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Unforced Variations: Jan 2017

Filed under: — group @ 2 January 2017

The first open thread of the new year. Your resolution will be to keep the comments focused on science. Try to keep it longer than your resolution to exercise more…

194 Responses to “Unforced Variations: Jan 2017”

  1. 51
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Roger Murphy,
    The test of a scientist’s career is the degree to which they clarify their subject matter–how much better understood is it as a result of their work. By this criterion, Aunt Judy has not been a success. Indeed, I have never read anything she has written and come away with a deeper understanding than that with which I started. And her “uncertainty monster” is nothing but anti-science.

  2. 52
    mike says:

    Daily CO2

    January 5, 2017: 405.43 ppm

    January 5, 2016: 401.83 ppm

    Noisy number. Waiting for to put up the december monthly number. Have we been naughty or nice?

    Stocking full of coal, anyone?



  3. 53
    Ric Merritt says:

    While not a big fan of Judith Curry’s, I raise an eyebrow at the constant use of her first name only, and I completely choke on the insulting epithet “Aunt Judy”. Irremediably sexist, certainly given the context of science as a field of activity as it currently exists. Indefensible. So don’t try to defend it. Apologize if so moved, but, mainly, cut it out.

  4. 54
    Hank Roberts says:

    the asteroid that is thought to have wiped out the dinosaurs was about 10 kilometers (about 6.5 miles) in diameter. An asteroid of this size would vaporize anything within about 100 miles of the impact site, inducing continent wide fire-storms and launching so much dust into the air that the skies would be black for months. After the acid rain storms and freezing temperatures of the impact winter subsided as the dust settled, the Earth would experience a ramped up greenhouse effect, with temperatures rising up to 10C (50 Fahrenheit) above their pre-impact levels.

    So, ah, what’s expected to cause the enhanced greenhouse after such an impact?

  5. 55
    Hank Roberts says:

    Oh. This:

    … the impact may also have released significant amounts of greenhouse gasses by breaking down carbonate rocks such as calcite. Previous estimates have suggested that the Chicxulub impact could have released enough carbon dioxide from carbonate rocks at the site to cause a global warming of about 1-2 ºC.1,2

    The Japanese team, led by Ko Kawaragi of the University of Tokyo, now suggest in Earth and Planetary Science Letters3 that the shocked carbonates would have released much more carbon monoxide than carbon dioxide, leading to a global warming of 2-5 °C for several years after the impact…

    …And Brian Toon, an atmospheric chemist at the University of Colorado at Boulder, also questions the photochemical reactions that the Japanese team used in their models. Immediately after the impact the skies would have been “pitch black because of dust, which would have shut off most photochemical reactions,” he says.

    “They might have figured out what was initially injected into the atmosphere, but trying to speculate what it means is a pretty big reach,” he adds. “There could have been lots of surprises.” .

  6. 56
    Mal Adapted says:

    roger murphy:

    Further you label her an AGW denier, that is a bold faced lie, Dr Curry certainly believes that man has an impact on climate just not to the degree that the models predict…and on that she seems to be right, more so every year. [edit – leave out the ad homs]

    Mr. murphy does not cite references for his (if not Curry’s) assertion, and it’s contradicted by multiple peer-reviewed analyses, e.g. Schmidt et al. 2014. The portion of his comment that was edited out is more interesting, however. He claimed Curry met the standard for scientific integrity set by R. Feynman, while Mike Mann did not. That’s ironic, because Feynman said “The first rule [of science] is you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool”.

    The epistemic authority of science depends not just on empiricism but equally on inter-subjective verification, which is why consensus is crucial to scientific progress. For anyone not himself a climate science specialist, it should be enough simply to point out that Curry’s lukewarmism (a species of AGW-denial, despite Mr. murphy’s contrary claim) is explicitly at odds with the lopsided consensus of her peers. Sure, it’s possible Curry is right and the vast majority of working climate scientists are wrong, but it’s much more likely she’s fooling herself. Mr. murphy’s failure to acknowledge that reveals his ignorance of the history, culture and practice of science.

  7. 57
    Arun says:

    The expert commentary on this article on the warming oceans please!

    It is a good article; but maybe there’s more?

  8. 58
    Thomas says:

    51 Ray Ladbury, imho, like Jennifer Marohasy in Oz, Judith is driven by ideology and her moral worldviews that override their ‘scientific training’ and objectivity.

    My withering guru seer prediction is they’ll possibly end up joining forces with their weather forecast businesses.

    These two are like two peas in the same pod. Though Judith was by far more academically successful, Jennifer has been more politically successful. She has lived off ‘charity’ financing for over a decade now, while railing against govt funding of “corrupted” climate science and the BOM. (yeah go figure)

    I have had my share of run ins with ‘John Nicol – Scientific Advisor’ over the years. It’s quite a sad sorry story actually. Anyway, the loss of Judith is no loss. Besides she will not go away anyway…… The attention is a self-fulling perpetual motion machine. :-)

  9. 59
    Thomas says:

    36 Pekka Kostamo – thx and all fair comment.

    RE: ”
    A good starting point is to adopt the globally known standard for evaluating global average warming.
    It reads: “Less than 2 degC warming with respect to pre-industrial time”.
    This is written in the major international treaties and all the national strategies to comply with them. The general public hears this phrase over all media channels weekly, if not daily.

