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2014 SkS Weekly News Roundup #10A

Posted on 5 March 2014 by John Hartz

  • Arctic sea ice being lost at a rate of five days per decade
  • Cause and effect
  • El Niño may return late this year
  • European support for climate change action 'not dented by financial crash'
  • Extreme weather is 'silver lining' for climate action
  • Geo-engineering could make climate worse
  • Global warming slows down Antarctica's coldest currents
  • How money changes climate debate
  • How to debate climate change deniers (w/o scaring them off)
  • Keystone XL would have much larger impact
  • New daily temperature dataset from Berkeley
  • Sydney Opera House and Statue of Liberty 'will be lost to sea level rise'

Arctic sea ice being lost at a rate of five days per decade

The ice-free season across the Arctic is getting longer by five days per decade, according to new research from a team including Prof Julienne Stroeve (UCL Earth Sciences). New analysis of satellite data shows the Arctic Ocean absorbing ever more of the sun's energy in summer, leading to an ever later appearance of sea ice in the autumn. In some regions, autumn freeze-up is occurring up to 11 days per decade later than it used to.

The research, published in a forthcoming issue of the journal Geophysical Research Letters, has implications for tracking climate change, as well as having practical applications for shipping and the resource industry in the Arctic regions.

New data confirms Arctic ice trends: Sea ice being lost at a rate of five days per decade,, Mar 4, 2014

Cause and effect  

Why are scientists so confident that a business as usual future based on fossil fuels will lead to major changes in the Earth’s climate?  Because we seek to understand climate in terms of cause and effect.

A very common misconception about climate change is that projections of future warming are based on extrapolation of recent warming trends. This misconception is fed by media reporting: both “fourth warmest January on record” and “global warming pause” narratives suggest that we’re waiting with bated breath to see what the climate will do, and whether emerging trends can be understood. Even well-intentioned science outreach often starts off with a graph showing rising temperatures as if this is the basis for our understanding and prediction.

But our expectations of future warming are not based on extrapolation of recent trends. Rather, we expect climate to be warmer in the future than in the past because we know that greenhouse gases absorb and then re-emit thermal radiation. As people around the world burn more and more fossil fuels, concentrations of greenhouse gases increase, so that solar energy accumulates under the extra absorbing gas. Scientists expect accumulating heat to cause warming temperatures because we know that when we add heat to things, they change their temperatures.

Cause and Effect, by Scott Denning, Climate Change National Forum, March 2, 2014

El Niño may return late this year

El Niño, nature's most powerful influence on weather around the globe, has  been in a lull for two years. But indications suggest that could change as early  as fall.

Since spring 2012, the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean has not warmed enough  to create an El Niño. Nor has it cooled to form a La Niña. Instead, it has  lingered in an in-between state some experts call "La Nada."

Though it is too early to predict with much certainty, scientists say their  observations and computer models show increasing signs of El Niño's return,  which might portend more rain for California.

El Niño may return late this year, experts say by Tony Barboza, Los Angeles Times, Mar 2, 2014

Extreme weather is 'silver lining' for climate action

Devastating extreme weather including recent flooding in England, Australia's hottest year on record and the US being hit by a polar vortex have a "silver lining" of boosting climate change to the highest level of politics and reminding politicians that climate change is not a partisan issue, according to the UN's climate chief.

Christiana Figueres said that it was amoral for people to look at climate change from a politically partisan perspective, because of its impact on future generations.

The "very strange" weather experienced across the world over the last two years was a sign "we are [already] experiencing climate change," the executive secretary of the UN climate secretariat told the Guardian. 

Extreme weather is 'silver lining' for climate action: Christiana Figueres by Adam Vaughan & John Vidal, The Guardian, Mar 5, 2014 

European support for climate change action 'not dented by financial crash'

The financial crisis and recession across Europe have not put people off fighting climate change, a new poll for the European Commission has shown.

It found the number of people supporting a “green economy” has risen in the past three years. At least two thirds of people in all EU member states said that transforming the economy on to a green footing, by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and investing in green technologies, would boost the economy and reduce unemployment.

Even in those member states that have suffered the worst effects of the financial crisis and recession, a large majority are of the opinion that energy efficiency and moves to a greener economy could be beneficial. Nearly nine in ten over respondents in Greece, Spain and Portugal said they believed that fighting climate change and using energy more efficiently would boost the economy and jobs.

