RealClimate logo

Unforced variations: Dec 2014

Filed under: — group @ 3 December 2014

This month’s open thread. Think history, Lima, and upcoming additions of a single data point to timeseries based on arbitrary calendrical boundaries.

265 Responses to “Unforced variations: Dec 2014”

  1. 151
    prokaryotes says:

    The sidebar link to only yields a domain sales page.

    “ expired on 12/08/2014 and is pending renewal or deletion.”

  2. 152
  3. 153
    Anonymous Coward says:

    mrless (#149),
    I vote “bad”.
    Projets aren’t canceled forever, merley delayed. There’s no real prospect of such projects being banned or taxed into the ground before they become profitable again. And the amount of oil ultimately recovered might well end up being higher than if they were carried through right now.
    Mere delay would still be “good” thing as such but, as you mention, this will have a negative impact on the development of alternatives. That’s mitigated by the fact that it’s mostly alternatives to coal rather than oil which are being developped. The indirect impacts (credit spreads, other commodity prices and so on) as well as the impact on efficiency are more worrying I think.

  4. 154
    Hank Roberts says:

    Realclimateeconomics is, or was, a project of the E3 Network folks; the most recent thing on their page is

    Poke them. They ought to at least fix their links with a redirect. They dropped the ball there.

    > David Victor

    Thwack Ye Mole frustrates you and amuses the mole.

  5. 155
    Hank Roberts says:

    Berkeley Earth has a banner headline for their new memo Climate Impacts of Coal and Natural Gas. Prepared by Zeke Hausfather, it is rather more optimistic about the possible benefits versus risks of increasing natural gas development

    it would require leakage rates of between 4.8% and 9.3% to make natural gas result in more average forcing than coal over the next 100 years.

    I think that should be compared to Tom Wigley’s published numbers.

    I await peer review and publication in a journal, presumably Berkeley Earth is working on that. Anyone know more?

  6. 156
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by SecularAnimist — 13 Dec 2014 @ 1:10 PM, ~#127

    Another perspective on trolls here is that I find it disturbing for anti-science blather to be left unchallenged on a science site. This site is here for folks who are seeking accurate information and correcting misinformation can be educational.

    As an aside, I found that a gathering of moles is called a labor, company, or movement. I propose that a gathering of internet trolls be called a slug, but other good names come to mind (scourge, infestation).


  7. 157
    David Miller says:

    Regarding lower oil prices and their effect on emissions and investments in alternatives:

    Most of the alternatives don’t compete with oil prices because very little electricity is generated with oil, and that’s the form most alternatives produce.

    A majority of the oil is used for transportation; the problem with lower prices is people buying cars that use more fuel because fuel is cheap right now. That’s a shorter term issue than building less efficient buildings because energy is cheap.

    In the end, I think low oil prices don’t matter that much because they won’t last long. My analysis is that the Saudi’s want to squeeze a lot of marginal producers out of the business, and I suspect that some elements want to put pressure on Russia. In a year or two low oil prices will squeeze marginal producers out and encourage growth in the use of oil, and the two will combine to produce higher oil prices.

  8. 158
    DP says:

    re 155 these analysis of gas leakage tend to ignore methane emissions from coal mining which makes the comparison worthless. They keep doing it though.

  9. 159
    Hank Roberts says:

    Browsing articles at TheEnergyCollective
    leads to some interesting material, for example
    This Map Explains Why the Ivanpah Solar Plant Is Performing Worse Than Expected

    Two Thirds of Nevada’s Summers Fall Outside Long-Term Regional Solar Averages

    Solar Performance Maps show high variability throughout June, July, and August based on 15+ year records and illustrate associated impact on project profitability

    Big Banks Propping Up Coal Industry to the Tune of $89 Billion

    based on new research published by BankTrack, big banks are financing the coal industry to the tune of $89 billion annually, with a whopping $500 billion since 2005. A sum that, due to research limitations (the banks don’t exactly trumpet their financial support for big coal in their literature), could be as much as 50 percent higher.

    This giant slap in the face to humanity comes to you courtesy of top offenders JP Morgan Chase, Citi, Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays, China’s Construction Bank, and 15 other top coal banks in the world that account for 73 percent of that amount.

