RealClimate logo

Unforced variations: Aug 2014

Filed under: — group @ 5 August 2014

This month’s open thread. Keeping track of the Arctic sea ice minimum is interesting but there should be plenty of other climate science topics to discuss (if people can get past the hype about the Ebola outbreak or imaginary claims about anomalous thrusting). As with last month, pleas no discussion of mitigation strategies – it unfortunately does not bring out the best in the commentariat.

222 Responses to “Unforced variations: Aug 2014”

  1. 1
    Levi says:

    Sea ice really is interesting this year. I couldn’t uncompress the daily data from where I am, but if these updated charts are correct then July was rather remarkable.

  2. 2
    Chris Dudley says:

    MARodger (July #337),

    You really need to look at fig. 7 to understand the issue. Globally, the temperature is not the same from month to month in the period that is subtracted to calculate monthly anomalies. Winter in the South does not exactly balance Summer in the North. You can inter-compare anomalies between months regarding their size, but you can’t do that regarding temperature without the offset information found in fig. 7. In other words, the month with the largest anomaly is unlikely to be the hottest month unless it is July.

    You can find the hottest May or the hottest December using anomalies alone, but you can’t decide if the hottest May was hotter than the hottest December without more information than available in the anomalies data on their own.

    Fig. 7 here:

  3. 3
    patrick says:

    Graham Readfearn interviews Naomi Oreskes on the occasion of her new book (with Erik Conway):


    Article plus videos, also posted at Skeptical Science.

    More immigrants from the planet she’s from would be a great help.

  4. 4
    Chris Dudley says:

    I’d like to bring forward Kevin’s excellent link on how to submit effective comments to the EPA on proposed regulations.

    The deadline is October 16th, 2014 for the clean power plan.

  5. 5
    SecularAnimist says:

    The moderators wrote: “if people can get past the hype about the Ebola outbreak”

    Not sure what you mean by “hype”, but the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang has an article discussing the science on possible links between climate change and Ebola outbreaks, which appears to be a cautious assessment.

    Will climate change worsen Ebola outbreaks?
    By Angela Fritz and Jason Samenow
    August 5 2014

    As usual with any Post article that discusses global warming and climate change, the comments are already dominated by sneering, arrogant deniers who ignore the actual content of the article and launch into their scripted, robotic, idiotic diatribes.

  6. 6
    Jim Larsen says:

    Ocean acidification is killing baby oysters in Washington. Fortunately the farms can spike the water (with lime?) and keep the babies alive, but that makes the oyster dependent on humans, no longer a wild species. Also, as acidification gets worse, the adults might stop growing. (From NYT, sorry, no cite)

    “Mission Accomplished” for the US reducing carbon emissions ~80% by 2050 took another hit as a dozen states have sued over the new coal rules.

  7. 7
  8. 8
    wili says:

    ‘We’re F’d’: Methane Plumes Seep From Frozen Ocean Floors

    ” “The SWERUS-C3 expedition is really well equipped to detect the release of methane,” chief scientist Örjan Gustafsson wrote a week into his expedition.

    “For 72 hours now, we have been in the thick of extensive investigations of methane releases from the outer Laptev Sea system,” he wrote on July 20.

    According to Stokholm University, the discovery of these releases came as a bit of a surprise, not because the plumes were unexpected, but because of their concentration. An increased concentration of methane release, Gustafsson suspects, may be coming from collapsing “methane hydrates” – pockets of the gas that were once trapped in frozen water on the ocean floor.

    “It has recently been documented that a tongue of relatively warm Atlantic water, with a core at depths of 200-600 [meters] may have warmed up some in recent years,” Gustafsson explained. “As this Atlantic water, the last remnants of the Gulf Stream, propagates eastward along the upper slope of the East Siberian margin, our SWERUS-C3 program is hypothesizing that this heating may lead to destabilization of upper portion of the slope methane hydrates. This may be what we now for the first time are observing.”

    The researchers are quick to point out that they are just a few weeks into their work, and this is a very much speculation. However, the very fact that these plumes are there is worrying enough.”

