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There was no pause

Filed under: — rasmus @ 22 January 2017

I think that the idea of a pause in the global warming has been a red herring ever since it was suggested, and we have commented on this several times here on RC: On how data gaps in some regions (eg. the Arctic) may explain an underestimation of the recent warming. We have also explained how natural oscillations may give the impression of a faux pause. Now, when we know the the global mean temperature for 2016, it’s even more obvious.

Easterling and Wehner (2009) explained that it is not surprising to see some brief periods with an apparent decrease in a temperature record that increases in jumps and spurts, and Foster and Rahmstorf (2012) showed in a later paper how temperature data from the most important observations show consistent global warming trends when known short-term influences such as El Niño Southern oscillation (ENSO), volcanic aerosols and solar variability are accounted for.

A recent paper by Hausfather et al. (2017) adds little new to our understanding, although it confirms that there has not been a recent “hiatus” in the global warming. However, if there are doubts about a physical condition, then further scientific research is our best option for establishing the facts. This is exactly what this recent study did.

The latest findings confirm the results of Karl et al. 2015 from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which Gavin described in a previous post here on RC. The NOAA analysis received unusual attention because of the harassment it drew from the chair of the US House Science Committee and the subpoena demand for emails.

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References

  1. D.R. Easterling, and M.F. Wehner, "Is the climate warming or cooling?", Geophysical Research Letters, vol. 36, 2009. http://dx.doi.org/10.1029/2009GL037810
  2. G. Foster, and S. Rahmstorf, "Global temperature evolution 1979–2010", Environmental Research Letters, vol. 6, pp. 044022, 2011. http://dx.doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/6/4/044022
  3. Z. Hausfather, K. Cowtan, D.C. Clarke, P. Jacobs, M. Richardson, and R. Rohde, "Assessing recent warming using instrumentally homogeneous sea surface temperature records", Science Advances, vol. 3, pp. e1601207, 2017. http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.1601207
  4. T.R. Karl, A. Arguez, B. Huang, J.H. Lawrimore, J.R. McMahon, M.J. Menne, T.C. Peterson, R.S. Vose, and H. Zhang, "Possible artifacts of data biases in the recent global surface warming hiatus", Science, vol. 348, pp. 1469-1472, 2015. http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aaa5632

The NASA data conspiracy theory and the cold sun

When climate deniers are desperate because the measurements don’t fit their claims, some of them take the final straw: they try to deny and discredit the data.

The years 2014 and 2015 reached new records in the global temperature, and 2016 has done so again. Some don’t like this because it doesn’t fit their political message, so they try to spread doubt about the observational records of global surface temperatures. A favorite target are the adjustments that occur as these observational records are gradually being vetted and improved by adding new data and eliminating artifacts that arise e.g. from changing measurement practices or the urban heat island effect. More about this is explained in this blog article by Victor Venema from Bonn University, a leading expert on homogenization of climate data. And of course the new paper by Hausfather et al, that made quite a bit of news recently, documents how meticulously scientists work to eliminate bias in sea surface temperature data, in this case arising from a changing proportion of ship versus buoy observations. More »

The underestimated danger of a breakdown of the Gulf Stream System

Filed under: — stefan @ 4 January 2017

A new model simulation of the Gulf Stream System shows a breakdown of the gigantic overturning circulating in the Atlantic after a CO2 doubling.

A new study in Science Advances by Wei Liu and colleagues at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego and the University of Wisconsin-Madison has important implications for the future stability of the overturning circulation in the Atlantic Ocean. They applied a correction to the freshwater fluxes in the Atlantic, in order to better reproduce the salt concentration of ocean waters there. This correction changes the overall salt budget for the Atlantic, also changing the stability of the model’s ocean circulation in future climate change. The Atlantic ocean circulation is relatively stable in the uncorrected model, only declining by about 20% in response to a CO2 doubling, but in the corrected model version it breaks down completely in the centuries following a CO2 doubling, with dramatic consequences for the climate of the Northern Hemisphere. More »

Record heat despite a cold sun

Filed under: — stefan @ 14 November 2016

Global temperature goes from heat record to heat record, yet the sun is at its dimmest for half a century.

For a while, 2010 was the hottest year on record globally. But then it got overtopped by 2014. And 2014 was beaten again by 2015. And now 2016 is so warm that it is certain to be once again a record year. Three record years in a row – that is unprecedented even in all those decades of global warming.

