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Unforced Variations: Feb 2015

Filed under: — group @ 7 February 2015

This month’s open thread.

534 Responses to “Unforced Variations: Feb 2015”

  1. 1
  2. 2

    UAH is out for January, and with a 0.36 C anomaly, clearly the warmth didn’t abate with the old year:

  3. 3

    OK, this is squarely in the realm of mitigation, so perhaps inappropriate for RC. Yet the assertion made in this article–an alternate interpretation of Saudi intentions in sustaining production and thereby forcing down global oil prices–would be, if true, extremely important for future climate policy.

    I don’t have a considered opinion on this issue, so I’m offering this up without prejudice.

  4. 4
  5. 5
    wili says:

    David Spratt on why 2 degrees could be reached within 20 years:

  6. 6
    Jasper Jaynes says:


    “Yet the assertion made in this article–an alternate interpretation of Saudi intentions in sustaining production and thereby forcing down global oil prices–would be, if true, extremely important for future climate policy.”

    This article, and your posting of it, reflect the growing desperation of ideologues to find some silver lining in the hard evidence of growing, and projected continued growth of, fossil fuel use and emissions world-wide. What you’re seeing is classic strategic competition. One purpose is to retain/increase market share for the cheap producers. A second purpose is to induce the purchase and installation of fossil-intensive assets, in order to lock-in increased fossil use over the lifetime of these assets.

    One recent example of the latter is the following:

    “Typically one of the slowest months of the year for automakers, January delivered a strong start to 2015 as demand for pickups and small SUVs benefited from cheap fuel prices.
    Most major auto manufacturers, including Toyota, reported double-digit increases in new cars and trucks sold last month, a sign that sales didn’t spin out even with a major snowstorm hitting the Northeast.”

    Equally, or perhaps more, important is the reality that the voting public is comfortable with fossil fuel use, and loves the cheap prices. In the recent Keystone XL Senate vote, the vote was 62-36, with nine Democrats voting for the bill. That’s not only a majority; that’s a super-majority, and it reflects what the American people want. President Obama has promised energy independence and all-of-the-above. Now you’re seeing what that means. We as a civilization will squeeze every drop of fossil fuel that we can from this planet, delusionary fantasies like your referenced article notwithstanding!

  7. 7
    Peter says:

    Will Gavin do an observation to model comparison update for 2014? I quite liked those, and I don’t remember seeing one for 2013.

  8. 8
    David B. Benson says:

    Seafloor volcano pulses may alter climate: Strikingly regular patterns, from weeks to eons
    Seems a bit bizarre…

  9. 9
    Edward Greisch says:

    3 Kevin McKinney: Yes. By making gasoline cheap, they can keep selling oil longer because fewer people want to use something else instead. So there are fewer people who “want” to cut CO2 production. So you buy a gas guzzler and then you complain when anybody wants to switch to non-fossil energy. Makes sense.

  10. 10
    Killian O'Brien says:


    I think there’s an aspect the article misses, unless I missed it in the article. By lowering the price of oil substantially they will gain market share, but only for a while. As demand rises more producers come back to the market. (Of course, this fits perfectly with discussions at theoilddrum dot com back in the day of a saw-toothed plateau and decline.)

    What they may be trying to is bring oil to a new equilibrium to extend the life of oil overall. Cheap fuel will help keep unintelligent and/or uninformed people using unsustainable stuff a lot longer.

    This would meet their price and volume goals even better. I wouldn’t be surprised to see oil resettle at 50 – $70 if this scenario is correct.

    This would be quite bad for climate policy. Real change requires discomfort. Comfortable people do not tend to march on capitols.

  11. 11
    Vendicar Decarian says:

    Climate scientist wins defamation suit against National Post

    A B.C. Supreme Court judge has ordered the National Post to pay climate scientist Andrew Weaver $50,000 in damages in a defamation suit over articles published in 2009 and 2010.

    At the time of publication, Mr. Weaver was the Canada Research Chair in climate modelling and analysis in the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at the University of Victoria. He had also contributed to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Mr. Weaver is currently a Green Party MLA.

