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Unforced variations: Nov 2014

Filed under: — group @ 2 November 2014

This month’s open thread. In honour of today’s New York Marathon, we are expecting the fastest of you to read and digest the final IPCC Synthesis report in sub-3 hours. For those who didn’t keep up with the IPCC training regime, the Summary for Policy Makers provides a more accessible target.

Also in the news, follow #ArcticCircle2014 for some great info on the Arctic Circle meeting in Iceland.

410 Responses to “Unforced variations: Nov 2014”

  1. 151
    John Pollack says:

    A complementary perspective on weather and climate forecasting – from a weather forecaster. I can do quite well on day-to-day forecasting, but my ability to do so depends heavily on physics, especially the physics incorporated into weather models. I cannot forecast daily weather 6 months out, but I can make a very accurate forecast based on climate. The temperature on Jan. 15 2015 at 5 PM standard time in Des Moines, Iowa, USA will be colder than on July 15 2015 at the same time. I cannot make that forecast with confidence at Hobart, Tasmania, Singapore, or even Eureka California (at nearly the same latitude as Des Moines.) This is because the factors relating to climate, such as interior continental location and latitude, will totally dominate day-to-day weather factors at Des Moines. Similarly, a forecast of a warmer world climate based on a drastic increase in greenhouse gases released by humans will come to dominate local and short-range factors over time. The process depends on physics and is inexorable, even if the local and year-to-year details aren’t.

  2. 152
    Chris Dudley says:

    Hank (#140),

    “– Open water has lower emissivity in the far-IR (and also open water is associated with a moist atmosphere); for both reasons, the infrared photons that are emitted from open water heat up the atmosphere rather than leaving the planet.”

    It is not really for both reasons. If you put a mirror (very low emissivity) in a kiln and heat it up, when you look in through the peep hole, it will appear to glow just like a brick covered with lamp black (very high emissivity). In local thermodynamic equilibrium the emissivity is not important; everything glows in the same way because the mean free path of the photons is short compared to the scale over which the temperature changes. What isn’t emission is reflection but all with the same thermal radiation field at the same density given by the Planck function. So, it is the water vapor that builds the kiln walls and sets up the (near) balance of upward and downward radiation.

    Regarding the stratospheric clouds, their temperature will be set by collisions with gas molecules and thus will be cold at that altitude. These clouds do help to break down ozone and thus further cool the stratosphere a little owing to its absence.

  3. 153
    Rafael Molina Navas, Madrid says:

    #121 D. T. says:
    “But can you see where the forecasting dilemma reappears? If we can’t forecast the weather, how can we forecast the climate change and then associated weather? Does this not follow? Am I not making sense or communicating this question well?”
    If you´ve read #138, where I dealt with your #115, you will already know the problem is not just that you don´t understand our answers: THE QUESTIONS THEMSELVES “ARE TO BLAME”.
    To “forecast (your word) the climate change” HAS NOTHING TO DO with “forecast(ing) the weather” (today) …

  4. 154
    Hank Roberts says:

    Delay is the deadliest form of profiteering:

  5. 155
    Chris Dudley says:

    Dan (#125),

    It is hard to see how a carbon fee addresses inaction. The tediously slow start in most proposals would lead to increased emissions compared to the regulations already coming into force. People like to claim market efficiencies for such schemes but in an emergency, the opportunity cost of delaying to set up such a program in terms of increased emissions and reduced international leverage erase any advantage that might be had with such a system. The US is already cutting emissions and knows how it will cut them further to meet its international commitments. That means we can demand action from other nations where the chief danger actually lies. There is really very little to recommend you scheme.

  6. 156
    Hank Roberts says:

    > the mean free path of the photons is short

    Not always, though, right? Because they’re doing IR astronomy on Antarctica.

    Is the Arctic during winter different from the Antarctic in this? More water vapor over the Arctic even in the winter, so you don’t get short mean free paths over the Arctic? (I’m looking for something about humidity during Arctic winters)

    I understand that infrared astronomers are working from the Antarctic, not the Arctic, because the seeing is better (and so presumably the radiation away as well in the same band). But is that for reasons other than having dry air? (Higher elevation/thinner air? fixed locations?)

  7. 157
    Hank Roberts says:

    > the mean free path of the photons is short

    But is that true during the winter in the Arctic? I see quite a bit being written about making observations in the far-IR and teraherz from Arctic locations now, and they say, well, ‘oogle it, e.g.

    The ideal submillimetre observing site is dry, cool, has stable weather conditions and is away from urban population centres. There are only a handful of such sites identified, …. of these sites Mauna Kea is the most established and arguably the most accessible. There has been some recent interest in high-altitude Arctic sites, particularly Summit Station in Greenland where the PWV (precipitable water vapor) measure is always better than at Mauna Kea …

    and from aircraft in the Arctic, e.g.,EPRINTS-EPSC-PHYS,EPRINTS-ARX-PHAX/fullRecord:far-infrared+Arctic/#ResultList=0|0|_|RANK|0

  8. 158
    David Miller says:

    Danny says

    I find it quite interesting socially that AGW folks feel they’re having so much trouble communicating they have to invent a “Psychology of climate change communication” and yet when one “dares” to visit a site named “realclimate” tells the truth about how undereducated they are, they’re castigated, belittle, called trolls and asked effectively to leave.

