Climate clippings 7

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.

November turns out to be the hottest on record

I thought that with a La Nina, November temperatures would turn out to be cooler than 2005 on the NASA GISS record. Turns out they were the hottest on record. Here are some images from the post:

The graph for 2010:

Temperature anomaly graph 2010

The map for 2010:

Temperature anomaly map 2010

The birds-eye view for November from the North Pole:

November map from North Pole

GISS are expecting the full-year result to be the same as 2005 within the margin of error.

Deep ocean heat melts Antarctic ice

Metaphorically below the radar, actually below the sea surface deep ocean heat is melting Antarctic ice.

“In the area I work there is the highest increase in temperatures of anywhere on Earth,” said physical oceanographer Doug Martinson of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

That’s at at Palmer Island, on the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula.

But his jaw really dropped when he saw data from the past and deep ocean heat content measurements worldwide. All show the same rising trend that is being seen in Antarctica. That’s where more than 90% of the heat has been going since 1960. Now it’s chewing away at the bottom of the ice in Antarctica.

A new paper by O’Donnell, Lewis, McIntyre and Condon on temperature trends in Antarctica is scaring the carrots out of Eli at Rabbett Run.

One to watch.

Greenland ice loss accelerates

Greenland ice loss has been spectacular in recent years. Skeptical Science explains how it happens.

The hockey stick again

Climate Progress gives the hockey stick another run riffing off a RealClimate post.

Future historians — and countless long-suffering future generations — will be quite puzzled that during the same short window humanity was given to avert multiple catastrophes predicted by basic science, a vast amount of effort went into a debate over the so-called “Hockey Stick” graph developed by leading U.S. climatologists and substantiated by multiple independent analyses.

They reckon in a few decades time we’ll be talking about right angles,

Joe Romm gives his usual comprehensive treatment, with plenty of graphs.

Canadian oil sands interests attempting to block US carbon regulations

Yes, millions is being spent by Alberta oil sands interests and American oil refining companies on such an attempt, supported by the Canadian Government.

That’s because they have spent many billions investing in the production and supply of petrol from the tacky ooze, 82% more carbon intensive than light Texan crude. The Alberta operation is set to triple by 2025.

Initially they worried about regulations proposed in California to introduce a low carbon fuel standard (LCFS), which fortunately survived Proposition 23 designed to knock them out in the recent elections. Now similar regulations are being considered or adopted in 24 states. This would create pressure for national regulations. Time for ruthless capitalists to panic and swing into action.

Raw commercial self-interest.

South-east Asia will be hardest hit by climate change

That’s the headline. The text tells us that China will be the biggest loser, because of reduced river flows.

But widespread effects will be evident by 2030.

Good the the spooks are keeping an eye on climate change and good that WikiLeaks let us know.

Melting glaciers threaten floods in Himalayas, Andes

Speaking of floods and trickles in glacier-fed rivers, at Cancun the folks were being worded up about melting glaciers in the Himalayas and Andes.

Residents of the Himalayas and other mountain areas face a “tough and unpredictable future” as global warming melts glaciers and threatens worse floods and water loss, officials said during U.N. climate talks on Tuesday.

A study said that glaciers in southern Chile and Argentina, followed by ones in Alaska, had been losing mass “faster and for longer than glaciers in other parts of the world.”

But it’s not just a future issue. Problems are being experienced now and people living in those areas need more help.

Salty irrigation water in Vietnam

Salty irrigation water has been found 20 km from the sea in the Mekong Delta.

A third of the Mekong Delta could be submerged if the sea rose by 1 meter. Twenty per cent of Vietnam’s 86 million people live there, growing half the country’s rice in one of earth’s most biodiverse regions. Vietnam is the world’s second biggest rice exporter.

Closer to home

Closer to home Sydney has lots to worry about according to new sea level and storm surge threat maps.

Seems we should all plant bamboo. Seriously!

34 thoughts on “Climate clippings 7”

  1. Bitte sehr, as they say auf Deutsch, or in other words, you’re welcome. It’s far from comprehensive, of course.

  2. If you don’t have time to become an expert on the specific info sources even a collection of highlights like this is very useful.

  3. As always Brian, thanks. I look forward to these posts, albeit not the news they usually contain.

  4. I doubt some of the predictions, but remain concerned. Is sea water the real problem in Vietnam,or the fact there doesn’t seem a low cost practical way to utilise whatever benefit there is in flowing saline water and then extracting usable water for irrigation!?

