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Unforced Variations: March 2012

Filed under: — group @ 1 March 2012

This month’s open thread – for appetizers we have: William Nordhaus’s extremely impressive debunking in the NY Review of Books of the WSJ 16 letter and public polling on the issue of climate change. Over to you…

617 Responses to “Unforced Variations: March 2012”

  1. 351
    Hank Roberts says:
    Findings – The *Science* Magazine News Blog

    “February 14, 2009
    Climate Change Worst-Case Scenarios: Not Worst Enough

    The news on climate change seemed bad enough in 2007, when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) announced in their fourth assessment report that “warming of the climate system is unequivocal,” that humans were “very likely” to blame, and that if we keep pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, climate will “very likely” change much more than it did in the 20th century. But researchers reported today that, in the 2 years since the report was released, the news has gotten even worse….”

  2. 352

    “…the small switch to alternative sources.”

    Wait–wasn’t the use of alternative sources going to create instant economic Armageddon, or some such?

    Well, hey, if it’s just a small switch, and we already did it…


  3. 353
    afeman says:

    Just caught Michael Mann at Politics & Prose in DC, and my compliments to him for coming off as a natural at public outreach. I have to echo somebody else’s sentiment that we’re lucky he’s the one to get picked for harassment. He expressed the need for somebody to pick up Sagan’s job for being science’s human face — sir, I’m afraid you’ve been drafted!

  4. 354

    Given the foofaraw about British vineyards in Roman times, this study of Australian vineyards over the past several decades is rather a nice counterpoint:

  5. 355


    I’m shocked–shocked!

  6. 356
    Rick Brown says:

    The Meinshausen 2009 Nature paper is available here (pdf):

  7. 357
    Isotopious says:

    Interview with Mike Mann here:

    It was a good interview, but in my opinion mike needs to be a little bit more clear as to way his UK colleagues did not include the tree ring data which diverged from temperature.

    In science, data that does not agree should not be thrown away (or hidden). This was the impression you gave in the interview unfortunately. You need to have a better explanation…maybe the trees were waterlogged, etc.. You mentioned pollution as a possible cause, but unless you know for sure….your UK friends need to include that data.

  8. 358
    dbostrom says:

    A prattler from upthread, polluting minds with rubbish:

    The rapid acceleration in CO2 emissions depicted is seen as worst case, and highly unlikely.

    Alternatively, somebody who knows the subject:

    The news on climate change seemed bad enough in 2007, when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) announced in their fourth assessment report that “warming of the climate system is unequivocal,” that humans were “very likely” to blame, and that if we keep pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, climate will “very likely” change much more than it did in the 20th century. But researchers reported today that, in the 2 years since the report was released, the news has gotten even worse.
    Climate scientist Chris Field of Stanford University relayed the first bit of bad news to a sober audience during his talk, “What is New and Surprising since the IPCC Fourth Assessment.” According to a paper his group published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2007, humans are now pumping out climate-warming gases nearly three times faster than the IPCC authors anticipated in their worst-case scenario. Specifically, Field described how carbon emissions had been increasing at 0.9% per year through the 1990s, but accelerated to 3.5% per year growth between 2000 and 2007.

    Climate Change Worst-Case Scenarios: Not Worst Enough

    (thanks, Hank.)

    A graph of reality is here. The curve tells us how we’re behaving in the world outside the space between the prattler’s ears. Crucially, the direction of the curve tells us that whatever we say we’re going to do, we’re accelerating the process of messing up our only habitable sphere.

    But what about the economic slowdown? Nope, not enough, as usual we have to count -all- years:

    Global emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil-fuel burning jumped by the largest amount on record last year, upending the notion that the brief decline during the recession might persist through the recovery.

    Emissions rose 5.9 percent in 2010, according to an analysis released Sunday by the Global Carbon Project, an international collaboration of scientists tracking the numbers. Scientists with the group said the increase, a half-billion extra tons of carbon pumped into the air, was almost certainly the largest absolute jump in any year since the Industrial Revolution, and the largest percentage increase since 2003.

    The increase solidified a trend of ever-rising emissions that scientists fear will make it difficult, if not impossible, to forestall severe climate change in coming decades.

