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Unforced Variations: Mar 2016

Filed under: — group @ 1 March 2016

This month’s open thread. Pros and cons of celebrity awareness-raising on climate? The end of the cherry-picking of ‘pauses’ in the satellite data? Continuing impacts of El Niño? Your choice (except for the usual subjects to be avoided…).

376 Responses to “Unforced Variations: Mar 2016”

  1. 351
    mike says:

    Hey, Hank 348 – don’t get all sciency on me now. I took a chemistry class many decades ago. I did not like it but I got a solid C and the credit.

    Look, I was alarmed about CO2 buildup in the atmosphere, but then cooler heads (thanks Ray at 252 and Kevin at 256) here persuaded me that there is no reason to be alarmed. I think we should just quote Gavin and say “WOW” when we see or read something that causes feelings of fear or dread. Or go shopping. I have tried shopping in response to terrorist attacks and I have acquired some really great consumer goods and conquered fear in this way. I am no longer in fear of global warming, but if I was, I would grab my credit cards, jump in the pickup and head for the mall. Try it! It works!

    MLO says CO2 now down to 405.66 so the needle is now clearly headed in the right direction for those of you who cling to a hard measurement device instead of believing the IEA reports of fossil fuel consumption. Wait til we see the March monthly temp average. The streak of records is over, it was cold here last night. Had to close the windows and put the heat on for a bit.

    Fires in Kansas and Ok? Storm battering England? That is not global warming. I have it on good authority that even if global warming is real, we will only start to feel the impact by the end of this century. Don’t worry, be happy!

    (per KS and OK fires, not just the CO2 sequestration at work, also the soot will reflect sunlight back into space where it belongs and earth will cool. Heat rises, so columns of hot air from the fires (and global warming alarmists) will rise and cold air will be pulled in from the poles, so occasional fire burning a red state or two also produces global cooling.)

    I am buying sunblock and raybans, but also hedging my bets and recently acquired snow shoes.

  2. 352
    Steve Fish says:

    Re: The comment by Chuck Hughes — 27 Mar 2016 @ 10:03 PM, ~#349 says:

    “Scientists are ‘conservative’ by nature from what I understand.” Your understanding is faulty. Scientists do not make statements regarding their science that they can’t support with their data.

    Further: “Continually underestimating our predicament doesn’t allow much time for preparation.” The translation of this is that scientists don’t exaggerate (beyond their data) to the extent that you would like. Your comments demonstrate a profound lack of understanding of the scientific process and its societal function. The problem we all have is not a lack of accurate information but, instead, the cultural and political denialists who claim that political and economic solutions to the problem trump (pun intended) the consequences of too much fossil carbon added to our atmosphere. The lack of imagination of positive political and economic solutions to the problem by these folks demonstrates their selfish motivation.

    Your unsupportable assertions about scientists and your denial of the real problem just add to the noise. Steve

  3. 353
    Hank Roberts says:

    > How DO we measure human CO2 emissions?

    Pasted that into Google. Recommended.

  4. 354
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Conservatism in science is utterly unrelated to conservatism in politics. Science simply does not throw out a theory or technique until it comes up with something better. So there’s your answer–come up with something better.

  5. 355
    Edward Greisch says:

    “Sounding the water alarm will backfire thanks to human nature”

    “Reminders of death – like a glimpse of a funeral home or a media story about flood risks – might be subtle but still make us feel deeply uncomfortable. So we use predictable responses to repress awareness of those reminders. Sometimes we simply deny our vulnerability or blame other people for it; other times we take on “hero projects” that bolster our self-esteem, earn us social recognition and make us feel less mortal.

    But such responses, which are usually subconscious, don’t always lead to good decisions or outcomes. In fact, they often generate surprisingly counterproductive results. Researchers have shown that mortality reminders can make people much less open to science that contradicts their worldview or group identity and far less likely to take responsibility for a problem or to share resources with others to solve that problem.

