Tag Archives: nature

Global warming “paused”? Its the oceans stupid (reprint)

Andrew Glikson of the ANU has a great piece on The Conversations today dealing with the “global warming paused” myth that is endlessly recycled by climate change deniers. Glikson makes a great point: by solely focusing on land temperature data,  faux-sceptics wave away the fact the planet’s oceans are warming and provide some of the strongest evidence for climate change. Some 90% of the heat is trapped in the world’s oceans: figure 3 below provides a stunning illustration of this fact. 

Fact check: has global warming paused? by Andrew Glikson

“The UN’s climate change chief, Rajendra Pachauri, has acknowledged a 17-year pause in global temperature rises, confirmed recently by Britain’s Met Office, but said it would need to last ‘30 to 40 years at least’ to break the long-term global warming trend.” – The Australian, Feb 22 2013

Since the onset of the industrial age (from 1750 AD) Earth’s atmosphere, surface and ocean temperatures have warmed. This is mainly due to the rise in greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4, N2O, O3, halocarbons, stratospheric water vapour from CH4) by a total of +3.06 Watt/m2. Other drivers include black carbon (+0.1 Watt/m2) and solar irradiance – the latter during the first half of the 20th century (+0.12 Watt/m2).

Warming was in part mitigated by emitted sulphur aerosols (direct effects -0.5 Watt/m2; cloud albedo effects -0.7 Watt/m2) and by land clearing (-0.2 Watt/m2).

Cyclic, regional and transient climate effects are related to the ENSO cycle, water vapour (whose concentration depends on air temperature) and volcanic events. The fastest warming occurs in the polar regions: this is where there is the biggest albedo (or reflectiveness) contrast between ice and water, and where little or no water vapour exists in the atmosphere.

The consequent warming trend, as measured by NASA, NOAA and Hadley-Met and analysed by Berkeley (see Figure 1), indicates a rise in average land temperature by about +1.5°C over the past 250 years, and about +0.9°C in the past 50 years. A sharp rise in temperatures from about 1975-1976 was related to both an accelerated rise in CO2 and a decrease in emission of SO2 from coal and oil due to clean air policies (see Figure 2). Cleaner air decreases the reflectiveness of the atmosphere, thus driving further warming.

Figure 1: Mean continent-ocean global warming since 1750 http://berkeleyearth.org/results-summary/

Following a sharp El Niño peak in 1998, since about 2000 a slowing down of the mean rate of global warming was related to a sharp increase in SO2 emission from coal mainly in China (see Figure 2), strong La Niña events and a low in the 11 years sun-spot cycle.

Figure 2: Anthropogenic sulphur dioxide emissions 1850-2005. http://www.atmos-chem-phys.net/11/1101/2011/acp-11-1101-2011.pdf

As some 90% of the global heat rise is trapped in the oceans (since 1950, more than 20×1022 joules), the ocean heat level reflects global warming more accurately than land and atmosphere warming. The heat content of the ocean has risen since about 2000 by about 4×1022 joules.

Figure 3: Build-up in Earth’s total heat content. http://www.skepticalscience.com/docs/Comment_on_DK12.pdf

The rise in land and atmosphere temperatures since about 1996 reflects a combination of greenhouse radiative forcing from 360 to 395ppm CO2 at rates of up to 2.54ppm/year (unprecedented since 55 million years ago), the ENSO cycle and 11-years sunspot cycle. Peak temperatures at around 2006 exceed any measured in the instrumental record.

Figure 4: NASA Land-ocean temperatures http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs_v3/

To summarise, claims that warming has paused over the last 16 years (1997-2012) take no account of ocean heating.

At the root of the issue is the non-acceptance by some of the reality of the greenhouse effect, known since the 19th century and consistent with the basic laws of greenhouse gas radiative forcing and black body radiation.

Andrew Glikson does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Read the original article.

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How you can help climate science: kickstarter funding for the “Dark Snow” project

Some of you may have already heard of the Dark Snow Project, the crowd funded expedition to look at what may be hastening the melting of Greenland’s ice. The Guardian explains:

There is already much excitement in the arts, media and beyond about the potential of crowdfunding – via sites such as Kickstarter and IndieGoGo – to finance projects that might others have remained an unfulfilled dream. To date, though, few scientific expeditions have successfully utilised crowd-funding. 

The Dark Snow Project hopes to change this. Jason Box, a climatologist based at the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State University, is hoping to raise $150,000 over the coming months to pay for an expedition this summer up onto the “ice dome” of Greenland to gather samples of snow. The project’s website explains: 

Dark Snow is a field and lab project to measure the impact of changing wildfire and industrial soot on snow and ice reflectivity. Soot darkens snow and ice, increasing solar energy absorption, hastening the melt of the “cryosphere”. 

The climatic impact of “black carbon” and wildfire smoke is much in the news and yet remains little understood. Last year, Box presented satellite observations (pdf) showing how soot particles drifting from tundra wildfires spread across Greenland. The big as-yet-unanswered question is whether this soot contributed towards the region’s record melt during the summer of 2012. And, if so, by how much.