    Carbon Emissions Show Biggest Jump Ever Recorded”

  9. 359
    Dan H. says:

    Thank you Rick,
    While the Meinshausen report uses the A1F1 scenario as Gavin described, CO2 concentrations have been increasing at a rate more closely following the A1B scenario.

    This would result in year 2100 atmospheric CO2 concentrations of 700 ppm, not 1000, as presumed by Meinhausen.

    [Response: The difference in 2012 between scenarios is small, and certainly can’t be sensibly extrapolated for the next 89 years. – gavin]

    Secondly, the Meinshausen paper shows the 2100 temperature rise a full 1C above the IPCC AR4 projection for the A1F1 scenario.

    [Response: Note the range not just the mean or median. Small differences are likely due to the carbon cycle model used and the trends in additional forcings. It is not due to higher climate sensitivities. – gavin]

  10. 360
    Ray Ladbury says:

    The divergence between reconstructed and measured temperature in the late 20th century was neither hidden nor glossed over. When the measurements and reconstruction diverge for a small portion of where we have both, it makes sense to put in the measurements. The measurements are not in doubt–even by denialists at BEST.

    The only thing the divergence calls into question is the fidelity of the reconstruction to actual temperatures–and as we have independent measures of this that are in accord, that is not an issue. That’s how science works–never rely on a single measurement or source for anything important.

  11. 361
    Dan H. says:

    Let me understand your conclusion. Are you claiming that small differences in CO2 emissions and the carbon cycle model are responsible for the differences between the Meinshausen range of 3.5-8C temperature increase and the IPCC likely range of 1.7-4.4C in 2100?

    [Response: Read the Meinshausen paper. The varied a large number of things around reasonable ranges – the emissions, sensitivity, carbon cycle parameters, while optimising against observed data. The median and range of their results is different to what the IPCC derived using a single model tuned to sensitivities from the GCMs. I think it is likely that the dominant difference is the carbon cycle feedback in a rapidly warming world which was not included in the IPCC figure you linked. But all the code and output from Meinshausen et al is available – you could do something useful and actually work it out instead of just assuming an answer that you find pleasing. – gavin]

  12. 362
    Paul S says:

    Regarding the CERN/CLOUD results suggesting an aerosol nucleation link with cosmic-rays, I was wondering why the focus is always on clouds? Wouldn’t an increased/decreased aerosol burden associated with GCR changes also have a direct scattering or absorbing effect?

  13. 363
    Hank Roberts says:

    Dan H. ‘cites’ a link at the IPCC as the source for his claim about the difference between two trends. It’s a picture with a single dashed line that shows nothing at all.

    I’m reminded of the investigation by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle about which Conan Doyle wrote:

    “The evidence was so complete and detailed, with such good names attached to it, that it was difficult to believe that it was false; but, being by nature of a somewhat sceptical turn, I felt that something closer was needed before I could feel personal conviction …. I am adding nothing by way of explanations or theories of my own ….”

  14. 364
  15. 365
    John E Pearson says:

    312 David Miller wondered: “So, one inquiring mind would like to know whether the biotic fixing is required or not. It seems like the ocean of the future – more acidic, warmer, fewer nutrients available due to stratification – would be much less able to support carbonate fixing life.”

    Well, sitting on the kindle on my “smart” phone is a really great book by some guy named David Archer: The Global Carbon Cycle. If I had actually read this book I could probably attempt to answer your question. As it is I can only recommend that you read it! The kindle version is about $15 on amazon.

    In any event, pretty early on in the book (a bit after box 2.2 , “The World According to Oxygen Isotopes”) he says: that cores taken from “Intermediate depths in the ocean … show warming of perhaps 5C” and that this warming was caused by CO2 the source of which is still controversial. I believe that the reduction in atmospheric CO2 after the palocene was due to weathering, so even with the warm acidic oceans apparently some sequestration mechanism operated. But don’t take my word for it. Read “The Global Carbon Cycle”!

  16. 366
  17. 367

    This looks to be pretty up-to-date on emissions vs. SRES scenarios. Looks to be an individual effort, worked up from published data.

    At the moment we’re a bit closer to A2 than A1F1, but we’re definitely on the high side of things.

