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Unforced Variations: March 2013

Filed under: — group @ 4 March 2013

A new open thread – hopefully for some new climate science topics…

350 Responses to “Unforced Variations: March 2013”

  1. 51
    wili says:

    Here’s the place to find those weekly trends in CO2 atmospheric concentrations, with comparisons with the figures from the previous year:

  2. 52
    ozajh says:

    Paraquat @49,

    On the other hand, if you could make a SMALL fuel cell at a reasonable price it would resolve some of the issues people have with electric cars’ dependence on charging stations. Set it up to automatically switch on and recharge the main battery pack whenever the charge level drops below a given percentage. For a commuter vehicle even a few hundred watts coming in while parked during work hours would add up to significant range replenishment.

    I take your point about fuel storage, though. I wonder if you can get a fuel cell that will run efficiently on Ethanol.

  3. 53
    Greg Goodman says:

    I have written an article looking in detail at surface temperature variations in all the major oceanic basins

    There are some interesting pattens. Some cycles seem common to many basins.

    whether these are “unforced” or forced by something ought to be looked at if we want to better understand climate.

  4. 54
    Alastair McDonald says:

    Re 51 by willi

    Last month (Feb 2013) the Mauna Loa CO2 was 396.80 ppm. This was 3.26 ppm greater than the 393.54 recorded in Feb 2012. If May this year is 3.26 ppm higher than May 2012, which stood at 396.78 ppm, then the monthly value for May will break the 400 ppm barrier by 0.04 ppm!

  5. 55
    MARodger says:

    wili @51
    The CO2 rise last month was pretty exceptional, the highest rise by some margin outside an El Nino (see graph of 1958-to date monthly CO2 rise here). I had always assumed 2013 would fall short of the first 400ppm month but unless this February figure proves an outlier, 400ppm in May will only take a repeat of the Feb-May 2012 rise.

  6. 56
    MARodger says:

    (Oops. The intended second link above was to this year-on-year CO2 graph.)

  7. 57
    wili says:

    Good point, Alastair. We have a ‘good’ chance of breaking that century mark.

    Of course, on the one hand, it is an arbitrary number.

    But if we can’t get excited by the fact that

    >CO2 concentrations are rising at an accelerating rate, or that

    >permafrost feedbacks may be kicking in, or that

    >we have broken the ice cap…

    perhaps the passing of an essentially arbitrary number will do the trick??

    One does get the sense that we are now in new territory, and moving into the 400’s makes that somehow more palpable (though we have presumably been in the 400’s in terms of CO2 equivalent for a number of years).

  8. 58
    Alexandre says:

    I’d like to suggest some articles on regional climate change projections. IThis would be a more tangible approach for the layman, and thus an interesting climate change communication means.

    Being from Brazil, I would have particular interest in the Amazon, but in general I’m sure the regional impacts would receive a lot of attention from those who are not nerdy enough to dig into equations, graphs and radiation budgets.

  9. 59
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Alexandre, where in Brazil are you located. I’ve visited your country about half a dozen times since my first visit our our honeymoon, when I made my wife travel 7000 miles by bus in 6 weeks. (and yes, we’re still married) ;-)

  10. 60
    Tom Adams says:

    #1, you said:

    “This, in turn, has led to wet regions getting wetter, and dry regions drier.”

    but that was the literature review. The paper’s new info:

    “On a regional scale, the tendency for wet seasons to get wetter occurs over climatologically rainier regions. Similarly, the tendency for dry season to get drier is seen in drier regions.”

    One would think that lots of details about the future water cycle should be in the past history of hot years, since the water cycle responds quickly to higher temperatures.

  11. 61
    Leonard Evens says:

    About my previoous comment about Joe Nocera (42): I did some googling and found that Nocera has been severely criticized about inaccuracies in what he has said about the pipeline to deliver tar sand oil to the US. He also apparently got most of what he said about Jim Hansen wrong.

    Joe Nocera’s expertise is business, not science of any kind, but he apparently doesn’t even understand the economics of climate change. Unfortunately, the NY Times has given him a very large megaphone which can use to spread disinformation about the subject.

