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2018 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Digest #41

October 14, 2018 - 5:58pm

Story of the Week... Opinion of the Week... Legal Matters... Toon of the Week... Coming Soon on SkS... Climate Feedback Reviews... SkS Week in Review... Poster of the Week...

Story of the Week... Hurricanes like Michael show why we can’t ignore climate change

The deadly storm came just days after a report on global warming

People walk through rubble after Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., on Saturday (Oct 13, 2018). (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

This past week was a grim one in climate history, by any measure.

First, an international group of scientists released a long-anticipated report (IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C) detailing in excruciating detail the extra damages we can expect unless we slam our foot on the fossil fuel brakes right now. Then, just a few days later, record-breaking Hurricane Michael came barreling out of the Gulf of Mexico with a late-breaking intensification that transformed the Florida Panhandle into a landscape straight out of a horror movie.

The fact that both events occurred within a few days of each other is pure coincidence, of course. But it does leave the feeling that Nature just put one or more planetary-scale exclamation marks on the main takeaway from the IPCC report: Act now to reduce emissions, or suffer the consequences!

Hurricanes like Michael show why we can’t ignore climate change, Perspective by Kim Cobb, Post Everything, Washington Post, Oct 14, 2018


Note: For more details about the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C see:

Links to additional article and opinion pieces about the IPCC's Special Report are included in the 2018 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #41 posted on this site yesterday.  

Opinion of the Week... Climate is not just changing – it is breaking down

Danger and destruction of global warming must trigger real modification of behaviour


Climate change or climate breakdown? Growth or wellbeing? Growth as development? Degrowth? Prosperity without growth? Climate capitalism or ecosocialism?

It matters hugely how this week’s news from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is framed in public debate. The most authoritative scientists tell us that unless global warming is limited to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial times, the world faces extreme weather events, food shortages, wildfires, dying coral reefs, droughts, floods and poverty for hundreds of millions.

To avoid this outcome, the world economy needs a transformation of unprecedented speed and scale, involving far-reaching changes in society. We have only 12 years, they say, to achieve it by making huge strides towards eliminating greenhouse gases arising from fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas. The report underlines the qualitative difference between the 1.5- and 2-degree reductions previously seen as less stark. The case for radical action is reinforced by its finding that on present trends we are heading for more than a 3-degree increase by 2100 – catastrophic territory.

Climate is not just changing – it is breaking down, Opinion by Paul Gillespie, Irish Times, Oct 13, 2018 

Legal Matters... Trump Administration Launches Third Legal ‘Hail Mary’ to Halt Youth Climate Case


The youth climate case Juliana v. United States has survived numerous Trump administration appeals to stop it from advancing to trial. Photo credit: Robin Loznak

The Trump administration has filed another extraordinary appeal in its attempt to avoid a trial in the landmark youth-led climate lawsuit, Juliana v. United States.

The government filed its third writ of mandamus petition to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to stay district court proceedings pending the resolution of a separate petition it plans to file with the Supreme Court next week. The Ninth Circuit denied the first two requests for a writ of mandamus—a rarely used and even more rarely approved judicial appeal that asks a higher court to overrule a lower one before the conclusion of a case—and the Supreme Court has already once denied a request by the federal government to halt discovery.

A writ of mandamus is usually granted only under extraordinary circumstances and is considered a legal last resort. The Ninth Circuit said after the first two requests  that the government has not shown it would be meaningfully burdened by discovery or a trial.

The trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 29 at U.S. District Court in Eugene, Ore.

Julia Olson, co-counsel for the plaintiffs, said there is nothing new in the government’s latest petition.

“To suggest that our government suffers harm greater than its citizens by having to participate in a trial when its youngest citizens bring legitimate claims of constitutional harm before our Article III courts flies in the face of democratic principles,” said Olson.;

Trump Administration Launches Third Legal ‘Hail Mary’ to Halt Youth Climate Case by Karen Savage, Climate Liability News, Oct 12, 2018 

Toon of the Week


Coming Soon on SkS...
  • There's one key takeaway point from the latest IPCC report (Dana)
  • SkS Analogy 15 - Ice Tea and Temperature Rise (Evan)
  • Climate change and compassion fatigue (Kate)
  • 1.5 Degree Climate Limit: Small Number; Huge Consequences (Climate Adam)
  • New research this week (Ari)
  • 2018 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #42 (John Hartz)
  • 2018 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Weekly Digest #42 (John Hartz)
Climate Feedback Reviews...

[To be added.] 

SkS Week in Review...  Poster of the Week...


2018 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #41

October 13, 2018 - 1:32pm
A chronological listing of news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week including numerous articles about the IPCC’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5oC and the Hurricane Michael-climate change connection, Editor's Pick Mary Robinson on climate change: ‘Feeling “This is too big for me” is no use to anybody’

The former president of Ireland has a new raison d’être: saving the planet. Yet, despite the dire warnings of this week’s IPCC report, she is surprisingly upbeat 


‘Human rights has always been a struggle’ ... Mary Robinson in her office in Dublin. Photograph: Johnny Savage/Guardian

On the morning that the world’s leading climate scientists warn that the planet has until 2030 to avert a global warming catastrophe, Mary Robinson appears suitably sombre. She wears black shoes, black trousers and a black sweater and perches at the end of a long table at her climate justice foundation, headquartered in an austere, imposing Georgian building opposite Trinity College Dublin. The only dash of brightness is a multicoloured brooch on her lapel. “It symbolises the sustainable development goals,” she says. “It’s the one good emblem that the United Nations has produced, so I like to wear it.”

There seems little reason for cheer on this Monday. The landmark report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has just warned that urgent, unprecedented changes are needed to keep global warming to a maximum of 1.5C; even half a degree beyond this will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. Donald Trump, rejecter of the Paris climate agreement, is riding high on the back of Brett Kavanaugh’s elevation to the US supreme court. Britain and the EU are consumed by Brexit Brazil is on course to elect a president who wants to open the Amazon to agribusiness. Closer to home, the Irish government is flunking its climate policy goals. Now, climate scientists warn that the clock ticks ever closer to midnight.

“Governments are not responding at all adequately to the stark reality that the IPCC is pointing to: that we have about 11 years to make really significant change,” says Robinson, sitting ramrod straight, all business. “This report is extraordinarily important, because it’s telling us that 2 degrees is not safe. It’s beyond safe. Therefore, we have to work much, much harder to stay at 1.5 degrees. I’ve seen what 1 degree is doing in more vulnerable countries ... villages are having to move, there’s slippage, there’s seawater incursion.”

Robinson sips a glass of water and sighs. “We’re in a bumpy time. We’re in a bad political cycle, particularly because the United States is not only not giving leadership, but is being disruptive of multilateralism and is encouraging populism in other countries.”

This could be the start of a depressing interview that concludes we should hitch a ride on Virgin Galactic’s first trip to space and try to stay there. But it turns out to be surprisingly upbeat. Despite the headlines, Robinson, who served as the UN secretary general’s special envoy on climate change after serving as the president of Ireland and the UN high commission for human rights, is hopeful. 

She has anticipated the IPCC report by writing a book-cum-manifesto, Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience and the Fight for a Sustainable Future, published this week. It tells stories of farmers and activists, mostly women, who tackle climate change in Africa, Asia and the Americas. They are examples of positive change that Robinson thinks can help turn the tide.

“I don’t think as a human race that we can be so stupid that we can’t face an existential threat together and find a common humanity and solidarity to respond to it. Because we do have the capacity and the means to do it – if we have the political will.”

Mary Robinson on climate change: ‘Feeling “This is too big for me” is no use to anybody’ by Rory Carroll, Science, Guardian, Oct 12, 2018 

Links posted on Facebook

Sun Oct 7, 2018

Mon Oct 8, 2018

Tue Oct 9, 2018

Wed Oct 10, 2018

Thu Oct 11, 2018

Fri Oct 12, 2018

Sat Oct 13, 2018

New research, October 1-7, 2018

October 12, 2018 - 4:34pm

A selection of new climate related research articles is shown below.

Climate change

Understanding the abrupt climate change in the mid-1970s from a phase-space transform perspective

Temperature, precipitation, wind

Distinguishing trends and shifts from memory in climate data

Persistence of observed air temperatures in Iceland

Revisiting the Mystery of Recent Stratospheric Temperature Trends (open access)

Establishment of a long-term lake-surface temperature dataset within the European Alps extending back to 1880 (open access)

Spatially variable warming of the Laurentian Great Lakes: an interaction of bathymetry and climate

Daily mean temperature estimate at the US SURFRAD stations as an average of the maximum and minimum temperatures

Importance of the El Niño teleconnection to the 21st century California wintertime extreme precipitation increase

Observed trends in temperature and rainfall in Bangladesh using pre-whitening approach

Later wet seasons with more intense rainfall over Africa under future climate change

Assessment of projected agro-climatic indices over Awun river basin, Nigeria for the late twenty-first century (open access)

“Dry gets drier, wet gets wetter”: A case study over the arid regions of central Asia

Extreme events

Selective Ensemble Mean Technique for Severe European Windstorms

A first collective validation of global fluvial flood models for major floods in Nigeria and Mozambique (open access)

Extreme precipitation events during 1960–2011 for the Northwest China: space-time changes and possible causes

Stronger Contributions of Urbanization to Heat Wave Trends in Wet Climates

Proxy‐Based Assessment of Strength and Frequency of Meteotsunamis in Future Climate

Forcings and feedbacks

The Relationship Between Cloud Radiative Effect and Surface Temperature Variability at El Niño‐Southern Oscillation Frequencies in CMIP5 Models

Anthropogenic Aerosol Indirect Effects in Cirrus Clouds

Atmospheric CO and CH4 time series and seasonal variations on Reunion Island from ground-based in situ and FTIR (NDACC and TCCON) measurements (open access)

Leaf Trait Acclimation Amplifies Simulated Climate Warming in Response to Elevated Carbon Dioxide (open access)

Long-term memory and multifractality of downwelling longwave radiation flux at the Earth’s surface

Effects of mixing state on optical and radiative properties of black carbon in the European Arctic (open access)


Greenland submarine melt water observed in the Labrador and Irminger Sea

Simulation of the future sea level contribution of Greenland with a new glacial system model (open access)

Oceanic heat delivery to the Antarctic continental shelf: Large‐scale, low‐frequency variability

Velocity increases at Cook Glacier, East Antarctica, linked to ice shelf loss and a subglacial flood event (open access)

Black carbon (BC) in a northern Tibetan mountain: effect of Kuwait fires on glaciers (open access)

Understanding the discharge regime of a glacierized alpine catchment in the Tianshan Mountains using an improved HBV-D hydrological model

Bright Prospects for Arctic Sea Ice Prediction on Subseasonal Time Scales (open access)

Warm Arctic, increased winter sea‐ice growth?

