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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. 251
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by Chris Dudley — 5 Jan 2015 @ 7:51 AM, ~#246

    “Insincere posturing,” oh dear! Thanks to Hank for deciphering your out of context and grammatically challenged sentence. How is it that renewable energy has “managed to kill mammals everywhere…”? Your two links to justify your statement, don’t.

    Chris, not very many readers here remember all of your strange past proposals. Suggesting that renewable energy is going to destroy the planet is beyond strange. I seem to recall that your evidence for this was an off the grid oil well in Texas that didn’t develop enough methane, like most do, to just run a generator. Your idea is not economically practical and disparaging the only technology that can get us out of our ecological mess because of what you think might, just maybe happen is not helpful.


  2. 252
    Hank Roberts says:

    … neither California nor indeed the world itself can ignore the growing assault on the very systems of nature on which human beings and other forms of life depend. Edward O. Wilson, one of the world’s preeminent biologists and naturalists, offered this sobering thought:

    “Surely one moral precept we can agree on is to stop destroying our birthplace, the only home humanity will ever have. The evidence for climate warming, with industrial pollution as the principal cause, is now overwhelming. Also evident upon even casual inspection is the rapid disappearance of tropical forests and grasslands and other habitats where most of the diversity of life exists.”

    With these global changes, he went on to say,

    “we are needlessly turning the gold we inherited from our forebears into straw, and for that we will be despised by our descendants.”

    California has the most far-reaching environmental laws of any state and the most integrated policy to deal with climate change of any political jurisdiction in the Western Hemisphere. Under laws that you have enacted, we are on track to meet our 2020 goal of one-third of our electricity from renewable energy. We lead the nation in energy efficiency, cleaner cars and energy storage. Recently, both the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the President of the World Bank made clear that properly pricing carbon is a key strategy. California’s cap-and-trade system fashioned under AB 32 is doing just that and showing how the market itself can generate the innovations we need. Beyond this, California is forging agreements with other states and nations so that we do not stand alone in advancing these climate objectives.

    These efforts, impressive though they are, are not enough. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, backed up by the vast majority of the world’s scientists, has set an ambitious goal of limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius by the year 2050 through drastic reductions of greenhouse gases. If we have any chance at all of achieving that, California, as it does in many areas, must show the way. We must demonstrate that reducing carbon is compatible with an abundant economy and human well-being. So far, we have been able to do that.

    In fact, we are well on our way to meeting our AB 32 goal of reducing carbon pollution and limiting the emissions of heat-trapping gases to 431 million tons by 2020. But now, it is time to establish our next set of objectives for 2030 and beyond….

  3. 253
    Chris Dudley says:

    Hank (#247),

    Some oil wells are run using the grid, but most are remote and use other means. But the big kick in available carbon comes from adding energy through using hydrogen to mobilize carbon from known petroleum source rock that is otherwise tapped out. This was discussed back in May.

  4. 254
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Chris Dudley
    Yes, it’s true, we might be that stupid.

  5. 255
    Jon Keller says:

    Hi all,

    I’ve recently been curious about the total heat content changes of the Earth. I’m sure it’s somewhat above the heat content change of the oceans, here a paper from 2001 gave me some answers (, but I’ve been wondering if there are any more recent papers?

    The paper I linked used the NCEP/NCAR reanalysis data, which has been updated constantly since the paper was published. I figure using published ocean heat content data from NOAA and atmosphere heat data from NCEP/NCAR I could myself make a rough graph (Admittedly ignoring melting ice and some other factors, for now). I downloaded the data for sensible heat flux from NCAR. I averaged over all latitudes and longitudes and created a time series:

    I think I must have already made some mistake as it appears the average flux is decreasing. So the integral with respect to time (J/m2) would be reaching a peak.

    [Response: Stay tuned as I have a relevant (at least somewhat relevant) guest post to go up in the next day or so on ocean deep temperature. –eric]

  6. 256

    And the next update in the monthly sequence is from UAH: Dr. Spencer’s website gives a December anomaly of 0.32C, just a hundredth down from November. UAH proper seems not to have updated yet.

  7. 257
    MARodger says:

    UAH is reporting December global temperature anomaly at +0.32ºC. That makes 2014 +0.273ºC, the third warmest on record after the 1998 & 2010 El Nino years, El Ninos having more impact on satellite temperatures than the surface ones.

  8. 258
    wili says:

    Chris at 250: Look again. The dashed line goes essentially straight across, so no significant lowering (the bottom line indicates the unrealistically low sensitivity of 2 C for doubling of CO2 so can be ignored). Furthermore, look more closely at the section titled “Why even this bleak prospect may be optimistic.”

    “The UVic model does not simulate methanogenesis. That is to say that it does not model the generation of methane—all of the permafrost carbon that goes into the atmosphere in the model is in the form of CO2.

    This is a significantly conservative simplification over the time period studied.

    Also, their model assumes only purely thermal degradation of the permafrost. Physical erosion, for example at coastlines, is not considered. Their model accounts only for permafrost down to a depth of 3.5 metres and there is plenty of carbon stored below those depths that was excluded from their modelling.

    Finally, this study does not consider any contribution of methane from methane hydrates, either from under permafrost or under ice sheets, nor from fossil methane currently trapped under an impermeable seal of continuous permafrost.”

  9. 259

    Chris (#216)
    Thanks for your citation of Hansen 1999. I have checked my software. I also found for the annual mean global temperature 13.9 °C for the base period 1951-1980 (GISS) and 14.0 °C for the period 1961-1990 (HADCRUT). On the other hand you find in the NASA GISS data file “Gistemp GLB.Ts+dSST” the remark “Best estimate for absolute global mean for 1951-1980 is 14.0 deg-C or 57.2 deg-F”. I think the accuracy of the global temperature is not better than +- 0.1 °C. You have to keep this in mind when you compare the measurements with results of climate models.

  10. 260
    Hank Roberts says:

    > … accuracy … +- 0.1 °C.

    “Accuracy” is not the word you’re looking for, I think. Each of the many sources uses somewhat different methods and areas; don’t expect them to match.

    This may help:

  11. 261
  12. 262
    Hank Roberts says:

    Nevermind, found it:
    Nature | Letter

    The geographical distribution of fossil fuels unused when limiting global warming to 2 °C
    Christophe McGlade & Paul Ekins
    Nature 517,187–190(08 January 2015)
    Published online 07 January 2015

  13. 263
    Hank Roberts says:


    Climate science: Unburnable fossil-fuel reserves

    Michael Jakob & Jérôme Hilaire

    Nature 517, 150–152 (08 January 2015)
    Published online
    07 January 2015

    How much more of Earth’s fossil fuels can we extract and burn in the short- to medium-term future and still avoid severe global warming? A model provides the answer, and shows where these ‘unburnable’ reserves are. See Letter p.187

    Personal aside comment: for prominent journals, perhaps the best contribution they could make toward convincing the average citizen that this information matters and needs attention is to quit paywalling it.

    “Nice planet you have there. It’d be a shame if something happened to it.
    What could go wrong? Oh, we can’t tell you, unless you $ub$cribe.”

  14. 264
    Chris Dudley says:

    Wili (#258),

    I used the bottom edge of a window to measure. I think their range of sensitivities is reasonable for exploring this kind of thing.

  15. 265
    Chris Dudley says:

    Hank (#262),

    Nice find.

    “this policy commitment (2 C) would also render unnecessary continued substantial expenditure on fossil fuel exploration, because any new discoveries could not lead to increased aggregate production.”

    It sounds like exploration for oil off the East Coast is contrary to economic usefulness since we’ve already discovered all the oil we’ll ever use.