RealClimate logo

Note 3/23/2021: we had a few hiccups with comments after moving the site to https/SSL. Hopefully they're fixed now. Please let us know if there are remaining issues.

Unforced Variations: Jan 2014

Filed under: — group @ 2 January 2014

First open thread of the new year. A time for ‘best of’s of climate science last year and previews for the this year perhaps? We will have an assessment of the updates to annual indices and model/data comparisons later in the month.

662 Responses to “Unforced Variations: Jan 2014”

  1. 1
    prokaryotes says:

    Want to learn more about climate change and renewable energy? Penn State is holding a FREE 8 week Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) entitled “Energy, the Environment, and Our Future.” The course is being taught by ETOM’s own Professor Richard Alley. Sign up here:

  2. 2
    wili says:

    This is my nomination for the most important statement last year.

    “Emissions reduction of 6%/year and 100 GtC storage in the biosphere and soils are needed to get CO2 back to 350 ppm, the approximate requirement for restoring the planet’s energy balance and stabilizing climate this century. Such a pathway is exceedingly difficult to achieve, given the current widespread absence of policies to drive rapid movement to carbon-free energies and the lifetime of energy infrastructure in place.”

    “Review Assessing ‘‘Dangerous Climate Change’’: Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature” Hansen et alia. PLOSONE December2013, volume 8 issue 12 e81648, page 18.

    Kevin Anderson set the needed immediate carbon emission reductions for industrial countries at at least 10%.

    Two of the world’s leading climate scientists have now laid down clear indications of the range of reductions needed immediately. It is the job of the rest of us to make it happen.

    What are your strategies for realizing these difficult-to-achieve but absolutely necessary reductions personally, locally, nationally and globally? Can we have a conversation about this crucial issue here?

  3. 3
    Martin Smith says:

    I have been watching this animation every week for a long time. All of Antarctica has been colder than normal for many weeks. Do we know what is causing this?

  4. 4
    prokaryotes says:

    Martin Smith, it might have to do with the strongest Jet Stream ever recorded? But without checking the monthly/annual average and numerical comparisons it’s hard to put the animation you link into a broader perspective.

  5. 5
  6. 6
    Hank Roberts says:

    In response to a question from Representative Barton …. to allow independent evaluation of both your and Lord Monckton’s reports [PDF]

    Shorter: Monckton takes Barton for a trip down the up escalator.
    NOAA doesn’t include that picture in their reply. Regrettably.

  7. 7
    Hank Roberts says:

    oh my, I was resolved to post less in 2014, I’m already up to February’s self-imposed quota, but, this is priceless (from twitter). Tom Nelson gives us the very definition of epistomology, while sounding like he doesn’t know what the word means.

    Gavin Schmidt ‏@ClimateOfGavin 38m
    @tan123 Tip: You should really take a course in epistemology – it would do you a lot of good.

    Tom Nelson
    .@ClimateOfGavin … *that’s* the best you can do?!

  8. 8
    SecularAnimist says:

    wili quoted Hansen et al: “Such a pathway is exceedingly difficult to achieve, given the current widespread absence of policies …”

    A lot of things are exceedingly difficult to achieve in the absence of any effort to achieve them.

  9. 9
    DIOGENES says:

    Wili #2,

    “Two of the world’s leading climate scientists have now laid down clear indications of the range of reductions needed immediately. It is the job of the rest of us to make it happen.”

    As I have posted previously, the climate advocacy community needs to present a clear, simple, and unified message of what is needed before a critical mass of people can be assembled. Your statement above reflects the problem we have presently.

    Here are two experts who have studied the problem; the combination of their messages is neither clear, simple, nor unified, and one can only imagine the combined message of perhaps ten leading experts. First, Hansen believes that temperature increases much above prior Holocene experience of about 1 C would be ‘deleterious’, and his computations are based on that ceiling. While Anderson has stated that temperatures much above that range would be ‘dangerous’, his computations are based on 2 C. Thus, the two emissions reductions you quoted were net generated on a consistent basis. Other experts say these numbers are wishful thinking, and we should be prepared to adapt to a 4 C world.

    So, we are starting out with different targets. Hansen includes reforestation in his CO2 emission reductions required; I don’t believe Anderson does. Hansen looks at only two deforestation levels: 50 GtC and 100 GtC. For 50 GtC, a 9%/year CO2 emissions reduction is required starting now; for 100 GtC, the 6% you quote. He does not include 0 GtC, which by itself is a formidable target, given that we have been deforesting recently (net) at about seven million hectacres/year. What are the CO2 emissions reductions required for 0 GtC? I suspect he did not include this point for the same reason Anderson did not include it (1.1 C ceiling and 0 GtC); the emissions reductions required would probably be horrific.