    When people are subconsciously reminded of their mortality, they’re likely to consume more stuff and to desire greater control over nearby natural landscapes. Mortality reminders actually increase our demands on natural resources, including water.”

    So telling people about GW will cause them to deny GW. Or they will play “King of the Mountain” and try to keep the whole world for themselves. That would mean giving wars of annihilation until the global population gets small enough to stop GW. It might work in a pyrrhic way. We need a new plan. We had better start working with psychologists.

  6. 356
    Hank Roberts says:

    Scientists are “conservative” by nature from what I understand. Politically that doesn’t seem to be working out too well.

    That’s not “conservative” politically. Note the difference in meaning.

    Before trying to pick on scientists about climate change, you might look into the history of oh, lead poisoning, or antibiotic resistance, or herd immunity, or virtually any matter involving public health, or the very concept of public health.

    Science is quite new in the world.

    And the world has changed more in the couple of centuries due to science than in the past ten or twenty thousand years, at least.

    Conservative? Conserving what, exactly, do you mean?

  7. 357
    Chuck Hughes says:

    Your unsupportable assertions about scientists and your denial of the real problem just add to the noise. Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 28 Mar 2016 @

    Oh well, I’ve come this far so..

    What I meant was that ‘scientific estimates’ not scientists themselves tend toward the conservative side. I understand why that is necessary. Saying something like, “we believe based on our latest findings that SLR may rise by 1 meter by the end of the century” to my mind would be a ‘conservative estimate’. SLR could be quite a bit more than that but… based on current knowledge etc. Everything is evidence based so any estimates would have to come from that. I get it. I think.

    I wasn’t attempting to characterize individuals. It was poorly worded. My apologies.

  8. 358
    S.B. Ripman says:

    Mike 351:
    Love your humor, dude. You kill. Have you considered a career as a writer for Kimmel or Colbert? (Or are you one already?).
    But you need to be careful, dude. There’re a bunch of scientists here. They’re plagued by Sheldon Cooper Syndrome: incomprehension in the face of satire
    Getting back on topic, though, I want you to know that you’re not alone. Many others are noting major positives. In fact, scientists here in California have observed global warming impacts like those you point out.
    Bigger Pacific hurricanes throw off choice swells. Sea level rise sculpts ‘em into gorgeous tubes. Ocean temps make wetsuits superfluous. We’ve got tasty waves, bitchin’ babes, papaya sunscreen, deep tropical warmth. It’s heaven on earth. Time to parrrr-teeeee!
    Forget the snowshoes, pal. Invest in bikinis.

  9. 359
    Richard Caldwell says:

    BPL: Modest, too.

    Richard: Perhaps you should read the entire post. You might notice the entertainment factor I built into it. The bit you focused on was linked to other claims, especially via the duplicated use of “sniff”.


    Killian: If, as some are wont to speculate, the methane hydrate bomb is going off now… or, no, tomorrow… or… no, next month…

    Richard: The methane hydrate bomb is impossible, since hydrate is widely dispersed both laterally and vertically, and is generally insulated by many meters of sea floor. (Leaping to land,) having lived in Fairbanks as a child (and dug in the dirt) I experienced how permafrost melts. Slowly from the top, (and subsequently learned slowly from the bottom.) You’ll get some fast leaks for sure, but it’s more like a hydrate slow fizz. Decades and centuries as opposed to “tomorrow”

    Ray: You’ve yet to provide any convincing evidence that this is the case.

    Richard: True. I called for that study, as opposed to changing my career path to something I’m disinterested in. Asking folks to do THEIR job is rather valid, don’t you think? Besides, my initial post was completely neutral as to the what the facts are. Everybody who’s commented so far has taken the position that the answer is ever so likely to be that mainstream science has been consistently lowballing, so I went with the flow to save bandwidth. Repeating caveats and whatnot in every single subsequent comment is just a waste of time. (And destroys the flow of the writing. As a writer, I’m way more concerned with that than mere science. :sniff: )

    Ray: I’ve got a lukewarmer

    Richard: And I’ll raise you a denialist. Though you’ve got it backwards, as lukewarmers tend to underestimate even worse* (I think you meant “alarmist”.), I agree with you. The study YOU or somebody like you should do would be most robust if all sorts of folks were categorized and compared. How accurate have denialists, lukewarmers, mainstream, and alarmists been? Great study for a doctoral thesis, perhaps.

