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Unforced variations: Feb 2019

Filed under: — group @ 1 February 2019

This month’s open thread for climate science discussions.

182 Responses to “Unforced variations: Feb 2019”

  1. 151
    Carrie says:

    136 Al Bundy, should tell someone who cares. Lodge a protest with the moderators? Oh he already did that too.

    Rage against the machine all you wish Al. It’s a free world :-)

    That pretty much suits your mentality to a T. ROFL

  2. 152
    Mike says:

    At MAR 148: I think we are in agreement about the current situation. Sometimes we are not on the same page, but most of the disagreements get sorted through the use of a longer time frame and letting time pass to get a clearer picture of what was actually happening last year or during the last decade, etc.

    I still hope to live long enough to be able to look back in the record and say with some confidence, “there it is. If you look at the record you can see that we started actually fixing the CO2 accumulation problem in 2019 (or 2025 or 2030 etc.)” I am old, I may not live to see the day when I would feel confident saying, hey we did it. We have actually started the hard work.

    It is also possible that something in the natural world, a negative feedback of some sort, suddenly turns on and starts functioning like a natural CO2 scrubber. I don’t have enough confidence in an almost miraculous negative feedback suddenly appearing to think that we should be comfortable with our species being a global presence that drives an increase in CO2e accumulation in atmosphere and oceans.

    on a different topic: there is always an EL Nino (or warm side of ENSO) in sight. You may be looking forward, you may be looking back, but so far, the ENSO wobble is always present. It seems to me that we are still in neutral state. We tend to respond to El Nino, the warm state of ENSO wobble, because the it amplifies the global heat that our species has produced and that’s impressive and sometimes deadly/newsworthy/remarkable. I think of ENSO as three states: warm (El Nino) cool (La Nina) and neutral (neutral)

    Maybe I am wrong about all that.


  3. 153

    There’s a cute Valentine’s Day-themed discussion of the current state of ENSO here:


    “After several months of flirting, the tropical Pacific ocean and atmosphere appear to have coupled just in time for Valentine’s Day and now meet the criteria for El Niño conditions. Is it true love? Time will tell, but forecasters expect weak El Niño conditions to persist through the spring.”

  4. 154
    Ron R. says:

    Perhaps some help coming for dealing with toxic commenters.

  5. 155
    Carrie says:

    The 4 week period of ~3.60 ppm weekly growth rates comes to an end.

    Up-to-date weekly average CO2 at Mauna Loa
    Week beginning on February 17, 2019: 410.98 ppm +2.53
    Weekly value from 1 year ago: 408.45 ppm
    Weekly value from 10 years ago: 387.61 ppm
    Last updated: February 24, 2019

    The recent 4 wk avg of 411.76 ppm has fallen to 410.98 this week. Still not a good number. Despite the drop it still confirms ongoing growth of CO2 levels and rising GHG emissions (from all sources) continue unabated.

  6. 156
    MA Rodger says:

    The Washington Post is reporting “The White House plans to create an ad hoc group of select federal scientists to reassess the government’s analysis of climate science and counter conclusions that the continued burning of fossil fuels is harming the planet, according to three senior administration officials.”
    I’m not sure about the next bit which seems to be saying that the “ad hoc group” would include a pack of deluded climate change deniers (“who question the severity of climate impacts and the extent to which humans contribute to the problem”) but “who asked for anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.”
    While the apparent secrecy is a worrying sign, presumably their findings will be properly in the public domain. So be ready to fill up your pens with high-octane debunking fluid!!

  7. 157

    Mike, #152–

    It is also possible that something in the natural world, a negative feedback of some sort, suddenly turns on and starts functioning like a natural CO2 scrubber. I don’t have enough confidence in an almost miraculous negative feedback suddenly appearing…

    Agreed. File under “Hope is not a plan.” Hope *makes* plans, but is not one per se.

    We have some plans; we need to be implementing them quite a bit more aggressively.

  8. 158
    MA Rodger says:

    mike @152,
    Concerning El Niño, it is close enugh for some folk to be declaring one. I note @153 there is another link to such a declaration. NINO3.4 was +1.0 in December but cooled to +0.5 in January and further still into early February. However, the second half of February has seen a warming so February will come in at +0.5 (or more). Then if NINO3.4 in March comes in at +0.5 (as expected) we will have an ONI-defined El Niño (5 months of the three-month average of NINO3.4 at or above +0.5).
    At the same time SOI is presently more El Niñoey than it has been since 2016 (but only just). Of course, the difference between a not-quite El Niño and an only-just El Niño is nothing.


