RealClimate logo

Unforced variations: Dec 2016

Filed under: — group @ 1 December 2016

This month’s open thread. Roll on 2017…

302 Responses to “Unforced variations: Dec 2016”

  1. 1
    Chrstopher says:

    Sea level rise? A few articles about preparing for sea level rise have crept into the news recently. Articles tend to quote NOAA prediction that sea levels could rise 2 to 6 feet by 2100. However, I cannot find any data to support this prediction. 1.5 to 2mm per year, 0.7 inches per decade, 7 inches per century is generally accepted as pre AGW background SLR. Add 1mm per year for recent acceleration caused by human burning of fossil fuels and the recorded data can barely escape the margin for error.

    I generally look at the NOAA sea level data for Portland Maine, closest data for my location, and the rate of sea level rise is almost steady at 1.8mm year for past 100 years.

    The rate of SLR would have to triple immediately to obtain 2 feet of rise by 2100. Rate of SLR would have to increase more than 10 fold immediately to reach 6 feet by 2100.

    Trust that I am the number one supporter of action to stop AGW. Personally, I think AGW is just the tip of an iceberg, pun intended, just one crisis amongst dozens that demand that we humans change how we live on this Earth.

    I need the facts to support the claim. I can see the rise in atmospheric CO2 concentrations, I can see that the temperatures are rising, I can see the rapid changes in the environment, I can see the glaciers melting, snow cap disappearing, Arctic Sea Ice collapsing, Greenland melting, PIG, WAIS, species extinction, weather patterns changing….

    Also, I live on the edge of a tidal marsh, 2 miles inland from coast. Common high tides stop at base of a low berm at edge of my property. Highest tides, king tides, storm driven tides flow through a narrow gap in that berm and creep across the low land next to our home. The tides are buffered by a number of obstacles that filter out noise. The gentle slope, next to my home, forms a near perfect graduated instrument for measuring sea level. I have never measured it but slope is approximately 10 inches in 100 feet. In fact, I will measure this slope on Saturday.

    I have been here for 10 years. Many neighbors have been here for 30-40 years. Each has some anecdote about the tide rising to some frightening level. In the ten years we have been here I have never seen the tide rise beyond a modest level. There is an existing pipe at the edge of the gap through the berm. I marked two very high tides on that pole the first year we were here. At the time I did not think to record the conditions that caused that high tide. NOAA Portland Maine sea level data records a near 10 inch spike in 2008. It is possible that the high mark was a result of that spike.

    Can anyone here please justify the NOAA prediction that SLR could exceed 2 to 6 feet by 2100? I do not find any data to support that claim.

  2. 2
    MA Rodger says:

    The first day of the new month & UAH has posted the November global temperature anomaly for its TLTv6.0(beta5) at +0.45ºC (two significant places), the =18th warmest anomaly on the record. This is the warmest November on record, comfortably besting last year’s record of +0.326ºC. Back in 1998 when TLT temperatures were last strongly boosted by an El Nino, the temperature had fallen back quite a lot by the time of November. Not so in 2016. This year’s November anomaly represents a rise above recent months. The year-to-date average stands at +0.530ºC. To achieve the ‘warmest calendar year on record’ (which remains 1998 at +0.484ºC) December’s anomaly would have to exceed -0.018ºC. The last year with such a low anomaly was in 2007.

    The table here allows comparison with the 1997-99 El Nino years. That 1997-98 El Nino was quickly followed by La Nina conditions. While the 2015-16 El Nino ended pretty-much in sinc with 1997-98 El Nino, the La Nina conditions now appear to be a non-event. Predictions from October show the trend away from La Nina conditions in coming months & the 30-day SOI index has already on occasion dropped back into negative El-Nino-esque values (although this is not a signal of a done deal).
    Back in 1998 as per the table below, the November value showed the beginning of the big drop from the elevated El Nino temperatures. The 2016 shows no sign yet of such a drop & with a La Nina not expected, such a drop is also not expected.
    ……….1997/99 … 2015/16
    Dec … +0.250ºC … +0.450ºC
    Jan … +0.479ºC … +0.540ºC
    Feb … +0.653ºC … +0.832ºC
    Mar … +0.475ºC … +0.734ºC
    Apr … +0.743ºC … +0.714ºC
    May … +0.643ºC … +0.545ºC
    Jun .… +0.575ºC … +0.338ºC
    Jul … +0.511ºC . … +0.389ºC
    Aug … +0.516ºC …. +0.435ºC
    Sep … +0.441ºC …. +0.440ºC
    Oct … +0.403ºC …. +0.410ºC
    Nov … +0.123ºC …. +0.450ºC
    Dec … +0.246ºC
    Jan … +0.060ºC
    Feb … +0.166ºC
    Mar … -0.081ºC
    Apr … +0.009ºC
    May … -0.037ºC

  3. 3
    Hank Roberts says:

    Paul Goddard, a doctoral candidate at the University of Arizona, and a team of researchers reviewed monthly tide records at 40 points along the East Coast going back to the 1920s and found that no other two-year period had such a big increase.

    “The sea level rise of 2009-2010 sticks out like a sore thumb for the Northeast,” Goddard said in a written statement.

    Sean Birkel, research assistant professor at the University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute, said the rise didn’t surprise him, but he also said it’s not quite as alarming as it seems.

    “It’s definitely a significant rise during a short interval, but our research has shown a lot of variability, or ups and downs, and that 2009-10 is likely a peak,” he said. “But the overall trend is certainly that seas are rising. No one disputes that.”


    Jianjun Yin, an assistant professor of geosciences at the University of Arizona, said the current rate of increase in greenhouse gas emissions suggests that rising sea levels, and corresponding coastal flooding, are likely to occur more often in the Northeast over the next several decades.

  4. 4
  5. 5
    Mike Roberts says:


    Although the CO2 growth appears to be increasing, there isn’t enough data to tell if that’s the case. At least, I think that’s what the scientists will tell you, at least in public.


    Interesting post from Tamino commenting on another paper that bought into the slowdown story loved by so-called skeptics. He shows that the paper is badly flawed. This follows a comment on a paper by Fyfe et al, in February, which also bought into the slowdown story (though included good stuff), which Tamino also showed wasn’t true.