    So, we have only two experts, and the targets and assumptions are already very different. If there is a coherent message here, it is not easily available. Then you ask: “What are your strategies for realizing these difficult-to-achieve but absolutely necessary reductions personally, locally, nationally and globally?” Excellent question. The answer would involve some combination of improved energy efficiency, rapid introduction of renewables, rapid introduction of nuclear, reduction in demand, and other ancillary measures like carbon sequestration, geoengineering, etc. Each of these components has different time consequences; if the lower temperatures are the appropriate target, we have to place high weighting on those components that can be implemented in the very near term, and if the higher temperatures are acceptable, we can then add the longer lead time components to the mix. Thus, our potential actions require a clear and unified message.

    Superimposed on these technical issues are the economic and political issues. How do we get the Tony Abbotts of the world to unilaterally leave their fossil reserves where they belong: in the ground? That includes Steven Harper, Vladimir Putin, and, yes, our own Barack Obama. Until you can answer this question (which I can’t), forget about answering the technical questions above.

  10. 10
    GlenFergus says:

    prok @ #5: Also the year just passed was the hottest on record in Aus:

    A new record was set for the number of consecutive days the national average temperature exceeded 39C – seven days between January 2 and 8, 2013, almost doubling the previous record of four consecutive days in 1973.

  11. 11
  12. 12
    prokaryotes says:

    Annual climate statement 2013
    Issued Friday 3 January 2014

    Data collected and analysed by the Bureau of Meteorology show that 2013 was Australia’s warmest year on record while rainfall was slightly below average nationally.
    Summer 2012–13 was the warmest on record nationally, spring was also the warmest on record and winter the third warmest
    Overall, 2013 was Australia’s warmest year on record: annual national mean temperature was +1.20 °C above average
    All States and the Northern Territory ranked in the four warmest years on record
    Nationally-averaged rainfall was slightly below average for the year, with 428 mm (1961–1990 average 465 mm)
    Rainfall was mostly below average for the inland east and centre, and above average for the east coast, northern Tasmania and parts of Western Australia

  13. 13
  14. 14
    prokaryotes says:

    Exceptional, the current temperatures are in parts above 10C average.[1]

    Another study suggest that without the record flooding in Australia in recent years the continent would be much more prone to extremes.

    Pause in Sea Level Rise Tied to Massive Flooding in Australia Study URL

  15. 15
    prokaryotes says:

    Methane hydrates and global warming

    One of the most obvious assumptions was that the increasing global warming has already extended into these regions of the North Atlantic. However, the investigations partly carried out with the German research submersible JAGO, pointed clearly to natural causes. “On one hand, we have found that the seasonal variations in temperature in this region are sufficient to push the stability zone of gas hydrates more than a kilometre up and down the slope,” Professor Berndt explains. “Additionally, we discovered carbonate structures in the vicinity of methane seeps at the seafloor”, Dr. Tom Feseker from MARUM adds. “These are clear indicators that the outgassing likely takes place over very long time periods, presumably for several thousand years”, Feseker continues.

  16. 16
    prokaryotes says:

    DIOGENES: How do we get the Tony Abbotts of the world to unilaterally leave their fossil reserves where they belong: in the ground?

    Separate Oil and State.

  17. 17
    Fred Magyar says:

    @8 SecularAnimist says:

    “A lot of things are exceedingly difficult to achieve in the absence of any effort to achieve them.”

    It probably doesn’t help matters, that apparently the salaries of many of those who might be tasked with attempting to achieve such things, specifically depend, on their doing everything in their power NOT to achieve them…

  18. 18
    wili says:

    Good points, SA and FM.

    Diogenes, it seems to me that a healthy portion of the reductions have to come from…reductions. We have to just mostly start doing a whole heck of a lot _less_. Why do we have to constantly zip our sorry carcases all over the place? Especially in this age of online communication? Most of what we purchase we throw away within a few days or weeks, or we never use it after the first few times. We are killing the world, and it’s not mostly even making us very happy. Time to do a sudden 180!

    Prok, I don’t say this to just everyone, but: I fink you freaky, and I like you a lot!