    Obviously,Australia maybe more helpful with these questions by simply pointing out the problem remains universal. Salty water will flow centrifugally or centripedally wherever it moves. Saline conditions are not constantly in the liquid H2O. Electrical conductance applied to flowing waters isn’t exactly new, as far as other purposes are concerned.

    Salt is a wonderful product for animal health. We, Australia, have some remarkable salt producers. The environs this salt dewaters itself in, probably can be reproduced as technology, involving metal pans or something similar. Eg., stone or specially made material, and solar heat for pushing the water around, heat pump and slaking off the salt, all the way to demineralised water.

    Perhaps a keener interest in boat -building, generally will see the Vietnamese have a greater choice in what to do. Because boats can be part of series of salt and water separation,as well as being part of the farm as having other purposes. Getting already known facts about water and salt into a new perspective to see what can be done at a highly active scale of activity needs people to explore the subject in their own way, rather than the “cannot be done principle”, which then becomes a hollow gesture of concern.

    I have put forward the idea that road bridges could be used to flush rivers as a fresh. The opposite of that implies reducing the salt laden tidal flush from the other direction. Perhaps concurrent flows through some side channels can enhance whatever quality water flow is wanted. The side channel has the water flowing through a medium that surges forward the other type of water. Grafton N.S.W. has a large tidal water flow into it past the bridge. TO lock off this tidal flow and allow a big fresh flow build up at the bridge may mean a different set of quality of water flows that may improve all fish stock species on the tidal flow side of the bridge.

    Vietnam surely also has the capability to churn its water the way it wants to. Let more advanced research begin.

    [Paragraphing added – Ed]

  5. Brian,
    1) What is really causing the salty irrigation water in Vietnam?
    You’ll need to convince me that over extraction and severe modification of natural water flows are not the major cause here.
    2) Isn’t it likely that deposited atmospheric particulate matter is having a major effect on glaciers in the Himalayas, and that this primarily comes from China?
    3) The commentator in relation to the inundation of coastal Sydney suburbs says there is no effect on property prices!! The same comments applied to those nations (Maldives and Tuvalu) bleating about sea level increases at Cancun; property prices are not affected, even though these suburbs and locations are apparently doomed to go under. Logically if it was my land under threat of inundation, I’d sell it and quit while I was able to sell. These people in low beach front suburbs and low lying countries don’t seem to be listening!!

  6. Thanks folks for the encouraging comments and the links.

    John Michelmore, on Vietnam, from the linked article:

    Thanh had seen salty irrigation water before, but never so far inland from the sea. What was troubling about Binh Thanh’s case, though, was not the salt. It was that the problem was caused by an increasingly complex network of dykes and sluice gates built precisely to prevent salination, he said.

    “The other gates were closed to keep fresh water in, so the salty water flowed there,” he said.

    It is an example of the type of problem experts say Vietnam will face more often as hard choices are made to adapt.

    “Things are happening already, it’s not in the future, and it’s going to get worse,” said Koos Neefjes, the United Nations policy advisor for climate change in Vietnam.

    I’m not trying to convince you of anything.

    On melting glaciers, you’d have to be going around with your eyes shut not to know that glaciers are in retreat all over the world. Certainly soot and other local influences can have an effect, such as tree clearing at Kilimanjaro, but I’ll leave it to the experts to talk about what the “major” causes are.

  7. John M, on real estate prices, I was told recently of rich people south of Sydney who valued their sea-front access so highly that they didn’t mind having their basement flooded every so often.

  8. John M (desperate appologist) the soot from China heads for Japan. That seems counterintuitive now that I think of it but that is the direction that weather systems move. Just as Syney’s smog heads out to sea on its way to NZ.

    The other thing wrong with your latest straw grasp is that atmospheric particualtes have more of a cooling effect than a warming one. Certainly soot on a snow surface might have a sligh t melting effect, but an overall lower temperature due to solar radiation reflecting off airbourne particles back in to space will regenerate snow faster than the loss. Remember than volcanic eruptions cause cooling periods.

    In your comment 3 you have fully accepted sea levels are rising due to the glacial melt that in comment 2 you are arguing the cause, so that nullifies your comment 1. The fact that you did not detect this progressive flaw in your arguments this further casts doubt on you claim of superior judgement where you say that if it were your basement flooding you would sell up and move. You see, as the undeniable evidence of global warming is laid before you, your response is to declare that this is entirely natural and of no cause for concern, so it is more likely that if your beachfront basement flooded you would put this down to a low lunar orbit causing a one off king tide and stay put.

    Lunar is the word.

  9. Just as Syney’s smog heads out to sea on its way to NZ

    Are you sure about that? North v South hemispere and all that.