Changes in sea-surface temperature and atmospheric circulation patterns associated with reductions in Arctic sea ice cover in recent decades (open access)


Drivers, timing and some impacts of global aridity change (open access)

Fluvial response to a period of hydrometeorological change and landscape disturbance in the Canadian High Arctic

Analysis of spatial and temporal evolution of hydrological and meteorological elements in Nenjiang River basin, China

Atmospheric and oceanic circulation

The fast response of the tropical circulation to CO2forcing

Interaction between the black carbon aerosol warming effect and East Asian monsoon using RegCM4 (open access)

Ocean-Atmosphere Dynamical Coupling Fundamental to the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation

Carbon and nitrogen cycles

Divergent patterns of experimental and model-derived permafrost ecosystem carbon dynamics in response to Arctic warming (open access)

Climate change impacts 


Investigating the Relationship Between Climate and Valley Fever (Coccidioidomycosis)

Investigating the effect of climatic parameters on mental disorder admissions

Climate and the Global Famine of 1876-78 (open access)

Potential impacts of climate change on storage conditions for commercial agriculture: an example for potato production in Michigan

The consequences of change in management practices on maize yield under climate warming in Iran

Quantifying sources of uncertainty in projected wheat yield changes under climate change in eastern Australia

Adapting to sea level rise: Emerging governance issues in the San Francisco Bay Region

Responses of sub-Saharan smallholders to climate change: Strategies and drivers of adaptation

Mapping discourses of climate change adaptation in the United Kingdom


Satellite observations of enhanced chlorophyll variability in the Southern California Bight

A century of climate and land‐use change cause species turnover without loss of beta diversity in California's Central Valley

Impact of climate on the population dynamics of an alpine ungulate: a long-term study of the Tatra chamois Rupicapra rupicapra tatrica (open access)

Modelling climate change effects on Zagros forests in Iran using individual and ensemble forecasting approaches

Pivotal roles of environmental sensing and signaling mechanisms in plant responses to climate change (open access)

Links between recent trends in airborne pollen concentration, meteorological parameters and air pollutants

Northward expansion of the bivoltine life cycle of the cricket over the last four decades (open access)

Sound characteristics of Terapon Fish (Terapon jorbua) as a response to temperature changes

Implications of evergreen shrub expansion in the Arctic

Winter temperature structures mangrove species distributions and assemblage composition in China

Climate change mitigation

Maladaptation and development as usual? Investigating climate change mitigation and adaptation projects in Cambodia

Climate change communication

Perceptions of scientific consensus predict later beliefs about the reality of climate change using cross-lagged panel analysis: A response to Kerr and Wilson (2018)

Climate change is the World's greatest threat – In celsius or fahrenheit? (open access) 

Energy production

Coal-fired power plant regulatory rollback in the United States: Implications for local and regional public health

Projecting impacts of carbon dioxide emission reductions in the US electric power sector: evidence from a data-rich approach

Observation-based solar and wind power capacity factors and power densities (open access)

Variability of household fuelwood consumption in a rural Sudano-Sahelian context in Burkina Faso

CO2 emission changes of China's power generation system: Input-output subsystem analysis

Emission savings

Global projections of future cropland expansion to 2050 and direct impacts on biodiversity and carbon storage

Trends of the EU’s territorial and consumption-based emissions from 1990 to 2016

Global projections of future cropland expansion to 2050 and direct impacts on biodiversity and carbon storage

Characterization of trace gas emissions at an intermediate port (open access)

Explaining shifts in UK electricity demand using time use data from 1974 to 2014 (open access)

A longitudinal study of electricity consumption growth in Kenya

Accessing provincial energy efficiencies in China’s transport sector

The growing importance of scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions from industry

Other papers


A Wetter Arctic Coincident with Hemispheric Warming 8,000 Years Ago

Temperature seasonality in the North American continental interior during the Early Eocene Climatic Optimum (open access)

Other environmental issues 

Continued Emissions of the Ozone Depleting Substance Carbon Tetrachloride from Eastern Asia

Trends in China's anthropogenic emissions since 2010 as the consequence of clean air actions (open access)

Victims of Hurricane Michael voted for climate deniers

October 11, 2018 - 1:45am

Floridians are staring down a very powerful Category 4 typhoon that is causing extensive damage.  The high winds, heavy rains, and storm surge will cost billions of dollars.

We know that climate change is making these storms stronger.  The storms feed off of warm ocean waters, and those waters are much warmer now because of climate change. I have written about the science in more detail here and here.  But basically, Michael strengthened because it passed over really warm waters.  Waters that were hotter because of human-caused warming.

Water ocean temperatures around Florida as Hurricane Michael evolved. Illustration: NASA EOSDIS/LANCE

Predictably, the hurricane strengthened as it hit shore.  As I write this, Michael is coming ashore and the pressure is still falling (low pressures in a hurricane signify a stronger storm).  It appears that Michael may have the third-lowest pressure for a hurricane hitting the USA.

Infrared image of Hurricane Michael Photograph: NASA/NOAA/UW-SSEC-CIMSS, William Straka III

It is a wonder that a state like Florida, which will get pummeled by Michael, could vote for someone that denies climate change. Think of how backwards the situation is – the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has reportedly been banned from using the terms “climate change” and “global warming”. This policy reportedly went into effect when Florida elected a science denier, Rick Scott, to governor.

Rick Scott has been condemned by people in Florida for his backward stance.  It is climate denial like his that has contributed to the suffering of residents in the state.

It’s not that my colleagues haven’t tried to help Governor Scott understand how his policies hurt his state.  A few years ago, scientists met with him and urged him to take climate change seriously.  He remained silent.

It isn’t that the local media hasn’t tried. Major newspapers have called upon Rick Scott to take action on climate change.  But to little avail. Maybe it’s because Rick Scott invests in companies that oppose climate change regulations?

It isn’t that his political opponents haven’t tried.  Recently, Florida Democrats petitioned Rick Scott to acknowledge climate change.

Fortunately, while Rick Scott is now running for Senate, he’s being challenged by Democrat Bill Nelson.  He understands science and believes in facts.  Nelson writes,

Climate change is real, and we must take action to protect ourselves.  Denial of this scientific reality is simply not an option, especially in Florida.

Rick Scott isn’t the only politician from the state of Florida to reject science and diminish climate change. Senator Marco Rubio has as well.

Florida voters could put an end to this nonsense.  In the current race for state Governor to succeed Scott, Republican candidate Ron DeSantis is ignoring science.  He recently claimed that climate change is not an issue for states to mitigate.  Say what?

Let’s hope Ron DeSantis loses.  His opponent is Andrew Gillum, who is clear as day when he says,

Climate change is real, it is impacting Floridians directly, and we will not be silenced on the matter. When I’m Governor, we will not just talk about climate change — we will put Floridians to work to make our state more energy independent and resilient and transform our state into the Solar Capital of the United States!

But it’s not just Florida; there are other states getting hit by Hurricane Michael that are also led by climate deniers. For instance, Georgia will be hit by Hurricane Michael.  One of the senators there, David Perdue, congratulated President Trump when he pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord. Georgia’s other Senator, Johnny Isakson also denies the science. He too supported President Trump’s reckless actions.

At the congressional district level, the denial continues.  Republican Representative Barry Loudermilk was pleased when President Trump walked away from the Paris Agreement. His opponent, Flynn Broady trusts and understands science, however.  His position could not be any clearer as he writes,

We have the technology and knowledge to develop and place into practice renewable energy sources, reduce carbon emissions, and move our energy needs away from carbon fuels. We owe it to the world to participate in the Paris Agreement and the Kyoto Protocol. As the leading industrial nation we must lead the effort.

Click here to read the rest

SkS Analogy 14 - Inertia and Inevitability

October 10, 2018 - 2:36am
Tag Line

Inertia is your friend … until it isn’t.

Elevator Statement

Inertia delays the response …
  But for each CO2 level there is a guaranteed response …
        Be patient, the response is coming …
                     And when it finally comes there’s no going back.

Tie a rubber band to a weight. Move your hand rapidly1 away from the weight,2 stop your hand,3 wait, and the slowly accelerating weight will eventually slam into your hand.4

Think of your hand as CO2 concentration and the weight as atmospheric temperature. Moving your hand quickly is like rapidly increasing CO2 concentration.5 The motion of the weight is like rising atmospheric temperature, where the position of the weight is an indication of atmospheric temperature. A heavy weight causes a large time delay between the motion of your hand and the motion of the weight, similar to the delay between GreenHouse-Gas (GHG) emissions and warming caused by the thermal inertia of the oceans.

So just like connecting your hand to a weight with a rubber band, moving your hand quickly does not guarantee that the weight will initially move quickly. But if you are patient, and if you experiment by moving your hand at different rates, you will find that the quicker and further you move your hand the faster and harder the weight will eventually slam into your hand. You just have to be patient to let the weight catch up.

For another example of the effect of inertia in a system with a small force moving a large weight we turn to NASA. NASA uses solar-powered ion thrusters to power its current generation of deep-space voyagers. Ion thrusters use electrical energy provided by solar panels to accelerate individual xenon atoms, ejecting them at high velocity out the back of the rocket engine. The beauty of ion thrusters is that they combine an essentially infinite energy source (i.e., the sun), together with on-board fuel (xenon) to provide high-efficiency propulsion. The down side is that the thrust/weight ratio is so low that it may take months to years for the probe to reach maximum velocity.

