Climate clippings 139

1. Melting Antarctica: the time to act is now

In the link above, Graham Readfearn goes into some detail on the likely melting prospects of East Antarctica in particular. The salient points are as follows:

  • Currently ice sheets only account for one sixth of 3.2mm of sea level rise each year. However this could change dramatically.
  • During the Pliocene, about 3 million years ago, atmospheric CO2 levels were similar to today’s and the temperature reached 2 to 3°C above pre-industrial. The sea level was some 20 metres higher than today.
  • Using models, the contribution from East Antarctica was calculated at about 14 metres from East Antarctica, and 3 metres from West Antarctica.

To me that doesn’t leave enough space for Greenland, other land ice, and thermal expansion. Nevertheless, East Antarctica is likely to be significantly implicated.

The bottom line, I think, is that somewhere beyond 1°C of warming the ice sheets are likely to go critical. The increase in melting could then be more geometric than linear and we could be committed to unstoppable melting for thousands of years. The time to act is now.

2. Sea level rising faster than previously thought

New research by Christopher Watson and others compared tidal gauge records with satellite records since 1993, and found that the satellite slightly overestimated sea level rise for the first six years of that period. They estimate that it should have been 2.6 to 2.9mm. The current rate is 3.2mm.

The bottom line is that sea level rise is increasing, rather than slightly decreasing, which had puzzled scientists.

The current rate is double the 20th century average.

3. Larsen C ice shelf melting from above and below

The Larsen A ice shelf collapsed in 1995, Larsen B went in 2002. The latter was 3,250 square kilometres and it’s collapse was without precedent since the last ice age.

Larsen C is 55,000 square kilometres, about half the size of Iceland and the fourth largest in the world. It is now known to be melting from above and below, and apparently a crack is developing.

It acts as a giant plug, holding back an array of glaciers. Probably it will hang on for a time, but no-one can be sure when it will go. When it does the effect could be a spurt in global sea level rise from the glaciers the ice sheet is holding back. For reasons like this, sea level rise is not a linear process when considered over decades and centuries.

See also at The Carbon Brief.

Separately, there is a 625 square mile Larsen B remnant, half the size of Rhode Island, due to crash any time soon.

Larsen B_shutterstock_3402275-550

4. 19 reasons why the world is missing the 2°C climate change limit

Carbon Brief reports on a new IEA report Energy Technology Perspectives 2015 – Mobilising Innovation to Accelerate Climate Action.

The IEA maps three scenarios: 6°C, or business as usual; 4°C, where we are heading with existing mitigation commitments; and a 50/50 chance of avoiding 2°C.

Only 50/50!

It looks at progress in 19 categories, which Carbon Brief have condensed into one graphic:

    Five areas, carbon capture and storage (CCS), coal, nuclear, building energy use and building energy efficiency are all off track, the IEA says (red squares, below).

    The remaining 14 areas including renewables, industry, transport, electric vehicles, energy storage and hydrogen have seen improvements, but need to progress faster if they are to hit their climate milestones (orange squares).

    The gloomy outlook is moderated for some areas, such as CCS, where recent developments have been more positive (green arrows). For instance, renewable power production will increase by half between 2013 and 2020, the IEA says, with some green sources now competitive with new fossil generation in come countries.


No green squares – trouble everywhere!

5. Queensland commits to 50% renewable target by 2030

    The new Labor government in Queensland has confirmed its commitment to generating 50 per cent of its electricity needs from renewable energy by 2030…

And it is establishing a state-based Productivity Commission to plot a policy pathway to get there.

    [Energy minister Mark] Bailey said the government also wanted to lift the number of households with rooftop solar from its current levels of more than 400,000 to one million by 2020.

6. El Niño declared

We are headed for an El Niño and it could be a big one. This is what the rainfall effects of 12 moderate to strong El Niños look like:


The coastal strip which includes Brisbane looks like decile 4. It’s just that every time they predict decile 4 we seem to get decile 1.

Some 80% of Queensland is already drought declared.

An El Niño increases the chances that 2015 could be the warmest year ever.

46 thoughts on “Climate clippings 139”

  1. On no.2
    So this Watson lad recons the Tasmanian tidal gauges data, of 20 years ago, was better than the world satellite data.
    So he ” adjusts ” the inferior Sat data down.
    Now the models, after his ” adjustments ” show need for more funding.
    Got it.

