Sunday, 23 December 2012

Seasonal Greetings

I'm not of a religious disposition, but I see no harm in pinching exploiting the best bits of someone else's religion when it suits me, and as I applaud and seek to follow what (mostly) coincides with basic Christian principles -

A merry Christmas and a happy, productive (no, I don't mean that) and prosperous new year, and may your sceptical wits become ever sharper.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Climate Science Rapid Response Team can't tell the truth on sea level paper

Climate Science Watch posted on 17th. Dec. 2012; Sea level rise study misrepresented; humans still raising sea level
There is a new paper out in the Journal of Climate which some have hailed as proof that the global mean sea level is not influenced by human activity. However, this is exactly the opposite of what the study authors explain are the real results.
The following guest post is a briefing note by the Climate Science Rapid Response Team:

The study finds sea level rise is still continuing at a steady rate. Study author Dr. John Church has stated via email correspondence, “I would argue that there is an unhealthy focus on one single statistic -- an acceleration number -- and insufficient focus on the temporal history of sea level change.” 
........................ 
With a complete reading of the paper, it becomes apparent that acceleration is only one part of the larger picture. The planet is rapidly warming and the seas are rising. These researchers are refining our understanding of which factors are driving that rise, and in what proportions.
The study Twentieth-century global-mean sea-level rise: is the whole greater than the sum of the parts? indeed finds that "sea level rise is still continuing at a steady rate".
Abstract
Confidence in projections of global-mean sea-level rise (GMSLR) depends on an ability to account for GMSLR during the 20th century. There are contributions from ocean thermal expansion, mass loss from glaciers and ice sheets, groundwater extraction and reservoir impoundment. We have made progress towards solving the “enigma” of 20th-century GMSLR—that is, the observed GMSLR has been found to exceed the sum of estimated contributions, especially for the earlier decades. We propose that: thermal expansion simulated by climate models may previously have been underestimated owing to their not including volcanic forcing in their control state; the rate of glacier mass loss was larger than previously estimated, and was not smaller in the first than in the second half of the century; the Greenland ice-sheet could have made a positive contribution throughout the century; groundwater depletion and reservoir impoundment, which are of opposite sign, may have been approximately equal in magnitude. We show that it is possible to reconstruct the timeseries of GMSLR from the quantified contributions, apart from a constant residual term which is small enough to be explained as a long-term contribution from the Antarctic ice-sheet. The reconstructions account for the approximate constancy of the rate of GMSLR during the 20th century, which shows small or no acceleration, despite the increasing anthropogenic forcing. Semi-empirical methods for projecting GMSLR depend on the existence of a relationship between global climate change and the rate of GMSLR, but the implication of our closure of the budget is that such a relationship is weak or absent during the 20th century.
Note that last sentence and read the distorted logic and back-pedalling in the comments. One of the "Rapid response Team (RRT)" (equipped with hockey-stick maybe?), Dr. John Abraham ends his comment
In short, saying that the relationship between global climate change and sea level rise is weak is not the same as saying “climate change has nothing to do with sea level rise."
Well, no - the abstract says "weak or absent". Apparently "absent" is absent from Dr. Abraham's vocabulary. John Church, co-author of many sea-level papers cited in many reports including IPCC assessment reports and a co-author on this particular paper says
I basically agree with what John Abraham has written.
Sea level is more complex then just a simple linear relationship to surface temperatures. The physics is more complex than this and there are multiple time scales for each of the components contributing to sea level change. Glaciers are a good example. As temperatures continue to rise their contribution cannot continue to rise indefinitely because over time there will be a smaller glacier volume to contribute to sea level rise
I see a "straw man" surfacing from the rising waters - who on the CSW page or elsewhere mentioned "a simple linear relationship to surface temperatures"? No -one, though perhaps Abraham would say "it's not the same as saying there aren't any such statements".

Fundamentally, the "rapid-response team" is saying that "Semi-empirical methods for projecting GMSLR depend on the existence of a relationship between global climate change and the rate of GMSLR, but the implication of our closure of the budget is that such a relationship is weak or absent during the 20th century" doesn't mean what it so clearly does say. Even one of the co-authors "basically agree[s] with what John Abraham has written". Is he telling us that the abstract is in error? If so why hasn't it been corrected?

I, as a sceptical observer, would observe that if the correlation between climate change and sea-level rise in the 20th. century is "weak or absent", and that if climate change over that period is hypothesised to be driven by human activities, then the claimed correlation between those activities and sea-level rise is also "weak or absent". But then, I'm not a scientist, and not qualified to comment on a statement in a research paper which one of the authors agrees doesn't say what it clearly does say.

The RRT also says "this is exactly the opposite of what the study authors explain are the real results". How many authors explained "the real results"? Just the one, apparently. Big numbers are clearly not the RRT's strongest suit.

But what about the RRT statement "The planet is rapidly warming" and the comment from co-author John Church "As temperatures continue to rise"? - IPCC AR5 and any temperature dataset refute both of those claims (I'm being tactful using the word). Perhaps they'd both say that a chart which shows stasis or a slight fall in temperature during the 21st century "is not the same as saying there's no global warming" over the same period. "Post-normal science" is all around us, and rising rapidly.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

IPCC AR5 - is the truth finally slipping out?

WG1 chapter 1 contains the following graphic (click to enlarge)

Figure 1.11: Estimated changes in the observed global annual sea level since 1990. Estimated changes in global annual sea level anomalies from tide gauge data (Church and White, 2011; available at http://www.cmar.csiro.au/sealevel/sl_data_cmar.html) (black error bars showing 1s uncertainty) and based on annual averages from TOPEX and Jason satellites (Nerem et al., 2010; available at http://sealevel.colorado.edu/results.php) (blue dots) starting in 1992 (the values have been aligned to fit the 1993 value of the tide gauge data). The shading shows the largest model projected range of global annual sea level rise from 1990 to 2015 for FAR (Scenario D and business-as-usual), SAR (IS92c and IS92e), TAR (A2 and A1FI) and for Church et al. (2011) based on the CMIP3 model results available at the time of AR4 using the SRES A1B scenario.

A couple of things immediately struck me; first that the blue dots (annual average from TOPEX and JASON) show a tailing-off on the right (2011) to almost exactly 5cm above the 1993 value of a smidgen (that's a technical term used by us statistical experts [ha! - ed.] for a very small quantity) above zero. That gives 5/19 = 0.263 or 2.63 mm/year, rather less than the 3.2 mm/year over the satellite era (since the beginning of 1993) we've been fed to date. In order to get that 3.2 rate, the 2011 value would have to be 6cm above that for 1993 which clearly it's not. I think they've got a cheek assigning a zero value to 1992; observations didn't start until well into the latter half of that year.

Small potatoes maybe but is the truth (or something approaching the truth) finally slipping out?

Monday, 17 December 2012

Newlyn, Cornwall - a stable benchmark for sea-level

An idyllic scene - a view over Newlyn harbour, Cornwall UK. In the background to the east rises historic St. Michael's Mount. Note the red-and-white painted lighthouse and adjacent hut. The unassuming hut has the grand-sounding title of the Newlyn Tidal Observatory. The hut houses several things, but the most important is a simple domed brass bolt set in a recess in the granite below the floor. The top of the domed head is the benchmark for all height measurements in the UK.
Ordnance Survey benchmark, Newlyn


Newlyn was chosen because of the stability of the site - a solid Cornish granite pier set on solid Cornish granite bedrock. However solid the foundations though, even this site might be subject to horizontal and/or vertical movement of the Earth's crust below. Careful levelling over the decades since the tidal gauge was set up in 1915, confirmed by CGPS measurements in recent years show that isn't the case.

CGPS plot for Newlyn Observatory 1999-2010                                                      Source:Sonel

The CGPS (Continuous GPS) plot shows -0.03 mm/year between 1999 and 2010 (in red, to the left of the plot); it's sinking at a rate of just 3 mm per century. That's stable by any standards. Why am I telling you all this? Because of the stability of the site; the tide gauge is set in a vertical shaft in the pier with a horizontal channel to admit sea water. The record runs from 1915 and so covers most of the 20th century. Because of the stability of the gauge the tidal data can be relied on for accuracy without any adjustment for vertical movement.