    Danny, you’re not being castigated, belittled, and called a troll for “daring” to visit a site called realclimate and demonstrating how undereducated you are.

    You’re being called a troll for acting like one: acting like you want to learn something but clearly having no interest in learning, and repeatedly posting the same points with trivial variations.

    You asked for help and you received many good pointers to the science and to various sites that could explain the science to non-scientists. Instead of accepting the help you said you were seeking, you simply repeated the same talking points and complained that the more educated who were trying to help you were, essentially, being mean.

    People here were happy to help you with what you said you wanted. Instead you just kept trolling. Go troll somewhere else; you’re not trying to learn nor adding anything to the knowledge base here.

  9. 159
    Jasper Jaynes says:

    Wili #149,

    “Too much trolling and troll-feeding”

    I agree with you, but you need to ask the question of why this occurs to understand the dynamics of this site.

    Sorry to see you go, your contributions were very valuable.


  10. 160

    #156–What Dan’s scheme has to recommend it is that (could it be put in place) it would likely not be so much at the mercy of political winds as is the current regime.

  11. 161
    Ric Merritt says:

    Thanks, folks, I’m feeling very productive today. Just covered about 100 RC comments in fewer than 100 seconds.

    The secret: when you see a whole lotta trollin’, do a whole lotta scrollin’. If you have the sort of mouse with a scroll wheel, use whatever finger works best for you.

  12. 162
    Thomas Clarke says:

    @Danny Thomas

    I realise maybe Danny has gone – but I found the exchanges between him and others here fascinating on several levels.

    Firstly – while Danny could have been a troll etc – I am reluctant to believe that of anyone and I think more likely he was genuine and doing what he said he was doing – trying to understand.

    It should therefore be of interest to everyone here who cares about the public perception of climate science that he went away feeling not understood. Now – I guess this is not the right site for him – too many scientists actually interested in questions much more detailed than Danny was able to articulate. Still I would like to have been kinder to him.

    Secondly – the tone of responses to him was first patient explanation, then increasing frustration and (from some) condescension. I read through the thread up to my post all in one go and found Danny’s uber-reasonableness combined with the increasingly hostile tone of comments revealing. I am sure this would seem to many in Danny’s position sure fire evidence that this site is biassed and unable to think outside its preconceived ideas,

    Before the above causes reactions, I also saw Danny’s absolute refusal to go look up the evidence for himself. He was given nice easy links answering his questions at every possible level of sophistication. He admitted to “not having got around to them”. That lack of response was I think what annoyed many here. There is nothing more annoying than an attempt at genuine communication which is met with a brick wall.

    I want to make a point about this exchange. Danny, and many like him, are I think not refusing to delve into the science themselves because they have made up their minds. They are refusing because they feel a lack of confidence – just as people will sometimes avoid hard problems at school. Now I don’t know how Danny would get on with the science, and I guess he does not know, but if you see his refusal to do this as a lack of confidence it makes sense.

    You might ask then why Danny is seeking to understand? He gets, from his friends, and from blogs, explanations that make sense to him. The science does not do that, and no-one here is helping him with it because he is not confident. He knows this stuff can be spun. So he is looking for all the different spins to make his own mind up. He wanted a simple two paragraph explanation. Had I been around earlier I might have tried – but of course it would be missing so much detail it would not be much good. Yet all that detail is I think what Danny and others are afraid of.

    OK – so anyway here are the (basic – but still I guess too much detail) things that could have been said to him that were not – or if they were I missed them. My take on risks – probably several inaccuracies – and a fatalistic slant not all will agree with. Also, I know this is sort of teaching Gavin to suck eggs. But it was not much done in the replies here – so I’ll do it. Maybe it is right that this site is not skeptical science, and he needs to go there. But does SS have enough live debate of all these basic issues? It has all been done to death so maybe not. Danny wanted live answers to questions. Perhaps a better place for him would be climatechangenationalforum. But not much of a community there yet.

    (1) The effect of CO2 is forcing (the basic effect) and how the earth system responds to that basic effect. The forcing is absolutely certain, understood, and quantified to within quite a small error. This is “settled science”. Although a noddy explanation is simple, the actual equations are complex and subtle enough that you need good high school math and physics to follow it, simple non-math arguments tend to get things wrong – skeptical science documents much of this getting things wrong. A lot of the blog comment on the issue of CO2 sounds reasonable at the level of argument but in fact fails when you work through the actual equations. [I would not say this to him – but an example is the fact that GHGs modulate temperature at the surface by altering the height at which the atmosphere becomes effectively opaque to various frequencies. Understanding this is not simple though skeptical science does a good job of explaining (I think – does it – can’t remember?)]. The “how the earth responds” part – called feedbacks – has a lot of acknowledged uncertainty. We just don’t have enough evidence to pin down the numbers very well yet.

