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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. 101
    Mal Adapted says:

    Geoff Beacon:

    Does he actually go onto say something useful like the Earth could easily carry a larger population if we changed our “cultural heritage”? i.e stopped screwing the world up by driving cars, flying planes, eating beef &etc?

    It’s been said. Saying it hasn’t made it so. Why not? Perhaps because Homo sapiens evolved by the same mechanisms as every other species on Earth, and there’s been no selection for the necessary behavioral changes. Human society is enacting an evolutionary play in an ecological theater, with tragedy residing in the remorseless working of things.

    Should such a counsel of despair be avoided? Maybe. “Let us hope it is not true; but if it is, let us hope it does not become generally known!” (attribution uncertain).

    Some of us see the bleedin’ obvious.

    Seeing it is all very well. What Is to Be Done? Give us your detailed plan, and convince us it will work.

  2. 102
    Chuck Hughes says:

    So, chuck, we should only be concerned about things that are likely to be a direct threat to us in the near future? I guess we shouldn’t be worried about global warming at all then, right? ‘-)

    It may have only tangential relations to GW, but its spread has certainly been linked to deforestation, which we will likely see more of as GW takes its toll, even if all more direct assaults on forests stop.

    Comment by wili — 11 Aug 2014

    wili, if you want to debate me I suggest you find another hobby. I’m here to learn, not quibble. You’re NOT going to die from Ebola and nobody you know is going to die from it. Yes it’s serious and yes it’s probably linked to Climate Change. Whatever I say is not a personal affront to you or anyone else. Find another target, like the problem at hand. That’s what this thread is about. At least that’s my understanding. Somebody feel free to correct me.

  3. 103
    Paul Engineer says:

    Anyone want to take a shot at rebutting this article? Have fun…

    http://www.engineering.com/DesignerEdge/DesignerEdgeArticles/ArticleID/8241/One-Engineers-Perspective-on-Global-Warming.aspx

    As a civil engineer, not an oil-field equipment engineer as the author of this piece is, I’m glad that he is not representative of my colleagues.

  4. 104
  5. 105
    Hank Roberts says:

    Is this apt to be of any use to climate work? To energy balance measurements?

    I realize that putting together little bits of imagery isn’t simple, that’s always been the problem with using near-Earth satellites with limited fields of view rather than the whole-hemisphere view from farther away.

    From: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/17/technology/start-ups-aim-to-conquer-space-market.html

    Last week, Planet Labs announced that it would put about 100 satellites into space from the United States and Russia, bringing the total number of “Doves,” as the company calls them, to 131. That larger network, which Planet Labs hopes to complete within a year, is expected to create a daily photo mosaic of most of Earth.

    That mosaic could be valuable to private customers, like agricultural companies monitoring farmlands, or even to governments trying to figure out how to aid natural disaster victims. The company has so far booked contracts worth more than the $65 million in private equity it has raised

  6. 106
    Chris Dudley says:

    NOAA confirms “Arthur was the first hurricane since August 2012 to make landfall in the contiguous U.S. and marked the earliest hurricane on record to make landfall in North Carolina.” http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/national/2014/7

    Possibly the hurricane season is getting longer for the Mid-Atlantic.

  7. 107
    Radge Havers says:

    Jeesh
    RE: Mitigation, comment management, etc.

    It’s apparent from context that “mitigation” isn’t permanently off topic. It’s just timed out. If you can’t see why, then you too may be too wound up about it to engage fruitfully… for now. That’s my take on it.

    Also from context, I’m inferring that constantly refining the rules for the gray areas is onerous; as opposed to just letting people blow off some steam (up to a point). Management is an art not a science or an exercise in legality.

    Also if you think about it, constantly harping on “site management” can quickly become bore hole worthy. I suggest taking a deep breath and moving on.

  8. 108
    Radge Havers says:

    “One Engineer’s Perspective on Global Warming”… @ ~ 103

    Not for me to take it on, but coincidentally he seems to wrap it up in the last three paragraphs by appealing to the “puny human” meme.

  9. 109
    Chris Dudley says:

    Hank (#105),

    These might be used to develop a carbon uptake model related to foliage that could inform use of OCO-2 data. The article points out that they lack infrared capability, but tracking seasons might be done just on the basis of optical color or reflectivity change.

  10. 110
    Eric Swanson says:

    #105, Hank Roberts: Using Planet Lab’s micro satellites to measure energy balance might seem appealing, but these guys are working with photographic systems. While they do measure some of the energy, that in the visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, they aren’t likely to be calibrated well enough to be of much use in climate studies. Think back about the problems which Spencer and Christy had using just one type of instrument placed on a few satellites. The MSU instrument scans are self calibrated in that they view either a heated target with a high precision thermometer or deep space at roughly 3K and even that seemingly accurate method had problems. Dealing with a minimum of 31 satellites, each lasting only a few years, would appear to be much more difficult. The need for repeated launches over a long enough time period (20 years or longer) to establish a useful database would likely kill such an attempt. They might be useful to assess cloud area, but here too, long term data would seem necessary.

    Funny thing, the article claims that the first 31 were launched into “polar orbit” from the ISS, yet, they don’t have “propulsion systems”, so providing the delta V necessary for changing inclination would appear impossible. All these small satellites would soon become “space junk”, orbiting high enough to remain for many decades and their orbit would intersect that of the ISS…

  11. 111
    Chris Dudley says:

    “Three-hundred-fifty is a number most can agree upon: the amount of carbon dioxide in parts per million that’s safely acceptable in the atmosphere to prevent severe climate change.”

    http://portlandtribune.com/sl/229941-91927-activists-push-fossil-fuels-divestment

    Let’s call that opening paragraph a win.

