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Unforced Variations: Jan 2018

Filed under: — group @ 1 January 2018

Happy new year, and a happy new open thread.

In response to some the comments we’ve been getting about previous open threads, we are going to try separating out OT comments on mitigation/saving the planet/theories of political action from ones related to the physical climate system. This thread remains a place for climate science issues, questions, & news, but we have started a new Forced Responses thread where people can more clearly discuss mitigation issues. We realise that sometimes it can be hard to cleanly separate these conversations, but hopefully folk can try that out as a new year’s resolution!

Note we will be updating the Model/Data comparisons over the next few weeks as the various observational data sets get updated for calendar year 2017. The main surface temperature datasets will be released around Jan 18.

223 Responses to “Unforced Variations: Jan 2018”

  1. 201

    #194, mike–

    Well, this isn’t a reporting error of the sort you asked about, but there is in the record a downward revision of estimated Chinese emissions (published in Nature, no less):

    Has to do with the characteristics of Chinese coal…

    And in the US, there was this downward revision of estimates of methane emissions:

    So, yeah, I think there are probably some occasions where this happens and will happen.

    As to the “significance” of either over- or under-estimates, I think we don’t have much to go on. Unknown unknowns, and all that.

    But I doubt that it’s enough to claim that the data we do have are utterly irrelevant and useless as indicators, as you appear to have suggested in previous comments. YMMV, of course.

    For nuance, here’s a more recent story, also relating to the (changing) characteristics of Chinese coal, which thinks that Chinese emissions may have actually risen marginally in 2014, before actually declining in 2015:

    But note this ‘bottom line’ assessment:

    “The most important part of the new paper is the authors’ confirmation that fundamental changes are underway in China’s coal use. That’s good news for everyone, and I agree with them.”

  2. 202
    Killian says:

    Hmmmm… Al Rodger… This conforms with the take-away “CO2 is on the rise, the rise itself (velocity) has been getting faster (acceleration), and there’s no evidence at all that has changed recently” and answers his question. I do hope that remains so when it feeds back to RealClimate.

    So, I am right…. again. Or, so says the post at Tamino’s.

    No wonder the Peanut Gallery is always so rancid; being wrong so often probably hurts. I wouldn’t know.


  3. 203
    MA Rodger says:

    Thomas @195.
    Yet more banal CO2-causes-AGW statements from you, within which there is what appears to be a prediction for the peak weekly MLO average CO2 measurement for the year.
    Is that not a bit of a climb-down? Up-thread @103 you were asserting we were heading to +4ppm/yr this summer. Yet @195 your numbers put the weekily value at +1.64ppm/yr, a considerable difference.

    Mind, you do mention ENSO, telling us that “The world is currently experiencing a Weak La Nina phase. fwiw. “ This may be true. It may also be true that the average weekly 12-month CO2-rise for the year-so-far is +1.77ppm, not much greater than your projected +1.64ppm/yr. But the ENSO wobbles only marry up with ‘CO2-rise-over-the-past-12-months’ wobbles with a a lag of 8 months. Thus while there is weak La Nina conditions today and there will have been weak El Nino conditions 8-months prior to the peak in CO2-rise this year, the present CO2-rise would tend to be governed by ENSO conditions last summer which were the El-Nino-side of ENSO-neutral.

    And as mike is ever telling us, the CO2-rise values are very bouncy. The average bounce for the annual max weekly value above a multi-week average varies considerably. Last year (which you are measuring against) this added bounce was +0.67ppm (above 7-week aves) but the average(median) is +0.5ppm+/-0.4ppm. (Whether ENSO impacts on that bounce-above-annual-wobble is not so clear.)