    (2) The issue of past climate large changes – in both CO2 and temperature – is a red herring. The human race has been happy in the unusually stable interglacial Holocene. We survive the flip to glaciation as a race but think of the enormous migrations caused and how that would play out in our industrialised and therefore less nomadic society! The various previous “natural” temperature changes have caused extinctions of many other species and humanity has not been around to see what would happen. So comparing possibly uncomfortable (for us as a species) changes now with past large natural changes is not the issue. It is further not the issue because nearly all of these natural changes have been 10 or 1000 times slower than the change from CO2 now, Ecosystems adapt fine to slow changes. (The exceptions I know for timescale are mega-volcanoes or major asteroid strikes, all causing extinction events).

    (2a) The issue of CO2 and temperature tracking in the past is complex, because causality works both ways. Working out how much temperature change from natural causes drives things and how much that from CO2 does is not simple. But there is lots of good detailed science on this topic!

    (3) The question “how much current warming is down to CO2” is a good one. And the answer is we don’t know! IPCC say (I forget exact limits – 150% to 50%?). The settled science here is that a lot of it comes from CO2. We have a broad range of possibles based on best science, but that specific question is not settled quantitatively and it certainly matters a lot. What is settled is that the range of possibles is worrying, not so much for us now, but for us in 50 years’s time, and very worrying for us in 100 years time, if CO2 emissions remain unchecked. The fact is, humanity is having a devastating effect on our ecosystem due to habitat destruction. The current large effects of CO2, ocean acidification, warming, are comparably devastating though irreversible. Habitat destruction is in principle reversible but do you see it reversing? And both for habitat destruction and ocean acidification we are not likely to destroy the ecosystem, just change it enormously as happens in an extinction event when 90% of species are wiped out and in a few 100 thousand years new ones develop to exploit new evolutionary niches.

    Here the scientists are saying clearly there is much uncertainty. When this is turned into politics the uncertainty gets rather minimised, because as a political message you can’t convey clear and present long-term risk by talking of uncertainty. That is politics, not science. The people who are highly certain about the science are the “other side” who claim to know that not much of current warming comes from CO2 and therefore there is no issue.

    (4) Why are people here saying that this or that bad thing is bound to happen? No-one is. The apocalyptic scenarios, presented as certainties, come from the media. Science gives a decent chance of nasty things happening and a very strong chance of stuff happening that will be very expensive but really the science of what the earth does when we change things like global temperature is so unknown that most is speculation. Major catastrophic ice melt and sea rise is a given, but the timescale for this is long enough that it does not much trouble us 100 years from now. Of course, if you live on an Indonesian island you would reckon the sea rise so far is worrying – destroying some islands – but in the grand scheme of things for most of our civilisation it is not such a big deal.
    Just a lot of extra cost. Worrying for those who care about economic growth.

    (5) Who do you trust? Don’t trust scientists. They are fallible people, some of whom have a political agenda. Don’t trust non-scientists, they are equally fallible people, more likely to have a political agenda. Absolutely don’t trust blogs, which thrive advancing a viewpoint. Trust the scientific process which like capitalism is imperfect but ends up through natural selection making wonderful advances in spite of individual imperfections. That means, as has been said – PEER REVIEW!

  13. 163
    Russell says:

    Would Danny Thomas care to argue with Milton Friedman ?

    It is a capital mistake to confuse the views of the Chicago School with those of the Heartland Institute !

  14. 164
    Dan Miller says:

    #155 Chris: Under Fee and Dividend (F&D), a rising fee is assessed at the well, mine, or port of entry so the fee hits the entire economy (which is desirable). While the fee starts out small, about $10/ton, everyone knows that it will steadily rise and hit $50/ton in 5 years and $100/ton in 10 years. So decision makers will _immediately_ take CO2 in account and, for example, refrain from building or extending the life of coal plant, for example, and even may refrain from building new natural gas facilities. Because F&D creates jobs and grows the economy, it should receive support from the public and both sides of the aisle (once the conservatives decide that climate change is a real thing).

    While the US has reduced emissions because of the recession and by exporting some emissions to China, we don’t have effective policies in place so we are not in a position to tell the rest of the world what to do. Under F&D, a border duty is put in place to put a tariff on goods than come from countries that do not have a price in CO2. If we did this in conjunction with China and the EU, the rest of the world will follow quickly.

    The IPCC says that we need to urgently and dramatically lower global emissions. Only policies that lead to significant emissions reductions will play a role in preserving a livable climate for our children.

  15. 165
    Piotr says:

    Re: #115 Danny Thomas

    “Are you saying weather is not “physics”? By my understanding it is. I can’t do the physics, but as our accuracy is so poor there, how can I trust the physics extrapolated to climate and then to global when it relates to forecasting.”

    and that’s where you go off the rails – when forecasting global climate we _don’t_ “extrapolate” from forecasts of local weather. To illustrate this:

    I have no idea what temperature would be in my city on Dec.15. 2014 (=weather) but I am pretty damn sure it will be colder than on Jul. 15 2015 (the difference between typical temperature of summer and winter being part of the “climate”), and I can plan accordingly (I prefer to have BBQ with my friends in July).

