RealClimate logo


Unforced variations: May 2019

Filed under: — group @ 2 May 2019

This month’s open thread about climate science topics. For discussions about solutions and policy, please use the Forced Responses open thread.

161 Responses to “Unforced variations: May 2019”

  1. 101
    nigelj says:

    https://theconversation.com/deep-sea-carbon-reservoirs-once-superheated-the-earth-could-it-happen-again-113518

    “In a recently published study, my colleagues Katie Harazin, Nadine Krupinski and I discovered that at the end of the last glacial era, about 20,000 years ago, carbon dioxide was released into the ocean from geologic reservoirs located on the seafloor when the oceans began to warm.”

    “This finding is a potential game-changer. Naturally occurring reservoirs of carbon in the modern ocean could be disturbed again, with potentially serious effects to Earth’s oceans and climate.”

    Looks convincing, but do any of the experts around here have a comment?

  2. 102
    Killian says:

    And there you have it, weekly CO2 mean came in at the high end of my prediction of 415 +/- 0.5.

    From CO2.earth:

    Last Week May 12 – 18, 2019 415.39 ppm

    Bear in mind, until January we had no reason to expect anything more than a normal year’s rise of something like 2.3 to 2.6ppm, but then we got numbers that were two months ahead of schedule based on past trends.

    The past two years saw some large excursions above the trend/running avg./running mean, whatever, in April, so I fully expected that pattern to continue. It was, in my opinion, a strong indication of a phase change… somewhere. But to see what happened in January and February? Holy CO2, Batman! The very high numbers at the end of January and in February are telling us something, but what? A phase change is absolutely upon us, imo, but what and where?

    Is it all the collapsing permafrost we’ve recently learned of? From areas of ice melt? The clathrates? Is it really just drilling, wetlands, etc.?

    Perhaps this data from Jan and Feb is the data needed to spur some more focused/additional research, or some reanalysis. That CO2 came from somewhere, and the mild EN currently underway (or is it?) should not be giving us numbers like this. These are big EN numbers. Or is 3.5 ppm-ish a developing new normal?

    What worries me most? The only place I have seen this discussed? Here, by the four or five of us looking at it amid the skyrocket’s red glare.

  3. 103
    zebra says:

    #84,85 MAR and Mike,

    Mike: You’ve restated “what you think” but you haven’t explained why.

    -You think Crowther said something, but you haven’t explained how your get that from a couple of phrases. (I don’t interpret the words that way.)

    -But putting aside whether that’s actually what Crowther meant, you offer no explanation of why you think that soil and permafrost are contributing that amount of GHG.

    MAR: You seem to be mixing up a bunch of different numbers and effects, but in the end you say:

    resulting from 11Gt(C)/yr of anthropogenic emissions. So I would suggest the “12 to 15 percent” would imply annual net emissions of CO2 from the thawing permafrost of 1.5Gt(C)/yr. But this doesn’t square with the values given in the references cited @68 above; not by some margin.

    Now, I don’t agree with your interpretations or your analysis, but my original point was that you and Mike might try to at least get more clearly on the same page. Mike seems to be talking about permafrost plus soils in general, so CH4 would be in the picture.

    My other point was trying to get you guys to be clearer about what you think the consequences might be, but you both seem to be dodging that.

    I’m happy to elaborate on my issues with your numbers if you like, MAR; perhaps you could go back and review whether you are talking about absolute quantities or changes in quantities year to year?

  4. 104
    Killian says:

    Faster than expected. That will be the tagline for the movie on humanity’s extinction.

    Species’ extinction risks… higher than expected.

    https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-05/s-smd051619.php

  5. 105
    mike says:

    Zebra at 103: I think Crowther indicated that significant feedbacks on global warming have started because he is quoted as follows:

    ““It’s already begun,” Thomas Crowther, professor in the Department of Environmental Systems Science of ETH Zurich, told Yahoo News. “The feedback is in process.”

    and

    “Crowther estimates that carbon dioxide and methane emissions from thawing soils are “accelerating climate change about 12 to 15 percent at the moment,” and said past IPCC reports that left out the feedback “were way more optimistic than they should have been.”

    I think those statements from Crowther speak for themselves. I agree with Crowther and think he is likely correct because 1. he is a an expert in soil warming and because 2. his presentation of warmed soil and permafrost contributing to current atmospheric CO2 reading would explain why we are seeing the increase of atmospheric CO2 decrease as we might expect if we believe the emissions reports that indicate that direct human CO2 emissions have plateaued and/or increased at lower rates.

    Ask away if you need more clarification from me regarding Crowther and the onset of feedbacks driving atmospheric CO2 and ocean acidification. It is what I have been talking about here for years. I started tracking somewhat closely during the 2016 El Nino, so my CO2 observation and concerns go back at least that far.

    But, it’s really not a big deal, it’s just an extinction event that we have triggered. No reason to get wound up about it. It was always going to be a bumpy road.

    Thanks for your efforts to understand and frame the Crowther issue, Zed! I wish you and yours all the best.

    Mike

  6. 106
    mike says:

    read back, want to clarify this line:

    “we are seeing the increase of atmospheric CO2 FAIL TO decrease as we might expect if we believe the emissions reports that indicate that direct human CO2 emissions have plateaued and/or increased at lower rates.”

    Maybe that is more clear?

    and btw, I do believe the emissions reports generally, but I think they are soft numbers that can be squished and spun more than CO2 saturation measurement numbers. It is difficult to tease out the truth or facts of current sources of atmospheric CO2 increase. You have to account for the ENSO cycle, look at global temps independent of ENSO, and watch for any specific global event that might create a spike in atmospheric CO2 – stuff like volcanic eruptions, peat fires, large scale forest fires, large scale deforestation trends, etc.