  12. 62
    Alexandre says:

    Ray Ladbury,

    I’m in Serra Negra, a small town some 150 Km north of Sao Paulo. If you sometime happen to be in the neighbourhood, please drop by to have a beer!


  13. 63
    Greg Goodman says:

    We only hear about run-away melting in Artic ice but looking at all the daily data available for over 30 years now we also see there are strong “unforced” cyclic variations up there too.

    This plot is rate of change so the zero line represents neither loss not gain.

    The media tend to focus on one day per year in September. Scientists need to dig a bit deeper. What is happening up there is a lot more interesting than simple melting.

    I will be posting an article on that soon.

  14. 64
    Greg Goodman says:

    [Sorry the URL is not accessible for non logged please use this]

    We only hear about run-away melting in Artic ice but looking at all the daily data available for over 30 years now we also see there are strong “unforced” cyclic variations up there too.

    This plot is rate of change so the zero line represents neither loss not gain.

    The media tend to focus on one day per year in September. Scientists need to dig a bit deeper. What is happening up there is a lot more interesting than simple melting.

    I will be posting an article on that soon.

  15. 65
    Hank Roberts says:

    > who is Joe Nocera
    Opinions vary

  16. 66
    wili says:

    Thanks for the great graphs, MAR.

    At what point can we determine whether higher rates of CO2 concentration increases are purely the result of the ongoing recovery of a still-mostly-ff-powered global economy, and how much might be carbon feedbacks starting to kick in and sinks (such as oceans and soils)starting to fail? Will there be an isotope signature for such events?

  17. 67
    Paul S says:

    Alastair McDonald,

    >400ppm monthly average for May at Mauna Loa is very unlikely I think, though 400ppm for a weekly figure is possible.

    There was a milestone with this February’s average though: It’s the first time in the Mauna Loa record that a February average has been higher than the previous year’s May average – normally the peak in the annual cycle (albeit the difference isn’t significant).

  18. 68

    #43–Dan, the question wasn’t whether the initial production run would make a dent in CO2 emissions (though that is certainly a burning–no pun intended–question.) It was whether there was ‘much hope of powering cars purely from hydrogen.’ Inasmuch as we are now doing just that in production vehicles, I’d have to say it’s now a fait accompli.

    #45–Paraquat, thank you for expanding. But your information is about a decade behind the state of the art:

    Fuel cells are generally priced in USD/kW. The U.S. Department of Energy estimated that the cost of a fuel cell for an automobile in 2002 was approximately $275/kw, which translated into each vehicle costing more than 1 million dollars. However, by 2010, the Department of Energy estimated that the cost had fallen 80% and that such fuel cells could be manufactured for $51/kW, assuming high-volume manufacturing cost savings.[40] Ballard Power Systems also published similar data. Their 2005 figure was $73 USD/kW (based on high volume manufacturing estimates), which they said was on track to achieve the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2012 goal of $30 USD/kW. This would achieve closer parity with internal combustion engines for automotive applications, allowing a 100 kW fuel cell to be produced for $3000. 100 kW is about 134 hp.[41]

    I’m not saying that fuel cells will save our butts, necessarily–“TANSTAAFL” could well morph to “TANSTAASB” by substituting ‘silver bullet’ for ‘free lunch.’ But the current number is, according to the DOE, $47/kw:

    If we extrapolate, then, the fuel cell cost might be somewhere in the vicinity of $5000, if manufactured at large scale.

    As to actual cost of the Hyundai ix35s going to Copenhagen, both parties seem to be keeping mum, which does make one wonder. All anyone seems to know is that it is a lease arrangement.

    I’ll leave it there–the subject is interesting, but peripheral to climate science.

  19. 69
    Derrell Durrett says:

    This looks interesting:

    It seems like it could shed some light on whether changes in cosmic rays have any effect on climate, since it puts some numbers to the changes to the clouds (it’s not clear to me if cloud cover or density were studied, though).

  20. 70
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Antiscience blogs capture the Science category in annual Weblog Awards – 13 out of 17 finalists are climate denialists – ‘Science blogs would rather complain about the results than try to submit nominations themselves’

    In an escalation of the annual farce that plays out at the Weblog Awards (cf. Antiscience site wins another ‘Best Science or Technology Weblog’ award), this year we have 4 of 5 nominees in the Science category held by antiscience blogs. In 2010, Des tried to persuade the Weblog Awards staff to reconsider allowing antiscience blogs into the Science category, to no avail. In 2012, climate science denialists added “Best Canadian Weblog” to their trophy case.

