Climate clippings 83

Climate clippings_175These posts are intended to share information and ideas about climate change and hence act as an open thread. Again I do not want to spend time in comments rehashing whether human activity causes climate change.

This edition contains items, exclusively, I think, in climate science and impacts. The thread is meant to function also as a roundtable to share information and ideas.

1. Climate change picked the crops we eat today

The New Scientist carries a story about how some cereals we know today were changed by the climate as we came out of the last ice age. Researchers at the University of Sheffield, UK took seeds of precursors of modern wheat and barley found with human remains in a 23,000-year-old archaeological site in Israel. They grew these together with four wild grass species that aren’t eaten today, but were also known to grow in the region at that time, and grew them under conditions replicating levels of CO2 then and also the higher levels when farming first arose 10,000 years ago.

All the plants grew larger under the higher levels of CO2, but the relatives of wheat and barley grew twice as large and produced double the seeds. This suggests the species are especially sensitive to high levels of CO2, making them the best choice for cultivation after the last ice age.

The team plan to look at whether other food staples around the world are similarly affected by elevated CO2 levels, for example millet grown in Asia and maize in North America. They also plan to compare the effects of CO2 on legumes such as peas.

2. Glass Sponges Move In As Antarctic Ice Shelves Melt

Scientists have been surprised by the rapid growth of glass sponges on the continental shelves newly exposed by the breakup of ice shelves in Antarctica. Things happen slowly down there with the growing season measured in weeks rather than months.

Glass sponges provide habitat for many other organisms, thus fostering diversity. The larger implication is that we simply can’t predict how ecosystems are going to react to climate change.

3. A question of risk

Dana Nuccitelli asks whether climate change represents humanity’s greatest-ever risk management failure.

Climate change presents an enormous global risk, not in an improbable one-in-a-million case, but rather in the most likely scenario. From a risk management perspective, our choice could not be clearer. We should be taking serious steps to reduce our impact on the climate via fossil fuel consumption and associated greenhouse gas emissions. But we’re not.

Thanks to Ootz for the heads-up.

4. Zero energy, carbon neutral Global Change Institute officially opened

The University of Queensland’s zero energy, carbon neutral Global Change Institute has officially opened.

Costing $32 million the building was made possible by a $15 million donation from UQ alumnus and philanthropist Graeme Wood.

The researchers in the building will be able to assess to assess the building systems and optimal comfort conditions in low-energy buildings for the sub-tropics.

“The Global Change Institute has created a hub where new ideas about sustainability and global climate change are expressed, debated, investigated and reported,” Professor Høj said.

“This building is the ideal home for the Institute’s game-changing research into clean energy, healthy oceans, food security and climate change.

5. IPCC leaks

Leaks from the fifth IPCC report due out from late September, suggest that the view on AGW will be firmed up to the 95% confidence level.

The IPCC is right to say it would be premature and misleading to draw conclusions from the leaked draft.Governments and scientists have to clear the final draft which needs the consensus of all parties. The 95% figure is exactly the sort of figure that could be watered down in the final screening.

The ABC has confirmed the latest draft report also predicts that sea levels will rise by between 29 and 82cm by the end of the century, with scientists fairly confident that will be the upper limit.

If so I’d suggest this would remain, as it’s below what scientists have been suggesting in recent years. Nevertheless in the next few decades the likely effect will be an increase in storms and floods.

The authors looked at present and future flood losses in 136 of the world’s largest coastal cities.

Average global flood losses in 2005 were around $6.6 billion, but the study suggests that could increase to $70 billion by 2050.

That gives plenty cause for concern.

6. Canyon discovered under Greenland ice

A canyon almost twice as long as the grand canyon has been discovered under the Greenland ice sheet.

Greenland, unlike Antarctica, has no lakes under its ice sheet. Channels such as the one discovered drain meltwater away into the sea. The effect is that glaciers are not speeding up as much as would otherwise be expected, thus delaying ice sheet decay.

The study itself is paywalled. The BBC has a very clear account with this amazing graphic:


7. Recent global-warming hiatus tied to equatorial Pacific surface cooling

Yu Kosaka and Shang-Ping Xie of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography have developed a sophisticated computer climate model which includes the surface temperatures of the eastern tropical Pacific, some 8.2% of the planet’s surface. This has produced a better match between what had been expected from radiative forcing and observations of what actually happened in the socalled ‘warming hiatus’ of the last 15 years. It accounts for most of the difference in these two lines:

Global temp & CO2_cropped_500

In the following image the new model (red line) better tracks what happened (black) compared with the old model (purple). Hope that’s not oversimplifying.