They’ve already raised $72,000 of the necessary $150,000. It’s a wonderful way for members of the public to directly help scientists further our understanding of climate change.


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Video of the Week: The climate wars

From the BBC a terrific show screened earlier this year. This is part 3 of the series:

Having explained the science behind global warming, and addressed the arguments of the climate change sceptics earlier in the series, in this third and final part Dr Iain Stewart looks at the biggest challenge now facing climate scientists. Just how can they predict exactly what changes global warming will bring? 

It’s a journey that takes him from early attempts to model the climate system with dishpans, to supercomputers, and to the frontline of climate research today: Greenland. Most worryingly, he discovers that scientists are becoming increasingly concerned that their models are actually underestimating the speed of changes already under way.

A great primer on the climate change and the risk we face. 

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The New Normal (Part 27): Brisbane swelters

From The Brisbane Times:

Brisbane is set to swelter through its hottest December day since 2001, with the  mercury tipped to climb to 39 degrees today.

In Brisbane the temperature is forecast to climb rapidly throughout the  morning, reaching 34 degrees by midday.

But the temperature will not peak until mid-afternoon, when it is set to hit  39 degrees – 10 degrees above the December average – about 3pm.

“It’s going to be very, very hot,” Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Michelle  Berry said.

“It should remain quite hot even into the evening hours.”

The extremes of heat create perfect conditions for fires:

Controlled fires are presently burning at Beachmere, north of Brisbane and  near Mount Isa, where a Brisbane-based fire crew was sent on Monday.

Queensland Fire and Rescue director of rural operations Peter Varley said any  fire that started today would be extremely difficult to control.

“The farther west, the worse the conditions get,” he said.

The Queensland Fire and Rescue Service has mustered additional resources  across the state’s south-east should the worst occur.

A strike team from  Toowoomba arrived in Roma on Sunday and incident control points have been  established in Warwick, Dalby and Roma.

Six water bombers and two aerial  support aircrafts are also positioned across various parts of south western  Queensland.



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Reality hits: Even the Herald Sun is reporting on a 5C Degree world by 2100

Even the Murdoch owned Herald Sun* is reporting on the enormity of what is happening to the planet.

Since July of this year when the carbon tax came into effect and didn’t destroy the economy, the tone of the HUN has changed to from outright skeptical to more straight reporting of climate change.

Today they reported on a recent study that predicts a 5C world without giving any voice to climate sceptics:

LEVELS of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) are rising annually by around three per cent, placing Earth on track for warming that could breach 5C by 2100, a new study published says. 

The figure – among the most alarming of the latest forecasts by climate scientists – is at least double the 2C target set by UN members struggling for a global deal on climate change. 

In 2011, global carbon emissions were 54 per cent above 1990 levels, according to the research, published in the journal, Nature Climate Change, by the Global Carbon Project consortium. 

“We are on track for the highest emissions projections, which point to a rise in temperature of between 4C and 6C by the end of the century,” said Corinne le Quere, a carbon specialist at the University of East Anglia, eastern England. 

“The estimate is based on growth trends that seem likely to last,” she said in a phone interview, pointing to the mounting consumption of coal by emerging giants. 

Other research has warned of potentially catastrophic impacts from a temperature rise of this kind. 

Chronic droughts and floods would bite into farm yields, violent storms and sea-level rise would swamp coastal cities and deltas, and many species would be wiped out, unable to cope with habitat loss.

Should we pleased with the fact that people with the Murdoch empire have seen reason and are reducing the influence of the crazies?


On the one hand it is another sign of the rapidly diminishing influence of the climate scepticism and the sceptic movement.

But what amends can News Limited and Murdoch make for the decades of climate change denial and misleading the public?

That we are now approaching a world of 5C by centuries end is a tragedy. The level of suffering may dwarf the Holocaust and the wars of the 20th century.

We must urgently, desperately avert this.

* Melbourne daily with a circulation in excess of 1 million

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One Degree matters: interesting program on Age TV

Dear all, no post today but a recommendation: One Degree Matters on The Age TV. It presents the real world evidence for climate change. But in addition, the producers take a group of individuals on a journey across the globe and ask them how they’d respond to the challenge:

Presenting the latest science on climate change, this is an informative and inspirational documentary which offers realistic solutions and gives the reality of global warming a human face, showcasing amazing examples of individuals and communities tackling the world’s environmental problems. One Degree traces the impact of temperatures increases, measuring the slippages of the Greenland ice cap into the Arctic Ocean.

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Welcome to the anthropocene: the best (or is that worst?) is yet to come

A recent paper in Science is worth noting for its ominous implications: future warming is predicted on the “high side”:

BOULDER—Climate model projections showing a greater rise in global temperature are likely to prove more accurate than those showing a lesser rise, according to a new analysis by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). The findings, published in this week’s issue of Science, could provide a breakthrough in the longstanding quest to narrow the range of global warming expected in coming decades and beyond.