    I’ve tried to get some of those time series satellite thingies that the BOM puts out for Australia – but I’m having trouble getting the equivalent for China. Did find this though:

    In summer, a southeast monsoon from the western Pacific Ocean and a southwest monsoon from the equatorial Indian Ocean blow onto the Chinese mainland. These monsoons are the main cause of rainfall. Starting in April and May, the summer rainy season monsoons hit the southern provinces of Guangdong, Guangxi, and Hainan. In June, the rains blow northward, and South China gets more rainfall with the poetic name, plum-rain weather, since this is the moment when plums mellow. North China greets its rainy season in July and August, says farewell in September; gradually in October the summer monsoons retreat from Chinese land. Eastern China experiences many climate changes, while the northwest area is a non-monsoon region.”

  10. Weather systems move from west to east in both hemispheres. Here is a very poor qualifier
    This seems wrong as that is also the direction of the earths rotation (meaning that the sun appears in the east and sets in the west). So now I have to find out why. The upper atmosphere air flows are east to west and poleward, but why the opposite at the surface?

  11. BilB – without consulting Wikipedia, my intuition would be that the lower atmosphere pressure drops as its temperature rises in the course of the day. The more daylight hours the more the relative temperature rise and pressure drop. Colder and higher pressure air flows to areas of hotter and lower pressure. What happens in the upper atmosphere I’ve no idea, but it’s commonplace that different layers of air can move in opposite directions, as anyone who’s observed the movement of lower and higher clouds in an approaching thunderstorm will know.

    Probably made a fool of myself, but it’s fun working from principles rather than consulting the oracle.

  12. Funny,
    I’m not denying the climate is changing, or the sea levels are changing, or that weather events can cause coastal inundation. All of these have happened for millions of years
    What I do question is how much of it is anthropogenic, how much is natural variation; and of course whether and above all else whether any thing we do will make a any difference at all to the climate.
    Still the little boy saved Holland with his finger, so I guess anything may be possible.

  13. Sorry my mistake, NASA indicate that the particulates come from India,
    “In fact, the new research, by NASA’s William Lau and collaborators, reinforces with detailed numerical analysis what earlier studies suggest: that soot and dust contribute as much (or more) to atmospheric warming in the Himalayas as greenhouse gases. This warming fuels the melting of glaciers and could threaten fresh water resources in a region that is home to more than a billion people.

    Lau explored the causes of rapid melting, which occurs primarily in the western Tibetan Plateau, beginning each year in April and extending through early fall. The brisk melting coincides with the time when concentrations of aerosols like soot and dust transported from places like India and Nepal are most dense in the atmosphere.

    “Over areas of the Himalayas, the rate of warming is more than five times faster than warming globally,” said William Lau, head of atmospheric sciences at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “Based on the differences it’s not difficult to conclude that greenhouse gases are not the sole agents of change in this region. There’s a localized phenomenon at play.”

    Tiny, dark-colored aerosols — specifically black carbon — travel along wind currents from Asian cities and accumulate over the Tibetan Plateau and Himalayan foothills. Seen here as a light brown mass, these brown clouds of soot absorb sunlight, creating a layer of warm air (seen in orange) that rises to higher altitudes, amplifying the melting of glaciers and snow. Credit: NASA/Sally Bensusen Nicknamed the “Third Pole”, the region in fact holds the third largest amount of stored water on the planet beyond the North and South Poles. But since the early 1960s, the acreage covered by Himalayan glaciers has declined by over 20 percent. Some Himalayan glaciers are melting so rapidly, some scientists postulate, that they may vanish by mid-century if trends persist. Climatologists have generally blamed the build-up of greenhouse gases for the retreat, but Lau’s work suggests that may not be the complete story.

    He has produced new evidence suggesting that an “elevated heat pump” process is fueling the loss of ice, driven by airborne dust and soot particles absorbing the sun’s heat and warming the local atmosphere and land surface. A related modeling study by Lau and colleagues has been submitted to Environmental Research Letters for publication.”

    So you put a tax on clean burning fuels , what do the poor people do, burn more unclean fuels?

  14. From NSIDC and to balance the alarmist stuff above about the Antarctic;
    At the end of June, Southern Hemisphere mid-winter, the sea ice surrounding Antarctica was more than two standard deviations greater than normal. On June 30, Antarctic sea ice extent was15.88 million square kilometers (6.13 million square miles), compared to the 1979 to 2000 average of 14.64 million square kilometers (5.65 million square miles) for that day.