Trouble is the new model doesn’t tell you what’s going to happen next. The Pacific ocean temperatures added to the new model are associated with natural decadal changes which incorporate El Niño and La Niña. We are no further in front as to why these changes happen.

Also the study doesn’t address where the heat is going from additional radiative forcing. This is better captured by earlier work done by Meehl and others. Essentially heat is moving around between the layers of the ocean and some of the additional radiated heat coming in ends up in the deep.

For a succinct story the paper abstract is best. Then perhaps Roz Pidcock at The Carbon Brief. Andrew Freedman at Climate Central has comments from a range of scientists. There’s more at The Guardian blog and article.

8. East Antarctic ice sheet ‘vulnerable’ to temperature changes

Recent work on the East Antarctica ice sheet has shown that the glaciers are more responsive to climate change than previously thought. This brings home to me the level of uncertainty there is in the processes of ice sheet decay in response to warming. To me we just don’t know enough to be certain what the near-term effects will be (say the next couple of centuries) or the equilibrium balance for a particular global temperature rise.

9. Sea level hiatus

During 2010 to 2011 there was massive rain in Australia which coincided with a sea level drop of 7mm, as against a trend rise of 3.2mm pa. Here is the graph:


Seems they are related. Much of the water flowed inland. Nevertheless sea level has now taken off by 10mm pa.

Brisbane Times has an article with lots of pics.

Scientists are still somewhat befuddled because the New Scientist report says that it was SE Asia and South America as well as Australia, but the water on land only accounted for 3.75mm. Still some splaining needed.

10. Sea level rise taped

Finally a new paper (see Anders Levermann at The Conversation and RealClimate) has found that sea level rise will be about 2.3 metres for each degree of temperature rise. When, they don’t know, but they reckon not all this century, but no longer than 2000 years.

This is at huge variance with the estimates by Hansen and others. The following graph always made sense to me in terms of what has happened in the past:


Coming out of the last ice age sea level rose over 20m per degree. With the two ice sheets left that should drop to 15m or so.

That makes sense, the new information doesn’t. I haven’t had time to look at the detail but they must have good reasons why those two great lumps of ice are not easily destroyed.

19 thoughts on “Climate clippings 83”

  1. There is no “hiatus,” it’s a bullshit denialist meme.

    Looks like Japan is having its own angry summer this year. The JMA has a report on unusual temperatures (accessible from the link here) that makes for quite unpleasant reading. Here is the opening paragraph:

    Ten-day mean temperatures averaged over western Japan were the third highest on record for three consecutive ten-day periods from the middle of July (11 – 20 July, 21 – 31 July and 1 – 10 August) in the JMA records since 1961 (Table 1). Since around 8 August, temperatures have been well above normal almost all over Japan and more than 3 ̊C above normal at a large number of observation stations mainly on the Pacific side in eastern and western Japan (Fig. 2). In particular, from 10 to 12 August, the Pacific side in eastern and western Japan experienced extremely high temperatures and Ekawasaki (Shimanto-city, Kochi Prefecture) marked the highest temperature on record in the country at 41.0 ̊C on the afternoon of 12 August, exceeding the previous record of 40.9 ̊C logged at Kumagaya (Saitama Prefecture) and Tajimi (Gifu Prefecture) on 16 August 2007. As of 12 August, a total of 106 observation stations recorded the highest temperatures. Daily minimum temperatures were also quite high at many places and 68 stations recorded the highest daily minimum temperatures, as of 12 August. On 11 August, the daily minimum temperature at Tokyo was as high as 30.4 ̊C. It was the first time for the temperature in Tokyo to remain over 30 ̊C for all day long since the daily observation started in 1875.

    (I think they record the temperatures in 10 day blocks because Japan’s seasons are short and have rapid temperature changes at beginning and end of the season).

    This report was written on 13th August; things haven’t changed since, as far as I can tell…

  2. Hi Brian thanks for this, as ever – I just tweeted this to @WePublicHealth as relevant to our #climate&health concerns (especially 3 Risk) cheers

  3. Brian,

    regarding your confusion in item 10.

    If we believe 7, the earth has warmed approx 0.6-1.0deg over the last 30 years. But there’s certainly no corresponding 10m sea level rise to be seen.

