Back to the Greenhouse Future

by Judith Curry

How confident can we be in our current and (recent) past observations of atmospheric composition and its impact on the Earth’s radiation balance?

The title of this post is derived from an article at Picarro blog, entitled Back to the Future: A Conversation with Jim Butler, Director of NOAA’s Global Monitoring Division.  The occasion of for the interview was to discuss the recent Global Monitoring Annual Conference, held by NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL).

The conference presentations are available online.  I’ll highlight 3 presentations here, that were mentioned in Butler’s interview.  First, I would like to mention the last slide from the Introductory presentation made by Butler and Alexander McDonald.   The last slide says:

Official Prediction:  During the next 10 years, the Earth System will deliver a world changing Black Swan event. It may become evident first at the Global Monitoring Annual Conference. – Alexander MacDonald, May 15, 2012.

Well that was certainly a catchy way to start off the conference.  So what do you think he means by a world changing black swan event?  Does Hurricane Katrina qualify?  The Russian heat wave and Pakistan floods?  If so, it seems that we have several black swan events per decade, in which case this is a pretty safe prediction.

Wofsy’s presentation

Steve Wofsy of Harvard presented one of the keynote presentations: Atmospheric Chemical Composition, Climate, and Societal Implications.  Some text excerpts:

Global atmospheric concentrations of CO2, CH4 and N2O are largely under human control, affecting climate and global atmospheric chemical processes. This talk discusses measurements of these gases in two major aircraft campaigns: HIAPER Pole‐to‐Pole Observations program (“HIPPO”, sponsored by NSF and NOAA) and CalNEX (sponsored by NOAA and CARB), and their synergy with measurements at NOAA surface, tower, and aircraft profile stations. New information on the drivers of long‐term changes in the global atmosphere are explored, emphasizing interpretation of data for CO2 and other GHGs from the NOAA network, and new information on CH4 emissions in the Arctic region.

The HIPPO data show:

  • Dense pollution at both very high and low altitudes in the Arctic. Unexpected distributions of Black Carbon (NOAA SP-2; radiative forcing?). (Not shown here).
  • Sources of CH4 in the Arctic from from the ocean surface, significant compared to fossil fuel extraction and land surface.

Analysis of data from HIPPO and CalNEX flights, and NOAA surface stations and tall towers, shows:

  • Global sources of N2O are stronger (2x) in the tropics than given in inventories, and the influence is invisible to surface stations (see next slide for CO2).
  • Agricultural sources of N2O in the US are 2x to 4x bigger than in current inventories.

As summarized by Butler in his interview:

Wofsy focused on how we can merge different types of observations.  Using results of several years of HIAPER Pole-to-Pole (HIPPO) missions and comparing those to our ground-based networks, he showed what you can miss if you are only measuring on the ground or only measuring in the air. If you can connect systems of ground-based and mid-tropospheric observations, you can get a coherent set of measurements that can be useful for initiating and validating satellite retrievals and informing model development.  The result is that you get much more than either set of measurements would offer alone. 

Prinn’s presentation

The other keynote presentation was given by Ron Prinn of MIT, entitled: National Emissions Verification by Merging Earth System Measurements, Global Social Data, and Earth System Models.  Text excerpts:

Looking to the Future

Enhancing Understanding as well as Addressing Essential Needs to Verify Emission Reductions, Requires Very Important Improvements in Current Capabilities

  • Significant advances in the Global Observing System and Economic Data Collection System with close attention to Precision & Accuracy
  • For Greenhouse Gases: Higher time & Space Resolution; GLOBAL measurements (SURFACE, PROFILES, MOLE FRACTIONS, FLUXES); ISOTOPIC Composition 
  • Significant improvements in: Adjointed Models of Natural Processes; Analysed Atmospheric & Oceanic Circulation; & Economic Emission Modeling

It is difficult to  do justice to this presentation with brief exceprts, there are some innovative ideas here and the entire presentation is worth looking at.

From Jim Butler’s interview:

Ron Prinn added to [Wofsy’s] concept by demonstrating what is needed to develop a useful and relevant inversion model that translates the data into information.  He also made the point that we can move the models further forward by incorporating socio-economics.  Ultimately it will take high-quality physical, chemical, and socioeconomic data for inversion models to provide the information society demands.  So, I think that, together, those two speakers captured the essence of where we need to go with observations and models.

Tan’s presentation

According to Butler’s interview, Peter Tan’s presentation was a highlight of the Conference:  Are oceanic and terrestrial sinks of CO2 not able to keep up with emissions?  Conclusions from the talk:

  • Large missing sinks are alive and well. Fossil fuel emissions are an ever more dominant factor in the carbon cycle.
  • For credible projections of the response of the carbon cycle to climate change, research needs to focus more on sinks.
  • Much better emissions estimates, even on a global scale, are needed to better quantify how the carbon cycle is responding to ongoing climate change and management practices.

There is much (welcome) focus on uncertainty in Tan’s talk.

Butler’s comments on Tan’s talk:

JB: Well, for one, it was based primarily on high quality data and the model was state-of-the-art, so there was almost no way to deny its main conclusions.  That was a solid paper because it was based on the best information we had at the time and it admitted its weaknesses ‒ it was honest. The thing that enticed everyone is that we had no clue what was going on.  It looked like possibly 20%, 25%, or maybe even 30% of the carbon in the atmosphere was being taken up by the land, when all the time we knew that people had been deforesting, so how was this possible?  We had previously thought of forests as being in carbon balance.  Trees grow and take up CO2 and trees fall, decay, and emit CO2.  Everyone had a lot of ideas, but we really didn’t know.  In order to understand, we had to do the studies.  

Ultimately, this kicked up modeling efforts. It kicked up a lot of measurement efforts, forest inventories, and soil inventories to understand how this sink was distributed across the planet.  A few years ago, carbon cycle scientists in the U.S. released a synthesis and assessment report that compared bottom-up inventories with NOAA’s top-down inversion, Carbon Tracker, which was based on atmospheric measurements.  You learn about the individual pieces by doing bottom-up work, but ultimately, the sum of the parts, which has high uncertainty, must be validated with high quality, atmospheric observations. We have learned a lot within these past years of research, yet we still don’t fully understand how the terrestrial biosphere is going to respond to climate change.

Interview with Jim Butler

Some excerpts from the Q&A with Jim Butler: 

GJ:  Atmospheric scientists and other researchers measuring GHGs in the U.S. and globally look to NOAA and ESRL GMD as a leader.  Over the next few years, what are the major leadership challenges your team will face and how do you envision overcoming them?

JB:  I would say there are several levels of leadership that are needed.  At some point we are going to have to find a way to develop good, coherent, and consistent information from our observations to help society make the correct moves.  Terrestrial sinks aside, CO2 and other GHGs are increasing rapidly in the atmosphere because of human emissions, primarily from use of fossil fuels.  Globally, society is increasingly making decisions to reduce GHG emissions, and it is likely these initiatives will be strengthened over time.  Some nations have already gone down this path.  Though the U.S. has no national plan at this time, we already have a lot of regional decisions that have been made. California, for example, has a law (AB 32) and New England has the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which are looking at ways to reduce GHG emissions.  These are small efforts, but with the increasing impacts of climate change over time, I do believe that efforts will strengthen significantly and, at that time, information will be demanded immediately.  We need to have it ready.  It’s unfortunate that it is so difficult for humans to look far into the future.  But, we evolved on this planet by our ability to put food on the table (or rock?) everyday, so to speak, and so thinking years ahead wasn’t built into our survival.  Today, it’s something we have to work at to be able to do.  

Anyway, there is going to be demand for reducing GHGs. We want to be able to say, for example,  “Governor Brown, your GHG management approach seems to be working from what we see in the atmosphere.  From our measurements, however, we can see that your transportation sector efforts don’t seem to be delivering as well as the energy sector at this point.”  We would not be regulating here, just providing helpful information because society will not want to spend time and money doing something that isn’t getting results.  And doing it wrong could be very costly.

That is a big task, so I think the leadership challenge for us is to make sure these information systems (because someone is going to offer them up) are, first and foremost, accurate and coherent; and second, that the systems are developed in such a way that they will provide useful information.  We will do this internationally and nationally.  We work with other U.S. agencies through the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) and internationally through the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), United Nations Environmental Programme, and other such organizations.  We need to continue to take leadership roles everywhere and we will continue to earn respect by providing the best possible data. I am now engaging internationally in a plan called the International Greenhouse Gas Information System (IGHGIS). I’ll be at the WMO at the end of June at their Executive Council meeting working on this.   

JC comments:  Here are some take home points:

  • Thereare very substantial efforts underway to measure variations in atmospheric composition.
  • Integrating data with models is pretty much unavoidable if you want to actually derive information from the data.
  • Our current observing system is not up the challenges of closing the gap in understanding the carbon budget or in monitoring and assessing the effectiveness of various mitigation activities

195 responses to “Back to the Greenhouse Future

  1. Science authoritarians make a mockery of truth, science and morality. Because of Government-funding a consensus of academics who are lost to reason have been created. They do not want to hear about anything that is contrary to a host of beliefs that they are no longer able to defend. It is now impossible for any of them face the fact that nothing they have done has made a worthwhile contribution to society.

  2. Official Prediction: During the next 10 years, the Earth System will deliver a world changing Black Swan event. It may become evident first at the Global Monitoring Annual Conference. – Alexander MacDonald, May 15, 2012.

    Pope’s Official Prediction: During the next ten years, Earth Temperature will stay well inside the bounds of the past ten thousand years. That will show that Consensus Climate Science was wrong about everything. That is the Black Swan and that is a very, very good thing.

  3. This is priceless: “At some point we are going to have to find a way to develop good, coherent, and consistent information from our observations to help society make the correct moves.”

    Clearly climate science has not found that way. But then these folks are all clearly assuming AGW, so no wonder they are lost in the haze of data.

    • I concur with David Wojick, the assumption of AGW precludes the development of alternative hypotheses. Without an alternative perspective, it is very hard to challenge one’s hypothesis and discover its flaws. Once you know something is true, it is very hard to see anyway your notion is not true.

      My take on models: there has been so much intellectual and financial capital invested in the present crop of models, tearing them apart and starting from scratch is an anathema. Torture me anyway you want, I won’t give up my truth. After all the money and bellicose pronouncements, do I really have to sneak off into the corner and do it all over again?

      Models need to be built from scratch. No tweaking. No absorbing old observations so that one can hind cast better, no more assuming that CO2 is the climate driver or even a major participant in climate change.

      Starting from scratch means….well, starting from scratch. Federal funding is likely to dry up whether or not modelers make these changes. Only, the science will be much richer, and more likely not be based upon the shifting sands of time.

      • Why start with new models? After all, the best and brightest have already determined that it is warming, coal is causing it and we need to promote alternate energies, birth control and some new type of nuclear energy to be named later. After 30 years of dedicated research the degree of uncertainty has not significantly changed so there is no way to possibly improve results with the data available through 1995. New models would just be a waste of value scientific resources that are currently busy re-verifying that as of 1995 the globe was warming, due to CO2 emitted by fossil fuels.

      • Captain Oh my captain

        Of course you are right, Silly me.

        My garage mechanic talked to me about spinning my wheels and that spinning my wheels without traction just lead to wear and tear on the system and remaining stuck. I could try to get some people to push the system, maybe a blogosphere person or two, or maybe just let the thing set until the snow and ice melts come another political spring.

        If I really want to get unstuck, maybe throwing a little sand under the wheel would help, backing up. Or, maybe shoveling a track forward out of the snowbank first, define a path before using up all my resources. Clearing a new path, that is, starting from scratch in a direction the system is already going, then employ traction and a gentle nudge.

        After I am unstuck and moving forward, I will be more mindful of my speed as my haste lead to doing 360’s and careening off into the snowbank.

      • The hallmark of good parody is that you can’t tell it from the truth.

    • Who’s this “we”, and what’s their standing to be advising the king?

