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Unforced variations: Dec 2011

Filed under: — group @ 1 December 2011

Open thread for December…

406 Responses to “Unforced variations: Dec 2011”

  1. 51
    Ron R. says:

    Re comments about winds. I generally consider strong winds to be an indication of the change of the seasons, warm to cold and visa versa. Low pressure to high and back again.

    We also had those strong winds here a few days ago. Snapped a dead pine tree (from borers) here clean in half and threw the top half into the ground like a giant spear.

  2. 52
    Ron R. says:

    From Malcolm’s article

    Another based on Hank’s

    Nationwide phenological networks. Is the one planet wide? Are these disparate group coordinated?

  3. 53
    Hank Roberts says:

    Totally _unrelated_ phenology — that had to be pointed out by NYT:

    “… While scientists do not fully understand why this year has produced the lowest acorn crop in 20 years of monitoring, there is nothing unusual about large fluctuations in the annual number of acorns. Fingers are not being pointed at global warming.

    Oak trees “produce huge, abundant amounts one year and not in other years,” Dr. Ashton said. “I don’t think it’s bad — the whole system fluctuates like this.” …”

    Watch for the known correlations as they work out, and watch for misattribution later on.

    “Coming on the heels of an acorn glut, the dearth this year will probably have a cascade of effects on the forest ecosystem, culling the populations of squirrels, field mice and ground-nesting birds. And because the now-overgrown field mouse population will crash, legions of ticks — some infected with Lyme disease — will be aggressively pursuing new hosts, like humans.

    “We expect 2012 to be the worst year for Lyme disease risk ever” ….

    Watch for that and if you see it in the news for the US Northeast next summer, recall it’s a predicted consequence of the low acorn year.

  4. 54
    JCH says:

    Around 60 million trees in the Houston area started dropping leaves as early August – because the drought was killing them.

  5. 55
    Edward Greisch says:

    Does Phenology include river ice freezing, thawing and thickness?

  6. 56
    Craig Nazor says:

    When I lived near Cleveland, Ohio prior to 1975, I distinctly remember that spring came in the last 2 weeks of May. Before mid-May, there were very few trees with leaves; by the end of May, all the trees had leaves. When I visited Cleveland in the spring of 2010, all the trees had produced leaves by the end of the first week of May, and the people I talked to said that, yes, spring was consistently coming earlier.

    This last summer in Austin, Texas, we had record heat and record drought. This fall, I have seen some unusual things. In addition to the Texas redbuds blooming (mentioned in an earlier post), after the first rains, we had ornamental pears burst out in full bloom, along with at least 2 species of Penstemon and one species of Manfreda. Was it the heat or the drought? Was the heat and drought caused by anthropogenic global climate change?

    My personal observations, taken as a whole, appear to be agreeing with the climate science.

  7. 57
    Paul Briscoe says:


    Many thanks for your very comprehensive response to my post at #23. It proved extremely useful.

    I don’t make a habit of reading the stolen emails, but I note that bloggers at Climateaudit are quoting email 0285.txt from Mike Mann to Jones and Rutherford. This discusses the reasons for the truncation of the Briffa reconstruction. Sadly, the people at Climateaudit appear to have missed the most obvious point – that this shows the truncation was for sound scientific reasons and clearly NOT, as McIntyre is asserting, an attempt to hide something which might dilute the message.

  8. 58
    perwis says:

    There is this new paper in Science, “The Role of Carbon Dioxide During the Onset of Antarctic Glaciation” by Mark Pagani et al.:

    “Matthew Huber, a professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at Purdue, said roughly a 40 percent decrease in carbon dioxide occurred prior to and during the rapid formation of a mile-thick ice sheet over the Antarctic approximately 34 million years ago.”

    “The team found the tipping point in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels for cooling that initiates ice sheet formation is about 600 parts per million. Prior to the levels dropping this low, it was too warm for the ice sheet to form.” (see

    I am no expert on this, but I have read that an important theory of glaciation of Antarctica 34 million years ago is that the glaciation was primarily caused by tectonic changes (opening of the Tasmania/Antarctica and the Drake Passage).