  9. 9
    David B. Benson says:

    I remind all the mitigators that they can start their very own thread on the firmly moderated

  10. 10
    Samantha C says:

    I am a layperson,and I apologise if this link is tendentious, but it seems alarming to me. Can any more knowledgeable members explain, expand and/or debunk it? Thanks.

  11. 11
    Thomas says:

    This unfortunately isn’t the primary reference, but I thought it intriguing anyway.

    Are ants the answer to carbon dioxide sequestration?

    Geological Society of America
    A 25-year-long study provides the first quantitative measurement of in situ calcium-magnesium silicate mineral dissolution by ants, termites, tree roots, and bare ground. This study reveals that ants are one of the most powerful biological agents of mineral decay yet observed. It may be that an understanding of the geobiology of ant-mineral interactions might offer a line of research on how to “geoengineer” accelerated carbon dioxide consumption by Ca-Mg silicates.

    Ronald Dorn of Arizona State University

  12. 12
    Chris Dudley says:

    Al Gore and David Blood explain a strong economic case for coal divestment.

  13. 13

    Ed asks: “Do you have any qualifications in science or engineering?”

    – See more at:

    Not really. Life-long interest in science, quite a few family & friends in the scientific world, some course work here and there, training in electronics.

    Oh, and a belief I share with you, Ed, in the value of doing the math.

  14. 14
    Chuck Hughes says:

    How viable is this for reducing CO2 in the atmosphere? Does this have the potential to fix most of our problems?


  15. 15
    Chuck Hughes says:

    I’m trying to learn as much as I can about our climate situation (DIO) and clogging up the thread with insults and boorishly long commentary is counter productive. This is a multifaceted problem. If you want to be listened to, do the following:

    “Be sincere, Be brief, Be seated.”
    ― Franklin D. Roosevelt

  16. 16
    Russell says:

    Viscount Monckton now seems reasonably sure that he’s probably wrong

  17. 17
    Nigel Williams says:

    Wili #8. Yes we are. Anyway, but arctic methane is not going to help. The Swerus expeditions have been putting up blogs of the journey, but they have gone very quiet on postings about methane emissions after those early findings.

    Its hard to know what to read into that (nothing/much) – it may be nothing is to be said because nothing of significance has been found, or just be scientific reticence or perhaps a fear of spreading alarm before the results are in. We shall see.

    Certainly the early suggestions of warmer Atlantic Water starting to warm the shallow sea bed areas is a worry.

  18. 18
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    5: Secular animist. Did you read my contri in the last unforced variation at line 372. Tell me what you think. Thanks. Re: Ebola outbreaks and climate change(amongst other factors) induced decimation of the world’s invertebrate pop.

  19. 19
    Chris Dudley says:

    Chuck (#12),

    To get to a concentration of 280 ppm in the atmosphere some form of deliberate sequestration will be needed. One method is discussed here: The methods discussed in your link are aimed at reducing emissions by capturing carbon dioxide as it is produced at a stationary source. This could provide a way to continue to use coal and natural gas for power generation with reduced emissions, an 80 to 90% cut according to your link. By mixing in biomass fuels, another from of air capture could be included.

    Some consider a carbon dioxide concentration of 350 ppm to be safe. RCP2.6 used in the recent IPCC reports gets there slowly. It includes some air capture of carbon dioxide in the latter part of this century. But, more rapid cuts in emissions could allow a path to 350 ppm without that being needed.

    So, if 350 ppm is your goal, then CCS is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s deployment is necessarily slow because it needs a large pipe network and new power plants and increased coal and gas extraction (to help power the capture and storage). Because it is slow, you end up needing it to handle the overshoot in emissions that slowness causes. This is in contrast to manufactured replacement technology that does not require fuel which can grow very rapidly.

    Some like 500 ppm as a target concentration. The slowness of CCS fits best with this kind of scenario. It looks like that concentration as a stabilization target does not fix our problems but may slow or avert some bigger problems.

    Carbon capture and utilization has been included in a recent report to the UN in the form of electrically synthesized methane. This has the potential to scale more rapidly than CCS.

  20. 20

    #14–Chuck, I think it depends what you mean by “potential”, and how certain you want to be about the assessment of that potential. There’s been a lot of skepticism about CCS here in past discussions, mostly around the cost issue, and it seems well-founded in principle. On the other hand, IIRC, CCS was important in the scenario building in the recent WG 3 report (AR 5).