  4. In the 21st century Katrina could not conform to the requisites of a black swan event. In the 15th century it might have.

    • How many large cities were built below sea level, were crisscrossed with canals and sit at the mouth of the fourth longest and tenth largest river in the world in the 15th century?

      • Well yes. But how many downward looking, high resolution satellites were in orbit and how many land and sea based radar dishes were operational in the 15th century? Katrina was fully anticipated (by me at least) as early as 1963 even though at that time I couldn’t have predicted what she would be named.

  5. Lance Wallace

    “Global atmospheric concentrations of CO2, CH4 and N2O are largely under human control,,,”
    Oh, really? Then how does it happen that for 646 consecutive months of monitoring at Mauna Loa, through wars, booms, recessions, deforestations, volcanoes, development of solar, wind, biofuels, and other alternative energies, atmospheric CO2 just keeps on rolling along with less than 1% error in any month compared to a simple exponential fit:

    Surely, given 20 years of effort, if we had control, we would have seen something by now?

  6. Everybody is focussing on CO2 whereas the real cause of global warming is the heat being emitted from our energy use. It is not even necessary to include CO2 in our projections . I.E.; CO2, a greenhouse gas causes global warming, which, in turn, causes more water vapor in the atmosphere, which causes more warming etc.. The heat alone can account for the rising temperature. Since 1960 fossil fuel use, along with the heat emissions, has increased 800%. The CO2 has increased fr0m 320 t0 380 ppm, a 20% increase. CO2 is a minor contributor to the greenhouse gas,water vapor @ 8000ppm being the major. Is heat alone sufficient to cause global warming? In 2008 we emitted 50x10E16 btus into the environment,(air and water), enough to raise the air temperature by 0.17*F. Due to melting of glaciers, cooling by photosynthesis, and heating of the surface and waters of the earth, air temperature rose only one fourth that amount. Heat alone, without any artificial contribution from greenhouse gas, can do it. Let’ stop this worldwide vilification of CO2 and recognize that through photosynthesis CO2 and H2O can be converted to cellulose and lignin while removing 5000 btus of energy from the environment for every pound of CO2..

    • Sorry, no.

    • World energy consumption is on the order of 8 x 10^20 Joules in 2010 (just looking at wikipedia), same order of magnitude as your estimate. We can get a rate by dividing by the number of seconds in a year; this corresponds to ~2.5 x 10^13 W.

      Dividing by the surface area of the Earth, (2.5e13)/(4*pi*r^2), where r is the radius (~6370 x 10^3 m) we have a forcing of ~ 0.05 W/m2. That’s two orders of magnitude smaller than what we’re talking about with GHGs.

      • I have had this discussion before. I got 0.03W/m^2 – using only fossil fuel energy. But really you should think about forcing as an incremental process increasing at a trend rate of 0.4 W/m^2/decade or thereabouts. A little carbon dioxide is emitted – the atmosphere warms – more IR is radiated to restore the conditional radiative equilibrium. Conditional on all else remaining the same.

        So the warming from combustion is quite up to the task of warming the atmosphere – but the atmosphere is kept in the higher energy state purely by radiative flux in a carbon dioxide rich atmosphere. It goes simply to the lag in atmospheric warming.

        Robert I Ellison
        Chief Hydrologist

      • You are changing the definition of radiative forcing, but in any case the accumulated heat from fossil fuel energy would also be radiated away to space, and eventually an equilibrium will be reached in the same way as with CO2, sunlight, or whatever.

        You seem to be saying that this heat “accumulates” in the atmosphere, so that in a century, it’s a 4 W/m2 forcing, in a millennium it’s 40 W/m2 and we all fry, etc (assuming we keep burning at constant rates). That’s ridiculous. The direct energy consumption is too small on a global scale to mean much.

      • The Chief is a ridiculous sort. He can’t get it through his skull that this heat doesn’t accumulate. I often wonder if these mental blocks cause the skeptical view to go awry.

      • “You are changing the definition of radiative forcing, but in any case the accumulated heat from fossil fuel energy would also be radiated away to space, and eventually an equilibrium will be reached in the same way as with CO2, sunlight, or whatever. ”

        It’s not energy like the sun or whatever. It’s kinetic energy in the form of gas molecules, which being warm rise.
        It should noted that heated CO2 molecules don’t actually rise, but instead air packet rises- their energy does- not the originally heated molecules. So this kinetic energy rises. how long before it loses say, half of it’s energy?

      • Webby – I think you should go away and publish something (anything) on something other than a loser blog that no one reads. Then I may (or may not) revise my opinion of you as something other than a sociopathic, mental mathterbator – an incompetent boob – with little or no rational contribution to make. At any rate – should you take the hint and go away – we will welcome the long respite from juvenile interjections so the adults can talk.

        Now – Chris

        The definition of radiative forcing is that of an index to compare relative influences. There is no problem with that use – but it needs to be translated into a physically realistic model to make sense of how things work in the atmosphere. For that the incremental increase in forcing – the trend – is more relevant than a single number.

        Carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere in a relatively high energy state. What I said without any doubt was that the higher energy state (temperature) is maintained purely by radiative flux in a carbon dioxide rich atmosphere. Where can this possibly be misunderstood? This is no different to the standard model of atmospheric physics.

        I was interested in understanding the idea of a radiant imbalance at TOA. At one point we have an atmosphere at a certain temperature losing IR at a rate roughly that of the SB equation for a grey body – give or take clouds. At another we have a carbon enriched atmosphere at a higher temperature emitting losing the same amount of energy to space as previously – all other things being equal. The standard understanding is that there was in the interim an energy imbalance between incoming and outgoing radiant flux that accounts for the additonal warmth in the oceans and atmosphere.

        The non standard question is to ask to what extent the internal energy of the Earth from radioactive decay and heat from combustion influences energy imbalances at TOA in a strict energy budget. It is in other words the sort of big picture idea that interests natural philosphers such as myself.

        dS/dt = energy in – energy in + Edecay + Eenthalpy + Ecombustion + …

        where dS/dt in the change in global energey content in a period. We are simply reflecting on the terms of the global energy budget. Not engaged on a moral exercise. We are not on a crusade.

        I must admit to be stuck in the oceans and how long these take to warm to increase the IR, convection and latent heat losses from the surface to restore the imbalance with a warmer atmosphere. The temperature equilibrium between oceans and atmosphere that is used to justify using ocean temperature measurements for surface temperature may give a clue – but still I wonder – yes I wonder – who’ll stop the rain.

        We have in fact decided long ago on the moral dimensions of the problem – if any exists. We are against taxes, caps, subsidies and economic degrowth as woefully inadequate, ineffective and immensely damaging to the aspirations and needs of the bulk of the world’s population. We are for technological and economic innovation, free markets, economic growth, democracy and the rule of law. We are for solutions that increase the resilience and prosperity of societies.

        ‘Long as I remember the rain been comin’ down
        Clouds of mystery pourin’ confusion on the ground.
        Good men through the ages tryin’ to find the sun.
        And I wonder still I wonder who’ll stop the rain.’

        Robert I Ellison
        Chief Hydrologist.

      • “You are changing the definition of radiative forcing”

        A definitive description would be nice, some people use the term to mean a change in overall flux, or only in influx, between different layers of the atmosphere, but sometimes it is taken to mean the (theoretical) difference in fluxes, both influx and efflux, between the surface and troposphere.
        It gets more complex that when measuring Earths energy efflux, the term ‘Top of the Atmosphere’ is used, but never quite defined.
        Obviously satellites which orbit the Earth and measure the emission/reflected spectrum are looking at the stratosphere and then estimating the lower and upper troposphere, all the while moving through the 1,500 °C thermosphere. Whilst the thermosphere is hot, it does not count as part of the Earths radiative efflux, nor is it allowed to be included in the calculation of the influx.
        This is a bit odd given that most the suns, variable ,X-Ray and uv radiation is absorbed here and it radiates this absorbed energy upward and downward.
        So when climate scientists talk about emitted radiation from the top of the atmosphere, they do not mean that they are describing the radiated energy from the molecules that are at the top of the atmosphere, but those underneath. The underneath ‘Top of the atmosphere’, which is under the actual top of the atmosphere is the stratosphere, except when its the troposphere, upper or lower, depending on the mood. Simple, thus when it is stated that doubling the levels of X2H in the atmosphere is going to increase the radiative forcing by 2 W/m2, then what they mean is that the change in energy transfer rates between the surface and troposphere, or between the troposphere and the ‘Top of the Atmosphere’, or between the troposphere and the stratosphere; or all three depending on the mood.

        The other odd thing is that the units of ‘forcing’ are W/m2, something rather easy to measure, and the results of increasing a ‘forcing’ is an increase in temperature, also relatively easy to measure.
        One would expect that intrepid climate scientists would venture forth into all the diverse locals of the Biosphere, armed with only a radiometer and thermometer, and boldly measure the levels of incoming/outgoing radiative fluxes and the actual temperature. Using such data they could actually calculate what fluxes give rise to temperature in different places.
        However, this approach is frowned up as it means moving out of mothers basement.
        Instead they interpret the averaged readings from orbiting radiometers and from estimates of the Earths outgoing fluxes, pretend that they are measuring temperature and not heat.

      • Too bad Chief has not an ounce of physics intuition.

        On combustion the formation of a molecule of CO2 generates several electron volts of heat. However, that molecule of CO2 upon entering the atmosphere has the potential to momentarily trap and then release long wavelength (~14 micron) photons of ~0.1 electron volts each. If these reflect back toward the surface, that provides 0.1 eVolt of heat per infrared photon. The adjustment time of atmospheric CO2 is 100’s of years at least, so that a single CO2 molecule could trap and re-radiate many photons of infrared radiation over its lifetime, far beyond that of the one time release of heat from the combustion to a CO2 molecule.

        Got it?

        That is how those of us who have studied quantum and statistical physics thinks about these problems. Even a high school physics student may learn this. Yet, this way of thinking is so far removed from the fake skeptic and his kangaroo court of acolytes as to be a foreign language to them. Strange.

      • “A definitive description would be nice”

        You know what would be nice? Deniers who will spring for a community-college course in atmospheric physics and quit trying to wheedle a free education out of the better informed.

        If you don’t know what radiative forcing is, you should really question why you have strong opinions about a subject you know literally nothing about.

      • David L. Hagen

        Encourage you to work through the development of Stockwell Stockwell’s Solar accumulative theory. Suggest also studying Stockwell’s discussion on Cointegration.
        See links at:

      • david, For some reason the drawings on Niche Modeling aren’t loading for me.

        Is he noticing something like this?

      • I will have a look David – I think I have seen the idea from DS before.

        It follows form the 1st order differential global energy equation – invented it myself.

        dS/dt = energy in less energy out – S (energy content) accumulates in accordance with the strength of the terms.

      • Chief Hydrologist said:

        “It follows form the 1st order differential global energy equation – invented it myself.”

        Notice the delusions of grandeur, quite common among fake skeptics.

      • Webby – you have such deficits. A deficit of humour, a deficit of popular culture, a deficit of poetry, a deficit of good manners – but on the other hand you are a world class mathterbator – so I suppose it all evens out. Did I mention what an incompetent boob you are?

      • Just above you were whining about how someone pointing out your total scientific ignorance was a “sociopath.”

        Talk about a humor deficit!

  7. Alpha Tango

    Good news?

    “Twenty-year-old models which have suggested serious ice loss in the eastern Antarctic have been compared with reality for the first time – and found to be wrong, so much so that it now appears that no ice is being lost at all.”

  8. Spartacusisfree

    According to Lindzen, the models exaggerate warming by a factor of 3-5 even assuming most recent warming has been AGW.

    This is offset mainly by using double real low level cloud optical depth plus a variable net AIE which is the wrong sign…….

    Time for new management by competent scientists from outside climate science which appears to have gone badly wrong**.

    ** The mistakes, 5 in total, are easy to establish.

      • I think it is perhaps worse than Lindzen suspects – the range of imprecision of the models themselves is quite unknown so that there is no solid starting point.

