Living in central Pennsylvania, it would seem remiss of me not to comment on Groundhog Day today. For those not familiar with the event, Groundhog Day, which takes place on February 2 every year, is the modern American version of an age-old tradition originating in Europe centuries ago. The modern Groundhog Day is celebrated in the United States in Punksutawney Pennsylvania (about 100 miles west of Penn State University, where I teach). According to legend, if the groundhog–who is named Punxsutawney Phil–sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter weather. If he does not see his shadow, there will be an early spring. After Phil emerges from his burrow on February 2, he speaks to an event official in “Groundhogese”, and his prediction is then translated for the awaiting public. The event was popularized in the 1993 movie of the same name, starring Bill Murray.
Sadly, it appears that global warming may soon add Phil to the ranks of the unemployed. With the warming of 4-8ºC (7-14ºF) predicted over North America by the end of this century if we continue to increase greenhouse gas concentrations at current rates, the answer will become simple. Spring will come early every year. While this may seem like a pleasant outcome of climate change, it could in fact lead to serious problems for plants, animals, and entire ecosystems. Living things have adapted to the timing of the seasons over many thousands of years. Here, we are changing the timing of the seasons on timescales of decades. Plants and animals just don’t adapt well to changes on such short timescales.
January temperatures this year were 3-9ºC (5-16 ºF) warmer than the late 20th century average over most of the U.S. (see Figure).
Departure of January ’06 surface air temperatures from the late 20th century (1971-2000) average [source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center] (click to enlarge)
The widespread pattern of this warmth is what was so unusual. Usually when one part of the U.S., say the east coast, is experiencing unusually warm weather, other regions, say the Rocky Mountain states, are experiencing unusually cold weather. This has to do with the natural wiggles of the jet stream from one month to the next. However, the pattern we’re seeing so far this year, where essentially the entire U.S. is anomalously warm, only occurs when the jet stream has retreated far north from its usual position. As we have noted before (see here and here), there is no way to ascribe any single anomalous weather event, or even an anomalous season, to global warming and climate change. But what we can say is that the temperature pattern we’ve seen this January is similar to the kind of pattern that models predict as being normal in just a few decades time given some anthropogenic forcing scenarios. Global warming is likely to “load the dice”, making the kind of January temperatures that might seem remarkable by past experience increasingly probable, and hence increasingly more frequent.
In the movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s character finds himself having to repeat the same day over and over again (Groundhog Day, of course). At one point he announces “It’s cold today, it’s cold every day”. Were the movie to be remade several decades in the future, the character might instead have to lament: “It’s warm this winter, it’s warm every winter”.
82 Responses to "Groundhog Day"
[Response: Excess politics trimmed. Science please – William]
But eric’s post is OK? Give me a break.
#51: Sorry, “Erica’s”, not “eric’s”.
#49: “Are you aware that in the geologic record, the “rapid speciation” periods after mass extinctions take millions of years?”
As far as I’m aware, today’s “mass extinctions” are blamed on factors such as pollution, deforestation, overfishing, etc… that are unrelated to any anthro-CO2 warming. Warming is pushing back the ice and permafrost and expanding habitats according to the links I provided above.
I understand and empathize with the concern over the loss of species, but let’s put the blame where it belongs so we can effectively address the problem.
Tom Fiddaman says
True enough, but anthro warming is just emerging from the noise. It will get bigger and faster. So will some of the other forces, and they likely interact multiplicatively rather than additively. The policies that address GHGs also address many of the other problems.
Personally, I’m planning for species succession on my own land – but I face choices like cutting all the trees before the pests get them and they burn. Maybe I’d love the rainforest that could be here in 5000 years, but since I’ll be dead I’m more worried about the transient.
Re current 52:
let’s put the blame where it belongs so we can effectively address the problem.
Outstanding! Human activities are to blame. Well done.
But your ‘expanding habitats’ is a false premise. There are habitats that are being displaced by the expanding habitats. So placing a value judgement that says ‘expand good’ neglects ‘shrink bad’. The full calculation is not performed, making the judgement ‘expand good’ problematic.