    At the end of all that calculating and study, a few facts remain unchanged: 1. if atmospheric CO2 rises, so does global temperature and ocean acidification.
    2. CO2 accumulating in the atmosphere today is going to be with us for a long time and will be expensive to deal with.
    3. The source of the CO2 does not matter in terms of the impacts. It means nothing to global warming and the extinction event if humans reduce their burning of fossil fuels unless the reduction and mitigation for emissions causes us to reach a state of zero atmospheric CO2 increase and suggest that we have charted a path to effective management of atmospheric CO2 and occean acidification (two sides of one coin).

    Cheers

    Mike

  7. 107
    Killian says:

    Just a little housekeeping: Yes, CO2 has peaked for the year.

  8. 108
    mike says:

    Nigel at 85 on FR said: “Crowther said we are experiencing an additional 12-15% emissions right now when it is absolutely clear this is not expected until later this century. It appears to have possibly been a ‘typo’ on his part. Not that later this century makes it better but its important in terms of carbon budgets.”

    This is what the Yahoo piece said, ““It’s already begun,” Thomas Crowther, professor in the Department of Environmental Systems Science of ETH Zurich, told Yahoo News. “The feedback is in process.”

    Crowther estimates that carbon dioxide and methane emissions from thawing soils are “accelerating climate change about 12 to 15 percent at the moment,” and said past IPCC reports that left out the feedback “were way more optimistic than they should have been.”

    https://www.yahoo.com/news/its-already-begun-feedback-loops-will-make-climate-change-even-worse-scientists-say-090000011.html

    Did Crowther create a “typo” misquote? Possible, I guess. If you or anyone else thinks that is the case, I think it makes sense to take it up with Professor Crowther and persuade him to walk these statements back into the areas that are absolutely clear. Until he does that, I am inclined to simply direct attention to what he said. What could it mean? Is it a typo?

    tom.crowther@usys.ethz.ch

    Cheers

    Mike

  9. 109
    zebra says:

    #94 sidd,

    Thanks for the noodge/nudge. I thought they were talking about two different papers and the quote from the news article was all there was to go on.

    After reading the (original and only) paper, I think that what I did derive from the quote is correct (my #83): “Accelerate” means that we will arrive at some value for GMST a bit sooner than the IPCC projection. A bit.

    And, it is the cumulative result of what can be observed as going on now, so that makes sense as well.

  10. 110
    DasKleineTeilchen says:

    no, killian, the tagline is just “than expected”. and by hollywood standards its the usual “the world is changing” (delivered with a ominous whisper).

    @zebra

    My other point was trying to get you guys to be clearer about what you think the consequences might be

    catastrophic?

  11. 111
    mike says:

    zebra also said: “My other point was trying to get you guys to be clearer about what you think the consequences might be, but you both seem to be dodging that.”

    I am not dodging the consequences question. If Crowther is right and the feedbacks have started already and are contributing a significant amount of ghg to the atmosphere, then our emission cuts have to be larger and faster than has been considered in the past. In essence, we have less time to avoid catastrophic warming.

    But, I get what folks here are saying about Crowther: he has grabbed the wrong end of the stick and made preposterous claims about our situation that a guy with a slide rule and a couple of minutes can destroy. Crowther appears to not understand that the level of emissions he is talking about cannot be occurring, because as Nigel pointed out, “it is absolutely clear this is not expected until later this century.”

    I feel bad for Crowther because he appears to have stepped over the line and he has lost credibility. He is probably working at that ETH community college in Zurich because he does not the mathematical and analytical skills of the sharp commenters here at Real Climate.

    What a dunce, right?

    Cheers

    Mike

  12. 112
    patrick says:

    Wettest winter on record for the contiguous U.S. [NOAA].

    The winter precipitation total was 9.01 inches, 2.22 inches above average, and ranked as the wettest winter on record, besting the winter of 1997–98 by 0.02 inch.

    https://www.ncei.noaa.gov/news/national-climate-201902

    April 2019: Earth’s 2nd Warmest April on Record.

    https://www.wunderground.com/cat6/April-2019-Earths-2nd-Warmest-April-Record?cm_ven=cat6-widget

  13. 113
  14. 114

    Killian, #102–

    What worries me most? The only place I have seen this discussed? Here, by the four or five of us looking at it amid the skyrocket’s red glare.

    Agreed. I’m quite certain this forum isn’t the only place where folks are casting nervous eyes at those numbers, but if a tree falls in the forest without a media hack around to get it on the 5 o’clock news, it might as well not have happened for your local Congresscritter. (Heck, for some of ’em… but let’s not go there.)

    I’m also pretty sure that there will be scientific discussion, but that takes time. And time is not, of course, on our side in the early 21st century.

  15. 115
    John Pollack says:

    Cal at #87: Since none of the experts on this site have yet responded to your question 2, I’ll give it a try, and somebody can correct me as needed.

    When communicating to the public about how a particular daily record relates to climate trends, relating it to trends in the number of record temperatures is not very useful, because the statistics are so weak – no matter which records you look at. The underlying null hypothesis is that all the daily records are the result of internal weather variability, rather than a long term trend due to underlying climate change. Therefore, the records ought to be occurring randomly. If there is an underlying warming trend, there would be more warm temperature records in recent years. A consistent pattern of more warm temperature records, and fewer cold records, would confirm this. One difficulty is that it takes a LOT of this type of data to achieve statistical significance, and you can’t really get that much from one weather station. In addition, if you look at the history of any particular station (e.g. http://threadex.rcc-acis.org and select a “station thread” report) you’ll typically find that for almost any city – in the U.S. at least – the site has been moved around over the decades. That’s enough to affect the frequency of record daily temperatures, and mess up the statistics. You need a large aggregate of sites, geographically distributed, to get a clear trend out of noisy data.