        ‘Although we may expect a chaotic AOS model to be structurally unstable, it is difficult to explicitly make this determination. The attractor cannot be fully visualized or measured because the phase space has such a high dimension (i.e., high order). Probability distribution functions (PDFs) (Fig. 1) give at least a rough view of an AOS attractor. There are many aspects to the equation set for a model, most notably in the choices of discrete algorithms, parameterizations, and coupling scope, and these are usually not systematically explored in AOS practices. To do so requires formulating multiple models for a given problem. Even systematic scans in the parameter values of a complicated AOS model are rarely published, although parameter variations are commonly made while tuning a model to improve its plausibility.

        Nevertheless, I advocate the hypothesis that plausible, chaotic AOS models have important levels of irreducible imprecision due to structural instability resulting from choices among a set of modeling options that cannot be clearly excluded. The level of irreducible imprecision will depend on the context, and this level is likely to be greater the more chaotic and multiply coupled the targeted flow regime is.’

        Emphasis mine. Just what are the plausibility criteria?

        ‘The bases for judging are a priori formulation, representing the relevant natural processes and choosing the discrete algorithms, and a posteriori solution behavior.’

        There are fundamental problem with model formulation that are glossed over. Chief of these is that the ‘solution’ is chosen qualitatively from an unknown range of feasible solutions that emerge from the feasible range of variable values and boundary conditions.
        Model instability is the result of the underlying nature of the maths coupled with uncertainities in data and processes.

        Robert I Ellison
        Chief Hydrologist

  9. “During the next 10 years, the Earth System will deliver a world changing Black Swan event.”

    Translation: “I’m retiring from my government job in 2021.”

    • Agreed cirby. And as Doc. C points out, pretty meaningless anyway without a definition of terms.

  10. Predicting a low probability event within 10 years sounds like a good bet. I predict a dragon king within the next 10 to 30 years. This is a high probablity event (with great significance for ongoing trends) associated with a climate shift. As these occur with decadal regularity in the ocean and atmospheric indices and proxy records – I am odds on to be right.

    I would further lay odds on cooling after that based on ‘reversion to the mean’. The hotter it gets the more likely a shift to a cooler strange attractor.

    • Predictions are tricky but just for fun I say there is a high probability that someday scientists will discover that the Sun is actually an independent variable. Moreover that in addition to the Catholic Church the EPA does not control the Earth’s temperature either.

      • I think a lot of the variability of the NAM, SAM, ENSO and the PDO are driven by solar UV variability. Small signal – big response.

      • @@Wagathon | June 28, 2012 at 8:16 pm

        Wagathon, not the catholic church; I’m saying that: the sun doesn’t regulate the atmospheric temp. Oxygen + nitrogen are regulating, by expanding / shrinking in change of temperature. Look at the size of the sun; temp on the sun doesn’t go up and down as a yo-yo, also. Sun not guilty. Only fertile imagination, addicted to bullshine can believe that overall temp on the planet goes up and down; because at lunchtime is warmer than before sunrise / or because some area gets warmer than other…

  11. So, in summary there is no evidence that the continued increase in human emission of CO2 has diminished the capacity of significant portion of the emitted CO2 from being absorbed by what are still unknown elements of the environment.

    Though one is free to speculate that for unknowable reasons future Human emission may not be absorbed.

    One thing one can know is that warmer ocean water holds less CO2.
    And what is often said that ocean water will reach some limit in terms of it’s ability to absorb CO2. And this simply wrong.
    There so many thing wrong with it.
    The water “doesn’t care too much” about how much CO2 in the atmosphere. Take a warm soda, shake it, and put it in atmosphere with high levels of CO2 and it explodes when you open the soda with little to zero difference compare to 100 ppm CO2 or 2000 ppm of CO2. Air pressure makes a bigger difference. Higher temperature and/or higher elevation [less pressure] will affect how much a soda fizzes.
    So the idea of warming oceans and the net result being an uptake of CO2 doesn’t make any sense. If oceans were staying the same temperature and if CO2 levels were rising, one could get a minor effect of the net absorption of CO2.
    But if in a year’s time, you going from 396 ppm to 398 parts ppm or increase of .5%, you are not talking of much of a rise in CO2, and small changes in surface ocean temperature should result in net emission rather than a net absorption.

    So I am in same boat as crazy CAGWer, warming temperature should cause a net emission of CO2. But CAGWer is waiting for some magic moment, not wraping their minds around idea that the current warmer ocean water is not absorbing, but is emitting CO2. And for good reason, for that would mean they have humans and nature *dumping* CO2 into the atmosphere.

    So how can ocean be adding and humans adding CO2 and it showing up in an increase on global CO2. And while we at it, how get these big waves in CO2 record [seasonal variation], billions tons added and subtracted within a year period?

    Humans are not very creative, like a monkey they copy what they see.
    A apparently clever idea is to sequester CO2 in the Ocean:
    “Two sequestration strategies are under intense study at the Department of Energy’s Center for Research on Ocean Carbon Sequestration (DOCS), where Jim Bishop of Berkeley Lab’s Earth Sciences Division is codirector with Livermore Lab’s Ken Caldeira. One is direct injection, which would pump liquefied carbon dioxide a thousand meters deep or deeper, either directly from shore stations or from tankers trailing long pipes at sea.”

    Very clever, but nature is already doing this:
    “Because CO2 in the atmosphere plays a major role in global warming, some scientists have suggested disposing of the gas by injecting it deep beneath the seabed, where it could be stored in liquid form.

    The newly found CO2 lake, a rare natural formation, could offer clues to whether such a plan might work and how it might affect undersea ecosystems. ”

    They say it’s a rare lake. It should be noted they mean is rare in terms of human noticing it, and have no clue of it’s actual rarity or abundance or any way to begin to quantify it.
    “In a soon-to-be-published commentary, Nealson notes that while liquid CO2 has been found at other undersea volcanoes, few had expected it to accumulate in the manner seen by Inagaki’s team.

    “How many such lakes are there?” he writes. “How stable are they, and are they potential players in the global carbon cycle?”

    Who knows. Who cares apparently.
    I love it, so these pools liquid CO2 are near underwater volcanos. And Nature didn’t get a EPA permit. Obviously an idea of storing CO2 near a volcanic area wouldn’t get stamp of approval.

    • David L. Hagen

      How do we distinguish natural vs anthropogenic CO2 and narrow that uncertainty? What if natural variations in ocean temperature dominate CO2 variations?
      Beenstock’s theory has interesting evidence of the variation of CO2 correlating with temperature.

      See David Stockwell on “Cointegration” and Integration

      Fred Haynie, Future climate change shows further evidence of CO2 following temperature.

      • What a joke. Beenstock’s theory finds that differential GHG changes are a better predictor of temperature than absolute changes in GHG.
        Yet atmospheric CO2 has shown a roughly exponential growth, and anyone that knows anything about exponentials knows that a differential of an exponential is still an exponential. Any agreement is pure numerology.

      • What is the rough exponent?

      • I ask because the term exponential growth sounds horrific, but in this case it is just a little over one, is it not?

      • Latimer Alder

        @david wojick

        ‘I ask because the term exponential growth sounds horrific, but in this case it is just a little over one, is it not?’

        I’ll leave you to form your own opinion as to why alarmists bang on about ‘exponential growth’.

        But the cynical might consider that it’s done for the same reason as they treat a hypothetical slight neutralisation of the oceans -from slightly alkaline to very slightly less alkaline – as if it is ‘ocean acidification’.

        ‘Acidification’ sounds a lot more scary than ‘neutralisation’. Ditto ‘exponential growth’.

      • Iagree Latimer. It is a semantic trick done for scare value. There are many such.

      • “‘Acidification’ sounds a lot more scary than ‘neutralisation’.”

        It’s also a more correct description of what is occurring, which some prefer to shun in favour of the term ‘nuetralisation’, because, the cynical might consider, it sounds more friendly.

      • Latimer Alder


        pH 8 is alakline, pH 7.9 is slightly less alkaline and pH7 is neutral. Pure water is neutral. If there is any effect whatsoever to CO2 in the atmosphere, the alkaline ocean is being neutralised…getting closer to pure water.

        If it were ever to get below 7, I would agree with you that it was being ‘acidified’. But there are no conceivable circumstances where this will happen – carbon dioxide produces too weak an acid and there is just too much alkali already there.

        ‘Neutralisation’ is the right term. ‘Acidification’ is just used to scare the public.

      • What is happening is that we are adding hydrogen ions to the ocean, lots of them.

      • Latimer, you are thinking like someone with a 20th century chemistry degree.

        Those of us with a 21st century chemistry degree know better.

        Time to get caught up with the times, old man.

        Doesn’t help when the question is whether or not slight changes in pH, which correspond to large changes in the concentrations of H3O+ and OH- in the seawater are detrimental to ocean life or not.

      • Latimer Alder

        @bob droege

        So when did acid/alkali chemistry change? Sometime after 1980? Did I miss the memo?

        Just dipped into PW Atkins – Physical Chemistry 8th Edition – on Amazon. And he was writing the 1st Edition when he taught me all about pH back in the mid-1970s. I am relieved to see that, seven editions later, the basic ideas remain unchanged.

        I’m quite content to agree with the statement that

        ‘the question is whether or not slight changes in pH, which correspond to large changes in the concentrations of H3O+ and OH- in the seawater are detrimental to ocean life or not.’

        with two provisos

        1. You first show that such changes are actually occurring. There seems to be a mountain of literature about how dreadful they are, but no actual measurements beyond two datasets of fewer than fifty measurements each taken in Hawaii. And that is it for the entire globe. A total of about 100 measurements, taken in one place only. And even they show no statistically significant changes with time.

        2. You do not use the term ‘ocean acidification’. As shown above this is incorrect and used only to frighten the public.

        Otherwise we are in complete agreement.

      • andrew adams

        “Acidification” is the term which has been used in the scientific literature for years by scientists studying ocean chemistry (not climate scientists). Regardless of whether one thinks it is the most appropriate term there is no evidence whatsoever, not a single shred, to suggest that it was deliberately chosen in order to make the public think they will lose their feet if they go for a paddle.

      • Latimer Alder

        @andrew adams

        ‘“Acidification” is the term which has been used in the scientific literature for years by scientists studying ocean chemistry (not climate scientists). Regardless of whether one thinks it is the most appropriate term there is no evidence whatsoever, not a single shred, to suggest that it was deliberately chosen in order to make the public think they will lose their feet if they go for a paddle’

        If you can provide some literature examples (prior to say, 1985) where this was generally discussed and the term ‘acidification’ was generally used by real chemists. then I’ll happily stand corrected.

        But the visceral attachment of the alarmists to this term suggests to me that it is not a matter of scientific dispute, but something deeper in their souls that make them so devoted. Like ‘deniers’, ‘acidification’ is carved into their psyche.

      • What you are missing Latimer is that pH is only a measure of acidity.

        If I have a liter of 6N sodium hydroxide solution and I add 2 liters of 6N hydrochloric acid to it, according to your reasoning I am only neutralizing it until pH of 7 is reached and then suddenly, magically I am now acidifying it, when I have been doing the same thing the whole time.

        Adding acid to something is acidification.

        What is the pH of neutral boiling pure water at atmospheric pressure?

        If you don’t know it look it up. Then you might realize that you are being sloppy and I am being pendantic.

        It’s a bollocks argument from delinquents normally found on wtfumb.

        You can do better than that.

        And I reject your two provisos, as number 1 is just flat out wrong, see here

        and number two I reject your attempts to stifle my superior chemistry knowledge.

      • Latimer Alder

        @bob droege

        Your argument in daft…by focussing on the action, not the result. If you take it to its logical extreme, then If i take a very concentrated alkaline solution (I beliee in the us its called ‘lye’ but let’s think of sodium hydroxide (NaOH) pH about 14.) and add a drop of lemon juice (citric acid) to it, then I am ‘acidifying the NaOH.