  6. 6
    Martin Smith says:

    +Christopher Here is the NOAA report in which NOAA identifies 4 scenarios:

    “Based on a large body of science, we
    identify four scenarios of global mean SLR
    ranging from 0.2 meters (8 inches) to 2.0
    meters (6.6 feet) by 2100.”

  7. 7

    Economics–from Greek ‘oikos,” house, and “nomos,” law–is the study of how goods and services are produced and distributed. In brief, “Who gets what, and how.”

    The problem of how to order a national economy is an old one, and many societies, ancient and modern, have tried to order it by “fiat”–by commanding everybody what to do, and when and where to do it. By intuition, that should work, and it does work in a crude way, but as it happens there’s a much easier way to do things.

    As Adam Smith demonstrated back in 1776, facts about mass human behavior tend to produce an orderly economy even in the absence of any direction from the government. Secular Libertarians leap to the conclusion that the state should butt out of the economy altogether; that unfettered use of the free market will quickly produce an ideal state of affairs. I happen to think they’re wrong on that–but they are surprisingly close to the truth. I think the state should leave the economy alone for the most part, although I think there are areas where it can play a legitimate role.

    To see why this is so, I have to explain markets. Which I will do in the next installment, to the delight of everyone except Thomas.

  8. 8

    Part 1. Supply.

    Suppose you own a house with a back yard filled with apple trees. Suppose you can get one cent ($0.01) for every apple you sell. You might spend some time picking up apples, but you’d probably prefer eating them yourself to going to the trouble of polishing them up and selling them.

    Now suppose the price goes up to 25 cents per apple. That’s not a bad return; if you needed the cash you might well spend time every so often gathering up apples in a basket and selling the good-looking ones.

    Now suppose the price goes up to $5.00 per apple. You might just spend five days a week in the back yard with as many baskets as you can get together, gathering up apples, washing them, and selling them at a stand at the local farmer’s market. If there are fifty apples in a basket we’re talking $250.00 for an hour or so of labor.

    Now, not everyone will act the same way. Some especially industrious folks might begin selling apples when the price hits five or ten cents. Some folks might think selling anything is beneath them, or they might be too shy to operate a sales stand, or they might declare the back yard open to the public out of Christian or Socialist principle. But on average, and in most cases, sellers of apples will tend to get more apples ready for market the higher the price.

    Supply increases with rising prices.

    Let’s say we survey a community of people with apple trees in their back yard. Several thousand people in a prosperous village. And let’s say that we find that the following quantities are offered for sale at the following prices:

    Price Quantity Supplied
    $0.10 50
    $0.20 125
    $0.30 200
    $0.40 275
    $0.50 350

    This table is a “supply schedule.” We can then draw the line connecting these points on a graph, with price P increasing as you go upward on the chart (on the Y axis) and quantity Q increasing as you go to the right (on the X axis). A real “supply curve” is rarely this straight and this simple, but this gives the general idea. Supply rises with price.

  9. 9

    Part 2. Demand.

    Now, say you’re no longer a “producer” of apples, but a “consumer” of apples–someone who buys the things. When the price is $5.00 per apple, you might well not buy any at all. When it comes down to 25 cents each, maybe you’ll get a few occasionally. But when it hits one cent per apple–heck, buy a ten pound bag full! Make apple pies!

    Again, this doesn’t mean everyone acts the same way. Some people don’t like apples or are allergic to them; they won’t buy any no matter how cheap they are. Some love apples so much they’ll buy them even when the price is exorbitant. But on average, and in most cases, people will tend to buy fewer apples the higher the price goes.

    Demand falls with rising prices.

    So now we survey the buyers or “consumers” rather than the sellers or “producers,” and write down the demand schedule:

    Price Quantity Demanded
    $0.10 350
    $0.20 275
    $0.30 200
    $0.40 125
    $0.50 50

    We can then graph this “demand curve” as we did the supply curve, Which shows us that demand declines with price.

  10. 10

    Part 3. Market Equilibrium.

    If supply rises with price, but demand falls with price, where does the price end up? Why, where the curves meet. That point determines what economists call the “equilibrium price” and business people call the “market price.”

    This is important: In the presence of stable supply and demand curves, both the quantity bought and sold, and the price, will settle at particular, predictable values. For our charts and tables above, that’s 200 apples bought and sold at 30 cents per apple.

    Now, playing around with charts is all very well, but why should the price and quantity settle at the equilibrium point? Just because a chart says so?

    No. The chart only shows how large groups of people, on average, behave–the “convergence of market forces.” To show why, imagine, first, that the price drops below the equilibrium price–on our chart, that would be moving downward. Say it appears one day as 20 cents per apple.

    The demand is now greater than the supply. At 20 cents per apple, the supply is 125 apples, but the demand is 275 apples. People want more apples than the buyers have on the market.

    It won’t be long before some seller realizes he can raise the price and still sell all his apples. Soon others will catch on. The prices rises… and as it does, the supply increases, and the demand falls. Until you get to the equilibrium point, 30 cents per apple, where supply matches demand.

    Now imagine the opposite scenario. Sellers get greedy and raise the price to 40 cents per apple. Now the supply is 275 apples… but the demand is only for 125. The sellers can’t sell all their apples. The surplus rots.

    After a while, someone realizes he can sell more of what he brings to market if he just cuts the price a bit. The price falls… demand rises, supply falls, and conditions converge at the equilibrium once again, with supply and demand equal at 200 apples and the price at 30 cents per apple.

    The implication is greater than a lesson on buying and selling apples. A whole economy can work this way. This is very close to how the economy actually worked in the United States from about 1780 to 1820. We had a large number of small buyers and sellers and a nearly perfect free market.

    Of course the situation was highly IMperfect in other ways. The fact that cotton sold at its equilibrium price did little to cheer up the slaves in the southern cotton fields.

    There are markets that don’t work this way, usually because the supply or demand curve takes an unusual shape. An example might be the market for Rolls Royce cars. The demand curve for these cars can take a perverse shape–people buy more when the price goes up, because the kind of folks who can afford to buy a Rolls often do so for its status value. An expensive Rolls is a better status symbol than a less expensive one. But the vast majority of commodities don’t act this way.

