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1.5ºC: Geophysically impossible or not?

Filed under: — group @ 4 October 2017

Guest commentary by Ben Sanderson

Millar et al’s recent paper in Nature Geoscience has provoked a lot of lively discussion, with the authors of the original paper releasing a statement to clarify that their paper did not suggest that “action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is no longer urgent“, rather that 1.5ºC (above the pre-industrial) is not “geophysically impossible”.

The range of post-2014 allowable emissions for a 66% chance of not passing 1.5ºC in Millar et al of 200-240GtC implies that the planet would exceed the threshold after 2030 at current emissions levels, compared with the AR5 analysis which would imply most likely exceedance before 2020. Assuming the Millar numbers are correct changes 1.5ºC from fantasy to merely very difficult.

But is this statement overconfident? Last week’s post on Realclimate raised a couple of issues which imply that both the choice of observational dataset and the chosen pre-industrial baseline period can influence the conclusion of how much warming the Earth has experienced to date. Here, I consider three aspects of the analysis – and assess how they influence the conclusions of the study.
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Why extremes are expected to change with a global warming

Filed under: — rasmus @ 5 September 2017

Joanna Walters links extreme weather events with climate change in a recent article in the Guardian, however, some  reservations have been expressed about such links in past discussions.

For example, we discussed the connection between single storms and global warming in the post Hurricanes and Global Warming – Is there a connection?, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has issued a statement, and Mike has recently explained the connection in the Guardian.

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Something Harde to believe…

Filed under: — gavin @ 25 February 2017

A commenter brings news of an obviously wrong paper that has just appeared in Global and Planetary Change. The paper purports to be a radical revision of our understanding of the carbon cycle by Hermann Harde. The key conclusions are (and reality in green):

  • The average residence time of CO2 in the atmosphere is found to be 4 years.

    [The residence time for an individual molecule is not the same as the perturbation response time of the carbon cycle which has timescales of decades to thousands of years.]

  • The anthropogenic fraction of CO2 in the atmosphere is only 4.3%.

    [Actually, it’s 30%.]

  • Human emissions only contribute 15% to the CO2 increase over the Industrial Era.

    [It’s all of it.]

Since these points contradict multiple independent sources of evidence, I can, without hesitation, predict that there are fundament flaws in this paper that will raise serious questions about the quality of the peer-review that this paper went through. Oddly, this paper is labeled as an “Invited Research Article” and so maybe some questions might be asked of the editor responsible too.

Notwithstanding our last post on the difficulty in getting comments published, this paper is crying out for one.

But this kind of thing has been done before, does not require any great sophistication or computer modeling to rebut, and has come up so many times before (Salby (also here), Beck, Segalstad, Jaworowski etc.), that perhaps a crowd-sourced rebuttal would be useful.

So, we’ll set up an page for this (a site for collaborative LaTeX projects), and anyone who wants to contribute should put the gist of their point in the comments and we’ll send the link so you can add it to the draft. Maybe the citizen scientists among you can pull together a rebuttal faster than the professionals?


  1. H. Harde, "Scrutinizing the carbon cycle and CO 2 residence time in the atmosphere", Global and Planetary Change, vol. 152, pp. 19-26, 2017.

Comparing models to the satellite datasets

How should one make graphics that appropriately compare models and observations? There are basically two key points (explored in more depth here) – comparisons should be ‘like with like’, and different sources of uncertainty should be clear, whether uncertainties are related to ‘weather’ and/or structural uncertainty in either the observations or the models. There are unfortunately many graphics going around that fail to do this properly, and some prominent ones are associated with satellite temperatures made by John Christy. This post explains exactly why these graphs are misleading and how more honest presentations of the comparison allow for more informed discussions of why and how these records are changing and differ from models.
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Blizzard Jonas and the slowdown of the Gulf Stream System

Filed under: — stefan @ 24 January 2016

Blizzard Jonas on the US east coast has just shattered snowfall records. Both weather forecasters and climate experts have linked the high snowfall amounts to the exceptionally warm sea surface temperatures off the east coast. In this post I will examine a related question: why are sea surface temperatures so high there, as shown in the snapshot from Climate Reanalyzer below?



I will argue that this warmth (as well as the cold blob in the subpolar Atlantic) is partly due to a slowdown of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), sometimes referred to as the Gulf Stream System, in response to global warming. There are two points to this argument:

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