        But what is the result? Does the resulting NaOH have any ‘acidic’ properties? Will it turn litmus red? Does it indulge in any ‘acidic’ chemistry. like reacting with bases to form salts?

        No indeed. It has not been ‘acidified’ in any way. The result is still fimly alkaline and still shows alkaline chemistry. All that has happened is that some of the hydroxyl ions have been neutralised by the addition of the acid. And it is on;y when you have added enough citric acid (which will be an awful lot in this case) to completely neutralise all the hydroxyl ions that the resulting solution will show those acidic properties.

        As to the pH of water at STP, I have no immediate memory. But if it is open to the atmosphere it will have a lot of dissolved gases in it, so your measurement will be the pH of the resulting solution not of ‘pure water’. So your question is irrelevant to this discussion.

      • Latimer Alder

        @bob droege

        If you really want to persist in your bizarre notion that it is what you add rather than its result that should define your term then I suggest that you stop using the idea of melting ice or freezing water…nor of boiling water or condensing steam. All of these are simply adding or removing heat.

        And there is a perfectly good word that could be used to describe the addition of carbon dioxide …carbonation. Used in UK as ‘carbonated’ drinks, like coke or sprite or fizzy lemonade. Being acid is not the only property of dissolved CO2, so this is a far more accurate description on your own terms

        Re the interesting voyages of the boats. I’m sure that they did a fine job of collecting the data that they did. But, unless you can show me otherwise, they are not able to tell us very much at all about any pH *changes* over time in the ocean. Making an observation at point A and then a subsequent one at point B does not tell you anything about the time change of that observation at A or at B. You do not know from a single snapshot what the trend is. Any more than me telling you that the temperature yesterday was 12C in my garden and 10C in my Mum’s garden 400 miles away today.

        To make a judgement about ‘global warming’ has required many millions of datapoints collected over many decades from all around the world. You cannot judge any trends in pH just from a few geographically separated observations, however assiduously carried out.

        I’ll take leave to doubt your superior knowledge of chemistry in this area.

      • Since you didn’t specify how much lye or sodium hydroxide you are starting with, one drop of lemon juice or citric acid could indeed cause the resulting solution to be acid. And you will have produced some salt sodium citrate. See, again you are being sloppy.

        Since we are talking about seawater and you mentioned acid base chemistry…

        CO2 + seawater –> H2CO3 –> H+ + HCO3-

        Na2CO3 + seawater –> 2Na+ + HCO3- OH-

        Both are examples of acid-base reactions, and seawater is the acid in one and the base in another.

        Since you mentioned citric acid, it has a conjugate base sodium citrate, and two intermediate salts, sodium hydrogen citrate and disodium hydrogen citrate which can act as either an acid or base in acid base reactions.

        When added to seawater CO2 acts as the acid in an acid base reaction so there is nothing wrong with calling that process acidification.

        The question is do we want to change the pH of the oceans by 0.3 pH units or more?

        No way

      • Rather than argue over terminology, shouldn’t the discussion be focused on causes and effects?

        I think Bob Droege has it right (at least half right) with this:

        “the question is whether or not changes in the concentrations of H3O+ and OH- in the seawater are detrimental to ocean life”

        The other half is confirming the sources of such changes.

        There was an article in the Seattle Times a couple of weeks ago about Willapa Bay oyster hatcheries and how larvue are experiencing high mortality rates, with the cause believed to be changing pH. It was making some hatcheries raise the larvue in Hawaii to a certain age before seeding them here. The article mentioned upwelling ocean currents off the PNW coast that are CO2 rich. But it attributed the primary cause to “climate change”.

        I see several problems with this. Why is the PNW experiencing this problem and not Hawaii? If the difference is simply that of the upwelling currents, what then is the possibility that these currents are perhaps the primary source? Can we distinguish the difference in sources? Are we measuring and tracking these currents? If the PNW has always had these currents that impact pH, wouldn’t oysters here be better suited to lower alkalinity?

        Posing and answering these questions sounds like a better use of time than arguing of terminology.

      • “But the visceral attachment of the alarmists to this term suggests to me that it is not a matter of scientific dispute . . .”

        That quite a confirmation bias you’ve got going on there.

        Step one: You make a claim that is factually wrong.

        Step two: People correct you.

        Step three: You assume that because people are point out your mistake, instead of letting you pass off a lie, you are right.

        The simpler explanation is that you made a stupid claim and it was ignored. Scientists are not “viscerally attached” to the correct term; they (and we) are simply indifferent to your ignorance.

      • Lat, that is just as bad as calling the ocean an infinite heat sink. The ocean is not pure water and adding an acid is not going to change it into pure water. The ocean is a complex chemical and thermal reservoir. Changing the pH, the salinity and the turbidity change the thermal characteristics and the chemical characteristics. What most are looking at is the surface changes, not the changes with depth which are indications of past climate conditions. The ocean is kinda like the ultimate paleo proxy :)

      • “How do we distinguish natural vs anthropogenic CO2 and narrow that uncertainty?”
        It seems we need more measurements of CO2, and satellites are probably going to get the best picture.

        Thanks for links, interesting stuff.

      • “For example, this summary, does it mean you’re saying no one has yet collected evidence in an attempt to prove a negative about an unknown, and that means.. anything, at all, in any sense?”

        I am agreeing that there does not appear to be a limit of the apparent absorption of human emission. Or climate scientist who are more fearful of future CO2 levels have on numerous occasions have expressed some doubt about the ability of ocean absorbing any more CO2 added by human emission. I think it’s ill informed fear. Plus there is no evidence which supports such idea.
        But in general terms there seems lack accurate measurement regarding the Carbon cycle.
        And degree of CO2 in deep ocean is probably the least understood.

        “And this partial pressure argument.. can you partition it, show your work, explain it in terms of Henry’s Law or Dalton’s Law or Amagat’s or, y’know.. English?”

        Do you support the idea that if average ocean is warmer the warmer ocean water is able to absorb significant [hundred billions of tonnes] of addition amounts of CO2?

        We just talking about the water, not a possible myriad of other processes, such as life processes in the water, nor any mechanism store CO2 at say deeper and colder ocean levels or chemical reactions which provide additional means of “holding more” CO2.

      • gbaikie | June 29, 2012 at 1:32 am |

        Still scratching my head about the ambiguities.

        Are you saying there’s no limit to the absorbtion of CO2 in sinks, so they will maintain CO2 level in the atmosphere indefinitely at current levels?

        This doesn’t seem likely.

        Are you saying these sinks somehow can determine which CO2 is of anthropogenic nature, and absorb all of that CO2 selectively, while something else causes the CO2 level to rise independently of human action? That’s some thaumaturgy in operation there.

        I’m still grappling with the magickal reasoning going on here.

        Gases tend to dissolve more in colder liquids overall; I’d imagine a colder ocean would be a better sink of CO2 than a warmer one, all other things being held equal.

        Could you enlarge on what you mean about warmer oceans being better sinks? Do you mean that warmer oceans become more still (which is another characteristic that determines how well a liquid holds dissolved gas) or that they tend to drive dissolved gases deeper, or that biota in warmer oceans tend to absorb more CO2? The biosphere is one big carbon conversion engine, and it’s running faster than ever, so the Uncertainty is huge. I don’t think a single idea is enough to capture the picture of what will happen with CO2 levels in this range, untravelled in likely ten million years or more.

        Will be fascinating to watch, though.

      • maksimovich

        The biosphere is one big carbon conversion engine, and it’s running faster than ever, so the Uncertainty is huge.

        That the biosphere has a significant sink potential is a highly non trivial problem.That the present ocean biota are well below the efficiency of the biological pump is the cause of debate of Fe mitigation.The well potential in the High nutrient low chlorophyll regions such as the Southern ocean is around a third of the present increase of the industrial age.

        One of the suggested reasons for the inefficiency in the SO is the O3 perturbation ( wind stress and UV eg McKenzie 2011)

        Another area of concern is the negative forcing in the Siberian bogs by permafrost melt.In the Holocene the increase in C sequestration has been substantive and the increase in acidity further increases the efficiency.

        That the realization of both examples,can be entrained by a singularity such as a volcanic excursion is problematic.

      • “There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such trifling investment of facts.” Mark Twain

        One of the least surprising things is that we can return organic materials to soils with an increase in productivity on grazing lands – especially – with some simple techniques. A major biological sink. Geoengineering and food production at the same time.

      • “Or climate scientist who are more fearful of future CO2 levels have on numerous occasions have expressed some doubt about the ability of ocean absorbing any more CO2 added by human emission. I think it’s ill informed fear.”

        So you’re ignorant of the science which demonstrates that the oceans will become less effective as a carbon sink as they saturate?

        But why would scientists . . . or anyone . . . care about your lack of knowledge?

      • @@Robert | July 6, 2012 at 6:57 pm tried to tell another lie: ”So you’re ignorant of the science which demonstrates that the oceans will become less effective as a carbon sink as they saturate? But why would scientists . . . or anyone . . . care about your lack of knowledge?”

        Robert! If they were genuine ”scientists” they would be able to understand this: ”the more CO2 get washed by the rain into the sea => more carbonic acid -> carbonic acid is coral’s food = bigger and more prosperous corals – when corals death – carbon is buried for million years – unlike trees, when they are dead -> they burn or rot => co2 back into the air. 2] more co2 in the water = more prolific algae full of carbon -> get eaten or pooped on the bottom of the sea / or, because they are short – they get cemented on the bottom of the sea by sediments / new grow on the top of them. That is a taboo for your ”scientists” con artist.

        3] all the coal reserves can fit in one lake – compare with the amount of water in the oceans, can you?! are you allowed to do something normal?

        4] do you know how much organic matter goes into the sea from the city and from the environment by the rivers and by the wind? some is cemented on the bottom / some comes back. you know that the waves produce bubbles, same as beer does? That thing is food for the trees and tool for the psychos, who say that: less CO2 = green = mother of all lies. If you have any honesty – would have rejoiced that CO2 level is increasing. with 7 billion people, needs more food and more trees. Your body is 21-25% made of carbon, similar as the trees. Stop hating yourself! Oxygen + nitrogen control / regulate the GLOBAL temperature, not CO2. Tell your shonky ”scientists” that: all the real proofs exist, on my website; to put them in jail, for long time. cheers

    • gbaikie | June 28, 2012 at 8:14 pm |

      So much sounds wrong here, hard to know where to start..

      Perhaps if you break down what you’re trying to say into smaller chunks?

      For example, this summary, does it mean you’re saying no one has yet collected evidence in an attempt to prove a negative about an unknown, and that means.. anything, at all, in any sense?

      And this partial pressure argument.. can you partition it, show your work, explain it in terms of Henry’s Law or Dalton’s Law or Amagat’s or, y’know.. English?

    • . gbaikie | June 28, 2012 at 8:14 pm 2 at 8:14 pm misinformed himself: ”Take a warm soda, shake it, and put it in atmosphere with high levels of CO2 and it explodes”

      gbaikie, listen lad, if you are genuinely interested in ”honest, complete” experiments – BEFORE YOU SHAKE the warm soda – put enough salt in it first, to imitate seawater. Doing half an experiment, your way; is same as doing half job in the toilet = you will poop yourself in ”inconvenient time”

  12. The global warming alarmists’ GCMs have no forecasting ability because they erroneously calculate a doomsday scenario for one purpose only: to blame capitalism and Americanism for a non-existent problem.

  13. “Official Prediction: During the next 10 years, the Earth System will deliver a world changing Black Swan event. It may become evident first at the Global Monitoring Annual Conference. – Alexander MacDonald, May 15, 2012.”

    Million to one chances happen nine times out of ten.