  21. 71
  22. 72
    SecularAnimist says:

    Kevin McKinney wrote: “I’m not saying that fuel cells will save our butts, necessarily …”

    First of all, we don’t need to keep the cars going (with fuel cells or otherwise) to “save our butts” — and we certainly don’t need to find ways to maintain an economy that is absolutely dependent on selling 10-15 million new cars every year in the USA alone.

    The current dominance of auto-centric lifestyles in the USA gives rise to an exaggerated sense of the importance of maintaining that lifestyle. There are plenty of ways to drastically reduce the role of cars in modern, high-tech societies, and numerous social, environmental, and public health benefits from doing so.

    Second, a problem facing developers of automotive fuel cell technology is that battery-powered EVs have a huge head start.

    Current EV batteries are already very, very good, and are rapidly getting better and cheaper. Battery EVs can be easily “refueled” by many consumers right at home from a standard AC outlet, and the public charging infrastructure for them is already being rapidly deployed (with considerable backing from the car manufacturers and utilities and tech companies).

    Also, battery EVs are so inherently simple and cheap to mass-produce that as the technology becomes more standardized (assembled from generic components with standardized form-factors and interfaces like PCs) and production scales up, costs are likely to plummet.

    Moreover, there are already multiple mass-market battery EVs available, which are selling at much higher rates than the first generation of gasoline-electric hybrids did in their first years on the market, and there are multiple new, better and cheaper battery EVs coming to market in the next year or two.

    So battery EVs have a huge head-start not only in the development and commercialization of the technology, and in infrastructure support, but in public acceptance as well.

    All of that is going to be very tough for hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles to compete with.

  23. 73
    Russell says:

    This is the way the world ends ?

  24. 74
    Hank Roberts says:

    > fuel cells

    Test them for crashes as seen in those Russian dashboard videos.
    (Notable that dramatic crashes don’t go boom, with gasoline vehicles.)

  25. 75

    #72–That makes a lot of sense, SA. I wasn’t propagandizing for (or against) HFC technology, just trying to set the record a bit straighter. I suspect now that paraquat may really have been meaning something like “little hope of creating a vehicle fleet purely powered by hydrogen,” which would then connect with your comments.

    However, predictions are hard, and especially about the future (as a bona fide Baseball Sage once observed.) I’m just hoping that your more optimistic ones are right, anyway.

    I will say, though, that the folks at Hyundai are reportedly betting several hundreds of millions of euros that there is a commercial future for their technology. That bespeaks a certain seriousness, at least.

  26. 76
  27. 77
    Paraquat says:

    #72 Comment by SecularAnimist

    Good comment, and I agree with most of your points. Namely:

    1) Yes, we are overly dependent on cars, and that should change, and…
    2) That said, EVs are currently the most promising technology we have for non-fossil fuel powered vehicles.

    Regarding my discussion about ammonia-powered cars…I brought it up mainly because EVs still have a serious limitation for range. Better batteries (or maybe ultra-capacitors) offer a possible future solution, and I hope that comes to pass. But another approach worth exploring might be a hybrid, burning ammonia in a small engine to recharge the EV’s batteries when it is beyond the range of a grid-connected power outlet.

    Talking about hybrids, I remember seeing a video about a year ago where someone demonstrated using a very small and fuel-efficient turbine engine to power the generator. Compared to an internal combustion engine, turbines are very efficient if they are run at steady speeds. Running a car’s drive-train directly off a turbine has been tried and found lacking – they are poor at acceleration and deceleration, and will gobble fuel when used that way. Unfortunately, I have not heard any more about this turbine-hybrid concept since that one time, and I wonder if the research is still continuing. Anyone have more info? I did a bit of Googling but didn’t find much.

  28. 78
    RussellThor says:

    @MARodger (or anyone else)
    A question about ocean heat content, in the ocean heat content graph near the bottom of this page:

    Why has 0-700m and 0-2000m diverged in the last 10 years or so, they seem to be a lot more correlated up until there. Is it something real, or measurement noise.

