Climate clippings 43


The Scientific American reports on a paper by Andrew Dessler refuting a paper by Spencer and Braswell. Dessler’s analysis shows:

Clouds change in response to temperature changes. There is no evidence clouds can cause meaningful climate change… “Suggestions that significant revisions to mainstream climate science are required are therefore not supported,” he wrote.

In my words, the story goes Like this. Additional CO2 in the atmosphere traps additional heat from the sun, about 90% of which ends up in the ocean. The ocean is the prime driver of the world’s climate, including changes in cloud cover. There are other lesser drivers but that’s the main story.

In the alternative reality, decreased solar activity lets through more galactic cosmic rays, which increase cloud nucleation, which increase cloud cover, which changes (cools) surface temperature.

OR changes are simply due to internal variability. In any case CO2 has a minor effect and is basically irrelevant.

Skeptical Science looks at the issue here and here. In short Dessler:

found that the heating of the climate system through ocean heat transport was 20 times larger than TOA [top of the atmosphere] energy flux changes due to cloud cover over the period in question.

There’s more, with links, at Deltoid and here. Skeptical Science also has a post on denialoshere reaction and an earlier post on the net feedback from clouds.

Skeptical Science wins award

Via Climate Progress we learn that John Cook, founder of the blog Skeptical Science, has won the New South Wales Government Australian Museum Eureka Prize for Advancement of Climate Change Knowledge.

Congratulations to John Cook and the team!

Arctic watch

With the annual Arctic sea ice minimum approaching, the NSIDC site has been down. RealClimate have set up a self-updating post based on IARC-JAXA Information System (IJIS) giving area as well as extent. The definitions given at IJIS suggest that extent is the one to watch.

The Polar Science Center at the University of Washington has just updated its calculations of Arctic sea ice volume. 2011 is only just lower than 2010, but the trend looks ugly.

Floating houses

Dura Vermeer, a Dutch company is developing the FLOATEC project, using multiple layers of light plastic foam to allow houses to float.

Maybe Kiribati’s idea of building floating islands is not so bizarre after all.

Will climate change affect migration?

Yes, according to a report from the Migration Policy Institute. With a one metre rise some 37 million will be affected in East Asia. The report suggests that people will remain in the region from which they are displaced.

Meanwhile Bangkok is in deep trouble. Amongst other problems it’s sinking by 1.5 to 5cm a year. Parts of the city of 10 million could be awash by 2030. A million buildings, 90% of which are residential, are under medium to long term threat, whatever that means.

Solar comes of age

Grid parity has is claimed for solar causing Lefty E to proclaim the dawning of a new era.

Take a look at what the Americans are doing:

Armed with funds from two major investment banks and a loan guarantee from the Department of Energy that will cover close to a third of the $1 billion project, SolarCity plans to install 160,000 solar photovoltaic systems on houses and other buildings on military bases around the country in the next five years.

As I struggle to finalise this post, two more from Climate Spectator.

Wind is cutting energy costs

While the levelised cost of energy from wind farms is higher than that of baseload coal and gas, the deployment of wind energy here and overseas is having a surprising impact on energy market prices: it is causing them to fall.

Climate Spectator explains why.

Wind now accounts for 21 per cent of energy production in SA. Also

some of the peaking plants last year were used less than 1 per cent of the time – little changed from before wind’s arrival.

More on renewables

This one from John D might be similar to this one about “multitalented materials” I included last time. Clearly we are going to see many improved energy storage technologies.

Frank Jotzo looks at emissions trading

Indeed he does, at The Conversation, cross-posted at Climate Spectator. His conclusion?

The bottom line is this: economic logic dictates we should facilitate emissions cuts wherever they come at the lowest cost. Separately, the question of who pays for what needs to be dealt with.

Australia – as a rich, high-emissions country – is then going to finance reductions elsewhere. The challenge is to make sure that international carbon trading is not just economically attractive, but environmentally effective and promotes genuine involvement by developing countries.

Better mechanisms will be needed than those devised under the Kyoto Protocol, and Australia can play a role in making it happen. (Emphasis added)


This space is meant to also serve as an open thread on climate change.

139 thoughts on “Climate clippings 43”

  1. Anyone have any idea of what assumptions they use to decide solar has reached ‘grid parity’? You’re not really comparing like for like because obviously the upfront costs for rooftop solar PV are very high and the running costs very low. So you’d need to make assumptions about interest rates, future electricity prices, how long the panels will last for and what it will cost to maintain them, etc.

  2. David, there was a long discussion about this on an earlier thread, which unfortunately I didn’t bookmark and didn’t have time to find. That’s why I said parity was “claimed”, rather than “achieved”.

  3. For the record, I just changed the text in the first entry from this:

    In the Spencer/Brasswell view, decreased solar activity lets through more galactic cosmic rays, which increase cloud nucleation, which increase cloud cover, which changes (cools) surface temperature.

    to this:

    In the alternative reality, decreased solar activity lets through more galactic cosmic rays, which increase cloud nucleation, which increase cloud cover, which changes (cools) surface temperature.

    OR changes are simply due to internal variability. In any case CO2 has a minor effect and is basically irrelevant.

    The idea is to contrast what the 97% of scientists are saying as compared to the other 3%.

  4. Brian, have you check this theory out with Australia’s foremost Climate Change Authority, Mr T Abbott?

  5. Regarding sea ice extent Tamino has been running a series on predicting the Arctic Sea Ice Death Spiral for a while here. His prediction?

    What’s the bottom line? If I had to bet (which thank goodness I don’t), I’d say the odds are just about 50-50 that this year’s NSIDC September extent will set a new record low. Of course, a lot depends on the weather! In fact, the next week or even the next few days may show a sudden turn for the better or the worse, so this 50-50 proposition may become much more lopsided within a handful or two of days.

    Regarding extent vs area he notes that

    As for area (rather than extent), this August beat 2007 for lowest on record. […] That’s important, because when it comes to predicting September extent, August area turns out to be a better predictor than August extent.

    Of course his model is a purely statistical one (with no climate dynamics), bootstrapped on previous observations, but it will be interesting to see how close his prediction is.

  6. Jess,

    Have you been noticing how expansive the high pressure systems over Australia have been recently, extending from well inside the tropics to very near Antarctica?

  7. BilB @4:

    … Australia’s foremost Climate Change Authority, Mr T Abbott?

    Surely you mean Mr A Bolt?

  8. Jess, I didn’t link to Tamino, because I think he’s obsessing a bit over whether this year will be a record or not. It’s clear that it will be thereabouts and the news is all pretty bad.

    BilB, I have noticed the expansive high pressure systems. I have a recollection of what they used to be like in the late 60s when I lived in Adelaide. Memory tells me they were tiny back then by comparison, with the centres a lot further north.

  9. Brian and BilB: I’m no atmospheric scientist but I think that the size of high and low pressure systems in the mid-latitudes is set by the meander length of the jet stream (which determines what sort of eddy can grow and to how large a size). The meander length is in turn set by the Rossby wavelength for the part of the atmosphere in question (which includes effects like the Earth’s rotation and the temperature gradient across the mid-latitudes).

    I’m not sure what climate change will do to the size of the high and low pressure systems. There have been some suggestions that the jet stream will move south and intensify in a warmer atmosphere, but that would suggest to me that the size of the pressure systems should decrease, since there’s less space to fit them in. But there’s a lot of other considerations (e.g. the eddies may have a maximum size depending on how they dissipate energy to other scales in the atmosphere) so it’s a really complex problem, and not one that would have a simple answer I think.

    Maybe I’ll ask around and see what others say.

  10. Just another thought re. pressure system extent, the difference in how weather maps are plotted between the sixties and today might have something to do with how you perceive the size of the pressure systems. All it would take is a different scale for the isobars and things might look a lot bigger or smaller.

  11. @Salient Green

    Study findings suggest that switching from coal to natural gas would do little for global climate

    Oops! Strike off one “wedge”.