Data Source: PSMSL
Coincidentally, but also interesting, is that the overall rate is 1.78 mm/year almost identical to the generally accepted global rate for the 20th century of 1.8 mm/year.

Annual rate from 1915 to year on lower axis.
By calculating and plotting the annual rates from the first year of data we can see how they've changed over time. This analysis can also reveal any acceleration in the annual rate. The above plot shows that the annual rate (from 1915) was around 2 mm/year or just below from 1950 to 1970, began to drop until 1976 (1.65 mm/year), levelled off, and rose slightly after 2001, from 1.61 to the current overall 1.76 mm/year. note that there was no significant change in rate in the last quarter of the 20th century, and just a small increase since then.

I'll be creating a sea-level reference page for Europe very soon; I already have several plots for the UK, and half-a-dozen for northern Europe.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

'Extreme climate may wipe out mammals from Earth' - or maybe not

The Business Standard intones dramatically
Mammals could be at greater risk of extinction due to a higher frequency of extreme conditions such as cyclones and droughts spurred by climate change, scientists have warned.
Researchers from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) have mapped out land mammal populations, and overlapped this with information of where droughts and cyclones are most likely to occur. This allowed them to identify species at high risk of exposure to extreme weather.
The study describes the results of assessing almost six thousand species of land mammals in this way.
Bear in mind that land mammals have been exposed over millions of years, to more than one ice age with "extreme weather" (of the cold-induced variety) and at least one interglacial period during which temperatures were several degrees above those of today with "extreme weather" (of the heat-induced variety).
"Approximately a third of the species assessed have at least a quarter of their range exposed to cyclones, droughts or a combination of both," lead author of research, Eric Ameca y Juarez said.
"If these species are found to be highly susceptible to these conditions, it will lead to a substantial increase in the number of mammals classified as threatened by the IUCN under the category 'climate change and severe weather'," said Juarez in a statement.
In particular, primates - already among the most endangered mammals in the world - are highlighted as being especially at risk.
Just a minute though - "If these species are found to be highly susceptible to these conditions" implies, nay states, that the zoologists haven't actually assessed the vulnerability of land mammals to "extreme weather". Neither it seems, have they assessed the actual probability of the extremes they "predict", nor the extent or intensity of the extremes, nor specified the timescales over which those extremes might occur.
"This is the first study of its kind to look at which species are at risk from extreme climatic events. There are a number of factors which influence how an animal copes with exposure to natural disasters.
"It is essential we identify species at greatest risk so that we can better inform conservation management in the face of global environmental change," ZSL's research fellow Dr Nathalie Pettorelli said.
What does AR5 draft have to say about cyclones? Ch2 FAQ 2.2 says
Considering other extremes, such as tropical cyclones, the latest assessments show low confidence that any reported long-term increases in tropical cyclone activity are robust, after accounting for past changes in observing capabilities. There is some evidence, however, of an intensification of the most extreme storms, but records are currently very short.  
Over periods of a century or more, evidence suggests slight decreases in the frequency of tropical cyclones making landfall in the North Atlantic and the South Pacific, once uncertainties in observing methods have been considered. Little evidence exists of any longer-term trend in other ocean basins.
So much for the "increase in hurricanes/cyclones" meme touted as fact lately. What about droughts? Section 2.6.2.2 Floods, Droughts and Severe Local Weather Events:
On the whole the annual maximum number of consecutive dry days appears to be declining in most regions since the 1950s (Figure 2.33b). Using a measure which combines both dry spell length and precipitation intensity Giorgi et al. (2011) indicate that ‘hydroclimatic intensity’ (Chapter 7) has increased over the latter part of the 20th Century in response to a warming climate. They show that positive trends are most marked in Europe, India, parts of South America and East Asia although trends appear to have decreased in Australia and northern South America (Figure 2.33c). Data availability, quality and length of record remain issues in drawing conclusions on a global scale, however.
So where there are trends in tropical cyclones (includes hurricanes) they show decreased frequency - something many sceptics have been saying for years - based on the data. With regards to drought, "On the whole the annual maximum number of consecutive dry days appears to be declining in most regions since the 1950s".

Every so often, more often year on year it seems, I read of some "research" or other that produces an immediate reaction of "what a load of crap". This study is one such.

Permafrost - the bottom line

In a recent post UNEP Report - Policy Implications of Warming Permafrost I identified a major contradiction therein, and debunked claimed "increases" in CO2 and methane over permafrost areas. I've been digesting parts of the leaked IPCC AR5 draft report, and found this in WG1 chapter 6:

6.3.3.2 Emissions 
.................. 
Over the past decades, however, there is no evidence for significant emission of CH4 from permafrost and hydrates (Dlugokencky et al., 2009). 
.... from the horse's mouth.

And a little further on this section:
6.4.3.4 Permafrost Carbon
Current estimates of permafrost soil carbon stocks are 1670 PgC (Tarnocai et al., 2009), the single largest component of the terrestrial carbon pool and higher than previously thought. Terrestrial carbon models show a land CO2 sink with warming at high northern latitudes, however none of the models participating in C4MIP or CMIP5 included explicit representation of permafrost soil carbon decomposition, which at a minimum requires sufficient vertical resolution in modelled soil carbon distribution and processes to separate surface pools from very old (Pleistocene) permafrost carbon pools. Including permafrost carbon processes into an ESM can change the sign of this C response to warming from a sink to a source in northern high latitudes (Koven et al., 2011). The magnitude of this source of CO2 to the atmosphere from decomposition of permafrost carbon varies widely by 2100 according to different model estimates: process-model estimates include 7–17 Pg (Zhuang et al., 2006), 55–69 Pg (Koven et al., 2011), and 126–254 Pg (Schaefer et al., 2011); estimates of uncertainty ranges suggest the source could range from 33 to 114 Pg C (68% range) under RCP8.5 warming (von Deimling et al., 2012), or 50–270 PgC (5th–95th percentile range; Burke et al., subm.). Combining observed vertical soil C profiles with modelled thaw rates estimate that the total quantity of newly-thawed soil C by 2100 will be 246 Pg for RCP4.5 and 436 Pg for RCP8.5 (Harden et al., 2012 in press). Sources of uncertainty for the permafrost C feedback include the physical thawing rates, the fraction of C that is release after being thawed and the timescales of release, possible mitigating nutrient feedbacks, and the role of fine-scale processes in determining the terrestrial response. 
Note the model results for emissions from permafrost to 2100: 7–17 Pg (petagrams), 55–69 Pg, 126–254 Pg, and the consequent estimated uncertainty range of 33 to 114 Pg C or 50–270 Pg C at the 5th–95th percentile range. What does this all mean?

They don't know.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

IPCC AR5 draft report release - the bottom line

An expert reviewer of IPCC AR5 (Assessment Report 5) has released the entire draft on the internet. it contains a graphic showing the global temperature "projections" from climate model runs from the previous four reports. Put simply, the graphic destroys any claims of continuous warming of the global climate since the publication of the FAR (First Assessment Report) in 1990. it destroys the claim made in a recent paper that the global temperature trend since then has vindicated the accuracy of projections from that FAR. It supports the observation of sceptics (and some enlightened and open-minded climate scientists) that global temperature has not increased this century, and that actual temperature data shows a trend well below IPCC projections. It is clearly the "elephant in the room" for proponents of CAGW (Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming) and warmists and doomsayers in general.

Source: WUWT
The vertical black bars indicate the possible range of error in observations (square black dots) from the GISS temperature dataset; it's quite clear that there's been no increase in global temperature since 1998 and that temperatures are trending below the model projections from all four reports (the coloured bands). It should be obvious to anyone that climate models don't model the global climate; in principle they can't - the climate is a chaotic stochastic system that doesn't lend itself to modelling as stated in an early iPCC report, but that didn't stop climate modellers applying their magic computer code to predicting the unpredictable. It should be clear to anyone who studies the science in any detail that while there is an anthropogenic effect, it's quite small, and is highly unlikely to lead to any substantial warming of the global climate. It should also be clear that while CO2 is, and must be, a climate driver its effect is relatively small, and it's predicted effect on climate vastly overblown. Whatever the conclusions are in the published AR5, due next year, mankind is having no great influence on global climate.

