Climate clippings 45

Arctic ice

Let’s get this one over with. Arctic ice seems to have bottomed out on 9 September, about two weeks earlier than usual. 2011 was the second lowest on record by a thin margin. I’ll freeze the graph here for the record:

Arctic ice extent

Here’s the important bit:

The last five years (2007 to 2011) have been the five lowest extents in the continuous satellite record, which extends back to 1979. While the record low year of 2007 was marked by a combination of weather conditions that favored ice loss (including clearer skies, favorable wind patterns, and warm temperatures), this year has shown more typical weather patterns but continued warmth over the Arctic. This supports the idea that the Arctic sea ice cover is continuing to thin. (Emphasis added)

New research on Greenland ice

A new study has found that crevasse areas have increased by about 13% from 1985 to 2009. The effect of this seems to be to decrease ice sheet sliding but to increase melting. The latter is the more important effect.

What this means for ice sheet dynamics and sea level rise is not yet clear.

There’s more explanation here.

Meanwhile Andrew Revkin has queried a bunch of scientists on their current views on sea level rise and will let us know when he gets time.

Greenland melting

RealClimate has a post on Greenland meltdown. The ice loss at 500gt for 2010 sounds shocking but to keep it in perspective one gigatonne is a cubic kilometre.

Furthermore, according to this site (and I understand that’s right) it takes 360 of them to raise the sea level one millimetre. The oceans all up contain 1.37 billion cubic kilometres of water.

Bad weather and AGW

There’s been more bad weather in the northern hemisphere with, for example, Virginia getting better than a 1 in 1000-year deluge and Pakistan flooding again.

Kevin Trenberth has said:

It’s not the right question to ask if this storm or that storm is due to global warming, or is it natural variability. Nowadays, there’s always an element of both.

He’s also suggested that the likes of Roger Pielke Jr. and Judith Curry should prove that there has been no human influence. That’s what the appear to be suggesting. Let them prove it.

Gore impresses Tamino

I didn’t watch the Climate Reality broadcast, but Tamino did and was impressed. This much is settled about the science, he says:

Global warming is really happening.

It’s caused by human activity.

It’s bad.

It seems Gore has rounded on the deniers, “exposing their tactics, their folly, and their lies.” They don’t like it. Tamino reckons they are getting desperate. In the program

the message came through loud and clear: the reason we’re not tackling this problem seriously is the denial campaign, which creates confusion with nothing but a bunch of red herrings.

Oreskes on Merchants of doubt

Also via Open Mind, here’s a video of Naomi Oreskes on Merchants of doubt.

She says that in the peer reviewed literature there is essentially no debate about the validity of AGW.

I’ve previously linked to her radio interview with Richard Fidler.

Geoengineering trials have begun

Various methods geoengineering are being trialled, according to the New Scientist. At Bristol university, for example, they are hitching a kilometre-long hose to a balloon and pumping water vapour into the sky. David Keith from Harvard University thinks using aircraft would be more effective as well as cheaper.

Other methods include spraying seawater into the clouds to make them whiter. Gavin Schmidt of NASA suggests that these experiments may be a waste of time.

Schmidt says that what we need is not field tests, but better modelling studies. Most simulations of geoengineering are “naive”, he says, and cannot model all the possible side effects. “People are not doing the right kinds of experiments to assess these effects,” he says.

Climate change and refugees

A couple of weeks ago Marcus Stephens, President of Nauru, wrote about climate change and security making mention of anticipated floods of climate refugees and linking to this report by the International Organization for Migration.

Some of the most vulnerable don’t move, but then if they do further distinctions need to be made between voluntary migrants and refugees forced to leave. Also, not everyone who moves will leave the country of origin.

The usual figure given is that there will be 200 million migrants by 2050. The report says, we don’t know, the figure could be anywhere between 25 million and a billion.

I note the report was published in 2008. Does anyone have more recent or more definitive information?

Two figures I heard recently (no guarantees about accuracy):

1. A one metre sea level rise would displace 37 million people in our region.

2. There are currently 4 million refugees in our region.

42 thoughts on “Climate clippings 45”

  1. Woke this morning feeling a bit down for some reason, opened up this post and immediately knew why; ignorance and fundamentalism rules the world as it has since we began.
    Then my beautiful 1 year old walked in and climbed on to my knee, she sits here as I type this (helps from time to time). She was born on September 11th we call her Pandora and she will inherit all this:
    Dirty yellow skies, thanks to sulphur dioxide
    Toxic nuclear waste everywhere as the too little too late open slather nuclear power program kicks in.
    A dead sea full of toxic algal bloom and methane eruptions as the clathrates dissolve.
    Flooded cities.
    Endless sweltering heat.
    All the equatorial forests burning.