  12. It might also have something to do with the Southern Annular Mode, which is a little bit negative at the moment.

    A bit on the SAM from BOM’s website:

    The Southern Annular Mode, or SAM, also known as the Antarctic Oscillation (AAO), is a mode of variability which can affect rainfall in southern Australia. The SAM refers to the north/south movement of the strong westerly winds that dominate the middle to higher latitudes of the Southern Hemisphere. The belt of strong westerly winds in the Southern Hemisphere is also associated with the storm systems and cold fronts that move from west to east.

    During a “positive” SAM event, the belt of strong westerly winds contracts towards the south pole. This results in weaker than normal westerly winds and higher pressure over southern Australia. Conversely, a “negative” SAM event reflects an equatorward expansion of the belt of strong westerly winds. This shift in the westerly winds results in more storm systems and lower pressure over southern Australia.

  13. Thanks for this Brian, informative and up-to-date as usual, unlike our pathetic MSM still arguing over the science of climate change. The rest of the world has moved on and Australia is starting to look like a sad little backwater, all credit to the intellectually challenged Murdochracy that rules our roost.

    I was in Thailand recently (and yes, I did notice, flying into Bangkok, that there is standing water everywhere, at first I thought it was just rice paddies to the horizon, but then we flew in low enough over the suburbs to see the rest) where there is no real argument about climate change in the media, quite the opposite, and there are interesting signs of early adaptation.

    For example, as I understand it, the nation’s roadfleet is undergoing rapid renewal through a generous first car owners grant. All new cars are fitted with duel systems for switching from petrol to biogas in the future. Along the highways in the south, I did not see any old cars, all the cars on the road were no more than a couple of years old. Even old wooden shacks on stilts had a new Isusu parked underneath.

    These are just my idle observations, but it all looks pretty good to me. I just wish we were ahead of the curve like Thailand, moving forward to a clean and green future, instead of stuck down a coal mine arguing with fools.

    Re Bangkok – all that proposed geo-engineering to hold back the ocean will line the pockets of the business establishment (and possibly the Shinawatras) but it won’t work in the long run. Perhaps they should move the capital- north to Chaing Mai or south to Songkla? The Siamese have a long history of moving capitals and big Bangkok is only a couple of hundred years old anyway. It is finished, surely.

  14. Quokka said in relation to substitution of NG for coal and the asserted (by Wigley) trivial impact of this measure:

    Oops! Strike off one “wedge”.

    I think here you need to drill down into the assumptions Wigley is making and the periodicity of the claim. It’s fairly complex.

    There are two “negative feedbacks” in the coal to NG conversion scenario

    1. The global dimming role of sulfates associated with combustion of coal
    2. Fugitive emissions

    We need also to consider the time periods involved and when the benefits kick in. Most of us hope that civilisation post 2100 will continue!

    On #1 this really is a geoengineering question. Of that more later.

    To begin with modern coal plants, for very good reason, are attempting to “scrub” sulfates out of their emissions. So going forward, they may well emit overall about the same volume of sulfates as the gas plants that replace them. If so, the differential, 25 years from now might be tiny.

    Just as importantly though, although sulphates buy us lower forcing, with coal, as CO2 inventories rise we need more and more to get the same effect. A scenario in which inventories rise much more slowly (but so do sulphates) has the numbers going in the right longterm direction, even if in the short term this cruels temperature reductions. We could augment sulphates by adding this to the fuels of long haul high altitude passenger aircraft while the changeover to NG was happening so as to get more temperature reduction early and avoid other undesirable high temperature feedbacks (albedo loss, loss of the permafrost etc) and other high CO2 regime feedbacks (concentration of CO2 in the upper clines of the oceans). I’d want more study on this but Crutzen may be right when he suggests that at very high altitude and in low concentration such augmentation wouldn’t have the same negative consequences as lower tropopheric release.

    Re #2 it is the case that methane generally exists very close to coal seams and so while it is fair to wonder how much methane escapes from orthodox attempts to recover it, this applies also to coal. Without good modelling, it’s hard to say what the balance of advantage is in fugitive emissions between coal mining and gas mining. More data is needed here.

    It is not contemplated, at least at this stage, that natural gas can replace coal for very long. AIUI, world gas reserves just wouldn’t be up to that. In a scenario where gas came to replace the least efficient coal plants and played a role in firming renewables, and allowing coal plants to operate more consistently at their maximum thermal efficiency, the net effect of gas ought to be pretty positive on CO2 intensity, medium term CO2 trajectories and longer term temperaure trends.

    If we can find ways of harvesting fugitive emissions of methane from both NG and coal harvesy and other sources — landfill for example and using these to retire or windback coal-fired output then we will in practice be making bigger inroads than Wigley is suggesting.

    It’s no secret that I favour a quite different technology to gas in the medium to longer term, but the political reality is that in the short term, the most important objective is to retire coal, starting with the dirtiest and most CO2-intensive plants. Ruling out that other unmentionable technology for the political moment, gas seems utterly unavoidable and so we need to just make it work (in concert with energy efficiency, energy usage avoidance, “smart” grids, perhaps some active and passive geoengineering etc)

  15. The Wigley report could be a good tool for GetUp to use in their anti-CoalSeamGas campaign.
    If you used gas in the co-generation/combined heat and power cycle it would make a significant difference but the same goes for coal. It’s too bloody cheap though.

  16. GISS cloudiness data clearly follows the solar magnetic cycle.

    When the sun is at minimum, which happens each 9-13 years, cloudiness peaks, so the Spencer & Braswell paper should be taken seriously.

  17. el gordo, I’m only relaying what others more knowledgeable than I have said, but the charge against Spencer/Braswell seems to be in part cherry-picking data. Beyond that they have to show that cloudiness translates into temperature change, and then in significant enough measure to render the effect of GHGs irrelevant.

    As far as I can see they haven’t.

  18. Brian,

    Spencer & Brasswell say nothing about cosmic rays, their contention is that clouds and temperature mutually interact, while the cosmic rays stuff is in Kirby et al published in Nature.

    Can’t see why you are mixing the two together like that, and denigrating Kirby in that way.

    Apparently Dressler uses a different data set to S&B, so he is not comparing like with like, and he misrepresents their claim as well. S&B use the IPCC gold standard HadCRUT while Dressler is using a non IPCC dataset. Seemingly, if Dresslers work is repeated using the HadCRUT dataset its results get closer to Spencers.

    At first glance, and no, I am not going to do a paper, it appears that while the Dresslers paper is still of value, especially after its already announced revisions, it is a pretty shoddy response.

    As for the 97% – 3%; you are an informed individual, you must be aware that this a manufactured and baseless figure, based on a cherry picked 79 individuals. Hardly a representative sample.

  19. Knowing Brian as I do oh fat one, I’d say he dishonestly believes it. Then again, I might just be trolling …

  20. dear el gordo
    you’re right, people like the author don’t “believe” co2 causes global warming – they’re “persuaded by the evidence as they understand it”.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  21. Jess, thanks for the explanations. It is certainly complicated. I doubt the whole story is how the data is represented, simply because the differences are too large, but I’m only going on memory.

    Grace @ 15, thankyou, and for the information about Thailand. Bangkok, I understand, is in parts below sea level, which is not a good start.

    Ta Fran @ 23. 🙂 Alfred, you took the words right out of my mouth!

    Chris Harper @ 22, thanks for the headsup about spelling Braswell. I’ve corrected the post.

  22. Chris Harper @ 20, I’m not a scientist and I don’t have access to many of the scientific journals. Often I give these scientific stoushes a swerve. They are more suited to science blogs, but this one was so topical I thought I’d include it.

    In outlining the alternative stories, I was aware that Spencer/Braswell weren’t talking about cosmic rays as such. Nor did I mention Kirby.

    To deal with Kirkby first, I did read that he was impressed with the Svensmark thesis, if that’s the right word, and was trying to prove it. He himself says that he has done no such thing, just made a start, but that hasn’t prevented others from claiming that he has overturned commonly understood climate science. Nevertheless Kirkby’s work is part of the clouds story.