    Given the land masses were hugely different 40M years ago, (as was the undersea topography, presumably), I’m not sure what an Eocene sea level means, or what relevance it has to today. The glacial maximum datapoint I can believe.

    There’ll also be many years (certainly decades) of hysteresis in the ice.

  4. fn @ 1, I used the phrase socalled ‘warming hiatus’. The linked paper in #7 is I think the first time I’ve seen scientists referring to a warming hiatus. If they are going to use the term I’d prefer surface temperature hiatus, because the heat continues to accumulate in the ocean.

  5. duncann @ 5, I’d been used to thinking that ice sheet effects can take millennia to play out. I was surprised that Levermann and co reckon it’ll all be done and dusted within 2000 years.

    If you’d asked me the sea level implications of 400ppm I’d have said 25m + or -5m. Foster and Rohling say 24m +7/-15.

    The suggestion with the graph I displayed, which comes from David Archer (circa 2006, I think) is that there would be complete deglaciation with about +4 to 5C, which would give you 70m plus.

    Dutton and Lambeck think SLR was 5.5 to 9m during the Eemian, when the temp was about +1C. During the Pliocene I would have thought it was plus 25m with the temp about +2 to 3C. There is a record of finding a beech tree somewhere to the east of the Ross Ice Shelf from about that time.

    There’s more, but it all the frame of Archer’s graph. Levermann et al doesn’t, so I want a good reason. I can’t open the article, hence the frustration.

    I’m also uncomfortable with the linearity of their findings.

  6. Antarctic, Greenland ice melt accelerating, according to widely reported interview of Walt Meier, a research scientist with NASA.

    The article in the link above also contains data (you may have previously posted on this Brian) from a leaked draft of the 2,200-page study by the IPCC. A summary of the report designed to guide lawmakers worldwide as they work to devise climate policies that curb carbon emissions is due for publication on Sept. 27 in Stockholm.

  7. Clive Hamilton has a new book out on geoengineering Earthmasters – Playing God with the climate.

    Here is an interview of Clive in Climate Progress Climate Change’s Silver Bullet? Our Interview With One Of The World’s Top Geoengineering Scholars.

    Did you come across any big surprises while writing the book?

    There were a couple of big surprises. One was the extent of the geoengineering lobby and the links between the scientists and the investors. I developed a much stronger sense of the likelihood of a powerful geoengineering constituency emerging, which would — if it were not countered by a skeptical community of thinkers and campaigners — essentially take control of whole agenda. Plotting those links and laying them out was something that I go into quite a lot of detail over. At the same time it stimulated me to think about the military-industrial complex, the famous lobby group that help such sway in the U.S. in the middle of the 20th century.

    One thing I noticed while doing this research and looking at scientists involved was the density of the linkages with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. So I investigated further and thought it’s really quite astonishing the extent to which many, if not most, prominent scientific researchers in geoengineering in the U.S. worked at Livermore or have close links with people there now or those who used to work there.

  8. Naomi Klein, a Canadian author and social activist well known for her political analyses and criticism of corporate globalization, turns her attention to climate change. With her newest, yet-to-be named book, scheduled for release in 2014, the book will also be made into a film by her husband and creative partner, Avi Lewis. Here is an interview on her new project published in, titeled: environmentalists may be more damaging to their cause than climate change deniers.

    Here argument is based on the North American experience, though has some validity here. She ends the interview with this

    I should say I’m representing my own views. I see some big changes as well. I think the Sierra Club has gone through its own reformation. They are on the front line of these struggles now. I think a lot of these groups are having to listen to their members. And some of them will just refuse to change because they’re just too entrenched in the partnership model, they’ve got too many conflicts of interest at this stage. Those are the groups that are really going to suffer. And I think it’s OK. I think at this point, there’s a big push in Europe where 100 civil society groups are calling on the EU not to try to fix their failed carbon-trading system, but to actually drop it and start really talking about cutting emissions at home instead of doing this shell game. I think that’s the moment we’re in right now. We don’t have any more time to waste with these very clever, not working shell games.

  9. In the near zero energy department to item 4 take a look at where electric flight is up to, and also note that most of the advances here have occured in just 5 years.