  10. 160
    Hank Roberts says:

    > ignore methane emissions from coal mining

    Eh? Look at this:

    leaks in natural gas production and processing equipment in New Mexico’s San Juan Basin, which is the most active coalbed methane production area in the country.

  11. 161
    Matthew R Marler says:

    To continue my questioning from 146: Suppose that for each parcel of warm air that rises, a constant fraction of total energy is converted or transformed to CAPE (which is proportional to the integral, with respect to log pressure, of the difference between the parcel temperature and the surrounding air temperature, the integration being across the height that the air parcel rises). And suppose, as the authors do, that a constant fraction of CAPE is converted to lightning. In that case, the rate at which CAPE is being formed is approximately proportional to the rate at which moist warm air is rising, which in turn is approximately by the rainfall rate, since water is conserved. Consequently, the lightning rate is a constant proportion of CAPE*P, where P is the precipitation rate.

    I would appreciate it if someone has another analysis.

    Now if a 1C increase produces a 2% increase in rainfall rate (as in a paper by Held and Soden, 2005, Journal of Climate), and a 12% increase in CAPE*P, then increase in CAPE following a 1C temperature increase must be about 10%. The figures are aggregates, so they do not approximate any particular lightning storms particularly well.

    If I am wrong, I would like to find out exactly how and why before I write something foolish, or write something new and foolish.

  12. 162
    Radge Havers says:

    Well, if you respond to a troll, keep in mind what it’s there for.

    Alternatively, some old school advice is to NOT engage a troll directly but rather discuss the relevant points (and the specimen troll) with other commenters. Sadistic narcissists don’t like to disregarded as lightweight.

    Note that too much discussion of other commenters, even trolls, will get you moderated here.

  13. 163
    Chuck Hughes says:

    Eh? Look at this:

    leaks in natural gas production and processing equipment in New Mexico’s San Juan Basin, which is the most active coalbed methane production area in the country.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 16 Dec 2014

    I’d like your opinion Hank… do you think the methane threat is still being overblown since it reverts to CO2 in about a decade. I keep seeing various sites bringing this up over and over again even after David Archer and others have said it’s not going to come up all at once. Has fracking and natural gas production changed the equation? Could a sudden burst of methane trigger other feedback mechanisms or are we still just dealing with a CO2 problem? I would like YOUR opinion on this. Thanks

  14. 164
    Ray Ladbury says:

    It would appear that Victor is planning to punt on my homework assignment @144. To bad, but he does strike one as a student with a strong aversion to homework.

  15. 165
  16. 166
    DP says:

    Re 160 while we all know about methane emissions from coal mining it seems to be omitted when comparing the co2 footprint of coal and natural gas.

  17. 167
    DP says:

    previous comment should read greenhouse footprint not co2 footprint.

  18. 168
  19. 169
    doug says:

    Leaving aside the feasibility of the politics of this idea, IF nations committed to spending trillions on research and development into carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere, (developing machines to do this, not reforestation) is there any hope that could be a viable solution in the coming decades? What seems like intractable problems today, with enough commitment, can become viable. Not saying this idea is. I’m just asking for any perspectives on the issue. Thank you.

  20. 170
    Hank Roberts says:

    > methane emissions from coal mining … footprint
    Where is this included, or excluded, in a calculation of the footprint?
    There’s a lot out there; do you have any particular calculation in mind to refer to?

    I found in a brief search“coal+mining”


    methane released through underground ventilation is as high as 70% of all the coal-related emissions.

    Do none of the estimates of methane that are attributed to various sources mention coal mining?

  21. 171
    Hank Roberts says:

    > spending trillions

    I’d think a carbon tax would run backwards, just as home solar connected to the utility grid runs the meter backwards. Total carbon emitted gets taxed, total carbon recovered gets a comparable tax rebate. No?

  22. 172
    Chuck Hughes says:

    Earlier this year, readers of the Tampa Bay Times’ fact-checking project PolitiFact were asked to vote on what they believe was the year’s biggest lie. And as of Wednesday, the results are in: “Climate change is a hoax” was the overwhelming choice.

    Over nine other options, almost 32 percent of the PolitiFact’s 14,467 poll voters chose the “hoax” claim, which was the title of a video released this summer by failed congressional candidate Lenar Whitney. Whitney, who proclaimed herself as one of the most conservative members of Louisiana’s state Legislature, released a 5-minute tirade against climate scientists and the existence of global warming. To prove her point, Whitney stated that the earth is getting colder, that there is a record amount of sea ice in the Arctic, and that climate scientists have been proven to actively falsify their data.

