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Unforced variations: March 2015

Filed under: — group @ 6 March 2015

This month’s open thread. We’ve burned out on mitigation topics (again), so please focus on climate science issues this month…

278 Responses to “Unforced variations: March 2015”

  1. 1
    Tom O'Reilly says:

    The Guardian is embarking on a major series of articles on the climate crisis and how humanity can solve it.

    In the first, an extract taken from the Introduction to THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING by Naomi Klein, the author argues that if we treat climate change as the crisis it is, we don’t just have the potential to avert disaster but could improve society in the process

  2. 2
    GlenFergus says:

    Apropos the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger has it in one:

    The changes may be happening too fast for human comfort, but they happen too slowly for the newsmakers.

  3. 3
    Concerned teen says:

    So the way the articles talk about this subject throw me off so, is the El Niño Event a good thing or a bad thing. When climate central said it was going be weak isn’t that good because it increases surface temperatures less?

  4. 4
    MartinJB says:

    Killian (, I think you might have misunderstood my question about the two choices. I know which one you WANT, which path you think is necessary. You’ve made that abundantly clear. I’m asking which one you think would have a better chance of being realized, ignoring what we want or think needs to happen.

    And here’s something YOU need to get (in response to your “What problem are you trying to solve? Get this, PLEASE….”). This is a blog about climate change. The problem most of us are trying to solve HERE is how to mitigate global warming. So, when you dismiss things because you don’t think they are long-range sustainable, it doesn’t really advance the conversation. It’s really sorta, well, annoying noise.

    I think sustainability is important, though I don’t use the same time-scale you do. And I think it’s an necessary conversation to have. But I don’t think it’s the conversation to have here. I seriously recommend starting your own blog (it’s really easy… even I started one!). It could provide you a great platform for really expanding on your ideas and bringing in the links and external publications that you think are important. Doing it in the comment section of another blog (especially one on a different topic…) is really wasted effort because the information is difficult to recover or reference. If you do that, I think you might be pleased with the reception it receives.

  5. 5
    Hank Roberts says:

    This may be a clue about that persistent cold anomaly, which does fit the description ‘southwest of Iceland’:

    ocean primary productivity northeast of Iceland drops to half by June as the nutrients upwelled by winter winds are depleted. Continuing production then depends on recycling nutrients within the wind-mixed layer. However, to the southwest of Iceland, productivity stays high all summer….

  6. 6
  7. 7
    Vendicar Decarian says:

    Odd sidebar link to denialist videos on Berkeley Earth.

    I’ve noticed an odd link in the floating sidebar on the Berkeley Earth website.

    The sidebar hotspot is titled “Are you skeptical about global warming? So are

    This link points to a old video by Richard Mueller in which he strongly implies
    that the data adjustment done by precious temperature reconstructions were
    dishonest and that he was starting his own temperature reconstruction effort.

    The text in the link to this video is present tense, implying that the Berkeley
    Earth team still holds this position even though the results of their research
    run 180′ counter to the statements made in the video.

    I find this very odd.

    Even more interesting the video itself is not controlled by anyone on the
    Berkeley Earth team. Allowing the person controlling the video, someone who
    appears to be a denialist) to include links in the video to other denailist

    The contact for the website is Steven Mosher.

    He has confirmed that the link is deliberate.

    In Email exchanges with Mr. Mosher, He told me that he would bring this issue
    to the attention of his superiors. Subsequently however, he told me (laughing)
    that his original statement was a deception and that he had no intention to
    bring this matter to the attention of his superiors.

    I find this matter very suspicious.

    Why would Berkeley Earth include a side bar link on the website to a Youtube
    video that they do not control, and which is controlled by a GW denialist, and
    who links to other denialist video’s?

    Why would Berkeley Earth label the link such that it implies that the content
    of the video is their current view, and why would the contact for the website
    initially claim that he would inform his superiors of the issue and then claim
    that his original claim was a deception and that he would keep this odd matter
    hidden from his superiors?

    I suggest investigation and comment by this forum’s usership.

  8. 8
  9. 9
    Chris Dudley says:

    One of the hinges that Naomi Klein points to for taking action in Paris is the risk of sea level rise for island nations. However, the inevitability of the WAIS collapse regardless of any possible actions on climate makes that issue seem moot.

