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: May 2015

Filed under: — group @ 11 May 2015

This month’s open thread.

164 Responses to “Unforced Variations: May 2015”

  1. 1
    Tom Adams says:

    Why no new unforced thread for May?

    [Response: There is now! – gavin]

    Just want to recommend the new book “What We Think About When We Try To Not Think About Global Warming: Toward a New Psychology of Climate Action”.

    There is a psychological climate paradox where the evidence for climate change has been mounting in the last 25 years while public concern has been measurably going down. The book presents how the science of psychology explains this and recommends methods for increasing public buy-in and public support for action.

  2. 2

    Carrying wili’s post forward from the last open thread:

    If industrial civilization were to be able to continue indefinitely into the future with the economy–and therefore energy production (whatever the sources) and heat output from that industry–were to continue to grow at a ‘healthy’ but modest pace of say 3% per year on average over that time, how long would it take for that direct industrial heat to match current heating from GHGs?

    Going from the ‘rule of 72,’ it looks like doubling every 24 years or so. So about seven doublings to get over a hundred means we would reach that level in well under 200 years. And from there, you only need a couple hundred more years to reach truly absurd levels of heating from this source, even leaving aside heating from GHGs.

    Someone please check the math, the logic, and everything else, but it seems to me that this is yet another clear reason than economic growth (at least how that term has been used generally) cannot go on forever on a finite planet, however ‘clean’ then source of the energy that fuels that growth is.

    You are spot on, will. This logic is, as far as I can tell or am aware, absolutely irrefutable. It’s a superb reductio ad absurdam of the idea–I won’t call it an argument–that unlimited energy growth is possible.

    Here’s the definitive version (well, according to me, anyway):

  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
    trafamadore says:

    Hi. Does anyone know if there is a theoretical reason or modeling data that shows differences between the surface temps and the troposphere, i.e., the difference between the land/sea averaged temps and the satellite data? In particular, why the troposphere data (if it’s real) is so sensitive to ENSO? For example, do some of the models have temp data at higher altitudes at the same time as an El Niño event??


  7. 7
    wili says:

    Thanks for the props and the link, Kevin.

  8. 8
    MaximilianoT says:

    If we change our carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, on a global scale, when are we projected to see results, if not a reverse to the damage we have done?

  9. 9
    wili says:

    Bom just called it–El Nino is here.

  10. 10
    Don Kane says:


    Does anyone know if there is a theoretical reason or modeling data that shows differences between the surface temps and the troposphere, i.e., the difference between the land/sea averaged temps and the satellite data? In particular, why the troposphere data (if it’s real) is so sensitive to ENSO? For example, do some of the models have temp data at higher altitudes at the same time as an El Niño event??


  11. 11
    Nick Odoni says:

    Just picked this up off the Beeb, under the headline:
    “‘Substantial’ El Nino event predicted”

    web adddress –

    I’ve thought for some time that the so-called warming ‘pause’ was not a pause at all, simply wishful thinking on the part of those of a more skeptical disposition. The heat is getting locked in elsewhere for a while, and I suppose it has to make itself evident sooner or later. Well, is this the sooner or the later? Are we now going to see an end to the ‘pause’? Thoughts, anyone?

  12. 12
    Thomas O'Reilly says:

    El Niño in the tropical Pacific
    Issued on 12 May 2015 – The tropical Pacific is in the early stages of El Niño.

    Based upon model outlooks and current observations, the Bureau’s ENSO Tracker has been raised to El Niño status.

  13. 13
    Paul S says:

    #6 trafamadore,

    A couple of links to blog posts by climate scientists which might be useful: discusses the link between El Niño and tropospheric amplification amongst other issues and shows spatial response maps comparing surface and TLT levels. discusses results from a model experiment in which sea surface temperatures are prescribed from observations but everything else can freely evolve. The figures show tropical 20S-20N averages rather than global but indicate that the model accurately reproduces satellite observed tropospheric variance (at various altitude slices) when fed with correct surface temperatures.