  18. 368
    Deep Climate says:

    Wiley coverup: The great Wegman and Said “redo” to hide plagiarism and errors

    I had thought the saga of climate science critic Edward Wegman and the various allegations of misconduct in his recent work could not possibly get any more bizarre, especially in the wake of manifestly contradictory findings in two recently concluded investigations at George Mason University.

    But in a shocking new development, it turns out that two problematic overview articles by Wegman and his protege and congressional report co-author Yasmin Said in Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Computational Statistics (WIREs CS), have been completely revised. Those revisions saw the removal or rewriting of massive swathes of copy-and-paste scholarship, as well as correction of many errors identified by myself and others. In each case, the comprehensive revisions came “at the request of the Editors-in-Chief and the Publisher”, following complaints to Wiley alleging wholesale plagiarism. But Wegman and Said also happen to be two of the three chief editors of WIREs CompStat, thus raising compelling concerns of conflict of interest, to say the least.

    In fact, it is very clear that Wiley’s own process for handling misconduct cases was egregiously abused in favour of a face-saving “redo” manoeuvre. And this latest episode raises disturbing new questions about the role of the third WIREs CS editor-in-chief (and “hockey stick” congressional report co-author) David Scott, and indeed Wiley management itself, in enabling the serial misconduct of Wegman and Said.

    More here

  19. 369
    dbostrom says:

    Deep Climate says:
    16 Mar 2012 at 12:53 PM
    Wiley coverup: The great Wegman and Said “redo” to hide plagiarism and errors

    An amazing narrative; unless the evidence was there for all to see it’d be unbelievable.

    Pity the author or reader relying on that journal for concrete citations; published articles in Computational Statistics are susceptible to imperceptible melting and reformation between the time they’re originally published and then used for subsequent work.

    Perhaps a note could be added to submission guidelines elsewhere: Authors citing articles in Computational Statistics are advised to provide an MD5 hash for such works in references.

  20. 370
    Susan Anderson says:

    Speaking of nominating Mike Mann for more legal hijinks, I note with distress that the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund has only garnered a meager $25,000. Anybody?

    Some of you have been kind enough to ask about PW. He has donated …

  21. 371
    sidd says:

    From the link posted by Mr. Roberts:

    From Amy Cazenave:
    “For reasons that Cazenave says are not understood, water stopped expanding, perhaps temporarily, a few years ago. But sea level kept rising, which means that the water had to come from land”

    The table at

    suggests the heat into the ocean is now going into colder and fresher water, whose expansion coefficient is smaller than warmer and more saline water, resulting in smaller contribution to sea level rise.

    Also I have some doubts that the frequently used Boussinesq approximation might compound the issue. But that is probably a result of my own ignorance.


  22. 372
    jyyh says:

    Hudson bay images:
    looks like the coastal leads have started to form, good luck to anyone moving about with snowmobiles.

  23. 373
    Snapple says:

    On Friday, March 16, 2012, the famous paleoclimatologist Dr. Michael Mann spoke to all the students and faculty at Bishop O’Connell High School, a very large Catholic high school in Arlington,VA. Dr. Mann explained the science of climate change and the possible consequences of not addressing the problem. He showed pictures from his book “Dire Consequences: Understanding Global Warming.”

    The students, who are studying climate change in science, asked a lot of questions that impressed Dr. Mann. The science teachers were really proud of the thoughtful questions the kids asked.

    The Ecology Club all had their pictures taken with Dr. Mann. They were smiling like they were standing next to a rock star!

    Just so everyone knows, Catholic educational institutions teach the peer-reviewed science and follow the lead of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, which includes scientists who have helped write the IPCC Assessments.

    Thanks to Dr. Mann, Bishop O’Connell students will be able to continue studying real science if they attend a secular state university in Virginia.

  24. 374

    Power supply nerds will be interested in this special report from Canada’s CBC. Nice overview, regional coverage, and a cool interactive feature:

  25. 375
  26. 376
    ozajh says:

    Regarding the sciencemag link (which I note is 3 years old now), it seems to me the the Ellard comment makes some pretty hairy assumptions about the relationship between water temperatures and surface temperatures . . .