The king is dead, and good riddance.



Thursday, 13 December 2012

Canary Watch is born

I've started a new blog, Canary Watch, which aims at documenting two kinds of claim about climate, ecology or environment. First, the "canary in the coal mine" familiar to most readers, as in "the Arctic is the canary in the coal mine" for "global warming" or its recent morph "climate change", intended to focus on changes in that area as a prime example indicator of the effects of GW or CC (or both). The metaphor refers of course, to the now outdated and abandoned practice of using canaries whose metabolic rates are high, to give early warning of higher-than desirable levels of methane or carbon dioxide in mines. The canaries didn't die or even collapse as a result of the gases, of course - their obvious stress was an indication to the miners that one or other gas was present in an area in the mine and they'd have been removed to safety immediately.

The second category is the "warming faster than anywhere else" theme. As in "the Arctic is warming faster than anywhere else" - yes, that area falls into both categories. Accordingly, my first post concerns the Arctic, long touted as "the canary in the coal mine" for the effects of global warming. Have a look at Canary Watch, and feel free to nominate blog posts, comments or 'net articles which fall into the "canary" or "faster" categories, and anything else you think I might be interested in. I might start a new category as a result.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Do "warmists" inhabit a different planet, or just blind and deaf?

It's a good question - here are some hints as to the answer. HuffPo says "Global Warming Threat: Permafrost Thawing Across Siberia And Alaska Poses New Concern, UNEP Reports"
Permafrost lands across Siberia and Alaska that contain vast stores of carbon are beginning to thaw, bringing with it the threat of a big increase in global warming by 2100, a U.N. report said on Tuesday.
How can anyone come to that conclusion if they'd actually read the UNEP report, which said "Overall, these observations indicate that large-scale thawing of permafrost may have already started", and "Uncertainties are large, but emissions from thawing permafrost could start within the next few decades". May have, not has, and emissions could start within the next few decades. That "few decades" sounds like a solid scientific prediction doesn't it?

The Urban Times asks "How is Global Warming Affecting Alaska?", as if we and it's readers couldn't guess what their answer was gonna be.
The reasons for global warming have been thoroughly debated. While some experts argue humans are the root cause, others argue that the Earth is undergoing a natural climate shift that has nothing to do with the presence of people on the planet.
Whatever the reason, it is evident that global warming is taking place. In Alaska, for instance, the average annual temperature has risen just over three degrees Fahrenheit per year for the last 100 years. The resulting glacial reduction is visible to the naked eye.
They then show a photo of a glacier calving great chunks of ice into the sea, as if this is caused by higher temperatures and has never happened in the past, hint: RMS Titanic. I won't bore you with rest of the stuff and get on with my own picture; what's happening to temperatures in Alaska? I Just clicked on the GISS map somewhere in Alaska and then ran down the list picking out stations with a history to 2012 which is complete for recent years - no cherry-picking on my blog. Here are the charts, in the order they appear in the list. You're welcome to check for yourself using the links I've provided-  that's why I included them.






Notice anything about the years since 2000? If you do, and you deduce that temperatures have been dropping to or below those of the 1980s, you get full marks. You are now fully qualified to answer that question "How is Global Warming Affecting Alaska?".

Monday, 10 December 2012

FAR out - have "climate change projections come true"?

Have they? Is what The Conversation claims that "20 years on, climate change projections have come true" correct?
Climate change predictions made 20 years ago have so far proved accurate, suggesting that the world is indeed on track to a radical climate shift, according to a new paper published today.
In 1990, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — a group of the world’s top climate scientists — released its First Assessment Report, predicting global warming of about 1.1 degrees celsius between 1990 and 2030.
In today’s edition of Nature Climate Change, climate scientists David Frame and Dáithí A. Stone argue that, halfway through that projection period, the predictions made in 1990 are proving mostly accurate.
The 1990 report’s “best estimate” was that the world would warm by about 1.1 degrees celsius between 1990 and 2030, meaning that the halfway prediction would be about 0.55 degrees celsius by 2010.
In fact, the world has now warmed by about 0.39 degrees celsius, coming very close to the prediction despite several unforeseen historical events, such as the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Mt Pinatubo volcanic eruption and the rise of China.
If I wanted to quibble (and of course I do) then firstly 1990 isn't quite "20 years ago", unless this article has been in the pending tray for a couple of years. I can do big sums like 2012-1990 = 22. Secondly, and more importantly, I've read the relevant bits of the iPCC First Assessment Report (FAR - in the post title, it's a pun - see?) and the figure 1.1 and the year 2030 don't ring a bell. The Overview for the FAR states
1.0.3 Based on current model results, we predict:
An average rate of increase of global mean temperature during the next century of about 0.3°C per decade (with an uncertainty range of 0.2—0.5°C per decade) assuming the IPCC Scenario A (Business-as-Usual) emissions of greenhouse gases; this is a more rapid increase than seen over the past 10,000 years.
This will result in a likely increase in the global mean temperature of about 1°C above the present value by 2025 (about 2°C above that in the pre-industrial period), and 3°C above today's value before the end of the next century (about 4°C above pre-industrial). The rise will not be steady because of other factors.
The Policymakers Summary for WGIII states in the Executive Summary
Based on current model results, we predict under the IPCC "Business-as-Usual" emissions of greenhouse gases, a rate of increase of global mean temperature during the next century of about 0.3°C per decade (with an uncertainty range of 0.2°C to 0.5°C per decade), greater than that seen over the past 10,000 years; under the same scenario, we also predict an average rate of global mean sea level rise of about 6 cm per decade over the next century (with an uncertainty range of 3-10 cm per decade).
So the FAR actually effectively predicted 0.6°C by 2010, not 0.55°C, yet even if it was as claimed 0.55°C then an actual rise of 0.39°C is just 70% of the prediction, which is therefore 41% above actual. That result is called "accurate"?
“As is always the case in science, we cannot know for certain that the 1990 prediction was accurate for the right reasons but, given the apparent absence of any credible alternative theories and the robustness of the prediction, this evaluation strongly supports the contention that the climate is responding to enhanced levels of GHGs (greenhouse gases) in accordance with historical expectations,” the authors wrote.
Low marks for accuracy, but an "A" in chutzpah, I'd say.
Penny Whetton, Senior Principal Research Scientist at the CSIRO and a lead author for the Third Assessment Report of the (IPCC), said the paper confirmed that “projections that climate scientists have been making have been accurate.”
“There are implications for the wider community for how they accept the IPCC conclusions. This is good evidence to show that what the IPCC has been saying for a while is coming true,” she said, adding that the discrepancy between the 0.55 degree projected rise and the 0.39 actual rise was explained by variability in estimates due to natural fluctuations.
“Once you allow for that, this paper demonstrates that the warming we are seeing is consistent with the projections made by the IPCC,” said Dr Whetton.
Err no, dear (I can be very condescending when the moment arrives) - estimates aren't subject to "natural fluctuations", it's reality that's subject to that. Once estimates are made, they're set in stone, see? Those who made them are stuck with them for ever more, except one Paul Ehrlich, of course - he just forgets he made 'em and carries on as if nothing different had happened. Oh - and Tim Flannery, of course who just claims he never said what he's recorded as saying on TV, radio and in newspapers, magazines, internet articles, blogs and St. Peter's great book of everything, for all I know. Then there's James Hansen who still stands by his prediction that the "Big Apple" would be 80 feet underwater by now (or next year, or something). He must have had his fingers crossed when Sandy's storm surge swept through Manhattan.

But I digress (cut me some slack, it's one of my few sources of amusement during these dark days of Armageddon predictions) - if a 30% error, on their own figures is considered accurate and "consistent with projections", where does that leave "Post-normal science"? If I'm given 39p change when I'm expecting 55p, am I justified in complaining, or do i have to accept it's "consistent with projections"?
Steve Sherwood, Co-Director, Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales said the paper showed “that if you take natural year-to-year variability into account in any reasonable way, the predictions are as close as one could reasonably expect.”
“Those who have been claiming ad nauseum that the climate models have been proved wrong, should read this paper, even though for most of us it is not very surprising,” said Dr Sherwood, who was not involved in the Nature Climate Change paper.
“Though there is no contrarian analogue to the IPCC, individual contrarians have made predictions over a similar time frame that the warming would stop or reverse. The data since then have probably falsified many of those predictions (which the deniers continue to make today).”
I don't need to "read this paper", I just need to read a global temperature dataset - any dataset, GISS included. Obviously, people like Sherwood don't need to do that, they just announce that the Emperor's New Clothes are a remarkable fit, despite the fact that the proles are giggling and pointing at his projections.