    * insert caveat here

  10. 360
    MA Rodger says:

    HadCRUT4 is posted for February at +1.057ºC, a rise of 0.158ºC on January and 0.048ºC above the previous record anomaly of December. With El Nino still doing its stuff in the Pacific, this is no surprise.
    Comparing February surface temperatures with February 1998, the GISS/NOAA/HadCRUT February average is +1.21ºC, compared with +0.83ºC in 1998, a rise of 0.38ºC over 18 years or (if it means anything to make the calculation) +0.21ºC per decade. (A graphic of surface & satellite records 1998 & 2016 here (usually 2 clicks to ‘download your attachment’) Of the usual ENSO markers, NINO3.4 temperatures continue to drop, with the wobbles now not showing a great difference from 1998’s, but the latest ENSO predictions still give an extra couple of weeks of positive NINO3.4 over 1998. SOI has weakened but is still showing signs of life.

  11. 361
    mike says:

    on the climate models:

    some quotes from that one:

    “ Parameterizations
    Parameterizations are included in all model components to represent
    processes that cannot be explicitly resolved…

    Parameterization to represent processes that cannot be explicitly resolved? that sounds a little loosey goosey, but it’s probably fine. In the past when a climate model created “unrealistic” future climate state, a flux adjustment was employed to address the unrealistic outcome. Flux adjustments are no longer in vogue… basic flux idea still makes a great capacitor component for temporal fluctuations.

    Good as the various climate models may or may not be, they all include parameterizations, tunings, etc that represent processes than cannot be explicitly resolved.

    Past practice includes the use of flux adjustments to address “unrealistic? outcomes. Definition of flux adjustment? per DCD:

    Modifications that can’t be justified empirically that are made to a climate model’s variables so that the simulated climate remains realistic.

    For further info: See curve fitting, plug variable, tuning, and parameterization).

    from that same definition, further clarifications:

    1. “The strong emphasis placed on the realism of the simulated base state provided a rationale for introducing flux adjustments or “flux corrections” (Manabe and Stouffer, 1988; Sausen et al., 1988) in early simulations. These were essentially empirical corrections that could not be justified on physical principles, and that consisted of arbitrary additions of surface fluxes of heat and salinity in order to prevent the drift of the simulated climate away from a realistic state. The National Center for Atmospheric Research model may have been the first to realise non-flux-corrected coupled simulations systematically, and it was able to achieve simulations of climate change into the 21st century, in spite of a persistent drift that still affected many of its early simulations. Both the FAR and the SAR pointed out the apparent need for flux adjustments as a problematic feature of climate modelling (Cubasch et al., 1990; Gates et al., 1996).”
    (Source: Climate Change 2007: Working Group I: The Physical Science Basis – 1.5.3 Coupled Models: Evolution, Use, Assessment )

    2. “To avoid the problem of a coupled AOGCM drifting into some unrealistic climatic state (e.g., excessively warm temperatures in the tropical Pacific ocean), adjustment terms are applied to the fluxes of heat and precipitation (and sometimes the surface stresses resulting from the effect of the wind on the ocean surface) before being used in the model ocean.”
    (Source: (glossary) )

    MLO CO2

    March 28, 2016: 406.01 ppm

    March 28, 2015: 403.27 ppm

    Things are looking rosy.

  12. 362

    Mike, #351–You may have forgotten what I said way, way back at #256:

    “Of course, from a ‘fate of the planet’ perspective, that’s not the outcome I’m rooting for. But it wouldn’t bear much on the ‘fate of the models.’”