    Radiosonde data (weighted to mimic the vertical atmospheric sampling of the MSU/AMSU satellites) also confirm that this larger tropospheric ENSO response is real.

  14. 14
    sidd says:

    Is there a problem with site hosting ? This website malfunctions a great deal lately. I will help if there is anything i can do, and so will others who regard this site as a very valuable source.


  15. 15
    Icarus62 says:

    In 2014 we learned that ice mass loss from Greenland and Antarctica had more than doubled in the previous 5 years. Prior to that, Greenland’s ice mass loss had already doubled from 2000 to 2006. If the mass loss keeps doubling every 5 or 6 years, then we’ll see 1 metre of global sea level rise by about mid-century.

    “A 10-year doubling time would lead to 1 meter sea level rise by 2067 and 5 meters by 2090. The dates are 2045 and 2057 for 5-year doubling time and 2055 and 2071 for a 7-year doubling time.” – Dr. James Hansen

    How long can the mass loss keep doubling? Well the mean rate of rise during the last deglaciation was 10mm per year, which is 2 doublings from the current contribution of ice melt to sea level rise of around 2.5mm per year. Another two doublings would take us to the peak rate of sea level rise during the last deglaciation, 40mm per year. That’s only 24 years from now, at 6 years per doubling.

    The last deglaciation was accompanied by global warming of only about 0.005°C per decade compared to today’s warming of 0.15 – 0.2°C per decade. It’s also worth noting that equilibrium sea level rise is 20 ± 10 metres per °C of global warming.

    I think coastal communities would be justified in feeling nervous, and not just about what might happen hundreds or thousands of years from now.

  16. 16
  17. 17
    Victor says:

    As I understand it, a significant signature of AGW based on CO2 emissions would be a pattern of greater warming at the poles than anywhere else. I’ve been trying to determine whether this has actually been the case over the last 30 years or so, but it’s been hard to find research that either supports or contradicts such a pattern in a systematic manner. I’ve been reading media reports claiming the poles are heating up at an unprecendented rate but it’s not clear whether this is part of a long term trend or just a recent blip.

    I’d appreciate any links that anyone could provide to scientific publications treating this issue. Thanks.

  18. 18
    Mike Roddy says:

    IPCC V estimates that deforestation and other land use emissions are 12% of the global total, a big drop from the 18% estimate in IPCC IV. They cite reduced deforestation, but I have seen no evidence of a 30%+ decline here. Brazil, for example, is back to massive clearcutting again.

    When I wrote about these issues about 7 years ago for two subsequent papers (for Forest Voice and an industry conference in Australia), I studied country submittals, as well as forestry conferences sponsored by IPCC. Those forestry conferences were said to be contentious, and different reporting methodologies were used- in other words, the data has very wide error bars.

    Can someone from your group or among your readers enlighten me here? Is it not possible that land use emissions are double the 12% estimates, for example?

    I saw a 15-25% estimate for land use/forestry emissions in 2007. Maybe a group needs to step up and tighten the data, unless you have evidence that it represents the best science available.

  19. 19
    Jeremy says:

    I made the mistake of reading the comments on this

    What shocked me is that people are still touting the ‘No warming since 1998’ meme. Didn’t we just have the hottest year on record?

    Is there a quick way to squash this, if I see someone who has a hope of paying attention?

    By the way there was an ironically great quote in there

    In a few years the whole sham will be over and people will wonder how they were duped for so long.

  20. 20


    I actually read somewhere just yesterday that Brazil is actually reducing deforestation–largely because it’s not as profitable as it was. I don’t know the details, but that’s what I heard.

  21. 21

    “Is there a quick way to squash this, if I see someone who has a hope of paying attention?”
    Moderate comments? Also if you look at the individual user profiles you can see where people are active. Appears to be a very vocal minority, active in the denialosphere, nothing new.

