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Unforced variations: June 2014

Filed under: — group @ 1 June 2014

June is the month when the Arctic Sea Ice outlook gets going, when the EPA releases its rules on power plant CO2 emissions, and when, hopefully, commenters can get back to actually having constructive and respectful conversations about climate science (and not nuclear energy, impending apocalypsi (pl) or how terrible everyone else is). Thanks.

488 Responses to “Unforced variations: June 2014”

  1. 151
    oaw says:

    We talk-talk-talk temperature change. What we need is Corn-Wheat-Bean production change estimates. From that we can think about 10 billion.

    Can we have corn and 2 degrees? Wheat and 4 degrees? Those are crucial and very difficult questiona!!

  2. 152
    David B. Benson says:


  3. 153
    wili says:

    About 10 cubic kilometers of ice seem to have just fallen off of Jakobshavn. This is a very major calving event! Reported on here:

    and discussed here:,154.200.html

  4. 154
    Chris Korda says:

    The seemingly obligatory monthly wade through energy use and sources “has aroused me from my dogmatic slumber” to contribute my two cents, which is merely that it’s all about EROI, and in support of which I enclose excerpts from the summary of the third chapter of Roger Boyd’s “Energy & The Financial System”.

    “Total world energy demand in 2010 was about 523 quadrillion (that’s 523 thousand billion) British Thermal Units (BTU) … In the past century this energy demand has grown by a factor of ten. Global energy consumption is estimated to keep growing at about 1.6% for the next 20 years, resulting in a 36% growth during that period. Nearly all of the growth is assumed to be in the low and medium income economies, such as China, India and Brazil.

    “Fossil fuels currently provide about 87% of current energy supplies, dwarfing the 2% provided by the new renewables such as wind, solar, and bio-fuel. Even with relatively optimistic assumptions about the growth of such renewables, it’s obvious that they will not be able to meet even the forecast increase in energy demand, let alone replace current fossil fuel energy sources. Hydro and nuclear will be able to provide some additions, but even with their contribution, fossil fuel use will need to increase to meet the forecast demand. … As long as economic growth continues, which historically requires increases in energy use, renewable and nuclear energy will not realistically displace fossil fuel use.

    “… Exacerbating the global energy problem is the lower net energy levels of both the new fossil fuel energy sources and most of the renewables. Thus, increases in gross output may conceal decreases in the net energy available to society as more energy is required both to find and exploit any new – and usually less energy dense – sources.

    “… With the need to combat climate change the future may also be constrained by limitations on the amount of fossil fuel energy that can be safely used, as well as the amount of fossil fuel available. [Epic understatement!] Instead a long and complex journey to a simpler way of living may be what stands before Earth’s population, especially in rich industrialised countries. With the need to build out a whole new energy infrastructure in the face of falling societal levels of net energy, much of the current consumer economy may have to be curtailed to free up the required energy resources.”

    [For the footnotes, see the original article.]

  5. 155
    wili says:

    Robertscribbler’s blog should be added to your “Other Options” side bar, as should Neven’s Arctic Sea Ice _Forums_ (not just the blog; most of the really dynamic discussion is now going on at the forums).

  6. 156
    wili says:

    Perhaps others have long known this, but it was a new discovery for me–Kevin Anderson has a blog!

    Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a comment function.

  7. 157

    #141–Except that in 2013, according to REN-21, 10% of final energy consumption was ‘modern’ renewables, not 2%.

    (See 2014 status report executive summary, page 12.)

    I know, it’s hard to keep up.

  8. 158

    Indeed, congratulations to Gavin!

  9. 159
    Chris Dudley says:


    You claim that alarm bells have been going off for decades. But it is really only the Greens who have urged a precautionary approach and probably wholeheartedly for less than two decades. It is only in the last few years that we have realized that the threshold had been cross and climate change is now dangerous. There was some early attribution work on the heatwave in Europe, but we were unaware of the kind of recurrence interval we might expect. Most of the world accepted a 2 C limit as the threshold until recently. Diplomacy is still grinding along on that path. An RCP marginally consistent with the Hansen Target paper has only shown up in the most recent IPCC work. If fact, the directions have been to emit more, just get the industrialized countries on track to cut emissions. Let everyone else do sloppy development. But things are different now. People are dying and there is no room for slop. Those who are increasing emission are trying to kill people. Those who are cutting emissions are trying to save people.