    So, if you’re depending on my judgment–not necessarily a good ideal–you shouldn’t get too rosy about the fate of our collective ass.

  13. 363
    Hank Roberts says:

    Mike 351:
    Love your humor, dude. You kill. Have you considered a career as a writer for Kimmel or Colbert? (Or are you one already?).
    But you need to be careful, dude. There’re a bunch of scientists here. They’re plagued by Sheldon Cooper Syndrome: incomprehension in the face of satire

    +1, and remember the naive readers, and youngsters just starting to learn.
    The satire and archly clever backwards statements will confuse many readers.

  14. 364
    Theo says:

    NSIDC says: Arctic sea ice appears to have reached its annual maximum extent on March 24, and is now the lowest maximum in the satellite record, replacing last year’s record low.
    And now we wait with abated breath for Gavin’s magical number :)

  15. 365
    Deb O'Dell says:

    This is my first post.

    I saw that an article was published today in Nature at:

    Title: Contribution of Antarctica to past and future sea-level rise

    By Robert M. DeConto & David Pollard

    Does this provide more support for Hansen et al.?

  16. 366
    Hank Roberts says:

    If anyone finds the quotes “mike” posted alarming, google that and you’ll find there are quite a few bloggers reposting the same phrases from the IPCC at skeptical (or “septic”) blogs.

    “mike” — you quote that as though it were a bad thing. Or you’re trying to sound snarky again and failing. Pulling our legs? “The other one has bells on.”

    So — for any new reader coming along — don’t let “mike” put you off understanding this rather complicated subject.

    You can look back with a search and find this site has had one or another “mike” for many years, always turning the same way and grinding the same stuff out. Once you get to know “mike” you’ll understand his methods. Or their methods.

    New at this? This may help understand “parameterization” a bit:

    The thing about models is, they’re not reality.

    “You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?”

    We can’t model the entire Earth in detail and run it for the thousands and thousands of years needed to see if it behaves exactly like the real planet.

    So we use models, knowing they oversimplify — square mile “pixels” instead of square feet, that sort of approximation

    This has changed a lot over time. You can find explanations that actually help if you look.

    Try these —

    In the previous 19 articles of this series we’ve seen a concise summary (just kidding) of the problems of modeling ice ages. That is, it is hard to model ice ages for at least three reasons:…

    The usual approach using GCMs is to have some combination of lower resolution grids, “faster” time and prescribed ice sheets and greenhouse gases….

    On selecting parameters and model “tuning”:

    Careful tuning is essential for a new model, as some parameter values are not known a priori and incorrect choices of parameter values compromise the quality and reliability of simulations. At the same time tuning can be abused (getting the right results for the wrong reasons) if there are too many free parameters. To avoid this we adhered to a set of common-sense rules for good tuning practice ….

    Note that many GCMs back in 2000 did need to use flux adjustment (in Natural Variability and Chaos – Three – Attribution & Fingerprints I commented “..The climate models “drifted”, unless, in deity-like form, you topped up (or took out) heat and momentum from various grid boxes..)

    So this all sounds reasonable. Obviously it is a model with less resolution than a GCM, and even the high resolution ….

  17. 367
    Hank Roberts says:

    Oh, and note that “mike” is pulling in a definition from “DCD” — which if you google a while you’ll find is from this:

    If you didn’t look at the source, you might imagine it’s reliable.

    Nice try “mike”

    You could fool anyone who doesn’t make the effort to check every single claim and quote and statement you make.

  18. 368
    colinc says:

    Very sincere thanks, Deb O’Dell (30 Mar 2016 at 9:08 PM), for providing the link to that Nature article and many more thanks to you (or whomever) for providing the complimentary access to its entirety!! :) I would, indeed, think this adds a great deal of support for Hansen! The RCP8.6 (the current/foreseeable trajectory) discussions and videos should(?!) tighten more than a few sphincters. Thanks again, killer “first post!”