    Spencer/Braswell, Lindzen/Choi and others, if they recognise warming, and some don’t, have to eventually find a cause that displaces CO2 and other GHGs. Just saying it’s clouds leads one to ask what causes changes in clouds. If clouds is the answer they usually attribute the antecedent causes to cosmic rays or the internal variability of complex systems. They always seem to be certain it’s not CO2.

    None of these alternative explanations has stood up to the scrutiny of competent scientists as far as I’m aware.

    I’m curious as to whether your critique is based on your own reading of the papers or on the comments of others, and if the latter, who.

  23. S&B don’t seem to be saying that the cause of observed change is clouds, but that rather that clouds have a greater influence than the models currently allow for, with the feedbacks running in both directions. Temperature change influencing clouds, and the changed cloud formations then influencing temperature; a not unreasonable hypothesis. They have no need to explain alternative causes to GHGs, because they are not dismissing them. All they were doing was demonstration how complex climate interaction could be.

    What is shocking to me about the whole thing is the reported reaction of Trenberth el al to Wolfgang Wagner, his weird resignation, and the hyperdrive powered speed with which Dressler had his paper written, submitted, peer reviewed and published.

    It is the strangest reaction to a paper I have ever been aware of, especially given that S&B really wasn’t that radical. A personal apology to Trenberth? Really? For publishing a paper which had passed all the proper peer reviewing?

    Something strange went on there. Hopefully the entry of the physicists at CERN into the field will exercise a calming influence on the whole lot of them.

    BTW, I doubt that Kirby set out to prove Svensmark, but to test it. The CERN guys are a bit better than that.

  24. Thanks for that connection, Jess.

    The image here offers the visualisation that helps to tie the pieces together. By the way I had the same thought about whether what we are seing reported is a affect by graphic technique over time, and certainly there has to be a huge part of it. But I’ve been watching this for a lot of years and I think that the highs and lows are changing. The size of these highs talk about a very calm flowing air mass. There seems to be some converse correlation between hemispheres, ie massive cyclones in one hemisphere give rise to massive calm air in the other diagonally opposite place (opposite season) on the globe.

  25. Chris @ 27, there was a post analysing how fast the Dessler paper went through the system. It was published in Geophysical Research Letters where it seems they normally do have a short turn around.

    My impression is that Spencer/Braswell were going a bit further than your first para indicates. Indeed if they weren’t the whole thing is a bit ho hum.

    What’s annoying is the constant over-egging of what some of these papers purport to say, whether their science is sound or not.

    Trenberth, with John Fasullo, was early out of the blocks in criticising Spencer/Braswell. My impression is that he is a competent scientist who is not afraid to speak out (which requires personal courage, unfortunately) and has been demonised in some quarters for his troubles.

  26. Here is a review of Spencer’s general approach by Barry Bickmore, with a shorter version here. The essence seems to be this:

    First, Spencer published a 2008 paper in which he used a simple model of the Earth’s climate to show that standard methods for estimating climate sensitivity were greatly overstating warming effects. It turns out that other climate scientists (including one that initially gave Spencer’s paper a favourable review) have now published a paper showing Spencer was only able to obtain this result by assuming unrealistic values for various model parameters. If realistic values are used, the effect Spencer described is negligible.

    Spencer has done further work in which he claims to show with his simple climate model that, not only is climate sensitivity low, but most of the global warming in the 20th century can be explained by a natural cycle called the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. Dr. Spencer tried to get this work published, but it didn’t pass peer review. He claims his paper was rejected because the peer-review process in climate science has been “short-circuited by zealots adhering to their faith that humans now control the fate of Earth’s climate” (p. xvi), but my examination of his work does not support this interpretation.

    I took apart Spencer’s climate model, programmed it into my computer, and showed that, once again, he was only able to come to his conclusions because he was willing to use absurd values for some of his model parameters. Furthermore, he used a bizarre statistical technique that he apparently just made up, because it was capable of giving him nearly any answer he wanted.

    Here’s an earlier critique from RealClimate.

    Spencer will have to do a better job at convincing his colleagues before I’ll spend much time bothering with him, quite frankly. To my eyes, he seems to focus on short term, decadal variations, and is ignoring trends that play out over centuries or even millennia.

  27. Here’s Wall Street Journal piece where, once you get past the introductory paragraphs, has some interesting material on the background of Kirkby’s work. His starting position was:

    ” He predicted to reporters at the time that, based on Mr. Svensmark’s paper, the theory would “probably be able to account for somewhere between a half and the whole” of 20th-century warming.

    Kirkby now says this:

    Early results seem to indicate that cosmic rays do cause a change. The high-energy protons seemed to enhance the production of nanometre-sized particles from the gaseous atmosphere by more than a factor of ten. But, Kirkby adds, those particles are far too small to serve as seeds for clouds. “At the moment, it actually says nothing about a possible cosmic-ray effect on clouds and climate, but it’s a very important first step,” he says. (Emphasis added)

    Kirkby predicts that he will solve the problem, but:

    His old ally Mr. Svensmark feels he’s already answered that question

    But he hasn’t, and he hasn’t gone anywhere near the issue of the relationship between clouds and climate. In some minds that gap is filled by Spencer/Braswell. But it isn’t.

    Then the Wall Street Journal article is picked up and headlined as CERN Scientists Back Alternative Climate Change Theory. [Missing link now inserted, but they’ve changed the title!-Brian]

    Do you see the problem here?

  28. Two things:
    1. One is that the energy storage of a capacitor is defined as 1/2 CV2 This means that as soon as you begin to use the energy the terminal voltage drops exponentially. Basically this means that new methods of converting the energy to the useful voltage sourced energy you get from an electro-chemical couple must be commercialised.
    2. Please no more about the virtues of really fast charging. Unless you are able to persuade your power utility to give you a supply with a power rating of a few hundred kW ; forget it, and be grateful that you can slow charge your EV battery overnight.

  29. Here is an interesting fact:
    When you pull the trigger on the petrol pump hose at the petrol station you are transferring energy at the power level of about 7 MW. So if you allow that there are say 10 cars re-fuelling at the same time the power equivalent to recharge 10 EV’s in a similar time would be of the same order 10X7 = 70MW.
    This means that your favourite re-charge station would require a connection with say 100 MW capacity. This is about the same as a small suburb requires.
    You would be amazed at the number of papers on fast charging that I have read lately that skip over this small difficulty.


  30. In that case HB perhaps instead of renwables offering “enough power for X homes” we should speak of “enough power for Y petrol stations”

  31. Fran,
    My point was that the network itself is totally and absolutely unable to support MW connections all over the place. This would require connection to the HV 3 phase network which is not accessible to most sites.
    The source of the energy is totally irrelevant.
    The “enough power for x homes” mantra is also irrelevant, as was the “too cheap to meter” mantra for nukes.
    You totally do not get it, the real problem is the network itself, Australia needs to spend $100 billion over the next 10 years just to keep it going. (ESAA figures). So stop blathering about nuclear power and focus on the real issue.

  32. The fallacy in your argument, Huggy, is that, for starters, electric vehicles are 4 times more energy efficient than petrol powered cars and therefore carry around far less energy than there CO2 spewing equivalents. The vehicle spec that I use as standard is the VW Milano taxi (there is also the VW Bulli family car equivalent) due for production in several years. This has a battery capacity of 45 kwhrs and a range of 300 kilometres. So to rapid charge that battery in 10 minutes you would be transferring 4.5 kilowatts through the connection cable. Not such a big deal. As the transfer rate is a little slower than for petrol one might need 20 charging points.

    Now here is a bit of a clue in the form of a quiz. Can you think of any Nationwide Australian business, perhaps two such businesses, to which people go regularly and spend a half an hour to an hour, have very large parking lots, are also in the business of selling petrol, and have the money to invest in electric vehicle charging hardware?