  2. That is all pretty grim, Brian, except for Queensland joining SA in showing real environmental leadership, while the rest of the country is Jumpying on the denialist wagon. Have seen any Greening of Victoria recently?

    More good directions in the energy storage area

  3. BilB

    …. while the rest of the country is Jumpying on the denialist wagon.

    Do I correctly interpret that as you calling me a ” denialist ” any what exactly am I in denial about ?

  4. If you want a chuckle, here is what Brian Bahnisch was fearmongering about 12 years ago:

    There is a view (eg Vandana Shiva in India) that trade will be the death of us as a species. It’s a different paradigm, but should not perhaps be dismissed out of hand. After all our current experiment with civilisation is not very old. The ultimate test will be whether and how we emerge from

    the next ice age,

    when there may well be a thick slab of ice where Manhattan is now.

    The only constant with Brian appears to be the notion that danger lurks in every shadow and every media savvy huckster with a left wing bent and a scary story to tell is a prophet.

  5. Karen, don’t you have better things to do than follow trade threads from 2004? Actually, of all the things I’ve written you’ve managed to unearth the one paragraph I’d least like to own. Well done!

    After some of the stuff you’ve highlighted I’d be re-evaluating Vandana Shiva. But I don’t think she’s a huckster, or a prophet.

    Trade politics was prosecuted in a brutal manner at times around the turn of the century, and earlier, but no, I don’t think it’s going to wipe out the species. As c8to observed, no doubt a few will survive!

    As to the ice age reference, at the time I knew an ice age was overdue, but I didn’t understand how hard we were forcing the climate system. Nevertheless I don’t share your apparent Panglossian view of the world. The jury is still out on nature’s big brain experiment.

  6. Jumpy, if you seriously want to criticise the Watson lad, you need to read the paper and engage with his methodology.

  7. Bringing up the “leaching scientist” meme you show your libertarian leanings. I am sure, Jumpy, that you play both sides of the fence for amusement. Believe it or not, though, much of the research that is undertaken is directed by a programme that seeks to completely map all fields of knowledge. Where there are gaps in the knowledge, unanswered questions, there is more likely to be a research grant available. That is how science works, and it works that way to be optimally efficient in gaining the most knowledge for the least cost.

    Now Libertarians will jump on that and call it a global conspiracy to steal their money to fund lazy freeloaders. As I have expressed a number of times I believe Libertarians think this way due to cognition biases. Their personal needs outweigh those of the community to a disproportionate degree, as a consequence of relative empathies.

    So where a high school friend finished his masters geology degree and spent his first year as a professional mapping and quantifying the sand and aggregate resources in the Sydney basin funded by a state government grant which ultimately led to the rescue of the remnants of the Kurnell Peninsula sands, this would be a waste of public money to Libertarians as it did not directly benefit them.

    Another deep thinking Libertarian (I believe) housing developer famously burst out with “we don’t need parks in Sydney, if people want to see greenery they can go to the Blue Mountains”. His problem was access to easy land to build on, to hell with the living needs of people after they have bought his properties. And this is the reaction he got

    But, maybe I am reading too much into it, Jumpy. I haven’t read the paper either, but I am taking the information provisionally as it fits the general flow of discovery in this field. Once the satellite measurement system is accutately correlated with empirical measurement methods, this then applies to the whole world and the entire data collection process. Ultimately the changes will be verified by gravitational mapping I would expect. But here is another influence that I would not have thought of….

  8. At the time, Brian, there was much concern that fresh water flowing out of the Arctic would shut down the northern part of the Atlantic Conveyor current which brings warmth to Europe from the Indian ocean and the equatorial Atlantic region. This was thought might trigger a mini ice age for Northern Europe, so references to potential climate change via regional ice age were reasonable discussion a decade ago.

    That scenario now seems improbable and the warm current appears to be piercing into the Arctic bring the spectre of a methane clathrate boil off a possible outcome. That is why I was so fascinated by the salinity pipes in the Antarctic sub ice video. There are highly unpredictable mechanisms at work in these regions that can invisibly deliver a “jet” of warm highly saline water through cold layers directly to the sea floor. In that case it was cold saline water, but the opposite may be possible and there are observations in the arctic to that effect.

  9. Nice comment BilB, but you dodge my enquiry.
    You called me out as a ” denialist “, what denial are you basing that on ?