    While recent studies have shown that wintertime Antarctic sea ice has a weak upward trend, and substantial variability both within a year and from year to year, the differences between Arctic and Antarctic sea ice trends are not unexpected

  15. Thanks John for bringing that issue to our attention. However @10, may I suggest in future, to avoid being misunderstood and flamed, that you post the link of the original article from the original source, in this case the Nasa article. This is rule #1 you get drummed into you in first year uni and it is how it is done in science.

    With us being inundated with so much cut and paste crock from totally unreliable sources, we tend to be a bit trigger happy. Check out the video clip that JM posted @8 on the previous thread, an apt illustration how crock science commentary is produced and is totally clouding, so to speak, the overall issue.

    BTW one of the quickest but not fail safe method to quickly ascertain the origin of a claim is to google the whole block of cut and paste comments and bingo a high percentage go to watts and morano based material. And sorry, but these guys do not have a sound history of validity and reliability.

  16. Hal9000,

    That is what science is all about, propose an idea or hypothesis then test it. Good technique. I think that without consulting the oracle you have nailed it, in essence.

  17. “What I do question is how much of it is anthropogenic, how much is natural variation; and of course whether and above all else whether any thing we do will make a any difference at all to the climate.” @17

    To put a bit of meat on this, without consulting the oracle.

    Humans would not be the first organism to trigger a cataclysmic climate event to change life on this planet as it was. The original atmosphere contained no free oxygen, it got accumulated by the invention of a new ‘trick’ in nature. ‘Evidence’ of massive oxidization events can be seen nicely embedded in ancient seafloors. However, I can’t anymore remember how many millions of years it took to reach the preexisting diversity of lifeform again, to assume some relevant to time yardstick of ‘progress’. IIRC a few of those earlier life forms did not get wiped out. They survived to today as a supportive parts within our cells or in anaerobic environments like underwater volcano vents or indeed in deep rock formations.

    As to your question whether we will make it or not, I’d rather not gamble on that, this is why I am on forums like this and saying what I am saying and doing what I am doing. Because I would like to consider myself as a responsible human being.

    However, this is my view and not really in my field, I would welcome comments.

  18. John M,

    “What I do question is how much of it is anthropogenic, how much is natural variation; and of course whether and above all else whether any thing we do will make a any difference at all to the climate”

    There is no doubt about the carbon levels. Science knows very precisely how much CO2 is being released as a result of human activity. Science also knows with reasonable certainty what the natural release rate is without humans. The figure that I remember is that we humans are overwhelming the natural processes 40,000 fold. Now that has got to be significant.

  19. Climate Progress had an interesting article on CO2 sequestration. The general message is that it just isn’t going to save the coal industry.

    The other complication, Zoback said, is that for sequestration to make a significant contribution to reducing carbon dioxide emissions, the volume of gas injected into reservoirs annually would have to be almost the same as the amount of fluid now being produced by the oil and gas industry each year. This would likely require thousands of injection sites around the world.

    “Think about how many wells and pipelines and how much infrastructure has been developed to exploit oil and gas resources over the last hundred years,” he said. “You need something of comparable scale and volume for carbon dioxide sequestration.”

    In addition, each of those injection sites will require geological investigation before it can be used with confidence.
    However, the main thrust of the article was the risk of CO2 injection causing minor earthquakes that would damage the reservoirs and allow the CO2 to leak back to the atmosphere.
    Anna Bligh has just announced that it will drop the ZeroGen (CO2 sequestration) project after spending $150m to date.

  20. John D I heard a segment on the radio about ZeroGen and found a somewhat less tendentious account. It seems the hole near Rockhampton was a dud, so they’ve junked the “world first” clean coal 530MW power station. But they are still in the business, although the ownership of the project has bee passed off to the Australian Coal Association.

    The Coal Industry Association reckon a new site will be found in the Surat Basin to build a clean coal power station by 2013. That should get a few people excited!

  21. It seems the Surat Basin target is Wandoan Power where they are going to use a syngas process and inject the captured CO2 into saline aquifers in an Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) process.

    EOR is a process commonly used in the oil and gas industry in the USA and elsewhere whereby a fluid, most commonly supercritical CO2 is injected into an oil bearing layer under high pressure which in turn pressurises oil fields to enable enhanced extraction.

    I’d assume that they are not using it to extract gas or oil at Wandoan, which is an open-cut coal mining proposal.

    The advantage may be that they don’t have to transport the CO2 anywhere. Also I understand the area is not part of the Great Artesian Basin, being north of the Great Dividing Range at that point and part of the Dawson River headwaters, part of the Fitzroy River catchment.