Effectively addressing the problem means adding up all effects, not just the ones we like or that sound good to our POV. ‘Effectively’ means having all the understanding, too, and that means understanding scale, which you clearly do not. Your valuable contribution to the effects of the societal response can be in the realm of human reaction, but not in the realm of likely effects on ecosytems. Simply put, we can tell, here, that you are not arguing effects on ecosytems – you don’t know what they are. You are arguing supposed effects on your pocketbook. Plain as day.
Hank Roberts says
I can’t argue with belief about what’s true based on faith but I can point to references for the science:
Deforestation and CO2 increase — if you’re open to considering that these could possibly be connected, there’s good reason to believe that deforestation did change climate, long before people started burning fossil fuel in large amounts; there’s an entire topic on it:
Pictures may help:
Tom, on planning — a bit tangential to climate science but perhaps someone knows a site focusing more on this specific question. I’m managing 50 acres for wildlife habitat, 40 in dry mountain terrain and 10 in temperate rainforest. Removing “fire ladders” so fire can burn between trees (brush and low dead limbs) and keeping brushpiles and thickets 20-30 meters from trees you want to keep makes a forest more resilient when fire comes. Mapping the flora closely lets you clear around the individual trees coming up without wholesale brush removal. A dead trunk within a foot of a live one will probably kill the live one when fire comes; haul it 2-3 feet away and the heat from the burning dead wood is much less likely to damage the live tree.
A lightning fire 3 years ago tested my 40 acre site after about ten years of fire preparation; it burned gracefully and fairly cool, while the surrounding 200 acres was toast. Their trees mostly died from heat shock as brush burned around them; they lost canopy shade and will have a lot of brush regrowth, have to salvage log and replant with tree-farm pines. Most of the trees I limbed and cleared around have survived to date (it takes years to know for sure). Pre-logging this was, and still is, black oak and pine and incense cedar and such.
Getting a competent botanist in early to do a complete flora and identify small trees needing extra protection made all the difference in planning for fire and improving the outcome.
A salmon biologist got me concerned about this work, he told me the salmon in the river 3000′ below my property was so silty from the past century’s forest fires that the fish he studies had all but disappeared. My tiny parcel’s trivial for changing that — but it’s now visible on the mountainside having survived the fire better than what’s surrounding it — so people notice that this sort of work makes a difference when fire comes.
In 200 years the site may be back to a canopy shaded landscape — which burns gracefully every decade or so. In 1000 years, the foot of topsoil that disappeared from this site in the past 100 years may be back in place (look at lichen on your rocks; in my site, it takes 100 years for them to reach full size; the band of lichen decreasing in size down to ground level marks where the topsoil was a century ago, for this site).
Thoreau wrote “the measure of a man’s worth is what he can afford to leave alone.” These days, just leaving land alone takes an inordinate amount of weekends to keep it healthy.
#54: “There are habitats that are being displaced by the expanding habitats. So placing a value judgement that says ‘expand good’ neglects ‘shrink bad’.”
Expanding of habitats that can support more life is good, shrinking of habitats that don’t support much life is good also. It’s a win-win situation for life in general in a warming scenario.
I’m no biologist, but if you count the species that each ecosystem can support from North to South I’m sure you’ll find that warmer, wetter ecosystems in general support more species and in greater number than do icy cold dry ones.
Certainly there needs to be a balance between cold and warm, but what makes anyone think that we are at or near that balance right now? For most of this planet’s history temperatures were 8-15 C warmer than today. Look at a picture of our globe with the ice caps and dry deserts on every continent. Is it possible that maybe, just maybe our planet is too cold and dry right now?
Richard Simons says
Most of Canada was unusually mild in January too. In Winnipeg the previous record was beaten by 3C. Several communities have declared states of emergency because it has not been possible to construct the winter roads across the lakes and swamps and all supplies are having to be flown in. To appreciate the significance, a large container of milk (4 litres) costs about US$13.
In some quarters there seems to be the expectation that agriculture will simply move north with global warming. Although there are pockets of decent soil, in most of the area of Canada that is now covered by forest the soils are thin or absent so the lack of infrastructure would be irrelevent.