    So, all-in-all your much-diminished projected CO2-rise for 2018 is in the lap of a lot of bouncy factors that you probably haven’t even identified. Yet it is thankfully more realistic than the +4ppm up-thread.

    mike @200.
    You tell us “Over that period of time, the 22 ppm increase just is what it is, suggesting background decadal rate of increase in 2.2 ppm range. I think the current background increase rate is in the 2.4 to 2.5 ppm range.”
    (Note your “just is what it is” decadal average was recently shown on a comment thread far far away to be a bit wobbly. Thus while a linear trend through the last 10-years-worth of that decadal average data yields an acceleration of +0.038+/-0.002ppm/yr/yr, through the last year’s-worth it yields a negative acceleration of -0.018+/-0.04ppm/yr/yr.)
    Where does the “2.4 to 2.5ppm range” come from? It does seem a little high. Note that the +22.1ppm/decade increase is averaged on the central part of the decade (thus 5 years ago), meaning your +2.45ppm/yr could be seen as +0.24ppm/decade above the decadal value, the increase because it represents a value five-years later.
    Thus your thoughts are proposing an acceleration of +0.048ppm/yr/yr through this 5-year period. That seems a bit “skyrockety”. Is this your intention?

    Killian @202.
    When you write “So, I am right…. again. (…) being wrong so often probably hurts. I wouldn’t know.” – Who is this “I” who is always right and who knows nothing about making mistakes?
    Is it the same one I asked about @198 who set out assertions with an “I think….” using your name but which were assertions you deny making?

  4. 204
    Al Bundy says:

    Thomas: “Looks like MA has hit paranoid delusional territory. Again. Sad.”

    AB: wow, to parrot Donald Drumpf’s style here is Hillaryious.

    (OK, Hillary’s only sin to deserve that was that her name happened to fit…)


    James McDonald: After a CO2 molecule has absorbed some amount of energy it must shed that energy before it can absorb again.

    AB: I’d change “must” to “it is more likely to” and “can” to “happens to”. Basically, when a molecule heats to a higher temperature than its neighbors, its probability of cooling down increases, regardless of the technique used to cool the molecule. I’m not aware of anything in physics that says that no CO2 molecule in Earth’s atmosphere can heat up to 1000F through happenstance bombardment with radiant energy. How about you?


    Ven D: Tea Bagging Kooks aren’t swayed by logic.

    AB: But they are infuriated by it.


    Kevin M: Again, assuming a simple relationship that may or may not be valid, if we’re seeing annual increases of ~2 ppm, then 5% of that would be 0.1 ppm.

    AB: Not quite. Absorption of CO2 from the atmosphere is based on concentration, not emissions. So, using the 50% rule of thumb and your 2% approximation, that means 4ppm is being emitted, 2ppm absorbed, and 2ppm is the net climb. So, add 5% to emissions, and you’ve got 4.2ppm. Subtract the 2ppm absorbed and the net is 2.2ppm, a 0.2ppm increase.

  5. 205
    mike says:

    Kev/Doc at 201: I am comfortable just sticking with the MIT Tech Review of emission reports as notoriously unreliable. The question comes up because another poster here brought them up. It’s not my thing, I track CO2 and CO2e (to a lesser extent). These are notoriously reliable numbers.

    In the end, it does not matter if we reduce emissions if the reduction is in insufficient and/or to slow in reduction rate and the hard numbers of CO2 and CO2e continue to rise.

    Cheers, buddy


  6. 206

    Thomas, #195–

    re: (Kevin) “the human emissions-observed concentrations link is hard to observe over sub-decadal timescales.”

    Thomas: Which doesn’t matter, because over decadal timescales it is obvious and compelling.

    In context it does, because we were discussing the meaning (or lack thereof) of the current flattening of reported emissions and equally current ‘non-flattening’ of the rise in atmospheric concentrations. If you don’t expect to see a close linkage over a decade, due to unforced variation, then you don’t get fussed about short-term divergences.

    And you can then save your energy for affairs relevant to the long-term increase, which is, as you say, the really important thing.

  7. 207
    Thomas says:

    a straight forward summary of projected increase of Global Fossil Fuel Energy Use (and therefore all GHG emissions] from 2015 to 2040

    Quoting the US EIA:
    The Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently (Sept 2017) released its International Energy Outlook 2017 (IEO) with energy projections through 2040.

    Despite expecting global coal consumption to remain flat [ie current Global use of Coal is to continue at BAU rates despite some reductions in some countries], the IEO forecasts global carbon dioxide [CO2] emissions will increase by 16 percent between 2015 and 2040 as the consumption of all other [fossil] fuels increases.

    According to the IEO, fossil fuels will [continue to] supply the majority of demand in 2040 — a 77 percent market share —despite renewable energy growing the fastest — [Natural Gas growth is the second fastest].

