Climate clippings 6

These posts include a brief mention of a number of news items relating to climate change. They don’t preclude treating any of these topics at more length in a separate post.

They can also serve as an open thread so that we can keep each other informed on important climate news.

Clouds and climate sensitivity

Climate sensitivity is the temperature increase caused by a doubling of the trace gas CO2 in the atmosphere. The IPCC AR4 gave this as between 2 and 4.5 °C for short term “Charney” feedbacks, which is a large uncertainty range for such an important number. Clouds are largely to blame.

Recent research indicates less cloud cover as the sea surface warms. Thus uncertainty is taken away from the low side.

Gavin Schmidt of NASA GISS says:

what’s needed are models with even finer detail, and data on all different kinds of clouds. Nevertheless, evidence is building for a warming influence from cloud changes: Clement’s research shows that when the sea surface is warm there is less low cloud cover.

That’s right. Schmidt’s boss, James Hansen, using paleoclimate data, reckons the value for shorter term climate sensitivity should be 3C plus or minus 0.5C (see Storms of My Grandchildren) based on paleoclimate data. Hansen reckons that full climate sensitivity is more like 6C, pointing out that there was about a 5C differential between now and the last ice age. He also says that climate sensitivity is not constant for all climate states. As we warm he thinks it will increase.

Global warming shares the blame for Europe’s cold weather

That is according to Vladimir Petoukhov, a climate scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.

He says there are two main causes. One is a positive North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and the other low levels of sea ice in the Barents-Kara Sea, north of Norway and Russia. These two phenomena interact with and amplify each other. The latter is caused by global warming.

Other causes include reduced solar activity and changes in the Gulf Stream but are less strongly correlated.

Please note Petoukhov is not predicting the coldest European winter in 1000 years, nor is any other scientist. A story to that effect seems to have originated in a Polish tabloid newspaper, which made it up.

Arctic ice volume as of last September has never been lower

Climate Progress has a look at Arctic ice volume story.

Tamino, back in October, dealt with Arctic ice area which turned out to be the third lowest in modern times and smack on his longer term declining trend.

Veron on the world’s coral reefs

Climate Progress also features John “Charlie” Veron on the grim future of coral reefs this century.

the science is clear: Unless we change the way we live, the Earth’s coral reefs will be utterly destroyed within our children’s lifetimes.

On our current trajectory of increasing atmospheric CO2, we can expect that by 2030 to 2050 the acidification process will be affecting all the oceans of the world to some degree. At that point, the relatively cool, deep-water tropical regions that have offered refuges to corals from temperature stress will be those most affected by acidification.

The atmospheric levels of CO2 we are already committed to reach, no matter what mitigation is now implemented, have no equal over the entire longevity of the Great Barrier Reef, perhaps 25 million years. And most significantly, the rate of CO2 increase we are now experiencing has no precedent in all known geological history.

Reefs are the ocean’s canaries and we must hear their call. This call is not just for themselves, for the other great ecosystems of the ocean stand behind reefs like a row of dominoes. If coral reefs fail, the rest will follow in rapid succession, and the Sixth Mass Extinction will be upon us — and will be of our making.

We won’t get a four metre sea level rise the but threat to tropical forests is ‘greater than suspected’

That’s according to a new review of climate predictions by the Hadley Centre.

Alaskan wildfires threaten runaway climate change

That’s according to a new study:

This is the first study to reveal that fires in the Alaskan interior – an area spanning 18.5 million hectares – have become more severe in the past 10 years, and have released much more carbon into the atmosphere than was stored by the region’s forests over the same period.

The carbon sink is becoming a source.

It’s crawling with life down there

For something a little different, John D sent me this link about an extensive biological community living in porous rock deep beneath the seafloor in the basalt layer. The pool of organic carbon down there is about the same size as the pool of atmospheric carbon dioxide. This alters our ideas of the oceanic carbon cycle.

I was reminded of a similar article in the New Scientist where they found life in the gabbroic layer below the basalt.

And back on the local scene

Two climate change activists chained themselves to a conveyor belt carrying coal to one of Australia’s largest power stations on Saturday, temporarily shutting the belt down.

Xstrata said its own mining operations had not been disrupted, but at least they tried.

31 thoughts on “Climate clippings 6”

  1. p. a. travers, would you assess selecting, assembling, summarising and posting the above as nothing?

    There was a time last night well after midnight when I almost said “stuff it” and went to bed.

  2. The “what are you doing” question is one of the more irritating ones, IMO. Mostly because it’s so often constructed as a no win situation – whatever your response, it will be challenged as not the best one.

    Although there are fun answers… from “I’m committed to being a vegetarian” to “I subsidise coal fired electricity generators by selling the RECS from my PV”. I got an incredibly hostile response the other day when I suggested that owning and driving a car was not environmentally responsible for a healthy 20 year old.