  27. 377

    Oh, and early climate science buffs may want to check out (ahem!) my debut SkS article, an examination of the work of William Charles Wells, who observed backradiation from cloud in–wait for it!–1811:

  28. 378
    Hank Roberts says:

    > citing articles in Computational Statistics

    A quite serious question — is there a way to cite the original vs. the changed papers?

    I see the journal has given up paper printed publication entirely as of this year, which facilitates such post-publiation revision.

    A proper way to refer to text in the original vs. the revised paper, for academic purposes, is needed for the original to be distinguished.

    How would a history of science paper discuss this, say if Dr. Weart were writing about the events?

  29. 379
    flxible says:

    Hank – You can always try the way back machine
    [spaminator won’t let me post the link?? ]

  30. 380
    dbostrom says:

    Hank: …is there a way to cite the original vs. the changed papers?

    I see the journal has given up paper printed publication entirely as of this year, which facilitates such post-publiation revision.

    Which makes expedient, silent morphing of papers easier but simultaneously makes the employment of a hash function to assure integrity easier.

    The first people to use email saw it as an entirely beneficial thing, until the invention of spam. Here’s another emergent effect from good intentions; electronic publication is unalloyed awesomium until we notice that not everybody acts in good faith.

    So far this is just a joke. :-)

  31. 381
    wili says:

    Weird weather: heat, twisters, 250K tons of snow

    climate scientist Andrew Weaver of the University of Victoria says: “When you start to see the extreme events become more common, that’s when you can say that it is a consequence of global warming.”

  32. 382
    Phil Clarke says:

    Just wanted to add my congratulations to Prof. Mann on the book. I read it in a sitting this afternoon. As an admittedly armchair climate geek I was familiar with a lot of this material but to see it laid out calmly and factually and in sequence in one place was at times, frankly shocking. A point I made in a short review on the Amazon UK site, which ended:

    “This is not a technical book on climate change, as others have said, however if you want your opinion on the AGW debate to be an informed one or are interested in the political forces even now shaping the future global climate, this is essential reading.”

  33. 383
    Hank Roberts says:

    > citing
    No, I know about the Wayback Machine (don’t know if they have copies of the original Computational Statistics paper, but as it’s paywalled, it’s unlikely).

    I’m asking hoping one of the readers here is someone like Spencer Weart — academic librarian or science historian — who might need to cite to the original vs. the altered version of that Computational Statistics paper.

    As paper goes away and links rot — and years go by — people will need references to the original paper, and to the revision.

    Not looking for the pointer to Deepclimate blog, or for opinions about how this might or could or should be done.

    I’m fishing for an answer from an actual librarian or science historian, trying to bait one to rise up and respond.

    It’s my standard research method (grin):

    “Glendower: I can call the spirits from the vasty deep.
    Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
    But will they come when you do call for them?”

    Just hoping one of the readers here is a real reference librarian or historian of science — wanting to ask how a professional handles this sort of cite.


    on weird weather, this is new:

    Evidence linking Arctic amplification to extreme weather in mid-latitudes
    17 March 2012

    Enhanced Arctic warming reduces poleward temperature gradient
    Weaker gradient affects waves in upper-level flow in two observable ways
    Both effects slow weather patterns, favoring extreme weather

  34. 384
    Meow says:

    @369, @380: Please do not employ raw hash functions to authenticate documents. Most raw hash functions (including especially MD5) are vulnerable to a message-extension attack. In this attack, a person who has document D and hash H(D) can formulate additional text T, such that when it’s appended to D, the hash of the resulting document H(D || T) == H(D).

    Use an HMAC instead of a raw hash, or (if you must) provide both H(D) and length(D), and tell your readers to check both.

    And don’t use MD5 for anything to do with authentication.

  35. 385
    Ron R. says:

    Hope this in’t considered too far out there for Unforced Variations. It’s a bit Twilight Zoneish:

    I’ve often wondered about why so many people are self-destructive even in the face of evidence of impending hazard. For example we know a large percentage of the population is part of a political party that is pretty much officially anti-environmental even though we need the environment in order to survive. Die-hard climate change skeptics far into this category.