Noting that the heating effect of GHGs in Earth’s atmosphere is relatively low, and that the mass of the oceans is massive, just as ion-thrust engines require months to years to accelerate their payload up to maximum speed, GHGs in Earth’s atmosphere require years to decades to accelerate their “payload” up to maximum temperature, with a typical cause-and-effect time constant of about 30 years: the length of a typical house mortgage.

Climate Science

The reason for the disconnect between the doom and gloom climate scientists are forecasting and the relatively mild6 climate we still enjoy is that climate scientists have their eyes on the hand pulling the rubber band, realizing the climate we are locking in, whereas climate-change deniers have their eyes on the weight, preaching its perceived stability (i.e., “No warming in ??? years”7) and lack of movement above historical extremes (i.e., "It’s been warmer before" argument). While the world “enjoys” the climate we have (i.e., the current position of the weight in our rubber band analogy), climate scientists “see” the climate to which we are committing ourselves (i.e., the position of the hand pulling on the rubber band). The year-to-year increase of CO2 concentrations commit us to an increasingly more difficult future, with temperatures already committed to rise higher than they’ve been in ??? million years.8  The commitment has to do with how far we’re stretching the rubber band, and the delay is due to just how heavy a weight we are pulling. Oceans covering 75% of the surface of the Earth to an average depth of 2 miles represent a really big weight that imposes about a 30-year delay between GHG emissions and rising temperatures. So, how’s that house-building project coming along? Will your house withstand the climate we inherit at the end of your mortgage?

Increasing GHG concentrations is like stretching the rubber band: try to increase surface temperature but end up slow heating the oceans first. Because the temperatures (effect) lag the increased GHG concentrations (cause), some interpret this as meaning that GHGs do not cause global warming and that the scientific theories about the greenhouse effect are incorrect. Worse yet, because the actual system is much more complicated than a simple rubber band and a weight, natural fluctuations in the global weather patterns can mask the cause-effect relationship, making it difficult to relate observed warming to measured GHG concentrations. Waiting until the cause-effect relationship is obvious to non-scientists is waiting too long.

Figure 1 shows the temperature anomaly we expect for a given level of CO2 (left curve) as well as the observed temperature anomaly (right curve). The difference between the expected and observed temperatures is due to the thermal inertia of the oceans. Figure 1 indicates that we now clearly see the relationship between cause (increased GHG concentrations) and effect (rising temperatures) with an observed lag of about 30 years. The observed temperatures show much more year-to-year fluctuations than the expected temperature anomalies because

  • The expected temperature anomalies are based only on the measured CO2 concentrations and assuming a climate sensitivity of 3°C/doubling CO2, whereas
  • The observed temperature anomalies include natural variations such as El Nino/La Nina cycles, solar activity, temperature reduction due to air pollution and volcanic eruptions, etc.

But the average, overall trend of the measured anomalies is unmistakably following what we expect from measured CO2 concentrations, with a time lag of about 30 years, driven by the inertia of the oceans.

Figure 1. The orange dots show the temperature anomaly we’re committed to based on CO2 concentrations and assuming a climate sensitivity of 3°C warming/doubling CO2. The blue dots show the measured temperature anomaly.

How Inertia Affects our View of Climate Science

Deniers, optimists, and realists all accept (for the most part) that we have exceeded 410 ppm CO2 in 2018. However, the thermal inertia of the oceans may be part of the reason they differ in their interpretation of what 410 ppm CO2 means. Thinking of the rubber band analogy …

  • Deniers preach based on the position of the weight (i.e., 1°C warming)
  • Optimists preach based on the current position of the rubber band9 (i.e., 1.5°C warming corresponding to 400+ ppm CO2)
  • Realists preach based on how long civilization will keep stretching the rubber band (i.e., 2+°C warming)

Nobody knows when civilization will stop stretching the rubber band, so it is wise to hope for the best (2°C warming) but prepare for the worst (3+°C warming).

Figure 2 shows 12-month averages of the measured CO2 concentrations, also known as the Keeling Curve, represented as gray circles. The data spans from the first measurements in 1958 to the present. That’s 60 years of data indicating a consistent, persistent upward acceleration. If we fit a quadratic function to this data and use it to extrapolate the rise forward,10 we can estimate where we’re headed. The reason for this exercise is that the Keeling Curve is actual, measured data of how the entire Atmosphere-Ocean-Biosphere-Human system is responding, and it accounts for all emissions, carbon sinks, positive feedbacks, and atmospheric accumulation, accounting for how humans have responded over the years. It is therefore a realistic assessment of where we’ve come from and where we’re heading in the absence of meaningful intervention. We say meaningful intervention, because even during 30 years of increasing awareness of climate change and the rapid rise in renewable energy of the last 10 years, the Keeling Curve continues its unabated upward acceleration. To interrupt the upward trend shown in Fig. 2, we must do everything we can to rapidly reduce our GHG emissions.

Figure 2. 12-month averages of the measured CO2 concentrations, known as the Keeling curve, shown as gray circles. The curve through the data is a quadratic fit, extrapolated to the year 2100, assuming the same overall behavior as during the 60 years of data currently comprising the Keeling curve (based on NOAA data). The dotted line to the right shows the temperature to which each CO2 level corresponds, and the date when this temperature can be expected to be realized, based on a 30-year time lag due to the thermal inertia of the oceans. The red circle represents what Climate-Change deniers focus on (i.e., the current temperature anomaly), the blue circle represents what optimists focus on (i.e., the temperature we’ve locked in), and the black circle represents what the realists focus on, where we’re heading under current policies.

To the right of the Keeling Curve is a curve that mirrors the Keeling Curve, but with an offset of 30 years. This line is a projection of the temperature response, assuming a 30-year delay due to the thermal inertia of the oceans and assuming a climate sensitivity of 3°C/doubling CO2. The green open circle marks when we locked in 1°C temperature rise, the red open circle marks when we realized 1°C temperature rise, the blue open circle marks when we locked in 1.5°C temperature rise, and the black open circle marks when we can expect to lock in 3°C warming, assuming that Figure 2 is representative of how CO2 will rise.

What this means is that at the point that we realized 1°C warming, we had already locked in 1.5°C warming. Looking ahead, if the Keeling Curve follows the same upward trajectory in the future as it has in the past, by the time we realize 2°C warming, we will have already locked in 3°C warming! This increasing spread between realized and lock-in temperature is due to the projected upward acceleration of the Keeling Curve.

Climate scientists and the IPCC still talk about a remaining budget to stay below 1.5°C warming, whereas Fig. 2 indicates we have already locked in 1.5°C. What's the difference between these viewpoints? Figure 2 shows what is happening, IPCC models talk about what needs to happen to stay below a given target. If we were to reduce net GHG emissions to near zero within a couple of decades, there is a chance we could keep warming to near 1.5°C. This is unlikely, but technically possible (whether it's politically possible is another matter). To meet IPCC targets requires action for which the world has shown a lack of appetite. Figure 2 shows where we are headed. Are you prepared to respond to the IPCC challenge to get us off the upward trajectory? Be thankful that inertia delays the response, giving us time to react. 1°C is here, and given the lack of appetite for responding to the challenge, we are likely out of time to stay below 1.5°C warming. Warming to an unsafe level (i.e., 2°C or higher) appears inevitable without rapid intervention. No matter what temperature we reach or stabilize at, it’s time to prepare. The good thing about the immense inertia in the system response is that it gives us time to prepare.

From Fear to Hope for the Future ... and your Children

Inertia is your friend … until it isn’t.

Hope for the future lies in the fact that inertia slows the response. This slowed response gives us time to prepare and to mitigate. If we stabilize CO2 concentrations at some level, such as 450 ppm, then the temperature will slowly rise to a level corresponding to that GHG concentration, which is likely 2°C above preindustrial temperatures. However, if we were to somehow bring net GHG emissions to 0 (this is extremely unlikely and would require sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere), then Earth will reabsorb much of the CO2 already in the atmosphere, and CO2 concentrations would begin to decrease on their own. Therefore, the huge inertia in Earth's system gives us time not just to prepare for certain bad effects of climate change, but to mitigate to help Earth's natural systems partially restore balance. To bring net GHG emissions to 0 requires that we control GHG emissions from the following sources

  • Electricity generation
  • Car, trucks, buses, ships, planes, etc.
  • Home and building heating/cooling systems
  • GHG emissions from animals
  • Deforestation
  • Cement
  • Etc.

as well as to pursue technologies to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

What can you do to help?

Additional reading Footnotes

1. Your hand represents GHG concentrations. Moving implies increasing GHG concentration. Moving it rapidly implies rapidly increasing GHGs.
2. The weight represents the thermal inertia of the oceans. The heavier the weight, the larger the implied inertia and the longer it takes for the weight to start to move. The position of the weight represents temperature, and speed of the weight represents the rate of increase of temperature.
3. Stopping our hand would represent successful implementation of the Paris Accord to successfully cap GHG emissions.
4. Slamming into your hand is comparable to the effect of rising temperature on storms and our climate. This is where this analogy breaks down, because if we keep stretching the rubber band negative climate effects will occur, whether or not the weight ever catches up with our hand.
5. For this analogy we assume there is no friction between the weight and the surface it sits on. Therefore, once the rubber band is pulled, the weight will move. It is just a question of quickly it responds to the stretched rubber band.
6. We mean no disrespect to the many people suffering the effects of more intense hurricanes, drought, floods, wildfires, and the like, which climate scientists are increasingly associating with climate change. For the average person, however, the climate has not yet affected them in a way that is readily distinguished from the climate to which they have become accustomed.
7. The number represented by the question marks changes from year to year, but a favorite benchmark is 1998, the year of a monster El Nino that caused larger than normal global warming.
8. The number represented by the question marks continues to change, partly due to the uncertainty of just how hot it was millions of years ago, and partly because each year that it gets hotter the further back we have to go to find a time when it was equally hot.
9. The additional assumption is that civilization will soon stop stretching the rubber band.
10. A quadratic function fits the 60 years of data with R2 = 0.99, indicating a very consistent trend over the 60 years of measurement.
11. We are not disputing their validity, just preferring to stick with the Keeling Curve.