  3. Moz #5, if the healthy 20 year old is an art or music student with heavy equipment they need to cart around for their studies, I have some sympathy for them. What irks me are the healthy 20 year olds who aren’t so encumbered, and who think it is their right as an individual to drive alone to our campus from the immediately surrounding suburbs and have a parking space waiting for them, even if it means clearing swathes of native vegetation to make room for car parks.

  4. @9- are you confusing Moz with Murph?
    The articles linked to have no relationship to attempting to disprove global warming/climate change.
    Apologies if a link of Moz’ is somewhere on this thread.

  5. Moz said:

    The “what are you doing” question is one of the more irritating ones, IMO. Mostly because it’s so often constructed as a no win situation – whatever your response, it will be challenged as not the best one.

    It is. It is also disingenuous because the challenger typically assails those who are beyond reproach in their commitment to low-carbon lifestyles as “hair shirt eco-f*sc*sts who want us to go live in caves so that the first world can subsidise the world’s poor by giving money to grant-grubbing scientists who support big taxing ‘Algore’ scams to bring down civilisation”. They often add “and for the record, I recycle my plastic and have a 20-year-old car.”

    It’s also a piece of misdirection. Climate change mitigation cannot be effective except that whole jurisdiction acts in concert. Individuals can signify their support, but until it becomes a robust public policy, individual action is in practice futile. When it does become robust public policy, individual resistance will be futile.

    I got an incredibly hostile response the other day when I suggested that owning and driving a car was not environmentally responsible for a healthy 20 year old.

    While at an aethetic level, I can understand your impulse, partly for the reasons above, I’m against this kind of personalisation of the matter. Individuals largely do what their social context predisposes. Nobody with the power to change things asks most people what they’d prefer happen. Once every three years or so, there’s a general plebiscite and you don’t get to choose policies but whol slabs of candidates who aren’t responsible to you in real time. If they aren’t doing the right thing, it’s scarcely fair to blame disempowered individuals.

    So as offended as I always am at seeing those UAVs driving around, I am more offended that public policy allows there operators to transfer the externalities to the public as a whole with impunity.

  6. Whilst what I asked does easily construe itself to be antagonistic,I cannot recall the statement inferring a nothingness as Brian assumed that was what I was implying.The climate if you like,a non-static thing is doing something,I have stated before I am a Global Coolist,thus, any question comes with that as an assured sense of intention to assert in some manner.So a lack of sleep my have driven in part Brian’s response.I will not explain my question,if one assumes that an understanding of climate as science,occurs within the head ,whilst the Climate is represented by the ongoing weather events,patterns and any matters within the weather,from point to point wherever it is measured ,recorded or in someway assessed.So,I didn’t really know that the confidence in Global Warming can be as resilient as not accepting Global Warming and moving on to assessing that as a fact the Globe is cooling.I picked up today,Uncensored issue 22 .Dec 2010 March 2011 A Magazine from New Zealand.I am already across much that is in this but, an article on page 15 called Life on this Earth Just Changed:THE NORTH ATLANTIC CURRENT IS GONE Sept 14 2010 and source May be interesting to Brian and others.This Mag has a number of weather and climate related stories. Nexus Magazine from Queensland has no major Climate articles in the latest issue still a good read.Sleep well Brian,and I amnot in the least concerned about a snap of anger from you at all.Not because I am aloof,but because,I have hours of a state of mind where it is almost murderous in intent.I feel my feelings,and acknowledge the processes of thought,as mine sometimes.Humanity is easily lead as individuals,and something called Schumann what-evers I think has been well and truly breached,by technology.

  7. patrickg @ 3, thanks. I’m aware that I started this series about a year ago, did two and then lapsed. I’m aiming for every Friday right now, but might not make it every time.

  8. Murph, both articles you link appear to be from well-credentialled people. I think the claims cited in the first are perhaps over-hyped, but I wouldn’t say they haven’t been made.

    On climate refugees, Gwynne Dyer, who has security credentials, assures us that the possibility of mass migration is very much part of forward planning in security/defence establishments around the world. If they worry needlessly so much the better, but a path can build up over time. How much of the movement from Africa to Europe is stimulated by climate factors? I don’t know.

  9. I’m with patrickg, Brian. Never miss one of you Climate threads. It’s not easy bearing (mostly) unglad tidings about the fate of our Pale Blue Dot, let alone being harried by the flippant for so doing. Long may you blog.

  10. @15 +1
    One of the real worrying aspects is how comparative little we actually do know about the climate (feedbacks systems etc.)in general and the complexity of human impact in particular. Your climate threads are some of the most informative and upto date that I have come across. Also thanks to all the commentators. To know that other people care, ask questions and search for answers, provides kind of a little light at the end of the tunnel.