Shoot an arrow in the air, and where it lands call that the target, and announce it's "accurate" - it'll do for the proles and politicians.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Un-Scientific American at it again

Have you noticed how many "warmist" blogs and websites have names or titles which are the exact opposite of the theme of what they post or publish? "Open Mind" is one that immediately springs to my mind, or "Skeptical Science" which  is totally un-sceptical of anything which supports the warmist disaster scenario. Another is one which used to live up to its name, but over the years has slipped away from that shining adjective "scientific" and fallen into regurgitating decidedly unscientific mumbo-jumbo, is Scientific American. Decades ago it was vibrant, exciting, informative and I subscribed to it, happy to find it lying inside my front door when I returned home from work. Now I wouldn't line my cat's litter-tray with pages torn from dog-eared copies thrown out from clinic waiting rooms. Here's a short but still rubbish-strewn article from the mighty-but-fallen SA.
Earth May Be Warming Even Faster Than Expected
Scientists have thought that if planetary warming could be kept below a 2-degree Celsius increase, perils such as catastrophic sea-level rise and searing heat waves could be avoided.
Scientists haven't thought anything of the kind; the "2-degree target" was thought up at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. That's well-known and attested. Would 1.9 degrees be liveable with but 2.1 degrees spell disaster?
Ongoing data, however, indicate that three global feedback mechanisms may be pushing Earth into a period of rapid climate change even before the 2-degree C "limit" is reached: Ice melting into the oceans, which warms surface seawater, leading to more melting; thawing of permafrost, which releases carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere, raising the air temperature and melting more permafrost; and glaciers breaking up and falling into the sea, which lessens the amount of sunlight reflected into space, thereby heating the atmosphere and further degrading glaciers.
"Ice melting into the oceans" absorbs heat from the seawater, cooling it. How could cold water at the melting point of ice warm the seawater which melted the ice, when that seawater must have been warmer than the ice to in order to melt it? The meltwater can't add heat to the sea, when the heat to create the meltwater came from the sea in the first place.

"glaciers breaking up and falling into the sea" - do they mean whole glaciers, or just the bits which have been falling into the sea (calving) as those bits of glaciers have been doing for thousands of years?
The feedbacks could ultimately alter weather by changing the jet stream's path, magnify insect infestations and spawn more and larger wildfires.
Indeed they could, but long-term alteration of the jet streams could equally well trigger the next ice-age. We're well overdue for that event already.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

UNEP Report - Policy Implications of Warming Permafrost

Before I get down to the nitty-gritty of the contents of the UNEP report I thought I'd share with you (I hate that expression btw) a little gem from "Beyond Zero Emissions", whose website proclaims
In partnership with the University of Melbourne Energy Research Institute we are undertaking the award-winning Zero Carbon Australia 2020 Project, which is putting together fully costed transition plans for getting Australia to zero emissions in ten years using commercially available technology.
In ten years - yeah right.
Prof Ian Simmonds on melting permafrost and the latest climate science.
Professor Ian Simmonds of the School of Earth Sciences at The University of Melbourne is an expert in climate science and atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane budgets. His recent research has focused on the dramatic record melting permafrost in the Arctic and extreme weather events relating to climate change. 
I'd say we've got the measure of the prof. right away, wouldn't you? What "dramatic record melting permafrost in the Arctic" exactly?
The permafrost has started warming at 50m depth by about 2 degrees. This is significant because the permafrost is very close to freezing and 2 degrees will start to thaw it and this increases the potential for chemical reactions and leakage of methane and carbon emissions from the frozen organic matter inside the permafrost. 
"Very close to freezing"? Very close to thawing, surely? If "2 degrees will start to thaw it" and it's already warmed by 2 degrees then it's at thawing point already innit? Except that at 50m depth it's not at -2 degrees and not close to thawing. If there's only "potential for chemical reactions and leakage of methane and carbon emissions" where's the "dramatic record melting permafrost" then?

Par for the course for this sort of article - the writer can't even see the built-in contradictions in what they write. Which brings me directly to a rather glaring contradiction in "Policy Implications of Warming Permafrost", in the executive summary right at the start.
Two global networks monitor permafrost status: the Thermal State of Permafrost (TSP) network measures permafrost temperature at various depths in 860 boreholes, and the Circumpolar Active Layer Monitoring (CALM) network measures the thickness of the active layer at 260 sites. The active layer thickness is the maximum surface thaw depth in summer . The TSP and CALM networks are the two components of the Global Terrestrial Network for Permafrost (GTN-P), under the auspices of the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS). The International Permafrost Association (IPA) currently coordinates international development and operation of the TSP and CALM networks for the GTN-P . TSP observations indicate that permafrost temperatures have risen over the past few decades. CALM observations are less conclusive due to the melting of ice layers and lenses in near surface permafrost, but show increases in active layer thickness at many sites. Overall, these observations indicate that large-scale thawing of permafrost may have already started.  
The "active layer" is the unfrozen (in summer) layer above the permafrost layer. Microbial decay of plant matter can only take place in that active layer when it's unfrozen. Temperature monitoring at depths well below the active layer says nothing about any actual increase in the depth of that layer, which is what indicates additional thawing and subsequent decay and release of (mostly) CO2. Yet the summary implies that warming at depth is a more conclusive indicator than CALM (active layer) observations which are "less conclusive"? This is clutching at straws big time. I hope those straws don't decay and release an element of objectivity and truth.

So "large-scale thawing of permafrost may have already started"? Here's the contradiction in the next-but-one paragraph (my bold);
Carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane emissions from thawing permafrost could amplify warming due to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. This amplification is called the permafrost carbon feedback. Permafrost contains ~1700 gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon in the form of frozen organic matter, almost twice as much carbon as currently in the atmosphere. If the permafrost thaws, the organic matter will thaw and decay, potentially releasing large amounts of CO2 and methane into the atmosphere. This organic material was buried and frozen thousands of years ago and its release into the atmosphere is irreversible on human time scales. Thawing permafrost could emit 43 to 135 Gt of CO2 equivalent by 2100 and 246 to 415 Gt of CO2 equivalent by 2200. Uncertainties are large, but emissions from thawing permafrost could start within the next few decades and continue for several centuries, influencing both short-term climate (before 2100) and long-term climate (after 2100).
However that's the dumbed-down version in the Executive Summary. The main report section 2.4 "Current State of Permafrost", after discussing changes and trends in atmospheric and permafrost temperatures states
Trends in active layer thickness are less conclusive, with some sites showing increases, but others showing no trend at all. Active layer thickness has increased in the Russian European North, but not in West Siberia (Mazhitova 2008; Vasiliev et al. 2008). Increases in summer air temperature have increased the active layer thickness on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (Wu andZhang 2010; Zhao et al. 2010). Although active layer thickness has increased in the Alaskan and Canadian interior, there is no obvious trend near the Arctic coastline (Streletskiy et al. 2008; Shiklomanov et al. 2010; Smith et al. 2009; Burn and Kokelj, 2009; Smith et al. 2010). Melting of excess ground ice might explain the lack of consistent trends in active layer thickness even though permafrost temperatures show clear signs of warming. Year-to-year variability in active layer thickness due to variations in summer air temperature also makes it difficult to detect long-term trends (Smith et al. 2009; Popova and Shmakin 2009). However, radar measurements near Prudhoe Bay indicate the surface has subsided by several centimeters since 1992, even though nearby CALM sites showed no obvious increases in active layer thickness (Liu et al. 2010, 2012). The excess ground ice in near-surface permafrost, if present, melts slowly over several years, the water drains away and the ground surface settles, a process that is difficult to detect using mechanical probing at CALM sites.
So there's a "lack of consistent trends in active layer thickness", which is the only sign that permafrost is melting on a large scale. Note that "Although active layer thickness has increased in the Alaskan and Canadian interior, there is no obvious trend near the Arctic coastline". That's it then? There's no mention of monitoring CO2 and methane emissions on the ground, in the air, or by satellite. If emissions are the bottom line then it's emissions which should be monitored above all else, something that would appear to be essential to my mind. Wait - aren't CO2 and methane already monitored by satellite? Wouldn't increasing emissions over permafrost areas show up, and wouldn't this report show them? Yes, yes, and yes to those questions.