  22. Brian,

    EOR and saline aquifers are alternatives. My impression is that they are not sure what they are going to do at Wandoan and are still looking for storage options. Injecting CO2 is common practice in oil and gas but finding storage space is not a problem since the removal of oil or gas creates the space.
    Someone else may know more about the oil and gas details and economics.

  23. Thanks, John D.

    Contra to what I said, I’m given to understand that there is activity in the Wandoan area on both underground coal and gas extraction.

    Cost does seem to be an issue in the dumping of the Central Qld project. Just to hand, Kelly Thambimuthu, internationally renowned scientist recruited by the Queensland government to head its clean coal research, has resigned in protest against what he sees as a downgrading of the area.

    The Queensland government announced at the weekend that it would pass the project — which aims to build a zero-emission coal-fired power station — on to the industry-run Australian Coal Association. This would delay the construction of such a power station by at least five years.

    Dr Thambimuthu told The Australian yesterday he had resigned as he felt there was not enough government commitment to finding an effective clean coal technology.

    The cost was going to be $4.3 billion.

  24. Brian: The ACA has been an active supporter of research for a long time via the ACARP levy. If there is one project that has to be critical to the survival of the thermal coal industry it has to be CO2 sequestration – so it doesn’t follow that handing the project over to ACA will necessarily delay it.
    On the other hand the information I have seen on costs suggests that the economics just won’t stand up – but I could be wrong here.
    The other complicator is that there are a number of alternatives for using coal to produce power with sequestration. My understanding is that the Wandoan process converts the coal to gas, removes the CO2 and then uses the gas for CCGT power generation. Advantages of this approach is that much less gas has to be scrubbed to extract the CO2 and CCGT is more efficient that the most efficient direct coal fired power. The problem of course is that many of the potential supporters will be more interested in retrofitting.

  25. $4.3 billion will build a pretty impressive 1.6 gig CSP facility with absolutely certain energy outcome relative to CO2 emissions, and using “ready to roll” technology.

    They just don’t want to do it.

  26. @PeterTB @BillB Sorry to revive an old question, but I thought I might be able to help.

    The only difference between the north and southern hemispheres is that weather systems rotate in opposite directions. This is due to the difference in the direction and magnitude of the _apparent_ rotation of the earth in each hemisphere. Thus weather systems spin in one direction in the northern hemisphere and another in the southern (I can never remember which way though).

    Only very large-scale flows feel the earth’s rotation though – ignore the crap about toilets draining in opposite directions. I’ve even had someone ask me whether the room would spin in the opposite direction if you got drunk in France. 😀

    As for your question about why air at the troposphere travels in one direction and the air at the earth’s surface in another, the answer is that the atmosphere convects like a pot on the stove. If the air is rising in one place then conservation of mass dictates that it falls in another. Then we need to have motion in opposite directions at the top and bottom between where it is rising and where it is falling to close the loop. In a non-rotating world the top and bottom motions would be north-south, but because the world is rotating, these flows feel a Coriolis effect, which deflects their motion.

    There are three of these convection cells in the atmosphere (the Hadley cell at low latitudes, the polar cell at high latitudes, and the Ferrel cell at mid latitudes), and the dominant motion at the base of the cell really depends on where you are. So we get southeasterly trades in the low-latitudes in the southern hemisphere, and northeasterly trade winds in the low-latitudes in the northern hemisphere, thanks to the Hadley circulation, with easterlies under the polar cell in both hemispheres.

    (Interestingly, the bit about how the sun’s travel might give the trade winds a westerly component was actually how Edmund Halley originally (& wrongly) explained the trade winds.)

    The behaviour of the westerlies in the mid-latitudes is a bit more complex than just a simple convection story. The Ferrel cell acts as a buffer between the Hadley and polar cells, but the surface air flow in this region of the atmosphere is much more dominated by local weather systems (read: high and low pressure systems) which can significantly disrupt the otherwise westerly flow. The highs and lows popping out of the Southern Ocean that we experience in the southern states of Australia don’t exist for people near the equator or near the poles.

    Anyway, hope this helps a bit. It’s just off the top of my head from what I remember from GFD lectures, so sorry about there being no references. Most of this stuff should be on wikipedia &c. but I know that knowing the terms for things can make a lot of difference in what you find.

  27. P.S. Brian – thanks for this series of posts. It’s like having my own RSS feed of interesting newspaper clippings. You always seem to find something interesting. 🙂

  28. Jess @ 32, I’d seen the diagrams, so googled and in about 2 clicks came up with this which illustrates the whole caboodle.

    Jess @ 33, I take a few feeds, scratch around myself and John D plies me with links of interesting stuff. So far, touch wood, there has been no shortage of material.

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