    It seems to me that if the glaciation of Antarctica was more influenced by a reduction of CO2, then the Antarctic ice sheets may be more vulnerable to warming than previously thought (including the East Antarctic Ice Sheet).

    Should we be more worried of the Antarctic ice sheets now?

    The paper is here:
    Mark Pagani, Matthew Huber, Zhonghui Liu, Steven M. Bohaty, Jorijntje Henderiks, Willem Sijp, Srinath Krishnan, Robert M. Deconto. The Role of Carbon Dioxide During the Onset of Antarctic Glaciation. Science, 2 December 2011: Vol. 334 no. 6060 pp. 1261-1264 DOI: 10.1126/science.1203909

  9. 59
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    Susan @ 38, 29,Tad @ 45
    >You need to stick to overall trends over the whole globe and significant periods of time.

    Not enough, as you (Susan) know if you think about it. Think globally and locally and seasonally as some map generation fun here will convince you.

    Tad, this season so far is not shaping up like the last two years. One indication is the Arctic Oscillation (AO) ((glossary). It is highly positive just now. Last winter and even moreso the year before, the AO was very negative. (Note that the AO does not exactly correlate to other things, partly because just knowing that there is generally low or high pressure over the Arctic does not locate the center of low or high pressure very closely). Winters like the last couple (warm Arctic, cold northern mid latitudes (relatively) seem likely to recur, but not every year. When more cold air blows out of the Arctic it is replaced there by warmer air from elsewhere. This pattern may result from the reduced ice cover in the Arctic ocean – sometimes. Note that heavy snowfall in autumn and early winter may result from higher evaporation from lakes, Hudson Bay and the oceans, but record snowfall is not at all the same as record low temperatures.

  10. 60
    Dan H. says:

    Nice to see you again. I see you survived the Texas heat and drought this year.
    Not being a biologist, I cannot answer your first question. As far as the second, we just wrapped up to thread about extreme events (focusing on the Russian and Texan heat waves). We should refrain from attributing individual weather events to climate change, although a change in the probability if such events could not be ruled out.

  11. 61
    Martin Smith says:

    Is something strange happening? The anomaly map has been like this for some weeks, Purple and blue over all of Antartica and read and yellow over all of the Arctic.

  12. 62
    Anonymous Coward says:

    perwis (#58),
    You wrote “It seems to me that if the glaciation of Antarctica was more influenced by a reduction of CO2, then the Antarctic ice sheets may be more vulnerable to warming than previously thought (including the East Antarctic Ice Sheet).”
    Not really because the article you reference is less hawkish than Hansen’s famous “target atmospheric CO2” paper which argued in 2008: “We infer from Cenozoic data that CO2 was the dominant Cenozoic forcing, that CO2 was ~350-500 ppm when Antarctica glaciated, and that glaciation is reversible.”

    You also wrote: “Should we be more worried of the Antarctic ice sheets now?”
    Should anything happen to the bulk of those ice sheets, we will not live to see it. It is not an immediate concern. Hansen’s paper argued that “it would be foolhardy to allow CO2 to stay in the dangerous zone for centuries.”
    The sooner the problem is tackled, the easier it will be to reach whatever target is chosen so immediate action is nevertheless warranted. But there are more immediate concerns such as the impact of climate change on wildlife or rainfall.

  13. 63

    #48–Thanks, Bob–solid information always trumps (well-intended) speculation! I was going to mention the slow C release as fire debris or (in the case of logging) “slash” decays, but Jim said it better, anyway.

    On another topic, geo-engineering gets (yet) another look:

  14. 64
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    Perwis @ 58, I think that paper informs us about what may happen over geological time. If you wish to worry about sea level in the near future, this may help. ;) More constructively, worry that too few people get it that we had better leave most of the remaining carbon in the ground and get on the ball with alternate energy, (there is some progress). Then try to do something about it: spread the word and encourage others to do the same.