Something occurred to me while I was writing my previous post. Surely microbial digestion of plant matter would produce heat, and act as a feedback, accelerating the melt? No mention of it in the report, but I did manage to find a reference in Amount and timing of permafrost carbon release in response to climate warming (2011), lead author one Kevin Schaefer, who also happens to be the lead author of the UNEP report:
A regional model projection with permafrost carbon predicts a complete thaw of permafrost in eastern Siberia by 2300, fuelled by the heat of microbial decay (Khvorostyanov et al., 2008).
I'm not just a pretty face then, I have some insight.

There's a distinct lack of data in these 30 report pages, and the maps are dreadful - here's the first intended to show the various areas of permafrost types (actual size, extracted from the pdf)


... and here's how it appears in the pdf - a scientific report intended for international consumption.


Here's one i found from the same original source, the International Permafrost Association.
Source: National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC)
Not difficult, is it?

So there we have it - an inconclusive report, despite what's being "spun" about it in the media and on the 'net. A big nothing.

How objective is the report's lead author, Kevin Schaefer? NBC News quotes him in "Melting permafrost being ignored at climate talks, experts warn"
"Permafrost has begun to thaw," lead author Kevin Schaefer, a researcher at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado-Boulder, told a news conference in Doha.
You don't even deserve my bullshit button, Kev, you're putting politics above science. Your report doesn't say that - at best it's a gross over-simplification, at worst a lie, and you know it.


Friday, 7 December 2012

Permafrost - when does bullshit become lies?

It's easy to answer that question - when it's published by the Los Angeles Times, as in "Thawing permafrost may amplify global warming, U.N. reports". At least the title of the article is entirely truthful, but crap soon emerges from the frozen wastes of the author's mind. That mind is engaging itself with the just-released UNEP report Policy Implications of Warming Permafrost. The journalist Kenneth R. Weiss doesn't mess about - he's straight on the bullshit bandwagon with his first paragraph.
Think of broccoli that you’ve got in the freezer. As long as it’s frozen, it will remain stable for years. As soon as you pull it out, it’ll go mushy and soon begin to unleash the stench of decay.
That’s one way Kevin Schaefer likes to describe what’s happening to all the leaves and roots and other plant material locked in the frozen soils of the arctic tundra and forests since the last Ice Age.
"All the leaves and roots and other plant material"? No, just some of it, possibly - even probably.
As the planet warms, this permafrost is thawing, releasing huge amounts of carbon and methane, Schaefer explains in a new report. The United Nations Environment Program released the report Thursday to prod negotiators gathered in Doha, Qatar, to come up with a new international treaty to rein in rising greenhouse gases warming the planet.
"This permafrost is thawing, releasing huge amounts of carbon and methane"? No it isn't, as the report details and concludes. As "Schaefer explains in a new report"? No, he doesn't - the report's first conclusion states:
Permafrost around the world has begun to change, with TSP network observations indicating that permafrost temperatures have risen over the past few decades. CALM network observations are less conclusive, but show increases in active layer thickness at many sites. Overall, these observations indicate that large-scale thawing of permafrost may already have started.
"May already have started", and the report says nothing about the relatively small amount of existing thaw "releasing huge amounts of carbon and methane". Mr. Weiss is just making it up as he goes along. I'm not even going to display my bullshit button - this is waay beyond bullshit.

All this fuss is of course due to the assumption (which has merit, don't get me wrong) that the greenhouse gases released by decomposing organic matter in thawed permafrost would accelerate global warming, or whatever the fashionable term is nowadays.

I'm currently microbially digesting the organic matter of the UNEP report and will post on it ASAP, sans bullshit and lies of course. I'll end on a lighter note with a priceless quote from the report's lead author Kevin Schaefer.
“Once the organic matter thaws and decays away, there is no way to put it back into the permafrost,” said Schaefer, a scientist at the University of Colorado’s National Snow and Ice Data Center.
That's like saying that once you've spent your money there's no way to get it back. D'you mean the permafrost that's melted Kev? Gerraway.


Wednesday, 5 December 2012

"West Coast Sea Level Dropping" - oceanographer tells it like it is

Spartan Daily, the college newspaper of San Jose State University (California), has a report on a talk given by Larry Breaker, adjunct professor of physical oceanography at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories to students there,
New studies show regional sea levels are dropping on the West Coast even though global sea level rise is accelerating.
“Regional sea level rise is not uniform around the world,” said Larry Breaker, adjunct professor of physical oceanography at a talk at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories last week. “Although sea level is rising in some areas, in other areas it’s falling.”
Other studies (including mine, of course) have shown the same about US west coast sea-levels, though you'd not think so given the almost total silence on the issue in the media. Several of the students showed an alarming ignorance on the subject, given that they're studying at a marine laboratory.
“I was surprised to hear that,” said Moss Landing Marine Labs graduate student Christian Denney. “The concept that the local sea level was different from the global mean is new to me.” 
“(The sea level) has been steadily rising since the 1930s,” said Moss Landing Marine Labs graduate student Dorota Szuta. “But I didn’t realize that the sea level had actually been falling on the west coast of North America.”
And so it has, but the concept that the world climate and other metrics are anything but uniform shouldn't be news to anyone, especially students in a scientific discipline such as these two. I was going to say full marks to the prof. for telling it like it is, and so I do, but I shouldn't need to - isn't truth the universal standard in science?

More from the prof. -
“With GPS data we can now estimate local subsidence and uplift in the vicinity of many tide gauges,” he said. "Recently acquired GPS data near the San Francisco tide gauge suggests that it could be subsiding at rates approaching one millimeter per year."
Now that's interesting (at least to me) as I haven't been able to acquire any up-to-date GPS info for the US west coast. If you're interested, read the article for a few more interesting observations by the prof., and read his profile for even more interesting stuff - his experience in things oceanic is extensive. How refreshing to report on something in a positive light for a change, and not have to take a poke at anyone about what they've said or written (a few students excepted, of course).

Is 'Time running out' for Kiribati as 'seas rise'?

I'm sure I've had this feeling of deja vu before.
The low-lying Pacific nation of Kiribati is running out of time on climate change as seas rise, and is drafting plans including mass relocation of its people while the world procrastinates on the issue, the country's leader says.
President Anote Tong said areas of Kiribati -- consisting of more than 30 coral atolls, most only a few metres (feet) above sea level -- had already been swamped by the rising ocean.
I'll ignore the obvious howler about metres and feet and concentrate on the rest of this article on TerraDaily, particularly the "rising ocean". The South Pacific Sea Level & Climate Monitoring Project managed by Australia's BOM has been recording sea level and climate data in the central and south-west Pacific for almost two decades. Their data to end 2011 provides the content of my South Pacific Sea Level reference page. the latest updates to October 2012 were released just over a week ago. Here's the updated chart for Kiribati.

Source: Bureau of Meteorology
The red 3-year (37 month centred) average line shows that current levels have risen to what they were 10-11 years ago. I'm not saying that in general sea levels aren't rising worldwide - clearly they are. I'm not saying that in general sea levels in the pacific aren't rising - my reference page shows they are, but the data for Kiribati shows no increase over the last decade.

The threat to the atolls of Kiribati and other low-lying Pacific islands comes not from rising sea-levels, but from rapidly rising sea-levels. Coral atolls grow upwards as sea-level rises. The surface that islanders live and farm on wasn't there a few thousand years ago. There's a threat only if the corals can't migrate upwards at a sufficient rate, and if insufficient coral debris accumulates at the land surface to maintain the atoll area. A survey done a couple of years ago showed that most Pacific atolls were growing in area rather than shrinking. However the growth was net growth; some land was eroded away, and new land created as waves accumulated coral debris in other places. In the short term that doesn't help the islanders much. I've no doubt that on the main atoll Tarawa and others in the Kiribati group, some areas had "already been swamped by the rising ocean" as Mr. Tong is quoted as saying.

