds, particularly outside the summer season, except in coastal regions when storms may impose their own windfield.

    Association of Antarctic polar stratospheric cloud formation on tropospheric cloud systems

    The formation of polar stratospheric clouds (PSCs) is critical to the development of polar ozone loss. However, the mechanisms of PSC formation remain poorly understood, which affects ozone loss models. Here, based on observations by the NASA A-train satellites, we show that 66% ± 16% and 52% ± 17% of PSCs over west and east Antarctica during the period June –October 2006 were associated with deep tropospheric cloud systems, with maximum depths exceeding 7 km. The development of such deep tropospheric cloud systems should cool the lower stratosphere through adiabatic and radiative processes, favoring PSC development. These deep systems also transport lower tropospheric air into the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere. These new findings suggest that Antarctic PSC formation is closely connected to tropospheric meteorology and thus governed by synoptic scale dynamics, local topography, and large-scale circulation. More dedicated studies are still needed to better understand Antarctic PSC formation. Citation: Wang, Z., G. Stephens, T. Deshler, C. Trepte, T. Parish, D. Vane, D. Winker, D. Liu, and L. Adhikari (2008)[1]

    Signatures of the Antarctic ozone hole in Southern Hemisphere surface climate change

    The influence of the ozone hole on the Southern Annular Mode has led to a range of significant summertime surface climate changes not only over Antarctica and the Southern Ocean, but also over New Zealand, Patagonia and southern regions of Australia. Surface climate change as far equatorward as the subtropical Southern Hemisphere may have also been affected by the ozone hole. Over the next few decades, recovery of the ozone hole and increases in greenhouse gases are expected to have significant but opposing effects on the Southern Annular Mode and its attendant climate impacts during summer [2]

    Past, Present and Future Climate of Antarctica

    Anthropogenic warming of near-surface atmosphere in the last 50 years is dominant over the west Antarctic Peninsula. Ozone depletion has led to partly cooling of the stratosphere. The positive polarity of the Southern Hemisphere Annular Mode (SAM) index and its enhancement over the past 50 years have intensified the westerlies over the Southern Ocean, and induced warming of Antarctic Peninsula. Dictated by local ocean-atmosphere processes and remote forcing, the Antarctic sea ice extent is increasing, contrary to climate model predictions for the 21st century, and this increase has strong regional and seasonal signatures. Models incorporating doubling of present day CO2 predict warming of the Ant- arctic sea ice zone, a reduction in sea ice cover, and warming of the Antarctic Plateau, accompanied by increased snowfall. [3]

  17. 67
    prokaryotes says:

    Link to [3] Past, Present and Future Climate of Antarctica (open access)

  18. 68
    Tony Weddle says:

    Actually, Ray @ 50, I didn’t confidently proclaim that the last lump of coal will be burned. I have little doubt that that will not happen. What will happen is that humans will try to burn the last lump of coal but they will likely fall far short of that desire because of the impacts of burning all of the other lumps of coal and because of the dream that resources are infinite and can be harvested without consequence.

    The only way to build a better reality is to recognise what reality is. I used to be a techno-optimist, as you seem to be, but no longer. The reality is that we live on a finite planet. It’s impossible to live the way we do, for ever, regardless of some hoped for new energy infrastructure. We really should start getting used to that idea but it seems we won’t until we absolutely have to. I’m not into wishful thinking any more.

  19. 69
  20. 70
    prokaryotes says:

    Transatlantic freeze that fuels the jet stream
    The series of storms that are battering Britain’s coasts find their origin in a dramatic variation of temperatures in the US

  21. 71
  22. 72
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Tony Weddle, Hope differs from wishful thinking in that it acknowledges the difficulty, even the direness of the present while realizing that the present is not the future.

    The fact is that we cannot anticipate the future. It may indeed be grim, but it will be no less grim for all our prognostication of its grimness. Indeed, by foreclosing on the possibilities of change, we would likely make it even more grim. We face many challenges on the way to sustainability. The climate is one of the first to confront us. I hope we are made of tougher stuff than to collapse at the first difficulty.

  23. 73
    Edward Greisch says:

    48 prokaryotes
    click on “learn for free”

    “Recommended Background
    No background is needed – all are welcome!” That is a possible bad sign. I hope it does require some arithmetic, at least.

  24. 74
    prokaryotes says:

    Polar Vortex coverage

    Yet, none of the articles seem to make the climate connection.

  25. 75
    ozajh says:

    Kevin McKinney @ 52,

    I don’t want to take issue with the general thrust of your argument, but with respect to the specific case of personal motor vehicles doesn’t the ongoing energy cost dwarf the initial investment? A fossil-fuel car or light truck used “normally” will consume (to a first order approximation) it’s own weight in fuel every 20,000 Kilometres (12,500 miles). For a lot of people that’s one year’s motoring.

  26. 76
    Edward Greisch says:

    52 Kevin McKinney: I wrote a book about that. Most people follow their instinct and their instinct works for horses, but is exactly perfectly wrong for cars. If you want cars to last longer, first you have to get everybody numerate. That is the hard part. Then you have to tell them:
    MTBO is proportional to (engine weight/horsepower)cubed

    MTBO = mean time between overhauls

    And you have to make the lawyers be reasonable.

    54 Hank Roberts: What do you mean by “efficiency?” Turns out to have lots of meanings.

    57 Hank Roberts: Make lawn mowing illegal to grow more trees.

  27. 77
  28. 78
    Hank Roberts says:

    apropos earlier discussion, and spurred by one of Gavin’s tweets on ozone layer history, here’s a bit from the AIP’s oral history project. I plead fair use, this is a recommendation and pointer to the source:
    Interview with Dr. Adrian Tuck

    … one of the NASA modelists, a guy called Bill Gross who worked at NASA aviation, he stood up and said, “I think you’re being far too optimistic about how far we can qualify the uncertainties. If you compare different models, what you get is a take on the random errors of your model, you don’t get the systematic error and it’s the systematic error that’s important.” This was said in front of the NASA aviation people, not the research people, or as well as the research people.

    You could say this in front of the research people and they couldn’t possibly disagree with it, but the aviation people, it came as news as them. They’re basically engineers. They didn’t like hearing that the uncertainties couldn’t be quantified, despite the fact that they had spent millions of bucks trying to quantify. And that’s an example.

    That gets written large. You get an orthodoxy built up that’s, actually I think, antithetical to the whole way science works. When things get into the political arena, you can see things even more clearly.

    Scientists are trained to survey all the evidence and then come up with a hypothesis that is maximally simple, that’s consistent with all the evidence. If your previous working hypothesis, or even theory, can’t accommodate all the facts then you have to abandon it. Science is provisional.

    Most politicians are trained as lawyers, and in any case they operate the same way. They look at the evidence and they pick the bits that support a preconceived line of argument. That is a really fundamental clash. Scientists are trained to ask questions to which they don’t know the answers. Lawyers are trained to ask questions to which they already know the answers. It’s really a fundamental difference….

    (extra line breaks added for online readability–hr)

  29. 79
  30. 80
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    Subsidies etc again, yesterday I lacked some links. Just ‘oogle this:
    global subsidies for fossil fuels
    Is it $600 billion per year, or over trillion? But note the article in Forbes:
    Three Reasons Why Global Fossil-Fuel Subsidies Will Not Last A Generation.

    Here is a 2009 article on US subsidies.

  31. 81

    #75–Well, keeping it simple, the textbook energy density of gasoline is 45 MJ per kilogram. So if we take that auto as massing about 2,000 kg, then a year’s motoring ought to account for 90 GJ. Which would be a third of the embodied energy, so you might guesstimate that over a typical automotive lifetime, embodied energy would be something like a quarter of the energy content of the gas burnt. I wouldn’t call that ‘dwarfing.’

    But I’m not sure what it has to do with the argument in any case: unless the mileage is improving really drastically, you’re still going to be ahead significantly just by prolonging vehicle life, aren’t you? (I’m too tired to run more numbers just now.) Similarly for many other sorts of products, too, I suspect.

  32. 82
    patrick says:

    @76 What happens when the traction motor is electric? Did somebody say physics is nature’s economics?