  22. 22
    Susan Anderson says:

    Based on “just read somewhere” (rather a lot over the years), my impression is that deforestation has been touted as getting under control but is actually not. For more clear information, one might try things like this (just read last night):

    Brazil’s rate of deforestation may be decreasing, but that’s a whole lot of deforesting, kind of like lowering the rate of increase of CO2 emissions, a slippery slope. A diet requires that one ceases gaining, levels off, then begins to reduce, and still there’s a long way to go.

    There’s palm oil clearance in New Guinea and the far east, forest harvesting in the vast area north of China and eastern Russia, and this rather dire thing about elephants that shows deforestation proceeding apace in Africa. I found the whole report both readable and devastating, and indicative that the great forests in central Africa are lawless and disappearing, fed by poverty, profiteering, and hatred/revenge:

    Blake argues that eliminating the role that elephants play in the dispersal of at least seventy-three species of trees in Central African forests—including some that are dispersed exclusively by elephants—has the potential to set off a process of “defaunation,” by which the “competitive balance” of the forest will tip toward “the species-poor guild of abiotically-dispersed species.”
    “Some people have changed, but not many. People are desperate, because they’re so poor and they’ll do anything to survive. It’s the economics. And, unless the economics change, it’s hard to know how they’ll change their outlook.”
    local antibalaka elements derive much of their revenue from extorting logging trucks at illegal checkpoints.

    It’s particularly troubling that, beginning in June, according to Basile, the forest ministry will allow logging operations in buffer zones surrounding the parks

    Filip Verbelen, a forest researcher for Greenpeace, says that conducting industrial logging operations adjacent to areas of outstanding conservation value, such as Dzanga bai, creates enormous problems, in that it results in an influx of workers and cash, which are intrinsically linked to poaching.
    “There used to be wilderness all around here, but now there are roads and logged areas”

    I know we are all eager for good news, but very often that “news” is just “spin”.

  23. 23

    “If we change our carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, on a global scale, when are we projected to see results, if not a reverse to the damage we have done?”

    – See more at:

    There are probably a few ways to approach answering that question, but consider this graph from AR5:

    It indicates that the temperature trajectories following from business as usual (which is reasonably close to the worst RCP, 8.5) and from extremely strong mitigation efforts (RCP 2.6) really start to diverge from ~2040ish.

    So if we get really serious (and allowing for the fact that trend spotting in real time is awfully tough), I’d say around midcentury.

  24. 24

    Re Brazilian deforestation, this story appears to provide a pretty good overview:

    I’d add two things. First, President Rousseff is in deep, deep political trouble:

    So there’s a real possibility of huge political shakeups around the corner.

    Second, a potential wild card is defeated Presidential candidate Marina Silva, who was at one point the leading candidate. She’s of interest because she received considerable credit for slowing Brazilian deforestation when she was environment minister in the Lula da Silva government.

  25. 25
    wili says:

    It’s been a warm start to the year. We seem to be heading into the Eemian, and crossing not only the 400ppm threshold but also perhaps on the verge of breaking through the 1C-above-pre-1880 threshold.

  26. 26
    Susan Anderson says:

    Thanks KMcK. My friend Tenney lived in Brazil for a long time, and the endemic corruption there is largely unimaginable to us “civilized” types.

    I find much the same thing in the central African story. A detective traced the weapons used by the elephant poachers (it seems without any humanity, bent only on taking and hurting) to Iran and ISIS-like entities. Between the Seleki and the Antibalaka there seems little to choose. People who seem never to have known what having a heart is. How did it happen that hate became stronger than love?

    I hate to reduce it to one of the irreducible minimums we now face, but how do we all regain our collective heart?

    (this is my occasional outbreak of what was once named, to my delight, as “fabulous kumbayah.” Would that I were that person … ah well. Time to abandon this OT interlude.