  19. 19
    prokaryotes says:

    “While many climate extremes cannot be directly attributed to a changing climate, the burden of extremes Australia is experiencing is a product of climate change and requires a coordinated national response.”

    The 2013 record high is also remarkable because it occurred not in an El Nino year (where a warm ocean current can push up temperatures), but a normal year.

    Professor David Karoly, from the School of Earth Sciences at University of Melbourne, says analysis has been made of the temperature record using simulations with nine different climate models that represent the natural variability of Australian average temperatures.

    He says these indicate that greenhouse climate change vastly increased the odds of setting a new temperature record.

    In the model experiments, it is not possible to reach such a temperature record due to natural climate variations alone,” Professor Karoly says.

    In simulations with no increases in greenhouse gases, none of the more than 13,000 model years analysed reach the record temperature observed in 2013.

    And in simulations for 2006 to 2020 with natural variability and human influences, including increases in greenhouse gases, such records occur approximately once in every ten years.

    “Hence, this record could not occur due to natural variability alone and is only possible due to the combination of greenhouse climate change and natural variability on Australian average temperature.”

  20. 20
    prokaryotes says:

    I’m not entirely sure how you came with this song suggestion wili, but thanks for the positive expression. A friend showed me this artist before but it is not exactly what i’m listening to. Listening now Cheers.

  21. 21
  22. 22
  23. 23
    Tony Weddle says:

    wili asked, “What are your strategies for realizing these difficult-to-achieve but absolutely necessary reductions personally, locally, nationally and globally?

    Without a doubt (IMHO), we have to jetison the notion that whatever we do about this can achieve the necessary reductions and continue our current ways of living.

  24. 24
    prokaryotes says:

    Can regional climate engineering save the summer Arctic Sea-Ice?
    DOI: 10.1002/2013GL058731
    Rapid declines in summer Arctic sea-ice extent are projected under high-forcing future climate scenarios. Regional Arctic climate engineering has been suggested as an emergency strategy to save the sea-ice. Model simulations of idealized regional dimming experiments compared to a business-as-usual greenhouse gas emission simulation demonstrate the importance of both local and remote feedback mechanisms to the surface energy budget in high latitudes. With increasing artificial reduction in incoming shortwave radiation, the positive surface albedo feedback from Arctic sea-ice loss is reduced. However, changes in Arctic clouds and the strongly increasing northward heat transport both counteract the direct dimming effects. A four times stronger local reduction in solar radiation compared to a global experiment is required to preserve summer Arctic sea-ice area. Even with regional Arctic dimming, a reduction in the strength of the oceanic meridional overturning circulation and a shut down of Labrador Sea deep convection are possible.

  25. 25
    prokaryotes says:

    John Nairn from the weather bureau says several outback towns had temperatures well into the 40s.

    “Our temperatures have been near record, the highest temperature we had was at Moomba at 49.3 degrees but a lot of centres up there are pushing up around that 50 mark,” he said.

    It is unusually hot. It’s at least 15 degrees above the average up there at the moment and those are pretty unusual temperatures.”

  26. 26
    Martin Smith says:

    +prokaryotes, How does a strong jet stream over the northern hemisphere cause below normal temps over the Antarctic?

  27. 27
    JGarland says:

    All the talk of hot Australia temps aside, we are definitely seeing an extremely cold stretch here in NA right now. Next week, for example, the GEM-GLB models are predicting freezing temps all the way into northern Mexico early in the week far below 20N. Expect a lot of comments about “it’s really cold (insert place), therefore all the scientists are crazy/stupid/dishonest.”

    Expect no comment at all about the fact that right now and on into next week the we will also observe above freezing temps both in the northern Davis Straits and in the Norwegian/Barents Sea areas presently at latitudes in excess of 80N at times which are presently in 24 hour dark!

  28. 28
    prokaryotes says:

    Martin Smith, somehow i misread your question, i thought you meant Arctic not Antarctic.

  29. 29
    prokaryotes says:

    Martin, this might explain the NCEP surface temperture anomaly data you linked above.

    Why are the surface temps too cold

  30. 30

    #19–Thanks, Prokaryotes, for #19 in particular. I’ve incorporated that story into my year-end review of climate stories:

    (NB–the title reflects the article origins as a *prospective* on 2013. I’ve changed it to “Climate 2013–The Year In Prospect And Review” to reflect the year-end updates, but the since the original also functions as URL it can’t update in that respect.)

    Any other nominees for inclusion in the review?