#56 – Nanny,
I don’t think anybody thinks there is some ideal climate out there, life has thrived at many different global climates. One could argue that the current climate is in fact ideal for the current biosphere seeing as how it has evolved in this climate. Humans are certainly capable of living in all kinds of climates.
But what all of your arguments are ignoring or handwaving away is the time it takes for an ecosystem, not just a species or two, to successfully undergo the changes required to survive. Yes, grizzlies can just walk north as they are already doing, but what about forests? And what about everything the grizzly relies on for food? Gizzlies are pretty versatile eaters so they may fair well, but the point satnds for many, many more species that are less resilient. A forest can not migrate one or two humdred kilometres, or possibly more, in just 100 years. What about migrating birds that arrive at their nesting grounds but they are too early or too late or the food sources they count on are not there (extinct or migrated away won’t matter to them)?
If these kinds of things happen too quickly, as all the available evidence seems to indicate it will, then there will be many extinctions and those will lead to many more before some other new species jumps into the empty niche.
For a very clear example you can look at coral reefs and the entire ecosystems built around them. If the temperatures rise only a degree or two more, these reefs will die. They will not migrate, they will not pop up in formerly too cool waters.
Eventually they or something like them will flourish but you have to understand we are talking at least 100’s of thousands of years if not millions if geological history is to be any guide.
Joel Shore says
Re #52: I think that the point is (and #58 seems to be going in this direction too) that the various stresses that man is putting on ecosystems interact in negative ways. So, for example, while it might be true that migration of species could mitigate to some degree the effects of a rapidly changing climate, the fact that the ecosystems are already stressed and that they are highly fragmented limits their resiliency and ability to migrate.
Hank Roberts says
I don’t know if this is current thinking or not. Experts comment?
“The warming resumed by 8500 BC. By 5000 to 3000 BC average global temperatures reached their maximum level during the Holocene and were 1 to 2° Celsius warmer than they are today. Climatologists call this period the Climatic Optimum. During the climatic optimum many of the Earth’s great ancient civilizations began and flourished. In Africa, the Nile River had three times its present volume …”
[Response: I really don’t like the word ‘optimum’ since it is rather value-laden and not really appropriate. High northern latitudes were definitely warmer during the mid-Holocene (due to the higher summer insolation at that point in the precession cycle), but there is increasing evidence that the tropics were cooler (see Kim et al (2004) for instance). The Sahara was definitely wetter as well. – gavin]
[Response: We’ve discussed this before on RC. See our glossary entry on the “Mid-Holocene Climatic Optimum”, and also this entry in our FAQ. – mike]
Re current #56:
I’m no biologist, but if you count the species that each ecosystem can support…
That you are no biologist is immediately apparent from your previous comments and especially your [e]xpanding of habitats that can support more life is good, shrinking of habitats that don’t support much life is good also. It’s a win-win situation for life in general in a warming scenario. and your [f]or most of this planet’s history temperatures were 8-15 C warmer than today… Gawd. Where to begin?
I have to call diminishing (nonexistent) returns here, nanny, sorry.
But it must be apparent to lurkers here that there is a biological component to the argument that must be considered. Plants are the primary producers of energy for life on this planet. Plants adapt to climate at a rate that is slower than the current climate change rate. That is: plants are already adapted to conditions. If they want to continue to exist in these conditions, they must move. Plants cannot get up and walk to a new place. They migrate north or south at a rate. That rate is slower than the change rate we are undergoing now.
Mike Atkinson says
In Britain about half the butterfly species are in decline, while the other half are expanding northwards (a gross simiplification, I know). Among the reasons is that many butterflies are habitat specialists and most habitats in Britain are fragmented and greatly reduced. Heathland species (e.g. Silver-studded Blue) have been observed to be evoloving to disperse less, there is no point them flying more than a few hundred meters as they run out of habitat. Those that fly further are unlikely to find suitable habitat. This makes it hard for habitat specialist butterflies to take advantage of global warming, even if the habitats are moving north (which is often difficult for similar reasons) the butterflies are unable to follow.