  15. 65
    Ron R. says:

    Susan Anderson — 2 Dec 2011 @ 4:30 PM
    it seems the overall Arctic thaw is likely to send nasty cold weather to certain populated areas (northern Europe, middle-north US) in winter for a while, as it did in the last two years.

    What I call the Swamp Cooler Effect. Thaw leads to temporarily cooler temps. But when the ice is finally gone then you start getting some real heat issues.

  16. 66
    Hank Roberts says:

    > the slow C release as fire debris or (in
    > the case of logging) “slash” decays

    Don’t forget half of a tree is underground; roots decay over the decade or so after logging. Lots of landslides happen with that time lag.

  17. 67
    Hank Roberts says:

    uh, oh:


    Observed decreases in oxygen content of the global ocean
    Key Points

    Observations reveal a clear global pattern of oxygen decreases in the ocean
    Most decreases appear to be associated with increased ocean stratification
    This matches model projections of a global reduction in water mass renewal rates

    Paging Peter Ward …

  18. 68
    vukcevic says:

    Here is one for the solar and the climate experts to ponder:
    Notice that the temperature not only oscillate at the sunspot rate, but intriguingly on some occasions precedes the solar cycle by a number of years (?!).
    From science point of view this is not ‘politically correct’ but I can assure any ‘sceptic’ that both the temperature and the sunspot number data are indisputable!
    Not interested, well you should be, this little gem has some of the answers that the science is desperate not to know!

  19. 69
    John Mashey says:

    re: 37 Thanks Jim, but I’m not sure I take that journal seriously.
    Now if, it had been in Journal of Scientific Exploration, it would be another story.

  20. 70
    Louise Doughty says:

    For Hank Roberts @ #34 Thanks for the link. It looks interesting. I’ll follow it up

  21. 71
    CM says:

    Vukcevic #68, if you’ve got answers that science is desperate not to know, write them up, why don’t you? I’m sure the Fortean Times will be interested.

  22. 72
    Bob Loblaw says:

    Kevin @ 63:

    Interesting link on solar geo-engineering stuff. Oddly, from a Canadian perspective, this comes at a time when it looks like Canada’s government is making cuts to Environment Canada that will affect its solar radiation work:

    Nature story on ozone monitoring cuts

  23. 73
    Ron R. says:

    Not to belabor but re: my comments @ 12:14 PM.

    “Thaw leads to temporarily cooler temps”.

    More specifically, thaw and evaporation lead to temporarily cooler temps. Swamp coolers also being known as “evaporative coolers”. Hence the Swamp Cooler Effect.

  24. 74
    Michael Sweet says:

    Your summary of the exreme events thread is inaccurate. It was shown that the probability of extreme events has dramatically increased. Hansen’s recent paper shows that the Texas heat is more than three standard deviations over normal covering a large area. That is over 95% confidence of it being caused by ACC. You are now required to provide evidence that the heat was not caused by ACC.

  25. 75
    RichardC says:

    68 vul said, “Here is one for the solar and the climate experts to ponder:
    Notice that the temperature not only oscillate at the sunspot rate, but intriguingly on some occasions precedes the solar cycle by a number of years (?!).”

    At some times the curve fits, at some times it leads, at some times it lags, and at some times it opposes. Ditto for the magnitude. Sometimes it fits, other times it doesn’t. From your graph, the period of the temperature oscillation appears to vary at completely different rates than the sunspot oscillation. So the position, rate, and magnitude all appear fairly random. It seems that there is little correlation. Yep, the sunspot cycle has a small effect on global temperatures, and some of the features of your graph hint at that, but your graph doesn’t seem to inflate that into a dominant feature. Look at 1990 VS 1810. Also, your temperature graph appears to be totally bogus. It doesn’t reflect actual temperatures at all. Yeah RIGHT temperatures in 1998 were very low and temperatures in 1725 were higher than modern values. Yeah, right, 2010 wasn’t tied for the warmest year on record but merely average over the last 300 years! Yeah, RIGHT, temps have been steady for the last 300 years. LOL! My conclusion is that you used some flaky faked temperature chart cobbled together by yourself or some other hack as opposed to an actual temperature record. Given that, I certainly don’t trust your sunspot numbers either.