    The reason for much higher predictability of climate than weather is that forces determining the climate are much more predictable than those determining the weather:

    Weather is all about short-term variability – a product of highly chaotic nonlinear interactions which would cause, say, the storm track to go slightly to the right or to the left, intensify or weaken, slow down or accelerate, all these affecting the weather in your town on the given day. Extremely hard to model, given the number of these variables and their nonlinear interactions. That’s why the weather forecasts past several day are increasingly unreliable.

    Climate, on the other hand, is a long time AVERAGE of the weathers, typically averaging over at least several _decades_. Which means that all the short-term forcing and resulting short-term fluctuations have averaged out (i.e. canceled each other out) and what is left is the underlying mean, the long term average. This mean is determined no longer by the highly chaotic nonlinear interactions of the weather, but by the fundamental principles of physics (here: thermodynamics). So while I can’t predict temp. on Dec. 15, because of the whole bunch of small-scale and short-time variables interacting with each others, I can “forecast” that the July date is likely to be better date for my BBQ – because of the elementary science (in July the Sun is higher so it gives more energy per m2 than in December.

    The same argument can be made for spatial averaging – I trust the _global_ forecasts more than local, because the more unpredictable local variations cancel each other out when we compute the _global average_.

    So your questioning of the value of the reaserch of many climatologists is based on your fallacy that we can’t we forecast global climate because we can’t forecast local weather. And your claim is doubly wrong: both in the temporal and in the spatial scale.

    Danny Thomas: “I see evidence of warming. Growing seasons are expanding, there are some “atypical” weather events (note, they were unforecasted)

    Note: _climate_ models do not attempt to do things they were not build to do: they forecast climate, not the weather – so a _climate_ model might tell you that _probability_ of an extreme event will increase, but won’t give the date and location when this extreme event will take place.

    > – ice is melting (and growing), sea levels are rising. What I don’t (yet?) see is “where’s the fire”? Does that make sense?

    No, not really – maybe because you make self-assured claims, like your justification for not believing in climate models forecasts, on the basis of total ignorance of the subject you make your strong statements about (you missed the difference between weather and climate). Or because your statements are so vague, that it it becomes impossible to test them – by “ice melting (and growing)” – do you mean changes between seasons, changes between “ice” on a particular day between years or changes in the annual averages, regional or global changes? and changes of what: sea-ice extent? total glacier/icecap surface area?, total volume of the ice ?. Each of these would require a different answer.

    Given all that, the answer to your concluding questions like “where is the fire?” – either would be incomprehensible to you at your level of knowledge, or if it were to be tailored to your level of comprehension would have to be stripped of so much scientific detail that it would look no better than baseless opinions of climate change denialists.

    So I would echo other posters here – before you waste bandwitdth and time of others, please do your homework, using one of the sites mentioned. It takes some knowledge to ask a worthwhile question, and to understand the answer.


  16. 166
    Jon Kirwan says:

    #150 To: Edward Greisch ” Please tell me how you became afraid of nuclear.”

    Quite a while back, before the ban here on such discussions, I wrote my own personal experiences directly with the NRC and my reflections. I don’t mean to insert myself where not wanted, but I’d be glad to provide copies of the materials I have here, as well as an overview of those experiences and other contacts (physicists involved directly) that you might also use to verify what I say. My conclusions stand until there are material improvements in the US.

    Let me know if you want to interact with another modestly informed opinion. We can work out the best method to continue, if so.

  17. 167
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Thomas Clarke,
    Yes, heavens forfend we should be biased in favor of the truth. The fact is that Danny was repeatedly guided to resources that could have answered his questions–good resources. He wasn’t interested. He was enjoying the attention too much.

    Realclimate is a place where you can come to learn the science–but it is a place you have to be willing to do the work to learn it. If one isn’t interested in that, this isn’t the right place.

  18. 168
    David B. Benson says:

    A reminder to all that
    is available for after-posting moderated comments on various so-called climate solutions, including nuclear. The site features a number of practicing and retired engineers in a variety of energy related disciplines, including nuclear.

  19. 169
    sidd says:

    “Maybe it is right that this site is not skeptical science, and he needs to go there. But does SS have enough live debate of all these basic issues?”

    As far as i can tell, no thread is closed on
    There are folk there who will lay out chapter and verse. (They have far more patience than I.)


  20. 170
    Thomas says:

    Arctic versus Antactic for IR astronomy.
    Firstly the Antactic is considerably colder, higher and drier, all of which reduce atmospheric IR emissions which are “light pollution” to the IR astronomer. Also I think because the Antarctic ice cap is roughly symmetrical about the pole, the ice domes have stable air -in fact the “seeing” at dome C is several times better than at Mauna Kea.
    The best Northern hemisphere equivalent would be somewhere on the ice divide in Greenland. Not nearly as high dry or cold, but logistics is probably less difficult. Most importantly it sees the stars with positive (Northern) declinations: The North and South poles each see only half the sky, and there is no overlap, so different objects are available from either.
    Sea level observations (say from sea ice) would suffer from lower elevation, higer temperatures etc etc, as well as from an unstable base.