The Trump administration has entered Stage 5 climate denial

October 8, 2018 - 1:37am

A cartoon illustration of the Trump administration’s climate policy logic Illustration: John Cook

Several years ago, I wrote about the five stages of climate denial.  To date, the Trump administration has pinballed between Stages 1, 2, and 3, calling climate change a Chinese hoaxdisputing the degree of human causation (100% since 1950), and claiming it’s not a threat.  But the purpose of climate science denial is to obstruct climate policies, and science denial doesn’t hold up in court.  Unlike in the political realm, judicial decisions are generally based on evidence. 

The Trump administration wants to roll back the Obama administration’s increased vehicle fuel efficiency standards.  But under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), “if a proposed major federal action is determined to significantly affect the quality of the human environment,” the agency has to publish an environmental impact statement (EIS).

Vehicle fuel efficiency standards to date (blue) and required under the Obama administration rules (green) and the Trump administration’s proposal (red) Illustration: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

And so, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was required to publish an EIS detailing how the proposed fuel efficiency rollbacks would impact the environment, including via climate change.  Here, the Trump administration shifted to Stage 4 and 5 climate denial.

We’re screwed anyway, what’s the big deal?

In modeling the proposal’s climate impact, the NHTSA assumed we will follow a scenario in which Earth’s average surface temperatures will warm 3.5°C (6.3°F) by 2100.  That’s surprisingly realistic – it’s a scenario in which countries follow through with their current climate policies but don’t enact any more stringent ones in the future.  The problem is that the NHTSA assessment then concluded the fuel efficiency rollbacks aren’t important because they won’t have a significant impact on those hotter global temperatures:

The impacts of the Proposed Action [freezing fuel efficiency standards] and alternatives on global mean surface temperature, precipitation, sea level, and ocean pH would be extremely small in relation to global emissions trajectories. This is because of the global and multi-sectoral nature of climate change. These effects would be small, would occur on a global scale, and would not disproportionately affect the United States.

This is true.  The Trump administration proposal decreases vehicle fuel efficiency requirements in the United States for the years 2020–2025.  Of course it won’t have a big global impact relative to all greenhouse gas emissions from two centuries of burning fossil fuels.  The report continues:

The emissions reductions necessary to keep global emissions within this carbon budget could not be achieved solely with drastic reductions in emissions from the U.S. passenger car and light truck vehicle fleet but would also require drastic reductions in all U.S. sectors and from the rest of the developed and developing world.

We could make this argument about literally any and every individual climate policy.  Just like a single step won’t move a person safely out of the path of an oncoming truck, no single climate policy will significantly change global temperatures eight decades from now.  It will take a myriad of climate policies passed by countries all around the world.  That’s precisely why virtually every country signed the Paris climate agreement.  The report’s maddening illogic doesn’t stop there:

Click here to read the rest

2018 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Digest #40

October 7, 2018 - 2:20pm

Calls to Action... Story of the Week... Editorial of the Week... SkS Highlights... El Niño/La Niña Update... Toon of the Week... Quote of the Week... Graphic of the Week... SkS in the News... Photo of the Week... SkS Spotlights... Video of the Week... Reports of Note... Coming Soon on SkS... Climate Feedback Reviews... SkS Week in Review... Poster of the Week...

Calls to Action*

 Looking ahead...



Looking inside...



Looking behind...

Something that flew under my radar screen when it was released earlier this year... 



*The views expressed in this section are those of John Hartz and do not necessarily reflect  consensus views of the SkS author team — it's virtually impossible to achieve consensus among a herd of cats. 

Story of the Week...


Editorial of the Week...


SkS Highlights...


El Niño/La Niña Update...


Toon of the Week...


Quote of the Week...


Graphic of the Week...


SkS in the News...


Photo of the Week...


SkS Spotlights...


Video of the Week...


Reports of Note...


Coming Soon on SkS...


Climate Feedback Reviews...


SkS Week in Review... 


Poster of the Week...


2018 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #40

October 6, 2018 - 1:25pm
A chronological listing of news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week. Editor's Pick The Nihilism of Trump’s Climate Policy

The administration cites the likelihood of catastrophic global temperature rise to justify gutting fuel-efficiency standards. Yes, you read that correctly.

A firefighter works to control the Delta Fire in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, California, in September 2018. Noah Berger/AP

The Washington Post dove deep into a draft statement issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last week and found buried within it a startling admission.

Planet Earth, the agency’s analysts observed, is currently on track to warm by approximately 4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. But that’s not the startling thing I’m referring to. This is: The statement’s authors were passing along this bit of news in order to lend support to the administration’s decision to weaken fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks built after 2020.

That’s right: The United States government is basically making the argument that reducing carbon pollution from cars can’t save us—so why bother?

This is, to put it mildly, a twist on the usual rules of engagement between those who advocate for climate action and those who don’t. We’re used to fighting skepticism. But outright nihilism? That’s a new one. 

The Nihilism of Trump’s Climate Policy by Jeff Turrentine, On Earth, NRDC, Oct 5, 2018 

Links posted on Facebook

Sun Sep 30, 2018

Mon Oct 1, 2018

Tue Oct 2, 2018

Wed Oct 3, 2018

Thu Oct 4, 2018

Fri Oct 6, 2018

Sat Oct 7, 2018

New research, September 24-30, 2018

October 5, 2018 - 4:25pm

A selection of new climate related research articles is shown below.

Climate change mitigation

Climate change communication

Enduring Extremes? Polar Vortex, Drought, and Climate Change Beliefs

Not in my back yard: Egocentrism and climate change skepticism across the globe

Climate Policy

Environmental integrity of international carbon market mechanisms under the Paris Agreement (open access)

Altruism and Global Environmental Taxes (open access)

International trade and the distribution of economy-wide benefits from the disbursement of climate finance

Energy production

Current perspectives on nuclear energy as a global climate change mitigation option

Changes in soil organic carbon stocks after conversion from forest to oil palm plantations in Malaysian Borneo (open access)

Curtailment of renewable energy in Northwest China and market-based solutions

Assessing the impact of drought on the emissions- and water-intensity of California's transitioning power sector

Emission savings

The crux with reducing emissions in the long-term: The underestimated “now” versus the overestimated “then” (open access)

Observing local CO2 sources using low-cost, near-surface urban monitors (open access)

Carbon emissions from South‐East Asian peatlands will increase despite emission‐reduction schemes (open access)

Changes in Irrigation Practices likely Mitigate Nitrous Oxide Emissions from California Cropland

Effect of dung quantity and quality on greenhouse gas fluxes from tropical pastures in Kenya

Climate change

Consensus in climate classifications for present climate and global warming scenarios

Climate, history, and culture in the United States

Temperature, precipitation, wind

Air temperature and lapse rate variation in the ice‐free and glaciated areas of northern James Ross Island, Antarctic Peninsula, during 2013–2016

Decadal differences of the diurnal temperature range in the Aral Sea region at the turn of the century (open access)

Observed changes in maximum and minimum temperatures over China- Pakistan economic corridor during 1980–2016

Disproportionate magnitude of climate change in United States national parks (open access)

Influence of source and scale of gridded temperature data on modelled spring onset patterns in the conterminous United States (open access)

Temperature Trends and Anomalies in Modern Satellite Data: Infrared Sounding and GPS Radio Occultation

The Role of Melting Snow in the Ocean Surface Heat Budget

On the statistical significance of climatic trends estimated from GPS tropospheric time series

How well do stratospheric reanalyses reproduce high-resolution satellite temperature measurements? (open access)

Short warm-side temperature distribution tails drive hotspots of warm temperature extreme increases under near-future warming

Seasonal prediction of high‐resolution temperature at 2‐m height over Mongolia during boreal winter using both coupled general circulation model and artificial neural network (open access)

Spatial and temporal variations of summer hot days and heat waves and their relationships with large‐scale atmospheric circulations across Northeast China

Future evolution of extreme precipitation in the Mediterranean

Assessment of climate change for extreme precipitation indices: A case study from the central United States

Extreme events

California's Drought of the Future: A Midcentury Recreation of the Exceptional Conditions of 2012‐2017 (open access)

A winter-season lightning climatology for the contiguous United States

Effects of Climate Change on Wind-Driven Heavy Snowfall Events over Eastern North America

Projected changes in drought across the wheat belt of southeastern Australia using a downscaled climate ensemble

More prolonged droughts by the end of the century in the Middle East (open access)

Does forest cover help prevent flood damage? Empirical evidence from India

Impacts of El Niño–Southern Oscillation on heat waves in the Indochina peninsula (open access)

Forcings and feedbacks

The global warming potential of near-surface emitted water vapour (open access)

How well are clouds simulated over Greenland in climate models? Consequences for the surface cloud radiative effect over the ice sheet

Asymmetric Cloud‐Shortwave Radiation‐Sea Surface Temperature Feedback of Ningaloo Niño/Niña

Time evolution of the cloud response to moisture intrusions into the Arctic during winter

Mineral Weathering and the Permafrost Carbon‐Climate Feedback

Total ozone characteristics associated with regional meteorology in West Antarctica


Recent Third Pole’s rapid warming accompanies cryospheric melt and water cycle intensification and interactions between monsoon and environment: multi-disciplinary approach with observation, modeling and analysis (open access)

The Trajectory Towards a Seasonally Ice-Free Arctic Ocean (open access)

Changing state of Arctic sea ice across all seasons (open access)

Satellite-derived sea ice export and its impact on Arctic ice mass balance (open access)

Drivers of Antarctic sea ice volume change in CMIP5 models

Surface Meltwater Impounded by Seasonal Englacial Storage in West Greenland

Dual-satellite (Sentinel-2 and Landsat 8) remote sensing of supraglacial lakes in Greenland (open access)

Modeling the effect of Ross Ice Shelf melting on the Southern Ocean in quasi-equilibrium (open access)

Ocean stratification and low melt rates at the Ross Ice Shelf grounding zone

Spatial distributions and temporal variations of the near-surface soil freeze state across China under climate change

Cover Crops May Cause Winter Warming in Snow‐Covered Regions


Partitioning Evapotranspiration Over the Continental United States Using Weather Station Data