  33. Mistake there HB which you are going to pick up in a second, you are going to have to charge at 4.5 kilowatts for an hour not ten minutes. It needs to be at 45 kilowatts for a 6 minute charge time, a bit more of a problem but still nothing exceptional for 20 vehicles at one location. Your point is about shipping the power around the system. This is where a substantial distibuted energy generation system is ideal. Every regional charge point is surrounded by a huge number of potential energy generating rooves, and these days all wanting to earn a little more than our Mr Potatoe Head is willing to pay them.

  34. It’s Kirkby, not Kirby, if we are being pedantic about spelling names right. Probably no need to be since it doesn’t affect the arguments, unless perhaps it says something about how closely some of those who argue most doggedly are actually paying attention.

    Having off and on for several days beaten my head on the other thread against the brick wall of this blog’s obdurate certainty that only part of the story counts, I am not going myself to enter the lists again re Dessler and co. But everything Chris Harper says is absolutely right.

  35. Oh I understood your point HB — I just didn’t find it all that interesting, in part, for the reasons BilB above outlines.

    The more interesting point — is — how much energy is used getting liquid fuels into vehicles? Quite a bit I imagine. Maybe shipping and pumping petrol isn’t as energy intensive as shipping and pumping water would be, but it would be interesting to see how much energy was used in those tankers and then in subsequently pumping the fuel. I imagine, given that fuel is also hazmat, that there’d be quite a bit of energy put into maintaining those tanks and checking them for leaks.

    If the service station were simply a charge (and possibly a battery swap point) then one suspects the energy call would be a lot smaller per vehicle.

  36. Chris Harper,you reminds me of Sublime Cowgirl in that your comments are knowledgeable, polite and balanced, I hope you stick around.
    Brian said
    “””What’s annoying is the constant over-egging of what some of these papers purport to say, whether their science is sound or not.”””

    Annoys me too.

  37. BilB
    “his has a battery capacity of 45 kwhrs and a range of 300 kilometres. So to rapid charge that battery in 10 minutes you would be transferring 4.5 kilowatts through the connection cable. Not such a big deal.”
    Er to charge it in 1 hour you need a rate of 45 kW for that hour.
    To charge it in 6 minutes you need a rate of 450 kW for those 6 minutes.
    to charge it in 10 hours you need a rate of 4.5 kW. This means that you need a 20A power point in Oz, this is not standard in most homes.
    Suggest you learn some basic maths.
    BTW when I was in Switzerland last; we plugged our EV into power points that were present in most parking lots.


  38. dear Fran Barlow
    with respect to your sketch-log of “how much energy is used getting liquid fuels into vehicles”, consider also factoring in at least the usa 5th fleet, keeping order in the persian gulf, the red sea & the arabian sea.

    currently, the usa military is the world’s largest fuel burning entity. half its fuel budget goes on the air force, 33% on the navy, 12% on the army. overall 25% on buildings, 75% on “mobility”.

    the largest supplier of liquid fuels to the us military is bp. talk about economy of scale from opec well head to suburban petrol pump.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  39. Huggybunny ‘This means that you need a 20A power point in Oz, this is not standard in most homes.’ But I have several (ie about 6) of them in my shed. It’s not as if there is anything very unusual about them. And don’t most electric stoves have 20A connections. There really is no problem here.

  40. ‘Great now the denialati have turned into a self-reinforcing clique at LP.’

    It should be cultivated.

  41. I certainly take your point Alfred, and I think it’s one I’ve made here on one or two occasions in relation to fossil HC subsidies.

  42. @44, there certainly is no problem with a 20A power point but they are not standard in most homes, or sheds. It’s standard to have some 20A circuit breakers for stoves and HWS. I have a couple of 15A power points, one in the house for AC and one in the shed for welder, as well as a 3phase outlet.

    I find the Huggy’s posts very interesting for the implications of greatly increased power loading for charging EV batteries.

    It would be only occasional to have to fully charge an EV battery in one night as mostly it would be only a topup but the fact remains that with the capacity to draw 20A even a short topup puts quite a strain on existing infrastructure when it is maxed out in hot weather.

    My main circuit breaker is 80A and if everyone is drawing the max at the same time, well, I should have said “trying to draw the max”.

    Plenty to think about for our electrical engineers. Good career choice for the future and something I have encouraged boy wonder to pursue.

  43. Yes you’re right, HB, 45kw for 1 hour, of course. The higher rate chargers use a higher voltage 415 volt I believe. So that is 10 amp at 415 Volt. That is going to generate a certain amount of heat in the process. Whatever, it is still not the disaster you were suggesting originally. What I am anticipating will happen is those businesses I mentioned will cover their rooves with high efficiency panels to charge the cars in their parking lots. When you spreadsheet the numbers it is a very attractive commercial proposition. Of course it requires for there to be a predominance of electric vehicles to make it work fully.

  44. The power distribution system in Oz is from a 3 phase HV (11kV or 22 kV) transformer into the 3 phase LV that runs down your street. This 3 phase is 415 line to line and 240V line to neutral (nominal) single phase to your home. Very few homes have a 3 phase supply.

    Most homes have a 60A single phase circuit breaker. Power points are usually 15 A giving a maximum of 3.6 kW per point.

    The optimum time to charge an EV is from about 10PM to say 6 AM. This will help to flatten the demand and gives about 8 hours to return say 24 kWh to the battery and remain within the 15A limit. This should be enough for most users.
    EV’s are going to present a real challenge for the power utilities; PV may help with stay at home during the day vehicles.

  45. dexitroboper @ 41, you’ve got it in one, I’m afraid. I will need to reflect on where we find ourselves.

    Notice to denialati. Look at the notice above the comments box. This is our lounge room. We will decide who comes here and the circumstances… 🙁

  46. Floating houses.

    I have actually thought this through several times in the past, having built and lived for a number of years in a ferro cement boat on Sydney Harbour in the seventies.

    A concept design I did some pilot work on was effectively 3 stories with the lower story being heavily ballasted to be fully submerged with windows to an underwater fringe garden of sea plants and fish. The main level floor is at water level or slightly above with window ledge height being the effective “gunwhale”. The third level, or deck level, is the roof of the main living space and is the effect “yard” for the property. The whole stucture is high density ferro cement but effectively lighter and requiring less constructional material than a conventional house apart from the ballast. Such a construction would be a similar cost to a conventional McMansion, but would not require the land purchase and could be a valuable real estate entry level purchase for the young.

    The fringe garden becomes a haven for fish and a source of food, though it might be hard for some to fry up dinner having watched it “grow up” in the garden “outside” the lower level. In the design for the 10 metre boat that I am building at present I have included 2 underwater port holes towards the bow in order to get that connection to tghe below surface world from within the boat.

    There is a very significant architectural shift today seeking to make that underwater connection. In Waikiki there is a restaurant with an at least 20 foot high fish tank wall in their restaurant. In the Maldives there are several submerged restaurants. On Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown NZ they have a submerged viewing room. Dubai has a hotel with what has to be the largest fish tank in the world with the foyer and a number of rooms facing into it.

    There are a lot of plusses for such constructions, though siting would be problematic in Australia. The overall layout of the Dura Vermeer concept is very good. This is not a new idea that has sprung up. When I was in London quite some years ago I took a photo of an early concept design at a modern museum (I think) and the idea was fairly well developed at that time, though they have expanded the concept a long way forward since then.

    It gets a thumbs up from me.

  47. Didn’t mean to get picky, I was correcting my own misspelling of Braswell, I hadn’t noticed that Brian had done the same thing. I can be conscious of my own errors, but I don’t tend to be that picky about others mistakes, life is too short.

  48. HB @ 50
    we installed a ducted air system a number of years ago, before the newer “inverter” models come on the market. At the time we had to have 3 phase power installed. I don’t know whether the newer system still require 3 phase supply but, if they do, then, given the number of a/c’s installed recently, then quite a number of homes would have 3 phase power already connected.