  12. 112

    From the “It Was Bound To Happen” file: happened to notice just now that, as of May, UAH trends were positive from both 1998 and 2002. How do you like them cherries, Mr. Watts?

    http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/uah/from:1998/plot/uah/from:1998/trend
    http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/uah/from:2002/plot/uah/from:2002/trend

    Not very important, perhaps, but next time some joker tries to tell you it hasn’t been warming since either of those two dates, you can gently advise him that he needs to keep up a bit better.

  13. 113
    wili says:

    Chuck, chill out, dude. Did you not see the smiley face? You won’t learn much if you react so violently to anyone gently questioning your assumptions.

    As it happens, though, Patrick Sawyer, the fellow who spread ebola to Nigeria, lives just up the road. Had he decided to cut his business trip short and come home early, and/or had he happened to have been on the longer end of the period during which people can remain asymptomatic (up to 21 days), he could indeed have spread it to any number of people here, to people I know, even to me. In Nigeria, a nurse who claims to have had minimal contact with him and a fellow who escorted him from the airport both contracted ebola from these rather casual contacts.

    But to steer the conversation back to potential interactions with gw, here’s a link to an article on the deforestation connection: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/07/08/how-deforestation-and-human-activity-could-be-to-blame-for-the-ebola-pandemic/

    The increase in Ebola outbreaks since 1994 is frequently associated with drastic changes in forest ecosystems in tropical Africa,” wrote researchers in a 2012 study in the Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research. “Extensive deforestation and human activities in the depth of the forests may have promoted direct or indirect contact between humans and a natural reservoir of the virus.”

    Such a conclusion is particularly troublesome for West Africa, which has never before experienced an Ebola outbreak like this one, and is reported to have one of the world’s highest rates of regional deforestation. The Guinea Rainforest has been ravaged by deforestation and has shrunk to less than one-fifth of its original size. In Liberia, more than half of the forests have been sold off to logging companies, according to the Guardian. And Sierra Leone is “seriously threatened” by deforestation, according to Chatham House’s Illegal Logging Portal.

  14. 114
    GORGIAS says:

    Chomsky often refers to the corporate sector’s involvement in the provision of disinformation regarding climate change, saying (quote):

    “The corporate sector has announced, quite openly, that it is carrying out major propaganda campaigns to convince the public that climate change, if it’s happening at all, does not result from human activity”

    Can anyone provide me with links to documents or other sources showing these 113announcements have taken place?

    Thanks in advance.

  15. 115
    Radge Havers says:

    Gorgias @ 114

    Not seeing where he said that. Don’t know if you count quietly but openly supporting front groups.

    http://www.climatenewsnetwork.net/2014/01/dark-money-funds-us-climate-deniers/
    It seems that not all of the 118 denial organizations referenced have been consistently ‘dark’.

    http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/scientific_integrity/a-climate-of-corporate-control-report.pdf
    UCS study

    http://arstechnica.com/science/2009/08/why-putting-climate-change-on-trial-is-a-terrible-idea/
    The Chamber of Commerce

  16. 116
    Chris Dudley says:

    I think this letter is worth reading in full:

    In light of reporting in the July-August issue on Harvard’s position on fossil fuel divestment, we wrote Messrs. Paul J. Finnegan and James F. Rothenberg [members of the Harvard Corporation, and Treasurer and past Treasurer, respectively], expressing the perspective summarized below.

    Harvard currently holds substantial investments in fossil fuel. The past is no longer prologue for this asset class.

    The scientific community—including Harvard’s distinguished climate-related faculty—assert the world must hold global temperatures to no more than 2 degrees C above the preindustrial figure. Governments agree. And, yet, we have already gone half the distance to this ceiling, and are actually accelerating our rapid approach to it. We face an existential planetary threat.

    By investing in fossil fuel companies that cling to the outdated business model of measuring success by discovery of new reserves, Harvard is encouraging (and expecting to profit from) the search for more fossil fuel—which will become unburnable if we stabilize global temperatures at levels necessary to sustain life as we know it. When the lid is put on, and carbon emissions are severely limited—as they must be—Harvard will be left holding stranded and devalued assets that can never be burned. (Proven reserves are three to four times what’s needed to transition to renewables by 2050.)

    Across the country, hundreds of student organizations work to persuade their institutions’ endowments to divest. Sooner or later, as in the case of companies doing business in apartheid South Africa, divestment from fossil fuel companies will occur. Harvard should be among the first to do so. There are strong, independently sufficient arguments beyond the financial one of stranding to justify divestment. They include the moral (it is repugnant to profit from enterprises directly responsible for carbon emissions or to allow shareholder funds to be deployed in searching for more fossil fuel), the practical (a well-led institution should not wound itself by permitting endowment holdings to demoralize faculty and students, with adverse effects on quality of education, enrollment, and campus environment) and, in Harvard’s case, the unique opportunity (and corresponding duty) it has, as one of a handful of world leaders in education, to lead on this planetary issue.

    We support these other arguments for divestment. However, we wanted to bring the financial argument, in particular, to Harvard’s attention. Over the past three years, equities in the coal industry declined by over 60 percent while the S&P 500 rose by some 47 percent. Coal, we submit, is the “canary in the oil well.” Disinvestment now, before this opinion becomes commonplace, is just sound, risk-averse investment judgment, fitting well within the duties of a fiduciary.

    Bevis Longstreth, J.D. ’61
    Retired partner, Debevoise & Plimpton; former member, Securities and Exchange Commission

    Timothy E. Wirth ’61
    Former U.S. Senator, president of the United Nations Foundation, and Harvard Overseer

    http://harvardmagazine.com/2014/09/cambridge-02138

  17. 117
    Hank Roberts says:

    Thoroughly illustrated blog post, explaining the acronyms — good summary, I think:
    More Research Linking Global Warming To Bad Weather Events
    August 14, 2014

  18. 118

    #114–Gorgias, there may be something in this, though it’s getting a bit dated now:

    http://doc-snow.hubpages.com/hub/Climate-Cover-Up-A-Review

  19. 119
    Fred Magyar says:

    Paul Engineer: @103

    Re: “Anyone want to take a shot at rebutting this article? Have fun…”

    I have an acquaintance who is a petroleum geologist, who is fond of a quote by George Bernard Shaw:’Never mud wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.’