Hydrological response of biological soil crusts to global warming: A ten‐year simulative study (open access)

Atmospheric and oceanic circulation

North American weather regimes are becoming more persistent: Is Arctic amplification a factor? (open access)

Lagrangian transport across the upper Arctic waters in the Canadian Basin

Evaluation of subtropical North Atlantic ocean circulation in CMIP5 models against the observational array at 26.5°N and its changes under continued warming (open access)

Performance of the CMIP5 models in the simulation of the Himalaya-Tibetan Plateau monsoon

Carbon and nitrogen cycles

Inconsistent response of Arctic permafrost peatland carbon accumulation to warm climate phases

Legacies of past land use have a stronger effect on forest carbon exchange than future climate change in a temperate forest landscape (open access)

The fate of carbon and nutrients exported out of the Southern Ocean

The response of the marine nitrogen cycle to ocean acidification (open access)

Climate change impacts 


Influence of changes in socioeconomic and climatic conditions on future heat-related health challenges in Europe

Weekly heat wave death prediction model using zero-inflated regression approach

The influence of large-scale factors on the heat load on human beings in Poland in the summer months

Taking Stock: the Field of Climate and Security

Mapping the vulnerability of European summer tourism under 2 °C global warming

The impact of future climate change and potential adaptation methods on Maize yields in West Africa

Developing signals to trigger adaptation to sea-level rise (open access)


Thresholds and drivers of coral calcification responses to climate change (open access)

Physiological and biochemical responses of a coralline alga and a sea urchin to climate change: Implications for herbivory

Spring temperature, migration chronology, and nutrient allocation to eggs in three species of arctic‐nesting geese: Implications for resilience to climate warming (open access)

Species‐specific phenological trends in shallow Pampean lakes’ (Argentina) zooplankton driven by contemporary climate change in the Southern Hemisphere (open access)

Controls of terrestrial ecosystem nitrogen loss on simulated productivity responses to elevated CO2 (open access)

Combined effects of warming and nutrients on marine communities are moderated by predators and vary across functional groups

Using species traits to guide conservation actions under climate change

Adaptation pathways for conservation law and policy

Response of tropical terrestrial gross primary production to the super El Niño event in 2015

Mismatch in elevational shifts between satellite observed vegetation greenness and temperature isolines during 2000–2016 on the Tibetan Plateau (open access) 

Other papers

General climate science

Lapse Rate or Cold Point: The Tropical Tropopause Identified by In Situ Trace Gas Measurements


Cold tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures during the late sixteenth‐century North American megadrought

Evidence of meltwater pulses into the North Pacific over the last 20 ka due to the decay of Kamchatka Glaciers and Cordilleran Ice Sheet

Other environmental issues 

Humans are the most significant global geomorphological driving force of the 21st century

Who is legally responsible for deaths caused by air pollution?

How Arctic lakes accelerate permafrost carbon losses

October 3, 2018 - 1:50am

This is a re-post from Carbon Brief.  Dr Ingmar Nitze is a postdoctoral researcher at the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI); Dr Guido Grosse is head of the Permafrost Research Section at AWI and professor of permafrost in the Earth system at the University of PotsdamDr Thomas Schneider von Deimling is a senior scientist at AWI; and Dr Katey Walter Anthony is an aquatic ecosystem ecologist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

As the climate warms, there is increasing concern around thawing of carbon-rich permafrost across the Arctic. Carbon emissions from this perennially frozen land have the potential to reinforce global warming.

Adding to this risk, the Arctic is also pockmarked by millions of small ponds and lakes, formed as the frozen soil thaws, collapses and fills with melted ice, snow and rain. These lakes accelerate thawing of the surrounding land, ramping up how much carbon the land emits.

In our recent study, published in Nature Communications, we have – for the first time – estimated the global carbon emissions from permafrost thaw beneath and around Arctic lakes.

And our findings suggest this rapid thaw has the potential to double how much permafrost carbon is released this century.

Giant freezer

Permafrost covers around a quarter of the non-glaciated land in the northern hemisphere, including large parts of Siberia, Alaska, northern Canada and the Tibetan plateau.

Permafrost soils lock in old plant and animal remains like a giant freezer. This a carbon-rich combination of roots, leaves and peat that covered the vast tundra-steppe and interspersed wetlands of the last ice age. It also includes mammoths and other iconic animals of the time.

As its name suggests, permafrost is permanently frozen, However, during the short summer season, the uppermost part of the soil – known as the “active layer” – briefly thaws. This layer is, perhaps, just a few tens of centimetres deep.

However, a warming climate puts an increasing amount of permafrost at risk of thawing. And it is not only contending with the steady rise in global average temperatures, but also “Arctic amplification” – the rapid warming in the Earth’s northernmost latitudes in response to melting sea ice and declining snow cover.

This warming leads to a deepening of the active layer and thawing of previously frozen plant remains – containing old carbon that was deposited and frozen over the course of several thousand of years. Once thawed, microbes set about consuming the plant and animal remains, releasing CO2 in well-drained upland locations.

A deepening active layer also mobilises nutrients that stimulate growth of new plants. The CO2 uptake of these new plants will likely outweigh the losses of old permafrost carbon during this century. However, beyond 2100, deeper thaw of the active layer will become more important, leading to large net losses of soil carbon for at least the next two centuries.

Once soil carbon emissions exceed plant uptake, this self-reinforcing process – known as the “permafrost-carbon feedback” – will lead to further climate warming and make the monitoring of remote permafrost regions even more important.

However, gradual thaw alone does not tell the entire story.

Thermokarst lakes

Among permafrost scientists and people living on permafrost, rapid thaw processes are a well-known phenomenon, but their impact on carbon emissions has historically not been quantified.

Rapid thaw of permafrost occurs when large volumes of ground-ice melt, the ground subsides and the resulting depression fills with meltwater, rain and snow. This process is known as “thermokarst”.

Eroding permafrost along the shoreline of an expanding thermokarst lake in northern Alaska. Credit: I. Nitze

In water-logged and impermeable permafrost soils, the small ponds formed within these depressions may grow rapidly within a few years or decades to form larger lakes. As water has a greater capacity for holding heat than land does, these ponds and lakes take in summer warmth and become efficient thawing machines of the surrounding and underlying permafrost. As the graphic below illustrates, this eats away frozen soils and its organic remains.

Schematic of gradual, top-down thaw in upland permafrost and abrupt thaw beneath lakes. Source: Walter Anthony et al. (2018)

The carbon that has accumulated for tens of thousands of years in the soil is, thus, turned into into liquid, smelly mud in oxygen-free lake bottoms, providing a feast for organic carbon-munching microbes. The process itself is irreversible.

In its early stages, permafrost thaw below and around ponds occurs only during summer and autumn, when the ponds are ice-free. During typical cold Arctic winters, land and lakes freeze over and lake-ice can grow to one or two meters deep, freezing the entire water body of shallow ponds.

However, this seasonal pattern is seriously affected by warming of the Arctic, where lake ice becomes thinner and ice cover duration is shortening dramatically. Ponds that no longer freeze to the bottom are known as “thermokarst lakes”. Thawing conditions on the lake bottom now prevails throughout the entire year, even during winter.

Quickly growing early-stage thermokarst ponds in ice-rich permafrost on the Baldwin peninsula in north-western Alaska. Credit: J. Lenz

Microbes and methane

In our study, we identified thermokarst lakes where sediments had thawed as much as 15 metres deep within only half a century. Remember, this is compared to a typical thaw in tundra soils of the order of tens of centimetres.

Thriving in above-freezing temperatures, microbes start to rework old previously frozen and well-preserved plant remains and produce CO2 and – the even more potent greenhouse gas – methane. Rising up from the bottom of thermokarst lakes, methane bubbles trapped in lake ice are a sign of year-round methane production and emissions.

Captured methane bubbles in lake-ice in central Alaska. Credit: K. Walter Anthony

It is worth noting that lakes will not necessarily just keep on growing. The landscape today is already densely carpeted with lakes, rivers, gullies and other topographic gradients so that growing lakes may also easily drain, merge or eventually dry out.

Similarly, new permafrost can form on the former lake bottom and new biomass can grow and get buried in wet and boggy conditions, leading to an uptake of of carbon from the atmosphere.

However, the carbon release from expanding lakes strongly outweighs carbon uptake from lake loss over decadal – and, thus, human-relevant – timescales.

Global impact

So, what do thermokarst lakes mean for carbon emissions on global scales?

Lakes in permafrost regions come in bunches and occur anywhere with flat ground in the northern high latitudes. Many of them are glacial lakes, carved by glacial ice into bedrock basins where there is not much leeway for expansion by thawing.

However, millions of lakes across the ice-rich permafrost deposits of the Arctic lowlands are affected by rapid thermokarst development. Owing to their vast abundance and comparably small size, monitoring their dynamics and modelling their influence on the climate has been a major challenge.

For the first time – and in a large collaborative effort of teams from Alaska and Germany – we have quantified the impact of rapid thaw on global carbon emissions. Using a combination of field observations in Alaska and Siberia, remote sensing of lake dynamics and global-scale permafrost, and climate model simulations, we have drawn a more complete picture of how these lakes could affect greenhouse gas release and its impact on the climate.

For example, time series of satellite data collected over large parts of Alaska helped us to find and understand patterns of lake changes over large regions. While our model simulations of future permafrost degradation account for thermokarst lake formation and its dynamics in a warming world.

Globally important

Our results show that rapid thaw matters.

Not only do our findings reveal that rapid thaw will have a strong impact on carbon emissions from permafrost this century, in a high warming, business-as-usual scenario (“RCP8.5”), it more than doubles the previously estimated carbon release from gradual thaw alone.

Even under moderate-emission scenarios with a reduction of human-caused carbon emissions (known as “RCP4.5”), rapid thaw will play a major role in permafrost-related carbon cycling, outpacing emissions from gradual thaw.

The majority of the carbon released through rapid thaw would be in the form of methane. Taking these emissions into account, the permafrost-carbon feedback by the end of the century could become as strong as the second strongest human-caused source of greenhouse gases today – land use change.