    The agency expects both natural gas and petroleum to increase despite announcements made by European countries and China banning combustion vehicles in favor of electric vehicles.

    China, the United States, and India together account for about 70 percent of the world’s coal consumption.

    To meet the growth in EIA’s natural gas demand projection, the world’s natural gas producers increase supplies by 42 percent between 2015 and 2040.

    Meanwhile World population is projected to reach ~9 billion by 2040. This is a 23% increase on today’s population, whereas GLOBAL ENERGY DEMAND is Forecast to increase 28% over the same period – all things being equal.

    REF: September 14, 2017 – EIA projects 28% increase in world energy use by 2040

    “The Coal share of total world energy consumption declines significantly over the projection period, from 27% in 2015 to 22% in 2040.”

    BUT THE TOTAL AMOUNT OF COAL USED EACH YEAR REMAINS THE SAME AS TODAY while annual CO2 emissions increase by another 16%.

    The science exists to project what this would mean for Global Temps, Regional Temperature Extremes, increasing Ocean Acidification (Coral Reef impacts), Polar Sea Ice Loss, and how high Atmospheric CO2 PPM would be circa 2040 onward.


  8. 208
    Killian says:

    #198 MA Rodger said My apologies. When I responded @184 I thought I was responding [intelligently, but I wasn’t.]

    as you deny it

    Your lying and/or lack of intelligence is my denial? Cute. Or are you just being your typical, argumentative for no reason, foolish self?

    Quiet, peanut.

  9. 209
    Thomas says:

    Ref fwiw IPCC WG3 AR5 re soils SOC etc.

    Implementation challenges, including institutional barriers and Inertia related to governance issues, make the costs and net emission reduction potential of near-term mitigation uncertain. In mitigation scenarios with idealized comprehensive climate policies, agriculture, forestry, and bioenergy contribute substantially to the reduction of global CO2, CH4, and N2O emissions, and to the energy system, thereby reducing policy costs (medium evidence; high agreement)

    [11.9]. More realistic partial and delayed policies for global land mitigation have potentially significant spatial and temporal Leakage, and economic implications, but could still be cost-effectively deployed (limited evidence; limited agreement) [11.9].

    Economic mitigation potential of supply-side measures in the AFOLU sector is estimated to be 7�18 to 10�60 (full range: 0�49 – 10�60) GtCO2eq/yr in 2030 for mitigation efforts consistent with carbon prices up to 100 USD/tCO2eq, about a third of which can be achieved at UNDER 20USD/tCO2eq (medium evidence; medium agreement) [11.6]. These estimates are based on studies that cover both forestry and agriculture and that include agricultural soil carbon sequestration.

    PG 817

    (a good chapter – bit old nowadays – seems to echo some of Scott’s comments though)

  10. 210
  11. 211
    Thomas says:

    fwiw, from Dec 2017 – NOAA Arctic Report Card: Update for 2017
    Arctic shows no sign of returning to reliably frozen region of recent past decades

    Despite relatively cool summer temperatures, observations in 2017 continue to indicate that the Arctic environmental system has reached a ‘new normal’, characterized by long-term losses in the extent and thickness of the sea ice cover, the extent and duration of the winter snow cover and the mass of ice in the Greenland Ice Sheet and Arctic glaciers, and warming sea surface and permafrost temperatures.
    The sea ice cover continues to be relatively young and thin with older, thicker ice comprising only 21% of the ice cover in 2017 compared to 45% in 1985. [… only 3 decades ago]

    short video

  12. 212
    Thomas says:

    The Arctic Meltdown & Extreme Weather – Jennifer Francis
    an idea they have been working on for some time – May 2017
    lecture picks up at 9:38 mins for a couple minutes about 2016

  13. 213
    mike says:

    MAR at 203:

    Sorry, Al. I just don’t understand and follow your numbers and process here. No, not trying to be skyrockety. In fact, hoping for just the opposite. I would love to see the rate of rise flatten and quickly, but that’s not likely to happen because of the time lag between a fall in emissions and a change we might observe in the CO2 measurement is likely in the ten year range unless the decrease in emissions is much larger than the emission drops that are being reported.