    It occurs to me that where king Cnut failed, it may be possible to succeed. What is needed is less ocean. Part of that might involve piling more ice on the EAIS to compensate for the loss of WAIS which might be accomplished with moisture introduced into the air above the Antarctic, or we might find ways to sequester hydrogen and oxygen in other forms than water and so drain the oceans by an amount that compensates the loss of the WAIS. Since silica seems to be available in vast quantities, producing synthetic opal might be one path to take in such an effort. A more prosaic approach might be to identify portions of ocean floor that could be dredged up above sea level.

    China’s past claim that it is unfair for developing countries not to be able to use up just as much fossil fuels as developed countries might be addressed by having developing countries pursue rigorous clean development but have the division of labor on sequestering hydrogen and oxygen above sea level or deepening the oceans fall more on the developed countries.

  10. 10
    pete best says:

    From what I am reading at the moment there appears to be two trains of thought about cutting carbon emissions. There are those who feel that cuts required avoid 2C can be met (just) and after Obama met with China and cuts gave been agreed to some degree then China’s peak coal might not be 2030 but 2020 instead (pollution is another major factor)and other nations can take this lead and invest in low carbon and renewables and meet their energy needs this way. The other train of thought is of course that global emissions are still rising year on year and as yet the world through the united nations global meetings since 1992 has not achieved much at all and its all been voluntary agreements and nothing is as yet happening to avoid the 2C and above.

    Personally it looks like with the call for divestment and banks coming on board to warn off on fossil fuels investments due to the agreements stating that 75% coal, and 33% of gas and oil must be left unused due to such agreements that economically make no sense and that the fossil fuel companies instead of searching for new sources of these fuels or how to extract and process them should consider investing in renewables themselves.

    The world is certainly waking up to the issues of 2C and the fact that we are not far away from achieving the CO2 levels needed. However some reports appear now to be considering that temporarily we will go over 2C but later in the century we will develop negative carbon technologies that suck the CO2 from the air and dispose of it somehow and hence there does not appear to be a single comprehensive plan of action and that all these agreements might not be enough.

    Denial still exists especially in the USA, fossil fuel investments still exist, the world still derives 80% of all its energy from fossil fuels and the expansion of renewables needs to ramp up exponentially and the issues of intermittency needs to addressed but as it stands both camps have reason to think they are correct.

    One question for real climate is the decadal temperature increase which presently stands at 0.15C per decade but reports and talks I have read and watched appear to state that the temperature will ramp up over the coming decades. Is there anything in this or is 2C not going to be with us until the end of the century?

  11. 11
    MARodger says:

    Russell Seitz @6.
    I’m not sure which bit of WUWT satire you were hoping to link to. I would guess from the content of the URL it was here except I think I prefer here.
    I note in Soon’s press release he states ” I am willing to debate the substance of my research and competing views of climate change with anyone, anytime, anywhere.” This is surely impossible, not just in his obvious inability to be “anytime, anywhere” to debate with “anyone” which suggests his ‘willingness’ is entirely insincere, but also because the prior requirement of there actually being some “substance” to his research has yet to be realised.

  12. 12

    #10–Pete, technically at least Kyoto is binding, not ‘voluntary.’ And, disappointing though it has been overall, I think we’d have been significantly worse off today without it, as European emissions surely would have been much higher than they are today.

    As to Big Oil and renewables, several of them have flirted in semi-significant ways with renewables, but:

    Big Oil companies have jettisoned renewable energy businesses in recent years, particularly solar. BP shut down its solar business in 2011, Chevron closed its profit-making renewable energy business last year, and ExxonMobil has expressed zero interest in renewable energy.

    Despite the industry’s admission that renewable energy is a viable long-term threat, few Big Oil companies seem to be making significant bets on these new technologies.