    On the subject of helpful feedbacks, if such a phenomenon were to emerge, it may seem like good news. But would such a windfall be branded as proof-positive that AGW is a myth by AGW denialists?
    We are not free of these jokers spewing their poison into the airwaves. I found myself complaining to the BBC when they hosted David Wallace-Wells (mentioned up-thread) on a politics show ‘BBC2’s Politics Live’. Also on was Fraser Nelson, the editor of The Spectator magazine and it turns out he is a rampant AGW denier. Unfortunately his enthusiasm for trashing the AGW science (he being well armed with the usual guff from that quarter) was not matched by any other knowledgeable guests. Thus my complaint which gained the following response from the BBC:-

    I can assure you that we’re not under any obligation to achieve ‘balance’ in terms of representing views that reject the consensus on climate change. This does not mean, however, that we should never hear from someone who opposes this consensus, especially if they are influential in the political debate about how to tackle climate change. There are times when it is editorially appropriate to hear from a dissenting voice.

    You can read the dissenting contribution of Mr Nelson on this web-page (which should be viewable, but may not be) and see whether it is in any way “appropriate” to be “influential in the political debate about how to tackle climate change.”

  9. 159
    Hank Roberts says:

    Possible climate transitions from breakup of stratocumulus decks under greenhouse warming

    Tapio Schneider, Colleen M. Kaul & Kyle G. Pressel

    Nature Geoscience volume 12, pages164–168 (2019)

    Stratocumulus clouds cover 20% of the low-latitude oceans and are especially prevalent in the subtropics. They cool the Earth by shading large portions of its surface from sunlight. However, as their dynamical scales are too small to be resolvable in global climate models, predictions of their response to greenhouse warming have remained uncertain.

    Here we report how stratocumulus decks respond to greenhouse warming in large-eddy simulations that explicitly resolve cloud dynamics in a representative subtropical region. In the simulations, stratocumulus decks become unstable and break up into scattered clouds when CO2 levels rise above 1,200 ppm. In addition to the warming from rising CO2 levels, this instability triggers a surface warming of about 8 K globally and 10 K in the subtropics.

    Once the stratocumulus decks have broken up, they only re-form once CO2 concentrations drop substantially below the level at which the instability first occurred. Climate transitions that arise from this instability may have contributed importantly to hothouse climates and abrupt climate changes in the geological past. Such transitions to a much warmer climate may also occur in the future if CO2 levels continue to rise.

  10. 160
    Phil Hays says:

    Gavin says “You see similar behaviour in the GCMs, but it happens more gradually.”

    I’ve read that GCMs have such a problem reproducing climates at times like the PT and the PETM. Is this still true?

  11. 161
    Al Bundy says:

    So going anywhere near 1200ppm is foolish. Of course, a feedback could toss 600 to 1200 in a flash, geologically speaking.


    Let me introduce myself:

    I’m Doc and I’m not here to rage against the pathetically inept machine others have duct-taped together. I’m here to build an entirely new system. What the old machine does in reaction is just an opportunity because the designers, and especially the current dominant lever-pullers aren’t even close to ept.

  12. 162

    Hank, #159–

    8K!!!??? And more in the subtropics???!!!

    It seems highly unlikely to me that we’ll get close to 1200 ppm*, but still…

    *AR5, Figure 12.43, has RCP 8.5 crossing the 1200 ppm mark not too far into the 22nd century, though, so never say never. But my guess is we’re more likely to crash civilization with RCP 8.5 before we max out emissions to that degree. Just a guess, really.

    But if you add the 6 C warming projected in 12.43 to the 8-10 C specified in the story Hank linked, that’s–well, let’s just say “really bad.” Bad enough to crash the biosphere, considered as a coherent system, leaving just sparse remnants to regenerate?

  13. 163
    Hank Roberts says:

    Once the stratocumulus decks have broken up, they only re-form once CO2 concentrations drop substantially below the level at which the instability first occurred.

    I believe that would, technically, be what’s called a catastrophe.

  14. 164
    nigelj says:

    Keven McKinney @162 yet that is the shocking truth that if we keep on burning fossil fuels until they run out (more or less) we could see temperatures soar to shocking levels. But as individuals humans are risk takers, so it is no suprise to me that the collective response of humanity to climate change looks a lot like risk taking but on an unprecedented scale. Humanity needs to sober up fast because the longer we delay the harder it will get to change this addiction.