    And, remember, a flattening of the rate of increase is not the target we need to hit, we have to make the needle start going down. I think it is safe to say that we are already seeing impact of global warming at 408 ppm.

    I think our rate of change in emission drops needs to be so significant that we would see a change in the accumulation number in the shorter time period of a couple of years that could be expected with a much larger change in emissions.

    My 2.4 background rate comes from the decadal average of 2.2 mediated by the fact that we know that the rate of increase over the past decade has accelerated. We were likely in the 2.0 increase range at the beginning of the decade (because that is slightly higher than the decadal average for the previous decade.) decadal rate numbers that I am using are here:
    We were lower at the beginning of the decade and higher at the end of the decade. Decadal rate was 2.2. I think we started around 2.0 and ended about 2.4. That is my smoothed/unwobbled estimate of the rate of increase. I could be wrong, but others come up with similar numbers using various processes, so I feel fairly confident (and discouraged) about the number.

    Anybody planning vacation to South Africa? Pack a lot of water with you.

    Warm regards to all,


  14. 214

    #207, Thomas–

    Thanks for passing on that outlook. It’s worth considering.

    But I’d say that it’s worth considering in context, and part of the context is that the EIA has a long, long history of getting projections wrong–and they have historically often “gotten it wrong” in the direction of projecting too much FF use (or at least, too little deployment of clean energy sources). Partly, that’s because their reference case uses only *existing* policy frameworks, and those frequently change, which is fair enough. I suspect another piece of it is not accounting well for technological changes, though I advance that very much FWIW (and it may not be worth much).

    But on past form, what they say will happen in the EIO cited is probably not what will actually end up happening.

  15. 215

    Speaking, as we were, of 2017 energy agency reports, IRENA says in theirs that:

    Electricity from renewables will soon be consistently cheaper than from fossil fuels. By 2020, all the power generation technologies that are now in commercial use will fall within the fossil fuel-fired cost range, with most at the lower end or even undercutting fossil fuels.

    Onshore wind is already undercutting fossil fuels on global weighted LCOE, 0.06 USD to 0.07, and solar is now coming in at 0.10. Auction rates are already there, with future LCOEs of as low as 0.03 indicated as realistic possibilities.

    The modular, scalable nature solar and wind power generation technologies, and the replicability of their project development process, rewards stable support policies with continuous cost reductions. This has already made onshore wind and solar PV highly competitive options for new generation capacity. Auction results suggest that CSP and offshore wind should follow a similar path. A comparable process is playing out for electricity storage. Wherever renewable power technologies can be modular, scalable and replicable, decision makers can be confident that industrialisation and the opening of new markets will yield steady cost reductions in the right regulatory and policy environment.

  16. 216
    Killian says:

    MA, you are too childish for my time. There is one actual issue: Do we have clear evidence emissions are falling? The answer is no. I understand the most important thing for you is playing childish games, but the rest of us are here to discuss climate.

    You have a point about the numbers I used, but you are just being stupid regarding the quality of the info. What I said is absolutely accurate, and the fact there is no provable, or even credible, measurement of emissions. Again, having spent a lot of time at theoildrum I already knew this. You didn’t, and apparently don’t like this simple FACT of life. Too damned bad, son! Grow thee up!

    Back to the numbers. The background rate of accumulation has been rising over the long term. As Tamino or whomever at OpenMind indicates, this does not seem to have been interrupted. However, even if it has three years is too short a time to know if it matters. Statistically, it’s meaningless.

    Again, this is the actual point of these discussions, not whether someone used too large or too small a number. I WAS right that emissions cannot now be shown to have been flat. It may eventually bear out they have been, but that is not now provable.

    I am virtually always right, sadly for you. I’ll put my record against anyone. I even predicted the 2008 crash.

    Did you?

    Stop being an idiot and engage meaningfully.

  17. 217
    Killian says:

    #203 Peanut said assertions you deny making?

    I denied nothing, peanut. You don’t understand what you read far too often for someone so arrogant.