    It seems that the essence of Mr Simpson’s objections to anthropgenic climate change stem from his expertise in computer modeling…and his personal opinion that it can’t really be all that useful in studying something as complex as the climate. He states:

    “Computer modeling is a cornerstone of modern engineering so there have been many individuals with considerable expertise in computer modeling that have participated in this discussion on http://www.eng-tips.com. This topic is one of very few where everyone with real expertise in modeling agrees—computer models cannot prove anything. Ever.”

    Never mind that he kind of misses the point that climate models are not trying to ‘PROVE’ anything. However he does seem to be a self proclaimed expert in modeling fluid dynamics and concludes that such modeling can’t provide any useful insights if applied to the climate as a whole, let alone be used to make any predictions about future scenarios. He says:

    “Cell to cell math. The climate is strongly influenced by the movement, accumulation, and storage of fluids. This fluid activity is defined by the engineering field called “fluid mechanics.” Fluid mechanics relationships are so complex that the only way to solve problem is to assume a long list of simplifying assumptions (e.g., to develop the well-known Bernoulli equation, Daniel Bernoulli had to assume that there is no fluid friction, fluids were incompressible, there is no heat transfer into or out of the system, there was no rotation, and the fluid does no work).

    None of the standard simplifying assumptions applies to the atmosphere as a whole. Not a single one. This results in the models being forced to rely on empirical equations that try to give “good enough” answers in limited cases.”

    So in the event that should you decide it worthwhile or amusing to mud wrestle with a ‘HAM’, you might try and feed him the two links provided by Hank Roberts @96.

    Especially this one:
    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/03/07/3370481/california-drought/

    because I’m pretty sure the models used probably had a little something to do with at least some aspects of fluid dynamics.

    “… scientists a decade ago not only predicted the loss of Arctic ice would dry out California, they also precisely predicted the specific, unprecedented change in the jet stream that has in fact caused the unprecedented nature of the California drought. Study co-author, Prof. Lisa Sloan, told me last week that, “I think the actual situation in the next few decades could be even more dire that our study suggested.”

    “That is either a highly accurate prediction or one heck of a coincidence.”

    “All this isn’t “proof” that human caused climate change helped shift and reduce precipitation in California during its record-setting drought. But a prediction this accurate can’t be ignored, either, especially because of its implications for the future.”

    What?! No proof?! Well, nothing to see here folks, move right along.

    Have fun!

  20. 120
    MARodger says:

    Paul Engineer @103.
    I take a rather different view to Radge Havers @108. The author spoils his copybook right from the off, describing AGW as requiring “a positive feedback loop, but I have been unable to identify the mechanism that would break the cycle once started.” This can only be describing some sort of run-away greenhouse effect. So when he says “Many warmists would strongly question my ability to describe ACC objectively,” he should be asking himself “Why would they do that?”

  21. 121
  22. 122
    MalcolmT says:

    xkcd has a neat map of US east-coast hurricanes at http://xkcd.com/1407/
    Exercise for the interested reader: colour in the areas according to recency.

  23. 123
    alan2102 says:

    Geoff Beacon at 84:
    “Does [Catton] actually go onto say something useful like the Earth could easily carry a larger population if we changed our “cultural heritage”? i.e stopped screwing the world up by driving cars, flying planes, eating beef &etc?”

    No, he doesn’t. Neomalthusians never do. It is inconsistent with their ideology.

    Mal Adapted at 101, in reply to Geoff:
    “It’s been said. Saying it hasn’t made it so.”

    Did you think that mere saying of it would make it so?

    Mal Adapted:
    “Why not? Perhaps because Homo sapiens evolved by the same mechanisms as every other species on Earth…” etc.

    Mal, humans have uniquely developed powers of intellection, rationality, future planning, and so forth; we also seem to have extraordinary imaginative capacity. This may be due to larger brains overall (or, more technically, higher encephalization quotients), to larger key structures such as the prefrontal cortex or temporal lobes, and/or to development of peculiar cerebral connectivity/wiring. But regardless of cause, the obvious facts remain: Beethoven’s string quartets, London, industrial agriculture, etc., etc. (a very long list). Ascribing to “evolutionary mechanisms” human’s failure — so far — to effectively address certain collective/global problems, as though humans do not differ substantially from voles or beetles, is laughable. I’m not saying that humans WILL use their dramatically greater mental powers to act rationally and effectively to avert disaster; that remains to be seen, and in some respects things look bad. But that we CAN do so is unquestionable. Catton cannot mention this because he is deeply committed — intellectually and probably emotionally as well — to an ideological agenda according to which catastrophic collapse and die-off is inevitable. Once one has made such a commitment, the sphere of allowable facts contracts; it determines what one can see.

  24. 124
    Geoff Beacon says:

    Mal Adapted @101

    “Seeing it is all very well. What Is to Be Done? Give us your detailed plan, and convince us it will work.”

    Thanks for asking.

    I don’t really believe in detailed plans. In my field, software development, detailed plans have been a disaster but we do need some starting strategies.

    $1000 dollar a tonne carbon tax

    A good start would be a carbon tax. With a few friends I started the Pollution Tax Association in 1992 to pay carbon “taxes”, which we pay mostly to charity mostly to pay to charity. Our payment are unrealistically low. I would start at $100 a tonne and raise it $100 a year, expecting to get to over $1000 dollars a tonne before we get a reasonable chance of survival.

    From my piece onCarbon Taxes

    Revenues from carbon taxes could also be recycled into job creating measures, particularly at the bottom end of the labour market. This would create jobs and for the lowest paid, increase their wages using appropriate market signals.