    So, you are mistaken: every increment of emissions moves us away from the threshold because it is behind us. That is what makes those who are increasing emissions culpable.

  10. 160
    Marco says:

    Congrats to Gavin. I only hope it does not reduce his ability to contribute on Real Climate

  11. 161
    Chris Dudley says:

    Chris (#141),

    Nothing can beat solar for EROEI. Your most luscious early oil gusher can’t hold a candle to it. The reason is that silicon solar cells degrade owing to cosmic ray hits which create crystal defects that trap electron, reducing efficiency. However, it takes little energy to heal those defects. So, over time, the initial embodied energy gets spread out and the limit is the energy cost of re-annealing. Over a few centuries, EROEI will exceed 100.

    You can tell Boyd is just jawboning when he groups Brazil with China and India. You should explore this subject more deeply. You are being led astray.

  12. 162
    john byatt says:

    Congratulations Gavin,too busy for here, any replacement in mind?

  13. 163
    Edward Greisch says:

    125 caerbannog: How are you going to do That?

    124 SecularAnimist: I am trying to do it by encouraging people to finish the math problem so that they can see what the real problems are. Then that enthusiasm can be directed toward the real problems.

  14. 164
    DIOGENES says:

    Chris Korda #141,

    Your reference to Roger Boyd’s article is excellent! It complements my reference to his previous article Endless Layers of Delusion, which I summarized in #47. His well-conceived statements on the capabilities of solar energy deserve emphasis, and they counter the ‘Endless Layers of Delusion’ we see posted on some threads:

    “The many congratulatory announcements of growth in installed wind and solar capacity MISREPRESENT THE TRUE SITUATION. Even using the best locations possible, the utilization of that capacity is about 40% for wind, 20% for solar photovoltaic (PV), and 60% for concentrated solar (CSP). There are also the SPECIOUS CONGRATULATORY STATEMENTS about wind and solar providing a high percentage of a country’s electricity needs on a specific day, or even confusing electricity supply for the overall energy supply. Of course, there is no mention of the non-windy, overcast days where they may be providing next to nothing and the fossil fuel generating plants are being fully utilized. In the absence of extremely cheap and scalable storage systems, redundant backup systems are needed, as with Germany, which assumes that it will be burning coal to produce electricity for decades to come”…..NEARLY ALL THE INCREASE IN RENEWABLE POWER GENERATION IS USED UP BY THE GROWTH IN DEMAND AND THEREFORE THERE IS VERY LITTLE ACTUAL REDUCTION IN FOSSIL-FUEL USAGE.”

  15. 165
    DIOGENES says:

    Came across some extremely illuminating articles this morning (appended), all authored by Cory Morningstar. They address the history of how the 2 C target came into being, and why it would lead to disaster. They stress the urgency of doing what is necessary to attain not the vaunted 350ppm, but rather 300ppm.

    Where have we heard that before?

  16. 166
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    Just a question about a query on the Thwaites glacier in the West Antarctic ice shelf. It is now said that a sizable proportion of the melt and subsequent collapse is caused by geo-thermic sources. Very little additional info is given about the nature of that geo-thermic source. How long has it been active? Could it be caused or triggered by the rapid tectonic rebound happening throughout Antarctica? Is the heat given off increasing? etc. Or do we just not have enough data at this present time? Logic seems to dictate, at least to me that if billions of tonnes of ice is being removed from above the bedrock then weaknesses in the crust will begin to manifest more frequently or move as the mantle below does. How much do we know yet about the fate of the Thwaites glacier or similar glaciers that may succumb to geo-thermic forcing?

  17. 167
    Pete Helseth says:

    Congrats, Gavin!