    A more useful way of relating an unusually warm day to long-term climate trends would be to use percentiles. For example, taking the 95th percentile of warmest days for a one-week window around the date in question, for a 30 year base period when the observations came from the present site. Then you’d be able to say something like “well, today was a 95-percenter, but these warm days have actually been getting more frequent over the years. Here’s a chart showing how we’ve changed since the mid 20th century.” It’s still going to be statistically noisy, but in many cases there will still be a clear trend.

  16. 116
    mike says:

    A little more on Crowther: If Crowther is correct and the warming soil and thawing permafrost is underway as a significant feedback, one thing you would expect to see would be a spike in methane in the atmosphere. It would not just be CO2 increases. Guess what?

    https://undark.org/article/methane-global-warming-climate-change-mystery/

    As a social scientist, my training included “connecting the dots” of human behavior, being able to read the handwriting on the wall. I think this intuitive approach to human interactions in aging, death and dying was useful and largely accepted within the community of geriatric practitioners. That approach is based on a fair amount of hard data, but individual approaches to social work with the aged and disabled was well tolerated within the workplaces where I made a living.

    I don’t think that same “connect the dots” or “read the handwriting on the wall” is considered acceptable or is well-tolerated within a hard science practice like global warming. It is no doubt useful in formulating questions to be studied and for designing studies to find answers to specific questions, but when scientists (wadhams for example) make the leap into connecting the dots/reading the handwriting on the wall, the hard science community sometimes reacts pretty harshly. I understand the reluctance to accept conclusions based on intuition, but I think a little tolerance of speculation and intuitive projection is not a bad thing. And I think that open, public speculation regarding intuitive projections is a good thing by climate scientists as long as it is carefully identified as such.

    But, hey, if the mainstream scientific community shows little tolerance for that sort of thing, then you end your career as James Hansen if you are lucky, and maybe Peter Wadhams, if you are less lucky.

    I think Crowther is working on the James Hansen model, but who knows? He’s just a ph.d. soil scientist, how much could he really know about this stuff?

    Warm regards

    Mike

  17. 117
    Al Bundy says:

    NigelJ: These guys have families…
    AB: So they should avoid doing what is necessary to give their grandchildren any future at all because current money in the pocket is the only thing that is important. Ya know, if the options are risking having to get another job or guaranteeing your grandchild is screwed…..

  18. 118
    Killian says:

    Apparently, the salt in sea water, itself, has a previously unknown effect on clathrates melting.

    My take is this doesn’t radically change things, but does indicate, as ever… faster than expected.
    https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-05/sios-sda052119.php

  19. 119
    zebra says:

    #87, 89, climate cal,

    Cal, you need to separate what things you are trying to communicate.

    1. The data showing that the climate is changing.
    2. The data showing the negative consequences of climate change.

    So, more record highs than record lows validates #1.

    But, as Kevin says, record high minimums do both, because they have negative consequences just like record high maximums.

    If you look into it some more, in fact, the minimums being higher have an effect in the winter as well, in areas where cold nights used to suppress various troublesome insects.

    There are lots of effects in the #2 category if that is what your are interested in specifically, with other variables, like humidity, for an obvious example.

    I think that at this point, the number of people left who deny #1 is rapidly declining, even though their tribal affiliations don’t allow them to say it out loud.

  20. 120
    Dave_Geologist says:

    #101 nigelj

    It’s unclear in the paper how much of that carbon is remobilised organic-derived carbon (biogenic or thermogenic gas trapped in clathrates long enough to lose most of its 14C, or perhaps more likely, formed recently enough to have had a 14C age had it not been from source material which had lost all its 14C), and how much fresh additions from volcanic sources. Warming organically derived hydrates with hydrothermal fluids would be a good way to destabilise them. Either way, to provide a sharp pulse there has to be a storage period to build up an inventory of methane (for subsequent oxidation) or of dissolved or supercritical CO2.

    We know that not much of the CO2 added to the atmosphere since the industrial revolution is from volcanic sources, because the 13C is wrong. And since only about half of what we emitted is still in the atmosphere, we don’t have to look for mystery sources. Many of the things that would destabilise a hydrothermal inventory are the same as those which would destabilise non-hydrothermal clathrates. The response to sea-level increase would be different, possibly opposite, but slow. Shifts in hydrothermal pathways could be fast (triggered by one earthquake), but so could destabilisation of a clathrate field by a submarine landslide. I’d put it in the unknown-unknown category for now. There are probably bigger things to worry about in the short to medium term.

    Better closure of the carbon budget will of course lead to better models and better understanding of past and possibly future climate change, but I’d see it as a tweak, rather like those coming from improved understanding of cloud feedbacks.

  21. 121
    jgnfld says:

    Re. #104

    Was fiddling around with the GISS temp set and found this graphic interesting. It’s equivalent to the various spiral graphics you see but is not wrapped. Rather it traces monthly anomalies year-by-year for the entire GISS file. This allows a slightly different peek at the observations.

    Note that the midyear (MayJune-ish) lower peaks pointed out by deniers as something new and/or important to consider is an old, old feature of the data going back to the beginning of the series.

    https://tinyurl.com/y6ga54ez

  22. 122
    Barry Finch says:

    @55 Ray Ladbury Thanks but I have no software and unlikely to get to it. Double ironically I actually wrote Fortran IV-E & IBM 360/44 Assembler program 1968 for fitting a 2 km cable shape behind a seismic ship with any polynomial for the least root-mean-squared-error for, guess what, oil & gas exploration in the North Sea. I was part of the problem. I remember nothing at all about it now.