    This piece also has a quote from James Hansen on his carbon fee-and-dividend

    Fee-and-dividend has a flat fee (per ton of CO2) collected from fossil fuel companies on domestic sales of all fossil fuels. Collection cost is trivial at the small number of collection points: the first sale at domestic mines and the port-of-entry for imported fossil fuels. All funds collected are distributed electronically (to bank account or debit card) monthly to legal residents of the country in equal per capita amounts.

    An important point is that most people receive more in Hansen’s monthly dividend than they pay in increased prices and given that the rich generally have more carbon intensive lifestyles than the poor, most households will gain at the expense of the wealthy.

    Both schemes would take from the rich and give to the poor because the rich create much more carbon pollution than the poor. The problem, of course, is that the poor are not as powerful as the rich so the rich can continue polluting the world and some of them (us?) will be able to buy our way out of the worst immediate consequences of climate change.

    More on Open letter to James Hansen

    Our activities that damage the clime
    I have other websites which try to identify the things we do that screw our climate. One is the Green Ration Book. Others can be accessed through the website It’s Simple. These are really work in progress – but progress is rather slow.

    A short list of damaging activies:
    Driving cars (Making and driving them)
    Eating beef, lamb and other ruminant meat
    Constructing high buildings
    Using glass bottles (even with recycling)

  25. 125
    Fred Magyar says:

    I’m sure there must be some damaging emails between XKCD and NOAA that can be hacked and used as evidence to prove that the climate scientists at XKCD are manipulating the data…

    As a South Florida resident I distinctly remember Hurricane Wilma in 2005, which isn’t even on the XKCD map.
    Category 3 major hurricane (SSHWS/NWS)
    Winds 1-minute sustained: 120 mph (195 km/h)
    Gusts: 130 mph (215 km/h)
    Fatalities 35 direct, 26 indirect
    Damage $20.6 billion (2005 USD)
    Areas affected Florida

  26. 126
    Lewis Cleverdon says:

    Chris at #111 -
    “Three-hundred-fifty is a number most can agree upon: the amount of carbon dioxide in parts per million that’s safely acceptable in the atmosphere to prevent severe climate change.”

    If that paragraph is a ‘win’, then surely our goal would have to be of understating the climate predicament and thus of aiming for far below the requisite response?

    Consider: we still have about a decade to go before the warming off the 350ppm of CO2 in ~1987 is mostly realized. Yet we already have serious climate destabilization to the extent of extreme regional events imposing crop failures across wide areas. Thus far we’ve been fortunate in not seeing such failures occurring in two or more major food producing regions simultaneously, but given the evident ongoing intensification of climate destabilization, that tragic event appears to be only a matter of time.

    In addition, under the realized warming off around 335ppm in 1977, we already have the eight major positive feedbacks observed to be accelerating, some of which already present a substantial offset of our best prospect of emissions control. For instance, just the arctic sea-ice loss fraction of the overall Albedo Loss feedback is reported to have been providing an average forcing equal to 25% of that from anthro-CO2 during the 1979-2011 period. See http://eisenman.ucsd.edu/publications/Pistone-Eisenman-Ramanathan-2014.pdf

    Given that the feedbacks are interactive (mutually reinforcing) both after the delay of their SAT warming (due to oceanic thermal inertia) and also immediately due to very numerous direct coupling mechanisms between them, it seems very clear that even a 335ppm level of CO2, let alone a 350ppm level, would not be stable: planetary energy balance would continue to deteriorate.

    The prime reason why the paragraph is anything but a win in my view is that it maintains the prevaricators’ understatement of the predicament, and thus propagates highly deficient assumptions of the scale and scope of the commensurate response. The widespread plaudits (from pro-action sectors) for the EPA’s belated and derisory proposed regulation of US coal-power’s carbon efficiency in 2030 are a classic case in point.

    Regards,

    Lewis

  27. 127
    Chris Dudley says:

    Lewis (#126),

    You misunderstand “inertia” when used as climate slang. That unrealized warming only applies if we stabilize at 400 ppm, today’s level. If we lower the concentration to 350 ppm we get the 1987 climate so we go back, not forward. Consideration of models where emissions are stopped instantaneously show that warming is what-you-see-is-what-you-get aside from places with bad associated aerosol pollution. The in-the-pipe-line warming associated with various stabilization targets above the present concentration is owing to the future emissions needed to reach and hold those stabilization targets, not past emissions. What inertia there is is in emissions behavior, not in climate response.

  28. 128
    Fred Magyar says:

    Geoff @124

    “$1000 dollar a tonne carbon tax”

    Sounds great, let’s do Some simple math:

    According to government statistics In 2013, the US consumed about 134.51 billion gallons of gasoline (or 3.20 billion barrels) a daily average of about 368.51 million gallons (or 8.77 million barrels).

    A gallon of gasoline weighs roughly 6 lbs and produces about 20 lbs of CO2 when burned

    So 368 million gallons x 20 lbs = 7.36 trillion lbs of CO2 or roughly 3.3 million metric tons of CO2 every day x $1000.00 per ton CO2 tax comes out to about a 3.3 billion dollars a day.

    So to be fair, that is what would have to be charged for the God given right of driving all those SUVs and pick up trucks that are currently owned and driven by Mr. and Mrs. Joe six pack.

    Would you like to figure out what flying around in airplanes is going to cost in CO2 taxes to the public?

    How about the CO2 taxes on industry, oil prospecting, cement production, eletricity generation, etc… etc…

    And BTW, I don’t think $1000 dollar a tonne is quite enough at this point.

    Saudi saying: “My father rode a camel, I drive a Mercedes, my son flies a Leer Jet and his son will ride a camel”

    That’s because the Saudis at least understand peak oil. In any case we can be pretty sure that sooner or later the current paradigm is going to change, question is will we even have any camels left to ride? Because the way things are going in places like California we sure might need them… >;-)

  29. 129

    For those keeping score at home, 2014 continues pretty toasty, with the July update of NCDC data yielding the 4th-warmest July on record (and the warmest SSTs.)

