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Latest Posts


Skeptical Science New Research for Week #33, 2020

Posted on 19 August 2020 by Doug Bostrom

Two epic review reports

AMS have released State of the Climate 2019 (50MB pdf), a comprehensive review of Earth's climate as it stood in 2019. 

With much less fanfare Walsh et al have produced Extreme weather and climate events in northern areas: A review55 pages of scrupulous literature synopsis, synthesis and cautious projection supported by 20 pages of citation references. A true "don't miss" publication. The reference section is a goldmine for further exploration. 

Both items are open access. 

RCP8.5 is normal

In this week's "nudges" Schwalm et al remind us of the stubbornly droopy nature of the Keeling Curve:

Climate simulation-based scenarios are routinely used to characterize a range of plausible climate futures. Despite some recent progress on bending the emissions curve, RCP8.5, the most aggressive scenario in assumed fossil fuel use for global climate models, will continue to serve as a useful tool for quantifying physical climate risk, especially over near- to midterm policy-relevant time horizons. Not only are the emissions consistent with RCP8.5 in close agreement with historical total cumulative CO2 emissions (within 1%), but RCP8.5 is also the best match out to midcentury under current and stated policies with still highly plausible levels of CO2 emissions in 2100.

95 Articles

Observations of global warming & effects

AMS State of the Climate 2019 (open access)

Extreme weather and climate events in northern areas: A review (open access)

A Raman lidar tropospheric water vapour climatology and height-resolved trend analysis over Payerne, Switzerland (open access)

Attribution of historical near-surface permafrost degradation to anthropogenic greenhouse gas warming

Increasing trend in rapid intensification magnitude of tropical cyclones over the western North Pacific

Snow cover variations across China from 1951–2018 (open access)

Long-term variation of sea ice and its response to thermodynamic factors in the Northwest Passage of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago (open access)

Climate change dominated long?term soil carbon losses of Inner Mongolian grasslands

The climatological context of trends in the onset of Northern Hemisphere seasonal snow?cover, 1972 – 2017

The Long-Term Trend of Upper-Air Temperature in China Derived from Microwave Sounding Data and Its Comparison with Radiosonde Observations

Increasing occurrence of extreme cold surges in North China during the recent global warming slowdown and the possible linkage to the extreme pressure rises over Siberia

Temporal variability of seasonal warming rates in China

Nonstationary relationship between sea ice over Kara?Laptev Seas during August?September and Ural blocking in the following winter

Asymmetric trends of extreme temperature over the Loess Plateau during 1998?2018

Instrumentation & observational methods of climate & global warming

A linear model to derive melt pond depth on Arctic sea ice from hyperspectral data (open access)

Present-day radiative effect from radiation-absorbing aerosols in snow (open access)

Modeling & simulation of global warming & global warming effects

Scenarios of Twenty-First Century Mean Sea Level Rise at Tide-Gauge Stations Across Canada (open access)

Human-induced changes to the global ocean water masses and their time of emergence

Increasing threat of coastal groundwater hazards from sea-level rise in California

Effective radiative forcing and adjustments in CMIP6 models (open access)

Diverging responses of high-latitude CO2 and CH4 emissions in idealized climate change scenarios (open access)

Projected changes in the annual range of precipitation under stabilized 1.5°C and 2.0°C warming futures (open access)

The Upper Tail of Precipitation in Convection?Permitting Regional Climate Models and Their Utility in Nonstationary Rainfall and Flood Frequency Analysis (open access)

Analysis of Compound Climate Extremes and Exposed Population in Africa under two different Emission Scenarios (open access)

Irreversibility of Marine Climate Change Impacts under Carbon Dioxide Removal

Robust longitudinally?variable responses of the ITCZ to a myriad of climate forcings

Isolating the Evolving Contributions of Anthropogenic Aerosols and Greenhouse Gases: A New CESM1 Large Ensemble Community Resource (open access)

Projected End-of-Century Changes in the South American Monsoon in the CESM Large Ensemble

Seasonal Dependency of Tropical Precipitation Change under Global Warming

Are the Transient and Equilibrium Climate Change Patterns Similar in Response to Increased CO 2 ?