    It’s understandable, in a way: Big Oil is massively profitable right now. Building up a new business from the ground isn’t, and renewables in particular have been slow to become profitable as a whole, despite the enormous growth of the sector in terms of capability and deployment. Corporations have a fiduciary duty to shareholder to maximize return–and whether that is over the long or the short haul is generally not defined. However, the culture of the investment world pays an awful lot of attention to quarterly results…

    The story does mention one exception, the French oil company, Total, which owns 60% of Sunpower, “Silicon Valley’s dominant solar panel manufacturer.” (SiliconBeat.)

    BTW, Sunpower just reported a 0.12% loss. It’s reckoned to be worth $4.42 billion USD, which is ‘mid-sized’ in the financial scheme of things.

  13. 13
    Thomas says:

    Chris @9. You need to do some back of the envelope calculations of the volumes of H2O that would need to be sequestered. Its not that we can’t sequester water (pump it into aquifers, and dam rivers to form large reservoirs etc. But the many thousands of cubic kilometers needed to have much effect on sea level rise would be staggering. Free air capture and burial of CO2 would be easy in comparison.

  14. 14

    #3–Concerned, the El Nino, like a lot of things in life, can be viewed differently. Strong Ninos can have bad effects around the world, especially for things related to rainfall:

    But note that they aren’t all bad: for instance, a strong El Nino would probably be a great relief to California, as it might well break the ongoing drought there.

    And, of course, Ninos do raise mean global temperature a bit, as you say.

    But that’s a temporary rise–and in fact, Ninos effectively ‘cool’ the planet, despite the surface temperature anomaly. Actually, because of the surface anomaly, in part: a warmer surface radiates better. Plus, the Hadley circulation tends to strengthen during Ninos, too, which means more heat transported to the poles to radiate away.

    Socially and politically, you can argue that the warming of an El Nino episode helps raise awareness of the problems we face. But even that is hard to say for sure, because then the inevitable cooling of surface temps then becomes fodder for a new round of denialist bumph. Here’s a piece that I wrote on the topic, back in 2010:

    And, in fact, we still haven’t stopped dealing with that type of fallout from the ‘super Nino” of 1998, as the ‘hiatus’ hype shows.

    So, on balance, I’d say there are both good and bad things about El Nino. Mostly, it just is.

  15. 15
  16. 16
    Matthew R Marler says:

    Trenberth et al reported that the Earth surface transfers energy to the troposphere via three processes:

    1. radiation, at a net mean rate of 63 W/m^2 (396 upwelling minus 333 downwelling);

    2. dry thermals, at a net mean rate of 17 W/m^2;

    3. evapotranspiration, at a net mean rate of 80 W/m^2.

    Does anyone have good references on the changes in rates of heat transfer via dry thermals and evapotranspiration as a consequence of surface warming? O’Gorman et al reported that rainfall was expected to increase 2% – 7% per 1C increase in temperature; Romps et al calculated a 12% increase per 1C temperature increase in the cloud-to-ground lightning,strike rate in the US east of the Rockies; those permit some (loose) guesses as to the increase in rate of evapotranspiration, but I am seeking more information on this topic. I expect to see more publications on this topic in 2015 than in previous years.

  17. 17

    For the mitigation folks, I’ve tried to quantize the problem:

  18. 18
    S.B. Ripman says:

    #14 — Kevin McKinney — thanks for the balanced views on ENSO. To your knowledge, what would be some likely outcomes if a super Niño were to occur in a 3 degrees C warmer world? Sacramento CA is located at a low point and SLR is already a threat for it. But it’s also sited where rivers converge, and imagine its peril if ENSO precipitation greatly in excess of the 1998 total were to occur.

  19. 19
    Chris Dudley says:

    Thomas (#13),

    Well the WAIS has about 1/6th the area of the EAIS and has a depth of about 1.5 km so you’d want to raise the elevation of the EAIS by about 250 m.

    If we were to pay to covert much of the Sahara to opal at a density of 2.09 gm/cc and 10% water content by weight from silica at 2.648 gm/cc we’d be adding some fraction of mass of the WAIS 2e6 km^3*0.9 gm/cc*(10e5 cm/km)^3=1.8e21 gm to the desert. The opal volume from 1 cc of silica would be about 1.26 cc containing about 0.26 gm of water so with the Sahara about five times the size of the WAIS, we’d raise it’s elevation by about 270 m.