    There are about 800 cities with a population greater than 500,00. So in the coming decade what is the chance of an even, like some huge nature disaster, affecting one of these cities? What are the odds of a huge flood in a growing city, happening by chance? 1/80,000 seems like a rare event, but it isn’t not in a Planet our size and with a population as big as it is.
    Note we could not go through a large volcanic eruption with out a massive population die off. Many countries are absolutely dependent on food imports or are right on the food/famine line.
    On big volcano, say three bad growing seasons in Australia/North America/Argentina and Egypt’s 82 million population is cut in half.

    What were are due for is a really big plague; the cities of the third world make Victoria England seem hygienic, flight times, population transfers should give a big one any time soon.

  14. Back to the Greenhouse Future? Yes. indeed. The IPCC (or some other body) needs to retrace it steps and in the light of 21st century knowledge explain the 20th century history of global temperature change. There were three distinct periods of climate change in the 20th century: they were 1905 – 1940, 1940 – 1970 and 1970 – 2000. A consistent narrative for these 3 periods needs to be tested with all the knowledge we have today, including the classified information on IR propagation through CO2 not available to the original IPCC.

  15. Miracle predictions from the new religion

  16. I’m but a lowly layman, lazy in my reading, and erratic in my thinking. Nonetheless, I get things right as often as anyone else I’d say. I’d be interested to know how many warmists couldn’t see the real estate bubble in comparison to skeptics. Or how many couldn’t see the dotcom bubble. Or how many were running around like headless chickens as Y2K approached. There’s smarts and then there’s smarts, and I’ll take what God gave me thanks very much.

    Here’s a prediction. Cold PDO, quiet sun, AMO ready to flip. Rising temps? I think not. We’re going the other way, a process that’s already underway. Any black swan event will be in terms of devastating cold, not heat.

  17. Beth Cooper

    Yesterday as I was walking by the almost flooded Yarra River, a flock of black cockatoos flew overhead … for a moment I thought they were black swans.

    * Seventeen of them, a ‘complaint of cockatoos.’

  18. Beth Cooper

    A ‘malformation of models.’

  19. “The thing that enticed everyone is that we had no clue what was going on.” Oh good.

    The biggest Black Swan event of the next 10 years would be if something totally unexpected *didn’t* happen.

    • Herman Kahn, of the Hudson Institute, got it right many years ago. “Nothing would be more surprising than that nothing surprising is going to happen”

  20. JC:

    Time for you to review your blog moderation policy. It’s getting too difficult to sort through the chaff. About 6 people are responsible for most of the incoherency, and it’s now embarrasing. How about a comment limit of 4 per day.


  21. Interesting the convergence of the drive for observations to the 10 km gridded scale. Would be nice to see.

    Interesting to note the private funding of participants and the conference.

    So much going on in the presentations. Could be fifty topics spun off from just this meeting.

  22. Hurricane Katrina qualifies as a black swan event only in connection with the failure of the levies in New Orleans and the malfeasance those failures exposed and in connection with the channelization of the Mississippi River and the resulting decline of marshes protecting the coast. These failures and engineering and political malfeasance give one a warm feeling about our ability to use government to address climate effects, doesn’t it?

    • Philip Lee | June 28, 2012 at 11:52 pm |

      You just have to pick the government more selectively:

      • Yer a snake oil salesman Dusty.

        Let’s try and see if we can think of an actual way forward shall we? Is this Minnesota brain freeze? Or perhaps the chemistry experiment gone wrong?

      • Uffda, Bart. The Chief really has problems retaining information. I realize that you are in BC, which is a country away from Minnesota. This would not be so bad if he would consider that many of your arguments are built around your knowledge with the BC and Canadian experience. It as if the Chief doesn’t want to listen.

      • Speaking of problems retaining information…

        need I say more? Let’s all try to have a nice day. The smartest people in the world are working at it as we type.

      • WebHubTelescope | June 29, 2012 at 7:53 am |

        I’ve lived and worked in Minnesota, WHT. Never Montana, though. Which thinks National Geographics standards have slipped ( since their takeover by News of the World. ..Hutterite bishops wrote a letter of complaint to National Geographic in which they say they’ve been “deceived and exploited”.

        It seems this is a common theme where Australians become involved in things. Which is sad. Some of my best friends are from New Zealand.

        But to address the Australian falsehoods about Washington State’s northern neighbor;

        1. the article fails to point out that the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (note the editorial slippage: NatG’s former policy was to use local spelling of proper names; Canadians spell ‘Center’ scrambled up) is a rabidly socialist organization that owes more to collectivism than Economic truth.

        2. The Cement Association is a rent-seeking oligopolistic trust bent on extorting taxpayer money at every turn for their operations, but at least they aren’t as corrupt as operations back East that are so mobbed up every time a rebar bridge or roof crumbles people bet on whether it’s Hoffa. They could easily shift to beetle-killed biofuel, urban waste or salt-based cement manufacturing for a lower cost, but instead want to score political points on the backs of their customers.

        3. The greenhouse growers and other exemptees from the Carbon Tax, or who otherwise get grants to offset their Carbon Tax, are leeches parasitizing not just the due owners of dividends from Carbon Cycle fees, but also protectionists skewing prices across international borders in unfair trade practices.

        That said, not everything in the article is wrong, and the BC Carbon Tax, while it’s the best fee and dividend system in the world and it disproves the myths that Carbon Pricing doesn’t work and that Carbon Pricing hurts an economy, is not the way I would have done it myself.

      • Until tomorrow it is the only fee and dividend system in the world. That is only one of the problems. Tomorrow Australia implements the world’s most expensive fee and dividend system. $23 bucks a tonne. Let’s see how long that lasts.

        Yer a bit of a dinosaur Dusty – tell you what why don’t you get America, China and India to sign up and then we might take you seriously.

      • Bart,

        So people are told that climate change is a threat and that carbon taxes is a means by which the threat can be reduced or midigated and they respond to a poll saying they are in favor? No shit.

        This is exactly the sort of thing that got me interested in the subject. Being told howall of the bad things that will happen from climate change. Hurrican Katrina was one of the early claims. Yet Phillip has it correct – while the main force of the storm hit to the east, in places like Pass Christian, MS, it was New Orleans where all the attention was focused and much of what occured there either could have been avoided (with earlier action by local government) or was the result of a long chain of poor decisions and plain old Louisiana corruption regarding the levees.

  23. BTW most participants here seem focused on what is going on so we can know the right thing to do. But Katrina exposes that there is a big gap between knowing the right thing to do and doing the right thing. You guy are not really focused on why we fail on large projects and how those failures can be avoided. Given the gradual nature of climate changes for whatever their reasons, we don’t need to spend millions on models to know what is needed, we need to spend millions on better management of environment engineering.

    • Philip Lee | June 29, 2012 at 12:12 am |

      Or possibly we need to know what billions are spent on accidental environmental engineering, and stop it?

      • This one is another no shitter.

        It doesn’t take a genuis to figure out that when someone is willing to subsidize something, companies will take advantage of said subsidies if it helps them make a profit. What it tells me about “environmentalists” who support it is they are lack an understanding of both science and economics. Bet their engineering skills are as non-existent as well.

        Good point Bart.

    • Latimer Alder

      The right thing to do was not to build a socking great city lIke New Orleans where it was.

      Much though I love(d) the place, even its most fervent admirer must admit that it was a dumb place to put a the middle of a swamp, well below the level of one of the world’s greatest rivers..and in a hurricane zone.

      One only had to walk down Canal Street and see the riverboat Natchez floating many feet above the ‘dry land’ to realise that it was a disaster zone just waiting for the disaster.

      I feel extremely sad about New Orleans. I was lucky enough to spend some time there in the 90s. And I met some wonderful people.

      But it wasn’t global warming, or even Katrina that destroyed it. It was the stupidity of building it there in the first place.

      • LA – the French Quarter is on the high ground as you know. The original decision to build the city there wasn’t the dumb one. Or maybe it was, as cities grow and anyone who starts one knows this. so – who was the dumb one?

      • New Orleans grew for rational reasons. It was/is a huge port that services a significant percentage of the US economy. That economy demanded a large number of laborers live there.

      • JCH | June 29, 2012 at 10:16 am |

        People forget or ignore that the system of dikes, sea walls and levees was undermined by demands put on infrastructure by the refineries for decades without compensation, in favor of ‘below sea level’ soundbite reasoning.

        Every coast in the world is below the level of water from somewhere inland. If the rivers from inland were tapped at their peak directly down to most coastal cities, almost all of them would sink like Atlantis for a day or two. New Orleans is simply a case of bad governance setting a trap to be triggered by a mere Cat 3 storm.

        The blame for Katrina’s deaths and damage goes to rent-seekers and the politicians who serviced them in place of their duty to serve and protect the people who elected them.

      • Have to disagree with you on this one Lat.

        This is about the same as saying CO2 is bad because is causes warming. It is simplistic and ignores a host of other factors.

  24. They may be over-analyzing tracking the path of CO2 through the carbon-cycle. The most general and applicable model for a largely inert material moving through the system is of a random walk. That describes diffusion and it behaves as an excellent filter with significant tails, as the randomly walking CO2 goes into deeper and deeper sequestering sites.

    This agrees with the conventional explanation (i.e. David Archer ) but a factoring of the master equation allows a more canonical behavior: see here.

    • They have it a bit too complex for you Webby? Never mind just stick with the one single idea of inert carbon randomly walking around. Just continue to ignore tha Archer has a few other processes not to mention the terrestrial biologial sinks and… Never mind I have said too much… How’s the basement working out for you?

    • Web, I still think it is a useful thing to do. It’s nice to have empirical confirmation of theoretical truths…

    • Webby

      Is it true that your real name is Paul Pukite and that your background is as a reliability engineer?

      • Latimer Alder

        Surely Webbie hasn’t been flying under a false flag? After all the condemnations of others for their supposed transgressions in this area?

        Tell me it aint’ so, Webster!

      • Latimer

        Are you trying to tell me that Web Hub Telescope isnt his real name? I’m shocked. Disappointed. Shocked and Disappointed.


      • Rob Starkey

        You will note I didn’t write anything negative about him in the comment.

      • Steve Milesworthy

        Having multiple pseudonyms that attempt to reinforce each other by putting comments on the same thread is the transgression.

        Eg. Latimer Alder/Stirling English. One pseudonym is acceptable on most blogs.

  25. Global atmospheric concentrations of CO2, CH4 and N2O are largely under human control, affecting climate

    There is no evidence of that as the climate pattern has not changed since record begun in 1850 as shown =>

    When are these people to show the change in the global mean temperature pattern in the last century?


      Huh. I guess the pattern change is only visible if you actually look for it.

      Between the first and last half of GISTEMP LOTI, the change is dramatic in trend alone.

      Between the first and last half of HADCRUT3, the change is even more dramatic.

      See? Different.

      Oh, wait. We’ve been around this block before. There are none so blind as they who refuse to see.

    • In case you missed it, that’s from a global mean temperature rise of 0.03C/decade for the first two decades of the GIS record, to 0.2C/decade for the most recent two decades of the GIS record.

      The likelihood that these two trends represent the same pattern is.. small.

    • Bart R

      There is no change in the GMST trend pattern =>

      • Girma,

        First you show as evidence a picture, whose information is exactly opposite of what you claim trying to mislead the viewer with your trend lines.

        Then you show a picture that tells that the warming has accelerated and interpret that has no change in trend pattern.

        Two examples of data that is evidence against your own points.

      • I will submit an article for posting here, and my points will be clearer then.

        Cheers Pekka

      • I think it’s already clear you’re wrong. It will be even more clear once Berkeley Earth completes their work. For now.

        1800 to 1840 – anthropogenic CO2 makes a small rise off near zero. Temp flat; spots up.

        1845 to 1900 – anthropogenic CO slowly rising. Temp up slightly; spots down.

        1905 to 1950 – anthropogenic CO rising. Temp up significantly; spots up.

        1955 to present – anthropogenic CO2 rising. Temp up significantly; spots down.