Our findings show that the lack of understanding of Arctic lake dynamics and the neglect of implementing these aspects into global climate models can result in strongly underestimating greenhouse gas emissions from degrading permafrost landscapes.

Formation and expansion of thermokarst lakes will accelerate the release of permafrost carbon. This means that the permafrost-carbon feedback will be globally important within several decades from now as opposed to centuries.

Our research was supported by NASA’s Arctic Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (“ABoVE”) programme, the European Research Council “PETA-CARB” project, the European Space Agency’s “GlobPermafrost” initiative, the German government’s “PermaRisk” project, and the National Science Foundation ARCSS programme.

Walter Anthony, K. M., et al. (2018) 21st-century modeled permafrost carbon emissions accelerated by abrupt thaw beneath lakes, Nature Communications, doi:10.1038/s41467-018-05738-9

New study finds incredibly high carbon pollution costs – especially for the US and India

October 1, 2018 - 1:39am

The social cost of carbon is a measure of the economic damages caused (via climate change) by each ton of carbon pollution that we produce today.  It’s difficult to estimate because of physical, economic, and ethical uncertainties.  For example, it’s difficult to predict exactly when various climate tipping points will be triggered, how much their damages will cost, and there’s also a question about how much we value the welfare of future generations (which is incorporated in the choice of ‘discount rate’).

In 2013, the Obama administration set the federal social cost of carbon estimate at $37 per ton of carbon dioxide (up from the previous estimate of $22).  That was a conservative estimate – in recent years, research has pegged the value closer to $200 because recent research has shown that global warming slows economic growth, which makes it quite expensive.  A majority of economists in a 2015 survey believed the federal estimate was too low, but Republicans have recently been trying to dramatically lower it anyway.

The Republican argument is twofold.  First, that we should only consider domestic climate costs (the federal estimate is of global costs, because our carbon pollution doesn’t just hover in the air above America).  Second, that instead of trying to stop climate change now, we should just save our money and let future generations pay for its costs (by using a high discount rate).

The social cost of carbon is much higher yet

A new study led by UC San Diego’s Katharine Ricke published in Nature Climate Change found that not only is the global social cost of carbon dramatically higher than the federal estimate – probably between $177 and $805 per ton, most likely $417 – but that the cost to America is around $50 per ton.  That’s the second-highest in the world behind India’s $90, and is also higher than the current federal estimate for the global social cost of carbon.

That’s a remarkable conclusion worth repeating.  Ricke’s team found that the cost of carbon pollution to just the United States is probably higher than its government’s current estimate of costs to the entire world.  And the actual global cost is more than 10 times higher than the federal estimate.  And yet Republican politicians think that estimate should be much lower.

The study

I asked Ricke to describe her team’s approach in this study:

To calculate social cost of carbon, you need to answer four questions in sequence:

1. How would the economy change with no climate change (including GHG emissions)?

2. How does the Earth system respond to emissions of carbon dioxide?

3. How does the economy respond to changes in the Earth system?

4. How should we value losses today vs. in (for example) 100 years?

The team answered these questions using four ‘modules’: a socio-economic module to answer the first question,  a climate module to address the second, a damages module to investigate the third, and a discounting module to tackle the fourth.

Ricke further described the team’s approach in a ‘behind the paper’ article for Nature:

The idea was to combine an approach to analyzing the climate effect of a marginal emission of carbon dioxide that Ken Caldeira and I had recently developed, with a climate damages model described in what was then a working paper by Marshall Burke and collaborators. My co-author Massimo Tavoni pointed out that by combining these two tools, we could produce the first comprehensive, country-level estimates of the social cost of carbon.

The US is at the ideal economic temperature

I wrote about the referenced Burke paper in 2015.  That study detailed the relationship between a country’s average temperature and its per capita GDP, finding a sweet spot around 13°C (55°F).  That’s the optimal temperature for human economic productivity.  Economies in countries with lower average temperatures like Canada and Russia would benefit from additional warming, but it would slow economic growth for nations closer to the equator with hotter temperatures.

 Global relationship between annual average temperature and change in log gross domestic product (GDP) per capita during 1960–2010 with 90% confidence interval. Illustration: Burke et al. (2015), Nature

The United States is currently right near the peak temperature, whereas many European countries like Germany, the UK, and France are 3–5°C cooler, and a bit below the ideal economic temperature.  So, continued global warming is worse for the US economy than Europe’s. 

China’s social cost of carbon is lower despite a similar temperature and GDP to America’s because its economy is growing fast, meaning that it would benefit from investing its money now rather than spending it on cutting carbon pollution, at least relative to a more developed country like the US.  But China’s social cost of carbon is still about $26 per ton.  India’s $90 is the highest because of its combination of a hot climate, high GDP (6th in the world), and anticipated continued growth leading to large future damages.

Click here to read the rest

2018 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #39

September 29, 2018 - 11:25am
A chronological listing of news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week. Editor's Pick Trump administration sees a 7-degree rise in global temperatures by 2100


Firefighters from Brea, Calif., inspect and cut fireline on Aug. 1, 2018, as the Ranch Fire burns near Upper Lake, Calif. A day earlier, it and the River Fire totaled more than 74,000 acres. (Stuart W. Palley/For The Washington Post) 

Last month, deep in a 500-page environmental impact statement, the Trump administration made a startling assumption: On its current course, the planet will warm a disastrous 7 degrees by the end of this century.

A rise of 7 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 4 degrees Celsius, compared with preindustrial levels would be catastrophic, according to scientists. Many coral reefs would dissolve in increasingly acidic oceans. Parts of Manhattan and Miami would be underwater without costly coastal defenses. Extreme heat waves would routinely smother large parts of the globe.

But the administration did not offer this dire forecast as part of an argument to combat climate change. Just the opposite: The analysis assumes the planet’s fate is already sealed.

Trump administration sees a 7-degree rise in global temperatures by 2100 by Juliet Eilperin, Brady Dennis & Chri Mooney, Health & Science, Washington Post, Sep 28, 2018 

Links posted on Facebook

Sun Sep 23, 2018

Mon Sep 24, 2018

Tue Sep 25, 2018 

Wed Sep 26, 2018 

Thu Sep 27, 2018 

Fri Sep 28, 2018

Sat Sep 29, 2018

New research, September 17-23, 2018

September 28, 2018 - 4:10pm

A selection of new climate related research articles is shown below.

Climate change impacts 


Bayesian estimates for the mapping of dengue hotspots and estimation of the risk of disease epidemic in Northeast Brazil

Effects of climate change-related heat stress on labor productivity in South Korea

Climatic preferences for beach tourism: an empirical study on Greek islands

Estimation of economic losses from tropical cyclones in China at 1.5 °C and 2.0 °C warming using the regional climate model COSMO‐CLM

Mapping the need for adaptation: assessing drought vulnerability using the livelihood vulnerability index approach in a mid-hill region of Nepal

Unavoidable solutions for coastal adaptation in Reunion Island (Indian Ocean)

Co-producing UK climate change adaptation policy: An analysis of the 2012 and 2017 UK Climate Change Risk Assessments

Behavioral adaptation to climate change in wildfire‐prone forests

Assessing real options in urban surface water flood risk management under climate change (open access)

Climate change impact on Mexico wheat production

Global Freshwater Availability Below Normal Conditions and Population Impact Under 1.5 and 2 °C Stabilization Scenarios

Climate change as a motivating factor for farm-adjustments: rethinking the link (open access)

Ratooning as an adaptive management tool for climatic change in rice systems along a north-south transect in the southern Mississippi valley


Corals sustain growth but not skeletal density across the Florida Keys Reef Tract despite ongoing warming

Depth‐Dependent Thermal Stress Around Corals in the Tropical Pacific Ocean

The influence of weather on avian spring migration phenology: What, where, and when?

Linking permafrost thaw to shifting biogeochemistry and food web resources in an arctic river

Temperature niche position and breadth of ectomycorrhizal fungi: reduced diversity under warming predicted by a nested community structure

Overlooked climate parameters best predict flowering onset: assessing phenological models using the elastic net

Moisture‐mediated responsiveness of treeline shifts to global warming in the Himalayas (open access)

Pushing the limit: Resilience of an Arctic copepod to environmental fluctuations (open access)

Resource limitation alters effects of phenological shifts on inter-specific competition

Climatically controlled reproduction drives interannual growth variability in a temperate tree species

Land‐surface greening suggests vigorous woody regrowth throughout European semi‐natural vegetation

Fire, fragmentation, and windstorms: a recipe for tropical forest degradation

Vegetation‐climate interactions on the Loess Plateau: a non‐linear Granger causality analysis

Cascading effects from plants to soil microorganisms explain how plant species richness and simulated climate change affect soil multifunctionality

Other impacts

Spatiotemporal trends of area burnt in the Iberian Peninsula, 1975–2013

Climate change mitigation 

Climate Policy

Renewable and low carbon technologies policy

Designing China’s national carbon emissions trading system in a transitional period (open access)

Energy production

From collapsed coal mines to floating solar farms, why China's new power stations matter

Emission savings

How big is the energy efficiency resource? (open access)

Multi‐year net ecosystem carbon balance of a restored peatland reveals a return to carbon sink

Chinese cropping systems are a net source of greenhouse gases despite soil carbon sequestration (open access)

Are capitalists green? Firm ownership and provincial CO2emissions in China


Stopping the flood: could we use targeted geoengineering to mitigate sea level rise? (open access)

Climate change

Temperature, precipitation, wind

The Global Historical Climatology Network Monthly Temperature Dataset, Version 4

Quality control and homogenization of the Belgian historical temperature data

What caused the record‐breaking warming in East China Seas during August 2016? (open access)

Trends of climate change indices in some Mexican cities from 1980 to 2010

Extreme events

Exacerbation of the 2013–2016 Pan‐Caribbean Drought by Anthropogenic Warming

Characteristics and risk analysis of hydrological disaster events from 1949 to 2015 in Urumqi, China

Extreme temperature events on the Iberian Peninsula: Statistical trajectory analysis and synoptic patterns

Climate change risks for severe storms in developing countries in the context of poverty and inequality in Cambodia

Impact of forecasted land use changes on flood risk in the Polish Carpathians (open access)

Comparison of agricultural stakeholder survey results and drought monitoring datasets during the 2016 U.S. Northern Plains flash drought

Regime shift in the destructiveness of tropical cyclones over the western North Pacific

Effect of climatic oscillations on flood occurrence on Papaloapan River, México, during the 1550–2000 period

Tropical cyclone projections: Changing climate threats for Pacific Island defense installations

Likelihood of concurrent climate extremes and variations over China (open access)

A Recent Reversal in the Poleward Shift of Western North Pacific Tropical Cyclones

Changes in the spatial–temporal patterns of droughts in the Brazilian Northeast (open access)

Forcings and feedbacks

Globally significant CO2 emissions from Katla, a subglacial volcano in Iceland

Natural and anthropogenic contributions to long-term variations of SO2, NO2, CO, and AOD over East China

Can Climate Models Reproduce the Decadal Change of Dust Aerosol in East Asia?