    An important test is going to come soon, as the Boundary Dam CCS retrofit project in Saskatchewan comes online.

    There’s also the free-air capture strategy, notably championed by Klaus Lackner. I discussed it in (briefly) this review of “Fixing Climate” a few years back:–Fixing-Climate–A-review

    Lackner’s Global Resources Technology is now Kilimanjaro Energy; after a large private investment they changed names. Unfortunately, the company has become a black hole for news; their website is still up, but has posted nothing new since 2010! Don’t know if that means they are working hard on the QT, or whether it’s now a zombie corporation.

    Stepping back a pace, one of the attractions of CCS is that, conceptually at least, it would be one way of drawing down CO2 concentrations over time.

  21. 21
    Joe Lassiter says:

    Re #6 above from Larsen;

    There is much evidence-based discussion of the Washington State oyster larvae die off than the NYT reporting covers. A much more complete discussion is offered by Prof. Chris Mass of University of Washington and firm believer in the dangers of CO2-emissions driven ocean acidification, indicates that in the case of the specifc die-offs emphasized in the article that local aguaculture problems explain much more of the observed die-off than do global CO2 emissions-driven ocean acidification problem. See this from Mass:

    Much of this oyster tale is inaccurate. Billions of oyster are not dying in the inlets of the Pacific Northwest. Rather non-native oyster larvae died in factory larvae farms along the coast when they mistakenly used cold, upwelled water during a few summer periods. Human CO2 was not the culprit. They understand their mistake now and oyster larvae production in healthy. Native oysters in natural water have and are doing fine. Saying that anthropogenic CO2 caused this problem is like saying the damage from the Fukashima tsunami was caused by global warming. Sure, sea level rise made it slightly worse, but the problem would have happened anyway. The story is inaccurate in talking about acidic waters. The waters in the Northwest have never been, nor ever will be acidic. They are becoming a little less basic.

    Check out my blog for an in-depth examination of the oyster/acidification issue:

  22. 22
    patrick says:

    > Graham Readfearn interviews Naomi Oreskes (#3).

    Here’s the Skeptical Science link for it:

  23. 23
  24. 24
    Dave Erickson says:

    I wonder if anyone (Gavin?) has any comment on this paper – An update on Earth’s energy balance in light of the latest global observations

    Does it have any implications for climate modeling? Climate sensitivity uncertainty?


  25. 25
    Hank Roberts says:

    Check Lassiter’s claims:

    Check out my blog for an in-depth examination of the oyster/acidification issue:

    “Sorry, the page you were looking for in this blog does not exist.”

    Billions of oyster are not dying in the inlets of the Pacific Northwest.

    Google: No results found for “Billions of oyster are not dying in the inlets of the Pacific Northwest.”

    Those search results, however, do make clear that the Mass article was wrong.

    It appears Mass was misled by Lassiter’s blog story, which is no longer published at Mass’s site.

    … it wasn’t The Seattle Times that reached this conclusion. It was some of the world’s foremost experts in chemical oceanography – the scientific community that actually understands the role of carbon in the ocean. We interviewed these scientists over and over – some more than a dozen times – and reported their findings, which are backed by a combination of several studies. The key ones are here, here, here, here, here and here. (Mass did not reference any of them.)

    Many of the experts – Richard Feely, Chris Sabine, Simone Alin, Jeremy Mathis, all with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Seattle – have been furloughed by the government shutdown and aren’t available to respond. But several have spoken publicly in the past about the link between atmospheric CO2 and shellfish deaths.

    Here, starting at about 2:45, Feely describes to a European reporter ocean acidification’s role in the deaths of oysters in the Pacific Northwest:

    Here, during a lecture earlier this year at a conference sponsored by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, Feely goes into more detail. His discussion of the oyster phenomenon begins at 24:20:

    Sabine takes an even more thorough look here, at about 38:00:

    Mass is not a chemical oceanographer, but he is a scientist with some familiarity with these issues. So, to be absolutely certain we did not make a mistake, The Seattle Times asked another of the region’s leaders in chemical oceanography, Burke Hales, at Oregon State University, to review his critique and our story.

    Hales’ pioneering research in ocean carbon chemistry underlies much of what we know about the role carbon dioxide from fossil fuel emissions plays in changing the chemistry of Northwest seas.

    After reading Mass’ critique, here is Hales’ response: “The Seattle Times got the oyster story right.”

    We asked Hales what he thought of Mass’ contention that “atmospheric CO2 is probably not” the cause of recent oyster problems.

    Hales was blunt. “This is not true.”

  26. 26
    Dave Erickson says:

    I wonder if anyone (Gavin?) has a comment on this paper:
    An update on Earth’s energy balance in light of the latest global observations Stephens et al Nature Geoscience 23 Sept 2012

    Implications for modeling? Climate sensitivity uncertainty?


  27. 27
    Russell says:

    Viscount Moncktons letter campaign against academics who criticize his performance art has inspired some Australian imitators

  28. 28
    wili says:

    gws @ 7: Thanks for that link. It looks like a very important reminder that we should be using more updated numbers for the global warming potential of methane, and that the 20 year potential is at least as relevant as the 100 year one. CO2 is still, of course, the main culprit. But that doesn’t mean we should ignore other powerful GHGs.

    Nigel @ 17. Good points. It is likely that the situation is more complex than most anyone imagines. It would be surprising if some permafrost and clathrates were _not_ dissociating on some of the slopes. But there are other potential sources of increased methane–rivers running off of increasingly melty permafrost; methanogenic bacteria, probably others I haven’t thought of. It would indeed be good to get some more current info from that expedition. Do post it if you see something relevant. Thanks.

  29. 29
    Hank Roberts says:

    Cliff Mass’s response to the criticism:

    Note Mass is not at all climate denier; his point is not what Joe Lassiter claims above.

    Quoting Mass:

    So how much of the low ph is is associated with human-connected CO2? If the Seattle Times is right, then humans are making a substantial contribution to low ph and the “lethal” factory waters. We can calculate this.

    The low ph periods only occur during periods of coastal upwelling. According to a highly quoted paper by Feely (Science 2008), the upwelled waters were last in contact with the atmosphere about 50 years. A local physical oceanographer told me 40 years, so let’s be conservative and assume 40 years ago (1971). Atmospheric CO2 levels were much lower then compared to now (400 ppm now, versus 325 then–see graph below to prove this). A number of studies (including Feely) have suggested that general pre-industrial levels of open ocean ph were about .1 lower than today. Before industrial society, the CO2 level was about 280 ppm, about 45 ppm less than in 1971. So let’s assume that the upwelled waters today were exposed to 1971 levels of CO2. So it is very reasonable to assume that the contribution of human-produced CO2 levels to the ph change today in upwelled waters is thus (45 /120)*.1 or .0375. Let’s round that up to .04.

    Consider the implications of this. The lowest ph observed that (2009) summer (7.6), would have been 7.64 without human CO2. Doesn’t seem like such a headline grabber does it? To but it another way, human CO2 impact is 6.6 % (.04/.6) of the natural variability observed that summer.

    To put this in further perspective. Imagine a heat wave in which the temperatures are 20F above normal one day. Imagine that CO2 increases explained 6.6% of that. This would be 1.32F. The heat wave was made slightly worse, but the heat wave would have happened with or without the CO2.

    Later in the century the story will be different. In 50 years, human impacts on ocean acidification will be twice as large—still smaller than natural variability, but more significant.

    … The truth is that anthropogenic increases in CO2 are only having subtle impacts on our regional weather today, the big changes and impacts will occur decades into the future. Both global warming and ocean acidification are very serious issues and by the end of the century their impacts will be substantial.

  30. 30
    PCalith says:

    Re: #8, #17

    From a translated interview with Örjan, the principle scientist on the SweRUS Oden expedition circa 7/28:

    “If any percentage of this [Arctic Methane] is released in the coming decades, it can definitely have a noticeable Impact from the global climate. But it WILL NOT do it, we will be able to respond better to having finished working with this expedition. There is a high potential, but little risk, says Örjan Gustafsson.”

    Full article

    Still scary as all get out though.