        My opinion: the napping sun us not going to produce global cooling; ocean cycles are not going to produce global cooling. We will know one way or the other by 2015

      • Girma | June 29, 2012 at 9:08 am |

        Mr. Orssengo, if you can clearly be caught in a lie — as it is impossible for anyone to call what you have just patently been shown to say is both false and intentional — and unapologetically carry on to link your lie to a hoped-for submission anywhere, what possible incentive could anyone have to take seriously what you write in this submission?

        While I’m all for the submission being posted, as it will inevitably expose more of the purposeful and contrived falsehoods of your position, which can only act to strengthen the skepticism of those who value truth and science, I lament the waste of time of your various plagiaristic, academically dishonest, fraudulent practices for so many, and the risk of misleading honest but untrained readers lent by your apparently spurious credentials.

  26. Beth Cooper

    ‘A cloud of swans, colour indistinct.’

    ‘An incoherency of argument’

  27. I’m not a big fan of BlackSwanism. It’s the same mistake all over again as the IPCC made when they went against statistical sense in predicting a 0.2C/decade global mean temperature rise (even if they are right about that): a single accurate prediction is not a certain proof.

    Plus, it smacks of hoping for a disaster to prove oneself right, even if that isn’t the intention of the prophet of insufficient light.

    A trillion ton anvil could fall from the sky with “Climate Change Due Burning Carbon” written in mile-high letters on the side, and it would not suffice to settle the debate in any productive way.

    Can’t we elevate the discourse even a little from this level?

    • GK: Kind of quiet out there, Dusty.

      TR: Well, it gets quiet in Minnesota in January. People get thoughtful.

      GK: Nobody moving out there. Makes me nervous something bad is just about to happen.

      TR: That’s why you didn’t want to camp under a tree?

      GK: That’s right. Cougars jump out of trees. Anvils fall out of trees.

      TR: What anvils?

      GK: That’s the problem. You don’t know until it’s too late.

      TR: Never heard of an anvil falling out of a tree.

      GK: You never heard of it because the people they fell on couldn’t pass on the word.

      TR: What’s the anvil doing up in the tree?

      GK: Somebody put it there because that’s the last place you’d look.

      TR: You are crazy. You know that?

      GK: Just telling you what I think.

      TR: Loneliness has driven you over the brink into paranoia and insanity, pardner.

      GK: Ha! I’m a cowboy. Loneliness is what I crave. Insanity is what we eat for breakfast. No, sir, solitude is a gift, Dusty. We are cowboys. Lonesome is part of the iconic nature of the calling.

  28. Beth Cooper

    Maybe those black swans portend another peasants’ revolt … some of us are pretty mad … pretty mad about climate science missing data, empty archives, cronyism, gatekeeping, freedom of information denial, and we funded it… tsk tsk !

  29. Beth Cooper

    I’m kinda hopin’ for a disaster, Bart, just a miniscule, minor disaster in the scheme of things, nothing life threatening. I’m hoping for a .. maybe small parrot kind of event, not even a black parrot event, some kind of atavistic species of ground hugging atavistic avian event, where certain data manipulating, record-losing, the science-is-certain climate scientists get their come uppance!
    Told yer I was a lean and mean red headed Scot : )

    • Beth Cooper | June 29, 2012 at 3:51 am |

      Oh, I somehow doubt you’ll be able to keep people (even people who admit to Uncertainty, carefully track their records, and make only valid and verifiable manipulations of data) from attributing large, major, life-ending events to your coal-burning, gas-guzzling ways, however red your hair, no matter what the number of kakapu hats people are wearing.

      I don’t say this to be mean. It’s just that reality remains to be dealt with, whatever color your swan is painted. Even if through your glasses, all swans are rose-tinted.

  30. Beth Cooper

    Yes Tony, spooky eh? )

  31. “I’m not a big fan of BlackSwanism…
    Can’t we elevate the discourse even a little from this level?”

    Well can it be said that within the next 30 years we are unlikely
    to have a BlackSwan event which is as significant than we have not had such a “level” of the event happen within last century.

    It seems to me more likely in next 30 years we more likely to human directed affect, which could reach such a scale as a nature event, climate, impactor, volcanic, solar distruption, nearby supernaova, etc.
    And don’t think it’s very likely such human directed action would happen- so something like full nuclear exchange involved States in middle east for example.

    Or in other words we had “events” which have killed say 10 million people or more within the last century, and any climate related event to this scale, has been mostly related due inadequate governing, and lack of technology.
    Or same event which occurred today probably would not be as severe.

    And the blackswan event which will very unlikely to occur within 30 year is climatic event so severe, that we simply have nothing to compared it against. And the most severe climatic events that are within human history have been related to cooling events, and the discuss of climate change is related to warming events, so any possible cooling event will also be excluded.

    Or in simple terms we could dismiss dire types things which some people [wackos] have suggested may possible in the near future.
    Or something like excluding global temperatures rise over 5 C. Sea levels rise over one meter, CO2 levels rising over 600 ppm. massive eruption of methane coming from warming arctic or ocean- say more than 1 trillion tonnes emitted [as guess world production probably much less than 1 billion tonnes, so 1000 times more this this leak out somewhere in some time frame of less than 1 decade [other any affect upon climate, an enormous waste of energy.]
    Some people may imagine such things happen “sometime” in the future, generally fewer think it’s possible within the next 30 years.

    The next issue involves things we should do within the next 30 year which would prevent some major blackswan climate event which occur in the next 60 years or within a century or with 2 centuries.
    So my question what are these things and more importantly what is the advantage of acting soon rather than later.
    Is we must act now, really a true, or just sales talk [buy the car today and give you a good price, type nonsense].

    Now must be said that we have been hearing about having to do something immediately for over 30 year now. And people giving such warning, have been already proven wrong. Unless one is of the opinion it’s too late to do anything [another thing commonly stated].

  32. Beth Cooper

    Hmm …so many “events’ _ black swan events, atavistic parrot events, penguin/ turtles-all-the-way-down events, cougar events, leopards in the cellar, tigers behind doors, and now goddam anvil events?
    Getting way too comp .. lic .. ated, I think me and me camel will jest head out into the desert, it’s quiet there …none of the above …

    • Joe's World


      Maybe he is tracking a meteor that we don’t know about…
      Or sent an astronaut to the sun to squirt a drop of perrier water…
      Or invented time travel and knows what is going to happen…
      Or realize the idiocy of his research…

      Using Black Swan without any info is a total cop out that ANY event can be classed as ..”look I was right!”

    • The AGW folks are afraid of the rain; let them move into the desert to get away for awhile and give some more thought to their ‘Black Swan’ & a good song too, while they sit around their campfire at night. I gets cold out there..

    • I suppose Beth, that you could always become an event planner…:-)

  33. Perhaps this is a good time to once again mention that limnologists have suggested that freshwater systems are much more significant to the carbon cycle than most people believe to date.
    If this interesting meeting was not in the context of AGW alarmism, it would not look so much like rent seeking for more research money.

  34. The main problem I see in all these projections is the fact that CO2 levels are rising linearly while emissions by humans are rising logarithmically.
    If there was a true correlation, one would expect to see CO2 rise log. as well.
    It seems to me those who claim the the connection is weak do have a point.

    • well, all it takes is another whacking el nin~o to make that linear increase look logarithmic (exponential) again. Maybe.

  35. North and south hemispheres temperatures often move in opposite direction, and many areas do not show any excessive warming of the greenhouse effect.
    WUWT recently highlighted two sets of data from opposite sides of the globe, Texas US and Victoria Australia; both areas show natural oscillations but opposite in phase as shown here:
    I suspect that no ‘respectable’ climate scientist would consider possibility of the Earth and solar magnetic fields acting in concert, so I shall leave it at that.

    • The temperatures at the earth’s core are above the currie point, which makes it unlikely the earth’s magnetic field is self-generated. Rather it is more likely induced by the earth’s motion within the sun’s electro-magnetic field.

      High temperatures do not preclude the sun from having a self-generated electro-magnetic field, because the sun has large quantities of moving plasma, which is by its nature carries a charge.

      Electro-magnetism is almost completely overlooked by climate science, yet it is well known from the paleo records that large climate changes coincide with changes in the earth’s magnetic field.

      This is quite surprising because it is rather well known that there is very little fluctuation in solar intensity during solar cycles. Sunspots for example are not caused by solar intensity, they are a product of magnetism, and there is good evidence that climate correlates better with sunspot numbers than solar intensity.

      Solar magnetism, not solar intensity, appears to be the overlooked explanation the IPCC has been missing. The IPCC explanation that CO2 must be responsible for warming, because climate science could not think of any other reason. That is because they never considered electro-magnetism and how it might affect clouds and albedo.

  36. “Official Prediction: During the next 10 years, the Earth System will deliver a world changing Black Swan event. It may become evident first at the Global Monitoring Annual Conference. – Alexander MacDonald, May 15, 2012”

    If it is predictable, is it really a Black Swan?

    This prediction looks like it could have been inspired by the Club of Rome’s edict (from their 1993 publication ‘The First Global Revolution’) “In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill….All these dangers are caused by human intervention, and it is only through changed attitudes and behavior that they can be overcome. The real enemy then, is humanity itself.”

    • Black Swans are in principle predictable, but were missed at the time, ‘hindsight’ says we should have seen this. Dragon Kings are the unpredictable ones.

      • Judith

        Could you give some examples of Black Sawns and, by stretching your imagination, Dragon Kings?

      • Black Swan: Introduction of plague, cholera and HIV from original sites to general world populations.
        Dragon King: In 1519 Cortés with 11 ships, 500 men, 13 horses and a small number of cannons lands in the Yucatan Peninsula and takes on the Mayan Empire.

      • Doc Martyn

        Good examples.Now would you like to suggest a couple of possibilities that might happen in the next decade?

      • 21st Century Black Swans.
        1) Mosquito borne HIV or hemorrhagic fever
        2) Non-torus based nuclear fusion; say the polywell (Bussard) or acoustic molten lead reactor (General Fusion).
        21st Century Dragonkings.
        1) Yellowstone Caldera explosion or gamma burst from a supernova within 6000 light years of Earth causes Extinction Level Event.
        2) Gerontological intervention halts and reverse human aging a peak health chronological age; 22-25. This increases working life of specialists from 30 years to centuries. It becomes possible to extend education period for scientists from 5-27 years to 5-90 years.

        Odd historic BlackSwans.
        1) The invention of the horse/ox collar. The replacement of leather straps around the throat with a wooden/leather collar converted the work from horses/oxen from 1.5x humans to >3x human and probably destroyed slavery in Europe. Manpower intensive picked crops, especially cotton, made slavery attractive in the New World until the invention of the Cotton Gin.
        2) The invention of eye-glasses doubled the working life of craftsmen and caused a huge increase in wealth.
        3) Tea drinking was a ‘fad’ in England and was expensive and exotic. Tea drinking led to two major things; firstly as water was boiled it proved to be a huge benefit to health as most water borne diseases were killed, and secondly, it cut down the amount of alcohol that people drank. Alcoholic drinks, like wine and beer, were ‘safe’ to drink but everyone was affected by the alcohol consumption. If you read the Diary of Samuel Pepys you get an idea of how people were going about their day-to-day business with blood alcohol levels that would lead to a driving ban in the present day.

      • Black Swans as discussed by Nassim Nicholas Taleb are too unlikely for being predictable individually. There are very much more common than one would expect from Gaussian distribution but each specific Black Swan is still rare. There are, however, so many different Black Swans that it’s predictable than some kind of Black Swan will occur rather often.

        The total number of Black Swans of certain magnitude might be predictable, but defining what to include in those Black Swans is difficult.

      • The Skeptical Warmist (aka R. Gates)

        So how would you characterize the downward shift in 2007’s arctic sea ice? Black Swan? Certainly (in hindsight) we can see that it was no fluke as it had set a new standard for the years that have followed. It has forced the assumptions built into the models at the time to be reexamined. There were lots of abnormalities to that summer, but they all had to do with energy entering the Arctic via wind, currents, more open water allowing greater ocean heating etc.