    A message from the Loyal Opposition.

  23. 173
  24. 174
    Chris Dudley says:

    It seems to me that colleges, churches and pension funds that have moved quickly with fossil fuel divestment are already seeing a benefit from avoiding the current loss in oil company stock values. Doing well by doing good is a virtuous circle perhaps.

  25. 175
    sidd says:

    Plan on not being able to get to your coastal retreat for a month a year by 2030. Or earlier.

    “Acceleration in RSLR rates, which are projected to occur during the 21st century [Parris et al., 2012; Church et al., 2013; Kopp et al., 2014], will further intensify inundation impacts over time, and further reduce the time between flood events. We introduce the concept of a tipping point for impacts from future coastal inundation when critical elevation thresholds for various public works or coastal ecosystem habitats may become increasingly compromised by increasingly severe tidal flooding [Groffman et al., 2006]. Using NOAA NWS elevation thresholds and future median values of local RSLR projections of Kopp et al. [2014], we find that the majority of locations surpass a 30 days/year tipping point by 2050 except for locations with higher nuisance flood levels (e.g., Boston, St Petersburg, Galveston and Seattle). Under the local 95% projection probability for RSLR under the RCP 8.5, whose global projected rise approximates that of the NCA Intermediate High SLR scenario (1.2 m SLR by 2100), this tipping point is surpassed by the end of the next decade (2030). At all locations, the tipping points are surpassed much earlier than 2100 – the date for which most global mean SLR projections are formulated and publically discussed.”

    Sweet(2014) doi:10.1002/2014EF000272

    The next real estate crash, coming soon to a financial enterprise near you.
    Fifteen years isn’t such a long time. Run for the hills now, avoid the rush.


  26. 176

    Hope I’m not duplicating, but NCDC has updated for November. As expected, it was another warm one (though not in North America.) Interestingly, the oceans were once again the locus of warmth, with a record 0.59 C anomaly.


  27. 177
    Hank Roberts says:

    Aside: If you bait them, they will post

    Useful tools for identifying the regulars

  28. 178
    Will says:

    David/Gavin/whoever knows more about this stuff than me: I only have access to the abstract on this, but do its findings have any implications on the likelihood of what could be called a Shakhova scenario?

  29. 179
    wili says:

    Will (note–not = to myself, wili): I certainly can’t speak for david, gavin and co., but that paper has been covered elsewhere so you can get a broader view of the findings and implications of those findings:

    “Methane is leaking from permafrost offshore Siberia”

    “.. Portnov and his colleagues have recently published two papers about permafrost offshore West Yamal, in the Kara Sea. Papers look into the extent of permafrost on the ocean floor and how it is connected to the significant release of the greenhouse gas methane.

    It was previously proposed that the permafrost in the Kara Sea, and other Arctic areas, extends to water depths up to 100 meters, creating a seal that gas cannot bypass. Portnov and collegues have found that the West Yamal shelf is leaking, profoundly, at depths much shallower than that.

    Significant amount of gas is leaking at depths between 20 and 50 meters.

    This suggests that a continuous permafrost seal is much smaller than proposed.

    Close to the shore the permafrost seal may be few hundred meters thick, but tapers off towards 20 meters water depth.

    And it is fragile.

    ‘If the temperature of the oceans increases by two degrees as suggested by some reports, it will accelerate the thawing to the extreme. A warming climate could lead to an explosive gas release from the shallow areas.'”

  30. 180
    Zach says:

    So is the Catostrophic even that Dr. box was referring to;

  31. 181
    Hank Roberts says:

    … as Jason Box tweeted to his followers, the Arctic expert’s research and concern have nothing to do with the giant craters. He tweets: “News piece juxtaposes Siberian holes with my carbon release concerns but I have no idea about the holes.”

    let us not bring the media into disrepute for misrepresenting the views of scientists like Jason Box by taking his findings and statements out of context in the interest of a sensationalist story. We do not need to mix fact with fiction and create boogeymen.The huge body of scientific findings out there is already scary enough.