Massive destabilization of an Arctic ice cap

Surface pond energy absorption across four Himalayan glaciers accounts for 1/8 of total catchment ice loss

Atlantic salinity budget in response to Northern and Southern Hemisphere ice sheet discharge (open access)

Seasonal mass variations show timing and magnitude of meltwater storage in the Greenland Ice Sheet (open access)

Atmospheric and oceanic circulation

Transient Response of the Gulf Stream to Multiple Hurricanes in 2017

Gulf Stream variability in the context of quasi‐decadal and multi‐decadal Atlantic climate variability

Impact of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation on Baltic Sea variability

The connection between the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation and the Indian Summer Monsoon since the Industrial Revolution is intrinsic to the climate system (open access)

A direct estimate of volume, heat and fresh water exchange across the Greenland‐Iceland‐Faroe‐Scotland Ridge

Carbon and nitrogen cycles

Seasonal asymmetry in the evolution of surface ocean pCO2 and pH thermodynamic drivers and the influence on sea‐air CO2 flux

Microbial decomposition processes and vulnerable arctic soil organic carbon in the 21st century (open access)

Other papers


Relative timing of precipitation and ocean circulation changes in the western equatorial Atlantic over the last 45 kyr (open access)

New research shows the world’s ice is doing something not seen before

September 26, 2018 - 1:33am

In this warming world, some parts of the planet are warming much faster than others.  The warming is causing large ice bodies to start to melt and move rapidly, in some cases sliding into the ocean. 

This movement is the topic of a very new scientific study that was just published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.  The Arctic is warming much faster than other parts of the planet and the ice there is showing the signs of rapid warming.  This fact has serious consequences. First, melting ice can cause sea levels to rise and inundate coastal areas – it also makes storms like hurricanes and typhoons more destructive.  Melting ice also causes a feedback loop, which can cause more future warming and then more ice loss.

It should be noted that there are different types of ice.  Some ice floats on water and is called sea ice.  When it melts, the ocean water level hardly budges because the ice is already in the sea displacing liquid water.  But, sea ice is really important for this feedback loop I mentioned above.

Other ice is on land and may be a large ice sheet or a smaller glacier.  These ice bodies sit atop the land and “rest” there.  In some cases, they extend out off the land and into the ocean where they partly float on liquid water.  When this land ice melts, the liquid flows into the oceans and can cause significant ocean level rising.

So, the importance of ice depends on what type it is, where it is located, and how fast it is melting. And this brings us to the new paper.

The researchers looked at a type of high latitude glacier in their study.  These glaciers hold enough water to cause about 1 foot (about a third of a meter) in sea level rise. Typically, they exist in cold and dry areas, where snowfall is limited. 

How do glaciers move?  Well really by either sliding over the underlying bedrock or surface that they sit on, or by deforming and stretching under their weight. The colder glaciers tend to move by the deforming and stretching process.  Glaciers that have wetter and more temperate regions involve more sliding.  But regardless of how they move, these glaciers, particularly the glaciers that have both cold and temperate parts, experience surges in their motion.  These surges are short duration times where the glacier moves a lot.  During a surge, ice is redistributed from one part of the glacier to another region.

The authors in this study observed such a glacier surge.  It happened at an outlet glacier that is mainly of the “cold” type in Russia.  At the Vavilov Ice Cap on October Revolution Island, the authors find it “is undergoing extraordinary acceleration and thinning but displays no previous evidence of surging.”  The authors write,

the 300-600 meter thick 1820 square kilometer Vavilov Ice Cap is frozen to its bed over the majority of its area, apart from a region along its western margin where basal sliding is potentially important for faster flow.

In 2010 the ice in the region began to accelerate and the next year, crevasses were observed that matched the patterns of ice acceleration. The researchers were able to watch this surge in ice motion in real-time using satellite images. They could track the motion and show the incredible speed of flow. 

What caused the rapid motion? This is an important question because if the motion is caused by human warming, we can expect the behavior to be repeated elsewhere as temperatures rise.  Importantly both air and ocean-water temperatures could be a factor.  One potential cause is surface meltwater.  The top of the ice can melt, and liquid water then can flow downwards, into the ice through cracks and holes.  This flowing water can precondition the ice for rapid motion.

This fact may be a contributing cause to the motion.  Basically, the melted water lubricated the ice/ground interface causing more sliding and more friction.  The friction caused some of the bottom ice to melt and released more liquid water, and a cycle had begun.

The researchers also took measurements of elevation to better understand areas where ice was becoming thicker or thinner.  In addition, they studied the forces that exist within the ice itself to help elucidate the cause of the increased speed. Obviously, this is an evolving area of study and all of the questions have not yet been answered.  However, I was impressed when I read that even though these types of surges are becoming more common, what the researchers observed in Russia was still unique.  They describe the rate of ice loss at Vavilov as “extreme.” The authors also point out,

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Retraction of Florides et al. (2013)

September 25, 2018 - 4:45am

About a year ago I wrote about my dealings with a paper by Florides et al. in a four part article here at SkS (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4). I had found out that the paper in question was largely created by copy/pasting passages of texts from various sources and that the paper contained a lot of false claims and other flaws.

I had communicated my findings to Elsevier, who originally had published the paper, but as I described in part four of the article series, Elsevier did not do anything about the paper.

Since publishing my article series there have been some developments, which I will describe briefly below, but the most recent development is that the paper got retracted three and a half years after I lodged a complaint.

Recent developments

First of all, there was an article on this in Retraction Watch. The article describes mainly the same issues as my article series, but there's also some new information, such as the mention that the Editor-in-Chief of the journal had been replaced.

The new Editor-in-Chief, Professor Aoife M. Foley, contacted me to let me know that they will have another look at the issue. After that I didn't hear from the journal again, but recently I noticed that the journal page for the paper in question now says that the paper has been retracted.

The retraction

Apparently, the paper was retracted on August 23, 2018, or at least the retraction notice shows that date. The reason for the retraction is given as:

This article has been retracted at the request of the Editor-in-Chief due to duplicate publication based on parts of the authors' own book chapter ‘Global Warming: CO2vs Sun,’ by Georgios Florides, Paul Christodoulides and Vassilios Messaritis, published: September 27th 2010, DOI: 10.5772/10283.

So the plagiarism was the reason the paper got retracted. However, the retraction notice only mentions Florides et al. own book chapter as a source for the plagiarism, while in reality they copied from many other sources as well, and the book chapter in question was also partly copied from other sources. The retraction notice goes on to describe that papers should be original works, and adds:

As such this article represents a severe abuse of the scientific publishing system.

There's also a brief Editor's note on this, but it is not open access. The note doesn't say much. It starts by mentioning that I started the process and a link is given to my article series. Next the note links to Florides et al.'s note regarding the retraction published on the website of their University, so it seems that the journal informed Florides et al. about the retraction prior to the publication of the retraction.

Retraction reaction from Florides et al.

Florides et al. note is similar to their original response in that they claim that they didn't do anything wrong, assume a role of a victim, and throw accusations at us.

They start by claiming that the real reason for the retraction was that the paper "challenges the norm that human beings and anthropogenic CO2 are responsible for global warming". They continue by attacking Skeptical Science and there they throw many false accusations. I won't bother with most of them, but among other things they raise a question about our funding. We find it rather strange, and borderline funny, that so many in the climate change denier community seem to think that one has to have funding in order to do things like we do at Skeptical Science. This is of course not true because you don't need funding if you have a large international volunteer team like Skeptical Science has. I certainly have never received any funding for the work I do for Skeptical Science.

Next Florides et al. claim that their paper has gone through proper peer-review, despite the numerous flaws we found in the paper. The paper was so bad that instead of showing the flaws in their main points, I decided to quantify their misinformation content. We found 42 different flaws from the first two chapters alone, a number that should speak for itself. In their retraction response, Florides et al. don't say anything else about this than call our paper "an insulting (to us and science) note". With this excuse they claim that they haven't received any scientific criticism for their paper.

As was shown above, the journal gave the plagiarism as the reason for retraction, and the unfortunate aspect was that only Florides et al. book chapter was named as the source for the plagiarism. In their response, Florides et al. use that as an excuse to claim that they didn't do anything wrong: "...the accusers finally succeeded their goal and the paper has been retracted for the trivial excuse that the authors repeated some of their ideas, which were presented in a book chapter; i.e. the authors stole their own thoughts." So they claim that they only re-used their own work, but as they well know, and as we showed in our plagiarism analysis, the book in question also contained copy/pasted passages, and in addition to copy/pasting from their own book chapter, they had also copied from other sources such as IPCC and Wikipedia.

New study reconciles a dispute about how fast global warming will happen

September 24, 2018 - 1:48am

We’re currently on pace to double the carbon dioxide-equivalent (including other greenhouse gases) in the atmosphere by around mid-century.  Since the late 1800s scientists have been trying to answer the question, how much global warming will that cause?

In 1979, top climate scientists led by Jule Charney published a reportestimating that if we double the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from pre-industrial levels of 280 ppm to 560 ppm, temperatures will warm by 3 ± 1.5°C.  Four decades later, ‘climate sensitivity’ estimates remain virtually unchanged, but some climate contrarians have argued that the number is at the low end of that range, around 2°C or less.