  21. 171
    Thomas says:

    Thomas Clarke @162.
    Your thesis (about Danny) may well be correct. Ever try to explain physics to someone who is poor at math? Sending them to a resource which requires some degree of comfort/facility with mathematical style thinking is just not going to work, although to any of us regulars the stuf might seem elementary. The art of making something understandable to math averse amateurs is not an easy skill to acquire. And of course the whole thing dissolves in frustration, as the student just doesn’t comprehend the material.

  22. 172
    Edward Greisch says:

    162 Thomas Clarke 167 Ray Ladbury 169 sidd:

    I think Danny Thomas does not want to do the work necessary to……. Before I got to college, I had a very wrong idea of what it is to be a physicist. That changed over the years of my education and continued to change beyond. It is a lot of very hard work, and math gives you a pain where a pill can’t reach it. Nobody, including Danny Thomas, could possibly get what Danny Thomas wants without going to school for 4 or more years of what would be torture for most people, including Danny Thomas. There is no royal road to mathematics.

    Therefore, climate change will once again drive human evolution.

    166 Jon Kirwan [168 DBB] I hear Jon Kirwan saying that he had a bad experience with part of the federal bureaucracy. Having been part of the federal bureaucracy myself, I am not surprised. The bureaucrats, including me, do [did] what the elected officials want. If a senator or a vice president wants you to have a bad experience, you will have a bad experience. Bureaucrats have no choice but to obey the laws that Congress writes, and Congress writes a lot of stupid/crazy/destructive/etcetera laws. Washington is still a capital much like Rome was 2000 years ago and much like every other capital over the last 9000 years. Humans haven’t changed.

    Skip to “Don’t Even Think About It [Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change]” by George Marshall, 2014, chapter 40. Marshall thinks that climate science should operate the way religion operates, even to the extent that climate science should be a religion. That is where I part company with George Marshall.

    Maybe Danny Thomas was looking for an “epiphany?” George Marshall made a big point of the fact that preachers bring the prospective convert into a group where he receives psychological perks for becoming a member of a group that likes him. We tell him to go study. Danny Thomas doesn’t want to study. Danny Thomas wants to get psychological rewards.

    We gave Danny Thomas the literal answers to the literal questions that Danny Thomas asked. Danny Thomas wasn’t expecting that. Danny Thomas was expecting words to mean things that the words do not say. We don’t operate that way.

    George Marshall is clearly not a scientist, but George Marshall is on “our side.” The answer I was looking for when I started reading George Marshall’s book is something I already knew: “It doesn’t work that way.”

    Jon Kirwan and DBB: If I got you wrong, I am still interested in the psychology, not the mitigation. There may be no answer. We could try:!current-projects/c3g8

  23. 173
    marcus says:

    #162 Thomas Clarke:

    Phrases like

    “My CAGW buddy has stated”

    “It still makes zero sense that we’re being told that weather will be “X” in some future point in time. ”

    indicate the troll very clearly. People trying to understand don’t show up with readymade “whattsupwiththat” BS text modules like these.

    All the best

  24. 174
    MARodger says:

    Thomas Clarke @162.
    It appears evident to me that Danny Thomas was genuine but came here with an inability to change his established opinion. As you say, the nature of that “inability” is worth considering.
    Note that he first arrived on the Lewis & Curry thread, first asking if folk here agreed with him that there was a middle ground where AGW could be discussed without being drowned by alarmism or denialism. His second input said only that he was “seeking an education.” His fourth input was now asking lengthy questions, specifically ‘Why is CO2 a bad guy?’ and ‘Why are Wattsupia, Climateetcia and RealClimate on different planets?’
    The subjects of his enquiries multiplied as he progressed. Yet throughout his time here he showed no sign of taking on board what was being said to him or what he was being pointed at. There was no sign of him ever trying to get to the bottom of, say, why CO2 is a GHG.
    So what prevented the “education” he was seeking? What was his “inability”?
    I don’t think it was a lack of confidence, certainly not in the conventional meaning of the word, because he was quite robust with his comments in other respects? Indeed, he even has occasion to suggest that folk here should be learning from him!
    What I saw was somebody expecting to be handed “the answer,” but without having to spend time understanding “the answer.” So if his opinion didn’t agree with the offered answer, his response would not be “No, because…” It would instead be “No thank you.”
    And the cause of that? Was he too attached to his existing opinions? Or did he find the details too complex to begin to fathom? Or is there some other reason lurking there?
    I have the feeling it is probably a bit of a heady mix of different reasons. Whether such a mix could be unpicked, I know not. And if it could be, I don’t believe that such understanding would provide a way to decouple significant public support for contrarian policy-making. I say that because at such a level, denial has no rational basis.