    [Response: It’s not noise – it’s more likely to be data sparsity in the early periods, so that the variance in the 700-2000m region is being underestimated. – gavin]

  29. 79
    Dan H. says:

    Nice graphic, and definitely more telling. I look forward to your article.

  30. 80
    Steve Fish says:

    For those who wish to promote hydrogen fuel cell, or combustion, technology for transportation, it is deficient to not also discuss the economics how the hydrogen is produced in the first place, the engineering and cost for compressing and storing it for distribution, and the significant problems of leakage and safety involved in storing it in an auto “gas tank.”


  31. 81
    Hank Roberts says:

    Alas, the appropriately certificated authorities and Google don’t even trust Emiliana.

  32. 82
    Vincent van der Goes says:

    Once again, thanks to everyone who provided feedback.

    Chris Colose: great, exactly what I was looking for!

    Lennart van der Linde: if you are interested in further contact, shall I send you an email?


    Being a story (I scribble stories myself), what you probably need is less how we 21st century folk would view a BAU 25th century but how 25th century folk would view it.

    Good point. Since humanity would still be facing ever worsening and virtually unstoppable consequences, and the problem was created in an age when life was better and Earth a more pleasant place, my guess is that most people living at that time will be feeling quite bitter about it.

  33. 83
    Greg Goodman says:

    We only hear about run-away melting in Artic ice but looking at all the daily data available for over 30 years now we also see there are strong “unforced” cyclic variations up there too.

    This plot is rate of change so the zero line represents neither loss not gain.

    The media tend to focus on one day per year in September. Scientists need to dig a bit deeper. What is happening up there is a lot more interesting than simple melting.

    Thorough investigation of the daily satellite ice data could give important clues to a better understanding of the “internal” fluctuations in the climate system: the part that, so far, models have trouble reproducing.

  34. 84

    I love the idea of ammonia powered cars. I remember the weird atmosphere in the house in the late 1950s and early 1960s when my sisters would give themselves home permanents. (Who remembers the ad slogan, “Which twin has the Toni?”) Ammonia, in concentrations low enough that it doesn’t eviscerate your nasal passages, has a feral, fox-like smell that’s also oddly antiseptic, metallic, and corrosive.

    On an industrial scale, that much ammonia in the air would transform the planet to one of the moons of Jupiter. We’d have to mutate into something like the big eyed humanoids of “2001.”

  35. 85
    cowichan says:

    BBC article on melting arctic glaciers:

  36. 86
    flxible says:

    Seems Yogi had it right Kevin. Judging from the recent past, the future may not turn out to be what some expect. There even appears to be some fuel cell powered folks in California driving for free. I’d think it’s worth staying tuned considering what’s happening in the EU, especially in Germany.

  37. 87
    SecularAnimist says:

    Steve Fish wrote: “… how the hydrogen is produced in the first place …”

    Behold MIT’s “artificial leaf”:

    … a small device that, when placed in a container of water and exposed to sunlight, would produce bubbles of hydrogen and oxygen.

    The device combines two technologies: a standard silicon solar cell, which converts sunlight into electricity, and chemical catalysts applied to each side of the cell. Together, these would create an electrochemical device that uses an electric current to split atoms of hydrogen and oxygen from the water molecules surrounding them.

    The goal is to produce an inexpensive, self-contained system that could be built from abundant materials …

    I don’t much like the moniker “artificial leaf” since it implies artificial photosynthesis, which is not what the device does — it’s basically self-contained, scalable, PV-powered electrolysis to separate oxygen and hydrogen from water.

    But it seems like a potentially valuable technology for “storing” solar energy in the form of hydrogen.

  38. 88

    I recently redid the analysis of Klotzbach-2009 (more info here) and got a response from John Christy on ‘Staat van het Klimaat’ and WUWT.

    Of course this is some sort of shameless advertisement for my writings, but I’m also very interested in the opinion of others regarding Christy’s response. My response to Christy can be found here:

  39. 89
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    Okay, here’s a new topic: “But they are not ‘climate scientists’ with degrees in climate science; they just say [illegimately] that they are climate scientists.”