  31. 31
    Jim Larsen says:

    21 Thanks for the info Joe. Sounds like Washington’s governor is basing his climate campaign on this story. Then again, maybe the article got that wrong too!

    Unfortunately your link brings up, “Sorry, the page you were looking for in this blog does not exist.”.

  32. 32
    Eric Boesch says:

    PCalith — for what it is worth, the section that Google bizarrely mistranslated as “But it WILL NOT do it… having” is better translated as, “But whether it will happen is a question we can better answer after having….” Hope this helps.

  33. 33
    DIOGENES says:

    To the Moderators,

    “please no discussion of mitigation strategies – it unfortunately does not bring out the best in the commentariat.”

    I strongly disagree! My definition of ‘best’ when it comes to science/research is effectively surfacing the truth. What’s a good way to do it? Well, an Oyster creates a Pearl as a result of an Irritant. That’s not a bad model. Over the past nine months, there have been a number of Irritants provided to the Commentariat. As a result, there were a number of ‘Pearls’ produced by the RC Comments ‘Oyster’. These included: enhanced awareness of the contrived nature of the 2 C limit and the necessity for the 1 C limit to avoid catastrophe; a plan that included the correct 1 C limit and showed how the climate change cliff could be avoided; and a strong surfacing of the major deficiencies of renewables as a significant ameliorative factor. Creation of these ‘Pearls’ required the confluence of mitigation with climate science.

  34. 34
    Chris Dudley says:

    Thomas (#11),

    Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant….

    Niche building species, like ants, beavers and people, have transformative effects, but those are also directable. Plagues lack that quality.

  35. 35
  36. 36
    Joe Lassiter says:

    I have followed the Seattle Times Oyster story since last November. I think that story is example of the the ways in which climate change attribution can be overstretched in ways that I believe undermine science, misdirect resources and weaken the social support for addressing climate change. I think it also shows how an “overstretched” meme propagates in the popular press and rattles around among its “believers.”

    Hopefully to clarify Mass’s views and sources, I googled and copied Mass’s recent letter to the NYT Editor in response to As Oysters Die, Climate Policy Goes on the Stump By Coral Davenport. 3, 2014. Mass’s letter was one the NYT Editor’s Picks. I quote from Mass below:

    “Much of this oyster tale is inaccurate. Billions of oyster are not dying in the inlets of the Pacific Northwest. Rather non-native oyster larvae died in factory larvae farms along the coast when they mistakenly used cold, upwelled water during a few summer periods. Human CO2 was not the culprit. They understand their mistake now and oyster larvae production in healthy. Native oysters in natural water have and are doing fine. Saying that anthropogenic CO2 caused this problem is like saying the damage from the Fukashima tsunami was caused by global warming. Sure, sea level rise made it slightly worse, but the problem would have happened anyway. The story is inaccurate in talking about acidic waters. The waters in the Northwest have never been, nor ever will be acidic. They are becoming a little less basic.

    Check out my blog for an in-depth examination of the oyster/acidification issue:

    I have huge respect for Governor Inslee, who has been fearless in communicating the importance of dealing with anthropogenic climate change. Mankind is not reducing CO2 emissions and we are facing substantial climate change in the future. He is right, we must act. But crying wolf with oysters in the end will be counterproductive.”

  37. 37

    #26–The (2012) paper Dave Erickson was asking about is here:

    Other than that, I don’t actually have a comment on it…

  38. 38
    Doug says:

    #33, Willfully not following the guidelines for this blog, and in fact, flaunting them, would seem a recipe for getting oneself banned, but the cherry on the top is calling your self a pearl, and scientists who run this blog irritants.

    Honestly, why don’t you just start your on blog, or whatever? And I don’t believe you’ve answered any inquiries as to whether you follow your own advice as far as fossil fuel demand reduction goes? If you haven’t noticed, people tend to follow people who do things, as opposed to saying things.