    Kind of yes. But they do not get told repeatedly that ‘pre-industrial’ means 1750, and they are not repeatedly told what the actual temp is today versus 1750 nor compared to +2C. I know and readers here know, but the news readers and the general public do not know and not told repeatedly, nor consistently presented with the same basic numbers.

    RE: “Where do we stand now in this respect? You may find out if you dig diligently and do your homework. The average voter or politician does not do that. He/she just sees and remembers various numbers going from 0.2 to 1,2 degC, all correct and from authoritative sources, who all have their own, better reporting schemes. The reasonable quick conclusion is that the scientists do not know what they are talking about.

    Thanks for repeating my primary point made above.

    RE: “Try reading the NOAA and WMO climate reports, for instance.”

    That’s no solution. For readers here (bar the odd denier) and across all the other climate websites they already know. They have already made the effort to go deeper, and they already get the variations between the different data temp figures and time frames used. iow the majority of interested parties already possess the necessary eye for details.

    The Public, the Politicians and the Media Journos and Presenters and talk back radio hosts do not. This is part of the reason that the hard work of scientists for decades now gets converted to a background noise vs a repeatable consistent framing.

    It doesn’t matter what the framing is, so long as the numbers, facts and time frames are consistent and repeatable via the media 24/7/365.

    May seem like a minor point to some, but Marketing didn’t become a $570 billion/year global empire by doing something else. I think it is a critical truth that must be adopted by all climate scientists in every nation and in everything they communicate to the Public.

    What goes on in the actual papers and their shared work is a different matter. No significant numbers of people outside the fields of climate science read it anyway. Or could understand it even if they did.

    I say these things because I totally support RC and one of their Objectives was to help inform the Media. I can’t recall ever seeing the media referencing RC as a major source though. PR and writing Press Releases for Journos is actually a specialist skill inside the ‘marketing domain’ these days. It’s just the way it is, it’s how the world works. These things shouldn’t be ignored or deemed unimportant. imho. fwiw. a humble suggestion in good faith, others mileage may vary.

    Only the climate scientists themselves Collectively with Co-Ordination can do anything about it. No one else can do it for them.

  10. 60
    Thomas says:

    #23 “A scientific analysis of the notion that the wealthiest ~20% of the population contributes over ~50% of all AGW/emissions on the planet?” I assume and accept this is outside of RCs purpose/goals.

    Correction: “Global CO2e emissions remain highly concentrated today: the top 10% emitters contribute to 45% of global emissions, while the bottom 50% contribute to 13% of global emissions. The top 10% emitters live on all continents, with one third of them from emerging countries (Figure 1).”

    This work was done by French Economists Lucas Chancel and Thomas Piketty in 2015.

    other refs:

    Some Food for deeper thought perhaps about the long term implications and viable solutions to slowing age/cc?

  11. 61
    Thomas says:

    33 Bill Henderson, hi again. I read more of your articles and ideas. You’re a bit of an eclectic and been at it a long time. I’m impressed with your “post-truth” line 8 years before it’s become common phrase in the media today. So you’re a proven futurist as well. :-)

    I’m laughing often about the “fake news” issue, as so many believe it’s something new that only arose during the 2016 US elections, rather than decades ago. lol

    anyway I think your ideas of the active-wiki and iProve app have merit. However I’m thinking that successful reform almost (well probably) always comes from the inside of ‘groups’ and not from the outside (no matter how good or obvious an idea may be.) And when reformers hit a solid wall of denial then the only option left is to split from the group entirely ala Martin Luther. Nevertheless that your ideas are out there is still a good and worthwhile thing. Maybe one day someone will pick them up and run with them.

    Along the way following your links I came across this comment worth repeating here. It very summarizes my own core view of the “hard problem” in communicating climate science to the world:
    “It isn’t a *question* of truth. Or facts and figures. Or even reality. People don’t want to understand any of those things. What they want is for someone to tell them a story. A simple story. Something that meshes with the stories they already know, understand and believe. […]

    If you want to reach people and change their minds, quit wasting your time on science, facts and studies. These are only useful to convince other scientists. If you want to change the mind of the rest of the world, learn how to tell a compelling story that people can understand. Something that fits with what they already believe, but has an ending leading to a more useful conclusion.

    And not just one story. It needs to be an ongoing anthology of interrelated themes. Simple. Easy to understand. Fits. Truth is for nerds.”

    These truisms stand the test of time. Humans are hard wired to “stories” since we living in caves. It’s also why the fiction shelves in Libraries are 20+ times larger than the non-fiction section.