Mr. Tong seems to me to have moderated his language and curbed his use of hyperbole recently, indeed in an article of similar tone on NBC News "As sea levels rise, Kiribati eyes 6,000 acres in Fiji as new home for 103,000 islanders" he says "changing rainfall, tidal and storm patterns pose as least as much threat as ocean levels, which so far have risen only slightly". However, NBC News manages to get something wrong, as usual (yes, I'm a cynic). They show a picture of the largest atoll Tarawa captioned "Kiribati, seen here in an aerial photo taken in 2004". For Kiribati to be shown in a photograph would require it to be taken from a satellite. The TerraDaily writers point out that it consists of "more than 30 coral atolls and the NBC page itself has a map showing the group extends for something akin to the E-W width of Australia.

The NBC article ends with something interesting, and which i wasn't aware of:
Although like much of the Pacific, Kiribati is poor — its annual GDP per person is just $1,600 — Tong said the country has plenty of foreign reserves to draw from for the land purchase. The money, he said, comes from phosphate mining on the archipelago in the 1970s.
Now call me a cynic (darn - I've already admitted that), but doesn't allowing large chunks of your valuable real-estate which rises no more than a few metres above sea-level to be carted away by ship seem rather short-sighted to you?

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Pine Beetles at it again - causing warming this time!

Yale Environment 360 tells us that Pine Beetle Attacks Cause Temperature Rise in Canadian Forests. Is it the beating of all those tiny wings creating heat? Their black carapaces (the shiny bits) absorbing more heat from the sun? No it's because trees naturally cool their environment. More beetles, fewer trees; fewer trees less cooling; less cooling, higher temperatures. Simple really, or so the researchers would have us believe. I just had to put down my dog-eared copy of "Only 100 days left to save the World - 101 things you didn't know about Global Warming" and read on.
The decimation of trees by mountain pine beetles in British Columbia has caused air temperatures in affected areas to climb by an average of 1 degree Celsius during the summer months, according to a new study. In an analysis of satellite and forest data collected between 1999 and 2010, scientists from the University of Toronto and University of California, Berkeley calculated that areas hit hardest by widespread pine beetle infestations have experienced even sharper temperature increases of several degrees Celsius, as regions are increasingly deprived of the natural cooling effect of trees. Since the evaporation of water through leaves prevents some of the sun’s radiation from heating the ground surface, the widespread loss of trees causes the temperature increases, said Holly Maness, a researcher at UC Berkeley and co-author of the study, published in the journal Nature Geoscience. And because warming temperatures and milder winters have helped pine beetles to flourish, these infestations are creating a feedback effect that is making the forests even more vulnerable. According to scientists, mountain beetles have affected 66,000 square miles in British Columbia, or 20 percent of the province’s total area.
That's pretty straightforward and convincing isn't it? What possible criticisms could I have? Well, for a start there's the chicken and egg business. (What's he talking about? - ed.). Did the pine beetles cause the warming or did the warming encourage the pine beetles to do what pine beetles do best (reproduce and eat, not necessarily in that order)? I ask only because "Global warming threatens pine forests, forcing federal officials to shift strategy" which I'd interpret as chicken -> egg whereas this paper seems to be claiming egg -> chicken -> bigger egg -> bigger chicken (feedback).

The thing that caught my eye was the apparently plausible warming mechanism outlined by Holly Maness - "Since the evaporation of water through leaves prevents some of the sun’s radiation from heating the ground surface, the widespread loss of trees causes the temperature increases". Now call me a sceptic, but I understood, as do many (most?) scientists and authors, that it was evapotranspiration wot dun it? Also, it's the leaves themselves which shade the ground below (simple really), and green chlorophyll absorbs sunlight, especially ultraviolet and infrared - the leaves are darker than grass, it's called the albedo effect. In a nutshell (how appropriate!)
Forests also influence local climate. Dependant on the latitude forest influences the temperature in a region: in the tropics forest have a net cooling effect through evapotranspiration while at higher altitudes, mainly boreal forests, there is a net warming effect because the relative dark colour of the canopies absorbs warmth from the sun (albedo effect).
When water evaporates through leaf pores, it absorbs heat (a lot of heat) thus cooling the leaves and the tree (and forest) canopy. Holly seems to think otherwise. It's true that the evaporated water vapour would absorb some short-wave infra-red from the Sun, but there's not a great deal of that radiation left by the time sunlight reaches the treetops; most is absorbed on its way through the atmosphere - by water vapour - lots more water vapour than the trees expire. Secondly, water vapour is the most abundant greenhouse gas (hasn't Holly heard that?), and absorption and emission of upward radiation from the forest canopy would certainly outweigh the small absorption of solar infra-red by the evaporated water vapour.

just a minute - surely the paper itself can't possibly say this can it?
The present mountain pine beetle infestation in forests in British Columbia ranks among the largest ecological disturbances recorded in Canada so far. These recent outbreaks are thought to have been favoured by large-scale climatic shifts, and may foreshadow outbreaks of a similar magnitude in North American forests over the coming decades. The associated forest dieback could result in substantial shifts in evapotranspiration and albedo, thereby altering the local surface energy balance, and in turn regional temperature and climate. Here we quantify the impact of the Canadian pine beetle disturbance on the local summertime surface energy budget, using measurements of evapotranspiration, albedo and surface temperature, obtained primarily through remote sensing. 
We show that over the 170,000 km2 of affected forest, the typical decrease in summertime evapotranspiration is 19%. Changes to the absorbed short-wave flux are negligible, in comparison. As a result, outgoing sensible and radiative heat fluxes increased by 8% and 1%, respectively, corresponding to a typical increase in surface temperature of 1°C. These changes are comparable to those observed for other types of disturbance, such as wildfire, and may have secondary consequences for climate, including modifications to circulation, cloud cover and precipitation.
That would seem to set the record straight. Perhaps the article's author and one of the co-authors should have read the paper, or at least the abstract.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

"Thawing Permafrost" - more bullshit than I've ever seen in one article

The Sydney Morning Herald has broken new ground with more bullshit in one article than I've ever seen on one news webpage before. "Where even the earth is melting" wails Environment Editor Ben Cubby who's exercised his brain with the threat to mankind from thawing permafrost.
THE world is on the cusp of a "tipping point" into dangerous climate change, according to new data gathered by scientists measuring methane leaking from the Arctic permafrost and a report presented to the United Nations on Tuesday.
The garbage count begins to rise even before the text begins. There's an interactive graphic at the top "The permafrost carbon feedback loop", the first caption reading "More of the sun's heat reaches the earth because of human contributions to global warming". Really? How does that work, Ben? Do those "contributions" make the days longer and the nights shorter?

Source: SMH
"Permafrost thaws and is consumed by micro-organisms more quickly than soil closer to the surface". Really? Where did you get that from Ben? Just how is soil "consumed" by micro-organisms? Then a couple of actual facts "If oxygen is present, micro-organisms produce carbon dioxide. If not, they produce methane. Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide". And finally "The released gases rise into the atmosphere where they amplify the effects, causing more permafrost to thaw" - you mean by allowing more of the Sun's heat to reach the surface, Ben? There's enough bovine excrement already to earn Ben and his article the button:


That's just for the graphic - much more textual bullshit emerges from the frozen layers of Ben's brain, seemingly in a feedback loop driven by alarmist drivel from a few who call themselves "scientists".
Human-induced emissions now appear to have warmed the Arctic enough to unlock this vast carbon bank, with stark implications for international efforts to hold global warming to a safe level. Ancient forests locked under ice tens of thousands of years ago are beginning to melt and rot, releasing vast amounts of greenhouse gases into the air.
"Appear to have" - have they or haven't they?
Until very recently permafrost was thought to have been melting too slowly to make a meaningful difference to temperatures this century, so it was left out of the Kyoto Protocol, and ignored by many climate change models.
"Permafrost emissions could ultimately account for up to 39 per cent of total emissions," said the report's lead author, Kevin Schaefer, of the University of Colorado, who presented it at climate negotiations in Doha, Qatar. "This must be factored in to treaty negotiations expected to replace the Kyoto Protocol."
What isn't known is the precise rate and scale of the melt, and that is being tackled in a remarkable NASA experiment that hardly anyone has heard of, but which could prove to be one of the most crucial pieces of scientific field work undertaken this century.
You mean no-one knows, Ben?
The findings, for now, are still under wraps. "But I think 'tantalising' is probably the right word," said Charles Miller, the principal investigator in NASA's Carbon in Arctic Reservoirs Vulnerability Experiment, or CARVE.
Not conclusive or even indicative then, but just "tantalising"? Charles means that he doesn't precisely know what the results mean. After a touching little anecdote concerning caribou and grizzly bears (scientists have feelings too, dontcha know?) Charles finally gets down to the nitty-gritty (or is it the nitty-slushy?).
"We're finding very, very interesting changes, particularly in terms of methane concentrations," he said. "When scientists say 'interesting', it usually means 'not what we expected'. We're seeing biological activity in various places in Alaska that's much more active than I would have expected, and also much more variable from place to place ... There are changes as much as 10 to 12 parts per million for CO2 – so that's telling us that the local biology is doing something like five or six years worth of change in the space of a few hundred metres."
You've just earned your self a button Charlie boy!