    The defamation suit focused on four articles by journalists Terence Corcoran, Peter Foster and Kevin Libin. Mr. Weaver said his character had been publicly defamed in the series of articles that suggested he was attempting to deflect attention away from the hacking of climate scientists’ computer systems, a controversy dubbed “Climategate” by many commentators.

    In her Thursday ruling, Justice Emily Burke concluded the writers “espouse a skeptical view of climate change” that led them to deliberately create a negative impression of Mr. Weaver.

    She declined to award punitive damages as she did not find malice in the published articles.

    The National Post is studying the ruling before making any decision on an appeal.

  12. 12
    vukcevic says:

    Some controversy recently regarding pause, natural variability and models partial failure of current and future forecasts. Temperatures natural variability is cyclical and not in phase around the globe, regional forecasts are less demanding.
    The CET area is one of the best documented and easiest to forecast, this one is based solely on natural variability

  13. 13

    I suspect a good part of the Saudi motivation for crashing oil prices right now is to sabotage the revenue stream for ISIS. Saudi Arabia can survive a year of low oil prices; ISIS might not.

  14. 14
    Russell says:

    The preparations of counsel in Mann v. Steyn suggest a trial as long as the controversy that gave rise to it.

  15. 15
    Zach says:

    What would the affect be the implication on the climate if an under Water Volcano were to erupt?

  16. 16
    Marion Delgado says:

    Booker’s back at it again against Hansen:

    Excuse for essentially resubmitting his earlier attacks is that Paul Homewood has allegedly just recently shown that NASA GISS moved its Arctic temperatures for the past so that it would look like the Arctic warmed. Roughly.

  17. 17
    Patrick Cobb says:

    so its been all over the news lately, 2014 is far from the warmest year on record (ACCORDING TO SATELLITE DATA).

    rest assured everyone in the righwingosphere is spouting off from their high horses.

    anyone at real climate care to address the reliability/accuracy/precision of satellite derived temperature measurements of the surface? [edit]

    [Response: There aren’t any satellite measurements of the surface temperature. Even MSU-LT is averaged to be about 3-5km above the surface. They are linked – but are not the same quantity. See the previous post for some context. – gavin]

  18. 18
    SqueakyRat says:

    @Kevin #3
    There are some fairly persuasive skeptical comments on this at EnergyPost.

  19. 19
    Pete Best says:

    In our what people call a right wing newspaper (Daily Telegraph) there is a commentator who singles out climate change for special attention citing people as warmists who believe in ACC. The article and the one the week before listed in the article

    states that GISS and others have not being truthful about temperature measurements at stations (more to do with temperature than climate and issues with the thermometers) in south America at first but not also in the Arctic and inferred temperatures as no stations exists on the sea ice.

    There has been a nice debunking of this article here

    but as now he has produced another article a week later on the same subject maybe someone needs to write into the DT and ask for their own rebuke of booker’s articles to put the matter to bed.

  20. 20
    Icarus62 says:

    It seems to me that the recent apparent slowdown in global surface and lower troposphere warming is entirely due to a hiatus in sea surface warming, with warming over land continuing unabated –

    In contrast, the post-Pinatubo (1991) cooling was mostly due to cooling over land, with little impact on SSTs.

    If this is correct then it means that the recent slowdown in global surface and lower troposphere warming is primarily due to ocean dynamics rather than to anything happening in or above the atmosphere (volcanic or anthropogenic aerosols, greenhouse gases, solar output etc.).

    Is this a reasonable conclusion?

  21. 21
    Chris Dudley says:

    Over 200 Faculty members at McGill University are calling on the institution to divest its endowment fund of fossil fuel companies, “with an immediate focus on companies heavily involved in the Canadian oil sands.”

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    Chuck Hughes says:

    I don’t think we’re gonna survive a 4.8 degree Celsius rise in temperature. Not with 9 billion people on the planet. I just don’t see it.