  25. 175
    Harvey Moseley says:

    I have always thought that any scientist who could scientifically convince the community that human-driven global warming is not happening would immediately become the most famous scientist in the world with no more career worries. To those who think there is a scientific conspiracy to promote warming, I would think this would be somewhat of a good argument. No scientist advances a field by affirmitavely nodding at all existing results – you have to come up with new ideas and develop means test them. Science, as we know, does not, does not reward compliance. It rewards good ideas and sound tests of those ideas.

    On the south pole vs north, the comments by Thomas (170) capture most of the story. Even from the south pole, the sky is almost completely opaque between ~ 30 and 200 µm. From a corresponding elevation at temperate latitudes, the opaque region extends from ~20 – 800 µm, so surface radiation in this region is not an effective cooler. From sea level in the north, it will certainly be much more opaque because of the warmer temperatures (producing a higher partial pressure of water) and the large amount of pressure broadening in the spectral lines. Because of the shape of the blackbody function at 250-300 K, most of the modulation of radiative heat loss arises from the changes in opacity at the short end of this spectral region, since that is where most of the thermal power is.

  26. 176
    Radge Havers says:

    There are a lot of ways to undermine the ecology of a site, intentionally or otherwise. So far as I know, no one has done a proper taxonomy of harmful invasive species on blog sites.

    I think MARoger @~174 comes close to what was going on here, though. It seems we’ve seen this kind of “undecided” visitor before. Left unchecked, the comments become increasingly denialist; which in this case, suggests a rhetorical ruse to gain a foothold and entrench a thread while ejecting a postmodern slurry of uncertainty– one that basically questions objectivity.

    For an adult purportedly holding down a job with some education in science, a complete inability to differentiate, weigh and organize one thing against another is highly suspect.

    And then @~63 there’s this peculiar set-up:

    Just like I have no badge that says I’m not a troll/shill/whatever, “You”—the collective and “Them”—the collective don’t either.

    Call me a cynic, but I’m also suspicious of such a commenter who closes out in a shaming cloud of crocodile tears mischaracterizing elements of the conversation.

  27. 177
    Rafael Molina Navas, Madrid says:

    Have we dedicated too much time to one single person, just “for nothing”?
    Should we have known the result, most of us wouldn´t have “wasted” so much time trying to change so many wrong ideas of a single, “rare” person.
    But, is this actually a rear case?
    Most people continue “business as usual” … Perhaps their minds are similar to D.T.´s, but they don´t even ask!
    Surely you all know the CC problem has now facets related not only to Phisics, Politics, Economy, Sociology … but to Psycology and even Neuroscience too. Many of us can´t “rationally” understand people´s inaction, so long after the science is settled. It must be a mindset problem. And many studies turn up, such as:

    Many people aren’t responding to mounting evidence of the huge impacts of climate change. Neuroscience helps explain why – and the key role that businesses can play in responding rationally

  28. 178
    Mal Adapted says:

    Ric Merritt:

    Just covered about 100 RC comments in fewer than 100 seconds.

    The secret: when you see a whole lotta trollin’, do a whole lotta scrollin’.


  29. 179
    Mal Adapted says:

    Chris Dudley:

    There is really very little to recommend you scheme [for a carbon fee-and-dividend].

    Chris, everyone’s entitled to your opinion, but that’s all it is. The arguments for and against a carbon tax (or “fee” if you’re squeamish about the T-word) depend critically on the details of the scheme. I don’t think our hosts will let us get into those here, and anyway I’m even less expert on climate policy and economics than I am on climate science, so I’m happy to defer to those with genuine skill. offers a page of expert cites, which if nothing else shows there’s credible opinion on the pro side.

    There’s even evidence that self-declared “free-market conservatives” are getting on board. Here’s GW Bush’s Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson in the New York Times last summer:

    We need to craft national policy that uses market forces to provide incentives for the technological advances required to address climate change. As I’ve said, we can do this by placing a tax on carbon dioxide emissions.

    Conservatives advocating a carbon tax! Cats and dogs living together! What’s the world coming to?!

  30. 180
    Chris Dudley says:

    Hank (#156, 157),

    When, owing to very dry air, the ground is visible from space, then the mean free path is long indeed. But, when water vapor makes the atmosphere opaque, then the mean free path is shorter.

    On seeing, it is turbulence in the atmosphere that causes that. Less atmosphere can help but laminar flow is what is really needed. Being on a mountain top tends to add some seeing as would any convection around a telescope or above it. Antarctica, being pretty smooth, tends to have low turbulence caused by geography and can thus get to very good seeing when all the other conditions are right (cold telescope, well designed baffles, stable low winds with a small velocity gradient with altitude). Higher relative humidity is not all that important except that it can be associated with unstable weather.

    I haven’t heard of much in the way of 50 um observations in Antarctica, the wavelength of interest in the paper. Those can be done in the stratosphere using balloons and aircraft, so it may be possible in some locations in Antarctica. Ice emissivity falls off strongly after the 150 mu phonon resonance, so the original issue is made moot both by low energy involved in the sub-millimeter and low emissivity.

    That effect is of interest because the earliest galaxies may have been enriched in oxygen relative to carbon so that the solid phase of their interstellar medium (ISM) may have been dominated by ice. Low sub-millimeter emissivity leads to a warmer and brighter ISM so that the galaxies responsible for the epoch of reionization may be detectable with present day telescopes.