    Modern advertising, which began not long before WW2 and based purely on human psychology, is the 30 second version of camp fire story-telling. An advertising story will sell a product that is good for us equally as well as one that isn’t. The Truth of it and the facts are irrelevant. It’s why Reagan won in an unexpected landslide, why Obama won in 2008 and why Clinton lost in 2016. Simple really, when one understands the dynamics of it all playing out. I have offered up many refs along these lines here last year. It’s ok by me if people choose to ignore them and/or can’t understand the point of it all.

    A very useful ref for anyone (especially climate scientists) who wishes to learn more about the power of advertising and why it works and when it doesn’t.

    Gruen – the show that lifts the lid on advertising, spin and marketing. Join host Wil Anderson, stalwarts Todd Sampson and Russel Howcroft and other advertising industry experts to unpick the ways we’re all bought and sold.
    a vpn may help overseas readers acess past programs, or try youtube.

    Thanks Bill, all the best being positive thru 2017.

  12. 62
    Thomas says:

    Ooops, here we go again. From no hiatus, to yes there’s a hiatus, and in 2015 corrections possibly there wasn’t a hiatus, to now the ‘hiatus’ never happened at all.

    “Satellites and automated floats are completely independent witnesses of recent ocean warming,” says study co-author Mark Richardson of NASA and the California Institute of Technology. “And their testimony matches the NOAA results.”

    Assessing recent warming using instrumentally homogeneous sea surface temperature records

    Zeke Hausfather1,2,*, Kevin Cowtan3, David C. Clarke4, Peter Jacobs5, Mark Richardson6 and Robert Rohde2

    The update from ERSST version 3b to version 4 resulted in an increase in the operational SST trend estimate during the last 19 years from 0.07° to 0.12°C per decade, indicating a higher rate of warming in recent years. We show that ERSST version 4 trends generally agree with largely independent, near-global, and instrumentally homogeneous SST measurements from floating buoys, Argo floats, and radiometer-based satellite measurements that have been developed and deployed during the past two decades. We find a large cooling bias in ERSST version 3b and smaller but significant cooling biases in HadSST3 and COBE-SST from 2003 to the present, with respect to most series examined. These results suggest that reported rates of SST warming in recent years have been underestimated in these three data sets.

    Yeah, Cowtan is in there. Enjoy. :-)

  13. 63
    Thomas says:

    Three years ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported a 15-year-long plateau in ocean surface temperature changes. The report was controversial, sparking worries that it would fuel climate change skepticism and prompting other scientists to question the IPCC’s results.

    Now, a new report says there’s evidence that the data the IPCC was using in 2013 was incorrect and that the ocean has continued to grow warmer.

  14. 64
    Thomas says:

    Media spin wins – science loses again.

    Having had the role of science coordinator for the UK Ocean Acidification research programme and being involved in relevant national and international projects for around ten years previously, I know such claims – which Delingpole presented as facts – to be false. I also spotted a range of other errors and inaccuracies in his piece.

    Having first gone to The Spectator with my concerns, in late August I submitted a formal complaint to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO). The key issues were whether or not due care had been taken to avoid publication of inaccurate information, and whether comment and conjecture had been clearly distinguished from fact.

    At the end of a long and frustrating process IPSO’s final ruling was published on January 5 and it doesn’t seem we are much further forward. My complaint was rejected on the basis that the article was “clearly a comment piece” and that it was not IPSO’s role to resolve conflicting evidence for contentious issues.

  15. 65
    Thomas says:

    NSIDC update for DEC is out.

    Sea ice in the Arctic and the Antarctic set record low extents every day in December, continuing the pattern that began in November. Warm atmospheric conditions persisted over the Arctic Ocean, notably in the far northern Atlantic and the northern Bering Sea. Air temperatures near the Antarctic sea ice edge were near average. For the year 2016, sea ice extent in both polar regions was at levels well below what is typical of the past several decades.


    Air temperatures at the 925 hPa level (approximately 2,500 feet above sea level) were more than 3 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 1981 to 2010 average over the central Arctic Ocean and northern Barents Sea, and as much as 5 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit) above average over the Chukchi Sea. Repeated warm air intrusions occurred over the Chukchi and Barents Seas, continuing the pattern seen in November.


  16. 66
    Hank Roberts says:


    alf a decade before he took this trip to the farthest reaches of the north, Andreas Muenchow had his doubts about whether warming temperatures were causing one of the world’s great platforms of ice to melt and fall apart.

    He even stood before Congress in 2010 and balked on whether climate change might have caused a mammoth chunk of ice, four times the size of Manhattan, to break off from this floating, 300-square-mile shelf. The University of Delaware oceanographer said he wasn’t sure. He needed more evidence.

    But then the Petermann Ice Shelf lost another two Manhattans of ice in 2012, and Muenchow decided to see for himself, launching a project to study the ice shelf intensively.

    He was back again in late August, no longer a skeptic….