Long term trends of mesopheric ice layers: A model study

Future Projections of Winter Cold Surge Paths over East Asia from CMIP6 Models

Climate model advancement

Robust observational constraint of uncertain aerosol processes and emissions in a climate model and the effect on aerosol radiative forcing (open access)

Past long-term summer warming over western Europe in new generation climate models: role of large-scale atmospheric circulation

Statistical emulation of a perturbed basal melt ensemble of an ice sheet model to better quantify Antarctic sea level rise uncertainties (open access)

Optimal Estimation of Stochastic Energy Balance Model Parameters

Dynamical downscaling simulation of the East Asian summer monsoon in a regional Climate?Weather Research and Forecasting model

An idealized protocol to assess the nesting procedure in regional climate modelling

Cryosphere & climate change

Review Article: Earth's ice imbalance (open access)

Distributed summer air temperatures across mountain glaciers: climatic sensitivity and glacier size (open access)

Applying artificial snowfall to reduce the melting of the Muz Taw Glacier, Sawir Mountains (open access)

Long-term variation of sea ice and its response to thermodynamic factors in the Northwest Passage of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago (open access)

Greenland climate simulations show high Eemian surface melt (open access)

Less climatic resilience in the arctic

Biology & global warming

Inflection point in climatic suitability of insect pest species in Europe suggests non?linear responses to climate change

Climatic changes and the fate of mountain herbivores (open access)

Correction to: Regional variability in the response of alpine treelines to climate change (open access)

Ocean acidification reduces growth and grazing impact of Antarctic heterotrophic nanoflagellates (open access)

Climate-driven changes in the composition of New World plant communities

Dendroclimatology of sugar maple (Acer saccharum): Climate-growth response in a late-successional species

Continental?scale tree?ring?based projection of Douglas?fir growth: Testing the limits of space?for?time substitution

The combined effects of climate change and river fragmentation on the distribution of Andean Amazon fishes

Research challenges and opportunities for using big data in global change biology

Climatic breadth of calling behaviour in two widespread Neotropical frogs: Insights from humidity extremes

Modeling eelgrass spatial response to nutrient abatement measures in a changing climate (open access)

The role of gastropod shell composition and microstructure in resisting dissolution caused by ocean acidification

Survived but not safe: Marine heatwave hinders metabolism in two gastropod survivors

Focus on recent, present and future Arctic and boreal productivity and biomass changes

Climate manipulations differentially affect plant population dynamics within versus beyond northern range limits

Cool as a moose: How can browsing counteract climate warming effects across boreal forest ecosystems?

A changing climate is snuffing out post?fire recovery in montane forests

Tree growth sensitivity to climate is temporally variable

GHG sources & sinks, flux

Historical CO2 emissions from land use and land cover change and their uncertainty (open access)

Diel variability of methane emissions from lakes (open access)

Labile carbon limits late winter microbial activity near Arctic treeline (open access)

Decadal?scale Recovery of Carbon Stocks After Wildfires Throughout the Boreal Forests

Using a natural experiment to foresee the fate of boreal carbon stores

Total ecosystem carbon stocks at the marine?terrestrial interface: Blue carbon of the Pacific Northwest Coast, United States

Net landscape carbon balance of a tropical savanna: Relative importance of fire and aquatic export in offsetting terrestrial production

Asymmetric response of soil methane uptake rate to land degradation and restoration: Data synthesis

CO2 removal science & engineering

Small?scale capillary heterogeneity linked to rapid plume migration during CO2 storage

Irreversibility of Marine Climate Change Impacts under Carbon Dioxide Removal

Geoengineering climate

Anticipatory governance of solar geoengineering: conflicting visions of the future and their links to governance proposals

Climate change communications & cognition

Global Warming Risk Perceptions in India

Agronomy & climate change

Adaptation in U.S. Corn Belt increases resistance to soil carbon loss with climate change (open access)

Climate change and environmental impacts on and adaptation strategies for production in wheat-rice rotations in southern China

A case study of climate-smart management in foxtail millet (Setaria italica) production under future climate change in Lishu county of Jilin, China

The climate-induced alteration of future geographic distribution of aflatoxin in peanut crops and its adaptation options

Economics & finance of climate change & mitigation

Making sense of the politics in the climate change loss & damage debate

A near-term to net zero alternative to the social cost of carbon for setting carbon prices (open access)

A sectoral approach allows an artful merger of climate and trade policy (open access)

Economic and social constraints on reforestation for climate mitigation in Southeast Asia

The financial impact of fossil fuel divestment (open access)

Climate change mitigation & adaptation public policy research

Research priorities for supporting subnational climate policies

Exploring requirements for sustainable energy supply planning with regard to climate resilience of Southeast Asian islands

Climate change adaptation

An agent-based model for community flood adaptation under uncertain sea-level rise

Searching for Grouped Patterns of Heterogeneity in the Climate–Migration Link

Humans dealing with our global warming

A demographic approach to understanding the effects of climate on population growth

Contributions of scale: what we stand to gain from Indigenous and local inclusion in climate and health monitoring and surveillance systems

A decision support tool for climate-informed and socioeconomic urban design


Between a bog and a hard place: a global review of climate change effects on coastal freshwater wetlands (open access)

Book Review: Beyond Global Warming: How Numerical Models Revealed the Secrets of Climate Change