Strangely, one aspect of this gets barely mentioned: all those heat records occur despite a cold sun (Figs. 1 and 2). The last solar minimum (2008-2010) was the lowest since at least 1950, while the last solar maximum (2013-2015) can hardly be described as such. This is shown, among others, by the sunspot data (Fig. 1) as well as measurements of the solar luminosity from satellites (Fig. 2). Other indicators of solar activity indicate cooling as well (Lockwood and Fröhlich, Proc. Royal Society 2007).

herdsoftwidget

Fig. 1 Time evolution of global temperature, CO2 concentration and solar activity. Temperature and CO2 are scaled relative to each other according to the physically expected CO2 effect on climate (i.e. the best estimate of transient climate sensitivity). The amplitude of the solar curve is scaled to correspond to the observed correlation of solar and temperature data. (Details are explained here.) You can generate and adapt this graph to your taste here, where you can also copy a code with which the graph can be embedded as a widget on your own website (as on my home page). Thus it will be automatically updated each year with the latest data. Thanks to our reader Bernd Herd who programmed this. More »

Don’t make a choice that your children will regret

Filed under: — group @ 4 November 2016

Dear US voters,

the world is holding its breath. The stakes are high in the upcoming US elections. At stake is a million times more than which email server one candidate used, or how another treated women. The future of humanity will be profoundly affected by your choice, for many generations to come.

The coming four years is the last term during which a US government still has the chance, jointly with the rest of the world, to do what is needed to stop global warming well below 2°C and closer to 1.5°C, as was unanimously decided by 195 nations in the Paris Agreement last December. The total amount of carbon dioxide the world can still emit in order to have at least a 50% chance to stop warming at 1.5 °C will, at the current rate of emissions, be all used up in under ten years! This time can only be stretched out by making emissions fall rapidly.

Even 2°C of global warming is very likely to spell the end of most coral reefs on Earth. 2°C would mean a largely ice-free Arctic ocean in summer, right up to the North Pole. Even 2°C of warming is likely to destabilize continental ice sheets and commit the world to many meters of sea-level rise, lasting for millennia. Further global warming will likely lead to increasing extreme weather, droughts, harvest failures, and the risk of armed conflict and mass migration.

greenland00037small

Meltwater on the Greenland Ice Sheet. Photo with kind permission by Ragnar Axelsson.

In case you have any doubts about the science: in the scientific community there is a long-standing consensus that humans are causing dangerous global warming, reflected in the clear statements of many scientific academies and societies from around the world. None of the 195 governments that signed the Paris Agreement saw any reasons for doubting the underlying scientific facts; doubts about the science that you see in some media are largely manufactured by interest groups trying to fool you.

You have a fateful choice to make. The policies of candidates and parties on climate change could hardly be more different. Hillary Clinton would continue to work with the international community to tackle the global warming crisis and help the transition to modern clean and renewable energies. Donald Trump denies that the problem even exists and has promised to go back to coal and to undo the Paris Agreement, which comes into force today, the 4th of November 2016, as culmination of over twenty years of negotiations.

Please consider this carefully. This is not an election about personalities, it is about policies that will determine our future for a long time to come. While the presidential race has gotten the most attention, voters should consider climate not just at the ‘top of the ticket’, but all the way down the ballot. Don’t make a choice that you, your children and your children’s children will regret forever.

David Archer, Rasmus Benestad, Ray Bradley, Michael Mann, Ray Pierrehumbert, Stefan Rahmstorf and Eric Steig

Q & A about the Gulf Stream System slowdown and the Atlantic ‘cold blob’

Last weekend, in Reykjavik the Arctic Circle Assembly was held, the large annual conference on all aspects of the Arctic. A topic of this year was: What’s going on in the North Atlantic? This referred to the conspicuous ‘cold blob’ in the subpolar Atlantic, on which there were lectures and a panel discussion (Reykjavik University had invited me to give one of the talks). Here I want to provide a brief overview of the issues discussed.

What is the ‘cold blob’?

This refers to exceptionally cold water in the subpolar Atlantic south of Greenland. In our paper last year we have shown it like this (see also our RealClimate post about it):

fig1a_new

Fig. 1 Linear temperature trends from 1901 to 2013 according to NASA data. Source: Rahmstorf et al, Nature Climate Change 2015.