  31. 181
    Chris Dudley says:

    Kevin (#160),

    The current method is required by a conservative supreme court. Which winds are you thinking of?

  32. 182
    Chris Dudley says:

    Dan (#164),

    What you claim for your scheme is already being done by regulation. You should look at the new source regulations being promulgated and the existing source regulations presently available for public comment. There can be no new coal plants without CCS. Nearly all existing coal plants will close and not only owing to carbon emissions regulation but also mercury. Limits on overall emissions will also limit natural gas use.

    I hope, after reviewing what is already being done, you will realize that you are pushing to undo a great deal of excellent work and allow more emissions.

    It is fine, before a country starts cutting, to champion one plan or another. But after it does, all that should be offered are ways to do it faster, not a return to the drawing board. The US is a nation of laws. The Clean Air Act is the relevant law for domestic emissions. Urging repeal is a very very very dangerous game.

  33. 183

    Have we dedicated too much time to one single person, just “for nothing”?

    – See more at:

    I don’t think so. There are many more readers than commenters, and so each episode of this sort is an opportunity to spread knowledge. It’s disappointing when someone like Danny seemingly fails to assimilate anything he’s told, but that is going to happen. And it’s easier to maintain some equanimity if one keeps the many ‘lurkers’ in mind.

  34. 184
    Meow says:

    This site’s “start here” materials are not well-organized enough for readers who want to learn the basics.

    I suggest that the mods create a concise walkthrough and FAQ, and feature a link to it prominently in all posts.

    The FAQ should cover the most common anti-action talking points, and refer readers to Skeptical Science for a more complete list.

    In particular, the FAQ should concisely cover at least these talking points:

    1. CO2 is an insignificant trace gas that can’t possibly affect climate.
    2. Humans are far too puny to affect climate.
    3. Climate change is due to volcanoes.
    4. It’s the sun.
    5. It’s natural variability.
    6. The temperature record is corrupt/inaccurate.
    7. CO2 isn’t the problem because its rise follows warming.8. Climate change won’t be a problem because of negative feedbacks.

    And by “concisely”, I mean carefully edited down to the essentials, so that an ordinary member of the general public, possessing some curiosity but no technical background, can get the gist.

    I am happy to assist with editing, though I am not a scientist.

    P.S. The links on “start here” leading to… cause an invalid certificate error in recent versions of Firefox. This is not good.

  35. 185
    Meow says:

    This site’s “start here” materials are not well-organized enough for readers who want to learn the basics.

    I suggest that the mods create a concise walkthrough and FAQ, and feature a link to it prominently in all posts.

    The FAQ should cover the most common anti-action talking points, and refer readers to Skeptical Science for a more complete list.

    In particular, the FAQ should concisely cover at least these talking points:

    1. CO2 is an insignificant trace gas that can’t possibly affect climate.
    2. Humans are far too puny to affect climate.
    3. Climate change is due to volcanoes.
    4. It’s the sun.
    5. It’s natural variability.
    6. The temperature record is corrupt/inaccurate.
    7. CO2 isn’t the problem because its rise follows warming.
    8. Climate change won’t be a problem because of negative feedbacks.

    And by “concisely”, I mean carefully edited down to the essentials, so that an ordinary member of the general public, possessing some curiosity but no technical background, can get the gist.

    I am happy to assist with editing, though I am not a scientist.

    P.S. The links on “start here” leading to… cause an invalid certificate error in recent versions of Firefox. This is not good.

  36. 186
    Chuck Hughes says:

    @ Comment by Rafael Molina Navas, Madrid — 11 Nov 2014

    I don’t think D.T. is worth a psycho analysis. His comments and questions seemed disingenuous and tiresome to me and I’m not even a Climate expert, although I do have a fairly good b.s. detector and it was getting pretty deep. His entire approach appeared phony to me. It is not necessary to continuously bring up dissenting opinions by claiming to be a “only a proxy” using that as an excuse for repeating a continuous line of crap. I ask questions and wait for answers and then read and study to the best of my ability. I may come back with more questions but not the same ones every time.

    D.T. isn’t representative of any particular group we don’t already know about. I think “Concern Troll” pretty well sums him up. If he’s really in search of correct information, he’ll find it. I did. It’s not that difficult. Also, I think everyone on here gave him a fair shot initially.

  37. 187
    Hank Roberts says:

    I suggest that the mods in their copious spare time create ....

    Fixed that suggestion for ya.

    (I kind of agree but haven’t thought I could improve on what’s there, or at the RC Wiki — explaining this stuff doesn’t get easier.)

  38. 188
    ozajh says:

    I have always thought that any scientist who could scientifically convince the community that human-driven global warming is not happening would immediately become the most famous scientist in the world with no more career worries.

    They would also immediately become the WEALTHIEST scientist in the world. That is why the idea of a warmist conspiracy rings so very false with me; it is IMPOSSIBLY high-maintenance given the obviously available incentives for breaking ranks.