    Simply understanding how a market works can make clear a number of political and economic issues. Nearly always, the issue involves interference with the market–sometimes for good and sometimes for bad ends. Nearly always, the way people interfere with it is by getting the government to pass laws to do so–establish a monopoly, set prices, or supply, or demand, or do things to shift the curves right or left.

    We discuss an obvious example in the next chapter.

  11. 11

    Part 4. Elasticity.

    For our oversimplified tables and diagrams of the apple market, the supply and demand curves are straight lines. Again, this is only an approximation. But we can use the simple case to explain some general principles.

    The supply and demand curves from that chapter can be expressed by equations:

    S = -25 + 750 P 1
    D = 425 – 750 P 2

    Here S stands for supply, D for demand, and P for price. The first numbers are “intercepts,” and can be ignored for now. The numbers in front of the price are what we need to know about. They are “elasticities,” meaning the ratio by which quantity changes when price changes by one unit–here the units are dollars. Supply goes up by 750 apples every time the price of an apple rises by one dollar. Demand goes down by 750 apples every time that happens.

    The huge change with a small change in price means these curves are very “elastic.” Changes in a price greatly influence how much gets bought and sold.

  12. 12

    5. Monopoly (I). [Apologies for the length of this post.]

    Now, I promised to talk about a case where people try to interfere with the market. Let’s talk about monopolies.

    Let’s say the cost of producing an apple for market (picking it from the tree, or picking it up, putting it in a basket, washing it, etc.) is five cents per apple–calculated, perhaps, by figuring out how many apples can be readied in an hour and what a minimum-wage worker would receive for an hour’s labor. So at equilibrium, with the price at 30 cents, the seller is making a profit of 25 cents on each apple. 85% of sales go to profits, which is a pretty huge return for any real economic activity.

    Suppose there are ten sellers, each producing 20 apples. They each make $5.00 a day in profit from their sales.

    If a single producer controlled the whole market, he would make $50.00 a day in profits rather than $5.00. For that reason, sellers have a big incentive to take market share away from their competitors.

    Let’s examine what the income is at various prices. The sellers make 25 cents profit per apple when the price is 30 cents. With supply and demand equal at 200, their total income is $50.00.

    If the price is low–say 20 cents per apple–supply and demand are unbalanced. People want 275 apples, but producers are only willing to produce 125. Profit per apple is now 20 – 5 = 15 cents per apple. They sell 125 apples, making a total profit for the whole industry of $18.75. Not a situation they’re happy with. Production picks up and the market heads back to equilibrium.

    On the other hand, if the price is high–say 40 cents per apple–supply and demand are again unbalanced, but in the opposite direction. People only want 125 apples, but 275 are produced. Sellers only make profits on the apples they actually sell, so even though profit per apple is now higher (40 – 5 = 35 cents per apple), the industry profit in this case is only $43.75, still less than the $50.00 they make at equilibrium. Profit is maximized at equilibrium.

    But let’s assume that the demand for apples is much less elastic than we’ve assumed before. Say the demand curve is now:

    D = 425 – 150 P 3

    Why the inelasticity in demand? Maybe apples are required for a religious festival in this town, or maybe there’s a custom that says you can’t get a date unless you bring your beloved an apple first. With the demand curve of equation 3, the equilibrium price is now 50 cents, rather than 30 cents, and the quantity bought and sold at equilibrium is now 350 apples rather than 200. The industry profit, at 50 – 5 = 45 cents per apple, is a big $157.50. Much better than $50.00. Producers like it when demand for their product is inelastic.

    But now let’s compare what happens when the price deviates a bit from equilibrium. Below equilibrium, at 40 cents, buyers want 365 apples, but sellers only produce 275, and that is the quantity actually bought. Profit is 40 – 5 = 35 cents per apple, so industry income is $96.25, well below equilibrium. Producers will strive to bring more apples to market.

    But at higher than equilibrium price, the effect is now different. At 60 cents per apple, demand is 335, supply is 425. 335 apples are sold at 60 cents per apple, so with profit at 60 – 5 = 55 cents per apple, the 335 apples sold bring the industry’s income to $184.25–higher than at equilibrium! With an inelastic demand for a product–say, oil in the present US economy–it pays for sellers to sell at a price higher than equilibrium. It pays to find a way to avoid having the market settle at equilibrium. It pays, in short, to interfere with the market.

    Demand elasticity equal to or higher than supply elasticity: no advantage to fixing the price too high.

    Demand elasticity less than supply elasticity: big advantage to fixing the price too high.

  13. 13

    6. Monopolies (II).

    Remember from previous chapters how market forces pressure a too-high price back down to equilibrium:

    “After a while, someone realizes he can sell more of what he brings to market if he just cuts the price a bit… The price falls… demand rises, supply falls, and conditions converge at the equilibrium once again, with supply and demand equal…”

    For this to work, the seller has to have competitors he can take market share away from by lowering prices. If he has no competitors–if he has a monopoly over the industry–this tactic becomes pointless. He makes more money by charging well above the equilibrium price.

    And note that, since only 335 apples are produced rather than the 350 at equilibrium, fewer apple workers are required. Less is produced, fewer people have jobs, prices are higher. Everybody gets hurt except the owner(s) of the monopoly.

    Supply and demand still exist when demand is inelastic, but equilibrium is at a higher price and maximum profit at a higher price still. It’s not infinite. If you don’t want to work out the price where an apple monopoly would make the highest total profit–and I can tell you right now it involves calculus–here’s the answer: The optimal price for the monopoly is $1.44. Supply is 1,055 apples, though in real life the monopoly would not bother producing the surplus, in order to save costs. Demand is 209. 209 apples are sold, the profit per apple is $1.39, and the total industry profit–all going to one company under our monopoly scenario–is $290.51. Compare the two prices in our inelastic-demand market. In a free market, with competitors, equilibrium price is 50 cents ($0.50). In a monopoly, the profit-maximizing price is $1.44–almost three times higher.

    So in an industry where there is inelastic demand, it pays a company to reduce the number of its competitors as much as it can. If they can, they’ll establish a monopoly. If they can’t–if they can only reduce it to an “oligopoly” with three or four huge producers–they’ll have a tremendous incentive to collude on prices.