    What could explain this mass insanity? Could it be something as simple as a “single-celled parasite in the protozoan family”?
    On a Hypothesis for Self-Destructive Behavior or A Possible Explanation for Climate Skeptics and other Nature Haters. (my title)

  36. 386
    dbostrom says:

    I was just waiting for somebody to point out the fallibility of MD5. :-) One (me, for instance) wonders about the probability of creating text such that it fulfills the function of revising erroneous content of the original while also meeting the requirement of producing a hash collision with same but nonetheless it’s quite true that later hash functions don’t sport the potential for manipulation of that kind at all.

    Hank’s question is a good one. Surely there’s protocol for this?

  37. 387
    Jim Larsen says:

    259 Thomas L E said, “From an straight out quantitative entropy and/or exergy analysis of fixed infrastructure non mobile applications – solar, wind and hydro are vastly superior to anything out there. Sorry, but that is the definition of quality.”

    “Quality” has many meanings and can be (has been here) linked to “energy”, “energy source”, “set” (as in SA’s original contention), or the implied whole system of power production, so I’m sure there are plenty of valid opinions. I won’t address hydro in this post except to say it’s of highly variable quality (the Mississippi has tons of energy but good luck harnessing it) and has both positive and negative externalities. Your analysis seems to exclude externalities, but I’d guess SA included them. I’ll exclude them here, especially since they could dwarf everything else in a BAU scenario.

    In descending rank:

    For natural resources, quality generally means concentration. Solar and wind are diffuse and intermittent, which makes them low quality. I think this is what Tony Weddle was referring to in his original post, which would make this the “correct” definition.

    Energy returned on energy invested is another measure of quality. Using this metric (and this random chart), wind is about like oil but far worse than coal, and solar sucks.

    For energy, quality often means convertibility. I don’t accept your exclusion of mobile applications, because they are the primary convertibility issue! Using this definition, solar and wind are low quality.

    Efficiency is a measure of quality. Solar cells can be ~10-15% efficient and wind 30%, but fossil fuel plants can be 60%. For heating applications, fossil fuels often exceed 90% efficiency.

    Longevity is an issue. Solar and wind can’t touch a coal power plant. Coal plants built with 1920s technology are still running. How long would you estimate a new one will last?

    Finally, last but perhaps first, economics. Currently, wind and solar are not widely competitive without subsidies. In niche markets, they make economic sense without subsidies.

    Your “quantitative entropy and/or exergy analysis” may trump all that. Would you explain it? Thanks.

  38. 388
    wili says:

    Thanks for that link, hank.

    Apologies if this has already been linked:

    “2012 Heat Records Demolish Cold Records 14-to-1”

    Here in Minnesota we’re having weeks of weather with highs and lows dozens of degrees above normal, records not just being broken, but blown completely out of the water. And similar extremes are being experienced across the continent.

    How exactly is this different from what we would expect if there had been a massive methane release from the Arctic?

    Just sayin’

  39. 389
    Hank Roberts says:

    > how exactly is this different
    location, location, location, and it’s weather not climate.

  40. 390

    #390–OK, like Ostro, I’m near Atlanta, and it is remarkably warm. In fact, most of North America is remarkably warm. And it’s going to be happening much more frequently, because we can’t seem to stop dumping combustion by-products into our atmosphere.


    This is largely weather.

    Remember last month?

    BTW, my fearless “denialism forecast” for the next month is for declining mentions of surface temperature trends, 30-50% chance of more scientist bashing, and sporadic outbreaks of ‘Arctic sea ice recovery’–at least until the melting season gathers some steam. (Right now extents are relatively high, though not in the Atlantic sector, and some brave Wattsian will probably try to make something of that. He/she will then look very foolish in about a month, and will have to change the subject again, quickly.)

  41. 391
    Rattus Norvegicus says:

    Speaking of sporadic outbreaks of sea ice recovery:

    Of course reading the NSIDC monthly report on why this is happening leaves one feeling considerably less sanguine.

  42. 392
    Meow says:

    @386: It’s not clear how practical (at present, mind you!) it is to attack an arbitrary document D “protected” by a raw MD5 hash.