    I’m not sure that aquifers would have the volume, but creating in inland sea is a little counter productive if what we want to preserve is the land area of island nations. You’d give up a lot of continent to save some islands, whereas adding ice to Antarctica or bedazzling the Sahara might be neutral to artistic.

    There are some places on the sea floor that might be worth dredging for other reasons but it is not clear that raising that material above sea level would be needed to avert that hazard.

    I agree that CCS would be easier, but it does not seem to be an alternative if the WAIS can’t be saved regardless.

  20. 20
    Vendicar Decarian says:


    Strong or Weak El-Nino is only relevant to adding noise to the climate signal because it is a temporary positive excursion in ocean surface temperature. It will be followed by La-Nina a temporary excursion in the other direction.

    If you are asking if it is relevant to this years fish catch, or rainfall in California that is a different issue.

  21. 21
    Mal Adapted says:

    In the wake of last month’s teapot tempest regarding alleged government science cover-ups, we who appreciate RC’s consistently high S/N must thank Gavin for his firm moderation. Pursuant to our common goal, would-be commenters might wish to review the Crank HOWTO (H/T Radge Havers) before indulging in flights of conspiracist fancy.

  22. 22
    Chris Dudley says:

    Kevin (#12),

    Companies in an industry with exponential growth are likely to return value through increased stock price rather than dividends since revenue has to be put back into growth to maintain market share.

  23. 23
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Odd sidebar link to denialist videos on Berkeley Earth.

    I’d guess that link is there to attract visitors who believe the conspiracy story Muller laid out in that old interview years ago.

    Every climate blog needs one “flypaper” page — kept on top — to draw in those who just have to comment — the kibitzers, the peanut gallery, addicted posters, recreational typists, and those sure they know what the site’s owners ought to be saying, too impatient to learn what’s newly discovered, yet eager to contribute their certainty.

    Of course there’s nothing like that here at RC …

  24. 24
    Russell says:

    Who needs the peer reviewed literature when we have Naomi Klein?

    If The New Yorker and The Guardian approbate her rehashing The Abolition and The Fate Of The Earth, THAT CHANGES EVERYTHING.

    Who would be so philistine as to indulge in flights of conspiracist fancycopy about forwarding Mal Adapted’s link to the Crank HOWTO to Annals of Science or The Talk Of The Town?

  25. 25
    Christopher Pratt says:

    No matter how big solar energy becomes, the opportunities to profit from it pales in comparison to the profit potential of oil. It is hard to make money from a decentralized power source.

  26. 26
    Thomas O'Reilly says:

    #10 “the world still derives 80% of all its energy from fossil fuels”
    Make that figure closer to 87% – and not decreasing in any statistically significant volume.

  27. 27
    Vendicar Decarian says:

    In Florida, Officials Ban Term ‘Climate Change’

    DEP officials have been ordered not to use the term “climate change” or “global warming” in any official communications, emails, or reports, according to former DEP employees, consultants, volunteers and records obtained by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.

    The policy goes beyond semantics and has affected reports, educational efforts and public policy in a department that has about 3,200 employees and $1.4 billion budget.

    Gov. Scott, {Republican} who won a second term in November, has repeatedly said he is not convinced that climate change is caused by human activity, despite scientific evidence to the contrary.

  28. 28
    Vendicar Decarian says:

    “I’d guess that link is there to attract visitors who believe the conspiracy story Muller laid out in that old interview years ago.” – 22

    Sorry, but that just doesn’t make sense. They are undermining their very own research. And that makes even less sense.

    Something very odd on the Berkeley Earth website.

  29. 29
    Thomas O'Reilly says:

    A couple of interesting (thought provoking or disagreeable?) comments on Naomi Klein’s approach and similar views about AGW/CC science issues and solutions.

    First the notion that the “problem or the solution” is a battle between “Capitalism vs the Climate” is a false Dichotomy. It is framing the issue of AGW/CC illogically.


  30. 30
    GlenFergus says:

    Michael Mann on Australian radio: (audio only, awaiting transcript).

    Professor Mann is entitled to be an agitator, as Justice Murphy might have said. Would have said given the chance, I like to think.

    Also my local Prof Stacey wantonly simplifying to excellent effect, I think: (audio and transcript). Views?