    Why embarrass yourself by posting obvious garbage? I challenge you to support your temperature graph with cites. Got data?

  26. 76
    George M says:

    Re: 74 Dan- check back when the confidence interval is 99.9%. Also specify which years the drought is going to happen and what the severity will be. Remember, the 95% CI was chosen because it covers a fairly wide deviation from the average and is an indication that something “might” be happening. Having done much experimentation in my career I also know that a 95% CI is often wrong and must be backed up by multiple experiments to confirm it. In this case the historical and archaeological record is pretty clear that the southwestern US has been subject to many serious droughts, some of them lasting years. One example is the Chaco canyon culture, which apparently disappeared(i.e. everybody left- moved out) in less than a century from a combination of drought and an influx of people from further south that destroyed the ability of the culture to cope in a marginal environment. Another example is the Dust Bowl- a combination of drought and bad farming practices decimated the southcentral US in the 1930’s.

    Saying “oooh, that drought last year was a bad ‘un” is a weather observation. Ascribing it to CO2 or AGW requires predictions for NEXT year- dates, location, and severity. Or if not that specific, at least the numvber of areas that will be affected, the extent affected, and the average severity.

  27. 77
    Dan H. says:

    NOAA showed that the extreme heat in Russia and Texas was most likely due to natural causes. We are currently at a standstill.

    [Response: Well, see here for an alternative view on Russia.–eric]

  28. 78
  29. 79
    Craig Nazor says:

    Hi, Dan!

    It’s nice to know that you are continuing your AGCC obfuscations here on RealClimate, under an altered alias. (And thanks for the link, Eric.)

    Since our Austin summers in general have been getting progressively hotter over the past 2 decades, and since the scientific evidence for AGCC has also been getting stronger, there is little doubt in my mind that AGCC is very likely already starting to have a big impact on Texas.

    Meanwhile, Governor (and major Presidential candidate failure) Rick Perry-appointed Texas political hacks are scrambling to deny this by censoring state-commissioned scientific reports:

    Lovely, isn’t it?

    Maybe you should consider leaving your Novi, Michigan job and come on down to Austin, Texas for a government job, Dan!

  30. 80
    vukcevic says:

    Reply to CM and Richard C

    I will be publishing (on line) within next 2-3 weeks as many details as I have and know. I will give link to the article when it is available.

  31. 81
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Dan H … NOAA … standstill
    Reposting the same old GWPF talking point, as though it had never been debunked.
    Do we need more recreational typing?

  32. 82
    DrTskoul says:

    Ok chief…

  33. 83
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    J Bowers @ 77 raises a crucial point that is taken up at Planet 3.0:
    Fool Me Seventeen Times.

  34. 84
    Daniel J. Andrews says:

    Re: leaves. For those interested in how climate change is/will affect biological systems, Lee Hannah’s Climate Change Biology is a place to start. It is textbook-style (not science-popularizer book), and while the biology aspect is done fairly well, it needed proofing by someone in the climate field (e.g. Keeling is spelled as “Keating”**, the use of “global warming” vs. “climate change” is put down to scientists and doesn’t mention the Luntz memo at all, there is some confusion over models…and those are just the items I spotted–RC regular commenters would find many more). So reader beware on the climate side.

    A more specialized work is bird migration in Bird Migration and Global Change by George Cox. I’ve just read reviews and have now ordered it (also ordered The Warming Papers since I was making an order anyway) so can’t comment on the contents outside of the reviews.

    @Jim’s response to 37. I’d forgotten about that one. It was like reading it again for the first time. Hilarious!

    **isn’t misspelling “Keeling” when talking about climate akin to someone misspelling “Mendel” or perhaps “Darwin” when talking about biology? (does quick search to ensure he spelt Mendel correctly).