  14. 14

    7. Antitrust.

    If you want free markets in a country, you have to have vigorous antitrust laws. If you don’t have them, concentrated or monopolistic industries will extract a huge “monopoly rent” from their customers. The economy will be less efficient–higher prices, less produced, fewer jobs. Production will be below its potential level. It will be bad for everybody but the monopolists. They will make out like bandits.

    And don’t think monopoly tactics are confined to a few huge businesses. Whole professions use them, and even service agencies of the federal, state and local governments.

    Public transit authorities have “grants of exclusive authority” for their bus and subway lines. In Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, the Port Authority Transit has such a law in effect. If you try to set up a business where you give people rides in your van in return for money, you may well wind up with your van impounded and yourself in prison, having to pay huge fines, or both. The bus company is a legal monopoly.

    Less bus service, higher prices, fewer bus drivers.

    Professions set up licensing laws. These are always supposedly “to protect the public,” but the main people they protect is the sellers. Some professions can make more of a case for this than others. Should doctors be licensed? You wouldn’t want quacks operating on people. On the other hand, the effect of requiring doctors’ licenses limits the number of people who can be doctors–thus ensuring more health care income per doctor. Ditto lawyers. Some states license chiropractors and even astrologers (!). “To protect the public.”

    Unions do it, too. It’s great when unions protect their members from unfair and unsafe working conditions. But that’s not all they do. By requiring laborers in a field to be union members, they ensure there will be fewer people in that field–and all the wage income will come to those fewer people. Their income will be much higher; the income of all the rest of us will be slightly lower.

    Then there’s the matter of increasing demand. A monopoly industry, or even a non-monopoly industry, will want people to buy more of their product. They will advertise, try to convince people that they need more of whatever the seller is selling. They will lobby the federal government for subsidies for their industries, and usually the federal government will come through.

    All of the following are ways sellers try to manipulate markets:

    Create “entry barriers” so fewer people can work in the field. Licensing laws are an example. Difficult requirements are another. For example, taxi monopolies in some US cities charge as much as $60,000 for a “taxi medallion” permitting you to drive a taxi.

    Get federal subsidies so the demand curve shifts to the right. Agriculture, the fossil fuel industry, and many others receive hundreds of billions of dollars per year, altogether, from state, federal and local governments.

    That’s right–hundreds of billions of dollars. Your tax dollars at work, benefiting particular corporations.

    Set tariffs and quotas on imports to reduce the number of competitors. The steel industry does it, the automobile industry does it, sugar and cloth merchants do it, and unions favor restricting imports so they don’t have to face “unjust competition.” But the effect is to have fewer companies consumers can buy from.

    Above all, elect politicians favorable to sellers so the government will help you get away with all this. You can probably think of examples yourself. Note that a “pro-business” candidate is NOT always the same as a “pro-free-market” candidate. The policies favored by the two can be very different.

  15. 15

    I’ll stop for now so Thomas, and possibly others, can tell me how contrived and obsolete all this is and how it’s all magic and fantasy with no relation to the real world.

  16. 16
    PaulS says:


    1.5 to 2mm per year, 0.7 inches per decade, 7 inches per century is generally accepted as pre AGW background SLR.

    That’s not right. Pre-AGW background SLR is generally accepted as averaging close to 0mm/yr for the past couple of millennia. 1.5mm to 2mm/yr would be typical numbers for 20th Century SLR.

    Add 1mm per year for recent acceleration caused by human burning of fossil fuels

    Why 1mm/yr?

    I generally look at the NOAA sea level data for Portland Maine, closest data for my location, and the rate of sea level rise is almost steady at 1.8mm year for past 100 years.

    Looking at tide gauge data at a single location is unlikely to give you a good picture of changing global average sea level trends. Variability is too large. Over the past 25 years global average SLR measured by satellites and global tide guage networks is about 3mm/yr, compared to a 20th Century average of about 1.5mm/yr.

    Articles tend to quote NOAA prediction that sea levels could rise 2 to 6 feet by 2100… The rate of SLR would have to triple immediately to obtain 2 feet of rise by 2100. Rate of SLR would have to increase more than 10 fold immediately to reach 6 feet by 2100.

    2 feet is highly plausible. 6 feet would require large contributions from ice sheets, which is possible (worth thinking about and preparing for) but speculative at the moment.

    Let’s focus on 2 feet. Your immediate tripling calculation seems to be based on assuming current rate is 2mm/yr. But it’s actually probably >3mm/yr. An immediate doubling would get us near 2 feet by end of century, but what’s actually expected to happen is a gradual increase in rate through the century, such that the rate at end of century will be around 8-9mm/yr. You may have spotted one consequence to that – 22nd Century SLR is expected to be even stronger than 21st Century. That’s true even if we’ve stabilised emissions by 2100. Possibly 23rd Century SLR will be stronger still.

    The reason for all this gradual SLR acceleration is large inertia in pretty much all contributors to SLR, such that their contributions will continue increasing in future. You seem to want to use 20th Century SLR as a guide to the future. It perhaps can be a guide, but it’s very much as an extreme lower bound rather than a mid-estimate.

  17. 17
    Alan Millar says:

    2 MA Rodger says:
    1 Dec 2016 at 8:30 PM

    I assume you give these figures to show that an alarming warming trend has not paused and continues to demonstrate itself

    Well, comparing the then record year of 1998 to the probable new record year of 2016 and assuming December 2016 will be about 0.200C hotter than 1998 we will find 2016 around 0.040C hotter than 1998 and if this mighty heating trend continues to the end of the century we can expect things to be about 0.200C hotter than now in 2100.

    Not sure therefore this is the right time yet to plant my palm tree here in the Northern UK!

  18. 18
    Adam Lea says:

    Christopher 1: Take a look at this Wikipedia article on future sea level rise (which has links to references) IPCC (2007) predicts 18-59cm sea level rise by 2100 (59cm is about two feet), but their predictions don’t include a component for ice calving. If this missing component is added the projections increase to between 0.8 and 2 metre sea level rise (

  19. 19
    Hank Roberts says:

    Also for Christopher, see p. 16 for the sea level rise scenarios (plural) for Portland Maine.