Determining the most accurate program for the Mann-Kendall method in detecting climate mutation

At scale, renewable natural gas systems could be climate intensive: the influence of methane feedstock and leakage rates

Informed opinion & nudges

Review Article: Earth's ice imbalance (open access)

Less climatic resilience in the arctic

RCP8.5 tracks cumulative CO2 emissions (open access)


Obtaining articles wihout journal subscriptions

We know it's frustrating that many articles we cite here are not free to read. One-off paid access fees are generally astronomically priced, suitable for such as "On a Heuristic Point of View Concerning the Production and Transformation of Light but not as a gamble on unknowns. With a median world income of $US 9,3733, for most of us $US 42 is significant money to wager against a small marginal cost. 

Economists of a scientific bent may someday help scientific publishers bring science to their business activities as reflected in rational à la carte article disclosure fees. Meanwhile there are several possible paths to equality of information access short of paying an objectively and crushingly large fee for the unveiling of a single article:

  • Unpaywall offers a browser extension for Chrome that automatically indicates when an article is freely accessible and provides immediate access without further trouble. Unpaywall is also unscammy, works well, is itself offered free to use. The organizers (a legitimate nonprofit) report about a 50% success rate
  • If you're interested in an article and it is not listed here as "open access," be sure to check the link anyway. Due to time constraints open access articles are identified by us via  imperfect machine analysis. Compared with Unpaywall statistics we successfully  identify roughly 2/3rds of open access articles. There's definitely gold left in the ground. 

How is New Research assembled?

Most articles appearing here are found via  RSS feeds from journal publishers, filtered by search terms to produce raw output for assessment of relevance.

The objective of New Research isn't to cast a tinge on scientific results, to color readers' impressions. Hence candidate articles are assessed via two metrics only:

  • Was an article deemed of sufficient merit by a team of journal editors and peer reviewers? The fact of journal RSS output assigns a "yes" to this automatically. 
  • Is an article relevant to the topic of anthropogenic climate change? Due to filter overlap with other publication topics of inquiry about 1/4 of RSS output makes the cut.


Please let us know if you're aware of an article you think may be of interest for Skeptical Science research news, or if we've missed something that may be important. Send your input to Skeptical Science via our contact form.

Journals covered

A list of journals we cover may be found here. We welcome pointers to omissions, new journals etc.

Previous edition

The previous edition of Skeptical Science New Research may be found here.

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Comments 1 to 8:

  1. The Guardian had an interesting article on how the natural gas industry is fighting regulation of gas use.  People like are trying to switch to electrical use from gas.  Then renewable energy can be used for heating and other uses that gas is used for now.  The gas lobby has been very successful in stopping laws that reduce gas use.  They are currently getting states to pass laws preventing cities from restricting gas use.

    If we want to get to zero emissions we need to stop all fossil fuel use.  That includes gas use.  Somehow the gas lobby has to be countered.


    Vote climate!

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  2. micheal sweet,

    I agree that the use of Natural Gas has been, is being, incorrectly promoted.

    The simple argument against Natural Gas is that it is half as bad a coal. It is non-renewable and harmful to the future of humanity. Being half as bad is not Good, it is still Bad.

    That said, every coal burner in the USA should have long ago been converted to burn natural gas until the renewables were rapidly built out to replace the fossil fuel burners. It can still be done starting now, but with the realization that there is even less time for the converted power generator to run before it is shut due to the required rapid building of renewable capacity.

    The hardest reality for people to come to grips with is that a recently built fossil fuel plant, or recently converted one, may need to be shuttered before its cost of construction has been recovered through operating profits and definitely before the investors get the full return on investment they thought they deserved. Converting Coal burners to Natural Gas is the right thing to do even if the costs will not be recovered by profit.

    In "Capital and Ideology" Thomas Piketty presents many examples of wealthy people being compensated when their way of being wealthier than Others is determined to be harmfully unsustainable. That flawed belief could incorrectly result in investors in fossil fuel enterprises being rewarded if their gambles get shut down. And it is that hamful flawed hope that may be pushing the continued investment of attempts to profit from fossil fuels (government loss of money to convert coal burners to natural gas would be required but should not profit the coal burner investors)

    Expanded awareness and improved understanding applied to achieve and improve on all of the Sustainable Development Goals is ultimately what is required. Correcting the understanding regarding Natural Gas is part of the required actions.

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  3. OPOF:

    THe article in The Guardian did not discuss power plants.  As I understand it, the argument about power plants is complicated.

    The Guardian talked about cities making it illegal to connect new buildings to existing gas lines (or building new gas lines for new buildings).  In the USA gas is currently very cheap.  It is used in many locations for heating, cooking and heating water.  If it is illegal to connect new buildings to the gas lines than those buildings will have to use electricity instead.  That will be easy to convert to renewable electricity.  It is expensive to convert buildings on gas lines to electricity.