Other butterfly species (e.g. Mountain Ringlet) are moving up mountains (which generally gives them less habitat) and are expected to run out of moutain.
Most of the habitat specialists are being actively conserved, habitat management which favours them (and usually many other species) is required. The old patterns of land management, which were done for commercial reasons, have changed so much that without non-commerical management by conservation bodies I think that many of them would go extinct.
Barton Paul Levenson says
Re #56 and “Certainly there needs to be a balance between cold and warm, but what makes anyone think that we are at or near that balance right now? For most of this planet’s history temperatures were 8-15 C warmer than today. Look at a picture of our globe with the ice caps and dry deserts on every continent. Is it possible that maybe, just maybe our planet is too cold and dry right now? ”
Volcanoes provide good soil, too, but that doesn’t mean it’s pleasant or safe to live through an eruption. Just because something might have good effects eventually doesn’t justify letting something bad happen if you can stop it. A little common sense goes a long way.
Barton Paul Levenson says
Re #57 and “In some quarters there seems to be the expectation that agriculture will simply move north with global warming.”
Sure. But that’s not a benign change. As you move toward the poles, latitude belts get SMALLER (do the math, it’s a cosine curve). That means the agricultural belt will get smaller, which will mean less food. Duh.
Barton Paul Levenson says
Re #64 — my dumb mistake. Area north of a latitude line is a “1 – sin” curve, not a cosine curve. For those who are interested:
A = 2 pi R^2 (1 – sin theta)
where A is area, pi the circle constant, R the sphere’s radius and theta the latitude. To get it between two latitudes, you subtract A for theta(North) from A for theta(South) in the northern hemisphere, and vice versa in the southern hemisphere.
Let me give a numerical example, ignoring area in square meters and just using fraction of the hemisphere’s surface (A = 1 – sin theta). Let’s say, rather generously, that the world agricultural belt is everywhere from 10 degrees to 50 degrees. Area north of 10 degrees is 0.826 of the surface (hemisphere net area 1), north of 50 degrees is 0.234 of the surface, net area in between, 0.592 (59.2% of the hemisphere).
Now let’s say global warming shifts the agricultural belts toward the poles by 5 degrees of latitude, so that they now occupy the area between the 15 and 55 degree lines. 0.741 – 0.181 = 0.560, 56% of the area. So our growing area has decreased from 59.2% of the globe to 56.0%. That’s a 5.4% drop in growing area (1 – .56/.592). So, at the very least, and even if the change doesn’t affect the hardiness or the fertility or the ability to grow crops, we get 5.4% less of them. See the problem?
Neal J. King says
nanny_govt_sucks keeps harping on the potential net improvement to the world’s ecosystem / populations of species / etc.
The first problem is that we won’t ever completely know all the changes until they happen. With the best scientific models and data, we can still only make plausible estimates or guesses.
The second problem is that there is no acceptable way of calculating a “net” result. Will the world be a better or a worse place if we gain more robins but lose arctic terns? If the agricultural productivity of Iceland increases, but the Maldives disappear beneath the waves?
My preference would be to favor keeping things as much as possible unchanged, for the sake of biological diversity (or simply for variety of viewing): I would actively miss the beautiful array of species that can be seen in coral reefs today. Whereas whatever variations are likely to emerge in cold-adapted robins within my lifetime (and probably within my great-grandchild’s lifetime) are likely to be rather minor.
I believe that the Hippocratic oath commends us: “First, do no harm.” I think this is an approach that makes sense in thinking about a complex issue with somewhat unpredictable aspects.
To all: Please see my links in post #21. You can see that green vegetation IS moving North based on real observations of the past 20 or so years of warming, and that animals are following. I’m sure we all know that nature has ways of planting forests via birds, squirrels, bear scat, or whatever.
But if you feel these planting methods are not satisfactory for you, why not plant the Northern forest yourself, or advocate for it to be done? This would be a low-cost adatptation alternative to help the planet and the animals you feel are endangered adjust to a warming scenario. As the warming climate moves North, you could find the new environments that were ready for trees, then plant them in advance of the natural methods. No international agreements or forced-changes in world economies needed, just a travel visa, a back pack and some seed.