    The latest report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts a rise in global temperature of between 0.3 and 4.8 degrees Celsius (0.5 to 8.6 Fahrenheit) by the late 21st century.

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    Killian says:

    I truly hope this results in the floodgates opening and dishonest denial being shut down, hard.

    While we really need to focus on future events, a significant bump may, hopefully, come from denial not having the free reign it has enjoyed all these decades.

    Congratulations, Prof! You may have set THE precedent to help seriously alter the rhetoric. History may be very kind to your troubles and efforts.

  26. 26
    freemike says:

    Who is Paul Homewood ,author of ‘notalotofpeopleknowthat’. A blog cited by all the usual denialists. I can’t find anything at all about him or his qualifications.

  27. 27
    Chris Dudley says:

    Jasper (#6),

    Owing to rising CAFE standards, new car sales mean reduced emissions. You seem to also have your math wrong on what a veto proof super majority is in the US Senate.

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    Jasper Jaynes says:

    [edit – such references are OT and out of order]

  30. 30
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Does anybody know what happened to Cquestrate? This was the plan to extract lime from Australia’s Nullarbor plain and pour the lime, by the gigaton, into the ocean, to sequester carbon in limestone. It seems like a promising idea, but the site hasn’t updated in like seven years.

  31. 31
    GORGIAS says:

    #5, #22 Wili, Hughes

    Please don’t post that here, some of the contributors have very sensitive eyes, you know. Besides, this is a forum dedicated to climate science, not Nostradamus-like predictions. It just isn’t empirical, it serves no point and simply doesn’t belong here.


  32. 32
    Jasper Jaynes says:


    ” Owing to rising CAFE standards, new car sales mean reduced emissions. You seem to also have your math wrong on what a veto proof super majority is in the US Senate.”

    I was making the point that there was increased demand for SUVs and small trucks, both of which are fuel-intensive relative to regular sedans and coupes. However, all increased demand for vehicles is in the wrong direction, including electric vehicles ultimately fueled from fossil sources.

    I was using super-majority in the following definition, not the 2/3 required to over-ride a veto:
    “a Senate rule requires a super majority of three fifths to move to a vote through a cloture motion, which closes debate on a bill or nomination, thus ending a filibuster by a minority of members. In current practice, the mere threat of a filibuster prevents passing almost any measure that has less than three-fifths agreement in the Senate, 60 of the 100 senators if every seat is filled and voting.”

  33. 33
    Zach says:

    What’s your stance on Geoenginering?

  34. 34

    #6–I don’t think the article has anything to do with a “desperation of ideologues”, and I know damn well that my posting of it doesn’t. Please re-read the bit where I say “I offer this without prejudice” until you understand what that means.

  35. 35
    wili says:

    GORGIAS, if you have some problem with the science presented, show where it is wrong. That’s what science blogs are for. In any case, you’re not the boss o’ me! :-P

    Meanwhile, there is quite a bit out there on the National Academy’s recent reports on Geo-Engineering:
    and here:
    and here:
    and here:

    from the first link:

    >>Panel chairwoman Marcia McNutt, editor of the journal Science and former director of the U.S. Geological Survey, said in an interview that the public should read this report “and say,

    ‘This is downright scary.’

    And they should say,

    ‘If this is our Hail Mary, what a scary, scary place we are in.'”<<

  36. 36

    15 Zach

    There are some hundreds of underwater volcanoes, and some few of them are generally erupting at any given time. While this can give rise to spectacular underwater scenes — deep ( Midocan ridges ) and Shallow, ( Kickem Jenny northwest of Grenada can be viewed by advanced scuba divers, the sum total of the enegy they deposit in the depths is less than 1% the global radiative forcing from anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere.

  37. 37
    Jasper Jaynes says:


    ” Please re-read the bit where I say “I offer this without prejudice” until you understand what that means.”

    Yes, I’m sure it was coincidental that the author was one of CleanTechnica’s Poster Children. I Googled his other posts; they are similar delusions, and would fit well as chapters in a book called The Audacity of Hype!