    I do see a ” denialist ” streak in you though.
    You seem to deny that scientists are human, with the same weaknesses, same greed, same frailties as any other group of humans.

    All through history this ” they are better, utterly trustworthy, beyond scrutiny ” rot has led to cruel betrayal.

    There’s a Royal Commission on right now of a group thought of that way.

    I draw parallels only to blind faith creating a magnet for those that would exploit it.
    Not that this is such a case, but my mind is at least open to the possibility.

  10. Jumpy, your comments indicate a mindset which denies climate change (not just anthropogenic climate change).
    As evidence, your standard practice of posting “I will quote a weather event in the 19th century that is much the same as a weather event now”.

  11. Black and white, you say Brian? I follow the consilience and consensus of the science on each and every issue without ideological fear or favour, which means not listening to idiots left (Vandana Shiva etc …) and idiots right (Lord Monckton etc … ). I think this position is elegant and sophisticated and aligns with best practice risk management principles, bet maybe I’m just bragging 😉

    Anyway, I’m relieved to know to that you are no longer worried about being mobbed by antarctic penguins and seals on your front doorstep.

  12. BilB

    Why this particular scientist, Jumpy? Or is it the field, sea level rise?

    You dodge again.

    I do Not deny the climate is, has ever, or will not change.
    I believe atmospheric co2 levels has some influence on global weather patterns.
    I also do not idol worship any profession. ( not even nurses )

    I am here to learn, I go to many other places to learn, all these places differ in thought. Some you refuse to visit.
    Give it a try. ( if you decide you haven’t learnt enough that is )

  13. The way to ride the backwards bike straight away is to ride it no hands. That is the third way, or rather the first way. I can ride a motor bike with my hands crossed over, I had to learn that quickly once when I had a broken hand but still had to get around. To learn the backwards bike quickly the method would be to steer with a hand on the centre of the handle bar, the wrist will learn more quickly that the upper body will.

    There is a similar control response reversal between micro light aircraft and conventional aircraft. In the microlight you push forward on the bar to go up and push left to go right, convetional stick is forward to go down and left to go left.

    And yes, I am a smart arse,….. an old one.

  14. Jumpy:

    I do Not deny the climate is, has ever, or will not change.

    So why the obsession with trying to demonstrate that it is no hotter-colder-drier-wetter-or-whatever than it was a century ago?
    You certainly appear to be claiming the climate hasn’t changed.

  15. zoot

    You certainly appear to be claiming the climate hasn’t changed.

    Not at all.
    Ive posted evidence of the globe being wetter, less cyclones/hurricanes and the diminished energy of those cyclones/hurricanes, amongst other things.
    As an expert analyst of my commenting habits, you would know this.

  16. Look out Pliocene, here we come again. Or something like that. So the nations of the Sahara and the Middle East would have to defend themselves against climate-change refugees fleeing from Europe. There would be opportunities for Australia (whoever owns it) – a bit of earthmoving and canal building and we would have an Inland Sea again, around what used to be Lake Eyre. Pity about all those investors on the Gold Coast though.

  17. This is what people who take climate change as challenge do with their time.

    You might well say “so what”, how is this relevent? To which I suggest that the future world 50 years out might be a very different place.

    The ancient city in Iraq about to be over run and probably demolished highlights this in several ways. Firstly it is, as a deserted city, a consequence of ( natural ) climate change, and secondly its destruction will demonstrate the rapid pace and consequences of human conflict in a congested world.

    The entire middle eastern region has become an area where travel is unsafe, for a variety of reasons. “Road Trip!!”. Not in the middle east. Right now less safe in California in the midst of parching drought, and across inland Australia it has always carried risk that required much planning and care. Then there is the fuel issue. 7 billion bursting on to 9 billion people in just several decades, our dalliance with fossil fuels will fade as it becomes ever more scarce as we mop up the remaining oil pools. Africa, the continent where humans developed, to this day does not have a continental road system that is safe for casual travel.