Roger Smith says
“But if you feel these planting methods are not satisfactory for you, why not plant the Northern forest yourself, or *advocate* for it to be done?”
It’s curious that you are advocating for what would essentially be a massive public works project- the re-engineering of the Northern American forest. I wonder if it’s even scientifically feasible. The LaRouche party has similar ideas about creating massive canals to get water from the polar regions down to the deserts of the Southwest where the water is needed.
I don’t think moving trees, wildlife and creating habitants would be cheap (backpackers scattering seed does not a forest make)- and coordinating with Canada would make it international… GHG emission reduction agreements would be moderate and market-friendly in comparison.
Don Baccus says
re #67:”This would be a low-cost adatptation alternative to help the planet and the animals you feel are endangered adjust to a warming scenario”
How does accelerating the northward expansion of temperate forests help preserve polar bears, northern hawk owls, ptarmigan, snowy owls and other northern residents?
How does this help preserve the dozens of species of shorebird that migrate north each year to nest in the open tundra? Without tundra, these migrants would disappear. The huge numbers of migrants we see in places like Delaware Bay or Gray’s Harbor (Washington State) would be no more. Hunters would no longer have snow geese or tundra swans to shoot at.
I could go on in this vein for thousands of words, listing specific species that will suffer as a result of climate change, but my guess is that nanny_govt_sucks – “I’m no biologist!” – at heart really doesn’t care whether or not a bunch of species go locally, regionally, or entirely extinct. All he cares about is “winning” the political debate, consequences be damned.
Tom Fiddaman says
For starters, not all species are mobile via bird and bear; many will have trouble keeping up. Species have different preferences for precipitation, summer & winter temperature etc., and so may need to move in different directions. That makes it hard to sustain complex interactions of pollination, predation, etc. Moving from Seattle WA to Vancouver BC is a lot different than moving Seattle itself to Vancouver.
The adaptive planting suggestion betrays a naive understanding of the scale of the northern forest. Just replanting trees in North America would be a multi-hundred billion dollar exercise. Even if it were affordable, how do we know what to plant and where, when our understanding of ecosystems is imperfect, regional forecasts are unreliable, and the temperature transient will go on for decades? The history of introduced species is not a pretty one.
The natural capital embodied in the northern forest is almost certainly worth trillions. It is laughable to think that a few volunteers can replace it. In effect, you are proposing a system in which all are free to foist off their GHG externalities on others, and to hope that a few altruists will pick up the pieces (never mind that they accelerate warming as they drive north with their seeds). Of course, economic conditions like that select against altruism, so the outcome will be bad. To the extent that it’s bad for people, I doubt that such a plan will help freedom to flourish.
Meanwhile, further south (see 64), things are no easier. What do you propose to plant in the Sahara if it warms and expands? Failing that, where will the residents of regions that become less attractive go? Perhaps the altruists can host them in their homes. After all, they could finance their philanthropy by getting rich speculating on Canadian land before the WSJ skeptics wake up to the possibilities.
Perhaps this would be a good time to exercise a little democratic initiative to point economic incentives in beneficial environmental directions. If you equate carbon taxes with dictatorship, perhaps you could propose a socially and biologically realistic alternative mitigation plan.
Nanny, you can’t just move the plants north. They have evolved to use the length of daylight to time their development. This way they have the best chance of flowering when insect populations are good for pollination, completing seed development before frost, not dropping seed too early and having it germinate before winter, etc. If you move them north, the daylength signals will be off. Even if adaptation could take place in a few generations, it could take decades just to expose the plant population to enough year-to-year variation in weather conditions so that they could find a good average and get the signal calibrated right. Meanwhile there would be a lot of false starts, dead ends, and extinctions.
The same scenario holds true for animals, for timing of migration, reproduction, hibernation, and so on. Just because they can get to a new habitat and even survive for a few years doesn’t necessarily mean they can thrive there.