  38. 38
    Jasper Jaynes says:


    Excellent comment! It is rather obvious that the globally collective ‘we’ will extract every last drop of fossil fuel from this planet to the extent that we are able. All the credible projections validate this, and only the most rabid ideologues offer delusional alternatives. Given this reality, how do we respond? I suspect Geo-engineering, no matter how risky and downright dangerous, is where we are headed. The NAS report appears to be a trial balloon.

  39. 39
    Entropic man says:

    Geoengineered albedo reduction by continuous injection of sulphur compounds into the atmosphere has one obvious disadvantage – acid rain.

    Having spent a lot of effort and money installing scrubbers on power stations to reduce sulphur emissions and the consequent acid rain, it seems foolish to deliberately produce sulphur pollution.

    Another Faustian Bargain?

  40. 40
    wili says:

    JJ, I also have little doubt that some kind of Geo-Engineering scheme on a massive scale will eventually be tried somewhere by some person, group or nation. It will likely lead to regional or global (conventional) war, since it car reasonably be seen as an act of war itself–some areas will get some benefits, but others are sure to be devastated through shifts in, for example, monsoon patterns.

    It’s perhaps one of the few things that could get, for example, Pakistan and India to patch up their differences and decide to direct their collective nuclear weapons arsenal at the West or China (or whoever first ventures into these kinds of fiascos) instead of directing them towards each other.

    The story is now being covered at Climate Central, too:

  41. 41

    #37–And that, sir, is a poster child for ‘ad hominem’ in action: ignore the point in favor of highlighting the associations of the author.

    To me, the nub of the question is this:

    In a world of endless consumption, this risk would be hard to justify merely in exchange for a temporary expansion of global market share – the current lost revenue would take years to recover with a marginally higher share of global supply.

    But in a world where a producer sees the end of its market on the horizon, then every barrel sold at a profit is more valuable than a barrel that will never be sold. Current Saudi oil minister Ali al-Naimi had this to say about production cuts in late December: “it is not in the interest of OPEC to cut their production whatever the price is,” adding that even if prices fell to $20 “it is irrelevant.” Implied, if not explicitly stated, is that Saudi Arabia wants its oil out of the ground, regardless of how thin its profit margin per barrel becomes.

    The Saudi ‘opening of the taps’ was, for most, highly unexpected. Explanations are therefore sought. The article itself mentions two: an effort to “shake weak production out of the [oil] market,” and/or a “a strategy designed to economically and in turn politically cripple rival producers Iran and Russia because the governments of these countries that depend on oil exports cannot withstand sustained low prices and will be significantly weakened.” (Barton–whom I for one am glad to see back posting on these threads!–poses a nice variant of that with the suggestion that the target is not so much Russia or Iran, but ISIS, who also derive much of their revenue from oil.)

    Ed and Killian (#9 & #10) point out, as you do, that this invokes a market feedback: cheaper oil tempts fools to buy more SUVs, etc.

    (Sure, but I’m a bit skeptical of the magnitude of this effect; I haven’t heard *anyone* talk about this who expects prices to stay low for any period remotely approaching the lifetime of a vehicle. Yeah, I know there’s supposedly an uptick in sales of such vehicles, but can that reliably be disentangled from the effects of reviving consumer confidence in the US? American consumer demand has risen generally of late, if I’m not mistaken.)

    So you have a couple of feedbacks, operating on somewhat different timescales: increasing consumer demand for oil on one hand, but a tightening of supply on the other, as unconventional projects are shut down, where possible, in order to cut losses. In the abstract, both tendencies should work together to eventually raise prices again–though how much, a qualitative argument is powerless to say. But the Saudis won’t be operating qualitatively; I’m quite certain that they will have modeled the hell out of this before making their decisions. It won’t, I suspect, have been an easy exercise: ‘elasticity of demand’ seems always to be a tricky thing, especially where the technological landscape is shifting underfoot.