    … The great fear is that Greenland’s ice loss is accelerating, and that’s why much attention has been directed at Petermann. One expert has called it one of the island’s three major “floodgates,” and the only one that has not yet opened. In part, the Petermann Ice Shelf has been slower to disintegrate simply because it is in a much colder place.

    But that is beginning to change, and Muenchow and Nicholls are trying to understand the mechanics of how it might break apart.

    They are old-school scientists, focused on gathering hard data in the world’s most remote places. Each has a “great record in terms of publications,” says Marco Tedesco, a Greenland researcher at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory….

  17. 67
    Russell says:

    If you wish to test Ray Ladbury’s hypothesis in Washington, dispatch your resume’ before Tuesday’s inaugural.

  18. 68
    Solar Jim says:

    Apparently something like 0.6 billion tons of methane are entering the atmosphere each year, and emissions are reported rising. With methane itself two orders of magnitude stronger in radiative forcing than carbonic acid gas (CO2), does this not mean that we have the equivalent of 60 billion tons CO2 emitted annually as methane?

  19. 69
    Thomas says:

    Hank, there’s another antarctic iceberg about to be birthed apparently
    January 6, 2017 Source: British Antarctic Survey

    earlier dec 2016 nearly twice the size of Rhode Island state “The 2,300-square-mile ice block is part of the Larsen C Ice Shelf”

    And it’s summer there with 24hrs/day sunshine atm. Not to mention the recent graphs on sea ice extent already at record lows thru late 2016

  20. 70
    Thomas says:

    #52 Mike, I Banned Coal from all xmas stockings in this house years ago. :-)

    and btw …. Recent Monthly Average Mauna Loa CO2
    December 2016: 404.48 ppm +2.63
    December 2015: 401.85 ppm
    Last updated: January 6, 2017

    Not noisy numbers, a distinct trend continues.

  21. 71
    Thomas says:

    some very recent images of larsen C fwiw,1175.msg98428.html#msg98428,429.msg98413.html#msg98413
    it’s not unprecedented and has been coming for some time, but seems to be speeding up recently.

  22. 72
    Hank Roberts says:

    Solar Jim says:
    7 Jan 2017 at 6:32 PM

    Apparently …

    Apparent to whom? Citation needed. Are you reading scribblings from some of the scary-story sites?

    I tried putting your question into a search and found

    Some estimates of the potential methane release run as high as 0.6 billion tons a year, an amount that could more than double the present atmospheric con- …

    So I suspect your source may be doing a familiar “if it could happen then it is happening, be very afraid” thing.

    Got a reliable source to point to?

    Try here:


    NOTICE: CDIAC as currently configured and hosted by ORNL will cease operations on September 30, 2017. Data will continue to be available through this portal until that time. Data transition plans are being developed with DOE to ensure preservation and availability beyond 2017.

  23. 73
    Hank Roberts says:

    DoE’s Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC) shut down without comment. Data in preservation danger

    Tags: Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC), data preservation, DOE, Environmental data, ORNL, Scientific data
    By James R. Jacobs in post on October 9, 2016

    This is terrible. The US Department of Energy (DOE) has summarily shut down the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC), located at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) as of 10/1/2016. CDIAC is the primary climate change data and information analysis center for DOE. CDIAC is supported by DOE’s Climate and Environmental Sciences Division within the Office of Biological and Environmental Research (BER).

    A friend reports that CDIAC has limited funding and is trying to save its data in the NASA Distributed Active Archive Center (DAAC). There has been no outside comment and neither DOE nor ORNL have yet to issue a press release.

  24. 74
    Hank Roberts says:

    Azimuth is tracking data sets that need to be protected from the Trumpets

  25. 75
  26. 76

    #68, Solar Jim–I don’t think so; methane’s effect is not so straightforward to compare as that, especially since it’s not nearly as stable in the atmosphere as CO2. (A simplified version of the story is that in 10 years or so it breaks down via a chain reactions to water and CO2. So you have to consider the time element.) And a common number given is the ‘Global Warming Potential’, or GWP, which is about 25x CO2, over 100 years.

    For a more comprehensive picture of the soup we have landed ourselves in, Google “CO2eq”.

  27. 77
    mike says:

    Daily CO2

    January 7, 2017: 406.09 ppm
    January 7, 2016: 401.90 ppm

    December CO2

    December 2016: 404.48 ppm
    December 2015: 401.85 ppm

    2.63 ppm increase in year on year. under 3 ppm for the first month since Jan 2016 according to my spreadsheet. I think that 2.6 ppm is pretty close to the actual baseline rate of increase, just my quick read on the numbers. My spreadsheet says 2016 rate of increase is 3.40 ppm over 2015, so I think that will pencil out to be the largest annual increase in the record, but it doesn’t mean too much, just what would be expected with EN bump on top of long term increasing rate of increase.

    I see no sign of the rate of increase slowing down, but it would take a couple of years of data to spot that and you have to factor in a lot of other variables like EN/LN fluctuations etc.