The paper appeared in Science here:

An observable constraint on climate sensitivity, based on variations in mid-tropospheric relative humidity (RH) and their impact on clouds, is proposed. We show that the tropics and subtropics are linked by teleconnections that induce seasonal RH variations that relate strongly to albedo (via clouds), and that this covariability is mimicked in a warming climate. A present-day analog for future trends is thus identified whereby the intensity of subtropical dry zones in models associated with the boreal monsoon is strongly linked to projected cloud trends, reflected solar radiation, and model sensitivity. Many models, particularly those with low climate sensitivity, fail to adequately resolve these teleconnections and hence are identifiably biased. Improving model fidelity in matching observed variations provides a viable path forward for better predicting future climate.

The Sydney Morning Herald also reports:

Climate change is likely to be more severe than some models have implied,  according to a study which ratchets up the possible temperature rises and  subsequent climatic impacts. Climate model projections showing a greater rise in global temperature were  likely to be more accurate than those showing a smaller rise, an analysis by the  US National Centre for Atmospheric Research found. This means not only a higher level of warming, but also that the resulting  problems – including floods, droughts, sea level rise and fiercer storms and  other extreme weather – would be correspondingly more severe and would come  sooner than expected.

Scientists at the centre published their study last Thursday in the leading  peer-reviewed journal Science. It is based on an analysis of how well  computer models estimating the future climate reproduce the humidity in the  tropics and subtropics that has been observed in recent years. They found that  the most accurate models were most likely to best reproduce cloud cover, which  is a major influence on warming. These models were also those that showed the  highest global temperature rises in the future if emissions of greenhouse gases  continue to increase.

Rather than leave you the impression that “We’re doomed! Doomed!” I do believe it is vital we discuss the implications of this paper (and the voluminous other evidence) and begin examining how our civilisation can remain viable in the anthropocene.

Personally, I believe it is possible: but we need to look at the world in a new way. We live on what is essentially a different planet – very different to the one our species and civilisation witnessed as they came into being.

Even at this stage we have choices: to scale back greenhouse emissions; to implement renewable sources of energy; to better manage resource use; and to curb our growth fetish.

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Climate politics shifting: NYC Mayor Bloomberg cites climate change a factor in US elections

“President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans…  And heal the planet” – Mitt Romney

Sandy – and climate change – is having a profound impact on American politics and the Presidential election in surprising ways:

In a surprise announcement, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said Thursday that Hurricane Sandy had reshaped his thinking about the presidential campaign and that as a result he was endorsing President Obama. 

Mr. Bloomberg, a political independent in his third term leading New York City, has been sharply critical of both Mr. Obama, a Democrat, and Mitt Romney, the president’s Republican rival, saying that both men have failed to candidly confront the problems afflicting the nation. But he said he had decided over the past several days that Mr. Obama was the best candidate to tackle the global climate change that the mayor believes contributed to the violent storm, which took the lives of at least 38 New Yorkers and caused billions of dollars in damage. 

“The devastation that Hurricane Sandy brought to New York City and much of the Northeast — in lost lives, lost homes and lost business — brought the stakes of next Tuesday’s presidential election into sharp relief,” Mr. Bloomberg wrote in an editorial for Bloomberg View. 

“Our climate is changing,” he wrote. “And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it may be — given the devastation it is wreaking — should be enough to compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.”

Perhaps this is the break-through moment for climate politics in the US: when a respected, conservative leaning politician (Bloomberg is an independent with progressive views on a range of issues) helps dismantle the logjam stifling acknowledgement that climate change is central to the political discussion, and not a fringe concern.

The conservative politicians, think tanks, one particular global media corporation and journalists who have spent decades denying the reality are not merely looking out of touch with reality – it is now clear giving credence to their views was both foolish and dangerous.

The price of denial is writ large across Caribbean nations such as Haiti (60 dead) and the North East of the United States where the death toll has reached over 80.

The world has listened to these fanatics and merchants of unreality for too long.

But sadly it has taken two hurricanes in the United States – and far too many dead and billions in damage – to illustrate the folly of denial.

Twice climate extremes have destroyed the ambitions of conservatives in the US to hold or gain the Presidency. And twice they have chosen to ignore the lessons.

Hurricane Katrina destroyed the Presidency of George W. Bush, who was shown to be grossly incompetent. Recall it was Bush who sought to delay action on climate and ushered in the Republican war on science.

But denial among the GOP and conservatives only increased in intensity.

Now hurricane Sandy may have shifted the politics of climate change, most likely ensured a second term for Obama and discredited the sceptic movement in the eyes of most of the public.

The response of the millions who experienced the devastation of Sandy to the arguments of the sceptics will be personal and visceral:

“You’re a climate sceptic? Well I’m from New York – f*ck you”

Nor will the world forget the foolish utterances and names of those who denied climate change. The evidence of their stupidity and ideological zealotry is voluminous.

Romeny’s mocking of the issue of at the recent RNC will not merely haunt his failed bid for the Presidency: it will haunt conservatives in the US for decades.

It will haunt News Corporation for decades, who will be seen as one of the principle agents of denial.

And it will haunt conservative politicians in Australia, who fell under the siren song of the sceptic movement.

But it was bound to happen: reality was always going to catch up in the form of surging flood waters, withered crops and smashed and storm ravaged cities.

There will be an accounting and a reckoning, of that there can be little doubt.

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