  18. 168
    gavin says:

    Thanks to everyone for their good wishes in my new post. Things may be a little different going forward, but I will try to maintain my public outreach (including here) as well as my other roles. – gavin

  19. 169
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by Chris Dudley — 10 Jun 2014 @ 1:02 AM, ~#154

    You said- “So, you are mistaken: every increment of emissions moves us away from the threshold because it is behind us. That is what makes those who are increasing emissions culpable.”

    Let me restate this so that it is accurate- So, any emission moves us away from the threshold because CO2 is cumulative. That is what makes those who are emitting culpable and when calculated on a per person basis it is the US that is among the most culpable.

    Do you disagree? Steve

  20. 170
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by DIOGENES — 10 Jun 2014 @ 4:37 AM, ~#164

    Regarding your comment about Germany, here is a puzzle for you. If the world adopted your target of no use of fossil carbon without any compensating development of clean energy, wouldn’t it be those nations, such as Germany, that have already put in place nonpolluting energy infrastructure that will suffer the least?


  21. 171
    Tokodave says:

    Let me add my congrats to everyone else’s. Best of luck Gavin!

  22. 172
    Hank Roberts says:

    “geo-thermic forcing”

    that’s popping up at Watts’s blog yesterday, attributed to PNAS
    Physical Sciences – Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences

    Dustin M. Schroeder, Donald D. Blankenship, Duncan A. Young, and Enrica Quartini

    Evidence for elevated and spatially variable geothermal flux beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet PNAS 2014 ; published ahead of print June 9, 2014, doi:10.1073/pnas.1405184111

    Earlier related work:
    July 23, 2013, vol. 110 no. 30
    12225–12228, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1302828110
    Evidence for a water system transition beneath Thwaites Glacier, West Antarctica
    Dustin M. Schroeder, Donald D. Blankenship, and Duncan A. Young

    substantial water volumes are ponding in a system of distributed canals upstream of a bedrock ridge that is breached and bordered by a system of concentrated channels. The transition between these systems occurs with increasing surface slope, melt-water flux, and basal shear stress. This indicates a feedback between the subglacial water system and overlying ice dynamics, which raises the possibility that subglacial water could trigger or facilitate a grounding-line retreat in Thwaites Glacier capable of spreading into the interior of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

    Edited* by Richard B. Alley, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, and approved June 3, 2013 (received for review February 13, 2013)

  23. 173
    Meow says:


    So, you are mistaken: every increment of emissions moves us away from the threshold because it is behind us.

    Perhaps I need to recharge my thinking cap, but I cannot find any way in which this idea represents reality. Or perhaps you have a new hypothesis, in which warming is not proportional to cumulative emissions? If so, explicitly state the hypothesis, and show us how it’s more predictive than the cumulative-emissions hypothesis.

    That is what makes those who are increasing emissions culpable.

    No, increasing emissions is what makes those increasing emissions culpable. And everyone is increasing emissions.

  24. 174
    wili says:

    I’d like to add my voice to the chorus of congratulations to Gavin on his new post.

    I would also like to second Lawrence Coleman’s request at #166 (10 Jun 2014 @ 8:42 AM) for illumination, if any can be found, on the part that geothermal heat is playing in the Thwaites melt. I have already seen denialists jump all over this, and it would be nice to be able to cite some data that puts it in context.

  25. 175
    Meow says:


    Just a question about a query on the Thwaites glacier in the West Antarctic ice shelf. It is now said that a sizable proportion of the melt and subsequent collapse is caused by geo-thermic sources….

    “It is now said” by whom?

  26. 176
    Hank Roberts says:

    Schroeder et al. says:

    the Thwaites Glacier catchment has a minimum average
    geothermal flux of ∼114±10 mW/m2 with areas of high flux exceeding 200 mW/m2

    How does that compare to the rest of the planet?
    My usual five minutes of intensive research aka ‘oogled it:

    Rather old, but for comparison:

    . The mean heat flows of continents and oceans are 65 and 101 mW m−2, respectively

    Heat flow from the Earth’s interior: Analysis of the global data set
    DOI: 10.1029/93RG01249
    Reviews of Geophysics
    Volume 31, Issue 3, pages 267–280, August 1993

    So all of the Thwaites Glacier catchment basin ground temperature is (slightly) above that global average, but they’re describing warm rock and mud, not erupting open mouthed volcanos under the ice.