  15. 165
    Hank Roberts says:

    Soylent News on the cloud loss story:

    A World Without Clouds
    | from the löylyä-lissää dept.
    | posted by chromas on Tuesday February 26, @19:09 (Science)

    [0]canopic jug writes:

    A recent report on climate simulations show that [1]global warming could break up stratocumulus clouds[$], letting in more energy as [2]High CO2 levels break up stratocumulus cloud decks, once the levels rise above 1,200 ppm. Stratocumulus provide no precipitation but do cover about 20% of the low-latitude oceans and are especially prevalent in the subtropics, cooling by providing shade. If they disappear then, according to calculations, the added sunlight hitting the ground or ocean would increase temperatures by over 8°C.

    Now, [1]new findings reported today in the journal Nature Geoscience make the case that the effects of cloud loss are dramatic enough to explain ancient warming episodes like the PETM — and to precipitate future disaster. Climate physicists at the California Institute of Technology performed a state-of-the-art simulation of stratocumulus clouds, the low-lying, blankety kind that have by far the largest cooling effect on the planet. The simulation revealed a tipping point: a level of warming at which stratocumulus clouds break up altogether. The disappearance occurs when the concentration of CO2 in the simulated atmosphere reaches 1,200 parts per million — a level that fossil fuel burning could push us past in about a century, under “business-as-usual” emissions scenarios. In the simulation, when the tipping point is breached, Earth’s temperature soars 8 degrees Celsius, in addition to the 4 degrees of warming or more caused by the CO2 directly.

    Once clouds go away, the simulated climate “goes over a cliff,” said [3]Kerry Emanuel, a climate scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A leading authority on atmospheric physics, Emanuel called the new findings “very plausible,” though, as he noted, scientists must now make an effort to independently replicate the work.

    To imagine 12 degrees of warming, think of crocodiles swimming in the Arctic and of the scorched, mostly lifeless equatorial regions during the PETM. If carbon emissions aren’t curbed quickly enough and the tipping point is breached, “that would be truly devastating climate change,” said Caltech’s [4]Tapio Schneider, who performed the new simulation with [5]Colleen Kaul and [6]Kyle Pressel.

    Huber said the stratocumulus tipping point helps explain the volatility that’s evident in the paleoclimate record. He thinks it might be one of many unknown instabilities in Earth’s climate. “Schneider and co-authors have cracked open Pandora’s box of potential climate surprises,” he said, adding that, as the mechanisms behind vanishing clouds become clear, “all of a sudden this enormous sensitivity that is apparent from past climates isn’t something that’s just in the past. It becomes a vision of the future.”


    [7]Original Submission

    Discuss this story at:


  16. 166
  17. 167
    MA Rodger says:

    And to complete the January temperature records, HadCRUT have posted for January with an anomaly of +0.74ºC, quite a bit of a rise on December’s anomaly of +0.60ºC and higher than all of the 2018 anomalies. (Last year’s HadCRUT anomalies ranged from +0.68ºC down to +0.53ºC with the year averaging +0.60ºC). Such an increase was not seen in BEST, GISTEMP & NOAA but they had an increase into December that didn’t feature in HadCRUT.
    It is 4th warmest January in HadCRUT (was 4th in GISTEMP, =3rd in NOAA, 4th in BEST) behind previous HadCRUT Januarys 1st-placed 2016 (+0.93ºC), 2nd 2007 (+0.83ºC), and by a squeak behind 3rd-placed 2017 (+0.74ºC), while ahead of 5th-placed 2015 (+0.71ºC) & 6th place 2002 (+0.66ºC).
    It is 19th warmest month on the all-month HadCRUT record (=25th in GISTEMP, =19th in NOAA, 26th in BEST).

    The last decade of monthly anomalies on these & TLT records are graphed here (usuaally 2 clicks to ‘download your attachment).

  18. 168
    Mr. Know It All says:

    Clouds? We don’t need no stinkin’ clouds! Scientists are going to save us with geoengineering:

    Sort the comments by “best”. Entertaining. :)

  19. 169
    Carrie says:

    February 26: 414.03 ppm
    February 25: 411.52 ppm
    February 24: 411.81 ppm
    Week beginning on February 17, 2019: 410.98 ppm +2.53

  20. 170
    nigelj says:

    “Clouds? We don’t need no stinkin’ clouds! Scientists are going to save us with geoengineering:”


    It amuses me how climate denialists say we dont know enough about aerosols etc to be sure of warming issues, but do know enough to use them to geoengineer the climate. Regardless of this, geoengineering is high risk for known reasons in that it could backfire and cause serious side effects:

    It’s like climate denialists live in an alternative universe, but then so does, a reportedly a pretty dubious source of information with non conventional “austrian school” economic ideology, social views not supported by mainstream media, and alleged alt. right leanings:

  21. 171
    Killian says:

    Re #169 Carrie said February 26: 414.03 ppm
    February 25: 411.52 ppm
    February 24: 411.81 ppm
    Week beginning on February 17, 2019: 410.98 ppm +2.53

    I eyeballed the two-year chart at Scripps and it seems the late Feb/Early March weekly avg rise to peak is 3ppm. That would put us around 415. But if you look at daily avg, it could be 416 or 417. I’m comfortable with a weekly of 415+/- 0.5

    I think daily averages will peak closer to 417. Higher if we include the ones they don’t publish due to volatility, and probably in April. Hourly, good lord… 420?