    I often ask myself why I helped bring her into this world.
    The only answer I can give is that it is her generation that is going to have to fix it, will do my best to equip her for the task.


  2. John D, thanks for highlighting the second graph. I tossed up and chose the first because it’s about a week more up to date and shows that it is extremely unlikely that there will be a second dip this season.

    2007 may have been a freak year, because there were unusual weather conditions favouring warming. But now a normal year has effectively caught up.

  3. dear Brian
    Tamino (nice moniker, any points for guessing who plays “sarastro/monostatos” opposite his “tamino”?) says, inter alia, “The deniers have delayed action for a long time. Their campaign has been very successful until now — but the tide has turned. They’re losing.”

    i sure as heck hope so, i’m past sick of this “phoney war”. i want to get on with fighting climate change, for crissake!

    and thanks for posting on climate again – i love the “clearing house” format. fits the weekend mood.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  4. Ice is less dense than water so one cubic kilometre would weigh 916.7 Megatonnes. I’m surpised Skeptical Science didn’t pick up on that. Just proves they’re human I suppose.

  5. It seems the momentum is gathering, finally, of a fightback directly targeting the denialists.

  6. I’m a bit confused regarding your definition of “denialist”

    “””Global warming is really happening.( yes)

    It’s caused by human activity.(yes, but how much of it?)

    It’s bad.( How bad?, on a scale of 1 to 100, 1= heaven,50= same, 100= hell)””””

    Am I one?

  7. Hey Salient & Brian: Ice in a glacier has quite different amounts of density depending on where you are. It can be relatively light near the surface.

    I expect that the measurements of mass loss are coming from the GRACE satellites which measure gravitational anomalies – the less mass the lower the gravitational potential over Greenland. So the measurement of mass is probably pretty accurate.

    What’s scary to me is the net imbalance GRACE is picking up. That thing’s starting to look like the US deficit.

  8. Brian @3 on Arctic ice: “2007 may have been a freak year, because there were unusual weather conditions favouring warming. But now a normal year has effectively caught up”.

    Well, it depends what you mean by a “normal year”. Don’t forget that the entire record is only 30 years or so. What is a normal year on climatic time scales is simply unknowable on the basis of these series.

    There is moreover considerable evidence that it is ocean currents, winds and atmospheric oscillation that are the major influence on arctic ice levels – much of the ice loss is not through melting, but through export of ice through eg the Fram Strait – and that there was a decadal change in the Arctic Oscillation, the major relevant atmospheric circulation pattern, in the 1990s just prior to the shift to the series of recent lower summer ice levels. NASA researchers concluded that “Our study confirms many changes seen in upper Arctic Ocean circulation in the 1990s were mostly decadal in nature, rather than trends caused by global warming.”

    I am going to try to play nicely on the thread this week, unless provoked, so I will leave it at that. Though if the bloody French beat the All Blacks in a couple of hours, I may come back in needing to take a mood out on someone.

  9. Wozza, I was aware of decadal changes. Not sure I’d seen that particular entry. There is a very commonly seen graph from Carbon Equity, 2007 which you can find here. There is a similar one, not quite so sexy at Figure 3 here.

    While satellite data is available only from 1979 there is some other data from earlier times. Tamino has a look at the history over the last century or so here. I’ll leave you to ponder the significance.

  10. Huggy, I’m expecting my first child sometime in the next week, most like, and I feel exactly the same way you do at times. Depressed, scared, worried about the world my incipient child will inherit.

    Your line there is actually very comforting to me. Thank you.

  11. “I’m a bit confused regarding your definition of “denialist””

    You question the facts therefore, you are a denialist.

    As each day brings new evidence of the reality of G.W. the denialists will crawl back under their rocks, never realising the mischief they have made.

    Right wing = Denialist.

  12. Onya Huggy, I’m a greatgrandfather and feel much guilt for my generation’s lack of concern for their progeny.

  13. @7:

    “Am I [a denialist]?”

    This thread series is a clearing house of information about the climate that Brian has meticulously vetted and assembled in his typical indefatigable style. So it’s not about you.

    Brian labours at this task, 45 columns and counting, because the global climate, and what’s happening to it, is more important, and more interesting, than the definition of “denialist” and whether or not that definition applies to you. Because it’s not about you.

    I hope that places the relevance of your question in its proper light. It’s not about you.