    Here we are, blowing past 405 with little expectation that we will ever see a reading under 405. Here is what Dr. Mann had to say back in 2014: “if we are to limit global warming to below two degrees C forever, … we would have to limit CO2 to below roughly 405 ppm. ” (based on ECS of 3 degrees)

    It’s a good article, read the whole thing if you have 5 minutes.

    We transitioned through the flat month I have been watching for with Dec 2016 increase rate at 2.63 and Dec 2015 increase at 3.01. People who don’t understand the EN bump or want to misrepresent cherry-picked numbers may now look at the current month avg year on year rate of increase and claim a pause or flattening of rate of increase in CO2.

    Bottom line, I think we should probably accept what Dr. Mann had to say in 2014 and figure out what we have to do to stay under 405 ppm. The hour is late, but better late than never.

    Warm regards


  28. 78
    Hank Roberts says:

    More collateral damage from industrialization — moving off Earth will do more damage

    Emissions associated with a hydrogen fueled reusable rocket system are modeled based on the launch requirements of developing a space-based solar power system that generates present-day global electric energy demand. Flight rates from 104 to 106 per year are simulated and sustained to a quasisteady state. For the assumed rocket engine, H2O and NOX are the primary emission products; this also includes NOX produced during reentry heating. For a base case of 105 flights per year, global stratospheric and mesospheric water vapor increase by approximately 10 and 100%, respectively. As a result, high-latitude cloudiness increases in the lower stratosphere and near the mesopause by as much as 20%. Increased water vapor also results in global effective radiative forcing of about 0.03 W/m2. NOX produced during reentry exceeds meteoritic production by more than an order of magnitude, and along with in situ stratospheric emissions, results in a 0.5% loss of the globally averaged ozone column, with column losses in the polar regions exceeding 2%.

    Count that in the amount of damage we can afford while trying to sort this mess out.

  29. 79
    Hank Roberts says:

    (that numbe of flights is 10e4 and 10e6, not “104 to 106”)

  30. 80
    Jon Kirwan says:

    #68 Solar Jim
    Apparently something like 0.6 billion tons of methane are entering the atmosphere each year, and emissions are reported rising. With methane itself two orders of magnitude stronger in radiative forcing than carbonic acid gas (CO2), does this not mean that we have the equivalent of 60 billion tons CO2 emitted annually as methane?

    I wish I could give something definitive here. But I’m just a hobbyist and, besides, I’m not sure that the better-informed scientists on this question would entirely agree, anyway. It appears to be one of those ongoing matters that never dies.

    (For example, there’s debate over the lifetime (tau) for atmospheric methane. Hydroxyls are the major sink for atmospheric methane, but are diminished by increasing methane concentrations, thereby reducing the sink. The exact details here leave a somewhat wide difference in interpretations about the tau to use.)

    There is a term that has been constructed, GWP or Global Warming Potential, which helps to describe the effects of changes in methane in the atmosphere. I don’t know how much the above mentioned caveat, the atmospheric tau, affects this as I haven’t attempted to replicate what I’ve read elsewhere. But you can look at this page, 6.12.2 Direct GWPs, to see that the potential impacts vary depending on the length of time and that in no case do you see a factor of 200 mentioned. I think that was a very early estimate found before the year 2000 (TAR, perhaps?), if at all.

    There are also indirect impacts, but these aren’t nearly as well quantified. you can look at this page, 6.12.3 Indirect GWPs, to get a quick summary about some thoughts there.

    In broad strokes:

    (1) Methane has it’s own significant radiative impacts while it resides in the atmosphere, but it is scrubbed out by hydroxyls over time. As it is scrubbed out, methane (most of it) is probably converted into atmospheric carbon dioxide, which itself has both longer and shorter residence times (taus) — at least three or four of them, depending on the method by which it is removed.

    (2) Scientists still don’t entirely understand the sources of methane. It doubled its concentration in our atmosphere from about 1910 to 1990 (see: CH4 curve) and then the rate tapered off for a while. Recently, it’s been increasing rapidly. There are good hypotheses for why, and a fuller understanding must include not only sources but also sinks, but I don’t think this is yet settled.

    (3) There is an equilibrium state found when enough time is allowed. However, it’s pretty obvious from the above-mentioned curve that over this last century the atmospheric methane concentration doesn’t appear to be in an equilibrium state. It appears, instead, subjected to perturbations and is responding to them.

    (4) Global temperature affects atmospheric methane as a positive feedback. Future sources of methane are likely to include releases from frozen soils (peat underneath the changing permafrost layer) and, debated more hotly, from methane clathrates (methane trapped in rings of frozen H20, but where the probability of escape from the ring is very highly sensitive to slight changes in temperature.) These sources are many times larger, potentially, than the entire methane load already in our atmosphere. (Methane clathrates were first uncovered in 1979 and 1980 by scientists on the Glomar Challenger working off the west coast of Mexico [see: Moore et al, 1979]. But since then the estimates on just how much might be present has gone through many refinements and is still, to this day, relatively uncertain.)