  22. 172
    alan2102 says:

    96 Killian 16 Feb 2019: “One of the benefits of all those years on the Oil Drum is knowing this simple little nugget: Efficiency never overcomes growth. E.g.: 1980 to mid-2010-ish, U.S. efficiency rose 30%, yet FF consumption kept rising. And this is one reason tech cannot, will not, save us.”

    Sounds fine, except that efficiency was never tried, save for a few tweaks. Recall that during those same decades increased fuel efficiency of cars was followed by mass exodus to SUVs not under the same fuel efficiency regs. And that superimposed on the elephant in the room: total failure to meaningfully build out mass transit, create walkable urban environments, and REPLACE the god damn cars. And, yet another and perhaps still-larger elephant in the room: electrification of transport, which could have happened a couple decades ago if renewables had been supported aggressively and early, instead of opposed and starved, as they were during the Reagan/Bush1/Clinton years. Solar panels at one dollar per watt could have and should have prevailed in, say, the year 1995, and if that had been the case, we would be living in a much different reality today.

    Technology most surely could have saved us; we just didn’t try it.

    The failure to make progress was because of lack of political will, underlaid by gross overpopulation with right-wing idiots who deny climate change, deny the need to build alternatives to cars for ALL reasons (not just climate), and deny environmental problems in general, along with a host of other fatal faults. Reagan was a wildly popular president, followed by the barely-better neoliberal sell-out Clinton (himself in good part responsible for the DP’s shift to the right). Our “leaders” were fossil fuel guys, through and through, and we’re now paying a very big price for those lost decades.

    Appropriate technology, appropriately employed by intelligent humans, certainly CAN save us, and indeed is the only thing that can, if anything can. That would remain true even if the “tech” is nothing more than garden trowels.

  23. 173
    mike says:

    I think Nigel got this right at 164: “Humanity needs to sober up fast because the longer we delay the harder it will get to change this addiction.”

    For those trying to discern if Nigel ever gets anything right, I think they might want to look at 164. I think it happens.

    Of course, delay is reasonable if we need time to sort out proposed legislation and make sure it doesn’t have what some would consider extraneous socio-economic pieces. Also, we need to make sure we address how we will fund the addiction changes and make sure that no money is allowed to leak out into drugs, alcohol and/or gambling. That’s only prudent and reasonable. We need the voice of reason to help us get things just right.

    If we are going to talk mitigation rather than science, we ought to do it over on the FR thread.

    Speaking of the voice of reason: A dissent on the stratocumulus cloud study here:



  24. 174

    G’day, all,

    2 March 2019. Antarctic sea ice coverage (over 15 percent) on 28 February 2019 was the lowest since that record started in 1981. At 2.467 million sq kms, per CHarctic daily graph. And for the four days before. See here:

    Regards. Stay cool.


  25. 175
    Carrie says:

    February 28: 414.12 ppm
    February 27: 411.87 ppm
    February 26: 414.03 ppm

    El Nino is now coming into sight – however potential El Ninos could not be affecting GHGs or Atmospheric CO2 levels or Temps months before an El Nino actually exists.

    Next BOM announcement, the gold standard for declaring El Ninos or not, comes 5th March. If declared opinions abound it will still only be weak/moderate thru 2019.

    Meaning, if the yardsticks are met, CO2 levels and temps may be impacted post May/June at the earliest or maybe not until November 2019. I’m happy to wait and see. Meanwhile MLO readings are back to +414 ppm. Pretty high for February given where they have been beforehand and annual cycle norms. Last year they were in the 408s

  26. 176
    MA Rodger says:

    UAH have posted their TLT anomaly for February at +0.36ºC, a whisker down on January’s +0.37ºC and still higher than all of the 2018 anomalies. (Last year’s UAH TLT anomalies ranged from +0.32ºC down to +0.14ºC with the year averaging +0.23ºC).
    It is 5th warmest February in UAH TLT behind previous Januarys 1st-placed 2016 (+0.86ºC), 2nd 1998 (+0.65ºC), 3rd 2010 (+0.74ºC) & 4th 2017 (+0.39ºC). In 6th place was 2002 (+0.30ºC).
    As a start-of-the-year, after two months, 2019 slots into 4th place behind El Niño years 2016, 1998 & 2010. Although 2019 is so-far a non-El Niño year (so far the Pacific is rating just below weak El Niño conditions), it is perhaps a bit premature to begin branding 2019 ‘scorchyissimo!!’
    January 2019 is =39th warmest month on the all-month UAH TLT record.