    The e-Genius achieved a spectacular performance of a two man flight of 405 kilometers on just 43 kilowatt hours of electricity. The range on its own is impressive this being more than half the Sydney to Melbourne distance but it was done at 180 kph for just 1.3 cents per passenger kilometer, or just $3.19 to get a useless politician to Canberra from Sydney (at 25 cents per unit electricity). That is still twice the energy consumption of the VWL1, 50 k/L fuel equivalent to the L1’s 100 k/L, but very impressive at 1.5 times the speed with the same payload. Yes, yes, yes,…this is certainly no real solution to transporting the masses, but it is a signal as to where the technology is headed.

    For instance take the cue of ultra light public transport and you get

    …in which we can see how GM resources could be retasked, but I would put money on there not being a single useless politician aware of these advances, or even interested for that matter.

    It is all so frustrating and comes back to the fact that with the departure of Combet there is not a single politician in our government with an engineering qualification ie speaking for the production side of the business ledger (keeping people employed). They are all overheads (some farmers excepted) and perform that way.

    As I seem to have invoked the perma mod here by using the “G” word, and calling a spade a spade, this is my last post here. It takes all the fun out of it posting to the back waters. In my household of all women wit, sarcasm and insult are an art and entertainment, communication is robust, and we have a lot of fun with it, and my 15 year old, who by the way gave me a hard time for using the “G” word only she got over it in an hour, has become the leader of the pack.

    The future is all about doing more with less, much much more with far less. The technologies are all there, we just have to embrace them and get on with it and not fall into the American trap of forgetting how to communicate. As those who have tried talking to anyone in the US will know, Americans are either to important or too busy (or too weird) to talk to. Company Presidents only talk to Company Presidents, and everyone else hides behind those useless phone systems which when you get through them only ever lead to a recorded message. Massive fail, and Australian business is trying to head down that same path. Don’t do it people, free and fluent communication is everything.

    It is not just what you say, it is what it induces others to think.

  10. BilB @11: Thanks muchly indeed for those links. I like the configuration of the electric aircraft – things have come a long way since Zoche diesel areoengines and the Diamond aircraft first appeared.

    Betcha our brilliant political leaders still think of aircraft in terms of riveted aluminium airframes and jet engine designs from the 1950s.

  11. Yes indeed, thanks for those links BilB and I hope to hear from you again, as your contributions here on the CC threads were very much appreciated. We are privileged to have people from very broad backgrounds contributing here and your absence would be a loss, as I miss huggybunny’s contributions from way back when.

    Nevermind we must soldier on, as Salient’s link points out, the problem that humanity faces is beyond climate change, it is sustainability full stop.

    Hence me harping on about framing the overall problems in terms of risk management. As Graham points out, we can not expect any enlightened contribution from politicians nor politics itself, it is too entrenched into the status quo of corporate hegemony. Hence, this is where Naomi Klein has a point, in saying that even the major green movements have sold us out. Personally I would include the green party in there too, as the whole problem focus has become too ideological rather than pragmatic. What we need is a bottom up or grass root revolution. I think of some of the recent social media evolutions such as Kickstarter could play a role in promoting and financing the growth of alternative engineering solutions to pressing problems. Think of where would you invest when the ‘carbon bubble’ starts to become too obvious to even the naivest punter. I mean even the Anglican Church in Auckland is selling its carbon stock.

  12. Ootz, I tried to find Huggy and let him know we were back on the intertubes, but his email had changed. He was not always polite but he was dead set worth having around.

  13. As Ootzsaid @15

    the whole problem focus has become too ideological rather than pragmatic. What we need is a bottom up or grass root revolution.

    I’ll second that motion.

    Like so many others, I haven’t waited for political or entertainment media approval – and started (long ago in my case) trying to lower my energy consumption and to recycle and reuse whatever I could. Some people have been a lot more successful at this than me; others are living in the fools’ paradise of unending resources.

  14. It’s sad that BilB has been put in permamod and I don’t blame him for giving up on this site.
    There is a small cabal of very nasty posters here who are clever in their indirect offensiveness, expert at the snide, smear, misrepresentation, strawman and all piling in to discredit the object of their disapproval and shut down debate.
    Go well BilB, I’ve always enjoyed your contributions.

  15. BilB, I’ve always valued your contributions and am distressed by your intention to withdraw. Climate threads these days don’t move fast and I think you would still be part of the conversation, especially if later commenters refers back to your comment as they often do.

    I sometimes do that intentionally myself when a comment released is going to be lost upthread.

    I’m still hoping that there will be a future time and place elsewhere where we can create a congenial place to continue these interchanges of information. But my thinking now is that I’m going to need a bit of R&R for a while.

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