    Be patient, someone who actually knows something may be enticed to comment.
    Remember, “Climate science from climate scientists” is the goal here. Hope they’re reading and care to comment.

  27. 177
    Hank Roberts says:

    P.S. just to make it explicit:

    “mW m-2″ or “mW/m2″ refers to milliwatts per square meter.

    A milliwatt is to a watt as a millimeter is to a meter.

    So this heat under the ice matters — but it’s not warm like sunshine.

  28. 178
    Chris Dudley says:

    Steve (#169),

    I do disagree. First, lets use the word contributing rather than culpable to deal with the scientific situation. Nations that are cutting emissions are contributing to stabilizing the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Those that cease emissions are contributing to reducing the concentration. Those that are increasing emissions are contributing to raising the concentration. With the exception of the last, you need others to go along with you to get what you want, but your actions are the ones needed to stabilize or reduce the concentration.

    Now for the word culpable, which is a moral judgement. If you are cutting emissions, then you are doing what is needed to make the climate safe again. If you are increasing emissions then you are, with malice, trying to kill more people.

  29. 179
    Meow says:


    that’s popping up at Watts’s blog yesterday, attributed to PNAS
    Physical Sciences – Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences

    Dustin M. Schroeder, Donald D. Blankenship, Duncan A. Young, and Enrica Quartini

    Thank you for the cite. The paper’s upshot is:

    We estimate a minimum average geothermal flux value of about 114 mW/m^2 with a notional uncertainty of about 10 mW/m^2 for the Thwaites Glacier catchment with areas exceeding 200 mW/m^2 (Fig. 3). These values are likely underestimates due to the low uni-form geothermal flux value used in the ice sheet model (9) and the compensating effect of enhanced vertical advection of cold shallow ice in high-melt areas….

    Alright, let’s do some basic physics. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, geothermal flux of 200 mW/m^2 over the entire Thwaites catchment, and also that all of that heat goes into melting the overlying ice (as opposed to, say, heating it to the melting point). The Thwaites catchment has an area of ~189,000 km^2. Water ice has a heat of fusion of 333.55 kJ/kg. A 200 mW (=0.2 J/s) flux is 6.3 MJ/yr (0.2*3600*24*365). That flux will, thus, melt 18.9 kg of ice/yr. Since the flux is distributed over a m^2, the melt rate will be 18.9 kg/m^2/yr, or 3.6 Gt/yr for the entire catchment.

    The actual melt rate for the Thwaites, exclusive of calving, is ~70 Gt/yr (Depoorter et al, doi:10.1038/nature12567, , at Fig. 1).

    So, even assuming a geothermal flux almost 2x that in Schroeder, and that all of it melts ice, geothermal flux contributes, at most, 3.6/70=5.1% of Thwaites’s meltwater, and probably much less.

  30. 180
    Chris Dudley says:


    “Perhaps I need to recharge my thinking cap”

    Well, consider the number line. If your threshold is 2 and you are at 3, adding 1 moves you away from 2.

  31. 181
    Hank Roberts says:

    Aside — that ‘billion’/'million’ error at The Conversation was corrected over there a few days after Wally asked about it here back in May

  32. 182
    Thomas says:

    Heat flux in Antarctica.
    I only saw a few paragraphs, but they seemed clear enough. The reported geothermal flux was two to three times the “normal” value. IIRC geothermal heat is roughly 1.e-4 of the power density of solar radiation, i.e. the amount of melting per year would be pretty small. It would be a crucially different boundary condition for an glacier/ice-sheet model however, which starts with ice thats been there for thousands of years. In some cases a dry glacier (ice below freezing down to the bed), might become a temperate glacier, i.e. the base is at the freezing point. The biggest impacts would be reduced resistance to flow both basal and body deformation within the glacier.

    Presumably this level of flux would be stable for thousands of years. Not something that would suddenly come into play, baring eruptive activity.