      • R Gates

        There seems to be a whole flock of black swans then. The same thing happened with arctic ice in 1818 and 1922 (and numerous times through the Holocene) . Surely a Black sawn is supposed to be unique and out of left field?

      • The Skeptical Warmist (aka R. Gates)

        My understanding is that these all could be black swans, but what we are looking at is whether a Dragon King event might occur in terms of the Arctic Sea ice such that something that has never occurred before (in recorded human history) might be inevitable, that is, an ice free summer Arctic ocean. That Arctic sea ice has natural fluctuations of less and more over multi-decadal time scales is not in dispute, and that there would necessarily be outliers or black swans at the extremes of this natural variation is also not in dispute. The key issue is whether there has been a “regime change”, a Dragon King event in the Arctic such that the current decline in Arctic sea ice over the long-term will eventually end in an ice-free summer Arctic. A Dragon King represents a regime change– not just an outlier. At least, that’s my understanding. As a warmist, I would expect more Dragon King events as the climate is actually changing, not just naturally fluctuating between extremes.

      • R gates

        Ah, so we have gone from ‘has’ to ‘might’

        Ice has not been a black swan let alone a dragon king. I agree an ice free arctic would be unusual but we are a long way from it and even then it has happened before in the Holocene.

      • “My understanding is that these all could be black swans, but what we are looking at is whether a Dragon King event might occur in terms of the Arctic Sea ice such that something that has never occurred before (in recorded human history) might be inevitable, that is, an ice free summer Arctic ocean.”

        A ice free summer in arctic may not be recorded in recorded human history. But may be impossible for such event if it occurred of it being recorded or if noted for it to survive to present time. It’s possible the arctic polar sea was ice free at some time in last 8000 years [limited recorded history extend further back in time.
        It’s possible to do an investigation into the matter but seems fraught with uncertainty.
        One question one could ask, is if polar sea ice was near entirely melting, where would the last remaining ice be in terms places human could have lived and may have recorded it. One also look at such region and look for some evidence in sedimentary record.

        Another aspect is when the polar sea ice melts, say 99.9% of polar ice melts by September on some year in the future, and within weeks it starts freezing again. If the polar sea ice were to disappear instead by July, one could have much different situation.
        And seems quite possible that in late summer, all polar sea melts, that next year, it might not all melt, maybe the year later all all the sea ice melts, and does so a week earier than the first time it melted.

        It may be seem reasonable to say that by 2100 the glaciers of Kilimanjaro
        will have completely melted. And of course a few decades ago people were claiming this glacier would disappeared by now. But few would have said that no snow will fall on the mountain in the coming centuries.
        It seems like a good possibility that all glaciers made in Little Ice age, and the glacier on Kilimanjaro would melted. And that all polar sea ice may be completely melted in some year. And this could occur before 2100. But to say no snow will fall in mountains and no ice form in the winter in arctic ocean, before 2100, would be extraordinary claim that few would say is likely.

        Now there is puzzle in science, one some group going to give $1000 as prize to best explain, and that is that lukewarm water freezes quicker than cold water. And this same thing could also occur in the arctic, warmer water, could freeze as quickly as cooler water.
        So a warmed arctic water may freeze as quickly as cooler arctic water during the winter months.

        But as said somewhere else, the large body of Hudson bay and large parts of arctic ocean currently do become ice free, and there isn’t dragon type events resulting from it.

      • Tonyb | June 30, 2012 at 4:40 pm |

        When you say “ has happened before in the Holocene,” do you mean it has happened twice in the Holocene before now, as far as the best paleo reconstructions of the past 10 millennia suggest?

        More than twice? Because if it’s once every 2,500-3000 years, that’s pretty Black Swanish. Not that I buy the Black Swan way of reasoning about the issue, but if you’re going to support your Black Swan argument, at least support it. Cites. Parameters. How high a bar do you want for a Black Swan? Must it be unique ever? Unique in a million years? Unique in a millennium? What?

      • BartR

        I’d say a Black Swan woud have to be totally unexpected and out of left field (not that I’m that fond of them either)
        Substantial melting twice in the last 200 years prior to the modern event doesnt warrant the phrase.

        I’m writing an article on arctic melt through the holocene -there appear to be some 8 or 9 periods of substantial or near enough total summer melt but as I have some 500 papers to plough through- and many of them are exceedingly dull- it may be the arctic will have melted by the time I finish it

      • tony b

        Don’t fret.

        The Arctic sea ice melts every year (always has), and then comes back again every year. Same in Antarctica.

        Difference is that since satellite measurements started in 1979 there has been a statistical trend of slight decrease in the Arctic and very slight increase in the Antarctic.

        A similar pattern occurred in the early 20th century, but there were no satellite measurements then.

        But, cheer up. This all has absolutely no impact on sea levels, since this ice is all floating.

        Now to the non-floating ice caps (Greenland and Antarctica). Significant mass loss here would influence sea levels.

        24/7 satellite measurements from 1992 to 2003 showed that both Greenland and Antarctica were gaining mass over this time period (Johannessen 2005, Zwally 2006, Wingham 2006).

        Later studies using Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) show that the 1992-2003 trend has apparently reversed itself due to a greater increase in ice flow than the increase in snowfall. These measurements still have significant unresolved questions due to a higher sensitivity to errors in the estimates of postglacial rebound than the other methods.

        How this will actually play out over the next decades is difficult to predict today. Once we have 10+ years of new data (let’s say around 2014) and when we can be sure that the GRACE methodology has been sufficiently de-bugged to give consistent and reliable results, we may know more.

        In any case, the preliminary GRACE results give no cause for alarm – the estimated mass loss is so small in comparison to the entire ocean that it would hardly be measurable in global sea levels.

        New York might be “inundated” (as conjured up by Al Gore or James E. Hansen) 3,000 years from today.

        So you’ve got plenty of time to complete your study.


    • ‘In the Earth’s history, periods of relatively stable climate have often been interrupted by sharp transitions to a contrasting state. One explanation for such events of abrupt change is that they happened when the earth system reached a critical tipping point. However, this remains hard to prove for events in the remote past, and it is even more difficult to predict if and when we might reach a tipping point for abrupt climate change in the future. Here, we analyze eight ancient abrupt climate shifts and show that they were all preceded by a characteristic slowing down of the fluctuations starting well before the actual shift. Such slowing down, measured as increased autocorrelation, can be mathematically shown to be a hallmark of tipping points. Therefore, our results imply independent empirical evidence for the idea that past abrupt shifts were associated with the passing of critical thresholds. Because the mechanism causing slowing down is fundamentally
      inherent to tipping points, it follows that our way to detect slowing down might be used as a universal early warning signal for upcoming catastrophic change. Because tipping points in ecosystems and other complex systems are notoriously hard to predict in other ways, this is a promising perspective.’

      There is a pattern of decreasing variability culminating in an abrupt shift to a new state. The shift itself is a period of extreme variability which is the dragon-king. A term first used in this context by Sornette 2009.

      Climate shifts were identified by Tsonis and colleagues around 1910, the mid 1940’s, the late 1970’s and 1998/2001 using a network analysis of ocean and atmospheric indices – ENSO, PDO, PNA and NAO. Thus it may be possible to classify varaibilty in ENSO in 1976/77 and 1998/2001 as ENSO dragon-kings. Extreme variability at a tipping point followed by a shift to another state. La Niña dominant to the 1977, El Niño dominant to 1998 and La Niña again since. Compare this to the PDO temporal signature.

      It is no coincidence that shifts in ocean and atmospheric indices occur at the same time as changes in the trajectory of global surface temperature. Our ‘interest is to understand – first the natural variability of climate – and then take it from there. So we were very excited when we realized a lot of changes in the past century from warmer to cooler and then back to warmer were all natural,’ Tsonis said.

      The Pacific climate states persist for 20 to 40 years before shifting again. In the near term the current cool mode sems likely to intensify for a decade or 3 more. Beyond that there be dragons.

  37. Michael said, “What is happening is that we are adding hydrogen ions to the ocean, lots of them.”

    This is a perfect example of incomplete logic or not thinking a problem through. Since Michael is incapable of thinking beyond the obvious, he is likely a progressive.

    My most recent issue with progressive illogic is the seat belt law. It is good because it may save lives. In order to save lives, there must be a law to force people to save their own lives. The law has to have penalties strong enough to force people to think. Since it is a good law, “convictions” are automatic there is no “Innocent until proven guilt” the citation is in fact a conviction. The convicted pays his/her debt to society, all is well in the world.

    However, if the convicted is not able to pay his debt or forgets to pay his debt, he is now guilty of a crime that does allow due process. In order to participate in the privilege of due process, the individual must pay the courts for their time. Since the individual did not have the funds to pay the just debt to society for not wearing a seat belt in his driveway to begin with, he must spend time in jail. To be released from jail, the individual must enter the parole system where he has to pay his parole office for the privilege of not being incarcerated for not wearing his seat belt in his driveway.

    The law is good, but what are the consequences?

    “What is happening is that we are adding hydrogen ions to the ocean, lots of them.” that is bad, we must stop, we must fine people until we stop, but what are the consequences?

    The Supreme Court ruled just yesterday that the government has the constitutional authority to impose taxes, but the Supreme Court does not have the constitutional authority to determine it the proposed tax makes sense. What are the consequences? Health care good. What about the poor schucks that are on the edge of solvency? Does this eliminate the gap between rich and poor or expand the gap?

    Remember the Penn and Teller Dihydrogen Monoxide skit? It is humorous for a reason :)

  38. Ian Blanchard

    I’m normally one to avoid response to trolls, but I can’t help but pick up that Webby a few comments up thread suggested that CO2 is an inert constituent of the Earth’s ocean-atmosphere-biosphere system. That has to show the lowest level of understanding of the issues that were raised in the opening post and the discussed papers.

    While it may be (close to) inert in inorganic chemistry (although even then, remember the classroom experiment of burning magnesium ribbon in a gas jar of carbon dioxide?) CO2 and the carbon cycle is absolutely critical to the biosphere, and CO2 is far from inert in that context.

    Now, what effect any CO2 derived from fossil fuel burning may be having on the biosphere, atmosphere and climate are worth serious investigation, along with serious consideration of how the biosphere might be manipulated to assist in any mitigation that might be required (Fe fertilisation of the Southern Ocean was already mentioned up thread). The studies discussed in Prof Curry’s header are certainly merited, indeed, I would argue that such observational studies are 20 years later than they should have been, because of an over-emphasis on modelling, which seem to have tried to run before they should even be crawling. To me, it seems to be a case of finally moving in the right direction, in attempting to get good quality data on the ‘known unknowns’. Who knows, it might even reveal a few unknown unknowns – the last of these I recall was about the abundance of DMS over the oceans and the influence this had on cloud formation in some regions.

    • Carbon is of course involved in many chemical and biological transformations. I remember systematically working my way through a carbon model for Chesapeake Bay many years ago. Got to the end of the paper – relieved to have understood it – to learn that they required a few dozen more trophic pathways.

    • Ion,
      The CO2 molecule is largely inert as it takes photons of several electron volts to break the bonds during the process of photosynthesis. That is not a spontaneous process and it takes a huge amount of work harvested through the sun by the green machinery.
      So CO2 does breakdown into a higher-energy fuel, but then it gets reformed relatively quickly to its low-energy state of a free molecule during decomposition. That is why it has a huge adjustment time as it tries to find deep sequestering sites. The CO2 in the carbon cycle is a transitory state, and what really counts is modeling the CO2 as a diffusive random walk during the sequestering process.

      The amount of ignorance displayed by the commenters on this blog is overwhelming, and I should realize that trying to teach these people anything that helps them intuit what is happening is a lost cause.

    • Incompetent and vituperative boob trolls at that.