European support for climate change action 'not dented by financial crash' by Fiona Harvey, The Gurdian, Mar 3, 2014

Geo-engineering could make climate worse

Far from offering a simple fix, sci-fi solutions to global warming may in fact make the problem worse, a probe of “geo-engineering” options says.

Once mocked as unscientific, geo-engineering proposals are gaining traction as carbon emissions soar, placing Earth on track for warming of maybe 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100.

Ideas, mainly experimental or untested, include building mirrors in space to reflect the sun’s rays or growing plankton to boost absorption of heat-trapping carbon dioxide (CO2).

Geo-engineering could make climate worse, study says, AFB/The Japan Times, Mar 2. 2014

Global warming slows down Antarctica's coldest currents

A shift from briny to fresh in Antarctica's ocean waters in recent decades could explain the shutdown of the Southern Ocean's coldest, deepest currents, a new study finds.

The cold currents, called the Antarctic Bottom Water, are chilly, salty rivers that flow from the underwater edge of the Antarctic continent north toward the equator, keeping to the bottom of the seafloor. The currents carry oxygen, carbon and nutrients down to the deepest parts of the ocean. Previous studies have found this deep, dense water is disappearing, though researchers aren't sure if the shrinkage is part of a long-term trend linked to global warming, or a natural cycle. 

Global Warming Slows Down Antarctica's Coldest Currents by Becky Oskin, LiveScience, Mar 4, 2014

How money changes climate debate

Searching for a reason major climate change legislation hasn't passed Congress yet?

You could do worse than start looking around Washington, D.C., with its endless think tanks, lobbying firms and trade groups, many of which have swung into action in the past to block such bills and stand ready to do so in the future.

A recent study published in the journal Climatic Change finds that much of the millions of dollars that funds these groups comes from secret sources, and a good portion of the rest is from publicity-shy conservative foundations. 

How Money Changes Climate Debate by Daniel Lippman and ClimateWire, Scientific American, Mar 5, 2014  

How to debate climate change deniers (w/o scaring them off)

If you want to see an expression of pure despair, ask a college freshman to parse Rachel Carson’s rhetorical choices at 8:00 in the morning. That’s what I’m doing this semester for a composition class I’m teaching at the University of Virginia. The course is called “Representing Climate Change,” and our collective goal is to discover and deploy effective methods of talking and writing about our looming environmental crisis. The task is daunting. Climate change is at once really easy and really hard to write about. It’s easy because there is so much to say, and hard because progress toward a solution is so slow.

How to debate climate change deniers (without scaring them off) by Stephanie Bernard, Salon, Mar 2, 2014

Keystone XL would have much larger impact

The State Department's final environmental impact analysis for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline downplays the significance the pipeline would have for development of the Canadian tar sands, according to a new analysis from a United Kingdom-based group. The analysis also argues that the State Department underestimated the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that would come with that development.

The Carbon Tracker Initiative, a nonprofit that focuses on how carbon budgets interact with financial markets, released the new report on Monday, making its case for why Keystone XL is more important in the context of global emissions than the State Department's study indicates.

Study Finds Keystone XL Would Have Much Larger Impact Than State Department Suggests by Kate Shepard, The Huffington Post, Mar 3, 2014 

New daily temperature dataset from Berkeley

Berkeley Earth has a newly released homogenized daily temperature field is built as a refinement upon our monthly temperature field using similar techniques. In constructing the monthly temperature field, we identified inhomogeneities in station time series caused by biasing events such as station moves and instrument changes, and measured their impact. The daily analysis begins by applying the same set of inhomogeneity breakpoints to the corresponding daily station time series.  

New daily temperature dataset from Berkeley by Zeke Hausfather and Robert Rohde, Rezal Climate, Mar 5, 2014

Sydney Opera House and Statue of Liberty 'will be lost to sea level rise'

Famous global landmarks including the Statue of Liberty, Tower of London and Sydney Opera House will be lost to rising seas caused by climate change, scientists have warned.

Even with just a further 3C of warming – well within the range to which the UN climate science panel expects temperatures to rise  by the end of the century – nearly one-fifth of the planet's 720 world heritage sites will affected as ice sheets melt and warming oceans expand.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, looked at how many Unesco sites would be threatened after 2000 years of rising sea levels, but the authors said the first impacts would "definitely" be felt much sooner without action on flood defences. 