    “The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for July 2014 was the fourth highest on record for July, at 0.64°C (1.15°F) above the 20th century average of 15.8°C (60.4°F).”

    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/global/2014/7

  30. 130
    Lewis Cleverdon says:

    Chris – at #127
    thanks for your response.

    I’m intrigued to see the popular US inversion of the scientific concepts of inertia and momentum here on RC. Under a British education ‘inertia’ refers to the energy required to get a given mass moving at a given velocity, while ‘momentum’ refers to the energy embodied in a given mass moving at a given velocity. With regard to the ongoing climate destabilization and its drivers’ delayed action effects, we are, loosely, discussing its momentum.

    Your interpretation of the timelag on warming contradicts what I’d read on the issue prior to ’92 when I went back to uni as a mature student, and what I was taught there, and what I’ve learned of the issue since then. Having no other indication of your expertise I’d suggest looking at the Sks account of the relevance of Ocean Thermal Inertia in the following link:
    http://www.skepticalscience.com/Climate-Change-The-40-Year-Delay-Between-Cause-and-Effect.html

    Quote:
    “The reason the planet takes several decades to respond to increased CO2 is the thermal inertia of the oceans. Consider a saucepan of water placed on a gas stove. Although the flame has a temperature measured in hundreds of degrees C, the water takes a few minutes to reach boiling point. This simple analogy explains climate lag. The mass of the oceans is around 500 times that of the atmosphere. The time that it takes to warm up is measured in decades. Because of the difficulty in quantifying the rate at which the warm upper layers of the ocean mix with the cooler deeper waters, there is significant variation in estimates of climate lag. A paper by James Hansen and others [iii] estimates the time required for 60% of global warming to take place in response to increased emissions to be in the range of 25 to 50 years. The mid-point of this is 37.5 which I have rounded to 40 years.”
    ____________________________

    The following references may also be informative:
    Science AAAS, ”Earth’s Energy Imbalance: Confirmation and Implications”, available (after free registration) at http://www.scienceonline.org/cgi/reprint/1110252v1.pdf, p.1

    iv NASA, “The Ocean Heat Trap”, available at http://www.ocean.com, p.3
    ____________________

    However, the point you address is actually moot as our best case of Emissions Control (of near zero by 2050) will take CO2 at least to 450ppm and even that will require a new global Carbon Recovery industry.

    Without the use of Albedo Restoration we thus face at least 0.6C of pipeline warming, plus that from our phase-out emissions, plus a substantial increment from the loss of the global Fossil Sulphate Parasol (due to Emissions Control), with their outcome being realized at some point in the 2080s, plus the combined effects of the eight major interactive feedbacks’ compound responses to continuing warming over the next 70 years.

    For this reason aiming to eventually regain only 350ppm rather than 280ppm (cutting airborne CO2 by only 100ppm not 170ppm) undermines the case for the earliest most rapid rates of change achievable, and thus leaves us at far greater risk of the onset of intensifying serial global crop failures alongside a ruinous level of ocean acidification.

    Regards,

    Lewis

  31. 131
    Lewis Cleverdon says:

    Chris – at #127
    thanks for your response.

    I’m intrigued to see the popular US inversion of the scientific concepts of inertia and momentum here on RC. Under a British education ‘inertia’ refers to the energy required to get a given mass moving at a given velocity, while ‘momentum’ refers to the energy embodied in a given mass moving at a given velocity. With regard to the ongoing climate destabilization and its drivers’ delayed action effects, we are, loosely, discussing its momentum.
    Your interpretation of the timelag on warming contradicts what I’d read on the issue prior to ‘92 when I went back to uni as a mature student, and what I was taught there, and what I’ve learned of the issue since then. Having no other indication of your expertise I’d suggest looking at the Sks account of the relevance of Ocean Thermal Inertia in the following link:

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/Climate-Change-The-40-Year-Delay-Between-Cause-and-Effect.html

    Quote:
    “The reason the planet takes several decades to respond to increased CO2 is the thermal inertia of the oceans. Consider a saucepan of water placed on a gas stove. Although the flame has a temperature measured in hundreds of degrees C, the water takes a few minutes to reach boiling point. This simple analogy explains climate lag. The mass of the oceans is around 500 times that of the atmosphere. The time that it takes to warm up is measured in decades. Because of the difficulty in quantifying the rate at which the warm upper layers of the ocean mix with the cooler deeper waters, there is significant variation in estimates of climate lag. A paper by James Hansen and others [iii] estimates the time required for 60% of global warming to take place in response to increased emissions to be in the range of 25 to 50 years. The mid-point of this is 37.5 which I have rounded to 40 years.”

    ____________________________
    The following references may also be informative:

    Science AAAS, ”Earth’s Energy Imbalance: Confirmation and Implications”, available (after free registration) at http://www.scienceonline.org/cgi/reprint/1110252v1.pdf, p.1
    iv NASA, “The Ocean Heat Trap”, available at http://www.ocean.com, p.3
    ____________________

    However, the point you address is actually moot as our best case of Emissions Control (of near zero by 2050) will take CO2 at least to 450ppm and even that will likely require a new global Carbon Recovery industry.

    Without the use of Albedo Restoration we thus face at least 0.6C of pipeline warming, plus that from our phase-out emissions, plus a substantial increment from the loss of the global Fossil Sulphate Parasol (due to Emissions Control), with their outcome being realized at some point in the 2080s, plus the combined effects of the eight major interactive feedbacks’ compound responses to continuing warming over the next 70 years.

    For this reason aiming to eventually regain only 350ppm rather than 280ppm (cutting airborne CO2 by only 100ppm not 170ppm) undermines the case for the earliest most rapid rates of change achievable, and thus leaves us at far greater risk of the onset of intensifying serial global crop failures alongside a ruinous level of ocean acidification.