  27. 27
    Chuck Hughes says:

    I am also having a lot of trouble getting on this web site. “service unavailable” messages constantly. The comments section appears very dark on a tablet or cellphone. Comments won’t load or load incorrectly.

    Anyone else other than Sidd having these problems.

    Please fix this. Thanks

  28. 28
    Tony Weddle says:


    Robert Scribbler’s post apparently points to a NASA monthly summary but it doesn’t, so I can’t check his numbers. Looking at their latest data, April was a fraction lower than April last year and also below 2010. We’ll only really know what happens when it happens.

  29. 29
    MA Rodger says:

    Tony Weddle @28.
    It’s clear from the numbers he throws in that Scribbler is referring to the April up-date of the GISTEMP Land & Ocean Temperature Index not the land-only data you link to. The “monthly report” Scribbler talks of is really no more than the ‘monthly reporting’ of that data series updated with the latest month’s anomaly and which can be accessed from the GISTEMP page he links to.

  30. 30

    “I hate to reduce it to one of the irreducible minimums we now face, but how do we all regain our collective heart?”

    – See more at:

    Yes, that’s one reason we need to have humanists and artists involved, too. It’s not just a cognitive issue. And in a way, it’s a strength of folks like those at Georgia Interfaith Power and Light, for example–rationality in assessing evidence is one ‘foot’; but workable human values is the other. Pace strict materialists here, the theology of environmental stewardship and the open-hearted community-building of such a group is–and I intend this word in a couple of senses–heartening.

    IMO, Susan, your comment was *not* OT–or at least, not more so than any other mitigation comment.

  31. 31

    #27–Yes, I’ve been suspecting for a while that someone is DOSing RC, and even commented about it a while back.

    Denialist hackforce? Hardly seems paranoid, post Climategate.

  32. 32

    A dispatch from the diplomatic ‘trenches’:


    We’re about to meet two men whose assignment is to save the world.


    That might be a slightly overblown description of their task, but only slightly. They are two diplomats leading international negotiations over climate change. Their leading talk’s due to wrap up in Paris later this year.

  33. 33

    Chuck 27,

    I have massive problems getting onto this site. I’m only successful about one out of four or five times. Repeat for any given pop-up comment thread. I have heard RealClimate is under constant cyberattack from the deniers. If that isn’t the case, they must have truly awful software.

  34. 34
    Susan Anderson says:

    Chuck Hughes re downtime:

    Web interference with this site has become frequent, and is not unique to RealClimate. I have to assume it is partly malicious, fwiw. The site owners may not be able to do much but keep on keeping on.

  35. 35
    Pat Cassen says:

    Victor @17:

    See this thorough review of historical, theoretical and observational aspects of arctic amplification.

  36. 36
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    As mentioned above Australia’s BOM has called El Niño so it is time to believe it. Still, ENSO for the rest of the year is uncertain.
    Jeff Masters has a post on this and another on the heat in Spain.

  37. 37
    Bob Loblaw says:

    I, too, see lots of strange [web page] behaviour, including the “service unavailable” message. When I do load a page, there seems to be a random choice of at least three different formats (regular, mobile, ?), and the list of recent comments seems to change with nearly every page. Sometimes, the “Recent Comments” links lead me either to the main page for the article, or anywhere except the comment they are supposed to link to. Even if I use the pop-up to look at all comments on an article, the format can be weird.

    [Using firefox 31.5 on linux at home, but see the same behaviour on a later firefox/Win7 at work]

  38. 38
    David B. Benson says:

    “Daniel H. Rothman is a professor of geophysics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He codirects MIT’s Lorenz Center, which is devoted to learning how climate works.” from the Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society, v. 52 #1, Jan 2015.