    If your question about sea level change based on the past record is because you don’t know about the climate change that has already begun, you probably will find the scenarios hard to believe, but this may lead you to more information:

  20. 20
    mike says:

    Should we be scared? Should we be worried that what we post here might scare folks?

    The US just elected a president who does not believe in global warming. Workers in Gatlinburg finished their shifts before walking out to discover it was time to run for their lives. The news media coverage of the deadly TN fires by and large makes no mention of global warming.

    CO2 sats continue to rise at record rates and our natural carbon sinks are not working like they used to. Some foolish folks are worried that talking about this could scare people. I have to laugh. Get scared, don’t get scared, I don’t care, but if you are in a forest fire consider taking some personal time and getting away from work early. or don’t leave work til the shift ends, then run/drive for your life. either decision is fine with me. I don’t want to scare anybody.

    btw, kinda old news, but the Amazon carbon sink is a good one to watch if you want to know what is happening with large traditional global carbon sinks. – a quote from that one: “April’s carbon dioxide level of 407.42 was a record 2.59 ppm rise from March… The increase “is the biggest we’ve ever seen,” said NOAA global atmospheric monitoring director Jim Butler . “That’s scary but it is amplified by El Nino, there’s no question.”

    Butler said scientists need to watch measurements over the next several months or even a year to see how much of this large increase is an El Nino-driven blip that will go away as the weather phenomenon fades and is replaced by its cool flip side, La Nina.

    It’s not just that carbon dioxide levels are growing, but that they’ve been growing at a record faster pace over the past four years, even without El Nino, Tans said.

    “The El Nino boost is on top of the large emissions from fossil fuels which continue at a high level,” said Ralph Keeling , who directs the carbon dioxide program at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

    I have been watching the measurements as discussed in this article. I am not yet seeing the drop that I am watching for that should occur as EN event recedes. It’s just numbers. Observational data and data set comparison.

    You want to get scared by the numbers? Go ahead. Or finish your shift and check the weather on the way out of the building. Folks say and do some foolish things.

    November average coming any day now, I would like to see 402.9, but I think it’s going to be higher than that. I would love to be wrong about that.

    We live in scary times, but FDR’s advice about fear is worth keeping in mind.

    Warm regards,


  21. 21
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    Chrstopher (sic) @1 about sea level rise (SLR), you note several projections for SLR by 2100. These projections depend on how much carbon we burn and then on how readily different researchers expect the added ocean heat and the ice to get together. Unfortunately, this getting together keeps looking easier. Here is just the latest of many indications:

    As sea surface temperatures go up, we might expect SLR to accelerate. Last year it rose about a centimeter IIRC. Soon we will have the result for this year. For prior years, it takes a statistician to analyze the data. Tamino often does this for us. Here is a recent post of his:

    and you could do a site search for his site and “sea level”.

    How about your location? Suppose enough Arctic ice melts to raise sea level by 1 meter on the average. Then a whole lot of mass moves from the Arctic to the southern hemisphere, where most of the ocean is found. This shifts the earth’s center of gravity away from you, and sea level at your location may even go down.

  22. 22
    mike says:

    Mike Roberts at 5: rate of increase is increasing. It is complicated with EN and other issues, but the rate of increase is increasing at this time and has been for decades. There has been a lot of discussion about this on the UV thread over the past year, suggest you just look back to find. Or

    Pieter Tans will speak about the increase as will Jim Butler – quoted at 18.

    Tamino is on the record as well:

    Warm regards


  23. 23
    mike says:

    Warning: this may scare some folks.

    Crowther study printed in Nature title:

    Quantifying global soil carbon losses in response
    to warming

    quote: (deep breath for the easily scared) “Despite the considerable uncertainty in our estimates, the direction of the global soil carbon response is consistent across all scenarios. This provides strong empirical support for the idea that rising temperatures will stimulate the net loss of soil carbon to the atmosphere, driving a positive land carbon–climate feedback that could accelerate climate change.”


  24. 24
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    >”The rate of SLR would have to triple immediately to obtain 2 feet of rise by 2100. Rate of SLR would have to increase more than 10 fold immediately to reach 6 feet by 2100.”

    Not at all. Think about acceleration, or even better :) think of the rate of SLR doubling every 10 years. Note that much of the SLR so far is due to thermal expansion of the ocean, and the current rate as you now know is much higher than you thought.

  25. 25
    Hank Roberts says:

    > comparing the then record year of 1998 to
    > the probable new record year of 2016 ….

    Ooh, cherries! Saying global warming _almost_ stopped since 1998, eh?

  26. 26
    Chrstopher says:

    I will need few hours to read your responses. Mr. Roberts, yes there was a 10 inch spike in SL recorded at Portland followed by a 10 inch fall, I believe the sea level “reverted to the norm” as indicated by the NOAA data recorded here:

    “After the little ice age early in the 19th century, sea level rose at 18 cm/cy (the historic rate) with no measurable acceleration until the mid-20th century, when thermal expansion associated with greenhouse warming became significant, contributing an additional 3 cm by the year 2000. Greenhouse-related sea level rise has accelerated to the present rate of 6 cm/cy, making the historic + greenhouse rate 24 cm/cy.

    24 centimeters per century is less than 9 inches and not 2 feet, certainly not 6 feet.

  27. 27
    Digby Scorgie says:

    Barton, that’s a very interesting exposition of basic economics. I can see that there are many ways in which the system can be distorted. However, you have not covered the externalizing of costs. For example, the widget maker doesn’t bother to treat the toxic wastes resulting from widget manufacture but dumps them straight into the nearest river. Or, he doesn’t bother to pay extra for keeping his workers safe from the toxic fumes involved in widget manufacture. In effect, costs are externalized by damaging society or the environment or both. This scenario is the one that applies in the case of carbon emissions.

    As I understand it, there is no way to prevent damage from the externalizing of costs in a completely unfettered market. Government regulations are needed to prevent such damage, which of course is anathema to some and why it is so difficult to put a price on the emission of carbon dioxide. Is this correct? Would you care to elaborate?

  28. 28
    Hank Roberts says:

    PPS for Christopher, here’s the caption for that figure on p.16 if you’re still here and real:

    Figure 14.
    Sea level at Portland ..