  14. jumpy, the business of terminology is a bit vexed, as you know. “Denialist” or “denier” is offensive to some, but I tend to want to reserve “sceptic” for people who are seriously sceptical as all scientists must be.

    To me “denialists” are those who refuse to accept important parts of climate science. They often accept AGW but say that it is minimal and is lost in the noise.

    But frankly, I don’t want to spend time on that particular topic. It’s been churned over often enough.

  15. I’ve just had a paper on the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change uncertainty guidance published. The abstract of the paper and links to the last three iterations of IPCC uncertainty advice are provided here, as well as links to the open source papers for a Special Issue in Climatic Change on the subject published so far.

    What these papers show is that the mainstream climate science effort takes uncertainty – how to manage and communicate it – seriously. There’s a lot of debate about how it should be done – there’s by no means a consensus. My own views are complex and fairly specialised so probably won’t get a wide airing. Others that are very simple (and I think in a few cases, wrong), will. But they put the lie to the commonly aired view that the science is hubristic and over-confident. For every example where that is true, I reckon I can find another where risks have been understated for one reason or another. Where the science is most limited is to how it is translated into policy, and that’s mostly what my paper is about – the framing of science and risk for decision-making.

  16. I fixed the link for you, Roger!

    BTW, for those upthread quibbling about the “denialist” label and lurkers interested in reading more about denialism, I recommend familiarising yourselves with The Denialists’ Deck Of Cards and keep track of how many regularly get played on these threads.

  17. That is a nice image HB, the family one. There is noting in the world like those morning hugs.

    We are going to get used to telling our kids, though, “it will be life, kids, but not as we knew it”.

    Keep an eye on the Horn of Africa for a glimpse of their future, and imagine how a morning hug feels under those circumstances. Famines in that part of the world are not new, but it is the extent that may be the new Climate change feature.

  18. Looks like an interesting volume Rog. Nice to see that there’s a wide range of views on display there too (even Curry and Pielke Jr). Certainly puts the lie to the argument that the other side is being stifled.

  19. Thanks TT .. I’d heard of this but had never got around to looking at it. It doesn’t just describe much of the campaign against action on climate change. Those cards have bobbed up in RSPT, live exports, superannuation scheme reform, paid parental leave, hospital reform, plain packaging of tobacco, gambling precommitment and probably in several other matters that I’ve overlooked.

  20. I had half an idea so did a little search, and yes, others were well down that path already.

    Climate Change risk has a few faces. One is in Government Legislation to for avoidance, mitigation, and adaptation. Another is from the individual’s point of view in understanding where to be or how to prepare for the future in the full spectrum of time frames. Another is from an investment risk view point for profit and loss management.

    So for a one source information station Google, the guys who know all about data management and number crunching, appear to be the guys to know. It occurs to me that all of you scientists should be making overtures to google to see how to present your updated findings in a way that iscompatible with the developing global model. And seeing what funding there is in return, because now that I think about it as a manufacturer I can see a spectacular advertising channel formulating here for so many business models (income for google from which to feed an army of researchers).

    The SBS weather presentation is the best that I have seen to date. A global (google) model that intergrates climate would be a very compelling single source resource.

  21. Congrats Roger!

    Funny how actual, real, published climate scientists don’t remotely resemble the two-dimensional caricature of the grant-grubbing debate-silencing boogeyman the denialists have cooked up to scare themselves with as they swap their conspiracy theories around the campfire (pass the torch and keep the blanket over your heads, kiddies!)

    The potential number of people to be displaced by sea level rise also casts the contemporary political tusssle over offshore processing of asylum-seekers in its proper perspective…

  22. Ooh good, seems from the above i’m probably not a ” denialist” what a relief.

    Anyhoot, Looks like a hectic time on this subject in October.

    “”””“Our event showcases the best technologies in this sector and we welcome both proponents and sceptics of government policy to see and hear for themselves what a clean energy future is all about.”

    Some 4,000 delegates, 200 exhibitors and more than 100 leading international and local speakers are involved in All-Energy Australia 2011, now in its third year.”””””

    I look forward to a slightly more optimistic ” Climate Clippings ” as a result.