    The paper citation is
    Daniel H. Rothman
    Earth’s Carbon Cycle: a Mathematical Perspective
    Bull. AMS 52:1, Jan 2015, pp.47–64
    (with 79 references)

    What a gem of a little paper with easy mathematics leading to some amazing insights about the long term behavior of the Terran climate as well as the End Permian event. This is readily accessible to the majority of the commenters here and it appears that it is available as a pdf file.

    After reading the paper I thought it provides additional evidence for the Lovelock/Margulis Gaia hypothesis:
    Whether you agree or not, I hold you will find the paper insightful.

  39. 39
    David B. Benson says:

    Cloudiest Places on Earth Revealed in Stunning New Image
    Worth a look.

  40. 40
    David B. Benson says:

    Incredible Image of Antarctica’s Swirling Currents
    Also worth a look.

  41. 41

    #36–Yes, Bob, I see all of that too, and in 3 different browsers.

  42. 42
    sidd says:

    Re: service outages

    It seems as though i am not alone. I would like an admin to verify the outages are due to denial of service or other attacks. If that is indeed the case I can contribute bandwidth, CPU and disk to mirroring. But i suspect it is something else, like an overcrowded front end. From some old error messages that i recall, it seems that nginx was being used as a front end, and i further recall problems with that software.

    I shall await guidance from the admins.


  43. 43
    Tony Weddle says:

    MA Rodger, Thanks for the correct link. That is more worrying. However, I beg to differ that it was obvious from Scribbler’s post. He uses a link on the words “in its monthly report” that links to a page which appears to have news with a latest date in January, not a page with a monthly report. I’ll admit that I didn’t spot that I’d found a restrictive data set but he should have referenced the “monthly report”, wherever that is, or the data that you linked to. After all he took the trouble of adding a link, just the wrong one.

  44. 44
    Susan Anderson says:

    Thanks to David Benson. I revel in the imagery from Earth Observatory (source of one of your images), which is a great place to learn as well. Given that I am maths challenged and need to trust scientists rather than do my own (a procedure recommended for others as well, given the amount of intelligence and dedication that goes into understanding the breadth and depth of science properly), it serves up a variety of information in my preferred visual format that gives a “sense of the sense” in a lot of areas.

    Here’s where one may sign up for notifications:

    Sometimes as I remind myself that TV and airplanes only came into common usage in the 1950s, I also note that satellite images are new … we have little sense of how much we take for granted.

  45. 45
    flxible says:

    re service ‘problems’ on the RC pages, it doesn’t require hacker/denialist conspiracy theories . . . I get the ‘unavailable’ message at times and find after a couple seconds at most reload/refresh gets the page fine – rarely get the mobile version and that likely has to do with a combination of browser self-ID and cookies, easy to click to the desktop version . . . I believe the site uses wordpress, and likely the unavailable problem is due to server overload, as in: this is not a premium [$$$$] site …. also likely depends on your particular location on the planetary network, the web is ever expanding. live with it.

  46. 46
    pete,best says:

    Are lukewarmers really deniers whose strategy is to delay action on cc as,long as,possible via new more,orthodox means

  47. 47
  48. 48
    Mark A. York says:

    Any knowledge of this bunch? looks like a methane bomb group. Ive seen this Sam Carana post on many social web sites.

  49. 49
    Killian says:

    Why am I not surprised…

    Scientists had thought that Arctic rivers like the Kolyma in Siberia carry dissolved carbon from melting permafrost to the oceans. They were wrong…

    And now scientists have discovered its fate: within weeks it’s all digested by bacteria and released to the atmosphere as CO2…

    Instead of flowing down towards the sea, the thawing peat and ancient leaf litter of the warming permafrost is being metabolised by microbes…

    “We found that decomposition converted 60% of the carbon in the thawed permafrost to carbon dioxide in two weeks”, says Aron Stubbins, assistant professor at the University of Georgia’s Skidaway Institute of Oceanography.

    The Microbes That Are Eating The Thawed Permafrost

  50. 50
    Hank Roberts says:

    For Mark York:
    and if you have vast patience, see also