    The projections reflect the range of possible scenarios based on
    other scientific studies. The currently projected range of
    sea-level rise of 0.5 to 2.0 feet by 2050 (1.0 to 4.0 feet by
    2100) falls within a larger range that incorporates uncer-
    tainty about how glaciers and ice sheets will react to the
    warming ocean, the warming atmosphere, and changing
    winds and currents. The high end of these scenarios is
    provided for use by decision makers with a low tolerance
    for risk.

  29. 29
    Thomas says:

    We Hold Truths to be Self-Evident 02 December 2016 James Hansen

  30. 30
    Thomas says:

    # 7 Barton Paul Levenson says: “Which I will do in the next installment, to the delight of everyone except Thomas.”

    What is it about you BPL that you have to be so immature and make up stuff about other people that is not true or even close to true?

    Here’s an option – just say or share what you want to say on any topic – as clear as possible – and just leave me out of it. Even provide useful refs or search terms for those who may be new to the kind of material you wish to raise.

    Again, leave me out of it. This isn’t a school playground mate. Whatever.

  31. 31
    Chrstopher says:

    PaulS, your data is all under water. SLR for past 200 years has measured at 18cm/century pre AGW.

    I look at Portland Maine, but suite yourself and look at the record for the entire east coast. 1-2-3mm/year is typical except south louisiana where subsidence exceeds SLR.

    You state, “2 feet is highly plausible”. No! That is exactly my point. East coast SLR is less than 3mm/yr (30cm/century, 11 inches). 11 inches is not 24. To reach 24 inches SLR would have to double immediately. The NOAA Portland SLR data points to 11 inches of SLR between 2000 and 2100.

    You state, “what’s actually expected to happen is a gradual increase in rate through the century, such that the rate at end of century will be around 8-9mm/yr.” We are 30 years into this crisis and acceleration is from 2 to 3mm/year.If SLR were to continue to accelerate at 0.5mm/decade that would yield SLR of 8mm/year in the last decade of the century and 21 inches of SLR by 2100. I can see that as possible. But we are still shy of 2 feet. How do I convince my audience that this is going to happen.

    “want to use 20th Century SLR as a guide to the future.” No! Again, I reference Portland Maine for past 30 years. AGW has been full tilt for more than 30 years and the acceleration is not much greater than background noise.

    Look, I am not denying AGW. I am not denying SLR. I look at the Keeling Curve and I see the CO2 increase and recent acceleration. I look at the temperature record and I see the rising temps and changing climate. I look at the SLR data and I do not see 2 feet and certainly not 6. I own two houses at near sea level. This is not theory, this is real, practical and important.

  32. 32
    Thomas says:

    17 Alan Millar says: “we will find 2016 around 0.040C hotter than 1998”

    How so? iow on what basis (math and assumptions) do you make this claim?

  33. 33
    Thomas says:

    #2, 4, 5, and 20.

    Here using global carbon budget estimates, ground, atmospheric and satellite observations, and multiple global vegetation models, we report a recent pause in the growth rate of atmospheric CO2, and a decline in the fraction of anthropogenic emissions that remain in the atmosphere, despite increasing anthropogenic emissions.

    Versus the Nature paper discussed here

    I’m fairly sure I posted a link to a paper (or to recent scientist article) showing the rate of co2 ppm growth was increasing in Nov UV thread. Can’t locate it right now (or am muddled).

    OR Versus – it was probably this NOAA site (history back to 1960) and

    Who knows? Cheers

  34. 34
  35. 35
    Chrstopher says:

    Mr. Roberts at 19:

    page 16 of the referenced reports states:

    “The mean sea level trend is 0.07 inches per year (1.9 mm/year) with a 95% confidence interval of +/- 0.006 in/yr (0.16 mm/yr) based on monthly mean sea level data from 1912 to 2013, which is equivalent to a change of 0.62 feet in 100 years”

    My question exactly. How do I, how does NOAA, reconcile the recorded 0.62 feet in 100 years with predictions of 2-6feet by 2100?

    Let me try it this way? What is the range of possibilities:
    1. that sea levels at Portland will rise 0.07 inches per year over the next 10 years? Virtually certain.
    2. will rise 0.09 in/yr (acceleration of 5mm/decade) for next 10 years and yielding 21inches of SLR by 2100? I could extrapolate the observed SLR over the past 30 years and agree that this is,I don’t have the math skills, what are the terms the IPCC uses, “likely”?
    3. will rise xxx in/yr (rate of acceleration required to reach 6 feet of SLR by 2100? Probability must be infinitesimally small?

    And there again is my point. The press is repeating the predictions of 2-6feet by 2100 when in fact the probability of reaching 6 feet is miniscule. Understanding that the contribution from Greenland and WAIS are not well understood, these are enormous wild cards, then the worst case is possible.

  36. 36
    MA Rodger says:

    And RSS has posted pretty promptly for November with an anomaly of +0.390ºC which is a partial recovery from the drop down to +0.353ºC in October. (These lower values are not evident in UAH TLTv6.0beta.) This is the 2nd warmest November on record and the 50th warmest monthly anomaly on record.
    The first 11 months of 2016 average +0.604ºC. For RSS TLT to have 2016 as warmest calendar year (currently that is still 1998 averaging +0.550ºC), December 2016 would have to average above -0.04ºC, an average which has been easily exceeded sice 1996.
    It should be noted that the average anomaly for 2015 was 0.382ºC, even with the last few months elevated by El Nino so the RSS TLT is perhaps a return to pre-El Nino levels.
    A comparison of recent RSS TLT anomalies with the 1997/98 El Nino years:-
    ……….1997/99 … 2015/16
    Dec … +0.302ºC … +0.568ºC
    Jan … +0.550ºC … +0.680ºC
    Feb … +0.736ºC … +0.993ºC
    Mar … +0.585ºC … +0.870ºC
    Apr … +0.857ºC … +0.784ºC
    May … +0.667ºC … +0.542ºC
    Jun .… +0.567ºC … +0.485ºC
    Jul ….. +0.605ºC … +0.492ºC
    Aug … +0.572ºC… +0.471ºC
    Sep … +0.494ºC… +0.580ºC
    Oct … +0.461ºC… +0.353ºC
    Nov … +0.195ºC… +0.390ºC
    Dec … +0.311ºC
    Jan … +0.181ºC
    Feb … +0.317ºC
    Mar … -0.013ºC
    Apr … +0.182ºC
    May … +0.112ºC
    Jun … -0.083ºC

  37. 37
    MA Rodger says:

    Alan Miller @20.
    You assume rather too much.
    As described, the figures are presented to ‘allow comparison with the 1997-99 El Nino years.’ If you want to read “an alarming warming trend” into these figures, that is your concern. However, a word of caution – 2015-16 being El Nino years with the El Nino almost as powerful as 1997/98, it would be no great surprise for 2016 to replace 1998 as the warmest calender year on record as El Ninos greatly elevate TLT temeratures, far more than with surface measurements.
    Yet in your comparison of 2016 temperatures with 1998 temperatures, an average which will be little affected by the eventual December value, you are very much comparing El Ninos and so not providing a gauge of the underlying rising trend. The full RSS TLT record suggests a linear warming of +0.14ºC/decade (this including an inserted December 2016 value of +0.4ºC), this value a little lower than a comparison between 2015 with 1997, or an average of the other 18-year increases over the entire record (including your 1998-2016).
    And may I myself assume something, me being not always resident in southern UK. You may yourself lack palms buit you do not live that far north within the UK, however many exclamation you employ!!!

  38. 38
    zebra says:


    Thanks for the exposition.

    I think in the end you contradict your early suggestion that government should leave the economy alone– absent strong government intervention, you never see a free market as described. (Vide Adam Smith.) And of course, this supposes that the government operates with the interests of its citizens as a goal– whether a truly benevolent dictator or a true, educated, democracy.

    I would add the observation that “government” and “State or Nation-State” have slightly different connotations in this realm. A Nation-State by definition establishes a monopolistic control over resources (land, oil, …), by using force/violence. It is in the interest of powerful NS in general to favor an economy/technology that maximally consumes such resources.

  39. 39

    Christopher, #1–

    The gold standard is, in general, the latest Assessment Report, currently “AR5”. From Chapter 13, “Sea Level Change”:

    For the period 2081–2100, compared to 1986–2005, global mean sea level rise is likely (medium confidence) to be in the 5 to 95% range of projections from process-based models, which give 0.26 to 0.55 m for RCP2.6, 0.32 to 0.63 m for RCP4.5, 0.33 to 0.63 m for RCP6.0, and 0.45 to 0.82 m for RCP8.5. For RCP8.5, the rise by 2100 is 0.52 to 0.98 m with a rate during 2081–2100 of 8 to 16 mm yr–1. We have considered the evidence for higher projections and have concluded that there is currently insufficient evidence to evaluate the probability of specific levels above the assessed likely range. Based on current understanding, only the collapse of marine-based sectors of the Antarctic ice sheet, if initiated, could cause global mean sea level to rise substantially above the likely range during the 21st century. This potential additional contribution cannot be precisely quantified but there is medium confidence that it would not exceed several tenths of a meter of sea level rise during the 21st century. {13.5.1, Table 13.5, Figures 13.10, 13.11}

    That’s here:

    But that’s based on process models. There’s another way of looking at it, called ‘semi-empirical modeling’. Results from studies using that methodology show higher SLR, up to double. RC contributor Stefan Rahmstorf has written a very good post on his work with semi-empirical modeling of SLR:

    There’s also discussion of the semi-empirical methodology and results later in AR5 Chapter 13.

    I must note that you wrote something that isn’t quite right, to wit:

    The rate of SLR would have to triple immediately to obtain 2 feet of rise by 2100. Rate of SLR would have to increase more than 10 fold immediately to reach 6 feet by 2100.

    Presumably, you meant something like “If we assume constant rates of SLR, the rate today would need to be triple that observed for 2 feet by 2100 and 10-fold for 6 feet.” But constant rates are, of course, a counterfactual, as there is good evidence that we’ve observed acceleration over the course of the 20th century (albeit not uniform). If you look at the RCP 4.5 and 8.5 projections–*not* ‘predictions’, if we’re being picky, since they are contingent upon specific emissions trajectories, which we are unlikely to realize precisely–as graphed in Figure 13.11, you’ll see that SLR follows a roughly exponential pathway over the 21st century. (Hence end of century rates of SLR as high as 16 mm/year–that’s ~50 times the current rate, if I haven’t slipped an arithmetic cog somewhere.)

    The great thing about Assessment Reports as a source, of course, is the bibliography. The various sources for everything they say in the chapter is laid out for you, so you can read the original for yourself. You can also search for citations to those sources to follow the ‘chain of scholarship’ forward in time, to get updates on newer research.

    Some statistical ‘food for thought’ on the topic:

  40. 40
    Roger Lambert says:

    @ Cristopher

    1mm – 2mm per year SLR is too low. SLR gives every indication of accelerating. Rate from 1993 – 2012 was 3.1 mm/year. A period of less than one year ending in 2015 showed a 10 mm increase, although this has NOT been sustained. See:

    It is early days yet, but the trend of increasing slope of global SLR is troubling.

    And then we have this speech, made by people who one would think would be considered in the know (their opinion is NOT supported by the author of this site):

  41. 41
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Alan Millar,
    Paribus ceteris, your argument might have some coherence. Unfortunately, ceteris ain’t paribus. The El Nino of 2016 was smaller than that of 2018 and it petered out earlier.

    Context matters, dude.

  42. 42
    Eric Swanson says:

    BPL #8-#15 Looks like you believe Economics 101. But, markets are never in equilibrium. Your example of apples (an agricultural commodity) fails to note that there’s seasonal supply, but demand can occur all year. The simple model does not indicate what happens to prices in Spring long after the apples ripen in Fall. Nor does the model include transportation (requiring fossil fuels) which can move such products between one market and another or shift employment from a high wage area to one with lower wages far away. Your model does not include futures markets or the impacts of banking by which people can store some measure of value over many years. Nor does the model differentiate between renewable and non-renewable resources or give any thought to sustainable development of resources vs. rapid exploitation of same. Lastly, the value of common resources such as water and the atmosphere tend to be minimized or ignored, as prices for pollution can not be set by markets which include future generations not yet born, who are likely to meet a world with much higher populations, all of whom need basic levels of resources to survive and want a share of the riches which a few are able to accrue.

    My conclusion is that the concept of “free” markets is an illusion that exists due to the ignorance of the general public, which are made to believe that a growing economy is good for them, while all the growth goes to increase the wealth and power of a few. The truth is that exponential growth of resource consumption on a finite planet must ultimately cease.

  43. 43
    Mal Adapted says:

    BPL, good basic Economics tutorial series. I’m a little puzzled by this, however:

    Secular Libertarians leap to the conclusion that the state should butt out of the economy altogether; that unfettered use of the free market will quickly produce an ideal state of affairs. I happen to think they’re wrong on that–but they are surprisingly close to the truth.

    “Ideal” isn’t a word I’d use to describe the state of affairs produced by “unfettered” use of the “free” market. On other threads I’ve discussed the tendency for free markets to exclude some costs of producing particular goods from the minimum price sellers must charge to make a profit. As you know, economists call those excluded costs externalities. They call cases in which externalities are involuntarily paid by persons not participating in the producer-consumer transaction market failures. Even some Libertarian thinkers recognize that AGW represents a failure of the global energy market, requiring collective (if not necessarily state) action to to correct. Will you address the concept?

  44. 44
    Thomas says:

    A visual of what the Arctic Sea Ice looked like on December 1st each year since 2012 up to 2016,1611.msg95576.html#msg95576

  45. 45
    MA Rodger says:

    And playing catch-up, HadCRUT has published for October posting an anomaly of +0.587ºC, somewhat lower than the last five months. It becomes the fifth hottest October on record & the 57th warmest monthly anomaly. The fall in anomaly from September is mirrored in NOAA but not in GISS, perhaps a result of the extremely hot high-Arctic which is accounted more fully in GISS.
    The average anomaly for 2016-to-date is running at +0.816ºC and still running above the average for the last calendar year (also presently the record calendar year) of +0.747ºC. Thus the last two months of 2016 would have to average above +0.40ºC to gain the ‘warmest calendar year’ accolade. (The most recent year with last 2 months’ average below +0.40ºC was 2011.)
    A graphic of average surface & satellite anomalies & MEI comparing 1997/99 with 2015/16 complete up to October is here (usually two clicks to ‘downlaod your attachment’)
    The anomalies for 2015/16 and their rankings within the full record are as follows:-
    2015 …1 … … 0.688ºC … = 22nd
    2015 …2 … … 0.660ºC … … 30th
    2015 …3 … … 0.681ºC … … 24th
    2015 …4 … … 0.656ºC … … 32nd
    2015 …5 … … 0.696ºC … = 20th
    2015 …6 … … 0.730ºC … … 14th
    2015 …7 … … 0.696ºC … = 20th
    2015 …8 … … 0.732ºC … … 12th
    2015 …9 … … 0.784ºC … … 9th
    2015 …10 … . 0.820ºC … … 7th
    2015 …11 … . 0.810ºC … … 8th
    2015 …12 … . 1.010ºC … … 3rd
    2016 …1 … … 0.908ºC … … 5th
    2016 …2 … … 1.061ºC … … 2nd
    2016 …3 … … 1.063ºC … … 1st
    2016 …4 … … 0.915ºC … … 4th
    2016 …5 … … 0.688ºC … = 22nd
    2016 …6 … … 0.731ºC … … 13th
    2016 …7 … … 0.728ºC … … 15th
    2016 …8 … … 0.770ºC … … 10th
    2016 …9 … … 0.712ºC … … 16th
    2016 …10 … . 0.587ºC … … 57th

  46. 46
    Thomas says:

    BPL talks about theoretical economics:101

    Peering into the world of facts and evidence suggests a very different reality than that – some examples for readers to consider and perhaps do your own further research about include:

    Questions for BPL – What happens in the Hypothetical Realm of the Apple Economy when:

    1) The Fed unilaterally adjusts Interests rates between 0.1%, 4% & 8% levels? How does this effect the Business Model of Apple Orchards?
    And what happens to the NYSE (the AIA – Apple Industrial Avg) and the Stock Price of companies like Apple Inc?

    2) The international Organization of the Apple Exporting Countries (OAEC) unilaterally cut Apple production globally by 10%?

    3) Scientists prove beyond doubt that the production and consumption of all Fruit including Apples is the primary cause of Global Warming leading to extreme climate changes now and into the future —

    What do world Governments and the Voters of the world do about this Fact?

    What happens to the Apple Economy and the NYSE then?

    Do we demand that the Govts impose an Apple Tax to encourage consumers to eat less apples?

  47. 47
    Thomas says:

    Dec 2 – Over two-thousand veterans are on their way to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation to join the #NoDAPL Water Protectors.

    Here are some of what the protesters at Standing Rock have faced:
    Mace, sound cannons. sniper guns pointed at unarmed civilians, journalists being shot with rubber bullets, journalists being arrested for covering the protests, attack dogs unleashed on groups including children, elder Natives getting tasered and violently arrest, protesters marked with numbers and kept in dog kennels after arrest…

  48. 48
    Dennis Coyne says:

    I also wonder about the paper Pete Best asked about in Comment 4,

    I don’t have access to the paper only the abstract. It would be interesting to hear comments from David, Gavin or the other experts at real climate, or maybe a future post.

    Link to paper below:

  49. 49
    Thomas says:

    For CO2 Mike

    “Beyond the Point of No Return — Imminent Carbon Feedbacks Just Made the Stakes for Global Warming a Hell of a Lot Higher”

    “For according to new, conservative estimates in a scientific study led by Dr. Thomas Crowther, increasing soil respiration alone is about to add between 0.45 and 0.71 parts per million of CO2 to the atmosphere every year between now and 2050….. easily be on track for 5-7 C or worse warming by the end of this Century.”

    Who knows?

  50. 50
    Thomas says:

    Seasons greetings to all RC scientists and contributors!

    Wishing you all the very best for 2017 and beyond.

    Many thanks for the opportunity

    Peace and Joy,

    Regards Thomas