  23. dear anyone
    a curio re weather/climate. when it snows in edmonton alberta (population c.1 million), city council crews are deployed with graders, mechanical shovels & convoys of dump trucks (all with covered heated cabs) to clear the roads & scoop up the snow into the dump trucks. they then truck it to “council tips” on the outskirts around the city. they do it all winter long. its a dependable, well oiled operation that’s nevertheless always run sub-optimally according to residents. but that’s another story.

    the story i bring to share today (better late than never) is from the local edmonton rag, which reported two weeks ago that the last of the snow collected during the previous winter & stored at the city facilities for three months of spring, three months of summer, and part of one month of autumn, has finally, completely, melted. just in time for next winter. it has never before taken this long for the snow in these facilities to melt – a combination of heavy winter snows & mild summer temperatures.

    the amount of snow they’re talking about is enormous, as the picture gallery in the report linked below shows. if you’re in sydney & feeling unhappy about the weather today, have look at that gallery, it may cheer you up, schadenfreud & all that.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  24. The worlds first 4 seater electric aircraft take off and landing video. This Pipistrel twin fuselage aircraft was put together specifically to compete in a competition and is not for production, but it does show that electric aircraft are developing at a high pace.

  25. Kenneth Davidson’s article in the Age today reminded me of the Edmond Burke quote..”All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Not totally on song but better late than never.
    But why do these late starters need to blame the Government message?

  26. This Pipistrel twin fuselage aircraft was put together specifically to compete in a competition and is not for production, but it does show that electric aircraft are developing at a high pace.

    BilB, it is amazing how quickly they are developing. Five years ago, you could be forgiven for thinking the idea of an electric aircraft was a pipedream. Now they are a reality. Extraordinary.

  27. Well, Jess, isn’t it great then that Antarctic sea ice has been increasing throughout the 30 year record of satellite measurements? No doubt the little bryo-thingies have appreciated this and multiplied furiously as the unscoured bits of their habitat have got so much bigger.

    Oh wait. Actually when I read it, the article isn’t about “the Antarctic” at all, is it? It is about an area off the West Antarctic peninsula, which is a tiny proportion of Antarctica, and atypical because it is so much further north than the rest of the continent. We knew a long time ago that this small area has been warming very quickly, as the bulk of Antarctica has not been.

    So why a doom-laden article generalising this geographically limited research into “messing with Antarctic biodiversity”? Surely not because it becomes a bigger and scarier story, the better to serve propaganda purposes? And please don’t resort to the “oh, but it’s a harbinger of what will surely happen elsewhere in a couple of minutes time” unless you can link to some proof.

    OK, sorry, I do get carried away with the heavy-handed sarcasm in response to this sort of thing. No doubt it is an interesting piece of research in itself, if kept in its geographical context. But really, exaggeration for effect (on both sides) is one of the main reasons why the whole climate change discussion has become so polarised that there is little hope for it. This article preaches unashamedly to the converted, not even caring that if the unconverted do bother to read it they can nail the obvious flaw instantly.

  28. Woizza @ 36, I’m getting tired of your snarks and sneers. Both of the links Jess made identified West Antarctic Peninsula as the hotspot.

    Then you go to the other extreme and suggest that things are OK down there in Antarctica overall. See here and here on Antarctic sea ice:

    In conclusion, the increase of southern sea ice does not contradict global warming. The Southern Ocean is in fact warming, the increase of sea ice is due to a variety of factors, and sea ice is not as important to the Antarctic climate as it is to the Arctic.

    As to the land ice, it does appear to be decreasing in a manner that can fairly be described as a little alarming.

  29. Brian, I am well aware of the fact that the link, in the body of its text, mentioned that the research applied only to a small area off the West Antarctic Peninsula. I noted this in my comment.

    I am also aware, as you must be, that Jess’ actual comment said no such thing. It implied, by twice using the word “Antarctica” only (“looking at the effects of icebergs on bottom-dwelling bryozoans in Antarctica….. longer periods of ice-free seas around Antartica”) and never mentioning the words “West Antarctic Peninsula”, that the problem was wider. The first link was also headlined “Liberated icebergs messing with Antarctic (sic) biodiversity”.

    It is a question of emphasis and clarity. I would wager that few readers follow all links down their burrows to ensure they are not being misrepresesnted. It is also a regrettable fact that it is headlines that often create the leave behind message for casual readers of media articles, not qualifications buried in the text.

    You may regard my pointing this out as snark if you wish. But it is actually about the question of “distortions”, debated on another thread, and the apparent campaign to censor them, at least those distortions unfavourable to the cause of the campaigners. Both sides do it is my only point.

    I am happy to believe that Jess was just short-handing in a brief comment without intent, but it was nevertheless potentially misleading. I am less inclined to believe that a professional media release is not spinning deliberately.

  30. Wozza, that tone’s better thanks.

    I thought it was most likely shorthand in every case. “Antarctic” isn’t wrong.

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