    Here am I going with this? Current in our news is that our transport model where sprawling poorly planned cities have led to ridiculously long daily commutes fueled by no longer cheap fossil fuels is about to become a living nightmare and an economic liability. We cannot build motorways fast or inexpensively enough to continue with the existing community model. But nobody gas an an answer. On top of that climate change has demonstrated its abilty to disrupt and destroy, and what we have seen is just a mild taste of what is to come. Consider the disruptive impact of a Queensland drought that carries on for more than ten years. Property values collapse, towns disappear, economies slump, roads cease to be maintained, a broad part of our country becomes a waste land which in a short period becomes difficult to traverse. And there is the point. Electric Aviation becomes a powerful means for bridging the gaps between communities as climate change forces a reorganisation our how we live,..survive.

    My pick for future directions is that the city model of the middle ages will be the preference of the future for cities to survive the ravages of climate change. We really lost the plot in our culture when we seperated our living space from or work space, and moved them far apart.

  18. GrahamB, it is not the Middle East that needs to defend itself, it will be predominately Russia defending itself from Asians colonising Siberia and from the Arab worlds moving into Central Russia.

    China will take Siberia, this is Putin’s horrendous mistake in attempting to reshape borders. His actions give license in this century for other countries to follow his lead, and of all countries with the most territory to lose, Russia is the biggest. Foolish greedy Putin.

  19. I did hear Warren Truss on the radio talking about changes to coastal shipping laws and how much co2 reductions will be compared to moving freight by road or rail.

    Also road safety and congestion alleviation.

    Tried to find a news snippet to link to but they’re all just a lazy copy n paste of each other ( the above information cut and not pasted in any ! ) which is typical of our media.

  20. (a). BilB: The Chinese – and Japanese? – takeover of all north and north-east Asia will happen with or without marked climate change. Bet Putin is hoping it doesn’t happen on his watch.

    (b). Further on our upcoming fun and games with rising sea-levels:
    As many coastal cities around the world go under, the people will move but the built environment cannot move.

    Quite apart from the shipping navigation shallow hazards all these drowned structures and facilities would present – they would also form excellent fish habitats – artificial reefs – upon which aquatic vegetation would grow like wildfire, thereby building a foundation of a durable food chain.

    Before you start looking up your favourite fish recipes, just think what the fish will be eating and absorbing into their bodies. They will be swimming though a thin soup of breakdown products; bad enough and gradually getting worse in the first few years after inundation – but the really nasty stuff will be poisoning the waters within a dozen decades as strong containers and the like succumb to rust and similar forces. For example: fuel tanks in, and munitions carried by, many of the ships sunk in the Second World War over seventy years ago are only now leaking out into the environment; raise that example by a few powers and you’ll get an idea of what a problem drowned modern cities will present to future generations. Looks like fish might be off the menu for several thousand years and maybe a lot longer..

  21. That is a really interesting subject, GB. I think the pace of change will be slow enough for people to adapt. But then there will be dramatic change such as the flooding of New Orleans, and Tsunamis in Indonesia and Japan. There should be goodcevidence of the degree of pollution from those events.

    What will the moment of relinquishment to the sea look like? How will it occur?

    I suspect that method by which the sea rakes over will be compounded with the cost of energy. There will be a time when the energy cost of fighting sea level rise will be the decision point for letting property go.

    I doubt that I will see much of that as I will be lucky to live to 2035, but I think that I will witness some of the political mayhem that is to come.

  22. Ohh, sweet cheeses on a bicycle !!

    All Australia coal is now Halal certified!

    MINING Industry representatives have announced halal certification for all Australian coal as of today.

    The $2.1 billion program includes certification for all rock already mined and 150 full-time officials whose primary role will be certifying new coal as it is mined.

    From today, all coal-powered plants will be generating electricity in a halal-friendly fashion.

    Heads on both left and right explode, hahahaha !

  23. There is a disclaimer at the end of the “article”:

    Frisky Business is a satire column. It is not real.

  24. No, no, zoot.
    I realize humor is hard for you, but to some of us it is an essential part of life.
    I recommend you try it.

  25. Ok, I take it back, this prolly ins’t a place for jokes.
    So on a serious, yet happy note-

    Pacific Islands are not disapearing.

    Despite the magnitude of this rise, no islands have been lost, the majority have enlarged, and there has been a 7.3% increase in net island area over the past century (A.D. 1897–2013).

    According to the GSA.