  23. 123
    Barry Finch says:

    Does anybody browsing past here happen to know the quantity of transverse electromagnetic radiation in the 5-100 micron wavelength band in Earth’s troposphere ? Does anybody know the percentage of H2O, CO2 & CH4 collisions that convert some Molecular Translational Energy into Molecular Vibrational Energy, and the converse mutation of a vibrating molecule ?

  24. 124
    zebra says:

    Mike, and DKT #110,

    Thanks to sidd, I realized that there was only one paper in question, and I did that crazy thing… I read it. You guys should try that.

    The paper confirms my original interpretation of the quote, which I thought referred to another (not open) source.

    Some release of CO2 and CH4 is obviously currently ongoing, and it would obviously accelerate the change in the standard metric of GMST, meaning:

    The result of including that release over a significant time period would yield a higher value for delta(T)/delta(t) than not including it… that’s what the word acceleration means.

    But then I suggested that such an acceleration would seem to result in a relatively minor consequence.

    I guess you guys think that reaching an increase of 4C in 85 years is “catastrophic”, but reaching it in 100 years isn’t?

    So the quote is fine; the only problem is that you project an incorrect meaning for it that fits your OMG-About-Everything inclinations.

  25. 125
    Nemesis says:

    @Al Bundy, #99

    ” We need more and higher walls. Just ask Mr KillingInaction.”

    Well, I’m german, so I’m a 100% wall hater by nature ;) No wall will stop climate heating from saying hello to the US and I like that :))

  26. 126
    WxChief says:

    Mike, #116:

    Perhaps the NOAA team in Boulder should compares notes with a NASA group at JPL. They have come to a somewhat different conclusion; i.e.,

    https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2668/nasa-led-study-solves-a-methane-puzzle/

  27. 127
    nigelj says:

    Al Bundy @117, without current money in the pocket they are a bit stuffed, getting another job is not so easy, and who is going to do the climate research?

    And would it work anyway? A lot of people dont like protest marches particularly the exact people we are trying to convince.

    I’ve been on a few protest marches, but at the time I had nothing to loose by way of a job.

    I don’t know maybe you are right, but I think it would have more credibility and impact for scientists to form an action group and make some really strong statements. A little less risky but potentially could be more effective at motivating the public.

  28. 128
    nigelj says:

    mike @111, why do you accept what Crowther says even when MAR has raised several good arguments disputing it, and its certainly not a broad opinion shared by many other climate scientists ? I will explain: you suffer from confirmation bias: If its doomy it must be true. You do the mirror image of what climate denialists do :)

    But you are right there’s not much good news. The increasing levels of methane for example, but everything I have read suggests that is related to farming in the subtropics and fracking not the permafrost issue (yet, its only a matter of time). That is very bad news because it suggests multiple potential sources of more methane.

  29. 129
    Killian says:

    Re #116 mike said A little more on Crowther: If Crowther is correct and the warming soil and thawing permafrost is underway as a significant feedback, one thing you would expect to see would be a spike in methane in the atmosphere. It would not just be CO2 increases. Guess what?

    https://undark.org/article/methane-global-warming-climate-change-mystery/

    So, this is the framing: Risk, as I have loooong advocated. I recently read something from an actual climate scientist framing the discussion this way and was flabbergasted, but it is the best approach, having universal impact and importance to all humans.

    As a social scientist, my training included “connecting the dots” of human behavior, being able to read the handwriting on the wall. I think this intuitive approach

    Yes, something I have had to defend for years here, and, despite my long record of accuracy, still do. But, yes, all it is is allowing one to see the patterns. That’s all it really is, pattern literacy, which is what we call it in permaculture. The trend is your friend and all that.

    An additional reason this might be hard for some scientists is it’s not really a skill, imo, but a characteristic or trait some people are born with and some aren’t. It’s one thing to simply be familiar with data and spot outliers, it’s another to be able to patterns in all sorts of things and see underlying meaning or cause.

    I don’t think that same “connect the dots” or “read the handwriting on the wall” is considered acceptable or is well-tolerated within a hard science practice like global warming.

    Add to that the ABC’s Effect: I have alphabits, you don’t, so shush. All the work I’ve done exposing cli sci’s to alternative, better solutions goes absolutely nowhere. Not one has expressed interest, curiosity, etc., and why? Every time they want to see what’s been published. The fact you have to first study it before you can publish, and no cli sci’s will take an interest and, thus, study it, is a really handy catch-22.

    It is no doubt useful in formulating questions to be studied and for designing studies to find answers to specific questions, but when scientists (wadhams for example) make the leap into connecting the dots/reading the handwriting on the wall, the hard science community sometimes reacts pretty harshly.

    Um… always? And here we get into the meat of it, and what I really wanted to talk about, risk. It is odd to me that people so versed in error bars and talking about the greatest risk to the planet – let alone humanity – are so averse to discussing climate in terms of risk. While it is easy to understand why scientists tend to focus on the highest probability, with existential risk it’s necessary to focus on long-tail risk, not the average. We are not talking about buying insurance or finding the most *palatable* pathway, we are talking an extreme risk to a large percentage of all things currently living on the planet.