  19. 369
    Hank Roberts says:

    A look at reality here:

    pollution in #India sitting up against the #Himalayas

    — Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) January 12, 2016

  20. 370
    Richard Caldwell says:

    Hank: So we use models, knowing they oversimplify — square mile ”pixels” instead of square feet, that sort of approximation

    Richard: Excellent point. This jives with what James Hansen is saying about ice melt. He says GCMs use too large a pixel size to correctly model ocean mixing, with the result that ice melt is underestimated. He points to one attempt that seems to support his exponential theory of ice melt and calls for other modelers to test they systems with smaller pixels to see if they react the same way. It’s in his new YouTube video.

  21. 371
    mike says:

    Ouch, that felt like a spanking.

    Here is something to think about:

    GW deniers would love to be proven right about their conviction that either GW is not happening, or is not caused by humans, etc. They would love to be right about their position.

    Mainstreamers – folks who think the “good boys” of science are getting it right and that the “mavericks” of science are getting it wrong, would love to be proven right about their position.

    Alarmists – sorry, Chuck, I think that’s you and me, think the mavericks are getting it right would love to be proven wrong about our position.

    had a long and brilliant post written about this that might have been the best bit of writing since Hunter S. Thompson covered Richard Nixon, but I blinked and it disappeared. You will have to trust me that it was brilliant. It included platypus and Donald Trump in the same sentence. Nuff said?

  22. 372
    Hank Roberts says:

    Can you find that in the paper?

    Or a transcript from YouTube?

  23. 373
    Ray Ladbury says:

    OK, that is a specific issue–does the finite resolution of models lead to unrealistic ocean mixing and in turn underestimates ice melt. Note that “pixel size” is dictated by available computing power, not by the choice of the modeler. Given this, how would you investigate this bias and possibly correct it. That is a question that can be) (and is being) addressed by researchers. It does not, however, support the contention that the severity of the climate crisis is being systematically underestimated by scientists.

    Scientists can only go as far as the evidence supports.

  24. 374


    “It included platypus and Donald Trump in the same sentence.”

    I presume you noticed that this version does, too?*

    Anyway, I suppose by your rubric I’d be a “mainstreamer”. But I’ve gotta say, I’d be thrilled if the deniers were to be proven right. It’s just that that case is pretty much, to reuse the old column title from (IIRC) Astounding, “Probability zero.”

    *For some reason, the phrase “poisonous spurs” keeps coming to mind here.

  25. 375
    Richard Caldwell says:

    Ray, on pixel size,

    Yep. This is a completely different discussion than our previous one and (probably) has no bearing on reticence. This would be one of the expected deviations which must by definition be either up or down. My expectation would be that if one lined up all the deviations between older “bigger pixel” results and newer “smaller pixel” results, things probably, but not necessarily would cancel out. Now, if someone were to do the reticence study, then this “natural” deviation would merit research so it could be identified as noise in the event that bigger pixels actually generally decrease/increase the severity of results. Like lots of studies, what seems simple and easy is hard and complicated once one delves deeply.

    You’d explore it by degrading pixel size and running GCMs, (a kind of “technical hindcasting”, not to be confused with temporal hindcasting) and also by, like Hansen’s source probably did, getting a newer machine or scheduling (lots) more time or reducing some other characteristic so the increased processing required for denser pixels would be offset. Maybe they just ran it for a short timeframe. I don’t know. As you said, available flops are what they are.

  26. 376
    Scott says:

    Meanwhile this is still being ignored. No idea why.

    “Jones calculates that 171 tons of CO2 per hectare has been sequestered to a depth of half a meter on Winona.”

    “Increased soil organic matter through SRI
    practices that improve the soil with more organic
    matter application and increased root exudates

    I could go on and on, but still wouldn’t deal with the main issue. Why are climate scientist so reluctant to admit that the technology for mitigation isn’t some undeveloped future technology. It is here and well vetted now.