    (…. unless someone revises the old data downward of course…)

  26. And it only took you 4 minutes to work it out.

    I was waiting for you to bite.
    You took longer than usual, my devoted stalker friend.
    Shape up or the position will go to another 🙂

  27. Zoot and Jumpy: Satirical or not, the “story” didn’t come out of thin air but, I suspect, out of frustration with some dodgy aspects of certification. Why should something be given freely in one country and yet cost a fortune in another – and with differences between different supposed authorities in the same country? I suggest that any firms that feel they are being shaken-down or ripped-off, shop around for an authority that will carry out the service for free or at a nominal cost.

    Now, what’s say we get back to sea-level rise?

    BilB: The irremediable damage will not come gradually but in increments, mostly from major storm events. Once a place, such as a waterfront street, has been severely damaged in, say, a cyclone at king tide, and the tide ebbs, that place probably cannot be used again. Then when the next storm or very high tide occurs, the place behind the damaged one is then more easily damaged. The Boxing Day tsunami was an extreme example of how damage occurs – but a series of much smaller inundations would have a greater effect, and, with the inexorable rise in the sea-level, the damage would be pushed further inland. The main interest of people living in affected areas would be to rescue whatever they could move easily; anything not very valuable and not easily moved would be left to the encroaching sea with hardly a thought about the environmental consequences, regardless of whether it happens in a very rich or a very poor country.

  28. GB: It is worth keeping in mind that Holland already has land below sea level that is protected by dykes and sand dunes Holland

    can be split into two areas: the low and flat lands in the west and north, and the higher lands with minor hills in the east and south. The former, including the reclaimed polders and river deltas, make up about half of its surface area and are less than 1 metre (3.3 ft) above sea level, much of it actually below sea level. An extensive range of seawalls and coastal dunes protect the Netherlands from the sea, and levees and dikes along the rivers protect against river flooding.

    The point I am making is that, for at least the next 100 yrs Australia may decide to protect high value land rather than letting it be inundated.
    I also suggest that, when decisions are made to abandon land there will a lot of salvaging that will remove things that will leak into the sea.
    For my self, it would be good if the 70 m rise came as soon as possible. I look forward to living within easy walking distance of the sea.

  29. Sou at Hot Whopper quotes Gavin Schmidt. I think it bears reposting.

    Weather concerns an initial value problem: Given today’s situation, what will tomorrow bring? Weather is chaotic; imperceptible differences in the initial state of the atmosphere lead to radically different conditions in a week or so. Climate is instead a boundary value problem — a statistical description of the mean state and variability of a system, not an individual path through phase space.

  30. As John has indicated, decisions will have to be made about what will be protected and what will be let go. The Chinese, for example, may have to erect a wall some hundreds of kilometres long to protect major river deltas. That may be difficult or impossible technically. I’ve not seen any discussion of the issue, except for New York, where several hundred kms of protection would be needed for that city alone.

    One thing worth mentioning is that sometime in the next century all the sandy beaches of the world will disappear.

  31. Brian: The chinese managed to build the great wall of china without modern earth moving equipment. A levy high enough to hold back the next 100 yrs of sea rise would be a doddle.

    Might get a bit more challenging by the time the rise has reached 70 m.

  32. zoot, thanks for the heads up about HotWhopper. I hadn’t been aware of the site.

    John, yes and yes, but along the way the Chinese will become very serious about climate change. Problem is that by the time sea level rise really cuts in we’ll be well on the way to disastrous climate change.

  33. John
    Your spot on about levy walls.
    At the rate of rise the council gardeners could do it in time.
    But levy walls also keep water in, and with rainfall increasing globally, could pose a challenge with even medium events.

    Any idea how Dutch engineers over come this ?

  34. John
    Well there ya go, I’d never thought much of them as anything but mills powered by wind.
    And now I’m wiser for it, ta.

    Even though it seems a damp country, their annual rainfall only amounts to Brisbanes average monthly, which I found surprising, and a small fraction of us in the tropical north.

    I’m sure you’ve seen the Burdekin flow during the wet, that’s a hell of a lot of windmills.

  35. Jumpy, your maths in no better than your general knowledge. Annual rainfall for Holland is about 3/4s Brisbane’s annual rainfall.

  36. Jumpy: I assume that the banks of rivers would be levied for the parts of the river where the banks would be below sea level. Has anyone got the details for the Dutch system?

  37. Jumpy, the average for Brisbane is 1048 mm and for Amsterdam it’s 766. Karen is right.

    I’ve seen the rubbish up in the trees along the Burdekin, and I was impressed!

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