  33. 183
  34. 184
    Chris Dudley says:

    Jim (@157),

    How sad that you could so completely misread Krugman. He is a pretty clear writer. As pointed out there, the tariffs are legal for us to impose. It would not be legal for China to retaliate.

    So, you’ve really missed the news I guess. It was supposed to be a topic for this month. I’ll try to clue you in. THE US IS REGULATING CARBON EMISSIONS. There is absolutely no way for China to act faster. We’re already doing it. If they get on board, the tariff ends. But, since we are doing the right thing, they still can’t retaliate.

    And, you seem to be clueless of the US per capita emissions target. Take a guess. Come on, you know you can’t stop yourself. No? OK, times up.

    It’s well below China’s current per capita emissions. They have no excuse there at all.

    Try, try, try to keep up.

  35. 185
    flxible says:

    Mr Dudley ignores the atmospheric lifetime of CO2 to dictate who bears responsibility for current and future CO2 levels, cumulative emissions do matter, and the US is by far the responsible party, and from all I’ve found, the rate is still increasing in the US, as elsewhere – might be your personal energy use whining about China. ;) You might also note that tariffs would have to be imposed on the Qatar, Saudi Arabian, Australian, and Canadian fossil fuel exports, which might have much better effect on reducing emissions … in the US.

  36. 186
    barry says:

    Congratulations, Gavin Schmidt.

  37. 187
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by Chris Dudley — 10 Jun 2014 @ 3:30 PM, ~!#178

    Again you are incorrect. You said “Those that are increasing emissions are contributing to raising the concentration.” NO! Any release of fossil based CO2 contributes to the rising concentration because the carbon cycle will not remove it for many hundreds of years. It is the amount of CO2 that is released that is critical, and the most equitable and honest way to count this is amount per capita.


  38. 188
    wili says:

    Thanks, all for great insights on the geothermal melting under WAIS stuff.

    Thomas at #182 (10 Jun 2014 @ 8:15 PM): That to me is the main question: Has this level of geothermal heating been constant for millennia, or is this something new, possibly triggered by offloading of ice mass from other GW-related forcings?

  39. 189
    James@CAN says:

    If the planet is trending toward increased warming, are scientists currently mapping the progression of the warming by region?
    Are there identified hot spots on the planet that are set to grow and coalesce with each other and eventually begin to work together?
    For example, if the Artic region is warming at the fastest rate on Earth, how do other identified warming regions on the planet (land, ocean, atmosphere) rank after the Artic region for rate of warming?
    In what manner will the various regions coalesce or are they already at work as one entity?
    Thank you.

  40. 190
    DIOGENES says:

    Steve Fish #170,

    As usual, you have deliberately and completely misrepresented my position. Read my plan; re-read it until you understand it thoroughly, and then come back and state it correctly. In any case, your question is completely irrelevant, for the following reasons.

    I have posted a number of articles in recent weeks showing that the climate science community was well aware that exceeding the 1 C limit could lead to disaster, possibly the ultimate disaster. They were also aware of the drastic nature of the actions required to stay within that limit; there are only a few actions available, and such actions have been outlined in my plan. Given how society works, there is no doubt in my mind that the politicians and other decision-makers were made aware of the seriousness of the problems and the seriousness of the solutions required to solve these problems.

    Finally, the decision-makers understood quite well there was no way the general public would accept the hardships and sacrifices required to stay within the 1 C limit. They resolved the dilemma of how to act by creating a fiction. They contrived the 2 C limit that, if achieved, would limit climate damage to an acceptable level. This 2 C limit could be achieved without hardship or sacrifice, and mainly was accessible through technology substitution and improvements. This approach would allow the usual job generation from technology improvements, and business could continue as usual. This fiction has been maintained by governments, many in the climate advocacy community, and by most of the climate blogs. It has been maintained by the IPCC, which coincidentally was established at the same time that the need for adhering to the 1 C limit was at its peak of international dissemination.

    So, your question about Germany and its implementation of solar is continuing the fiction. It reflects a focus on the trivial part of the solution, and an inability to address the real part of the solution required.