      The carbon cycle commences with volcanic emissions but is recycled efficiently through autotrophs and heterotrophs. There are several important ways that the partitioning of carbon between stores can be influenced by people. Burning of fossil fuels is obviously one but the treatment of agricultural soils and land clearing are clearly important factors. We can for instance increase the organic content of grazing lands by at least 1% sequestering about 500 Gt – and at the same time increase production on the lands by 100%.. We can conserve and restore ecosystems building long term carbon stores in terrestrial vegetation. We can even take carbon directly from the atmosphere and combine it with hydrogen for liquid fuels. All that would take is cheap energy. Biologies respond to temperature with more respiration at higher temperatures – shifting the balance between biomass and atmosphere.

      There are a couple of processes in the ocean – or perhaps many depending on your perspective. The solubility pump shifts CO2 from the atmosphere to the ocean which is then transported to the deep oceans with contain significant pools of frigid CO2 water. Warmer oceans hold less CO2 in solution and thus reduce the effiency of the solubility pump. Sub-surface water rises in areas of upwelling releasing CO2 to the atmosphere as pressure decreases.

      The biological pump works in 2 ways. The first is through organic deposition – the source of fossil fuel deposits. This depends on nutrients – another factor in upwelling. The other way is with deposits of calcium carbonate – the origin of limestone. This depends to a large extent on weathering of rocks increasing with wamth and rainwater acidity.

      All these things are variable and cannot be understand as a single process of diffusion. The way forward is to understand stocks and flows with much greater certainty – and understand what we can do to optimise the atmospheric store. Human emissions are of course a small proportion thus far of natural flux.

    • Ian Blanchard
      @ June 29, 2012 at 10:59 am

      To me, it seems to be a case of finally moving in the right direction, in attempting to get good quality data on the ‘known unknowns’.

      Excellent point!

      We need a properly focused, due diligence investigation of what is important.

      Studies like William Nordhaus help us to focus on what is important. My reading of Table 7-2 here is that the greatest uncertainties, in order of importance and, therefore, the places scientists need to focus their efforts, are:

      1. the damage function (i.e. damage cost per degree of warming / cooling)
      2. climate sensitivity (T2xCO2
      3. economic growth rate

      I’d suggest the rate that we are prepared to remove the impediments to low-cost, low-emissions energy sources (i.e. nuclear) is also high on this list. We could reduce emissions quickly if we were prepared to remove these impediments. A low-cost alternative to fossil fuels is by far the cheapest solution (Table 5-4). The ‘Low-cost backstop policy is just 2% of the optimal carbon price policy. Further more it gives by far the least projected temperature increase – just 0.9 C by 2100 compared with 2.6 C for the optimal carbon price policy (Table 5-8)

      It is clear from this:

      1. Funding for science should focus on the most important uncertainties – damage cost function and climate sensitivity, rather than on butterflies in the Amazon and the rest of the irrelevant science we fund.

      2. Politicians should focus on removing the impediments to low emission energy sources – e.g. nuclear.

    For example, mean temperature fluctuations increase up to about 5 K at 10 days (the lifetime of planetary structures), then decrease to about 0.2 K at 30 years, and then increase again to about 5 K at glacial-interglacial scales.
    In other words, climate does not have a constant standard deviation. This is very important, because it means that the law of large numbers does not apply to climate. You cannot rule out natural variability increasing as time scales increase past 30 years, contrary to the law of large numbers.

    Which means that 99.99% of the statistical methods applied to study climate will return incorrect results, because most statistical methods assume a constant deviation.

  40. The current heat wave in St Louis Missouri USA might qualify for a “Black Swan” event, but lets wait till it’s over. Might get 7 or 8 days in a row over 100 F, which is normal for Dallas or Phoenix but not for here. Yesterday was the hottest day in 50 years. St louis is known to have some humidity, but lately it has been nearly as dry as Phoenix, 20% relative humidity in the summer is pretty rare.

    • “Alexander MacDonald’s “Black Swan” comment is certain to get the attention of many, especially those who may not understand his long-held contention that anthropogenic climate change cannot be expected to be a nice gradual warm up, whereby we slowly adapt to a few tenth’s of a degree per decade,”

      We haven’t had 2 tenths of degree per decade and there no reason to expect 3 or more tenths of a degree per decade. In terms of global temperature.
      Having such regional changes has been common and it’s unlikely at any point in history there hasn’t been various regional warming or cooling by a few tenths of degree in yearly fluctuation or over decade of time.

      “This article he wrote way back in 2001 give a nice background on the reasoning behind his position:
      Couple things he said:
      “The West Antarctic Ice Sheet may collapse, leading to a rise in sea level around the world.”
      “Regional changes such as these are seen in studies that examine the long-term climate effects that would accompany the quadrupling of atmospheric carbon dioxide, projected for the middle of the next century if current trends continue”

    • Having grown up in DC and having worked a couple of summers in Phoenix, I can attest that one can acclimate to 85 F @ 90% humidity and 100 F @ 20% humidity equally well.

    • bob,
      Your desperation in pretending that short term weather events of a few day’s duration as proof of climate catastrophe is rather pitiful.

  41. The Skeptical Warmist (aka R. Gates)

    Alexander MacDonald’s “Black Swan” comment is certain to get the attention of many, especially those who may not understand his long-held contention that anthropogenic climate change cannot be expected to be a nice gradual warm up, whereby we slowly adapt to a few tenth’s of a degree per decade, but rather, more likely to happen in sudden “black swan” event shifts whereby we find ourselves in a new and quite different climate. This article he wrote way back in 2001 give a nice background on the reasoning behind his position:

    Now, it is interesting to note (and I certainly have noted it) that MacDonald wrote the above article 6 years prior to the rather dramatic loss of summer sea ice in 2007. The summer of 2007 has been studied because of this dramatic loss, and it certainly could be noted as a “black swan” event for the Arctic, as it certainly was a dramatic change of course from even all the model predictions of a gradual reduction in sea ice. What we now know are three very important things:

    1) 2007 was no outlier event in the sense of being a “fluke”, but rather did represent a regime change for the entire Arctic. This regime change or “black swan’ event has been hard for even some supposed “experts” to even accept, as it was outside of all models.

    Which brings up the second important thing we know:

    2) All “black swan” events are outside of models by definition, but by studying them (as Nassim Taleb and others have done) we can learn something about their general nature, and the conditions that might affect the probability of a black swan event occuring.

    It is here that MacDonald might be on to somethings. Poke a stick in hornet’s nest (which is a complex dynamical system) frequently enough, and you certainly increase your chances of getting stung. You can’t predict where you might get stung, or how many times you might get stung, or whether you’ll fall off the ladder that you used to climb up to the hornet’s nest, or if you’ll break you leg in the fall…but in general, if you disturb a complex system enough, the probability of a black swan event increases. In terms of Earth system and a black swan event happening…it all comes back to the old question of how sensitive that system is to the poking of the collective human stick.

  42. We do not know that 2007 was an Arctic ice regime change.
    why do AGW extremists always pretend, if they can claim somethign supports them, that it is *proof*?
    How many times do we have to watch them either brazen it out later and lie that they ever claimed their latest failed prediciton was a prediction, or rationlize it away as correct, even when it was no such thing?

  43. The Skeptical Warmist (aka R. Gates)

    Excellent article on Black Swans vs. Dragon Kings.

    No doubt most of you knew this already, but a great learning bit for me.

    So question: In light of the continued decline in seasonal Arctic Sea ice, was 2007 a:

    1) Likely a Black Swan event for Arctic sea ice
    2) Likely a Dragon King event for Arctic sea ice
    3) Likely neither
    4) Too early to tell

    • Rob Starkey

      At most it would seem to be too early to know. There are benefits to having less ice in the arctic as well as the potential harms. Does anyone claim to know that any melting is a net harm vs. net benefit?

    • Good question Gates. Like Chief says, you have to consider the system not the components. 1995 probably was a Dragon King, a completely unexpected event, the oceans reaching an equilibrium, not only unexpected, but not even believed so far, but nothing happened. 1998 was a black swan, no damage. The 2007 open Arctic may have been a black swan and this year my be another, but it likely won’t have much impact. Now with a prolonged solar minimum, another El Nino plus an open Arctic,possibly a large volcano, then the 1995 Dragon King can roar. The system is set up for a turn, just waiting for the right push. Since everyone is expecting warming, a real dragon king would have to be cooling.

      If you use the stratosphere record, you can see the inverse of that blue curve. That is pretty unusual for the temperature record.

  44. You’ve got it Gatesy. It is always nice to see the penny drop – but you will find that you are talking in a language that few understand. One thing about the Sornette paper is that black swans are consistent with power law distributions – there is nothing to qualitatively distinguish a large event from a smaller event thus there is no way to predict them. We can define a stochastic probability with a probability distribution function but not predict beforehand. A dragon-king on the other hand is an extreme event associated with a tipping point and stands outside of any power law distribution. The onset is in principle predictable using the maths of complex dynamical systems but we can’t define a PDF.

    Wally Broeker first used the stick analogy many years ago – only it was a wild and unpredictable beast and not a hornet’s nest.

    So we arrive at the worst of all possible worlds. A world that is not warming as a result of the 1998/2001 climate shift – a smaller and less persistent shift than seen in the paleo record but a shift nonetheless. And the potential for radical shifts in climate in as little as a decade. Welcome to my world.

    Warming is still not attibutable in any obvious way in satellite data to carbon dioxide – but still warming has the potential to initiate a shift to a cooler state. One suggestion is that open ocean in the Arctic reduces cooling of surface water and thus thermohaline circulation leading to runaway feedbacks in snow and ice. It is the system we need to worry about and not the components.

    The system is exquisitely sensitive in the region of a fold bifurcation and not sensitve eleswhere. See what I mean about language?

    • Here we are alone in the Big City. Oh, Lady be good.

    • Peotry is languge at the boundary of meaning – a bridging of experience and emotion. Tenuous as smoke but profoundly evocative and deeply meaningful.

      A framework for bridging the crags of experience and emotion.
      A child’s green jungle gym in a sandy playground by the ocean –
      the grass worn thin beneath the arch of the ladder.

      Can I swing and somersualt and twist never fearing to fall.
      No. Unless it s a ladder that reaches too the moon.
      That’s not this ladder.

      This ladder spans the abyss between feeling, impulse,
      emotion and the world. Between life and living in the world.
      That was the plan but it never comes off.

      You always twist and somersault and fall. The nature of the
      game dictates the terms until destiny succumbs to love and
      arms reach out to clasp you safely to their breast.

      Without love all action is daring.
      With love no daring is fatal.

  45. Beth Cooper

    CH, June 29th@ 6.19 pm:
    ‘Tenuous as smoke,’ +1 e-salon discourse, Chief.

  46. Beth Cooper

    pokerguy, jest read yr post 29/06 10.31am:
    An “event” in the desert- well yes, pokerguy, a campfire … it gets cold at night in the desert, convection yer know – songs around the fire, Tom has some good 1970’s music, a bit of poetry, some declaiming , fuelled by a little fire water ) you could do some card tricks, and we could have a few camel races… I’ll organise it. Send in any suggestions, we don’t run a closed shop.

    ps: we need a telescope… sorry, not you, Web, but you can come if you wish.

  47. Michael Hart

    Steve Wofsy:
    “Global atmospheric concentrations of CO2, CH4 and N2O are largely under human control, affecting climate and global atmospheric chemical processes. ”

    Well he would say that, wouldn’t he? As an “Area Dean for Environmental Science & Engineering”, 50% of his job title mandates him to say that.

  48. Dave Springer

    “So what do you think he means by a world changing black swan event?”

    Something completely unexpected and significant to a majority of the world’s population.

    “Does Hurricane Katrina qualify? The Russian heat wave and Pakistan floods? If so, it seems that we have several black swan events per decade, in which case this is a pretty safe prediction.”

    No, regional extreme weather events are unpredictable but not unexpected.

    What would constitute a black swan event in today’s environment would be global cooling of a magnitude or extent sufficient to reduce agricultural output to a point where world hunger is productivity problem instead of a distribution problem.

    • It is rather sad that AGW extremists still cling to Katrina as if it were an unusual storm when measured historically.