Richard Simons says
“This would be a low-cost adaptation alternative” (going out with backpacks of seeds to extend the forests north)
This entertained me as clearly ‘nanny_govt_sucks’ has no idea of the scale of the problem. Neglecting all the other problems (e.g. many areas are hundreds of kilometres from the nearest road and people have to be got there and fed, and as Roger Smith pointed out, scattering seeds does not make a forest) I roughly calculated how many seeds would be needed, getting seeding rates etc off various websites.
To seed a strip just 10km wide across the north of Canada and Alaska would take over 2000 tonnes of seeds with a value of well in excess of 10 billion dollars (assuming the seeds are available and demand did not push up prices). And Russia is bigger. So much for cheap solutions.
Leonard Evens says
Unfortunately, political-economic-ideological ideas tend to affect judgements in these matters. The WSJ has been an advocate of currently fashionable ideas about the free market and how it is the best, or perhaps least bad, method to deal with all problems. From his pseudonym, it appears that nanny_govenrment_sucks agrees with this position. Perhaps it should be pointed out that fashionable political-economic-ideological ideas may be transitory even on the short scale of human history. Certainly, throughout most of our history, we had authoritarian governments and markets were not too free. And free market ideas are hardly accepted by all of humanity today. The danger of making decisions today on the basis of prevalent ideas about how society should be organized is that we may find those ideas radically modified or rejected entirely in a few hundreds of years. And any solutions must deal with the reality that others may not have the same ideology. As I see it, the best strategy is pay attention to the science to see what needs doing. In so doing we must avoid ideological predispositions as much as possible and suspect our own inclinations in these things. Having understood what is happening, we have to come up with the best means to deal with it which are consistent with whatever we find important based on our idelogical predispositions. compare for example our atttidues towards a possible Avian Flu pandemic. I doubt even the WSJ would try to convince us not to worry about it because they fear it might mean a large scale government public health intervention. Or that they would worry too much about how it relates to free markets.
Eban Goodstein says
The reference to a 4-8ºC (7-14ºF)predicted warming is from the A2 scenario– isn’t this the most pessimistic? Is the forecast for North American warming similar under A1 or B2?
Stephen Berg says
Re: #67, “You can see that green vegetation IS moving North based on real observations of the past 20 or so years of warming, and that animals are following. I’m sure we all know that nature has ways of planting forests via birds, squirrels, bear scat, or whatever.”
True, but the vegetation and species of animals are leaving behind desolate areas to the south. It is simply a displacement, not an expansion.
Pat Neuman says
Climate Change – Part 1
By Rick Kupchella, KARE 11 News Twin Cities area
Aired 10:15 PM Feb 7, 2006, (NBC affiliate)
Climate Change – Part 1 [Northern Minnesota]
… “Specifically, these moose are dying from parasites: brain worms and liver flukes. Mark Lenarz with the State Department of Natural Resources says it appeared the parasites “caused those individual moose to starve to death.”
Lenarz says that’s “really contrary to what parasites are supposed to
do.” Parasites are not supposed to kill the animal.
In trying to figure out – why – this is happening, scientists have become focused on ‘temperature’. Lenarz says, “If you’re a moose, and it’s the middle of summer, and you’re panting, you just have a lot less time for eating.” In the end, he says, many of these moose cannot cope with the added stress. Lenarz says the moose are dying in greatest numbers â?? within a year of a very hot summer.” …
“Watch Rick’s report on Climate Change
[Kare11 New Extra, Part 2. 10 PM Feb 8].
More Information on Climate Change
… KARE 11 has assembled a large collection of resources, reports and sound from nearly a dozen experts. To view that page, visit kare11.com/climate
Wednesday night’s Extra will look at the factors believed to be contributing to global warming â?? in particular, man-made factors, and what if anything can be done to reverse our impact on the environment. Join us Wednesday at ten.” …
Pat Neuman says
“Jimmy did not see his shadow this morning, so we can all look forward to an EARLY SPRING!”
Jimmy the groundhog may not be needed in future years. An early spring is a gimme now.
No below zero F daily low temperatures occurred at Minneapolis during January of 2006. Only one year, 1990, of the 1891-current period of record at Minneapolis had no below zero lows in January.