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AMOC slowdown: Connecting the dots

Filed under: — stefan @ 19 May 2016

I want to revisit a fascinating study that recently came from (mainly) the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab in Princeton. It looks at the response of the Atlantic Ocean circulation to global warming, in the highest model resolution that I have seen so far. That is in the CM2.6 coupled climate model, with 0.1° x 0.1° degrees ocean resolution, roughly 10km x 10km. Here is a really cool animation.

When this model is run with a standard, idealised global warming scenario you get the following result for global sea surface temperature changes.

Saba_Fig4

Fig. 1. Sea surface temperature change after doubling of atmospheric CO2 concentration in a scenario where CO2 increases by 1% every year. From Saba et al. 2016.

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What drives uncertainties in adapting to sea-level rise?

Filed under: — stefan @ 17 March 2016

Guest article by Sally Brown, University of Southampton

Let me get this off my chest – I sometimes get frustrated at climate scientists as they love to talk about uncertainties! To be sure, their work thrives on it. I’m someone who researches the projected impacts and adaptation to sea-level rise and gets passed ‘uncertain’ climate data projections to add to other ‘uncertain’ data projections in my impact modellers work bag. But climate scientists do a good job. Without exploring uncertainties, science loses robustness, but uncertainties in combination can become unbounded and unhelpful to end users.

Let’s take an adaptation to sea-level rise as an example: With increasing scientific knowledge, acceptance and mechanisms that would allow adaptation to potentially occur, one would think that adaptation would be straight forward to implement. Not so. Instead of hard and fast numbers, policy makers are faced with wide ranges of uncertainties from different sources, making decision making challenging. So what uncertainties are there in the drivers of change, and can understanding these uncertainties enable better decisions for adaptation?

Prior to considering adaptation in global or regional models, or implementation at local level, drivers of change and their impacts (and thus uncertainties) require analysis – here are a few examples. More »

And the winner is…

Filed under: — group @ 17 November 2015

Remember the forecast of a temporary global cooling which made headlines around the world in 2008? We didn’t think it was reliable and offered a bet. The forecast period is now over: we were right, the forecast was not skillful.

Back around 2007/8, two high-profile papers claimed to produce, for the first time, skilful predictions of decadal climate change, based on new techniques of ocean state initialization in climate models. Both papers made forecasts of the future evolution of global mean and regional temperatures. The first paper, Smith et al. (2007), predicted “that internal variability will partially offset the anthropogenic global warming signal for the next few years. However, climate will continue to warm, with at least half of the years after 2009 predicted to exceed the warmest year currently on record.” The second, Keenlyside et al., (2008), forecast in contrast that “global surface temperature may not increase over the next decade, as natural climate variations in the North Atlantic and tropical Pacific temporarily offset the projected anthropogenic warming.”

This month marks the end of the forecast period for Keenlyside et al and so their forecasts can now be cleanly compared to what actually happened. This is particularly interesting to RealClimate, since we offered a bet to the authors on whether the results would be accurate based on our assessment of their methodology. They ignored our offer but now the time period of the bet has passed, it’s worth checking how it would have gone.

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References

  1. D.M. Smith, S. Cusack, A.W. Colman, C.K. Folland, G.R. Harris, and J.M. Murphy, "Improved Surface Temperature Prediction for the Coming Decade from a Global Climate Model", Science, vol. 317, pp. 796-799, 2007. http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1139540
  2. N.S. Keenlyside, M. Latif, J. Jungclaus, L. Kornblueh, and E. Roeckner, "Advancing decadal-scale climate prediction in the North Atlantic sector", Nature, vol. 453, pp. 84-88, 2008. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature06921

Bjørn Lomborg, just a scientist with a different opinion?

Filed under: — stefan @ 31 August 2015 - (Español)

Bjørn Lomborg is a well-known media personality who argues that there are more important priorities than reducing emissions to limit global warming. In a recent controversy centering on him, the Australian government (known for its contradictory position on climate change) offered the University of Western Australia (UWA) $4 million to make Lomborg professor – which UWA first accepted, but then after massive protest from its staff and students refused. The Australian government was quick to label it a “freedom of speech” issue that Lomborg should get a university position, and vowed to find another university that would host him. However, free speech doesn’t guarantee everyone a university position; there are also academic qualifications required.

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