  49. #16 Fran Barlow,

    Tom Wigleys paper is available here:

    On quickly skimming through, it seems that the modelling assumes a reduction of the sulphur “intensity” of coal decreasing linearly from 12 TgS/GtC in 2010 to 2 TgS/GtC by 2060 and then remaining constant. He says this is consistent with SRES scenarios.

    Figure 3 suggests that even with fugitive methane emissions of 2.5%, it is not until 2060 that the effect on temperature is negative, by 2100 it is less than -0.1C and by 2200, about -0.3C.

    His conclusion:

    The key point here is that it is not decarbonisation per se that is the goal, but the attendant reduction of climate change. Indeed, the shorter-term effects are in the opposite direction. Given the small climate differences between the baseline and the coal-to-gas scenarios, decisions regarding further exploitation of gas reserves should be based on resource availability (both gas and water), the economics of extraction, and environmental impacts unrelated to climate change.

  50. Jumpy @40

    “I hope you stick around”


    Even if I do, eventually I will say something here which seriously transgresses the intellectual orthodoxy and groupthink which dominates the site, and I will be banned, or put back into the moderation which Brian seems so kindly to have released me from.

    It’s happened before, (shrugs) it will happen again.

  51. Chris Harper said:

    Even if I do, eventually I will say something here which seriously transgresses the intellectual orthodoxy and groupthink which dominates the site, and I will be banned, or put back into the moderation which Brian seems so kindly to have released me from.

    Oh you poor little oppressed soul! There you are battling to get the truth out that the groupthinking grant-grubbing scientists and their fanclub here are trying to suppress and being jumped on. Such courage! How do you resist world weariness bearing these terrible fardels?

    For the record, I cannot recall a single person at this site being moderated merely for departing from the consensus here on any issue. Occasionally, posts, including mine, go into moderation for words that trip the sp@m queue. On other occasions, people try arguing with the mods about moderation policy which is out of bounds. Sometimes, people are cautioned on abuse. Yet it’s an baseless slur to suggest you’d cross some groupthink policy and get canned for that.

    Of course, if it comforts you to believe this, by all means do so. Just don’t expect you can say that here and not attract ridicule.

  52. Fran,

    I do try to avoid baseless slurs, and I am not arguing with the policy. I speak from experience and am simply acknowledging the world as it is.

    When it comes to blogs I accept the reality. This is private property and I respect the right of the owners to set any access conditions they wish. While I am happy to discuss anything when I can make a reasoned contribution, I do not, and will not, argue with someone over how they use or dispose of their property – so long as my rights (my real rights) are not being transgressed.

    Their blog, their rules. Not only is that fine by me, but it wouldn’t matter if it wasn’t.

  53. Fran, I have to point out that if a commenter is moderated, as a reader you wouldn’t necessarily know. But in recent times I can only remember one, who indulged in gross thread domination multiple times.

    I need to say that we do not want this to become a space dominated by wilful contrarians. When one posts on a figure like Spencer I guess there are some implications for the type of comment one will get.

    If we feel we need to take any action the chances are we won’t be announcing it.

    To return to topic, here is Skeptical Science on the scientific consensus.

  54. Well that is going to be 31,000 red faces as in time it becomes undeniably true due to the climbing global temperature that Climate Change is real, destructive, and caused by human over consumption of fossil fuels.

  55. Not very edifying either way, I’m afraid, spangled drongo. But it does illustrate the lack of rationality underlying much opinion.

  56. Brian said:

    I need to say that we do not want this to become a space dominated by wilful contrarians.

    Agreed — that would be a bad thing. Yet it would also be a bad thing if anyone with a particular axe to grind began paraphrasing the same point endlessly either on the same thread without engaging with what others were saying. That has nothing to do with what most people here think about the world. It’s simply not netiquette.

    In the case of the contrarians, they breach this rule on a grand scale because all of their talking points have been repeatedly debunked and they come to each new place as if it’s Groundhog Day, adopting the tone of someone who is bringin some new and startling revelation. If they actually had a new and little discussed point to make, attached to some piece of robust science or public policy question, there’d be no problem, but of course they don’t. Pretty soon they are concern trolling about the tone in which their dissembling is dealt with, playing the victim game and talking loftily about “ad hom” without even realising what this means. Giving such folk short shrift is really about keeping the place tidy rather than shutting down the flow of ideas.

    In my classroom, everyone is encouraged to speak up and contribute, but if someone simply wants to waste everyone’s time, they are smartly reminded that we need to stay on topic and achieve an atmosphere in which people can learn new and valuable things. As I see it, good blogs work the same way.

  57. What’s really concerning about this minimum (as compared to 2007) is the fact that there is such a large portion of fragmented ice between Alaska and Siberia. Late Eemian conditions here we come!

  58. Spangled Drongo: Probably not, except as a discussion of how to spin survey results. I read the actual study which gets cited all the time in EOS a while ago – you can find it first hand here.

    Solomon criticises the separation of actively publishing climate scientists from the more generic group of earth scientists (it’s a pretty broad field), but fails to address the reasons why this is done. The point of the paper is the closer you get to the bleeding edge of actual climate science, the stronger the consensus gets. I agree that the conclusions might have been over-egged but Solomon’s conclusions are just as suspicious as the claims made about “97% of scientists”.

  59. Spangled asked:

    Do you allow this to be discussed in your classroom, Fran?

    Certainly, if it fell within the units of work in the KLAs I’m delivering, yes I would. At the moment, that is not the case, as I’m teaching TAS/Computing.

    Of course, it would be important if that were germane to set the material within a suitable context, so that the students could assess the reliability of the information, issues of motive etc …

  60. “P.S. An opinion poll doesn’t change reality either.”

    And that’s what the scientific consus really is.

  61. Spangled Drongo said:

    {blockquote>{An opinion poll is } what the scientific consus really is (sic)

    You have to laugh at the things this lot say in public without realising how ludicrous it makes them appear before those across these issues.

  62. dear spangled drongo
    what’s “consus”, please? is that a us fleet command i haven’t heard of? I’m getting a bit nervy, now – i thought i had all those suckers covered.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  63. “how ludicrous it makes them appear before those across these issues.”

    How “across” the last 14 years of flat temps and record ACO2 are you?

    How “across” the previous warm periods in the holocene being warmer than the current one, with no ACO2 [and why] are you?

    How “across” what portion of that 0.7c warming since the end of the LIA may be due to GHE and what may be due to natural variation are you?

    How “across” GCRs are you?

    The arrogance is exquisite!

  64. My post above, Spangled Drongo

    In the case of the contrarians, they breach this rule on a grand scale because all of their talking points have been repeatedly debunked and they come to each new place as if it’s Groundhog Day, adopting the tone of someone who is bringing some new and startling revelation. If they actually had a new and little discussed point to make, attached to some piece of robust science or public policy question, there’d be no problem, but of course they don’t. Pretty soon they are concern trolling about the tone in which their dissembling is dealt with, playing the victim game and talking loftily about “ad hom” without even realising what this means. Giving such folk short shrift is really about keeping the place tidy rather than shutting down the flow of ideas.

  65. Fran,

    That’s a load of old shoes and you know it.

    Don’t duck and weave. Answer the questions [like I hope you would in your classroom].

  66. Who cares more about protecting the reef?
    Who sucks up to the US and risks the reef?

    “”””Leaked diplomatic cables show the Federal Government watered down reef protection laws in 2009(Rudd ALP) to avoid a dispute with the US government.

    In 2006 the Government (Howard) extended the Great Barrier Reef’s compulsory pilotage system to the Torres Strait to force large carriers and tankers to use a marine pilot to navigate through the Strait.

    The system was designed to prevent accidents and spills.

    But cables published by WikiLeaks show the United States and Singapore opposed the system.

    The cables detail concerns raised by the US and refer to legal action considered by the Singaporean government.

    The cables say Australia agreed in 2009 (Rudd ALP) to wind the system back to avoid harming its relationship with the US.