  35. 85
    tamino says:

    I second what Richard C (#75) said.

    Vukcevic: when asked point-blank what temperature data that was, your response (which was appropriately boreholed) was evasive. Neither the graph you linked to, nor your reply, have indicated *what* temperature data for *what* location/region/planet.

    You’ve been spamming this (and other) blogs for *years* with proclamations of revolutionary insight, always linking to some graph will little or no explanation. Please spare us further self-serving claims that you “will be publishing” soon. It’s time for you to put up or shut up.

    Either you can tell us what the temperature data are, or you can’t. If you can, it sure as hell won’t take you “2-3 weeks” to do so. If you can’t, then Richard C is 100% correct that your argument is bogus.

  36. 86
    Dan H. says:

    Thanks, but no thanks. Politics is already too invloved in the entire debate for my tastes. I will stick with my science job.
    I do feel for you with your current governor. It seems that every time he opens his mouth, his ratings slip.
    I have a question regarding your Texan climatology. For those places with lopng records, has the summertime high temperatures increased? Or have the nightly lows increased? I am curious as to which (if either) is leading the temperature change.
    Conversely, you could move back north, where most of our temperature increase has occurred during the winter months, resulting in extended foilage, without the nasty increase in summertime heat.

  37. 87
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Here’s a video of a presentation that I gave to a local church a couple of week ago: State of the Oceans 2011.

  38. 88
    wili says:

    I posted this over on the scientific uncertainty thread, but it is more appropriate here.

    This was one of the first articles that really got me concerned that something a feedback may have started:

    “Warming ocean contributes to global warming

    The warming of an Arctic current over the last 30 years has triggered the release of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from methane hydrate stored in the sediment beneath the seabed. Scientists at the National Oceanography Centre Southampton working in collaboration with researchers from the University of Birmingham, Royal Holloway London and IFM-Geomar in Germany have found that more than 250 plumes of bubbles of methane gas are rising from the seabed of the West Spitsbergen continental margin in the Arctic, in a depth range of 150 to 400 metres. Methane released from gas hydrate in submarine sediments has been identified in the past as an agent of climate change. The likelihood of methane being released in this way has been widely predicted.”

    But it was the possibility that this process was happening in the much shallower (average ~50 m) area of the vast (~200 k^2)East Siberian Arctic Shelf that really had me concerned since the methane would have little time to dissolve into the ocean before entering the atmosphere there. Toward the bottom of this page, you can link to Shakhova’s slide presentation on this from last year:

    Slides 33 and 34 are key. 33 shows the basic level, without figuring in sudden releases or ‘fluxes’, from the area is ~8 Tg/year. But 34 shows that the directly measured fluxes show methane releasing at up to three orders of magnitude faster than the general rate, and if higher rate were to be extended throughout the region, it would add up to ~3.5 Gt/year just from ESAS. I take these, then, to mark out the range of possible current (at the time) emissions–certainly higher than the 8 Tg figure but presumably much lower than the hypothetical ~3.5 Gt figure. But that leaves quite a wide range–was it closer to 10 Tg or 100 Tg or larger?

    So that was the rate already at least a year ago. But then this year there was news of a ‘dramatic’ increase in this rate and “massive discharges” that required scientist to go up “at short notice.” Does this mean a 10% increase? 50%? 100%? An order of magnitude? Two?…

    I’m hoping for the lower ranges in both areas. Certainly there is no evidence from monitoring stations that multiple gigatons of methane are now coming out of these areas.

    If this is part of a feedback mechanism implying exponential growth, even moderate initial increases are worrying.

    The whole thing is, in some ways, too depressing to even contemplate. But, like a train wreck, it’s something I can’t seem to take my eyes off. So any info or insights would be appreciated.

  39. 89
    JCH says:

    John N-G has had a series of posts on Texas weather in 2011, including one today, and this older post may be of interest.