  39. 39
    Dave Erickson says:

    I’m particularly interested in the implications of this statement from the abstract:

    Climate change is governed by changes to the global energy balance. At the top of the atmosphere, this balance is monitored globally by satellite sensors that provide measurements of energy flowing to and from Earth. By contrast, observations at the surface are limited mostly to land areas. As a result, the global balance of energy fluxes within the atmosphere or at Earth’s surface cannot be derived directly from measured fluxes, and is therefore uncertain. This lack of precise knowledge of surface energy fluxes profoundly affects our ability to understand how Earth’s climate responds to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases. In light of compilations of up-to-date surface and satellite data, the surface energy balance needs to be revised. Specifically, the longwave radiation received at the surface is estimated to be significantly larger, by between 10 and 17 Wm–2, than earlier model-based estimates. Moreover, the latest satellite observations of global precipitation indicate that more precipitation is generated than previously thought. This additional precipitation is sustained by more energy leaving the surface by evaporation — that is, in the form of latent heat flux — and thereby offsets much of the increase in longwave flux to the surface.

  40. 40
    Carbomontanus says:

    Ladies & gentlemen in the real climate…..

    Those holes and craters that pop up in Siberia nowaday should moove and cause and force variations of thought now in august 2014.

    I red that they are traditionally known also in Alaska, but much smaller. I think we have to discuss Methan- hydrate.

    For quite interesting reasons, the sea-floor in shallow waters north of Siberia is frozen. Just think of that also.

  41. 41
    Zachary Smith says:

    “‘We’re F’d’: Methane Plumes Seep From Frozen Ocean Floors”


    “An Arctic methane worst-case scenario”

    I’ll confess I can’t quite reconcile these two versions of Arctic methane releases.

  42. 42
    Hank Roberts says:

    Rapid Environmental Change over the Past Decade Revealed by Isotopic Analysis of the California Mussel in the Northeast Pacific
    Catherine A. Pfister, Sophie J. McCoy, J. Timothy Wootton, Pamela A. Martin, Albert S. Colman, David Archer
    Published: October 03, 2011
    DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0025766

    Corrosive water has recently been documented in the northeast Pacific, along with a rapid decline in seawater pH over the past decade. A lack of instrumentation prior to the 1990s means that we have no indication whether these carbon cycle changes have precedence or are a response to recent anthropogenic CO2 inputs.

    We analyzed stable carbon and oxygen isotopes (δ13C, δ18O) of decade-old California mussel shells (Mytilus californianus) in the context of an instrumental seawater record of the same length. We further compared modern shells to shells from 1000 to 1340 years BP and from the 1960s to the present and show declines in the δ13C of modern shells that have no historical precedent.

    Our finding of decline in another shelled mollusk (limpet) and our extensive environmental data show that these δ13C declines are unexplained by changes to the coastal food web, upwelling regime, or local circulation. Our observed decline in shell δ13C parallels other signs of rapid changes to the nearshore carbon cycle in the Pacific, including a decline in pH that is an order of magnitude greater than predicted by an equilibrium response to rising atmospheric CO2, the presence of low pH water throughout the region, and a record of a similarly steep decline in δ13C in algae in the Gulf of Alaska. These unprecedented changes and the lack of a clear causal variable underscores the need for better quantifying carbon dynamics in nearshore environments.

    [extra paragraph breaks added for online readability — hr]

    Seems to me the question is whether the upwelling is also a consequence of changes in ocean circulation, which are just starting to be described as more floats and gliders add data.

    E.g. Nature Climate Change 4, 222–227 (2014) doi:10.1038/nclimate2106

    … a pronounced strengthening in Pacific trade winds over the past two decades—unprecedented in observations/reanalysis data and not captured by climate models—is sufficient to account for the cooling of the tropical Pacific and a substantial slowdown in surface warming through increased subsurface ocean heat uptake. The extra uptake has come about through increased subduction in the Pacific shallow overturning cells, enhancing heat convergence in the equatorial thermocline. At the same time, the accelerated trade winds have increased equatorial upwelling in the central and eastern Pacific ….

    Are we also seeing an increase in the volume or frequency of deep water upwelling along the temperate Eastern Pacific coast, affecting oyster reproduction? I know it’s been suggested as the connection between CO2 and local areas where various organisms are showing effects of pH change.

  43. 43
    MARodger says:

    Dave Erickson @26.
    You ask for comment from “anyone (Gavin?)” on Stephens et al (2012) ‘An update on Earth’s energy balance in light of the latest global observations’ The paper (linked @37) is a couple of years old and was commented on by Gavin at the time (See second last response at this comment in the thread.)