    The agreement means owners of ships are not penalised for breaching the system if they do not call at an Australian port.”””

    Who was the environment minister in 2009?

  67. @spangled drongo,

    Seeing as Fran is teaching TAS/Computing, I am confident that she would not allow the curriculum to be derailed in the classroom by some punk demanding that she talk about about such unrelated issues instead.

    As to your questions, the regulars here have seen them all before. They all have rebuttal numbers at RealClimate and other places, that’s how often they’ve been dredged up and re-debunked (as if you didn’t know). We’re not here to do your homework for you.

  68. dear Spangled Drongo
    i can see you’re “across” the topic headings. and the three letter acronyms. sheesh.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  69. S.D.: Here’s some answers:

    How “across” the last 14 years of flat temps and record ACO2 are you?

    I’m not sure what you mean by 14 years of ‘flat temps’. This last decade has been the hottest on record, and 2010 was the hottest year in that decade. See here.

    How “across” the previous warm periods in the holocene being warmer than the current one, with no ACO2 [and why] are you?

    This is a furphy – CO2 doesn’t have to be the dominant driver for climatic shifts for all eternity, just for the shift we’re currently seeing. See here.

  70. How “across” what portion of that 0.7c warming since the end of the LIA may be due to GHE and what may be due to natural variation are you?

    I think it’s a bit difficult to say how much is natural variation with 100% certainty. But it is safe to say that the major sources of natural variation that we know about (e.g. the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, El Nino/La Nina etc) can’t be driving the current shift in climate because they act on the wrong timescale, and the only thing we can positively correlate to the current increase in temperature is human induced. And we do know that climate is sufficiently sensitive to CO2 to explain most of the increase we see. See here and here.

    How “across” GCRs are you?

    Which GCR in particular are you interested in? Galactic Cosmic Rays? Gas cooled reactor? Geological Conservation Review? Great Central Railway? I’m not sure what you want to address here but spouting lots of acronyms without describing what they mean just makes you look a tad try-hard.

  71. To claim you are, or anyone is “across these issues” is simply untrue.

    The huge uncertainties in climate science is acknowledged by scientists but only denied by persuaded politicians and true believers.

    Here is Judith Curry’s abstract on “Climate Science and the Uncertainty Monster”:

    Abstract. How to understand and reason about uncertainty in climate science is a topic that is receiving increasing attention in both the scientific and philosophical literature. This paper provides a perspective on exploring ways to understand, assess and reason about uncertainty in climate science, including application to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment reports. Uncertainty associated with climate science and the science-policy interface presents unique challenges owing to complexity of the climate system itself, the potential for adverse socioeconomic impacts of climate change, and politicization of proposed policies to reduce societal vulnerability to climate change. The challenges to handling uncertainty at the science-policy interface are framed using the ‘monster’ metaphor, whereby attempts to tame the monster are described. An uncertainty lexicon is provided that describes the natures and levels of uncertainty and ways of representing and reasoning about uncertainty. Uncertainty of climate models is interpreted in the context of model inadequacy, uncertainty in model parameter values, and initial condition uncertainty. We examine the challenges of building confidence in climate models and in particular, the issue of confidence in simulations of the 21st century climate. The treatment of uncertainty in the IPCC assessment reports is examined, including the IPCC 4th Assessment Report conclusion regarding the attribution of climate change in the latter half of the 20th century. Ideas for monster taming strategies are discussed for institutions, individual scientists, and communities.

  72. Oh, add to @87

    I make NO judgment regarding ” the person calling him/herself “spangled drongo”” 🙂

  73. Well, I’m glad I decided to keep out of this thread.

    It is so exquisitely ironic, though, when the massed minds, faced with the (of course ludicrous, perish the thought) suggestion that there is a degree of orthodoxy and group think in LP discussion of climate, line up as one not only to deny it, but then to discuss seriously strategies for ensuring “wilful contrarians” are kept under proper control.

  74. “wilful contrarians” are too dishonest to argue with, so you have to stop them from crapflooding the comments.

  75. dear Wozza
    “a degree of orthodoxy and group think in LP discussion of climate”

    if “orthodoxy is “persuaded by the evidence as they understand it” then count me in.

    not sure about “group think” – for example, i see here from time to time fervent nuclear energy proponents & staunch nuclear energy anti-proponents, for one.

    and, as for “ensuring ‘wilful contrarians’ are kept under proper control” – how & in what manner people respond to “wilful contrarians”, and to calls to “control” them, is ultimately a matter for each person. and the host/hosts.

    i doubt it’ll happen though – too many people, rules or no rules, will just want to keep on having their “sport” or “practical mental workout” like they always have.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  76. spangled drongo @ 85, the Judith Curry abstract doesn’t tell me anything except it supports my initial impression that she highlights uncertainty to the neglect of trends. Denialists/skeptics love uncertainty because their prime aim is to create doubt.

    @ 88, it’s ironic after all the shit that HadCRUT got a while back in what’s generally called ‘climategate’ it’s ironic that it regularly gets trotted out because the last 12 years suit their argument a bit better. Have a look at this graph.

    I suspect that HadCRUT’s limitations are starting to show because they don’t cover the polar regions, which you’d expect to warm fastest. IMHO there is an argument for taking out 1998 as an outlier year if you are trying to look at a trend. But why not take a longer look at a whole bunch of them. A bit of a kink at the end is no big deal.

  77. Dave @ 86, that certainly is an excellent video. Says very clearly what I was trying to say on the other thread about the limitations of the Kirkby CERN study.

    spangled drongo @ 92, thanks for the link to Kirkby’s video That’s all fine, but it makes clear that they were studying in detail processes that may be the beginnings of droplet formation and make no claims to have discovered anything about clouds and the impact on climate – yet.

    @ 89, similarly if you follow the link to the actual paper the claims made by the authors are relatively modest. I think they should have replaced the word ‘climate’ with the word ‘weather’ in the conclusions. They have nothing to say about the relationship between clouds and climate, where they need to be looking for trends over decades rather than a few days.

  78. ‘I think they should have replaced the word ‘climate’ with the word ‘weather’ in the conclusions.’

    Brian, if Europe has another freezing winter it will indicate a trend towards regional cooling.

    You may also notice that European summers have been inclement and relatively cool, this is climate change and within a decade temperatures will have fallen a couple of degrees.

    It is obvious to me that intergalactic cosmic rays have a profound effect on climate, but we will have to wait until the msm wakes up.

  79. el gordo @ 100, you have a bit to learn about cherry-picking and trends. Without checking the maps, I can tell you that I monitor the daily temperatures in Seoul, Toronto and Frankfurt because I know people living there. My impression is that the first and last have been quite hot this summer, but that tells me nothing about northern hemisphere temperature averages let alone the world, as three dots on the map are basically irrelevant.

    Secondly, if the weather is inclement the nights will be warmer, so the overall average may not be as cool as you think.

    Finally, it takes more than a couple of years to make a trend.

    Now look at images here and here. There are lots of points I could make, but look at how minuscule Europe is as a percentage of the globe, and notice how warm Europe has been in the first half of 2011. Consider how misled you would be if you lived in Vancouver, or Darwin, for that matter.

  80. el gordo – It is obvious to me that intergalactic cosmic rays have a profound effect on climate

    Is anyone disputing the point that solar and cosmic radiation is significant in myriad natural processes on or around this planet and a net contributor of energy in land, atmospheric and ocean dynamics?

    Cosmic radiation obviously predates even the existence of the earth and sun, it is the background to every material element and structure in the universe. That has been there effectively forever. So what is news?

    That there are significant changes in climate indicators on this planet which have no correlation to the largely steady background influence of cosmic radiation, or changes in solar irradiance, is just more evidence for other significant local factors.

    Like humans.

    You seem to be making a point that logically based on the evidence available goes contrary to what seems your perceptions. Indirectly indicating how significant other factors may be if they can alter climate dynamics on this planet independently of such significant intergalactic forces.