    Summary: I don’t know what the current state of understanding is, about the importance of methane to the discussion about climate change, though. And I suppose it matters a lot what kind of short vs long term perspective you want to take. In the short term, it’s important as it can be 50-60 times as radiatively effective as CO2 in trapping heat energy. But this diminishes to about 20 times when taking a century viewpoint. There are also indirect effects and these may become more important over a long time, but are also far less well understood.

    I think methane has not been given its due from scientists addressing the lay public in their outreach efforts (when and where they too rarely happen), more because of the uncertainties than because it’s not important. But there are some very large magnitudes potentially involved (peat as well as clathrates), so it’s quite possible that it will become a very important factor discussed in years to come.

    It might make for a nice guest article here, discussing just this topic and the (wide?) range of possible impacts. I’d find it very interesting, anyway, to get a better informed and more current understanding of the state of affairs today regarding methane and its risks. Something that would deal with arguments about a “clathrate gun” from a modern perspective and would also discuss boreal forest systems, peat, and permafrost also from a modern perspective. (I converse with one individual at Wood’s Hole regarding boreal forests and carbon storage, but not regarding methane.) Perhaps the site moderators will seriously consider both the timing and scope of such an article.

    In short, I like your question and wish I knew more about how to answer it well.

  31. 81
    Bill Henderson says:

    Thanks for responding and for your review busy Thomas, (61)

    maybe think about it this way:

    A small group of people, US Republicans, can deny and so obstruct needed climate mitigation, globally. But as David Roberts recently opined:

    “For most people, most of the time, social bonds matter far more than any particular bit of knowledge, any fact or belief.

    “This is especially true when it comes to the kinds of things defined as political “issues,” like inequality, climate change, and other societal risks, which tend to be somewhat abstract and distant from daily experience. Most people don’t have settled, coherent opinions on issues at all, just bits and bobs they’ve picked up from their tribes. They certainly don’t have enough invested in issues to warrant risking their tribal ties on behalf of particular beliefs.”

    Plus, in my lifetime at least, opinion pages in MSM have always been controlled by biz for biz ends and have always featured deniers, paid or just biz tribe skeptical of climate mitigation that might impact biz.

    And Net media has let loose a Babel of voices so that it is possible for most people to silo in their tribes worldview unaware almost of the myriad other silos of other tribes. Like McLuhan and the soldiers that sprang from the invention of writing.

    So denial becomes more than possible.

    But overcoming denial in Republicans has to happen. I directed to Kyle Field’s ‘Leveraging Tech to settle the climate debate’ because I think you can build a vehicle on the Net to make present climate denial (in most of it’s forms) untenable and such a vehicle could be built and implemented fast and would turbocharge regular science by bypassing the control of government (as well as the MSM) by the relentlessly economic. David Suzuki has written eloquently about how foresight has always been man’s special trait. We have the sensors spread out now even outside of our solar system but our processing ability to effectively use the yardstick facts is still severely hampered by governance limitations same as the Mayans.

    Necessity is the mother of invention. Trump will be president. Developing and leveraging technology to communicate the facts to the public in a way that is universally accepted — is the largest challenge facing climate change. Forcing the governance past the tribal stage is possible. Making climate denial untenable for all but the most raptured flat-earthers is possible. And then what would Trump and Tillerson do?

  32. 82
    Charles Hughes says:

    Ric Merritt says:
    6 Jan 2017 at 12:51 PM
    I raise an eyebrow at the constant use of her first name only, and I completely choke on the insulting epithet “Aunt Judy”. Cut it out.

    Neither you or Judy, Judy, Judy will get any sympathy from me:

  33. 83
    Hank Roberts says:

    Muller warns of “alarmists”:

    reprinted in HuffPo and Forbes

    Quora ,


    Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

    (Photo: STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)

    How do I explain climate change to my teenager? originally appeared on Quora: the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

    Answer by Richard Muller, Professor of Physics at UC Berkeley, author of Now, The Physics of Time, on Quora:

    The best way to explain climate change to your teenager is to let him know that there is strong evidence that the average surface temperature of the Earth has warmed by about 1.5C, ever since the thermometer was invented. That’s not much, but it is enough to have caused the sea level to rise by about 8 inches (mostly because warmer water expands).

    We know this warming is due to increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, mostly from burning fossil fuels. That’s called the “Greenhouse effect”. Carbon dioxide increases the effectiveness of the atmosphere at trapping heat, so when carbon dioxide increases, it gets warmer.

    Also tell him that he will hear a lot of exaggerations from people who are genuinely worried about future temperature rise. We do expect that the temperature will rise another 1.5°C in the next 50 years, from continued carbon dioxide releases predominantly from China, India, and the developing world. They need more energy to improve the standard of living of their people, so we need to help them produce energy with low carbon emissions. That means nuclear, energy conservation, and natural gas.
    Recommended by Forbes

    He should know that the 1.5 C rise in 250 years is too slow a rate to be noticed by any humans. People who claim that they can see climate change are actually disagreeing with science, which measures the change as quite small, so far. But another 1.5°C rise in 50 years could cause hardship.