    At the time there was also a few denialist blogs doing their best to present the the paper as proof of the lesser role played by CO2.

    More recently, IPCC AR5 Section 2.3.1 when referring to Figure 2.11 which gives the latent heat flux as 84 Wm^-2 (with a range 70-85 Wm^-2 after Wild et al 2013) covers Stephens et al (2012b) (and then concludes) as follows:-

    “The global mean latent heat flux is required to exceed 80 W m–2 to close the surface energy balance in Figure 2.11, and comes close to the 85 W m–2 considered as upper limit by Trenberth and Fasullo (2012b) in view of current uncertainties in precipitation retrieval in the Global Precipitation Climatology Project (GPCP, Adler et al., 2012) (the latent heat flux corresponds to the energy equivalent of evaporation, which globally equals precipitation; thus its magnitude may be constrained by global precipitation estimates). This upper limit has recently been challenged by Stephens et al. (2012b). The emerging debate reflects potential remaining deficiencies in the quantification of the radiative and non-radiative energy balance components and associated uncer­tainty ranges, as well as in the consistent representation of the global mean energy and water budgets (Stephens et al., 2012b; Trenberth and Fasullo, 2012b; Wild et al., 2013). Relative uncertainty in the globally averaged sensible heat flux estimate remains high owing to the very limited direct observational constraints (Trenberth et al., 2009; Ste­phens et al., 2012b).”
    “In summary, newly available observations from both space-borne and surface-based platforms allow a better quantification of the Global Energy Budget, even though notable uncertainties remain, particu­larly in the estimation of the non-radiative surface energy balance components.”

    The latent heat flux inferred by that Stephens et al (2012b) to achieve a surface balance due to higher back radiation was 88 Wm^-2 (+/- 10 Wm^-2) so the paper hasn’t created an “emerging debate” that is in any way momentous. The current NASA energy balance graphic, for instance, gives a figure of 86.4Wm-2.

  44. 44
  45. 45
    wili says:

    The Rossby Wave thread seems to have gone dead, so I’m going to post a link to this must-see video “Arctic Emergency: Scientists Speak” (and no, it’s not an AMEG project) here:

    With some further commentary and discussion here:

  46. 46

    Thanks for #43, Chris–I had read the article in the Economist, and found it a tad ‘dodgy.’ It’s good to see a detailed rebuttal.

  47. 47
    Chris Dudley says:

    “There are many men in London, you know, who, some from shyness, some from misanthropy, have no wish for the company of their fellows. Yet they are not averse to comfortable chairs and the latest periodicals. It is for the convenience of these that the Diogenes Club was started, and it now contains the most unsociable and unclubbable men in town. No member is permitted to take the least notice of any other one. Save in the Stranger’s Room, no talking is, under any circumstances, allowed, and three offenses, if brought to the notice of the committee, render the talker liable to expulsion.”

    -Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter

  48. 48
    PCalith says:

    @Zachary Smith

    I don’t think you have to. Box is absolutely right that if such a thing were to happen, we’d be totally f’ed. But, at the same time, you have to keep in mind that

    a) he is not a permafrost scientist (he’s a glaciologist)
    b) science reporting sucks these days
    c) time scales are quite uncertain, and we’re f’ed regardless of what an extra couple methane degrees will do.

    SWERUS has found some interesting stuff, and as I posted earlier Orjan (co-head scientist with Smiletov) thinks that a massive release is highly unlikely. As Gavin and David have pointed out a number of times – increasing emissions will probably happen, but a single massive emission will likely not.

    (aside – Eric, yeah, I noticed that after posting. RC could really use an edit feature)

  49. 49
    Dave Erickson says:

    MARodger @42 – Great. Exactly what I was looking for. Thanks. Excellent perspective in the comment from Gavin.

  50. 50
    Hank Roberts says:

    Runaway blockquote above, should have read thus:

    increased equatorial upwelling in the central and eastern Pacific ….

    Are we also seeing an increase in the volume or frequency of deep water upwelling along the temperate Eastern Pacific coast, affecting oyster reproduction? I know it’s been suggested as the connection between CO2 and local areas where various organisms are showing effects of pH change.