In 1990 there were 3 below zero F. days in February. There have been no below zero lows in February so far this year. A warming trend is in the works for the end of this month.
How many below zero daily lows can Minnesotans expect this year? I’ll say zero. How many in 2007, 2008, 2009 … ? Zero? Anyone care to make a guess?
Pat Neuman says
LIVE, NOON-2PM CST TODAY – Public asked to join in on Climate Change Discussion public forum – Kare11 website.
Many Twin Citians have been relocating to western Wisconsin due to cheaper land for big homes. Commuting to Minneapolis and St. Paul is still considered the cheapest way to go for those that want big homes and think they can afford them.
Forum, NOON-2PM CST today at:
Rick Kupchella’s pair of stories on climate change looked at the phenomenon â?? and tried to separate the science from politics. Still, there is plenty of controversy. Rick will sit down Thursday and answer viewer questions about his research, the science and the questions we have yet to answer. Join us from noon to 2:00 p.m. Thursday for a discussion on climate change — and what goes into tackling such a large story. Until then, visit kare11.com/climate and see many of the sources Rick consulted in his research.
Rick’s broadcast summaries (Parts 1 and 2) are at:
Global warming, let’s do something about it. Our heart should be where our home is.
Regarding #7: Jim Hansen notes in his paper that “if we wanted to stabilize atmospheric CO2 [concentrations] for the next few years, we would need to cut fossil emissions by about 60%”. Later in the paper, when considering other factors, such as feedbacks to the atmosphere of ocean CO2″, he estimates emission reductions of “60-80%” will be needed in the long run. What does it mean to reduce global CO2 emissions by 70% from their current rates? Well, current annual emission rates are between 6 and 7 billion tons per year, and reducing these rates to about 1 or 1.5 billion tons per year would be the rate of emissions that existed in the late 1920s. Put another way, the 13 largest emitting countries in the world (USA, China, India, Russia, Ukraine, Japan, Germany, Canada, Australia, …) emit about 70% of the global total. So one “extreme” to reduce global emissions by 70% would be to reduce the emissions of those 13 largest countries to ZERO, and hold the emissions of all other countries in the world constant at their current rate. The “opposite extreme” would be to reduce the emissions of the 13 largest countries by at least 60%, and reduce the emissions of all of the OTHER countries in the world to ZERO. And those levels of emission reduction have been estimated in models to stabilize atmospheric concentrations at 550 parts per million — roughly twice the pre-industrial level and roughly 50% higher than current atmospheric concentrations. And the time to stabilization will be about 400 years. Now, does anyone REALLY believe that stabilization of atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations is feasible? Certainly, none of the people alive in the world today (Shirley MacLaine excepted) will live to see it.
Steve Sadlov says
Meanwhile, Eurasia had a dreary, iced over, horrid January (actually, longer than that, but for the purposes of this article ….). So, might that mean that the unprecedented continental scale warmth in North America balanced the unprecedented cold in Eurasia at the same time? A “rogue wave” or a “Perfect Storm” in the Jet Stream? A dynamic system, with many resonances, innately complex feedback loops and built in filters it is. If it were an electronic circuit, imagine the difficulty either designing or modelling it!
[Response: It is unlikely that the anomalies balance out. The Global February data are not in yet, but the January mean results are. They show (scroll about half way down the page) cold conditions over a substantial portion of interior Eurasia, southern Europe and Alaska, but anomalous warmth over the rest of the Artic, most of North America and, more importantly, over a substantial part of tropical Africa, South America, and most of Australia. Given the greater importance of the tropical regions in a spherical average (Cylindrical Equidistant projections such as used in this case, give a misleading indication of the surface areas at differing latitudes, overly emphasizing high-latitude regions), the global mean anomaly would look to be substantially positive for January. Will be interesting to see the February data when they’ve been processed. – mike]
Steve Sadlov says
No comments regarding my rogue wave and electronic circuit analogies?
Steve Sadlov says
RE: Reply to #80. So, another minor fine point is that we are clearly in a La Nina year, and as a result, the Jet Stream is averaging well north of normal in Western North America. Just another off hand observation. ENSO is a powerful factor.