    Regards,

    Lewis

  32. 132

    “perhaps the most thorough survey of climate scientists ever” says Gavin via twitter.

    We investigated in very precise terms how climate scientists (broadly defined) look at various issues such as attribution and climate sensitivity. The vast majority concurs with the AR4 attribution statement, though our results also show how this statement is prone to misunderstanding. We look at e.g. the level of consensus and media coverage from a different angle than previous work did and with much greater specificity.

    The article is available via http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es501998e (open access).

    Or a quick rundown in this blogpost: http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/2014/08/11/survey-confirms-scientific-consensus-on-human-caused-global-warming/

  33. 133
    Chris Dudley says:

    Lewis (#131),

    It is not moot. You are making claims to motivate a target of 280 ppm which are false. That weakens the case for that target. The case for 280 ppm, is ethical: pack out your trash. The case for 350 ppm is that it might be safe. You don’t understand why it might be safe owing to the misconception I pointed out to you.

    This thought may set you on the way to getting clear on this: How does Hansen know how long it takes for the oceans to respond? He increases the forcing and holds it steady and waits. But, the emissions implications of holding the forcing steady is that they must continue throughout the waiting period. Ending emissions immediately starts to cut the forcing and the oceans won’t respond completely without the full forcing.

    There is, as yet, no safety justification for a 280 ppm target. Claiming otherwise muddies the waters and makes climate action more difficult. Hansen has pointed out that 350 ppm is probably safe but it may turn out that a lower target will be needed. At this point though it is very hard to imagine that that target would be below 300 ppm. At the time that Hansen worked out the safety of 350 ppm, he was somewhat sanguine about overshoot since it may not impact ice sheet collapse if brief enough. His subsequent work has indicated that there is already an attributable death rate for warming that has already occurred. This demonstrates that 390 ppm is not safe so the overshoot concept may need to be reconsidered. Hansen’s espousal of slow effort such as a slowly rising carbon fee suggest that he has not reconsidered the implications of overshoot fully.

  34. 134
    Mal Adapted says:

    alan2102:

    Ascribing to “evolutionary mechanisms” human’s failure — so far — to effectively address certain collective/global problems, as though humans do not differ substantially from voles or beetles, is laughable.

    Yes, humans differ substantially from voles or beetles. Whether we differ enough has yet to be shown. More specifically: do our behavioral adaptations for living in small groups of genetically-related individuals enable us to make the required sacrifices on behalf of randomly-related conspecifics, to say nothing of other species, on a global scale? As a student of biological evolution from childhood to the doctoral level, I can’t laugh off our kinship with beetles (for one thing, any hypothetical deity must be inordinately fond of them), but I do retain some hope.

    I’m not saying that humans WILL use their dramatically greater mental powers to act rationally and effectively to avert disaster; that remains to be seen, and in some respects things look bad. But that we CAN do so is unquestionable.

    Do you not see the contradiction in those two sentences?

    Mal Adapted at 101, in reply to Geoff:
    “It’s been said. Saying it hasn’t made it so.”

    Did you think that mere saying of it would make it so?

    No, but it seemed to me that Geoff did. My challenge to him was mostly rhetorical, but he has responded creditably. I have said here and elsewhere that carbon taxes are the most economically efficient way to drive the global transition to carbon-free energy, and I support many of the specifics of Geoff’s plan. The obstacles are political, and in turn may be rooted in our evolution as social primates. I emphasize may be, and again I retain some hope. OTOH, I’ve forsworn fatherhood (thus my ‘nym), and increasingly it appears I made the right choice. The choice to consign your own genes to the unpromising future is, of course, yours.

  35. 135
    Icarus62 says:

    Just a quick comment about the 350ppm figure:

    Hansen’s argument was not that 350ppm is a ‘safe’ value in terms of the global climate associated with that value, but that a reduction from (say) 400ppm to 350ppm would constitute a sufficient negative forcing to cancel out the planet’s current radiative imbalance of ~0.6W/m² and thus stop the accumulation of heat in the climate system. In the unlikely event of us getting anywhere near achieving 350ppm, we would then have to decide how low the atmospheric CO2 level would need to go in order to restore something like a 20th Century climate, and that could well be below280ppm for a time.

    In reality, it’s all a bit academic. We’re pumping out CO2 faster than ever, and I don’t see any prospect of the world getting together to deliberately and precisely manage the climate by changing the composition of the atmosphere. It would require a monumental effort and an unrealistic degree of worldwide co-operation, public education and self-sacrifice. I would love to be proven wrong.

  36. 136
    Lewis Cleverdon says:

    Icarus62 at #139,
    thanks for clarifying the issue. I was at a loss to explain convincingly quite how a pan of water will not cool down simply because one stops raising the heat-source under it.

    With regard to the prospect of the predicament’s resolution, I guess we may agree that we’ve yet to see anything like really committed political leadership on the issue. On the contrary – we’ve thus far seen foot-dragging and outright obstructionism from a succession of US presidents on the international stage – which means in effect that the requisite global co-operation is stymied.

    That we are heading towards wholly untenable impacts seems beyond rational dispute, with the prime class being major regional crop failures co-inciding in two or more regions to give the onset of serial global crop failures and the geopolitical destabilization they would entail.

    If the major powers choose to pursue the present de facto “Brinkmanship of Inaction” as far as that, then some kind of settlement is then unavoidable to restore order, though the practical requirement would be of the emergency deployment of Geo-E (Tellers sulphate aerosols being the only option ready due to a lack of research) alongside some level of global emissions control.

    What interests me is quite why we’ve seen such obstructionism, because the conventional wisdom of blaming the fossil fuel lobby doesn’t get near explaining the scale of damage and loss that is being risked by very powerful entities with no inherent loyalty to fossil fuels.