  27. 177
    Killian says:

    Re #169 Carrie said February 26: 414.03 ppm
    February 25: 411.52 ppm
    February 24: 411.81 ppm
    Week beginning on February 17, 2019: 410.98 ppm +2.53

    Nearly 415 hourly… Hold on to yer hats. We seem to be in a strong El Nino year pattern with only a small EN signal.

    What, pray tell, gives?

  28. 178
    mike says:

    CO2 has a little bounce in its step this week as Carrie has noted:

    March 01: 411.56 ppm
    February 28: 414.12 ppm
    February 27: 411.87 ppm
    February 26: 414.03 ppm
    February 25: 411.52 ppm

    We should all stay optimistic and committed to reducing these numbers.



  29. 179
    MA Rodger says:

    RSS have also posted their TLT anomaly for February, giving +0.65ºC, a little down on January’s +0.67ºC and, as per UAH, higher than all 2018 anomalies. (Last year’s RSS TLT anomalies ranged from +0.63ºC down to +0.42ºC with the year averaging +0.51ºC).
    It is 5th warmest February in RSS TLT (UAH also 5th) behind previous RSS Januarys 1st-placed 2016 (+1.20ºC), 2nd 1998 (+0.73ºC), 3rd 2017 (+0.70ºC) & 4th 2010 (+0.66ºC). It’s a bit of a gap down to 6th-placed 2015 (+0.54ºC).
    As a start-of-the-year, after two months, 2019 slots into 4th place behind El Niño years 2016, 2010 & 1998.
    January 2019 is 26th warmest month on the all-month RSS TLT record (=39th in UAH).
    RSS is showing February warmer in the Tropics & at both poles but cooler over both North & South mid-latitudes.

  30. 180
    Carrie says:

    177 Killian says: “What, pray tell, gives?”

    Oh nothing more than a bit of wobbly wobbles Killian. I’m sure our resident expert will set your mind at ease thaere is nothing to be ‘alamrmed’ about, no need for ‘panic’, no need for any concern or even a need to look at the numbers. They all get washed out in the wash Killian.

    The decadal trend is still below +2.5 ppm / year, the running annual mean is still at or below +2.5 ppm, therefore these numbers do not count.

    You need to remember the decadal trend includes that ferocious strong 2015-2017 super el nino cycle and all it’s impacts upon CO2 growth. So that +2.5 ppm is really not as bad high as even that looks, you see, it’s an anomaly in the anomaly Killian. And there’s no need to even think about the various La Nina’s during that period that produced an opposite effect because that then takes the emphasis on those El Ninos which send everyone panicky and skyrockety about things of little to no concern to anyone.

    All is well, despite Gavin et al recently noting how the last several years of the current very low Solar Minimum with it’s less than powerful impacts on global temps and the subsequent knock on effects upon natural and man-made GHG emissions, nor the various ‘cold snaps’ etc etc. See? These issues have no relevance to the occasional and really ‘short-term’ ‘spikiness’ of MLO CO2 readings, none whatsoever.

    It’s all good Killian, nothing to see here at all. Even if this weeks avg will sit around +3.60 ppm growth on last year (comes out tomorrow) and there’s no way that has been driven by an El Nino. It merely a bit of wobbly wobbles… it’s Noise, just Noise! :-)

  31. 181
    nigelj says:

    Mike, sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, and whats more you do it badly. I know my views are complicated to grasp. Try harder old chap :)

  32. 182
    MA Rodger says:

    Peter Spencer Ravenscroft @174,
    I think you are misinterpreting the ChArctic graphics.
    On the Antarctic page, 2019 March 1st is at 2.467Msqkm and the fourth lowest SIE displayed for the day. If you click the years in the Legend on the right, you will see the other years appear – 2011 2.419Msqkm, 2018 2.292Msqkm, 2017 2.124Msqkm.
    Of course, back in the day the denialsist used to brandish the slow increase in Antarctic SIE levels as if this somehow disproved AGW. The upward trend was actually tiny 15,000sqkm/year but in 2015 the SIE decided enough-was-enough and crashed into a decrease (as shown on this graphic from 2016 – usually 2 clicks to ‘download your attachment’).