Is Charlie telling us that CO2 doesn't vary much from place to place? I have news for him which might be "interesting" in that it might not be what he expected - CO2 varies all over the globe. Locally it'll vary a lot more. "...that's telling us that the local biology is doing something like five or six years worth of change in the space of a few hundred metres. That's pure and unadulterated bullshit Charlie. Highly localised sources and sinks exist just about everywhere. That 10 or 12 ppm is, when compared with the global average of 395 ppm just a 3% variation.
The findings of the first year of the experiment are so complex that Professor Miller and his team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory are still trying to work out exactly what they have found. The results are being kept secret, which is standard practice while the numbers are crunched and the work is submitted to a peer-review process.
They're still trying to work out what they've found - that means they don't know.
"What we can say is that methane is significantly elevated in places – about 2000 parts per billion, against a normal background of about 1850 parts per billion," he said. "It's interesting because the models are predicting one thing and what we are observing is something fairly different."
Is that it? A 6% increase over the global average? There's no such thing as a "normal background" - methane, like CO2, varies across the globe, so it's hardly surprising to find a slight elevation "in places", and not all places then? So there we have it - they went looking for additional methane and CO2 in places where they expected to find higher levels, and where higher levels must be found even if permafrost isn't melting much at all, and found a little more "in places". Earth shattering.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

An idea for surviving future storms: Raise coast

The San Antonio Express reports on a wizard wheeze to raise the coastline to combat "more frequent, intense storms and the kind of devastation recently seen with Superstorm Sandy" (alright, I know, I know).
People along the coast have a few options in an era of global warming expected to bring more frequent, intense storms and the kind of devastation recently seen with Superstorm Sandy: They can move back from the shore, elevate buildings or build levees to keep the floods at bay.
But a pair of scientists at Georgia Tech and Clemson suggest another alternative, although it sounds a bit like science fiction. Their research shows it is possible to raise the coastline itself.
Yes, it does sound "a bit like science fiction", as do all geo-engineering "wizard wheezes". This one's a real "cracker" - literally.
Leonid Germanovich of Georgia Tech and Lawrence Murdoch of Clemson, both environmental engineers, have worked out the math and are proposing a method of flood protection they call SIRGE, or solid injection for raising ground elevation.
The idea is relatively straightforward. They envision injecting sediment-laden slurry into hydraulic fractures in the ground. If repeated in adjacent areas and over a wide area, it works to push up the surface of the earth. They suggest a series of pumps and wells to force the material underground.
What could possibly go wrong?
After a 1900 hurricane devastated Galveston, Texas, killing an estimated 8,000 people, the city rebuilt after the ground level was raised as much as 17 feet. "It's been shown with the Galveston example, if you can increase elevations, that is your best bet in safeguarding areas against flood," Murdoch said.
While you can't elevate every building in a community, another approach might be to raise the level of the ground below it. A similar technique has been used on smaller scales.For example, when a tunnel is drilled under a city, a technique called compensation grouting is used above it, injecting material to keep the surface above stable so it doesn't sink. Perhaps the best-known example is the grouting done under Big Ben in London when a subway tunnel was built, Germanovich said.
Using SIRGE, the sediment would likely need to be projected 300 or more feet below the surface. The paper suggests that, in theory, at the upper end, it might be possible to raise the coast 10 meters, about 33 feet.
Ten metres? Along the entire coast, and over "a wide area"? Have they worked out just how much "sediment-laden slurry" would be needed, and how many "hydraulic fractures in the ground" would be required? The article does say they've "worked out the math", and presumably are not totally overawed by their figures.

"Fracking" involved in oil and gas extraction costs a lot of dollars, and for all the care taken, results in earth tremors and minor subsidence. If the pumping operations resulted in even a centimetre or so of difference in adjacent ground surface levels, water mains would fracture, roads and buildings and bridges would crack. How could local authorities possibly get permission from all land and building owners? What financial insurance would be needed? The cost of detailed geological surveys to identify possible problem "spots" would be immense.

First floor - future earthquakes, localised subsidence and endless litigation - Going up!

Rising Seas, Vanishing Coastlines? Extreme metaphors from someone who calls himself a scientist

Benjamin Strauss and Robert Kopp write in an op-ed in the NY Times:
Rising Seas, Vanishing Coastlines 
The oceans have risen and fallen throughout Earth’s history, following the planet’s natural temperature cycles. Twenty thousand years ago, what is now New York City was at the edge of a giant ice sheet, and the sea was roughly 400 feet lower. But as the last ice age thawed, the sea rose to where it is today.
I can't argue with that statement, but I can argue about "Vanishing Coastlines" - they don't vanish, they move (doh!) and also with this
Now we are in a new warming phase, and the oceans are rising again after thousands of years of stability. As scientists who study sea level change and storm surge, we fear that Hurricane Sandy gave only a modest preview of the dangers to come, as we continue to power our global economy by burning fuels that pollute the air with heat-trapping gases.
"Thousands of years of stability"? Where did they get that from? I thought they were "scientists who study sea level change". Global sea level has been rising at a relatively low rate over the last few centuries, but rising it has been, rising currently at about the same rate as between the 1930s and the 1960s - the last short-term "warming phase" which many, including "scientists who study sea level change" conveniently forget. "pollute the air with heat-trapping gases" - now that's really an extreme metaphor, and unbecoming a scientist, even those who only "study sea level change".
More than six million Americans live on land less than five feet above the local high tide. (Searchable maps and analyses are available at SurgingSeas.org for every low-lying coastal community in the contiguous United States.) Worse, rising seas raise the launching pad for storm surge, the thick wall of water that the wind can drive ahead of a storm. In a world with oceans that are five feet higher, our calculations show that New York City would average one flood as high as Hurricane Sandy’s about every 15 years, even without accounting for the stronger storms and bigger surges that are likely to result from warming.
A storm surge is a "thick wall of water"? Have you ever seen a picture of one? Extreme metaphors don't help sell your case in the long run, and where's the scientific evidence for "the stronger storms and bigger surges that are likely to result from warming"? No-one knows what the climate will do next year, let alone decades from now. No-one knows what changes in sea-level will occur over the decades and centuries to come. Models provide "best guesses" only. and are continually being revised and "tuned" to improve their hind-casting of reality, let alone improve their "projections" of the future.