    Personally I have moved on from a polarised position re AGW to focus on risk management. It seems to me futile to argue whether science has got it right or not. I would argue that science can never get it right, that is the nature of science and as such a fortunate thing. However, science is a powerful human endeavor to enable us to understand the nature of the world we live in and us as inhabitants thereof.
    Science also provides us with relevant markers to give us an idea of where we stand in terms of risks.

    It is interesting to observe on various forums I dip in to check the wind re AGW (Weatherzone, Unleash, et al), that the tenor of ‘skeptiks’ has changed over the last half year. Most of the more rational minded, would agree now that there is a degree of change in climate towards warming possible or indeed occurring. However, they still vehemently object to the idea that could be attributed to any degree to human impact. That is an encouraging trend if indeed it is more than just my observation.

    In regards, to the question of ‘what am I doing re AGW’, I find it a good entree to expound all the steps that I have taken to minimise risk and the extent I would be prepared to compromise my lifestyle should we collectively ever be able to get our s#ite together.

  11. OK Lets all Panic!!

    From a paper by Frank Lansner:-

    Nature has provided us with data telling a simple story: For periods on earth comparable with today, we see many examples of temperature increases in the magnitude of 1 K for all kinds of natural reasons. Very rarely does any temperature rise (via supposed positive feedbacks) reach 3 K within 100 years.

    It is thus surprising that IPCC and others with big confidence can claim large temperature rises of up to 3 – 6 K as most likely result from just a minor temperature increase, for example induced by CO2 warming.

    More, it appears that the temperature rise of 0,7K from 1900 to 2010 is as normal as can be when comparing with other temperature rises during other warm periods.”

  12. Ootz, agree with your second paragraph re science and with the advantages of a de-polarised discussion with skeptics who struggle with the idea of an anthropogenic component in GW. And yes, “compromising” the way we live as individuals or in families, villages and neighbourhoods is the right thing to do by the biosphere and those who’ll inhabit it.

    Sadly, the degree of difficulty of effective GLOBAL compromise is compounded when a POTUS, in a blaze of brazen triumphalism, yuks that his country’s lifestyle sure as hell won’t be compromised. And his jellyback successor does little to substantially alter his predecessor’s position on The Issue. The organic vege patch at 1600 Penn was a nice touch though. However it’s possible that twenty years down the track it may be too late for Rip Van Winkel to wake up to himself. Ecological eternal vigilence, it seems, is not a common trait among contemporary American Winkelvi.

    As long as “the hunter” is willing to share his campfire, his baccy and his stories, there is at least some hope of “him” re-thinking planetary stewardship.

    “In the late winter of eighteen seventy-eight he was on the plains of north Texas. He made his camp that night on a piece of high ground…….He no sooner got his fire to burn than he saw across the prarie in the darkness another fire. Like his it twisted in the wind. Like his it warmed one man alone.

    It was an old hunter in camp and the hunter shared tobacco with him and told him of the buffalo and the stands he’s made against them, laid up in a sag on some rise with the dead animals scattered over the grounds and the herd beginning to mill and the riflebarrel so hot the wiping patches sizzled in the bore and the animals by the thousands and the tens of thousands and the hides pegged out over actual square miles of ground and the skinners spelling one another around the clock and the shooting and shooting weeks and months…….their shoulders were yellow and blue to the elbow and the tandem wagons groaned away across the prairie twenty and twenty-two ox teams and the flint hides by the hundred ton and the meat rotting on the ground……

    I seen Studebaker wagons with six and eight ox teams headed out for the grounds not haulin a thing but lead. Just pure galena. Tons of it. On this ground alone between the Arkansas River and the Concho there was eight million carcasses for that’s how many hides reached the railhead. Two tears ago we pulled out from Griffin for the last hunt. We ransacked the country. Six weeks. Finally found a herd of eight animals and we killed them and come in. They’re gone. Ever one of them that God ever made is gone as if they’d never been at all.

    The ragged sparks blew down the wind. The prairie about them lay silent. Beyond the fire it was cold and the night was clear and the stars were falling. The old hunter pulled his blanket about him. I wonder if there’s other world’s like this, he said. Or if this is the only one.

    From Ch. XXIII, An Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy (ultra-gory bits deleted)

  13. EC and Ootz, thanks. I plan to carry on for the foreseeable future. So far, touch wood, I’m in reasonable shape. When the synapses start misfiring I hope my fellow bloggers at LP will tap me on the shoulder and tell me it’s time to go.

    John M the carbon burst we are giving the atmosphere now is comparable to what happened in the PETM (google it) 55 million years ago, only 25-30 times as fast. Back then the temperature rose about 6C and took 1-200,000 years to come back to what it was before.