  41. 191
    DIOGENES says:

    Kevin McKinney #136,

    “So perhaps I was a little too hasty in telling Dio (above) that there was nothing happening with demand reduction/energy efficiency. (Though I wonder if the vulgarly commercial tone of all this will make this comment poor consolation for him. So many salesmen involved…)”

    The problem is not the commercial tone. The problem is all the salesmen pushing a product that won’t solve the problem, such as the ‘tag team’.

  42. 192
    mitch says:

    With subglacial heatflow–actual melting the ice is probably less important than raising the basal glacier temperature. Ice has huge viscosity changes as temperature rises and a warm glacier will flow much faster than a cold one.

  43. 193

    Ref comment 190
    It seems to me arguing for a 1 degree C limit in the global surface temperature increase is too broad given the size of this planet. A much more useful approach would be to set regional limits in critical regions. In some cases these could be water temperature limits, pH limits, or possibly ice flow velocities?

  44. 194
    William Geoghegan says:

    I would be very interested in reading comments about the newest post on

    The Arctic Atmospheric ‘Methane Global Warming Veil’. Its Origin in the Arctic Subsea and Mantle and the Timing of the Global Terminal Extinction Events by 2040 to 2050 – A Review.

    By Malcolm P.R. Light, Harold Hensel and Sam Carana
    June 8th, 2014

    [Response: This is almost all complete nonsense, written by people who have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. - gavin]

  45. 195
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by DIOGENES — 11 Jun 2014 @ 4:54 AM, ~#190

    You didn’t address my question and nothing you have written here answers this question. I will put a sharper point on it:

    It takes energy to feed 7 to 10 billion people.

    You want to eliminate all fossil energy use (no budget left).
    Won’t countries that already have clean energy sources in place be better off without any fossil energy?

    Don’t write an irrelevant essay about what other knowledgeable people are saying. No name calling. Just answer the question here and now.


  46. 196
    Aaron Lewis says:

    RE 133 Ice age units (IAU)
    Known effects of IAU are after all feedbacks have come to equilibrium (thousands of years). AGW is recent, and we do not know the full effect of the feedbacks, either from observation or modeling.

    Loss of sea ice and NH snow cover with resultant increase in NH atmospheric water vapor is a big feedback that we are just starting to see.

    We are just starting to see Earth systems carbon feedback from permafrost and sea bed clathrates. Again this feedback is poorly represented in the current generation of climate models.

    In the case of modeling feedback, uncertainty is not our friend. In particular, we do not have a good handle on how fast the feedbacks will affect climate.

  47. 197
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Alright, let’s do some basic physics.

    Congratulations to ‘Meow’ — that useful post was cited by Slashdot

  48. 198

    #191–”The problem is all the salesmen pushing a product that won’t solve the problem, such as the ‘tag team’.”

    – See more at:

    Please review the bit about ‘necessary conditions’ and ‘sufficient conditions.’

  49. 199
    DIOGENES says:

    Kevin McKinney #132,

    Two points. First, again you refuse to identify any targets that your proposed actions would achieve, despite the fact that I have asked you to do so in a number of posts. Also, you state that renewables are displacing FF more than any other alternatives. That may be so, but the numbers are sufficiently small to be irrelevant ON THE SCALE OF WHAT IS NEEDED TO AVOID DISASTER!

    “In short, I’m thinking more and more that your scorn for ‘salesmen’ is highly ironic. What we need, if you think about it, IS salesmen.”

    I don’t have a scorn for salesmen per se. I agree we need salesmen. But, first and foremost, we need to have a product they can sell that will provide real climate change amelioration, and avoid ultimate disaster. Instead, as Greisch really pointed out, we have the BernieMadoff equivalents for renewables, trying to sell a product whose only beneficiaries will be the sellers! Luckily, the ‘tag team’ are not the salesmen Madoff was.

  50. 200
    Chris Dudley says:

    Steve (#187),

    If atmospheric carbon dioxide were in pressure equilibrium with dissolved carbon dioxide in the oceans, what you say would be true, and on a stabilization trajectory, we get there is about a century, but owing to disequilibrium, cutting but not ceasing emissions holds the atmospheric concentration steady.

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