The paper (pdf) the op-ed refers to is "Long-term sea-level rise implied by 1.5°C and 2°C warming levels" by Michiel Schaeffer, William Hare, Stefan Rahmstorf (yes, that one) and Martin Vermeer, 2012. It states in it's conclusions "Projecting sea level into the future is still associated with large uncertainties", but of course still predicts armageddon.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

At last! Greenland research confirms common sense

We've been told for years that the Greenland ice-sheet is "melting faster than expected", so contributing more meltwater to sea-level rise. We've been told that meltwater percolates to the base of glaciers, providing lubrication that speeds up movement of the ice towards the sea. This last claim has always seemed to me to be counter-intuitive - glaciers may be melting at the surface in summer, but surely the ice temperature drops with depth? Surely the meltwater would freeze before it reached the rock at the base of the ice? It seems that simple common sense backed by actual research (none of the "experts" postulating meltwater lubrication had taken any measurements) has triumphed over scientific supposition. A paper published in Nature just over a week ago (9th. November 2012) is revealingly titled Greenland ice-sheet contribution to sea-level rise buffered by meltwater storage in firn (J. Harper, N. Humphrey, W. T. Pfeffer, J. Brown & X. Fettweis). The abstract reads
Surface melt on the Greenland ice sheet has shown increasing trends in areal extent and duration since the beginning of the satellite era. Records for melt were broken in 2005, 2007, 2010 and 2012. Much of the increased surface melt is occurring in the percolation zone, a region of the accumulation area that is perennially covered by snow and firn (partly compacted snow). The fate of melt water in the percolation zone is poorly constrained: some may travel away from its point of origin and eventually influence the ice sheet’s flow dynamics and mass balance and the global sea level, whereas some may simply infiltrate into cold snow or firn and refreeze with none of these effects. Here we quantify the existing water storage capacity of the percolation zone of the Greenland ice sheet and show the potential for hundreds of gigatonnes of meltwater storage. We collected in situ observations of firn structure and meltwater retention along a roughly 85-kilometre-long transect of the melting accumulation area. Our data show that repeated infiltration events in which melt water penetrates deeply (more than 10 metres) eventually fill all pore space with water. As future surface melt intensifies under Arctic warming, a fraction of melt water that would otherwise contribute to sea-level rise will fill existing pore space of the percolation zone. We estimate the lower and upper bounds of this storage sink to be 322±44 gigatonnes and 1,285(+388-262) gigatonnes, respectively. Furthermore, we find that decades are required to fill this pore space under a range of plausible future climate conditions. Hence, routing of surface melt water into filling the pore space of the firn column will delay expansion of the area contributing to sea-level rise, although once the pore space is filled it cannot quickly be regenerated.
Co-author Neil Humphrey of Wyoming University is quoted in the university news sheet
“We’re not saying Greenland is not melting,” Humphrey says. “What we’re saying is it will be one to two decades longer before we start seeing the melt.”
That’s because Humphrey and other researchers’ data -- collected on the western flank of the Greenland Ice Sheet from 2007-2009 -- shows that the water generated by repeated recent melt events penetrates deeply into the snow and firn (partially compact snow). This fills the pore space and diminishes the amount of meltwater that actually runs off into the ocean.
As future surface melt intensifies due to Arctic warming, a fraction of meltwater -- that would otherwise add to the rise in sea levels -- fills tens of meters of existing pore space of the percolation zone. The percolation zone is a region of the accumulation area that is perennially covered by snow and firn, Humphrey says.
What happens to the water that "penetrates deeply into the snow and firn"?
“The snow is so deep and so cold that, even though it’s melting, the melt infiltrates into the lower, colder snow and refreezes,” Humphrey says. “We calculate there is one to two decades of pore space within the snowpack. You get denser snowpack. After 10 or 20 years, it (the pore space) fills up.”
However, after this healthy dose of science, the prof. drops into the realm of fantasy (is he concerned about protecting his funding?)
“While other people (scientists) are predicting up to a one-half foot sea rise by 2050, we’re actually saying our data shows that any rise that will occur will be delayed by one or two decades,” says Humphrey of the paper he termed as “controversial.” “A half-foot rise is significant. Half of Florida would be under water. New Orleans would be gone.”
A "half-foot" is of course six inches, or 15 cm. Is he really suggesting that half of Florida is just 15 cm above current high tides? Just when I thought that scientists were abandoning advocacy in favour of traditional research and actual fact.....

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Mother Nature Network on Sandy - hyperbole too small a word for it

While perusing the alarmist and inaccurate claims about the cause(s) of hurricane-for-a-while Sandy, I came across an article on Mother Nature Network, not a site I visit regularly, if at all. Hurricane Sandy wreaks agricultural havoc wails the headline - not something I'd generally been aware of.
While it mostly missed the fall harvest, Sandy still decimated crops from Cuba to Canada, including major damage to some urban farms in New York City.
2012 has already been a rough year for farming in North America, as crops withered under record heat, drought and wildfire, while others washed away in Hurricane Isaac's torrential rains. This followed similar problems in 2011, ranging from the historic Texas drought to Mississippi River floods and Hurricane Irene.
I hadn't heard of many crops being grown in the forests hit by wildfires in the 'States so far this year (mushrooms maybe?), but we'll let that one lie (appropriate word?) there, as the writer relates his tale of woe.
Despite all the recent setbacks, however, farmers were dealt yet another blow this week as Superstorm Sandy flogged and flooded a swath of crops along its 2,000-mile path. The post-tropical cyclone hit in late October, when many U.S. growers have already harvested summer produce, but it still found ways to wreak havoc.
I'm learning such a lot from this article - first it's farms in the middle of forests, now it's farms hundreds of miles off the coast "along its 2,000-mile path". Isn't the 'net wonderful? The blogger even has a neat satellite pic of Sandy hitting those farms some 600 miles off the US coast.

Source: MNM
The caption btw, says "Hurricane Sandy slams the U.S. East Coast, as seen by NASA's GOES-13 satellite". I think not - The eye is well to the east, and clouds don't equal hurricane, not by a long swath.
Damage assessments remain underway in the U.S., with many areas still in disaster-relief mode. At least 70 deaths are confirmed so far, and some estimates suggest damage could reach $50 billion. Yet the overall impact on U.S. agriculture may be less severe than in the Caribbean, since the summer growing season is over in cooler climates and many farmers sped up harvesting ahead of the storm. "Sandy is a big weather story, but it's mainly a human life issue on the East Coast — no real impact on crops or harvest," John Dee of Global Weather Monitoring tells the Economic Times.
That doesn't sound much like "agricultural havoc" to me - in fact the story gets thinner line-by-line.
Yet the overall impact on U.S. agriculture may be less severe than in the Caribbean, since the summer growing season is over in cooler climates and many farmers sped up harvesting ahead of the storm. "Sandy is a big weather story, but it's mainly a human life issue on the East Coast — no real impact on crops or harvest," John Dee of Global Weather Monitoring tells the Economic Times.
"no real impact on crops or harvest" - does that equal "agricultural havoc"? So what's the extent of the damage discovered by this intrepid seeker-after-truth?
That's not the case everywhere, though. Localized crop damage has been severe, including at some New York City outfits like Red Hook Community Farm and Battery Urban Farm, which were flooded by several feet of seawater.
A couple of urban farms? That's it? What about the rest of the 2,000-mile swath from "Cuba to Canada"? Cuba took a hit, so did Haiti, and the Bahamas reported some damage. that leaves a rather big gap between those islands and New Jersey and the "Localized crop damage" at the urban farms. There's a fairly big gap between the farms in NY and Canada too. What's the real message this article is peddling?
While no one can directly link a single storm to global warming, the wild weather of 2011 and 2012 is exactly what climate models have been predicting for years: longer droughts and stronger storms. "Before, climate change was talked about as an abstraction, something that would happen in the future," Apfelbaum says. "But the changes we're experiencing now are not abstract at all. They're very real."
And there we have it - US crops not "flogged and flooded" along a "2,000-mile path", not even the part of that path over the NE states, but in a few urban farms, and some other undocumented damege, and a photo which doesn't show what is claimed - it shows Sandy hundred of miles out to sea. Climate models haven't been predicting stronger storms at all - that's a lie, pure and simple. Climate models don't predict storms, they predict (or rather are claimed to predict) climate - doh! Steven Apfelbaum is an ecologist - what does he now about climate science? He has apparently been involved in "industrial projects and parks that help clients save money while increasing ecological functionality", whatever "ecological functionality" means. What does the "alternative stormwater management" he's been involved in entail exactly? Digging big holes? And no, climate change was not "talked about as an abstraction" - it's been happening since our Earth had a climate, it's happening now, and it'll continue long after our civilisation has returned to the dust from whence it came.

This article is just an excuse for presenting the "weather is climate" message at the end. As my title says "hyperbole too small a word for it" - I can't think of a single word for this kind of "journalism" - any suggestions?