    We are in unprecedented territory.

  14. This is a post I wrote Friday night which didn’t go through but luckily I saved and things haven’t moved on too far for it.

    I keep myself informed on environmental issues but Brian always finds some articles I haven’t come across before. Great stuff Brian.

    That was still a good question to ask, p.a.travers @ 1. It provoked discussion and self examination so be encouraged by the robust responses.

    Environmental problems such as these on Climate Clippings are all branches of the same cancer and that is Overpopulation. For sure AGW is one of the most malignant branches but there are many others spreading throughout the natural world.

    Some say that the cancer of overpopulation is slowing in growth but rapid growth leaves gaps in it’s destructive paths which are now being filled in as the outer limits to growth are being found. The integrity of the natural world is now in the process of being completely blotted out by the sheer density of Humans.

    I know it’s hard enough getting action on Climate Change let alone population growth but as important as CC is, it is still only treating the symptoms while the disease grows on unchecked.

    It would be far more honest to say at the outset that there are far too many of us on the planet whichever way you look at it and that effectively combating climate change, overfishing, pollution, deforestation, extinctions and resource depletion are impossible while the captains of commerce continue to encourage population growth. Far less people disagree that the earth is overpopulated, there is far more unassailable evidence of it and there would be multiple fronts on which to tackle the growth lobby.

  15. Brian, thank you again. Your ‘clippings’ are so much more than a clearing-house. You add significant value through your analysis and thoughtlines through the welter of data. I suspect there is a ‘silent majority’ of readers here who feel the same way.

    Travers — paragraphing. It’s the way grown-ups communicate. You should try it some time.

  16. I’ve just deleted the Wayne Swan newsletter. A deal struck in Cancun, but the most important news for Labour is about banking reform.

    Brian, keep up the good work. At least someone has their priorities right.

    I can understand why interest in global warming has dissipated. It is a story that has been running hot for a decade now, and people I guess assume that the problem has been resolved. Anyway most of us have other worries to attend to, such as the 3rd of 1 in a thousand year rain falls in the US mid west, or choking snow blizzards in Europe, or unprecedented flooding in Pakistan, or never seen before fires in Russsia, or Amazon drought, or “never thought that we would see them again floods” in Australia, and no doubt soon to be followed by “hoped we would never see them again” bush fires.

    People have more pressing things to occupy their mind than global warming.

  17. Thanks again Brian for your climate posts – long time fan.

    If a person cannot be arsed to use punctuation then I should not read it – it’s a rule I started to follow when in the early days of blog reading, I did read those posts and it was always full of rot if indeed decipherable at all.

    I read it because you answered it and I barely understood a word of it but stopped when it recommended Nexus magazine not as a parody. It’s always good to have a rule of thumb reconfirmed.

  18. Thanks Merc, BilB and David.

    To be frank, David, when I saw @ 12 I sent it off to trash without really reading it. Only later did I realise that my name was in there and it fitted into some kind of conversation.

  19. p.a.travers has by his own admission mental health problems and I think there is more scope to change ourselves for him than for him to change for us.

    It can’t hurt for him to have the opportunity to post here if we can cut him a bit of slack without condescension.

    Tell me if I am wrong Phillip. I always try to read at least some of your posts and I believe that most LP posters want to hear your views as we are very curious people, as in inquiring. Well, some of us are curious in other ways.

    It helps when you want your views known to think more about your audience. People want to help, want to know you whatever your views are but there is a method of communication which works best and small paragraphs work best. Cheers.

  20. I used to work for Nexus magazine under its first editor, and I helped finance its transition to its second editor, and I subscribed to it until recently. Sure it has published some screwball articles, such as the one that argued that CFCs were not responsible for the ozone hole, but there have been some excellent articles, especially those on health issues. However, last year Nexus published its first article on climate change. It was by Marc Morano, who was advisor to Republican senator James Inhofe, the notorious anti-environmental head of the Energy Committee. I was so incensed by the extreme anti-science bias in that article that I ceased my subscription to Nexus. Despite all the good that Nexus has done on the health front, it has undone it all by its stance on climate change.

    The whole editorial collective at Nexus is locked into a conspiratorial mindset that does not allow it to see the truth of the science of climate change. I wrote to the editor of Nexus explaining why I was resigning my subscription, but he retorted that he knew more about the science of climate change than I did, which was laughable. He is totally deluded on the subject. To add insult to injury, he published a second even more ludicrous article on climate change by that scoundrel Christopher Monckton. When a friend showed that article to me, I refused to read it. I knew it would only enrage me. I also knew that my rejection of Nexus was totally vindicated.

    I fully endorse David McRae’s comment that Nexus is a junk magazine.

  21. silkworm, thanks for the update on Nexus. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it, but there was a question mark in my mind about it.

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