    And I would note that raising this point can sometimes send an interlocutor completely over the edge. I’ve personally observed this both on the Net and in actual conversation, and I confess I found the latter deeply disturbing because I was talking with someone I had known for many years who occupied a senior management position in an engineering company after reaching a high level in our (non-US) Federal Government service.

    All of a sudden this guy was spouting theories that would require the sort of conspiracy levels you see at the movies, and I couldn’t help thinking that he had spent decades working at far higher and more political levels than I ever reached (or even observed), and wondered for a while whether he knew what he was talking about. After reflection, I decided the scientific case for CO2 forcing too compelling.

  39. 189
    Jon Kirwan says:

    TO: #172, Edward Greisch: “Jon Kirwan and DBB: If I got you wrong, I am still interested in the psychology, not the mitigation.”

    My interest in discussing nuclear isn’t about climate mitigation aspects related to nuclear. I’ll grant your perspective without further discussion. It’s about how we measure and manage their safety in the US. And no, I’m not interested in discussing how to convince the public they are a safe mitigation approach, until that’s better addressed. Worth discussing?

  40. 190
    Jon Kirwan says:

    #185 Meow: “P.S. The links on “start here” leading to [an IPCC link] cause an invalid certificate error in recent versions of Firefox. This is not good.”

    Confirmed. I get a serious warning message and a refusal to visit the site unless I decide it’s worth the risk. Not good, at all.

  41. 191
    Chris Dudley says:


    I think you mistake well supported argument for mere opinion. As you say you are unfamiliar with policy options. A carbon tax is regressive. The Fee-and-Dividend attempts to address the steal-from-the-poor-to-give-to-the-rich aspect of the carbon tax but relies on a slow approach just like the carbon tax. Regulation, which is what the Supreme Court ordered, looks as though it is a money saver for the middle class as reduced demand for gasoline cuts both cost (more efficient use) and price. New point source regulations seem to be driving electricity to lower cost supplies and existing source regulations look to do the same, particularly as the most inefficient plants are taken off line.

    When congress took a swing at this, it was going to be cap-and-trade. That might have allowed us to buy up devalued European carbon credits, but it likely would have curtailed domestic innovation. The currently proposed existing source regulations appear to sponsor innovation and local approaches, so they may well do better than plug-and-play cap-and-trade though some regional cap-and-trade may be involved.

    Generally, a carbon tax or fee-and-dividend program will be focused on revenue generation. Cap-and-trade or more direct regulation will be focused on emissions targets.

    Notice that regulation started with the most expensive fuel. That has vast economic benefits that a tax or fee just never could tap owing to their rather miniscule bite on oil prices.

    So, if you support oil companies, go for a carbon tax or a fee-and-dividend because oil will feel the pinch the least.

    Finally, a carbon tax will have problem revenues. To be effective, they will have to be large. That makes an opportunity to fund social security with those revenues, decoupling it from the payroll tax. Once emissions are cut, then the fond hope of conservatives to kill social security becomes much easier. If you still hate FDR, support a carbon tax.

  42. 192
    Steven Sullivan says:

    Could posters here please realize that if your posts span a dozen paragraphs, and you aren’t a ‘name’ climate scientist, most readers will skip them? Please learn to be concise.

  43. 193
    Steven Sullivan says:

    Posters: unless you are one of the RealClimate staff, or a visiting climate scientist, few care to read your 12-paragraph posts.
    Please try to be concise.

  44. 194
    Dan Miller says:

    #172 Edward Greisch: Your say that George Marshall in his book, DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change, is advocating that we make climate change a religion. That is not correct. George says that we should look at religions to see how they are successful in getting people to believe in something and act on that belief. George ends Chapter 40 with “These ideas are not unique to religions, and can be found in every successful social and political movement in history.”

    There should be a separate discussion on Marshall’s book here on RealClimate. While this site is focused on data, as George points out, people make decisions based on emotions, not data:

    “Ironically, one of the best proofs that information does not change people’s attitudes is that science communicators continue to ignore the extensive research evidence that shows that information does not change people’s attitudes.”

  45. 195
    Dan Miller says:

    #182 Chris Dudley: I’m not sure why you think I advocate repealing the Clean Air Act. Implementing Fee and Dividend should be done on top of the CAA. Cleaning up coal with the CAA is great, but we must go much farther than that. F&D is a way to reduce emissions across the entire economy. Natural gas and petroleum are also “fossil fuels” and we need to reduce their emissions too.

  46. 196
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  48. 198
    Chris Dudley says:

    It is worth noting that China has made its first agreement on carbon dioxide emissions and the US has accelerated its cut schedule.

  49. 199
    Chris Dudley says:

    Another climate scientist is misrepresented by a member of congress.

  50. 200

    Further to my previous post (as yet still in moderation) on the bilateral US-China emissions pact, here’s the Administration’s fact sheet:

    Well worth a couple of minutes to read through. It’s notable that pretty early on it says that “These actions will also inject momentum into the global climate negotiations on the road to reaching a successful new climate agreement next year in Paris.”