  31. 31

    #27–Yes, indeed–I’m seeing some of that now. I like the Climate Reanalyzer in this context:

    Right now, the Northern Hemisphere is actually the warmer of the two: .45 above ’79-’00 baseline, as opposed to the SH, which is just .24. Ah, the irony…

  32. 32
    SecularAnimist says:

    wili wrote: “… it seems to me that a healthy portion of the reductions have to come from…reductions. We have to just mostly start doing a whole heck of a lot _less_.”

    Reducing GHG emissions does not require “doing a whole lot less”. It requires doing what we do a whole lot more efficiently.

    According to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s 2013 analysis, the USA wastes considerably more than half of its energy supply every year.

  33. 33
    prokaryotes says:

    Images and reporting by the DailyMail about the current flood/storm situation in the UK

    The high tides, or spring tides as they are known, are not unusual but the high waters combined with the massive storm swells mean coastal Britain is struggling to weather the storm.

  34. 34
    MARodger says:

    First 2013 global annual temperatures in.
    Both UAH & RSS satellite data in for December & thus the complete 2013 calendar year. UAH ranks as 4th hottest since 1979 & RSS 10th hottest.

  35. 35
    wili says:

    SA, yes, essentially much of our entire economy is built on inefficiency. Look at the enormous size of the cars/trucks in the current US fleet, most of them mostly used most of the time to haul one person’s sorry carcass to a job that itself mostly the product of some manner of inefficiency.

    So “doing what we do” IS largely inefficiency itself.

    But much of the rest of “doing what we do” is turning the beauty and depths of the world into toxic waste.

    At long last, at this point well into the sixth mass extinction, the world teetering on the edge of utter calamity…finally, is it not time to really deeply reconsider much of “what we do,” why we do it, and what else we might be doing?

    As Tony put it so well at #23: “…we have to jetison the notion that whatever we do about this can achieve the necessary reductions and continue our current ways of living.”

  36. 36
    vukcevic says:

    While December 2012 was month of two halves, December 2013 was positively mild affair with both daily max & min temps above the 20 year average

  37. 37
    SecularAnimist says:

    wili wrote: “But much of the rest of ‘doing what we do’ is turning the beauty and depths of the world into toxic waste.”

    Certainly some of our environmental problems cannot be “fixed” without far-reaching and profound changes in human societies all over the world which will likely take decades or generations to achieve.

    We don’t have decades or generations to fix the greenhouse gas problem. We have years.

    Fortunately we do have short-term technical fixes available, which, IF THEY ARE APPLIED, can quickly stop, and then begin to reverse, the increase in atmospheric GHG levels within a decade or two at the most. And that’s what we urgently need to do, if we want to buy time to address the more difficult problems (e.g. population growth).

    And in the USA the lowest-hanging fruit is eliminating the outright waste of more than half of the energy we consume.

  38. 38
  39. 39
    Hank Roberts says:

    > eliminating the outright waste of more than half of the energy

    To us, it’s waste. But remember that’s a longterm view.

    To managers whose job limits them to considering a year’s short-term profit and loss, much outright waste happens over the longer term — it’s an externalized waste.

    (Is that even a term? It’s a “not my department” waste problem.)

    They focus in this year’s budget on the money they save by buying less efficient, cheaper products.

    Managers aren’t stupid. But they’re only doing a job, not doing the best they could for the company by changing the rules.

    Look at how the utility transformer manufacturers, several states, and several environmental groups got together to sue the Department of Energy when it proposed to allow the cheapest and least efficient utility transformers to be the industry standard. Those things last 40 years in service.

    Everyone knew that DOE was protecting a domestic manufacturer that was way behind the efficiency curve.

    None of the utilities -wanted- to buy the cheap, inefficient, wasteful transformers, knowing they’d cost more year after year after year.

    So they sued DOE and won a better, more efficient standard. Not as good as it could be or should be.

    It’s easy to say “waste” — but it’s not that simple.

    Efficiency costs money up front, and pays back over years or decades.
    Making the market efficient takes this kind of cooperation:

  40. 40
    SecularAnimist says:

    Hank Roberts wrote: “It’s easy to say ‘waste’ — but it’s not that simple”

    The word “simple” does not appear in any of my comments on this subject.

    Yes, change doesn’t happen without effort from those who recognize the need for it.

    The LLNL pages I linked to provide a lot of detail on energy waste in the USA. Opportunities to dramatically increase efficiency abound — some of them have the potential to pay for themselves very quickly.