  18. 218
    Mr. Know It All says:

    204 – Al Bundy

    Saw you on TV the other day:


  19. 219
    MA Rodger says:

    mike @213,
    The numbers @203 simply set out how wobbly the jelly that you are trying to measure. Even measurements as long as decadal measures remain wobbly.
    Beyond that, the numbers @203 set out your apparent position much as you set it out @213. Mind, you make a significant concession in setting you estimate at 2.4ppm/yr rather than “the 2.4 to 2.5 ppm range” @200.
    But note you invoke un-named sources to support your contention. ” I could be wrong, but others come up with similar numbers using various processes, so I feel fairly confident (and discouraged) about the number. “
    You may be reassured by these “others.”. I am not.

    It would be entirely sensible to assume a continued acceleration in the CO2-rise numbers if there were a continuing rise in man-made emissions. The likes of the GCP are finding that rise to be absent.
    Thus it is not entirely sensible.
    It would be sensible to assume a higher “today” rate of CO2-rise for 2017 if the CO2-rise numbers warranted it. Yet, with no reason to invoke an El Nino to depress the acceleration, CO2-rise averaged 2.17ppm/yr for 2017.
    Thus there is no support in recent CO2-rise numbers.

    This is why I dispute you estimates of today’s CO2-rise and continue to brand them as being a little “skyrockety.”

  20. 220
    MA Rodger says:

    Killian @217.
    You say “I denied nothing, peanut.” So Killian, when @193 you quoted me @184 with an appended reply as set out here:

    (Cut&Paste from #184)
    As for the Global Carbon Project being authoritative or not, your argument is solely that their results are “not even equal to an educated guess” because in your view “they are a combination of industry false reporting, outright propaganda and shaky assumptions.”

    “Why lie? That is now what I said. What I did saywas, “CO2 emissions are, in the very best case, a weak set of assumptions with zero verification.” See? I said feck all about that report being anything. I said the bases of the report were bullocks.” (My bold)

    that wasn’t you denying anything. So to clarify, are you denying this comment @193 is a denial? Or are you denying the evident denial was made by you?
    (Note that the quote-within-the-quote “CO2 emissions are, in the very best case, a weak set of assumptions with zero verification.” was from the first paragraph @182 and is accepted by Killian as his words. The phrases denied @193 “not even equal to an educated guess” & “they are a combination of industry false reporting, outright propaganda and shaky assumptions.” are within the last two paragraphs @182.)

  21. 221

    #216-17, Killian–

    Hey, K, just FYI and FWIW: I don’t actually care how ‘stupid’ or ‘childish’ or ‘arrogant’ you (or anyone else) think someone is. Wasted space and electrons, as far as I am concerned.

  22. 222
    Thomas says:

    Kevin McKinney point taken re credibility/accuracy. But what else is there to go on?

    besides the or these guys:—executive-summary—english-version.html

    or Hansen and others like the IPCC who are always out of date.

    Looking at the big picture over the years I have found all these ‘sources’ as being in the same Ball Park. eg Renewables, wind solar geo biomass is still only about 3.67% of global energy use. Fossil fuels is 77%. Land use forcing is still positive. NETs ineffective or not deployed at scale. Global energy use currently and going forward forecast to remain at 3%/yr.

    CO2ppm still increasing despite a 3 year apparent ‘flattening’ in man made ’emissions’. To stop CO2 ppm rising and holding them at under 408 ppm for 2018 would require a reduction in Net carbon emissions of at least 2 GtC/yr on current use. Not going to happen. Not now, not by 2030 either, even with multiple tipping points and potential systemic step changes in various parts of the climate system looming on the horizon.

    Humanity, rock, hard place imho.

  23. 223
    MA Rodger says:

    And kicking off the new year monthly temperature records, UAH has reported a TLT global anomaly for January of +0.26ºC, the 10th warmest January on record. The top-9 Januarys span +0.55ºC to +0.29ºC, most but not all boosted by El Nino. 2015, for instance was +0.30ºC.
    Jan 2018 sits =62nd highest anomaly on record for all-months.
    In comparison with 2017, Jan 2018 is cooler than the 2017 average (+0.375ºC) but not greatly cooler than the first half of 2017 (Jan to Jun averaged +0.31ºC) or warmer than the first half of 2015 (Jan to Jun averaged +0.22ºC.)
    The last few years of monthly TLT & surface temperature anomalies plotted out HERE (usually 2 clicks to ‘download your attachment.)