Sydney Opera House and Statue of Liberty 'will be lost to sea level rise' by Adam Vaughn, The Guardian, Mar 4, 2014

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Comments 1 to 8:

  1. More on the Antarctic current here:

    "The Antarctic Half of the Global Thermohaline Circulation is Collapsing"

    "The largest source of Antarctic Bottom Water in the global thermohaline circulation (labelled W) has ceased production.

    ...this study probably underestimates the amount of fresh water around Antarctica and its effects on Antarctic Bottom Water (ABW) formation...

    Global political policies are not keeping up with the rate of change and our models have, to date, underestimated the rate of change. We are witnessing a total failure of global leadership to deal with changes we caused that are spiraling out of control."

    Peter Ward on the consequences of this development: "When [the global ocean current conveyor belt] stops, we lose oxygen at the bottom, and we start the process toward mass extinction."

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Thank you for providing the links to additional articles. The findings of this new study have attracted quite a bit of coverage.

    PS - I activated your second link.

  2. The link to "Global warming slows down Antarctica's coldest currents" returns a Not Found.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] The link has been fixed. Thank you for bringing this glitch to our attention.

  3. MichaelK@2,

    This is the link

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  4. JH, thanks for activating the links. But I don't have the scientific chops to judge how accurate they are. Is this dynamic of cool capping water really enough to shut down that thermohaline circulation as the Daily Kos article claims? IIRC, it would take about one sverdrup of fresh water to shut down the AMOC. Is that true of this southern current? Is there really that much fresh water down there?

    Thanks ahead of time for any insights on this important issue.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] I will defer to one of my more learned colleagues to respond to your question.  

  5. Another piece of information that came out this week in the US is the Quadrennial Defense Review which sets "a long-term course for DOD as it assesses the threats and challenges that the nation faces..."

    2014 Quadrennial Defense Review

    While this is a high level document discussing how the DOD plans to move forward, it does not ignore science. From page 25:

    "Finally, the Department will employ creative ways to address the impact of climate change, which will continue to affect the operating environment and the roles and missions that U.S. Armed Forces undertake. The Department will remain ready to operate in a changing environment amid the challenges of climate change and environmental damage."

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  6. .

    >>Climate change is at once really easy and really hard to write about.<<

    It's really hard "debating" with deniers (deliberate quotes) for the average punter like me, who, while accepting the AGW concensus, has little scientific education beyond basic meteorology and climatology.

    In fact it's damn near impossible: the deniers "know" they are right, and if they come up with any references at all (rather than merely stating that it's "crap") as we all know they bring up the same three or four culprits again and again. Those of us who have not studied the complexities of climate change are immediately at a disadvantage since all we can do is reference sites such as this one - which immediately brings the response that it's a leftie conspiracy ecomaniac website and is talking rubbish.

    I don't see any way of effectively combatting the misinformation of the oil and gas industries in popular blogs and the like, only trying to show denial politicians the scientific facts - and they've been got at too.

    At a deeper level, unless world population is brought under control any and all attempts to curb CO² emissions are doomed to failure, unless we prevent the developing world from attaining something approaching our own standard of living. And if you think convincing deniers of the AGW facts is difficult, good luck with arguing effectively for population control!


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  7. Wol #6 I suppose it's on-topic because there's a non-science "How money..." posted. You don't say the venue but if it's comments against blogs & videos then IMO my comments aren't to educate or change the opinions of those specific persons, rather I am, you are, giving your opinions to the public who might see them, unless they get moderated like these two... Cheer up. Remember a geologic second ago fully state-sanctioned killing of persons doing science and giving their opinions sometimes existed, so this big money is comparatively trivial. The "deeper level" seems too deep for this venue. Future humans will do whatever. Each present human decides what makes a life, like fun learning stuff, or perhaps genetic imperative just pushes robots. Too deep for me so lets get back to integrating the atmosphere to quantify its LWR.

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  8. For those down under BOM & CSIRO just released 2014 state of climate report

    Of my particular interest is Monthly temperature anomaly (standardised) on page 5 (AKA Jim Hansen's climate dice). They show the frequency of 2-sigma hot events in OZ increased 5 times in 1999-2013, as opposed to Hansen's baseline 1950-1980.

    So the OZ dice is loded about the same and Hansen's global dice. And more importantly, the warming "did not stop" over OZ land since 1998. The negative  consequences from precipitation changes are looking to be higher than global average IMO.

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