    Yet, it is incredibly difficult to shift cli sci’s from focusing on probability to at least *mentioning* long-tail risk even though literally nothing else matters if long-tail risks are where we end up, and the only way to prevent them is to not only react to them, but anticipate them because once things get too far our chance of reversing them becomes infinitesimally small. That is, once the signal is loud enough to be seen clearly, it may well be too late to stop it. And cli sci’s *know* this!

    I understand the reluctance to accept conclusions based on intuition, but I think a little tolerance of speculation and intuitive projection is not a bad thing.

    And so my Part II: The value of discussing outcomes and solution in terms of long-tail risks is that it relieves cli sci’s of any restrictions and responsibilities. They can stay fully within the science on the one hand, maintain their scientific reticence, yet still serve to frame the policy responses effectively. The policy neutrality so many cli sci’s wish to maintain so they can remain objective about pursuing “truth” or facts is served best by taking a risk approach to talking policy options.

    A simple example serves:

    Reporter: So, you’re saying we are seeing increased risks of SLR? My dog told me 5M by 2100?! Is that true? My readers love catastrophism, so, please, say yes!

    Cli Sci: Dude, slow your roll. OK, there are two issues here, one is science as a thing we do to figure out Life, the Universe, and Everything. You know, is 42 really the secret of life, that sort of thing. Then there’s policy. Undertand this: These two animals are not the same.

    Science is cool. Science makes sense. It’s numbers and cool questions with mysterious-seeming answers until we gather enough numbers to find the ghosts in the machines, ya know? To do good science you have to be able to just do what you gotta do. We can’t worry about who likes what, who wants what, who thinks what is moral or immoral (within limits) because unless we really understand the universe, we don’t *really* know what to *do.* And doing, that’s policy. Policy needs science first, if possible.

    Policy is stupid. It’s messy. It has nothing at all to do with how the universe functions. It’s politics, selfishness, ignorance, wishful thinking, fantastical thinking, pipe dreams, nasty ideology, and kumbaya all rolled into one.

    Now, here’s the problem: Science is always behind reality. Even when we can make good guesses about 100 years from now, what is happening today, right now, affects what we think will happen in 100 years. Now, the better our numbers the less that changes, but then we have the problem of not really knowing 100% of things. Because of complexity, we may never be able to perfectly model any climate. Now, for us, that’s no big deal. But you dunderheads don’t understand error vs risk or error bars vs. making an error vs. making a mistake. So, when we tell you our assessments have changed, you think we screwed up, but really, we just have better information.

    Polciy is always ahead of the science because you don’t build a bridge to last 2 years, but to last 50 or 100. It’s hard to do science that can look that far ahead. Even our best scenarios are only really educated guesses in the end. Mind you, they’re REALLY educated guesses. Some climate science has been right a hundred years ahead of time. Science in the 1980’s got the conditions today pretty correct. Close enough to make good policy. But we didn’t make good policy because policy is stupidly dependent on dishonest people.

    Reporter: Uh… (Head explodes.)

    Cli Sci: Crap… see what I mean?

    Reporter II: [stepping over colleague] Um… so you mean science is just getting the numbers right and, uh, just leave you the hell alone so you can do your science without looking over your shoulder?!

    Cli Sci: Holy Savant, Batman! You… you understood me?!

    Reporter II: Well, yeah… it’s not really that hard to understand…

    Cli Sci: Great! What about risk? You get that, too?

    Reporter II: I think so, though I don’t think you really finished that bit.

    Cli Sci: You do get it!! Can we clone you, send one to every news outlet?

    Reporter II: Uh, well, maybe not…?

    Cli Sci: Fine. Ethics. OK, so long-tail risk. You remember that whole Black Swan thing a few years ago? Well, long-tail risk is kind of like that. Black Swans means something you have no idea is going to happen, but long-tail risk is something we know *can* happen, but we really, really, really don’t think it will. Call it a Grey Swan. Or, it’s like you’ve never seen a black swan, but genetically you know there are extremely rare recessive genes for black swans.

    Scientifically, we’re talking about stuff that has a really small likelihood of happening, like 5% or less chance. This is what insurance is based on: Averages *and* risk. If you own a home, you buy fire insurance. Why? Your house is really expensive to replace, your stuff is hard to replace, your personally important things are impossible to replace, injury can destroy a family, and death, well, you know.

    So you buy insurance to help get past this horrible thing happening.

    Your house burning down, maybe with your family inside, is *possible* climate change risk if we do nothing, if we do too little, or if we act too late.

    So, is it *likely* humans will go extinct? No. At least, not today. The math says no. However, does the math say we will not go extinct? No. It actually says we have a 5% risk to civilization and of extinction.

    But policy, remember, is not designed to deal with long-tail risk, it’s designed to find the consensus, the average of what everyone thinks. Politicians look at what they think people will accept, not what the long-tail risk is. If they do look at long-tail risk, they still only accept solutions they think the majority will accept. Well, actually, we all know that’s not true. They do what will make the most sense economically, which is so far beyond rational it’s hard to fathom, but, there ya go.

    Reporter II: I’m still not clear. You saying long-tail risk is too small to worry about, but that it can kill us. Oh, wait… Ah… so you’re saying the science today says “Things are not great, but they can get much, much worse if we don’t do enough.”

    Cli Sci: Right! And…

    Reporter II: …and, really, that our entire house, and family, us, might burn up? So… OK. If the planet is a house and we’re all the family, then we should act like we live in a very high fire risk area, should change our roof to clay tile, put fire retardent siding on, clear the brush and trees at least 100 feet from the house, put in a pond or pool and a high-pressure hose, sprinklers, a fireproof safe room underground with air recirculation and get the highest level of insurance we can?