  32. 182
    Phil Blume says:

    Sorry to go OT here, but I could locate no way to contact anyone on the site (for good reason no doubt ). I am looking to my favorite climate change blogs to address the whole Google thing last month:

    My own notion is 1) I was not aware that ieee had become a climate change journal of any reputation and 2) is this anything more than two smart guys, backed by Google money, who went of on their own and now are reporting back on what they think they thought they saw?

    Distressing that Google appears to be acting like a run of the mill armchair denier insofar as they publish “conclusions” without dipping their toe into that whole “peer reviewed business”, which is pretty much how real science gets done. I think in the larger world, this sense of entitlement is referred to as “narcissism” when it’s anyone other than Google.

    Again sorry for the OT.

  33. 183
    Hank Roberts says:
    a) NOAA Sea Surface Temperature anomaly (with respect to period 1854-2013) averaged over global oceans (red) and over North Pacific (0-60oN, 110oE-100oW) (cyan). September 2014 temperatures broke the record for both global and North Pacific Sea Surface Temperatures. b) Sea Surface Temperature anomaly of September 2014 from NOAA’s ERSST dataset.
    Credit: Axel Timmermann

  34. 184
    Hank Roberts says:

    This is wrong, isn’t it?

    Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has no distinguishing features to show what its source was. Elevated carbon dioxide over a region could have a natural cause — for example, a drought that reduces plant growth — or a human cause. At today’s briefing, JPL scientist Christian Frankenberg introduced a map using a new type of data analysis from OCO-2 that can help scientists distinguish the gas’s natural sources.
    NASA’s Spaceborne Carbon Counter Maps New Details
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory
    December 18, 2014

    Perhaps they mean _while_ it’s in the atmosphere, without looking at the isotope ratio?
    Or that satellites can’t distinguish the isotope ratios?
    I suppose that would make it correct.

  35. 185
    sidd says:

    Re:OCO2 satellite

    Wow, they can see the plantshine through “moderately thick cloud.”


  36. 186
    Chris Dudley says:

    Hank (#184),

    Nothing is wrong. Here is the next paragraph:

    “Through photosynthesis, plants remove carbon dioxide from the air and use sunlight to synthesize the carbon into food. Plants end up re-emitting about one percent of the sunlight at longer wavelengths. Using one of OCO-2’s three spectrometer instruments, scientists can measure the re-emitted light, known as solar-induced chlorophyll fluorescence (SIF). This measurement complements OCO-2’s carbon dioxide data with information on when and where plants are drawing carbon from the atmosphere.”

    This new analysis could examine reduced plant growth brought on by drought, the example given of a natural cause of elevated carbon dioxide.

    It is worth remembering that the seasonal cycle of carbon dioxide release is still much stronger than annual fossil fuel emissions. This will be the largest effect in the observed data.

    Happy Holidays!

  37. 187
  38. 188
    prokaryotes says:

    My take on the recent oil price collapse

    BOOM: Oil Price Collapse and why it is Important

  39. 189
    MARodger says:

    Phil Blume @182.
    With this, we do tread close to kicking off the ‘mitigation policy’ ding-dongs that can plague this thread. But yes the two authors are off on their own. Sending their message to IEEE may suggest they are a pair of electrical engineer, or it may be that this is a heart-felt message aimed at electrical engineers.

    The two authors, Konningstein & Fork, aren’t entirely clear about what great new learning it is they are bringing to the party. Or why.

    They also take away the 55% potential cuts in US CO2 emissions from a Google study (which isn’t the clearest bit of writing ever produced) but fail to note what it does say quite clearly:-.

    “Since the subset of technologies we modeled achieved 49% emissions reduction, it is possible that a more comprehensive mix of innovations could achieve 80% reductions.”

    Konningstein & Fork then project onto the whole world both their 55% figure and the constraint that governments will not interfere with the free market by imposing carbon taxes, etc.

    Thus the start-point for Konningstein & Fork is not well founded. The comparison with Hansen et al (2008) is not a greatly difficult, Fig 6A showing that Hansen et al. are working on an 80% cut in CO2 emissions with coal phased out by 2030. Hansen et al. then go on to argue that further actions are needed to prevent global CO2 remaining above 350ppm for too long. Hansen et al. talk of sequestration via forestry and biochar, of CCS & an incease in biofuel production from presently un-productive lands.