  41. 41
    Tony Weddle says:

    SA@37, whilst there may technically be short term “fixes” available (though that is open to debate), you have to remember that members of Homo sapiens make the important decisions. As Hansen has noted, the role of money in politics ensures that appropriate action won’t be taken (although he, himself, remains marginally optimistic that people can come to their senses). When you use the word “fortunately”, I think you are using it hypothetically (as in, “if people come to their senses, fortunately there are short term fixes”). Unfortunately, with humans, what you see is what you get – after all, we are a species, not some mythical beasts, so we act, generally, in the way you would expect a species with our genes to act.

  42. 42
    ozajh says:


    I can think of a very obvious example of energy inefficiency from my last job before retiring in 2010. A large (non-US) government organisation had a development/support computer network, with 2 or 3 server rooms populated largely with hand-me-downs. IIRC the server rooms between them were supplied with about 50 KW, and were using about 30 on a continuous basis (plus maybe another 10 to run the air-conditioners taking the heat away).

    I once did a casual back-of-the-envelope estimate and concluded that if we re-equipped with current hardware and virtualised all the servers, we could have fitted the server side of that network into a single rack with a PILE of other benefits (reliability, expandability, ease of management, etc. etc.).

    But that would have meant getting a budget for perhaps $500K, and as far as the functional area’s management was concerned power simply came with the building.

  43. 43
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    Boing! Boing! Boing! We have a winner!

    Prokaryotes @ 16

    “Separation of Oil and State”

    more generally separation of carbon and state.
    The (relative) cost of energy is political. Fossil fuel is subsidized worldwide to the tune of around, is it $600 Billion per year. In addition the professional deniers get some very large sum per year of dark money. (reported recently, what was the amount? (I have it bookmarked but I am not trying to dot all i’s in this comment))

    The cost of energy is political! Demand separation of oil and state!


    I am always frustrated by people, even people who are officially smart, saying it is so hard to make a modest change-over to renewable energy per year. The hard part is political. There is much normal work to be done and there are plenty of people looking for work. Deploy the subsidies appropriately (away from carbon) and we have a win-win. Only the ASBs (anti-social billionaires, both corporate and corporeal) stand between us and a better world.

    What is needed is a simple strong clear message and goal. Now we have it!

    Separate Oil and State!!

    The cost of energy is political. Let us have our better world.

  44. 44
    Edward Greisch says:

    prokaryotes: I signed up for the course. I expect the course to be OK because Dr. Richard B. Alley is teaching it. Did you sign up?

  45. 45
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    Kevin: “The Arctic is estimated to have been about 20 C colder than at present.” ?

  46. 46
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    Three links from Juan Cole

    Solar rising:

    Scotland is going 100% Green by 2020; shame on Dirty America

    Birth of Hope: Top Ten Solar Energy Stories 2013

  47. 47
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    We tend to focus our severe weather stories on the same few contries over and over.
    “Australia’s having a heat wave! Australia’s having a heat wave!” Probably just a continuation of the one they have had forever. But do they have anything like this?

    There is a heat wave in Argentina. Many people in the town of Rosario went swimming in the river Parana to escape the heat. But soon they rushed out of the water screaming and bleeding. They were attacked by a swarm of Piranhas.

  48. 48
    prokaryotes says:

    Edward Greisch, i logged in but i do not see a signup button. Could you post the direct link for the signup?

  49. 49
    Chuck Hughes says:

    I guess the Conservative media are having a field day:

    Wall Street Journal Claims ‘Liberals No Longer Refer To Global Warming’ Because Winter Is Cold…

    Is the jet stream reacting to the lack of Arctic ice?

  50. 50
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Tony Weddle,
    Another thing about humans: They tend to project present trends and realities indefinitely into the future. This is the psychological tendency cas-inos rely on to ensure winners keep playing until they lose back their gains. It is behind market bubbles, failed military strategies and even difficulties with family relationships. People look at the present, see the seemingly iron-clad constraints that have prevented a breakthrough and confidently proclaim the problem impossible…until it suddenly gives way and we’re in a new normal.

    You confidently claim that economic interests will ensure that the last lump of coal will be burned. Did it occur to you that new technologies leading to a better energy infrastructure may be out there right now and that these represent economic interests diametrically opposed to the coal and oil barons? Did it not also occur to you that it might be helpful to identify and promote those interests? The only way we will build a better reality is to first envision it–you vision is too narrow.