  33. 83
    Martin Smith says:

    prokaryotes: “you compare operational with reanalysis data (different base line, different model) and it turns out the “operational” data is considered in error.”

    Thanks! I was ignorant of that.

    PLEASE! The captcha strings are nearly impossible to read. I have now failed twice to get my message accepted, and I have spent 10 minutes trying to find a captcha I can read.

  34. 84
    DIOGENES says:

    Tony Weddle #68,

    “The only way to build a better reality is to recognise what reality is. I used to be a techno-optimist, as you seem to be, but no longer. The reality is that we live on a finite planet. It’s impossible to live the way we do, for ever, regardless of some hoped for new energy infrastructure. We really should start getting used to that idea but it seems we won’t until we absolutely have to. I’m not into wishful thinking any more.”

    Outstanding observation, but you are in a distinct minority here. Hope, wishful thinking, and spin have become the order of the day.

  35. 85
    Eric Swanson says:

    Re: prokaryotes, #70, #79 and other comments about polar jet steam. Since it’s Winter and the middle of January is historically the coldest period of the year, we are seeing lots of news stories about how cold it is. Many of those reports focus on wind chill values, which aren’t actual low temperatures but a calculation of the effect of the cold on exposed skin. Here in Western NC, we had a bit of snow and yesterday’s low temperature was 7o F, but this morning, we are on the warm side of the next front and the 10 AM temperature was at 48o.

    The jet stream is part of the tropic to pole circulation loop and isn’t a cause but a result of the flow of energy transferred from the tropics to the polar regions. We in the US are experiencing the cold side of the flow as large masses of air move toward the south over the continental area. This year, the poleward flow appears to be strong over the Eastern North Pacific Ocean, which is warmer than usual.

    I suggest that it’s that warm pool which is the main element of that process and should be seen as the cause of the current weather experienced in the US last week and will continue into next week as well. (Note that these satellite images change continually, so what one sees tomorrow is likely to be different from that this AM).

    A warmer world may lead to colder temperatures in some locations during some months of the year. The US land area is only a small fraction of the surface area of the Earth, of which about 72 percent is oceans…

  36. 86
    Ray Ladbury says:

    It takes a special type of arrogance and stupidity to assert that the current reality is the only possible one in the future. Any fool can look at our current reality and see we are in trouble.

    However, the one thing we can say with certainty is that the future will be different from the present. The choice we face is whether we make that future reality better or worse than our present reality. If you lack the vision to make it better then step aside and let those that do possess such vision take the lead.

  37. 87
    Edward Greisch says:

    81 Kevin McKinney: You can get a half MILLION mile warranty on a big [real] truck engine. There was a Mack truck locally that went past the 1.7 Million mile mark without an overhaul. Locomotives go tens of millions of miles.

    So don’t even mention “prolonging vehicle life” unless you mean “multiply the miles by ten.”

    Remember, it is a cubic equation.

  38. 88
    DIOGENES says:

    Ray Ladbury #86,

    Nowhere did I assert “that the current reality is the only possible one in the future”. Many realities are obviously possible, albeit with far different levels of probability. How we get to the ones desired with any finite probability is the central issue.

    “If you lack the vision to make it better then step aside and let those that do possess such vision take the lead.”

    I’m more than willing to. If you buy into Hansen’s Holocene-level temperature ceilings of about 1.1 C, as stated in his recent Plos One paper, tell me how you would get there from today’s ~0.8 C? Especially without the levels of Reforestation he assumes. Hansen’s Plos One paper emphasizes “contributions are surely required from energy efficiency, renewable energies, and nuclear power, with the mix depending on local preferences.” Anderson states flatly that we can’t get to even 2 C from the supply side.

  39. 89
    Kevin O'Neill says:

    #86 “If you lack the vision to make it better then step aside and let those that do possess such vision take the lead.”

    Such a meaningless platitude. Rush Limbaugh and Paul Ryan have a vision on how to make the future better – are you suggesting we cede the future to them? Ditto just about every other nutter that comes to mind. Having a vision is great. Having one that’s realistic and accompanied by a plan that can be executed is even better. Part of that is recognizing the problems to be faced and their magnitude.

  40. 90
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    About the coming annual updates:
    Could you update the fiddlesticks graph of linear trends for eight year periods? And then show it of thirty year periods? I think that would be helpful.

    Later, it would be good I think to have a post on ENSO as a physical phenomenon. A guest post would be fine. And another for overall water vapor transport in a warming world. I don’t want much do I? ;)

  41. 91

    #87, with respect, I’m not considering Mack trucks or locomotives, I’m considering light autos and trucks.

    I’m not so tired this afternoon, so let’s consider some numbers. Eyeballing a chart from, it seems as if combined car/truck mileage in the US went from 24 mpg to 28 mpg between 2005 and 2010, a 17% improvement. Let’s consider two scenarios: in the first, you buy an ‘average’ 2005 vehicle and keep it to 2015. In the second, you buy the same vehicle, but replace it in 2010, again with an ‘average’ vehicle.

    Scenario 1

    12,000 miles driven divided by 24 mpg gives us 500 gallons of gas yearly, and thus 5000 gallons of gas burnt over the 10-year lifetime of the vehicle. To that, one must add the embodied energy in the vehicle, which from the BOBOTE (‘back of the back of the envelope’) calculation made above in #81, would be equivalent to 2.5 x 500, which is obviously 1,250 GGE ‘gallons of gas equivalent.’

    So, a lifetime GGE of 6,250.

    Scenario 2:

    The 2005 gives you 2500 gallons burnt and 1250 embodied, for 3750. Then, the 2010 gives you 5 x 429 gallons burnt, for 2,145, plus 2.5 x 429 GGE, for a total GGE of 3,218. The two together have given you a total of 6,895 GGE over the 10 year timeframe.

    The latter is about 10% greater than the former, so score one for ‘prolonging vehicle life.’

    Caveats and questions

    Obviously, you can slice and dice this a lot of ways, and there are judgments to be made. For instance, if you sold your vehicle in 2010, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it went off the road. So should the embodied energy be ‘charged,’ or not? You might consider that bringing a more efficient vehicle into the fleet ought to increase the mean mpg, and you are doing a good thing.

    On the other hand, if you keep the old vehicle, are you helping to slow the growth of the aggregate fleet, and so avoiding pollution? If you don’t come, will they keep on building it?

    …but what I really wanted to say…

    In the big picture, though, I don’t want to get hung up on the automotive case. The initial comment I made was to the effect that the ‘disposable society’ is by definition energy-intensive. So if we stop being so ‘disposable oriented’, might that not be one way to save a whole lot of energy (and thus emissions?)

    The conversation I’d really like to invite is, what might it take to stop incentivizing disposable artifacts of all sorts? What might that mean for the economy? For corporations? For different social classes? Different nations?

    Any thoughts?

  42. 92
    pete best says:

    Kevin Anderson speaks of annex 1 and none annex 1 countries stating that China (the main globalisation player in the east presently) wont peak before 2025, india in 2040 and africa 2060 – way beyond our current ecconomic assessments by the climate planners/strategists/etc which means that mitigation for 2C is nigh on impossible now unless our cuts are steep which supply side economics can supply in time, therefore demand side must be used until supply side can work in 10-30 years time. Demand side means us top 5% of the worlds wealthiest buying technologies to cut our demand by buying more energy efficient appliances, devices and transport methods.

    4C is far more likely now

  43. 93
    DIOGENES says:

    Kevin #89,

    You are right on target! I especially like your statement “Having a vision is great. Having one that’s realistic and accompanied by a plan that can be executed is even better. Part of that is recognizing the problems to be faced and their magnitude.” One starting point is with the numbers from recognized experts and their proposed approaches.

    Hansen is about as credible as any climate scientist around. His Holocene-level ceiling target of ~1.1 C makes sense, and is what Anderson concedes makes sense in a number of papers. So, I’m comfortable picking that temperature ceiling as a starting point.

    Anderson seems to have done as much credible work as anyone in relating temperature targets to potential solutions. He states flatly that we can’t get to a 2 C ceiling through the supply side because of time lags, and offers improved energy efficiency and strong demand reduction as potential approaches to achieve the 2 C ceiling. He does not address the 1.1 C ceiling that Hansen proposes, and one can infer he believes it is unattainable.

    Hansen suggests a combination of reforestation, improved energy efficiency, renewables, and nuclear. I don’t remember seeing Anderson including reforestation in any of his papers; I think not. I’m frankly not able to discern a compatible solution when combining the targets and recommendations of these two experts. Further, if a large part of the discrepancy is due to the reforestation assumption, I have no idea how good or bad or realistic an assumption that is. One could argue that the higher reforestation assumption is one component of an encompassing vision. Maybe, and if it’s realistic, all the better. But, if a vision is composed of some major unrealistic assumptions, I don’t think that will move the ball forward.

  44. 94
    Mal Adapted says:


    The choice we face is whether we make that future reality better or worse than our present reality. If you lack the vision to make it better then step aside and let those that do possess such vision take the lead.

    Frankly, Ray, this doesn’t sound like you, if your past contributions on RC are a guide. You’ve forthrightly (and correctly IMO) called out wishful thinking yourself, in numerous discussions. Do you really believe it’s “vision” that drives history? And who is this “we” you speak of, the authors and commenters on RC? Can we few overcome the powerful forces that stand between us and a better future reality, even assuming we all have the same vision? Who would you trust to take the lead?

    Assuredly, it’s arrogant and stupid to assert that the current reality is the only possible future; it’s equally arrogant and stupid to think that your vision of a “better” future is the one that will prevail. One can just as easily imagine it will be Al Qaeda’s!

    I don’t begrudge anyone hope, and I haven’t yet succumbed to utter despair myself. I sure don’t have a clear vision of how to get from the current reality to a better one, for anything but trivial values of better. What’s yours, and why do you think it’s more likely to succeed than Dick Cheney’s?

  45. 95
    Mal Adapted says:

    In the time I took to compose my response to Ray, I see that several others have posted in the same vein. I hope he doesn’t feel he’s being dog-piled, as he has contributed a great deal to RC, and I hope he will continue to.

  46. 96
    wili says:

    Ray at #86 wrote: “The choice we face is whether we make that future reality better or worse than our present reality. If you lack the vision to make it better then step aside and let those that do possess such vision take the lead.”

    Anderson thinks it is nearly impossible to stay below 2 degrees C at this point. Hansen’s case for staying within 1.1 degree require massive projects that have not been started and that we can’t be sure will work.

    We are now at .8 and already seeing dramatic destructive effects.

    So Ray, do you really thing a “better future” is realistically in the cards at this point?

  47. 97
    prokaryotes says:

    Eric Swanson: The jet stream is part of the tropic to pole circulation loop and isn’t a cause but a result of the flow of energy transferred from the tropics to the polar regions.

    And is affected by the polar vortex, which in turn is affected by evapotranspiration patterns.

    Qiuhong Tang and Xuejun Zhang, of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Jennifer Francis, of Rutgers, decided to look for patterns of atmospheric change correlated with the loss of Arctic summer sea ice and the decline of early summer snow cover. Using reanalyses, which generate global datasets based on all the available measurements, they examined how the lower, middle, and upper troposphere responded to variations in sea ice and snow cover from 1979 (the start of the satellite era) to 2012.

    They found modest correlations with the behavior of high-level winds and the differences in atmospheric pressure that drive them, more so for sea ice than snow cover. Over most regions, the average position of the jet stream moved a little northward when summer sea ice was smaller, while the opposite was true for the western edges of continents. The high-level, west-to-east winds of the jet stream also slowed a bit.

    Those two factors are consistent with the hypothesized link between sea ice and weather extremes. When the jet stream slows, it gets wigglier, with ponderous meanders extending north and south. Because the temperature difference across the jet stream is so large, these slow-moving excursions can lead to temperature extremes. The early loss of snow cover can exacerbate this, as it means soils can dry out earlier in the summer. Not only does that make a region susceptible to drought, but low soil moisture allows temperatures to rise higher.

    Another recent paper published in Environmental Research Letters focused on Northern Europe, using different techniques. There, an unusual run of six wet summers left people wondering if Arctic sea ice loss could have contributed.

    Looking through the data, University of Exeter researcher James Screen saw that wet conditions are associated with the jet stream coming south from its average position. Conversely, it’s drier when it stays far to the north. Screen ran two climate model simulations: one in which Arctic sea ice was present at its 1979 extent and one at its diminished 2009 extent. Each simulation was repeated for a century’s worth of summers to calculate the average position of the jet stream over Europe.

    Consistent with the study by Tang, Zhang, and Francis, the lower sea ice extent in the model was associated with the jet stream moving a little southward over Europe as part of its amplified “wiggliness.” That brought more precipitation to Northern Europe in the model simulations.

    However, Screen emphasizes that these things vary quite a lot from year to year on their own, and the simulated sea ice impact was only a slight shift. “This means that whilst low sea ice coverage increases the risk of wet summers, other factors can easily negate this influence and lead to dry summers during depleted ice conditions or wet summers during extensive ice conditions,” he writes. URL

  48. 98
    Chuck Hughes says:

    Hutchings said none of the closures has anything to do with saving money, due to the small cost of maintaining the collections. He, like many scientists, concludes that Harper’s political convictions are driving the unprecedented consolidation.

    “It must be about ideology. Nothing else fits,” said Hutchings. “What that ideology is, is not clear.”

    Hutchings saw the library closures fitting a larger pattern of “fear and insecurity” within the Harper government, “about how to deal with science and knowledge.”

    “That pattern includes the gutting of the Fisheries Act, the muzzling of scientists, the abandonment of climate change research and the dismantling of countless research programs, including the world famous Experimental Lakes Area. All these examples indicate that the Harper government strongly regards environmental science as a threat to unfettered resource exploitation.

    “There is a group of people who don’t know how to deal with science and evidence. They see it as a problem and the best way to deal with it is to cut it off at the knees and make it ineffective,” explained Hutchings.”

  49. 99
    Eric Swanson says:

    Re: prokaryotes, #97: Not to start a flame war, but your reply references sea-ice reduction and weather patterns during Summer, not Winter. The present Arctic sea-ice extent is within the historical range and has been so since late November. To get an idea of the present situation in the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes regions, take a look at these plots from Accuweather:

    Note that there are data for only the first 4 days of January, the rest of the month is their projection. One can also step back to earlier months, if desired. For some cities, the plots don’t include the record temperatures.

  50. 100
    Kevin O'Neill says:

    A short synopsis of current positions on AGW:

    A) BAU. CO2 doesn’t affect climate.
    B) More carbon! Avert the coming ice-age.
    C) BAU. A little warming is good for us(*1),
    D) We still have time to reduce CO2 emissions to achieve no more than x degrees warming.
    E) We must immediately stop virtually all CO2 emissions or life as we know it will be drastically changed.
    F) Resistance is futile. Join the hordes of Doomsday Preppers.

    Even if we could get the deniers to suddenly recognize the validity of the science, all we’d be taking off the table is scenario A. Note, I’m not saying that positions B or C are valid in my POV – just that they are accepting of the science.

    I start from the assumption that I am first a citizen of the world, rather than a member of a nation state. This is probably a minority view in most countries. Nationalism runs strong. It means that all visions have to take this into account and good luck changing it.

    Given that we have not reached zero population growth despite decades of awareness, and that there is a strong correlation between economic growth and energy usage per capita, and likewise between energy usage and CO2 emissions, the simple accounting leads us to an almost inevitable conclusion: we either end population growth or carbon intensity (or some combination of the two). What rarely gets said is the corollary: GDP per capita is likely to go down as a result.

    This is a hard sell in the developed west – especially in the USA. It’s impossible (and understandably so) in countries where people are already struggling for bare subsistence.

    The answer in some quarters is that we will develop the technology to make this a moot point. Great. How do we incorporate wishes and prayers into our plan for the future? A transformative technology would be a godsend, but simply stating it will occur is no better than ignoring the problem per positions A and B above.

    The radical ignorance of the most privileged citizens on this planet needs to be changed/ The climate science deniers are only a subset of this larger group. Even many of those who accept the science do little or nothing to ameliorate the situation. Inconvenience, habit, and procrastination are probably larger impediments to action than lack of scientific understanding. Any workable vision of a better future must figure out how to overcome these obstacles.