    Sea level is expected, in that period, to rise another 4 to 12 inches. That won’t be enough to have disastrous consequences (not even in Bangladesh), but some alarmists claim (incorrectly) that a 4 to 8 foot rise is likely. They are exaggerating, possibly out of conviction, but they are not accepting the science of climate change.

    There are many exaggerated claims, about increased storms, floods, and droughts, but none of them are scientifically established. Indeed, they are not even universal predictions of the models; some models predict increased storms, others predict decreases, and others predict no change. Climate change has many alarmists and exaggerators. He should watch out for them and ask them for the evidence. Then he should check with people who disagree (Quora is a good way to do that) and find out if the “facts” he was presented are true. Doing this will be good practice for evaluating facts in everything else he encounters in his life. (I recall, in 6th grade, when my sister showed me that I should not necessarily trust advertisements!)

    There is no need to panic over climate change, but there is value in acting.

  34. 84
    MA Rodger says:

    Solar Jim @68.
    The emissions of methane and their sources are not as well defined as the emissions of CO2. There is roughly 600 million tons emitted per year and this is responsible for a trebling of atmospheric methane concentrations since pre-industrial times. So we can consider the methane contribution to AGW the result of some 400 million tons annual methane emissions.
    Methane is a more powerful GHG than CO2 but it has a short atmospheric life. So the 400Mt(CH4) is responsible for a climate forcing of about 0.5W/sq m, which would be equivalent to something like +35ppm CO2. To achieve +35ppm CO2 you would require some 165Gt(C) of CO2 (about 15-years-worth at today’s CO2 emissions) but unlike the CH4, the CO2 will only require a far smaller amount of topping up to maintain the +35ppm, perhaps 2Gt(C)CO2 per annum.
    So our 400Mt(CH4) emissions are certainly not the equivalent of 60 billion tons(C)CO2 (or 40 billion) unless you remember to massively reduce your emitting after a couple of years to emissions levels tht keep the atmospheric level topped up.

  35. 85
    Thomas says:

    HI, I’ve mentioned several times about the value of good ‘advertising’ and more recently copied a quote of how important “stories” are to communicate with people effectively.

    A friend just shared with me a couple of really good examples on youtube that relate to climate change issues and associated ‘political rhetoric’ specifically – which isn’t that hard to untangle when you think about it like a marketer or PR rep.

    Honest Government Advert – Dakota Access Pipeline

    Honest Government Advert – Carmichael Coal Mine (in Qld Australia)

    by JuicyMedia – Home of Juice Rap News & Honest Government Adverts. Produced by Giordano in a suburban Melbourne backyard studio – on Wurundjeri land.

  36. 86
    Frank says:

    We often hear of a 1.5 or 2.0 degree rise from pre-industrial temperatures (approximately 1880-1920), but most global temperature indices have a later base (e.g. GISS 1951-1980).

    QUESTION: how do you convert GISS temperatures with base 1951-1980 ( to base 1880-1920?

    James Hansen has a nice graph of GISS with a 1880-1920 base at, but he does not say how he converted from 1951-1980 to 1880-1920.

  37. 87
    Bill Henderson says:

    Seems like lukewarming (Hank 83) and not worrying about climate change is the new denial flavour:

    You Ought to Have a Look: How to Properly Worry about Climate Change, aka, Lukewarming

    I think the ‘arguments’ are easily refuted but without better communication I think these deniers have a winning formula

  38. 88
    mike says:

    Last Week

    January 1 – 7, 2017 405.91 ppm

    January 1 – 7, 2016 402.03 ppm

    year on year rate of increase differential bumping back above 3 ppm over the past week plus. Noisy numbers, but anyone who is not disturbed by an annual increase of 3 ppm does not understand our situation.

    Warm regards


  39. 89
    Bill Henderson says:

    There seems to be a bloom of lukewarming, even varieties that admit the possibility of real danger before reverting back to denial. Like this example:

    One of the most frequently cited economic models pins the estimate of annual damages from warming of 4°C at ~4% of global GDP (4–6), which could lead to lost U.S. federal revenue of roughly $340 billion to $690 billion annually (7).

    Moreover, these estimates do not include the possibility of GHG increases triggering catastrophic events, such as the accelerated shrinkage of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, drastic changes in ocean currents, or sizable releases of GHGs from previously frozen soils and sediments that rapidly accelerate warming. In addition, these estimates factor in economic damages but do not address the critical question of whether the underlying rate of economic growth (rather than just the level of GDP) is affected by climate change, so these studies could substantially understate the potential damage of climate change on the global macroeconomy (8, 9).

    (Guess who writing in where?)

  40. 90
    Solar Jim says:

    Thanks for the responses to my question (#68).