    So, did their models show the ‘extension’ of oil, as Killian suggested? Or are they just grabbing as much upfront share of a devaluing resource, as the author thinks? I don’t know–although I do think, as the article also hints, that it’s quite likely that their decision will not have been a ‘pure’ one: quite likely economic and geopolitical ends both play into their scenarios. Grabbing market share while at the same time squeezing ISIS, Iran, and Russia might well seem a win/win from a Saudi perspective. And neither necessarily excludes the possibility that they may see the long-term value of the resource as declining.

    Either way, I suspect they aren’t going to reverse course on this soon, unless something happens to change the geopolitical calculus. Either of the scenarios requires sustained action to be effective. If they do tighten supply in the short term, then likely they are doing something that none of us have discussed here.

    Anyway, enough and probably too much on this. This ain’t the OilDrum.

  42. 42
    Salamano says:

    I’ve got a question for the room… And it has to do with the recent stories about the “crime” of temperature adjustment (that’s been discussed over and over again). Zeke Hausfather did a decent job of it over at ClimateEtc, but I was still left with the following thought…

    What is to be done with all the extreme maximum temperature records of the 1930s (etc.)?

    If most, if not all of these back-in-the-day stations have required critical adjustment due to Time-of-Day or site moves, then what shall we say?

    Are the original measurements requiring asterisks? It is thought that if the same original equipment was placed in the same original locations in modern times, then we would (with high probability) have set more extreme max records in the present age..? Can you adjust down the original numbers for legitimate climate purposes yet leave the maxes as they are originally?

    I haven’t actually heard of such discussion before, and in my classes the books I teach from still point to all those incredible high-max records that still exist from the 1930s in the US.

  43. 43
    wili says:

    Entropic man, I would call it something worse than ‘Faustian,’ but not in polite society ‘-)

    If you want a grim laugh, here’s one posted at Climate Council:

  44. 44
    raypierre says:

    Geoengineering (know to be known as Climate Intervention) also covered by me. I was an author of the NRC report, but my personal take on what the report means is up on Slate, at:

    (or just google “geoengineering barking mad”)

  45. 45
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Congratulation to Spencer Weart–author of “The Discovery of Global Warming”–on receiving the Abraham Pais Prize from the American Physical Society.

    Congratulations to APS for finally doing something right.

  46. 46
    Jasper Jaynes says:


    There is a serious fundamental issue associated with all these amelioration schemes, whether they are geo-engineering, so-called clean energy, nuclear, etc. Their implementation, distribution, and maintenance require substantial expenditures of fossil fuel. The rabid ideologues who support these amelioration measures like to sweep this under the rug, but there’s no escaping it. We’re shooting ourselves in the foot with any of the above!

  47. 47

    “What is to be done with all the extreme maximum temperature records of the 1930s (etc.)?”

    – See more at:

    AFAIK, nothing needs to be ‘done’ with them. They are what they are, which is a bump in the US record, associated with subcontinental-scale extreme conditions.

    What problem is it exactly that you think they pose?

  48. 48
    Chris Dudley says:

    Jasper (#32),

    SUVs are no longer a loop hole, replacing old ones with new ones cuts emissions.

  49. 49

    #46–DNFTT, I tell myself, no matter how fact-free and sweeping the assertion.

  50. 50
    Chris Dudley says:

    Kevin (#3),

    I think that is insightful. It mentions the recent work in Nature that lays out the math of stranded fossil fuel assets under the accepted 2 C limit. One thing left out is that electric cars are making a bridge into the transportation market for natural gas which may shift the fractions of fossil fuels ultimately used in favor of natural gas since it would require less ongoing military expense. Both the US and China have large natural gas resources so the need to preserve access to Middle East oil through military deployment may ease up.

    I think it would be a very good move to declare our natural gas resource to be strategic and build, but don’t use, LNG export capacity here and LNG import capacity in NATO in Europe. This would likely force Russia into a strong climate deal in exchange for some share of the remaining fossil fuel export market. That would leave rogue Canada isolated I think.