    The link below is to a comment on a Guardian article which addresses the issue of a covert motivation for the inaction, which I hope you may find of interest.

    https://id.theguardian.com/profile/billhook

    Regards,

    Lewis

  37. 137
    Gene Goldring says:

    Gerald Stanhill is back at it.
    JGR ATMOSPHERES
    Radiative forcing and temperature change at Potsdam between 1893 and 2012

    abstract
    Radiative forcing in both the short and long-wave lengths reaching the Earth’s surface accounted for more than 80% of the inter-annual variations in the mean yearly temperatures measured at Potsdam, Germany, during the last 120 years. Three quarters of the increase in the long-wave flux was due to changes in the water content of the lower atmosphere; the remainder was attributed to increases in CO2 and other anthropogenic, radiatively active gases. Over the period radiative forcing in the short-wave flux slightly exceeded that in the long wave, but its effect on air temperature was much less as the climate sensitivity to atmospheric radiation, 0.187°C per W m−2, was three times greater than to short-wave global radiation. This anomalous finding, similar to that previously reported at two coastal sites, awaits explanation as does the complex interaction existing between radiative forcing and advection in determining temperature change.

    Does the RC page “Global dimming and global warming” still apply? I can’t get to the paper from where I am to see if there have been any new tricks.

  38. 138
    alan2102 says:

    [moderators: if you want me to shut up and stop posting things along these lines, just let me know. I'm good with it. -- alan]

    Mal Adapted, #134: “do our behavioral adaptations for living in small groups of genetically-related individuals enable us to make the required sacrifices on behalf of randomly-related conspecifics, to say nothing of other species, on a global scale?”

    Of course, I don’t know. No one does. I assume you are talking about the sacrifices necessary to effectively turn back or at least stabilize climate change. (And btw I don’t see the “sacrifices” as being that great; in fact it could easily work the opposite way, with the necessary changes causing improved quality of life. But that is a whole other discussion.)

    What I DO know is that the behavioral adaptations for living in small groups of genetically-related individuals enabled us to create a system working on behalf of randomly-related conspecifics on a global scale sufficient, for one example, to dramatically reduce poverty over the last 20 years. The UN Human Development report of 2013 describes recent “massive reductions” in poverty (amongst other mostly-good things), and the likelihood of those reductions continuing; see:

    http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/librarypage/hdr/human-development-report-2013/
    http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/presscenter/pressreleases/2013/03/14/-rise-of-south-transforming-global-power-balance-says-2013-human-development-report/

    That is a remarkable feat! I never would have predicted it. And that is just one thing; there is lots more, such as dramatic reductions in malnutrition and starvation, big drops in deaths from malaria and AIDS, and etc.

    Does any of that mean that humanity will mobilize effectively to stop climate change? No, of course it does not mean that. It just means that we’re capable of massive, breathtaking global change for the better — change that leaves all this nattering about “small groups of genetically-related individuals” and “randomly-related conspecifics” in the dust of irrelevance. It means that we’re capable of more than living in tribes and engaging in ethnocentric/parochial struggle against everyone else — as nihilistic malthusian doomers with evolutionary theory pretensions might have it. (That last remark describes some people of my acquaintance, not necessarily you; wear that shoe only if it fits).

    Mal: “Do you not see the contradiction in those two sentences?”

    No, I don’t. Please explain. One of my sentences spoke of what humans CAN do, potentially; the other spoke of what they WILL do, which is of course not yet known. I said that “in some respects things look bad”, which is true; and, in some respects things look good. Tom Atlee’s wonderful remark was: “Things are getting better and better, and worse and worse, faster and faster”. That about sums it up, doesn’t it? If you cannot see the “better and better” part, then I can’t help you, and further interaction here or anywhere would be futile.

  39. 139
    Chris Dudley says:

    (#135),

    Hansen used the word “dangerous” and “danger” in the paper several times. From the conclusion:

    “We suggest an initial objective of reducing atmospheric
    CO2 to 350 ppm, with the target to be adjusted as scientific
    understanding and empirical evidence of climate effects accumulate.
    Although a case already could be made that the
    eventual target probably needs to be lower, the 350 ppm target
    is sufficient to qualitatively change the discussion and
    drive fundamental changes in energy policy. Limited opportunities
    for reduction of non-CO2 human-caused forcings are
    important to pursue but do not alter the initial 350 ppm CO2
    target. This target must be pursued on a timescale of decades,
    as paleoclimate and ongoing changes, and the ocean
    response time, suggest that it would be foolhardy to allow
    CO2 to stay in the dangerous zone for centuries.”

    So, I think you are mistaken.

  40. 140

    “I was at a loss to explain convincingly quite how a pan of water will not cool down simply because one stops raising the heat-source under it.”

    - See more at: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2014/08/unforced-variations-aug-2014/comment-page-3/#comment-582329

    Well, it depends upon a few things, doesn’t it?

    Since you are envisioning a scenario where the heat has been increasing, by definition your system is not at thermal equilibrium. In equilibrium, a quick and well coupled response might be expected.

    But for non-equilibrated scenarios, relative temps are important–if the water is (for instance) 50 C and you turn down the heat-source from 200 C to 100C, the water clearly will not stop warming; it will just warm less rapidly.

    Similarly for ‘raising the temperature’–a scenario fairly well approximated with any electric stove, since the element itself has thermal inertia. As the element reaches its thermal equilibrium (its maximum temperature for the control setting selected), it effectively ‘stops raising the temperature.’ Yet the water warms faster, because the hotter element radiates more heat to the pan.

    Sometimes the worst thing about these simple analogies is that we think we understand the everyday exemplar better than in fact we do–and yes, I resemble that remark. Strongly.

    In the case of the actual Earth system, the ‘element’ is the atmosphere, but its radiative forcing isn’t determined primarily by temperature. And of course the planet isn’t quite as simple as a pot of water.