  31. 31

    Well, Am. J. Climate Change turned down my paper. Their entire critique was, “This paper is of low quality, and I recommend against publishing.”

    This is about the 12th journal I’ve tried, so I guess it’s time to stop trying.

  32. 32

    #31–Sorry to hear that, Barton…

  33. 33
    freemike says:

    My local “skeptic” is citing Almut Gassman and Hans Herzogs paper (how is local entropy production represented in a numerical model) as a reason why models violate the 2nd law of thermodynamics. I’m just an amateur so can someone explain this to me or point me in the right direction. Thanks.

    [Response: I strongly doubt your correspondent knows anything much about entropy, or its representation in models. However, as a general rule, the larger claim cannot be true – climate models have low entropy inputs (solar radiation) and produce high entropy outputs (outgoing LW radiation) and so must be increasing entropy in accordance with the laws of thermodynamics. Now, whether some parameterisations in some models don’t get this exactly right, and could be improved accordingly, is a totally different question – that would have to be looked at for specific models and specific parameterisations. It doesn’t imply that climate models per se aren’t useful or skilful – that too needs to be assessed on a specific case basis. If the argument being made that models cannot possibly be skilful because of some supposed violation, the existence of useful weather forecasts using them is a great counter-example. – gavin]

  34. 34
    Russell says:

    I think BPL’s edifying graph charting the history of published estimates of climate sensitiviy from Arrhenius to the present day deserves wider circulation

  35. 35
    Chris Dudley says:

    Another sea level rise intervention that might be considered is building a berm to anchor the WAIS and prevent its collapse. The material might be fill or ice. The fill would have to be transported to the base of the glaciers but ice could be frozen in place at the base using refrigeration. The sky over Antarctica has a very low brightness temperature, so circulating a liquid with a low freezing point between a set of radiators in the dry region to the bases of the unstable glaciers could serve to freeze the sea water that is destabilizing WAIS and so hold back the collapse. The effort would have to be maintained until carbon dioxide were drawn down, the ocean around Antarctica cooled and the frozen salt water extruded in the normal glacial creep. Fill, on the other hand, might work without much maintenance in a 2 C world.

  36. 36
    Chris Dudley says:

    BPL (#31),

    Have you had anyone edit your paper for you? That can be a big help in being sure that readers understand your meaning right away.

  37. 37
    Chris Dudley says:

    “A new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concludes that warming caused by humans is responsible for the conditions that have led to this California drought.”

  38. 38
    Hank Roberts says:

    for freemike:
    Your local “skeptic” is, or is channeling, a blog called “hockeyshtick”

  39. 39
    SecularAnimist says:

    Christopher Pratt wrote: “No matter how big solar energy becomes, the opportunities to profit from it pales in comparison to the profit potential of oil. It is hard to make money from a decentralized power source.”

    Solar energy is a technology industry, like computers, not an extractive industry like fossil fuels.

    Solar companies don’t profit from the power source, which is free, abundant and ubiquitous. They profit from developing, manufacturing, selling and deploying the technology for cheaply and efficiently harvesting sunlight and converting it to electricity. The end-users, of course, also profit from using that technology, whether by producing their own electricity at lower cost than retail grid power and/or by producing electricity for sale to the grid.

    It’s a whole different business model. And it makes the business model of the fossil fuel corporations obsolete.

  40. 40
    Ray Ladbury says:

    @32 Wow, the denialists even use the same arguments as creationists use aginst evolution. Entropy is a favorite, because so few people really understand it. Claude Shannon tells the story of how he came to define entropy in his theory of communication/information theory:

    “My greatest concern was what to call it. I thought of calling it ‘information’, but the word was overly used, so I decided to call it ‘uncertainty’. When I discussed it with John von Neumann, he had a better idea. Von Neumann told me, ‘You should call it entropy, for two reasons. In the first place your uncertainty function has been used in statistical mechanics under that name, so it already has a name. In the second place, and more important, nobody knows what entropy really is, so in a debate you will always have the advantage.”

    Beware whenever someone says X is impossible because entropy.