    I’ve been trying to explain to such denialist claims that any relatively new field will have scientists who do not have their degrees in that exact field, but have come to focus their studies on and publish in that field; and if their peer-reviewed scientific studies withstand the pressures of time and scientific scrutiny — that’s what makes them climate scientists or xyz scientists, not their terminal degree.

    For instance, Franz Boas got his PhD in physics, but became the father of modern anthropology — and no one thinks of him as a physicist, but as an anthropologist. Even his bitter intellectual enemies in anthropology would laugh at the silly notion that he was not anthropologist just bec his PhD was in physics.

    So — how many climate scientists actually have PhDs in “climate science,” and how many PhD-granting programs are there in climate science?

    I also mentioned that it wouldn’t surprise me if the senior faculty of such Climate Science programs — who do research in and teach about climate science — had degrees in other, related fields.

    Any ammo for me to disabuse such denialists?

  40. 90
    Edward Greisch says:

    ammonia powered cars: A long time ago, somebody came up with the idea of hydrazine [double ammonia, N2H6] to replace gasoline. Problem: hydrazine is a “monopropellant”/explosive without air.

  41. 91
  42. 92
    MARodger says:

    The graph is no more than a simple representation of the Levitus OHC anomaly data (non-controversial with perhaps the exception of the spelling of zettaJoule).
    That a trace of a deep OHC anomaly crosses the trace of a shallow OHC is surely to be expected.
    The question of the sudden nature of this crossing may be worthy of discussion. Myself, while conscious of the difficult subject of OHC data accuracy, I am less inclined (less than perhaps the #79 Response) to dismiss the ‘divergence’ since 2003 simply as ‘noise’. That is, I am not myself unreceptive to the idea that deep ocean heating could quite quickly assert itself, thus resulting in reduced shallow ocean heating. Yet I must make clear that such a personal point of view is in no way a scientific one. Far from it!

  43. 93
  44. 94
    Michael Sweet says:

    The Los Angeles Times had an interesting article about a new record of the temperature of the Holocene to be published Friday (tomorrow) in Nature. Does anyone have expert comentary about what their results mean and how robust they are?

  45. 95
    tamino says:

    Re: #63 (Greg Goodman)

    About your claim of “strong “unforced” cyclic variations” and that “Scientists need to dig a bit deeper.”

    You need to go back to school:

  46. 96
    Tapani L. says:

    Oh Greg, you dug too deep, man, you dug too deep!

  47. 97
    Chris Dudley says:

    Vincent (#82),

    How bitter do we feel that there are no mammoth or buffalo to hunt? I think that if you write something post-apocalyptic, your characters will find things of beauty to appreciate. The movie “Wizards” might be something to look at.

    One thing you might want to consider is surviving technology. In Mad Max, a post nuclear holocaust scenario, there are surviving vehicles and small fuel depots. But from 500 years ago we see some stone structures and stained glass. I did a calculation a few years ago that the radiation environment just below the tank of a steel water tower is such that a solar panel should be protected from both ground and cosmic radiation and thus function for long past its normal lifetime. If you are going to use a water vapor runaway climate, your people might live high in the atmosphere using salvaged panels to fill bladders with hydrogen for buoyancy and produce oxygen to breath though electrolysis. There would be a lot of volatilized sulfur available too to work with. Could a bladder ladened with stored ice from high in the atmosphere descend to the roasting surface to scavenge and survive to return to sunlight? It would be gaseous leviathan. How would your people know where to drop down? Losing count of the orbits of the Galilean satellites of Jupiter could be a major plot complication since it might wreck navigation. Lots of fun things to consider.

  48. 98
    T Marvell says:

    Post 63 – what is the impact of thermohaline circulation, the great conveyor belt?

  49. 99
    Hank Roberts says:

    When the links work: Can you explain that in words?

    Rate of change — look at
    Accelerated decline in the Arctic sea ice cover
    3 JAN 2008
    DOI: 10.1029/2007GL031972
    Cited by many subsequent papers

  50. 100
    Victor says:

    Looks like Greg Goodman (above in comments) has been made to look like a fool: