In these posts the aim is to include eight segments averaging 125 words long with sufficient detail so that casual readers can get the sense of the featured article without following the links, which are there for those interested in more detail. Lately I have been alternating week by week collections of science/observations/predictions and practical matters associated with adaptation and mitigation.
During the last week of political distractions I have had about half my usual time at the computer. Moreover some segments just won’t fit within the 125 word constraint. Next cab off the rank, I hope, will be President Obama’s climate initiative, which demands extended treatment.
So for the next little while I’ll attempt to post whatever I have to hand every Tuesday until things settle down a bit.
As usual these posts are intended to share information and ideas about climate change and hence act as an open thread. And again I do not want to spend time in comments rehashing whether human activity causes climate change.
1. Climate change measuring instruments are on life support
That’s the story from John Abraham at Climate Consensus – the 97%. He is warning that many measuring systems, especially the satellite platforms, are headed for declines in coverage, which will lead to an information deficit. His worry is that straightened budgets will not allow replacement and hence continuity of information may be broken.
In a specific example, the Tropical Atmosphere Ocean (TAO) array, which consists of 55 oceanic moorings is involved in the detection, understanding and prediction of El Niño and La Niña, is only operating at 50%.
2. Australia’s ‘angry summer’
Sophie C. Lewis and David Karoly are soon to publish a study of the record-breaking temperatures recorded in January this year. Human induced global warming does seem to be implicated as according to natural conditions the summer should have been slightly cooler than usual.
The 2012-2013 Australian summer set benchmarks for extreme weather in a country that is already well-accustomed to a harsh climate. The summer saw records set for the hottest day in the country’s history, with a national daytime maximum temperature record of 96.3°F [35.7°C], and hottest month on record (January). The temperature in Sydney climbed to a stifling 114.4°F [45.7°C] on Jan. 18.
A record was set for the number of consecutive days when the average daily high temperature exceeded 102°F [39°C], with seven such days between January 2-8. The previous record was four days in 1973.
There are some stunning photos in this link.
3. British Columbia’s revenue-neutral carbon tax
BC introduced a carbon tax in 2008 at $10 per tonne, increasing $5 each year to the current price of $30/tonne. All revenues are returned in tax cuts and rebates.
The report looked at the data from BC and the rest of Canada and concluded that, from the introduction of the tax to the end of 2011, BC’s consumption of petroleum fuels has fallen by 16.4% relative to the rest of Canada and 15.1% in absolute terms. Over the same period, economic growth in BC has been slightly better than the rest of Canada, so the pessimistic forecasts that the carbon tax would cripple the economy have not materialized.
Because the rocky economic ride of the GFC created a lot of ‘noise’ they can’t be sure exactly what’s happening, but predictions of economic disaster have not been realised.
4. A looming climate shift: will ocean heat come back to haunt us?
For reasons best known to them the media keep overlooking 90% of global warming by publishing misleading ‘pause’ articles. So we have to keep reminding them that 93.4% of the extra heat has been going into the oceans.
Now Skeptical Science has taken a look as to whether this heat will come back to haunt us. It’s a reasonably technical post, but here’s the conclusion:
So to answer the question posed in the title – will ocean heat come back to come to haunt us? Yes, but perhaps not in the way some might think. Heat buried in the deep layers of the ocean will not re-surface any time soon. Instead, when the subtropical ocean gyres spin down, they will no longer be efficiently removing heat from the tropical surface ocean. The transport of ocean heat to depths, and to the poles, will drastically slow down, and this will allow the surface of the tropical oceans to warm rapidly. That heat is very likely to haunt us.
This is based on the finding that the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO) plays the dominant role in climate shifts. The IPO is currently in a negative phase, associated with La Niña systems, and is thought to be about to switch to positive soon.
5. Brazil’s clean energy program will increase emissions
Brazil has a program of creating clean hydro energy by building dams in the Amazon. Problem is, according to the IEA that the flooded forests rot in the water releasing considerable quantities of carbon.
And, incidentally, displace indigenous communities from their ancestral lands.
6. Living in a Goldilocks world
If Earth were closer to the sun all the water would boil away. Without the greenhouse blanket the average temperature would be about 30°C cooler, making it too cold for plentiful animal and plant life.
Some recalibration has been done on where Earth sits in relation to the Goldilocks zone in our solar system. The result places us very close to the inner edge:
This raises the question of our susceptibility to the Venus effect (not that one, this one). The good news is that geochemist Colin Goldblatt at the University of Victoria in British Columbia has done the calcs. He thinks we’ll only trigger a runaway greenhouse if we burn all the Earth’s coal, oil, and gas, not to produce energy but to cook up even more CO2 from limestone.
That depends very much on what these guys have and have not included in their models. We know that the edge of the cliff is not far away, but we don’t know yet precisely where it is.