    Attacks so far have focussed on an attacker creating multiple documents D1, D2, … such that H(D1) == H(D2) == …. See, e.g., Stevens et al, “Chosen-prefix Collisions for MD5 and Applications” (2008?), where the authors describe the creation of “12 different PDF documents with a common MD5-hash, where each document predicts a different outcome of the 2008 US presidential elections”, using “less than 2 days” of computation on a single PC per document, and add that “[s]ince we performed those computations our methods have improved as described in this paper, so this attack would now run much faster.”

    Given that we generally intend a document protected by an authentication method to remain protected indefinitely, it seems prudent to avoid using methods (such as raw-hash authentication) and hash algorithms (such as MD5) that have been found to be subject to other practical attacks, or that might be subject to practical attacks given foreseeable advances in computing power, advances in cryptanalysis, etc.

    Again: Please use an HMAC to authenticate documents, not a raw hash. And don’t use MD5 for anything related to authentication.

  43. 393

    #391–If only the ice were as predictable as WUWT & co….

  44. 394

    I have made a dissertation on my blog about this past winter existing and exiting with a mighty whimper. As always these events fall into the crack between meteorology and climatology, neither can be explained properly without the other. Suffices to say, in simple words, the reason why the jet stream is so far up North is because the North ain’t as cold as it use to be. I find it extraordinary that websites like WUWT are not shutting down out of shame for being so wrong about nearly every prognostication that they do. But the problem is more endemic to mega weather centers still attributing to the “all is cycles” bubble machine. Finally I must add, the best possible warning that global warming is taking a very strong footing, is perhaps by being gentle, making winter almost disappear. Is better than massive tornadoes and or hurricanes. Nature seems to be appealing for reasoning kindly, the other ways din’t make a dent.

  45. 395
    wili says:

    “It’s weather, not climate”

    “It’s largely weather”

    Let’s amend those to “It’s weather, likely influenced by climate change”

    Or do we think Stu Ostro with his “While natural factors are contributing to this warm spell…there is a hivh probability that global warming is having an influence upon its extremity” is just full of it?

  46. 396
    Hank Roberts says:

    An individual month, in a single state, in one country, is weather.
    Develop enough of a trend, and it’s climate.
    If there’s a methane catastrophe, it will be different.

  47. 397

    Hank, this time its bigger, many a people from a huge area have never lived March so warm. It is weather caused by a different climate. At its core is the science who predicted this to happen, and unfortunately for those who couldn’t see it coming, a science not applied but scoffed at. Lets invite contrarians to behold, go outside, see what you don’t believe in.

  48. 398
    wili says:

    Thanks, hank. But the record smashing temps are not just in one state, much less in one country. This heat wave seems comparable to the killer heat wave in Europe in 2003, in its extreme departure from anything close to the range of expected highs. And iirc that event is generally set out as one of the clearest examples of an occurrence that we can say pretty confidently would not have happened without GW.

    The low in International Falls yesterday almost exceeded the previous record HIGH temp for that day. And these extremely warm temps extend well into Canada and across much of the north and east US.

    Of course, it is not as deadly, since high temperatures in March mean something close to usual summer temps.

  49. 399
    John Pollack says:

    It’s weather, of course, but strongly influenced by climate change. The case of Marquette, on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, is interesting. Yesterday’s high was 75F, today’s 78. The previous record (back to 1948)for March was 71. Previous to 2012, there were only two days in March to reach 70, both since 2000. If you assume that climate isn’t changing, such an event is wildly improbable. It was facilitated by a SSW wind that avoided a fetch off of cold Lake Superior. However, that would not have been enough if it weren’t for the absence of snow to melt further south, the product of a mild winter and an early spring.

    To take it another step, this shouldn’t have been a mild winter. La Nina should have produced a cold winter from the upper Plains to the western Great Lakes.
    Is AGW undoing the previous ENSO modulation of U.S. winters?

    One more step: The unprecedented early snowmelt in the north is an extra source of heat, which helps enhance a high pressure ridge aloft. This should also enhance the rex block pattern which is forcast to nearly stall a closed upper low over the south central/central U.S.
    resulting in excessive rainfall and flooding across parts of the south central U.S. in the next few days.

  50. 400
    Hank Roberts says:

    > wili
    As Kevin wrote above: Remember last month?
    I’m not arguing with your beliefs, just saying, the science takes a while. Proclaiming beliefs on a science blog kind of misses the point of science.