    Cli Sci: Clap. Clap. Clap. Right. I want to be clear: Scientifically, we don’t think it is likely there will be a full mass extinction, or that humans will be at risk – or even that society will fail. As a scientist, I don’t worry about that stuff happening. But, as a husband and father, I want the policymakers to treat the planet like the house you just described.

    That’s the difference between science and policy.

  30. 130
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Nigel and Al Bundy,
    You know, I’ve never been on a protest march that changed a damn thing. Near as I can tell, protest marches just make the participants feel better by giving them the illusion that they are taking action.

    The thing is that we know the problem–government has been hijacked by business, and business men think they can buy their way out of the any problem. And unfortunately, they are right, temporarily. They’ll be the last to suffer, and when they do, they’ll find someone else to blame it on.

  31. 131
    mike says:

    Is it happening now?

    “An unexpected surge in global atmospheric methane is threatening to erase the anticipated gains of the Paris Climate Agreement. This past April NOAA posted preliminary data documenting an historic leap in the global level of atmospheric methane in 2018,[1] underscoring a recent wave of science and data reporting that previously stable global methane levels have unexpectedly surged in recent years.”

    http://www.climatecodered.org/2019/05/unexpected-surge-in-global-methane.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ClimateCodeRed+%28climate+code+red%29

    This kind of sounds like what Crowther was talking about, doesn’t it?

    Cheers,

    Mike

  32. 132

    zebra, #119–

    …the minimums being higher have an effect in the winter as well, in areas where cold nights used to suppress various troublesome insects.

    A ‘yes-and’ to that! Many fruit and nut tree crops require a minimum number of winter ‘chill hours’ in order to trigger the plant to set fruit. So as minima warm, you get problems for agriculture, and orchardists have to tear out perfectly healthy trees that could have had many further years of production in order to put in immature trees from varieties that require fewer chill hours. And of course they then suffer loss of income until the trees mature enough to start producing.

    So far, for any given location the ‘creep’ in USDA hardiness zones, which are calculated according to daily minimums, amounts to 1 or 2 hardiness zones, IIRC.

    It also affects wild plants, of course, including factors not related to fruit set. For instance, the wild saltmarshes of the East Coast of the US are at risk for conversion to mangrove forest, since with projected warming, the mangroves survive winters to ‘take over’. Currently, I believe this is being seen in some places on the Texas, Louisiana and Florida coasts; under some warming scenarios, it could potentially occur later this century at least as far north as South Carolina.

    There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with mangrove forests in general, mind you; but most current residents would mourn the disappearance of the place that they know. Also, I can’t help but wonder about the cold-hardiness of those Burmese pythons that have been taking over the Everglades. How far up the Floridian peninsula are they going to creep?

  33. 133
    patrick027 says:

    Re 123 Barry Finch

    I don’t know about percentages, but I know the collisions are frequent enough in the vast majority of the atmosphere’s mass to approximately maintain local thermodynamic equilibrium, in the sense that the ratios of particle populations among states depends on the energy differences between states, following a Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution (of Fermi-Dirac, where applicable). Thus the average molecule will spontaneously emit photons as if it were a blackbody with a cross section the same size as the (net = gross absorption – stimulated emission) absorption cross section – at a given frequency (for a given direction and polarization, where applicable).

  34. 134
    mike says:

    nigel at 101: interesting link to Stott’s piece on potential ghg releases from deep ocean. Not that different from what Crowther wrote about except that one is a ghg release from deep ocean and the other is ghg release from cold/frozen soils. In both cases, the trigger appears to warming.

    Stott says, “… abrupt warming events are built into Earth’s climate system. They have occurred when disturbances in carbon storage at Earth’s surface released greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. One of the grand challenges for climate scientists like me is to determine where these releases came from before humans were present, and what triggered them. Importantly, we want to know if such an event could happen again.”

    Stott covers the uncertainty issues without diminishing the tone of concern present in the article. He does not get wound up, but he sounds convinced.

    This could absolutely happen sometime this century. Or not. Climate roulette. Place your bets, spin the wheel.

    here’s that link again: https://theconversation.com/deep-sea-carbon-reservoirs-once-superheated-the-earth-could-it-happen-again-113518

    Mike

  35. 135
    patrick027 says:

    https://geosci.uchicago.edu/~rtp1/papers/PhysTodayRT2011.pdf : excited CO2 states relevant to thermal IR in this context – lifetimes ~ few ms to few 0.1 s; time between collisions (N2-dominant, 250 K, 10 kPa = 100 mb ) < ("well under") 0.1 µs. Assuming collisions are effective at thermalizing the energy, you'd have to get down near 0.01 mb before radiant and not-radiant relaxation rates would be comparable – and that's for the shorter-lived excited states. That's somewhere above 80 km height. I've read the troposphere is about 85 % of the mass of the atmosphere, so the average tropopause pressure should be about 1013 mb*0.15 = 150+1.5+.45 mb ~= 152 mb, although that's based on mean sea level pressure, so that doesn't take into account the volume of crust above sea level… probably a small correction.

    Regarding the amount of radiation, energy density for isotropic radiation = 4 pi sr * radiance / c. A rough ballpark approximation for the anisotropy in the troposphere would be to average the upward and downward vertical radiances and perform the same operation, although that won't always work (the radiance is not necessarily antisymmetric about horizontal) http://climatemodels.uchicago.edu/modtran/ – I'm guessing the vertical coordinate "Intensity" is spectral radiance, but it doesn't show the sr in the unit denominator, so I'm not sure; I will figure it out eventually. In the meantime, you could use the irradiance value "IR Heat Flux" in the bottom left; for a ballpark estimate of radiance, divide by pi, for energy density, take the upward and downward, add, mult by 2 and div by c.