    Gas has been cheap in the USA due to a large supply from fracking.  A lot of fracking companies will go bankrupt from Covid and the fact that they never make money.  It will be interesting to see if gas prices in the USA go up to global prices.  Renewable energy is already cheaper than gas in most of the USA.

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  4. Moving to electricity for heat depends hugely on how that electricity is generated. In Canada, Alberta and Sasatchewan both make heavy use of coal and other fossil fuels:

    • Alberta: 91% fossil fuels, of which 43% is coal.

    Alberta electricity production by fuel type


    • Saskatchewan: 83% from fossil fuels, 40% from coal

    Saskatchewan electricity generation by fuel source


    Nationally, Canada has a very different picture:

    Canada electricity generation by fuel source


    No prizes awarded for guessing which provinces have the largest number of people that are against things like carbon taxes or other actions to deal with GHG emissions.

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  5. The Guardian article mentioned that attempts to get rid of gas connections were resisted by multiple parties, so gas suppliers, plumbers and trade unions and home owners. Its possibly an example of well intended but an unrealistic strategy.

    It might be better to push for electromethane, which is carbon neutral, and can use the existing piped network and gas heaters, and would get less resistance from plumbing lobbies and trade unions and consumers. However its presumably more expensive than natural gas so would still get resistance from gas suppliers, but maybe easier than trying to ban gas connections. It  would probably come down to the size of the price difference between electromethane and  natural gas. If its small, people might accept it for the sake of environmental values.

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  6. micheal sweet,

    I understand that the article just focused on the aspect of natural gas use related to home heating and appliances like stoves.

    The more generalized understanding is what I was bringing up. It relates to the incorrect belief taht natural gas use for heat and cooking is OK because that is the sales pich claiming an answer to climate change is natural gas use. And as Bob Loblaw has correctly pointed out the electric alternative to natural gas is questionable because it depends on how the electricity is generated. Probably better to keep the gas burning in homes until the renewables are on-line than to make electricity by burning gas then using it in homes to do the same things.

    However, converting coal burning power plants to gas burning power plants is only complicated because of the changes of who makes money and what type of work is done to fuel it. Mind you now it is probaly better to just ramp up the pace of renewables in most locations.

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  7. OPOF:

    Bob Loblaw's point is well taken.  Heating new construction using fossil electricity does not help much compared to using fossil natural gas.

    Taking the long view, if electricity is used now than in 10 years when more renewable electricity is produced buildings using electricity will automatically release less carbon.  Those buildings on natural gas will require expensive retrofitting to reduce carbon emissions.

    I think the argument that natural gas makes a good bridge fuel is mostly made by natural gas producers.  People who want to reduce carbon support buiding more renewable energy systems.

    I agree that building out renewables as rapidly as possible makes the most sense.

    Making electromethane using fossil fueled electricity does not make sense.  You have to first convert the electricity system to renewable energy before you start large scale electroconversions.  In general, it takes much less energy to do work using electricity than to do the same work using electrofuels.  Electrofuels only make sense for things like airplanes and marine transport that are very difficult to electrify.  Heating a home with electromethane would require 10 times more primary energy than heating the same home using electricity.

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  8. Keep in mind that even if current electricity production is based on fossil fuels, it is probably easier in the next 30 years to replace electricity generation capacity with non-fossil-fuel-based systems than it is to convert tens or hundreds of thousands of gas furnances in individual houses to electrical heating.

    We used to live in Saskatchewan, and looked seriously at ground source heat pumps to replace our old, inefficient gas furnace, Retrofitting, as opposed to build new, represents a huge extra cost. And because of Saskatchewan's heavy use of fossil fuels for eletricity generation, federal goverment incentives to install heat pumps and such were not offered in Saskatchewan. We went back to gas, but at least forked out for 96% efficiency. Our gas consumption was cut roughly in half (as we did other efficiency improvements as well as the furnace).

    Ground source heat pumps make a huge difference in electricity consumption, but at high initial capital cost. It is another heating method th at is much easier to install when a house is built than it is to retrofit.

    Many home owners do not want the extra cost of energy efficiency features on a new house, if they don't plan to stay for 10-20 years. This is where building codes are really needed (insulation levels, heating efficeincy, etc.)

    We now live in Ontario, which has large nuclear and hydro capacity. I believe the former Liberal government had plans to not allow fossil fuel heating sources in new construction at some point in the future. The current Conservative government tends to not share the same ideals, though.

    Here is the diagram for Ontario, from the same source as the previous charts.

    Ontario electricity generation by fuel source

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