    Hank (#72): By “apparent” I was attempting to refer to those who read the literature, not to mention those who actually do methane accounting. Thanks for the 0.6 billion ton/yr. ref. confirming my number.

    Kevin (#76): My question mentions rising concentration, so the usual 25x or 28x reference over a century may not be valid. Point of fact, with an annual increase in concentration it would seem that the initial impact of any particular year’s emission could effectively be maintained over the time of rising concentration. The reason why we have figures like 28x or 34x the RF of CO2 over 100 years, and 86x over 20 years is because of what I stated in the question (methane is about one hundred times stronger, in radiative forcing, than CO2 on a molecular basis).

    Jon (#80): Although I am familiar with many aspects of your kind response, thanks very much for the thoughtful review. I agree with your recommendation.

    MA Rodger (#84): Very sorry but you lost me on the 400 Mt/yr figure. Also, “400Mt(CH4) is responsible for a climate forcing” is incorrect, or just poorly worded. It is today’s concentration (about 1900ppb) rather than annual emission which is responsible for current forcing (reported as 0.5 W/sq m). Also feel the “topping off” discussion is not quite relevant since the planet’s concentration is actually rising. Perhaps this needs more discussion, but thanks.

    Regards, Solar Jim

  41. 91
    Spectator says:

    Re Hank #83

    True. But… what happens after 150 years will quite likely be much more disruptive, if carbon output and CC continue. It doesn’t take much SLR for sewers to quit working via gravity, and once they’re dependent on pumps the effects of accident or sabotage will be epic. Much less certain are exactly when the disruptive effects will happen, and whether people alive today care.

  42. 92
    Tony Weddle says:

    Frank, you can follow the various links from the James Hansen graph to find the tabulated data used. These go back to 1880. The data are still based on the later period but you should be able to calculate the average anomaly for 1880-1920 and use that to adjust the anomalies against the earlier base period.

  43. 93
    Thomas says:

    #89 Bill, sounds like Barack Obama after wasting 8 years in office failing to convince anyone else there’s a problem here apart from his own two children and wife.

  44. 94
    Thomas says:

    11-Jan-2017 Northeast US temperatures are decades ahead of global average
    UMass Amherst climate scientists say Northeast will warm sooner than most of US

    (can’t find the original paper online, sorry)

  45. 95
    Arun says:

    Per journalist T.R. Ramachandran, Climategate and what hit Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election are very very similar.

    I know this is more politics than science, but if you want to understand why a website like finds it necessary to defend climate science, this needs to be comprehended.

  46. 96
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Ric Merritt@53,
    Careful, you’ll break a fingernail clutching those pearls so tightly.

  47. 97
    MA Rodger says:

    Solar Jim @90.
    If you emit 200Mt(CH4)/yr you will quickly get roughly the pre-industrial level of atmospheric CH4. If you have three-times pre-industrial atmospheric CH4, the emission would have risen by 400Mt(CH4)/yr above pre-industrial to today’s ~600Mt(CH4)/yr.
    You are wrong to say that “about 1,900ppb(CH4) … is responsible for current forcing (reported as 0.5 W/sq m).” The base situation is pre-industrial and that had 722ppbCH4(+/-25ppb) according to IPCC AR5 AII so it is only ~1,130ppb(CH4) that is responsible for the ~0.5W/sq m CH4 forcing. And the global average value is yet to climb above 1,850ppb according to NOAA (up to Oct 2016) so we’re a few years off 1,900ppb.
    That atmospheric CH4 levels are rising does not prevent discussion of a theoretical steady-state which is indeed what you raised with discussion of 600Mt(CH4) total global emissions.

  48. 98
    Hank Roberts says:

    Solar Jim says:
    10 Jan 2017 at 5:03 PM

    Thanks for the responses to my question (#68).

    Hank (#72): By “apparent” I was attempting to refer to those who read the literature, not to mention those who actually do methane accounting. Thanks for the 0.6 billion ton/yr. ref. confirming my number.

    Sorry, that source I found doesn’t support your number.
    You’re claiming the worst possible future has already happened.
    That sounds like the scribbling approach to me, oooooooscary.
    Where did you get the idea you posted, please?

    Reality is plenty scary.

  49. 99
    MA Rodger says:

    So was Arctic Sea Ice Extent exceptional in 2016?

    Of course not.

    Beause we now have 2017 (graphed here (usually two clicks to download your attachment)). Note that the JAXA SIE anomaly is running at levels which, bar a few days in March 2015 & the crazy April-to-June excurtion last year, aren’t normally seen until the height of the melt season in July. And when I say “normally,” that is 2007 & 2012. So hold on to your hats!!

  50. 100
    Silda Twinton says:


    First they said the effects of added CO2 would be negligible. Then they said the effect was marginal. Then they said the effect was measurable and that it halted in 1998. Now they say the effect is real, but inconsequential. In a few years from now they will say the effects were not inconsequential but that it’s too late to do anything about it.

    Not unlike what my late mum said about her smoking habit..