    The Houston area is said to have ~600 million trees. It is estimated ~60 million have been killed by the drought. This weekend they’ve been cutting down the dead ones in the park across the street. They’re large oaks and pines. They’ve survived a lot of Texas weather. Just in front of my skyscraper – a dozen big trees are on the ground, and there are still more to cut.

  40. 90
    vukcevic says:

    Thank you for your kind note.
    Not all of my posts get accepted by the moderator (I have added my email on the graph), answer to you or anyone (anonymous) else is in the link and you can verify if you whish to do so.
    I do publish you may find some new stuff from this one
    no voshebniy insight, just data analysis and an eye for things that others can’t be bothered with.

  41. 91
    Hank Roberts says:

    For Wili, a reminder — in the other places you’ve posted that, people pointed out that the direct quotes you give are from an article first published several years ago about that group of scientists rushing to the Arctic.

    You might look back at the earlier postings for more information:

  42. 92
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    Posted at John N-G’s place:
    Folks south of the border are suffering: North Mexico wilts under worst drought on record.

  43. 93
    Bill says:

    Many of the preceding comments are about local/regional anomalies. Here is Maine a favorite spring game is betting on the ice-out date of local lakes and ponds (some local fire departments use it as a fund raising lottery).

    The USGS has kept track of these dates for the last ~65/~165 years on 29 lakes and ponds in New England. This URL will get you to the data:

    The Maine Dept. of Conservation has a more usable site for 2003-2010 here:

    While it helps to be familiar with Maine geography, it is interesting to just pick one lake and flip through the years and watch the dates change.

    This fall has been so warm so far it will be a miracle if anything freezes this coming winter but we shall see.

  44. 94
  45. 95
    Getting Warm says:

    A number of posts have mentioned Anthony Watts and “Climate Gate II”. Watts Up with That has been fully devoted to personal attacks and throwing up straw men around this issue.

    Please go to and request that Watts release all his personal e-mails regarding climate.
    And ask your friends to do the same.
    Fair and balanced.

  46. 96
    Hank Roberts says:

    > please go to ….

    Or don’t — “let’s you and him fight” is such a boring game and such an effective, seductive distraction.

  47. 97
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    @ new paper by Huber & Knutti – Question for RC experts:

    Would it be reasonable to say, based on the new paper, that 75 to 125 percent of observed recent warming is anthropogenic? In other words, any unaccounted natural variation could go either way?

  48. 98
    s.radun says:

    I think you may have bin a bit harsh in your comments regarding Vuckevic. I follow his links, true he is secretive, but when the data are released they are always from the most reliable sources. Anyone dealing with the temperature historic records should in no time work out his graph. It took les than five minutes to do so; he posted vertualy the same graph number of times with its real designation, on at least two web-blogs. Perhaps an apology is order since his link shows that he has emailed data to the moderator.

  49. 99
    tamino says:

    Re: #89 (vukcevic)

    You still haven’t answered the question, namely, “What temperature data is that?” The answer is not at your link. It is extraordinarily rude, even arrogant, for you to make such claims as you have and refuse to disclose this crucial information.

    Re: #97 (s.radun)

    You think I was harsh on vukcevic? He posted a graph, claimed that “temperature not only oscillate at the sunspot rate, but intriguingly on some occasions precedes the solar cycle by a number of years” and that “both the temperature and the sunspot number data are indisputable!

    Richard C (#75) disputed his temperature data and said “I challenge you to support your temperature graph with cites. Got data?”

    Vukcevic evaded the question. After intimating its significance, to simply refuse to tell us what the temperature data is, is vastly more rude than anything I have assailed him with.

    If vukcevic wants to be treated politely, then he should stop his immensely insulting, extremely arrogan “game” of making claims about temperature data with no reference to what data it is, then refusing simply to say so when asked point-blank.

    And you, s.radun, should learn to recognize real rudeness — namely, vukcevic’s — when you see it.

  50. 100
    David B. Benson says:

    Pete Dunkelberg @97 — Gavin Schmidt has previously suggested much the same.