    Without even considering ocean acidification.

  81. Why should anyone care what is “obvious” to El Gordo? Having read much of his oeuvre at Deltoid, I’d sooner rely on the observations of complete unknowns.

  82. If it’s any help, the paper about cosmic rays at the end of the link @ 89 is here. As I said, the claims made by the authors are quite modest. They say “the present study should be considered a preliminary one”.

  83. way El Gordo 100,

    What the US and partly Europe a re experiencing is the “freezer door” syndrome. If you open the freezer door of your upright refrigerator and stand in front of it you will feel the cold air falling out of it. The fact is that your freezer will be heating up and start defrosting. The Arctic High pressure cell, a high down flow of air over the centre of the Arctic has been pushing cold air which in the past centuries been kept confined away from the pole towards Canada and the US as well as Europe. This is further evidenced by the breakup of the Arctic Ice Sheet.

    You know this to be true everytime you blow on your soup spoon to cool it down. While you blow with relatively cool air you are removing heat which moves away from the spoon. Conversely to heat something up you apply relatively warm air and the cooled air moves away from the object. The Arctic Ice is melting more from warm currents, but it is also being heated from above, and the net effect for the time being is that everything around the Arctic will feel cooler. Several summers ago when the US was experiencing a record cold snap Greenland, where the Arctic winds were not being directed, was experiencing record high temperatures up to 34 degrees. The net effect is that the entire region is heating up.

  84. Unfortunately talking about refrigerators losing there coldness, and the movement of hot and cold spots around the world doesn’t explain why the global ocean heat content is basically flat (for the last 7.5 years), since Argo, and the world is not accumulating the heat predicted by many projections.
    Anyone can make a statement that a region is heating up or cooling down, neither may be related to AGW or the lack of it.

  85. On this one, I’d really like to hear from a climate scientist with the relevant expertise about deep mixing beyond the 700m measured by Argo and beyond the La Nina effect. The ocean is on average 3.6km deep and much of the deep water is not much above freezing point.

  86. dexitroboper @ 108,
    You jump to conclusions. I made no comment about confirming or disconfirming global warming, I don’t think there is doubt about global warming, even the “flat” OHC graphs (for the past 7.5 yrs) are still currently a slightly positive slope, however they are nothing like the GISS projections.

  87. Brian: The dynamics of internal wave propagation and deep ocean mixing are still fairly poorly understood, and an active area of research in geophysical fluid dynamics. I get the feeling this is mostly due to a lack of comprehensive observations. AFAIK Argo hasn’t been out for long enough to provide any decently long datasets to give us good controls on where ocean heat is going. Part of the problem here is that oceanic dynamics occur on far longer timescales than atmospheric dynamics.

    NASA has an interesting page where they discuss the TOPEX/Poseiden altimetry project which might be of interest to you. It stopped working in 2006 but has been replaced by the Jason missions.


    Launched in 1992, TOPEX/Poseidon measures changes in sea level, which responds to heat at any depth. By combining these data with modern general circulation models, scientists are seeing a difference between actual measurements and a long-held theory that the ocean warms primarily at the surface. Now, scientists say that waters midway between the surface and the floor are heating up the fastest. They are concerned that disproportionately heating the middle depths of the ocean will dramatically alter the current patterns that allow nutrient-rich waters from the bottom to mix and intermingle with surface waters.

    The data from the Jason missions has shown that about a third of the oceans tidal energy goes into mixing the deep oceans, which has pretty fundamental consequences for the meridional overturning circulation.

  88. Also, here’s a feature from NASA which describes some of the problems with the Argo datasets and the ‘cooling problem’ which John Michaelmore is alluding to:

    It isn’t really a problem but an error trying to correlate the Argo/XBT (expendable bathythermograph) measurements:

    “So the new Argo data were too cold, and the older XBT data were too warm, and together, they made it seem like the ocean had cooled,” says Willis.
    The first payoff for finding and fixing the XBT errors was that it allowed scientists to reconcile a stubborn and puzzling mismatch between climate model simulations of ocean warming for the past half century and observations. The second was that it helped explain why sea level rise between 1961-2003 was larger than scientists had previously been able to account for.

  89. TigTog,

    To don the mantle of Galileo one must actually be right. Galileo was correct, the earth does move around the sun. Else as DI suggests the attempt is a pretence. But even pretence is not accurate. To take the name of Galileo then to carry forward the lie of the established deniers is simply to be a fool, or worse.

    Galileo’s heliocentrism theory was investigated by the Roman Inquisition in 1615, and they concluded that it could only be supported as a possibility, not as an established fact. After strongly defending his theory Galileo was tried by the Inquisition, found “vehemently suspect of heresy”, forced to recant, and spent the rest of his life under house arrest.

    The reality is that the “Galileo pretenders” have in fact taken on the mantle of the Roman Inquisitors, with every negative connotation that carries.

  90. Given actual political power there are some very disturbing parallels between what happened in Galileo’s time and what could happen in the present. Certainly the US GOP have managed to turn the clock back several hundred of years of enlightenment almost to the time of the original “Tea Party”. How can this really be happening in our time?

  91. Jess, something that just occurred to me watching the SBS weather map, does CO2 in the surface layers also trap the long wave radiation in the water thereby increasing the ocean surface temperature at an ever increasing rate?

  92. Brian: No problems. I’m no expert but my office-mate is just finishing his PhD on the meridional overturning in the North Atlantic, so you pick up some of this stuff by osmosis.

    BillB: I’m not sure radiation is an important heat transfer mechanism near the ocean surface, compared to advection. The lower atmosphere is chocka full of water, so is mostly opaque at the relevant radiation wavelengths.

  93. BillB: yeah: Wikipedia says

    Simple presentations of the greenhouse effect, such as the idealized greenhouse model, show this heat being lost as thermal radiation. The reality is more complex: the atmosphere near the surface is largely opaque to thermal radiation (with important exceptions for “window” bands), and most heat loss from the surface is by sensible heat and latent heat transport. Radiative energy losses become increasingly important higher in the atmosphere largely because of the decreasing concentration of water vapor, an important greenhouse gas. It is more realistic to think of the greenhouse effect as applying to a “surface” in the mid-troposphere, which is effectively coupled to the surface by a lapse rate.

  94. Thanks Jess, I’m not sure if that fully answered my what I was thinking, I’m going to have to read that a few more times and dig a little deeper. I was wondering is CO2 at the very surface of the sea where its being absorbed and so is in the highest concentration in any way increases the surface (the top 100mm) temperature more than would otherwise occur without that higher CO2 concentration. Obviously the H2O is absorbing much of the spectrum, does the CO2 higher concentration augment that with the part of the spectrum that it absorbs, increasing evaporation in the process.