  41. 41
  42. 42
    Hank Roberts says:

    The authors performed their analysis using an approach called bootstrapping…. to compare the climate data with measures of populations from different time periods ….

    This analysis found that the statewide warming in California occurs in climate models that include both natural and human factors, but not in simulations that only include natural factors. It’s a difference with a very high (0.001) level of statistical significance.

    In their discussion and conclusions, the investigators state that their results strongly suggest that anthropogenic (human-caused) warming has increased the probability of co-occurring temperature and precipitation conditions that have historically led to California’s droughts….

    … This is one of a number of studies to have looked at California’s drought, and they’re coming to similar conclusions: historically it’s not unusual for the state to have either warm or dry winters, but the recent drought is notable for having both at once….

    Citing: PNAS, 2014. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1422385112

  43. 43

    #32–Expanding on Gavin’s inline a bit, the article cited is clearly doing just what Gavin said: examining particular parameterizations. That’s evident from the abstract, which states:

    Conventional turbulent heat-flux parametrizations do not conform with the second law. A new water-vapour flux formulation is derived from the requirement of locally positive entropy production. The conventional and new water-vapour fluxes are compared using high-resolution radiosonde data. Conventional water-vapour fluxes are wrong by up to 10% and exhibit a negative bias.

    I’m not sure I understand adequately the next bit, but it rather sounds as if the error is not a source of systematic bias for the results of the models:

    The experiments compare conventional and entropy-consistent heat-flux parametrizations. Both test cases indicate that negative thermal dissipation can occur for the conventional heat flux. Obviously, the additional energy made available by this negative dissipation to the resolved turbulence is later on dissipated by friction, so that the total dissipation is again comparable…

  44. 44
    GMcGrew says:

    I just want to mention what I believe is the most under-reported paper published so far this year. Feldman, et al “Observational Determination of Surface Radiative Forcing by CO2 from 2000 to 2010,” Nature, Feb. 25, 2015, doi:10.1038/nature14240 .

    Feldman, et al used Atmospheric Emitted Radiance Interferometer spectra to monitor radiation from areas in Alaska and Oklahoma for ten years and were able to demonstrate decreasing radiation correlating to increasing atmospheric CO2. The authors claim this is the first direct observational evidence of the Greenhouse Effect.

    I don’t think the paper got much coverage because, in one camp, it is just a confirmation of what we have known for ~100 years and in the other camp, it is a confirmation of what they have been denying for ~30 years.

  45. 45
    wili says:–mia030415.php

    “Methane in Arctic lake traced to groundwater from seasonal thawing:

    Groundwater from seasonal melting may be an important contributor to emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from Arctic lakes”

  46. 46
    wili says:
    “Concern Over Catastrophic Methane Release — Overburden, Plumes, Eruptions, and Large Ocean Craters”

  47. 47
    GlenFergus says:

    Freemike, perhaps this is another case of that ubiquitous entropy-disorder conflation of general discourse. It arises because few know any actual thermodynamics, and those who do were often poorly taught … and perhaps because information theory (erroneously!) co-opted the term.

    Gavin gets it right in his response, but it’s extraordinary how many fail, and who. Thermodynamic entropy has essentially nothing to do with macroscopic disorder. Nothing. Those curly bits in a global weather (or climate) model are not entropy, they’re fluid dynamics.

    Try, for example: …or

    …which contains the delightful (apocryphal?) von Newman quote:
    You should call it entropy…nobody knows what entropy really is, so in a debate you will always have the advantage.

  48. 48
    sidd says:

    “entropy is all those degrees of freedom you’re not keeping track of”

  49. 49
    Wade Wilson says:

    So the studies posted by climate central where they mention the increased rates of warming not seen in 1000 years is this the irreversible climate change tipping point?

  50. 50
    freemike says:

    I appreciate everyone’s answers and ,no, the local skeptic doesn’t understand entropy. The problem is neither do I really. Not like PHD’d scientists. Climate science, physics, the sciences in general aren’t my field. I’m merely an interested layman arguing in my little corner of the internet with determined deniers. I knew his story came from that blog ‘Hockey Schtick’. I know I can come here and get solid explanations and ,hopefully, learn something and pass it on. Thanks again for all this site does.