    So it would be no surprise that Konningstein & Fork, starting from 55% CO2 emissions in 2050, not 80%, conclude from their comparison

    “Our reckoning showed that reversing the trend would require both radical technological advances in cheap zero-carbon energy, as well as a method of extracting CO2 from the atmosphere and sequestering the carbon.”

    From this they call on the IEEE to produce, not an incramental improvement in low carbon technology but rather “something truly disruptive.” That is economically ‘disruptive’ of coal-powered and presumably also gas-powered electricity generation.
    There is also mention of “calculation” but there is nary a whiff of any numbers here.
    Such as it is, the Konningstein & Fork message is really meant for aspiring engineers. But it becomes much less sensible, even dangerous, when broadcast to a wider audience.

  40. 190
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Chris Dudley … photosynthesis

    Would you explain how to calculate the amount of fossil carbon — the isotope ratio in the atmosphere, from that information?

    I don’t think you’re just saying it’s relatively a small amount. The question is — how do you know how much fossil carbon is in the air?

    I know capturing an air sample and measuring the isotope ratio works.

    You’re saying they can calculate this from the satellite data?

  41. 191
    Chris Dudley says:

    Wow, they can see the plantshine through “moderately thick cloud.” – See more at:

    Sunlight makes it through moderately thick clouds. The trip back would work as well, especially since the spatial resolution of the measurements are similar to cloud altitudes, making detailed spatial features unimportant.

  42. 192
    Hank Roberts says:

    Chris, nevermind, I think I found the answer, or a clue anyhow.

    at p. 110 mentions identifying fossil carbon using “vibration/rotation spectroscopy for remote sensing” here:


    Dilution of 14C is a powerful tracer of fossil carbon.

    Complex environmental exchange processes, many of which enrich or dillute abundances of carbon and of oxygen isotopes, complicate quantitative interpretion of isotopic data.

    CO2 has a rich spectrum of isotopologues (two stable and one long-lived unstable carbon isotope, three stable oxygen isotopes) whose potential has not been exploited.

    There will be a continuing need for facilities for mass-production analyses of isotopic abundances, both unstable (accelerator mass spectrometry) and stable (conventional mass spectrometry and vibration/rotation spectroscopy for remote sensing).

    A baseline library of CO2 samples from locations of interest would be valuable.

    Isotopic measurements, especially of plant samples, provide time-averaged constraints on fossil-fuel emissions that are complementary to time-resolved direct measurements of CO2 concentration.

  43. 193
    Chris Dudley says:

    Hank (#190),

    that can help scientists distinguish the gas’s natural sources – See more at:

    That is not what they are analyzing. They have a handle on natural sources, or really changes in sinks that later become sources. You are looking for sources that are not natural and misreading what they are saying about those that are natural. It is a piece of the picture, not the whole thing.

  44. 194
  45. 195
    Chris Dudley says:

    The Harvard-Radcliffe Club of Vermont has endorsed fossil fuel divestment.

  46. 196
    Chuck Hughes says:

    I know this has to help but the question is, how much reforestation would it take to pull our asses out of the fire? I’d like to see a show of hands as to how many of you think we’re gonna hit 500ppm this century no matter what we do?

  47. 197
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Chuck Hughes, Reforestation alone could not do it. Period. You’d have to grow the equivalent of 12000 California redwoods a year every year to absorb yearly CO2 emissions.

    We could stay well below 500 ppmv. All indications are that we won’t.

  48. 198
    Chris Dudley says:

    Hank (192),

    Interesting. Check p. 107 which suggested LEO is not useful for monitoring anthropogenic emissions. Perhaps isotopic observations were never envisioned for OCO-2 for that reason.

    They do seem to be claiming that all the tea in China would accuse China of high emissions though if mass spectrometry were performed.

  49. 199
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Chris Dudley … misreading … misinterpreting

    Fine. I’m still looking to check this:

    Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has no distinguishing features to show what its source was.

    I’m assuming that statement assumes
    “while it’s in the atmosphere, not captured in an instrument”
    — is that correct?

    Is that the same as saying

    remote sensing can’t identify fossil carbon in CO2


    Or are they saying this particular satellite’s instruments can’t or don’t do that? Is it possible to do that?

  50. 200