  36. 136
    Barry Finch says:

    @102 Killian If scientists have no analysis regarding cause of the recent CO2 spike then (unless scientists are getting really really fast) odds are certain that there’ll be many more months of CO2 data to help determine anecdotally how much of the spike is an underlying trend before any analysis of the cause is being discussed other than by conjecture (not that there’s anything wrong with good conjecture).

  37. 137
    MA Rodger says:

    Barry Finch @123,

    Would the longitudinal component of IR in the troposphere be significant? If not, “transverse electromagnetic radiation” = “electromagnetic radiation” and the next hurdle becomes the specifying of the altitude.

    Concerning percentage of collisions that end up absorbed as gas energy (as opposed to being directly re-emitted as a photon), I have before delved into the literature to find the statistical time for such processes for CO2. It seemed to be buried very very deep in the literature, so me providing a reference isn’t going to happen.
    The time for a collision (which could rob a flapping CO2 molecule of its flap) is measured in micro-seconds while the relaxation time for a flapping CO2 molecule to allow it to emit a photon is measured in hundreths-of-seconds. This suggests that effectively all absorbed-photon-energy is transferred to gas-energy. And that almost all flapping CO2 molecules in the atmosphere (thus almost all the flapping that results in emit photons) result from gas collision. Because of this collision-route to photon-emission, it is the temperature of the gas that dictates the level of collisions and resulting flapping, and thus temperature that dictates the level of emitted CO2 photons. This, of course, fits with AGW theory.

  38. 138
    Barry Finch says:

    This is a beef I’ve had for 4 years, not related to global warming. Peter Wadhams is only mentioned because a nice detailed pictorial in his book. It’s a beef with scientists. I worked that out in my mind 4 years ago as the only possible explanation before I even knew the place(s) where it was sinking. He keeps saying the clues “waves break it up”, “keeps forming more ice”, “pancake ice”, “strong cold wind”. It’s the wind you see. Ice rejecting salt and making the water saltier is a red herring because the ice is still there so there’s no change in pressure so it can’t help at all to drive thermohaline circulation (THC). Ice rejecting salt only helps if the ice departs that place, which leaves a dent in the ocean there, which gets filled immediately by salt water, which makes new ice which loses salt and then departs leaving its salt behind in the water, and so on. It is crucial that the ice must leave so that it takes the light fresh water away. This is why it could not happen if it was a vast solid sheet of ice (it can’t leave) or if there wasn’t wind (it would hang around and not take its fresh water away). The strong wind (Odden Sea) and the ice being in little pancakes means the fresh water can keep being driven off by wind and new heavy salty water take it place. That’s what makes the water column heavy. Also, this business of surface water getting heavy and sinking is rubbish. What actually happens is that the entire column of water to 2500 m deep gets heavier than any other column of water 2500 m deep all the way down the Atlantic Ocean to the place where it surfaces north of Antarctica. It isn’t the cold, salty surface water sinking. It’s the entire column of water 2500 m tall dropping like a pile driver because it pushed the water at 2500 m south. If it didn’t drop then there’d be a big hole in the ocean underneath it where the water went south. That isn’t going to be allowed. Not the same thing as “surface water getting cold, salty, heavy and sinking”, that one is just water switching with the water below it, not travelling horizontally 15,000 km.

  39. 139
    Mr. Know It All says:

    123 – Barry Finch

    FYI, I got that 398 W/m^2 emitted from the earth from the NASA energy budget poster:
    https://science-edu.larc.nasa.gov/energy_budget/pdf/ERB-poster-combined-update-3.2014.pdf

    found here:
    https://science-edu.larc.nasa.gov/energy_budget/

  40. 140
    Karsten V. Johansen says:

    A presentation/discussion about this new study https://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/10.1175/JCLI-D-18-0555.1 would be very interesting here.

  41. 141
    Killian says:

    Re #136 Barry Finch said ys:
    27 May 2019 at 8:32 PM

    @102 Killian If scientists have no analysis regarding cause of the recent CO2 spike then (unless scientists are getting really really fast) odds are certain that there’ll be many more months of CO2 data to help determine anecdotally how much of the spike is an underlying trend before any analysis of the cause is being discussed other than by conjecture (not that there’s anything wrong with good conjecture).

    Um, yup. I don’t worry about scientific time frames bc I have no control over them. I notice, I suggest, and leave the proving to those with the skills to do so – though I may quibble with their analysis.

  42. 142
    Killian says:

    Re #132 Kevin McKinney said So far, for any given location the ‘creep’ in USDA hardiness zones, which are calculated according to daily minimums, amounts to 1 or 2 hardiness zones, IIRC.

    Unfortunately, these are updated only once a decade. I suggest we need a shorter time frame, no more than five years, to keep up as they seem to be moving northward at just about 1 zone per decade – and that’s old info. Michigan is pretty much what Kentucky used to be…

    For instance, the wild saltmarshes of the East Coast of the US are at risk for conversion to mangrove forest, since with projected warming, the mangroves survive winters to ‘take over’. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with mangrove forests in general, mind you…

    Given those marshes are already Dead Men Walking, and mangroves are an excellent barrier to SLR effects, this is pretty much a best-case scenario. The faster the better in terms of natural mitigation of/adaptation to SLR.

    but most current residents would mourn the disappearance of the place that they know.

    Get used to disappointment, eh?

  43. 143
    Killian says:

    Re 131 mike:

    Rising CH4 plus anomalously rising CO2 plus…

    https://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/permafrost-melting-1.5119767

    …plus Turetsky…

    https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-01313-4

    equals… I told you so?

