Climate clippings 118

1. Growth in CO2 slows

Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuel use and cement production grew 2% in 2013 to the new record of 35.3 billion tonnes of CO2. This was about half the average for the last 10 years and less than global GDP growth of 3.1%.

2. Aradhna Tripati gets a gong

The Center for Biological Diversity presented its third annual E.O. Wilson Award for Outstanding Science in Biodiversity Conservation to Dr. Aradhna Tripati for her groundbreaking research on carbon dioxide’s role in climate change.

Tripati’s work revealed that the last time CO2 levels were as high as they are today was 15 million to 20 million years ago, when the distribution of plants and animals was dramatically different, global temperatures were 5 to 10 degrees warmer, and the sea level was 75 to 120 feet higher than today. Her research suggests that the CO2 threshold for maintaining year-round Arctic ice may be well below modern levels.

Converting from Fahrenheit to Celsius and feet to metres that would make 2.7 to 5.5°C and 23 to 36 metres.

I would caution that the shape of the ocean basins may have been different, but these are alarming findings.

3. 1000-year drought history of Queensland and New South Wales

By analysing ice cores Australian scientist have found that there were eight droughts in the last millennium that lasted more than five years, with one of the so-called mega droughts lasting for almost 40 years. That was back in the 12th century.

This tends to indicate that the Millennium Drought and the Big Dry from 1997 to 2009 were not unusual.

From the official news release:

Explaining the findings, Dr Vance said the ice core analysis had significantly enhanced our understanding of a relatively poorly understood phenomenon known as the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO).

The IPO describes a roughly 25-year cycle in the sea surface temperature, wind and other factors in the Pacific Ocean.

The IPO’s positive phase is closely linked with longer and more severe droughts in the United States and Australia. The risk of droughts occurring in Australia is higher during the IPO’s positive phase.

I’m not questioning the findings but how drought in Queensland and NSW can be derived from drilling ice cores in the Antarctic is not immediately obvious.

Where does this leaves global warming? The authors don’t say, but the clear implication is that severe droughts are part of the natural cycle. Warming is a given. The most recent analysis I recall is that drying along the southern edge of the continent has a climate change component. North of the Victorian border there is uncertainty.

4. Lifters or leaners?

Or backmarkers. UK PM David Cameron thinks Australia does not want to be a “backmarker” on climate change action. Global pressure will make us do more. Has he met our Tones?

Christian Downie thinks the real achievement of the Lima climate talks

wasn’t the goals set, but the fact that international talks like these make it increasingly hard for breakaway countries to ignore the issue.

John Kerry spells it out:

“If you are a big developed nation and you do not lead, you are part of the problem.”

Part of the problem indeed, and perhaps an active climate change vandal. Kieran Cooke reports that in Lima Australia was “lobbying for rules that undermine the integrity of the emissions accounting system”.

5. Antarctic sea ice

One of the conundrums of climate science has been the question of why the Antarctic sea ice has been expanding. Eric Steig at RealClimate takes a detailed look. One of the complexities is that the sea ice is expanding in some places and contracting in others. This, he says, rules out simplistic notions like an increase in westerly winds.

However, if you take into account the changes in all the wind patterns in the Antarctic you get a better match, indeed a good match.

Finally Steig says:

Not incidentally, changing winds also have a lot to do with what’s been happening to the Antarctic ice sheet (meaning the land-based glaciers, distinct from the sea ice). I’ll have another post on that later this month, or in the New Year.

4 thoughts on “Climate clippings 118”

  1. Please note that I didn’t say “changing winds are *owing to* changes to the ice sheet”. Rather, the reverse — changing winds are affecting the ice sheet. More on that later, as you correctly stated.

  2. One has to make a double take on the first item. It means that the rate of change in the increase in emissions has reduced ie the graph radius of the up wards emissions arc has increased in radius to make a flatter arc. This means that action and consequence can make a difference. Good news.

    2. Tripati is showing where this is all leading to, the thing we need to know is the rate of change to our environment.

    3. The take away message from the drought study has to be about system stability. A forty year drought talks ahout a very slow pace of oscilliatory change, entirely consistent with the expectation of climate variability from global warming.

    4. Abbott and his cohort clique are truly a low point in Australian politics, one we will be elated to be past. Everything about this group is built on lies upon lies, they have taken deception to a new level.

    5. The evidence is building for what I believe is one of the drivers and that is in changes to the upper atmosphere air flows in which the increase volume of air rising in the tropics is overflowing the hadpey and walker cells directly to the poles. This is far more evident in the Northern Hemisphere and is observed in the huge distortions in the circum polar vortex. At the extreme the vortex will deviate al the way into the tropics and then begin an upwards deviation lifted by the moisture driven tropical air mass flows. When global temperature rises above the 3 degree mark there is the very real prospect of an equable climate beginning to consolidate in the Northern Hemisphere (more difficult in the Southern). What tha means is that the air flows in one large cell rising from the equator and travelling all the way to the polar region and returning to the equator. The consequence would be unprecedented wind speeds near the polar region which become continuous or very stable. The uplift zone would perhaps be over the Phillipines and would lead to an iced over Europe and a permanently flooded South East Asia. This pattern would oscillate to a progressively more stable feature as the permafrost and Greenland ice was fully thawed at which point other uplift zones over the Indian ocean and the Atlantic ocean would feed the air flow and the polar vortex would disappear altogether. The Southern hemispere would perform differently as much of the heat collected in the southern oceans would be drawn into the northern system at the equator and highly energetic balancing jet streams would develop.

    This is my own personal climate fiction, not climate fact or based on any studies other than contemplative navel gazing.

  3. Green Building Goes Mainstream in Australasia

    Two of the chief motivations behind the adoption of green building principles amongst industry professionals in both countries were economic, these being reductions in lifecycle costs and increases in the building value or marketability of a project. A third major motivation cited by respondents was environmental awareness, and a desire to help reduce the effects of climate change.

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