    RC has had the oft-cited post on Mathews & Weaver (2010), which shows a flat or slightly declining temperature trend following closely upon total cessation of emissions:

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/03/climate-change-commitments/

    However, Gillet et al (2010) shows that while global mean surface temperature would more or less flat-line, global precipitation would continue to increase, sea level would continue to rise, and ocean heat content would continue to rise–dramatically enough, in fact, that “We suggest that a warming of the intermediate-depth ocean around Antarctica at the scale simulated for the year 3000 could lead to the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which would be associated with a rise in sea level of several metros.” (NB–they set the emissions cessation date at 2100.)

    http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v4/n2/full/ngeo1047.html

    That makes sense, since the surface warmth would be more or less ‘clamped’, but ocean mixing would continue.

    So, Chris Dudley may well be right about GMST, but there’s more to thermal inertia (or climate commitment) than just GMST.

  41. 141
    john byatt says:

    anyone know why the huge difference between NOAA and GISS for July?

    http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/tabledata_v3/GLB.Ts+dSST.txt

  42. 142
    Mal Adapted says:

    alan2102:

    further interaction here or anywhere would be futile.

    On that much we agree.

  43. 143
    Chris Dudley says:

    Kevin (#140),

    Nice link http://www.climatesoscanada.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Gillettetal_NGeo_proof.pdf I’ve been looking for that kind of map to see if I could explain a little further. Turns out Arctic deamplifications is dominating over what I’d have said which would have been that if the oceans did not communicate so well with the land, the pattern you’d expect on cessation of emissions would be land cooling right away joined only later by the oceans as the reducing forcing met the delayed and cooler state of the oceans. Looks like that is not terribly apparent in fig. 3 where the poles are seeing action.

  44. 144

    Shameful but not surprising:

    http://www.canada.com/Federal+government+puts+polar+briefings/10128511/story.html?__federated=1

    The Harper government is all about ‘drill, baby, drill’–though they never use the phrase.

  45. 145
    Killian says:

    Re 239 and 135:

    So.. for the last several years when I was pointing out the ice started melting around 315 and that we had to go sub-300… you could only hear it after stated by Hansen?

    Discuss.

    do I bees more brillianter den you finks I be? Oar, is you not listen lessen der bee a letra soup after a naming?

    Check historical sea ice. You know, the Canary in the Coal Mine? 1953. 30 yr lag = 315 as starting melt point.

    Capiche?

    Oh! And this is fun! Hansen, et al., seemto be right about ice melt doublings at 5 uear intervals, too. Oh, yay.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-28852980

    My math is probably off, but wouldn’t 20 doublings in 100 years melt all the ice, everywhere?

    Think happy thoughts.

  46. 146
    MARodger says:

    john byatt @141.
    The July 2014 GISS & NOAA-NCDC difference is 0.12ºC but such a difference isn’t so uncommon. A quick look at the data since 2000 and the average size of difference between the two is 0.045ºC with differences of 0.1ºC or more a 1-in-13 month event and 0.12ºC or more 1-in-28 months. The only odd event with these differences since 2000 was in July but in 2004 when GISS recorded a far lower anomaly in the middle of a mid-year temperature dip.

  47. 147

    #141–John, I don’t know specifically why there is a relatively large difference for the July NCDC and GISTEMP anomalies. But I was curious enough to download the last 20–well, 21, actually–values for July and do a quick and dirty Excel chart. It shows, I think, that the difference is a bit larger than usual (it’s not uncommon for the two to be the same, or nearly so), but by no means unprecedented:

    http://i1108.photobucket.com/albums/h402/brassdoc/NCDCvsGistempAnomalies94-14.png

    (Red is NCDC, blue is GISTEMP.)

    My suspicion would be that the spatial structure of the temperature field (especially in the Arctic) would be the main reason for differing values: GISTEMP is more aggressive in extrapolating to cover data gaps.

  48. 148
    Chris Dudley says:

    Killian (#145),

    The Hansen et al. Target paper was published 6 years ago. You have been wasting your time for the past several years if you have not yet read it. http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abs/ha00410c.html

    Ice melting is not the issue there. Ice sheets collapsing is. 350 ppm might be safe. Recent work suggests that WAIS is going to collapse no matter what target we adopt. If so, then 350 ppm may still partially rebuild it post collapse. The Target paper indicates that 450 ppm would not rebuild it.

    One aspect of Hansen’s slow-to-start-cutting scenario is that the infrastructure to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere has to be used to get to 350 ppm whereas if we get China to start cutting now, we can get to 350 ppm without that stuff. It you want to go below 350 ppm, you’ll need those tools to get there. So, your target may benefit from the slow approach methods Hansen urges such a slowly rising carbon fee and waiting for not yet invented fossil fuel replacement technology.

    I prefer more active measures such as EPA regulation of carbon emissions and carbon tariffs placed on Chinese imports implemented now because it is now clear that climate change is dangerous to human life now. Experimenting with larger overshoot and hoping that fast neutron reactors will compensate for a shrinking uranium resource seems to me to be an unethical proposal when we have the regulatory and diplomatic tools available to cut emissions now.

  49. 149
    john byatt says:

    MARodger says:
    21 Aug 2014 at 6:44 AM
    thanks

  50. 150
    Walter Crain says:

    is this analysis valid?:
    Analysis Of 23 Top Quality US Surface Stations Shows Insignificant Warming…Only 0.16°C Rise – Per Century!
    http://notrickszone.com/2014/08/20/analysis-of-23-top-qualty-us-surface-stations-shows-insignificant-warming-only-0-16c-rise-per-century/

    supposedly he took only the class 1 stations in the united states and determined that taken together they only show .16C/century warming. that’s about 1/4 of the warming rate mentioned here:
    https://www2.ucar.edu/climate/faq/how-much-has-global-temperature-risen-last-100-years


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