    I wonder how much longer people will be able to fool themselves into thinking anything but simplification (deindustrialization) will solve these problems…

  44. 144
    Killian says:

    Re #130 Ray Ladbury said Nigel and Al Bundy,
    You know, I’ve never been on a protest march that changed a damn thing.

    Naomi Wolf largely agrees. The civil rights were successful because they were massive, ongoing, disruptive and peaceful. So sayeth Naomi:

    https://popularresistance.org/naomi-wolf-when-protest-is-effective-and-when-it-is-not/

    The thing is that we know the problem–government has been hijacked by business

    True, but only half. While it is popular these days to blame biz and gov, and they have colluded to create a mass consumption culture and to hijack Congress for their own good, the fact remains a nation is, at the end of the day, its people, and it is only via our acquiescence this situation is possible.

    The solutions remain embarrassingly simple, to quote Mollison, and lie in our mirrors and the willingness to walk out our doors and recreate communities.

  45. 145
    nigelj says:

    Ray Ladbury @130, I agree the essential problem is governments have been captured by business. It started with Reagon and Thatcher undermining trust in government.

    And I’m not advocating climate scientists all go on protest marches for reasons stated already, but protest does work. Came across this social research a while back it’s intriguing, but its not the only research:

    https://qz.com/901411/political-protests-are-effective-but-not-for-the-reason-you-think/

  46. 146
    mike says:

    Nigel at 128 says “But you are right there’s not much good news. The increasing levels of methane for example, but everything I have read suggests that is related to farming in the subtropics and fracking not the permafrost issue (yet, its only a matter of time). That is very bad news because it suggests multiple potential sources of more methane.”

    Regarding methane from warmed soil and permafrost: read this and get back to me:

    https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2785/unexpected-future-boost-of-methane-possible-from-arctic-permafrost/

    “The mechanism of abrupt thaw and thermokarst lake formation matters a lot for the permafrost-carbon feedback this century,” said first author Katey Walter Anthony at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, who led the project that was part of NASA’s Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE), a ten-year program to understand climate change effects on the Arctic. “We don’t have to wait 200 or 300 years to get these large releases of permafrost carbon. Within my lifetime, my children’s lifetime, it should be ramping up. It’s already happening but it’s not happening at a really fast rate right now, but within a few decades, it should peak.”

    another quote from the piece: “Walter Anthony said. “So you’re flash thawing the permafrost under these lakes. And we have very easily measured ancient greenhouse gases coming out.”

    These ancient greenhouse gases, produced from microbes chewing through ancient carbon stored in the soil, range from 2,000 to 43,000 years old. Walter Anthony and her colleagues captured methane bubbling out of 72 locations in 11 thermokarst lakes in Alaska and Siberia to measure the amount of gas released from the permafrost below the lakes, as well as used radiocarbon dating on captured samples to determine their age. They compared the emissions from lakes to five locations where gradual thawing occurs. In addition, they used the field measurements to evaluate how well their model simulated the natural field conditions.

    Team members with the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) for Polar and Marine Research in Germany then used U.S. Geological Survey-NASA Landsat satellite imagery from 1999 to 2014 to determine the speed of lake expansion across a large region of Alaska. From this data they were able to estimate the amount of permafrost converted to thawed soil in lake bottoms.

    “While lake change has been studied for many regions, the understanding that lake loss and lake gain have a very different outcome for carbon fluxes is new,” said co-author Guido Grosse of AWI. “Over a few decades, thermokarst lake growth releases substantially more carbon than lake loss can lock in permafrost again [when the lake bottoms refreeze].”

    last quote from the piece: “Human fossil fuel emissions are the number one source of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, and in comparison, methane emissions from thawing permafrost make up only one percent of the global methane budget, Walter Anthony said. “But by the middle to end of the century the permafrost-carbon feedback should be about equivalent to the second strongest anthropogenic source of greenhouse gases, which is land use change,” she said.

    So, these scientists say permafrost melting is happening now and should peak in a couple of decades.

    Time will tell if Crowther is wrong and MAR is right. Let’s wait and see how that turns out.

    Cheers

    Mike

  47. 147
    Al Bundy says:

    Nigel,
    I spoke of small teams, not a march. Of regular folks, including the prof and the bottle washer.

    I would suspect that teams would time their statement with safety in mind: “The grant just came in and Sally’s thesis was accepted so let’s….”

  48. 148
    Al Bundy says:

    Ray,
    A protest march only captures a couple of news cycles. A neverending random drumbeat of compelling tales is another animal altogether.

  49. 149
    MA Rodger says:

    Karsten V. Johansen @140,
    Ther is coverage of the paper you ask about at CarbonBrief.

  50. 150
    Adam Ash says:

    111 Mike, you take up Nigel’s point that “it is absolutely clear this is not expected until later this century.”
    While it is on the promoter of the idea (Crowther) to provide proof that it happening earlier, the assertion that it ‘…is not expected until…” does not in itself present any evidence that it is not happening now. None of this climate s**t was ‘expected’, but it sure as heck is happening now!

    The article you link to re recent methane releases eventually settles on warm-region swamps as the most likely candidate for the responsible party of ongoing increases in methane emissions – via as yet poorly understood forcings (apart from the usual suspects).

    The article also confirms the challenge in finding the culprit anytime soon among the usual suspects (including the unknown unknowns), and either way our only helpful recourse is to reduce the GHG emissions we can reduce by our own actions; if we have to do more to get ahead of some positive feedbacks that are getting into their stride, then that’s our fault, our problem, and our responsibility to fix and whatever the cost if we are to ‘be saved’.