  95. BilB @125 FYI, also addressing some of the dubious assertions upthread

    The ocean is absorbing energy in the form of radiation. That’s what is causing the warming (water absorbs 90-95% of the shortwave radiation that makes it past clouds). As Jess said, the transfer of energy due to GHGs occurs further up in the atmosphere (from shortwave to longwave). Most people think that warming is the direct heating of the atmosphere but it’s more to do with that increased energy being absorbed by the ocean and being transferred as heat back into the atmosphere. (I’ve been meaning to chase up the evidence for direct warming in the atmosphere – rabbett run covered it a while back). Ocean-absorbed energy periodically gets released back into the atmosphere during upwelling events. I’m not sure what the proportion of warming in the atmosphere is from direct radiative transfer (small in energy balance terms), sensible heat from the ocean (the largest contibution) and sensible heat from land (important over land and in the northern hemisphere). My results are suggesting that most of it is coming from the ocean but I’m working on the warming signal and not total energy balance (the top layer of the ocean holds about 200 times the energy of the atmosphere).
    The ocean recirculates energy. Seawater taken from 0 to 1,000 m depth will increase its density by 0.77% (roughly). The warming effect at constant depth has a lesser effect on density. So the deep circulation of oceans is critically important to understanding the process of warming at the global scale (it’s taking energy to places that are hard to measure). It also means that sea level rise is affected by circulation – so we don’t expect that to be regular, either. The energy balance of Earth is determined at the top of the atmosphere, but the process of how it circulates in the global system is really complex. The part of the ocean heating fastest is at the thermocline, usually about 100 m deep. Some of that warming makes its way into the atmosphere, most gets mixed deeper. Deep circulation damps thermal expansion, for example, because it takes more energy to expand at depth.
    Pessimistic induction arguments (trends are flat for a decade so warming isn’t happening) claim that variations in the warming or energy transfer process somehow affect the Earth’s energy balance (i.e., prove that climate change is not happening or overstated). But take all of the above, add various waves, the coriolis effect, yer moon and changes in density and pressure and there is no way that we would expect to see gradual warming sustained anywhere (deep underground maybe). And this is omitting things like volcanoes, sulphate aerosols, solar variability, ENSO and the like. (Many climate scientists call all these variations in climate signals climate variability – as a complex systems scholar I ascribe these variations to both natural and human-induced processes, so think that climate variability and change are mostly not being interpreted and communicated correctly by mainstream climate science)
    Compare a bath and jacuzzi. They may have the same temperature (heat content), but the circulation is completely different. The earth is a jacuzzi, and a lack of full understanding about processes transferring energy around that jacuzzi does not invalidate our understanding of the net energy imbalance associated with human-induced climate change.
    This lack of clarity around energy balance sums and energy transfer process is one reason why climate science is in difficulty. The difference between balance and process is why all the objections upthread, which only show that Earth isn’t a bathtub, don’t hold water.

    Really good info piece on energy balance by Kevin Trenberth at

  96. Roger: Well said – I’ll have to remember the jaccuzi/bathtub analogy.

    I’m curious to know what you mean by

    Many climate scientists call all these variations in climate signals climate variability – as a complex systems scholar I ascribe these variations to both natural and human-induced processes, so think that climate variability and change are mostly not being interpreted and communicated correctly by mainstream climate science.

    I’m not sure what you mean here – are you asking how different forms of variability can be separated, given the feedbacks linking different signals? How do you think this could be communicated better?

  97. Brian

    I thought someone else would have commented by now. They haven’t so …

    [denialoshere {denialosphere} reaction]

  98. Jess,

    there’s too much emphasis on linear trends when we know processes aren’t linear – they are episodic. This allows the naive falsificationist to maintain that if they can disprove a positive trend, they disprove the theory behind it. Climate change is communicated in the IPCC as a signal-noise model. There’s actually no theoretical basis supporting this. It’s a paradigm to explain model results in uncertain contexts. Thermodynamic theory actually suggests that the distribution of warming around Earth is nonlinear. Observations support this, if they are analysed appropriately.

    I came up with the jacuzzi while writing the post, but have been trying to develop a more appropriate set of metaphors for explaining the complexity of Earth systems science in non-technical way for a while. The bath-jacuzzi works – I wish I had come up with it in time for Michael Bachelard’s article in last Sunday’s Age.

  99. Roger: Thanks for the article – ironically I note that a number of the comments fall foul of the fallacy you describe.

    The idea that a complex geophysical system could be represented by a simple linear model is ludicrous. Do you know why they selected a signal-noise paradigm as a basis for the IPCC reports?

    It must be a sign of an IPCC bias against complex-systems scientists – better get those cries of ad hom ready! 🙂

  100. I’ve been meaning to do some posts on this but my once trusty laptop has been playing up, so I’ve been nursing that. Have gone through one old and 2 new motherboards in the past 3-4 weeks, new one due tomorrow.

    The signal-noise thing comes out of traditional climatology. In stationary systems, for many climate variables it works pretty well. For climate change, the paradigm is that the external signal expressed in warming is gradual and the variability is internally generated. The possibility that the climate signal itself is episodic, and only the direct radiative forcing is gradual, is not really entertained. There is a case for signal-noise work that shows changes are or are not internally-generated variability; there’s a Santer et al paper on this close to publication that I need to track down.
    It’s an example of an unexamined paradigm because it’s been sitting around for such a long time, largely unquestioned (and that’s where I come in). That said, there are many who do understand the complex system behaviour of climate change, but that hasn’t been crafted into mainstream science messages for policy.

  101. Oh, and simple models do work for energy balance (e.g. delta T for change in temp), but not energy changes over time (delta T over delta t). That is, they work when you consider the jacuzzi as a bath only (you’re interested in its average temperature) but not when you want to know where the warmest bits will be and when.

  102. Nothing wrong with a good analogy Roger, and that’s as good as any description I’ve heard for a awhile.

    I can’t help thinking about this article from The Science Show dating back to 2005, about the science of patterns and network behaviour in complex systems. The final comment (given in the context of climate change) states: “The thing that is going to have the most impact on human affairs is going to be the understanding of complex systems”. I’d also add: explaining complex systems. Trying to describe some of the complexities (and subtleties) of climate change is an incredible challenge, with or without the maths. No wonder even well-meaning journalists trip on a regular basis.

    Regular postings and comment threads such as this one on LP do a great job at offering some clarity amongst all of the noise.

  103. Roger, thanks for elaborating. You’ve alluded to this issue before. When you’ve done your post, let us know and I’ll do a link post to highlight it.

  104. Thanks for all of the good info, Roger. Your Jacuzzi model in cross section would be, from an electrical energy view point, the sine wave of alternating current with the zero volt being the base energy content level for a steady state situation or a radio wave signal for the real world with its full degree of randomness with again the zero volt being the base energy content of the ocean and the relative change over time being the increase in energy of the body. Your Jacuzzi model is the full 3d version of such a signal. What I was looking for was something that can be changing to explain the seemingly relatively rapid increase in storm activity in the tropical belt. If the main method for the oceans to absorb energy is through direct solar radiation then this will be constant over time with the variable being cloud and ice cover. This then only leaves the 10% of radiation difference and energy transference from the atmosphere to provide the extra energy. One other option being the increase in average night time temperature providing a form of insulation against night time ocean energy loss. So which of those options has the greatest influence. No doubt the answer is all together. Is there more?

  105. BilB,

    this isn’t the full answer, but the main release of energy from the ocean is as latent heat – the coolth of evaporation. It’s about 9 times sensible heat (warmth). Higher SSTs provide the energy for uplift as does the lapse rate. So you get more water vapour in the atmosphere that wants to go somewhere. Storms spin up when you get a combination of horizontal and vertical sheer. The threshold for tropical cyclones-hurricanes-typhoons is about 26C sea surface temperature.

    Not sure what the frequency is doing in various tropical basins – but TCs in the Australian region have decreased over historical times. Atlantic Basin seems to be increasing. We also know that decadal variability will affect storminess. High confidence that the intensity of storms will increase and is increasing in some regions provides a reasonably solid base to suggest we are seeing a more energetic hydrological cycle.

    The strngthening is seen in stronger Hadley circulation which has higher uplift in the tropics where wet air ascends and drier conditions in the subtropics where dry air descends.

    Storminess in mid latitudes has decreased, including over the Australian region due to warming reducing vertical instability in a ddition to ploward expansion of circulation systems. The prognosis is for fewer but more intense events. Storms due to local convection, rather than cyclonic storms, are becoming more intense because it’s warmer therefore more uplift.

  106. Personally, I’ve never encountered a problem where a jacuzzi couldn’t provide either metaphorical or tangible assistance of some kind.

  107. Huggy @43: The average Aus car traveled 41 km/day in 2007. For the case being discussed we are talking about an average of 6.2 kWh/day per car recharging.

  108. Fran @111: On O’Farrel’s announcements to date it can only be concluded that NSW will have to carry in excess of the total cost of the carbon tax to Aus as a whole. This means that the average impact on the rest of the states will have to be beneficial for BOF’s figures to make sense.

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