It’s an important question because if the contrarians are right, the 2°C resulting global warming would represent significantly less severe climate change consequences than if mainstream climate scientists are right and temperatures rise by 3°C.  It would also mean our remaining carbon budgetfor meeting the 2°C Paris target is about twice as large than if the mainstream consensus is right.  If the consensus is correct, we’re on pace to blow through the remaining Paris carbon budget by around 2030.

Another nail in the contrarian ‘low sensitivity’ coffin

Studies published in March 2014May 2014, and December 2015 identified two critical flaws in the contrarians’ preferred so-called ‘energy balance model’ approach: it doesn’t account for the fact that Earth’s sensitivity can change over time, for example as large ice sheets continue to melt, or that the planet responds differently to different climate ‘forcings’.

Last week, the journal Earth’s Future published a study by the University of Southampton’s Philip Goodwin that took both of these factors into account.  Goodwin ran climate model simulations treating every forcing separately, including changes in greenhouse gases, solar activity, particulates from volcanic eruptions, and from human fossil fuel combustion.  For each, he included feedbacks from changes in factors like atmospheric water vapor, clouds, snow, and sea ice, including how these factors change over different timescales, as Goodwin explained:

I ran 10 million simulations with a relatively simple climate model. These 10 million simulations each used different climate feedback strengths, and so the way that climate sensitivity responded over time was different in each simulation.  To check which of the 10 million simulations were most realistic, I checked each simulation against observations of warming in the atmosphere and ocean up to the present day. I kept only the simulations that agreed with the observations for the real world.

This left 4600 simulations, where the values of the climate sensitivity (and changes in climate sensitivity over different timescales) agree with the atmosphere and ocean warming observed so far. It is from these final 4600 simulations that evaluate how the climate sensitivity evolves over time.

Essentially, adding up all of the warming contributions from all of these factors at any given time tells us how sensitive the climate is on that timescale, whether it be a month, a year, a decade, or a century after atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have doubled. 

Over the shortest timeframes of a year or less, Goodwin found that temperatures will rise by about 2°C once carbon dioxide levels have doubled, consistent with the conclusions of the contrarian studies.  That makes sense because those studies applied current climate measurements into energy balance models, but since carbon pollution is still rising, the climate still has a large energy imbalance.  Climate sensitivity, on the other hand, is usually evaluated at the point when the Earth reaches a new energy equilibrium, long after carbon dioxide levels have stopped rising.

Once our carbon pollution levels decline close to zero (hopefully by mid-to-late century), the planet will start to reach that new equilibrium.  The slower feedbacks like melting ice will continue to kick in, and Goodwin found that on timescales close to a century thereafter, temperatures will rise by 1.9–4.6°C, most likely 2.9°C, consistent with mainstream climate science estimates since the 1979 Charney report.

 How Earth’s climate sensitivity evolves to a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide over different timescales, starting at close to 2°C warming and then rising to about 3°C warming after a decade. Illustration: Goodwin (2018), Earth’s Future

We need to hit the brakes or blow past Paris

In other words, we are indeed on track to burn through the remaining Paris carbon budget by 2030, and under current international climate policies, we’re most likely headed for about 3.4°C warming by 2100

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2018 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #38

September 22, 2018 - 12:06pm
A chronological listing of news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week. Editor's Pick Solar Energy Largely Unscathed by Hurricane Florence’s Wind and Rain

North Carolina gets nearly 5 percent of its electricity from solar panels. The state's solar farms survived Hurricane Florence with little damage. Credit: Duke Energy 

Faced with Hurricane Florence's powerful winds and record rainfall, North Carolina's solar farms held up with only minimal damage while other parts of the electricity system failed, an outcome that solar advocates hope will help to steer the broader energy debate.

North Carolina has more solar power than any state other than California, much of it built in the two years since Hurricane Matthew hit the region. Before last week, the state hadn't seen how its growing solar developments—providing about 4.6 percent of the state's electricity—would fare in the face of a hurricane.

Florence provided a test of how the systems stand up to severe weather as renewable energy use increases, particularly solar, which is growing faster in the Southeast than any other other region. 

Solar Energy Largely Unscathed by Hurricane Florence’s Wind and Rain by Dan Gearino, InsideClimate News, Sep 20, 2018 

Links posted on Facebook

Sun Sep 16, 2018

Mon Sep 17, 2018

Tue Sep 18, 2018

Wed Sep 19, 2018

Thu Sep 20, 2018

Fri Sep 21, 2018

Sat Sep 22, 2018

New research, September 10-16, 2018

September 21, 2018 - 4:44pm

A selection of new climate related research articles is shown below.

Climate change 

Historicizing climate change—engaging new approaches to climate and history (open access)

State of the Climate in 2017 (open access)

Temperature, precipitation, wind

The strengthening of Amazonian precipitation during the wet season driven by tropical sea surface temperature forcing (open access)

Observed differences between near-surface air and skin temperatures using satellite and ground-based data

Features of extreme precipitation at Progress station, Antarctica

Extreme events

Rainfall from tropical cyclones: high-resolution simulations and seasonal forecasts

Influence of El Niño Southern Oscillation on global coastal flooding (open access)

Enhancing drought monitoring and early warning for the UK through stakeholder co-enquiries

Wet avalanches: long-term evolution in the Western Alps under climate and human forcing (open access)

Proxy‐based assessment of strength and frequency of meteotsunamis in future climate

Forcings and feedbacks

On the time evolution of climate sensitivity and future warming (open access)

No Impact of Anthropogenic Aerosols on Early 21st Century Global Temperature Trends in a Large Initial‐Condition Ensemble (open access)

Changes in the aerosol direct radiative forcing from 2001 to 2015: observational constraints and regional mechanisms (open access)

Concentration, temporal variation, and sources of black carbon in the Mt. Everest region retrieved by real-time observation and simulation (open access)

Quantifying the contributions of various emission sources to black carbon and assessment of control strategies in western China

Changes in Global Tropospheric OH Expected as a Result of Climate Change Over the Last Several Decades

The Relationship Between Cloud Radiative Effect and Surface Temperature Variability at ENSO Frequencies in CMIP5 Models


Melting over the northeast Antarctic Peninsula (1999–2009): evaluation of a high-resolution regional climate model (open access)

Interannual Variability of Atmospheric Conditions and Surface Melt in Greenland in 2000‐2014

The Role of Melting Snow in the Ocean Surface Heat Budget

A survey of the atmospheric physical processes key to the onset of Arctic sea ice melt in spring

A scatterometer record of sea ice extents and backscatter: 1992–2016 (open access)

Historical changes in the depth of seasonal freezing of “Xing’anling-Baikal” permafrost in China

The impact of the NAO on the delayed break-up date of lake ice over the southern Tibetan Plateau


Long‐Term Trends of Direct and Indirect Anthropogenic Effects on Changes in Ocean pH

A dynamical reconstruction of the global monthly‐mean oxygen isotopic composition of seawater

Potential surface hydrologic responses to increases in greenhouse gas concentrations and land use and land cover changes

The fate of Lake Baikal: how climate change may alter deep ventilation in the largest lake on Earth

The Tropical Indian Ocean decadal sea level response to the Pacific Decadal Oscillation forcing

Changing the retention properties of catchments and their influence on runoff under climate change (open access)

Atmospheric and oceanic circulation

Interannual oscillations and sudden shifts in observed and modeled climate (open access)

On the Relative Roles of the Atmosphere and Ocean in the Atlantic Multidecadal Variability

Impact of Atmospheric Circulation on Temperature, Clouds, and Radiation at Summit Station, Greenland with Self-Organizing Maps

Revisiting the northern mode of East Asian winter monsoon variation and its response to global warming

Carbon and nitrogen cycles

Greenhouse gas production in degrading ice-rich permafrost deposits in northeastern Siberia (open access)

Tundra landscape heterogeneity, not interannual variability, controls the decadal regional carbon balance in the Western Russian Arctic (open access)

Carbon sink despite large deforestation in African tropical dry forests (miombo woodlands) (open access)

A large committed long‐term sink of carbon due to vegetation dynamics (open access)

Climate change impacts 


Temperature-related mortality impacts under and beyond Paris Agreement climate change scenarios (open access)

Assessment of the climate potential for tourism. Case study: the North-East Development Region of Romania

Social justice implications of US managed retreat buyout programs

Changes in wood biomass and crop yields in response to projected CO2, O3, nitrogen deposition, and climate

Disentangling effects of climate and land-use change on West African drylands’ forage supply


Quantitative assessment of ecosystem vulnerability to climate change: methodology and application in China (open access)

Long‐term change in bioconstruction potential of Maldivian coral reefs following extreme climate anomalies

Challenges for growth of beech and co-occurring conifers in a changing climate context

Effects of climate change on the phenology of Osmia cornifrons: implications for population management

Forecast climate change conditions sustain growth and physiology but hamper reproduction in range-margin populations of a foundation rockweed species

Chronic dryness and wetness and especially pulsed drought threaten a generalist arthropod herbivore

Phenological calendar in some walnut genotypes grown in Romania and its correlations with air temperature

Identifying effects of land use cover changes and climate change on terrestrial ecosystems and carbon stocks in Mexico

Post-disturbance recovery of forest carbon in a temperate forest landscape under climate change

Enhanced gross primary production and evapotranspiration in juniper encroached grasslands

Climate change mitigation

Climate change communication

Climate change in Northern Russia through the prism of public perception

Social science perspectives on drivers of and responses to global climate change (open access)

Would it be Better to Not Talk about Climate Change? The Impact of Climate Change and Air Pollution Frames on Support for Regulating Power Plant Emissions

Perceptions of American and Russian environmental scientists of today’s key environmental issues: a comparative analysis

Exploring the Adaptation-mitigation Relationship: Does Information on the Costs of Adapting to Climate Change Influence Support for Mitigation?

On the Field of Environmental Communication: A Systematic Review of the Peer-Reviewed Literature

Climate Policy

Cost Risk Analysis: Dynamically Consistent Decision-Making under Climate Targets

Energy production

How far can low-carbon energy scenarios reach based on proven technologies?

Seeing clearly in a virtual reality: Tourist reactions to an offshore wind project

Household and industrial electricity demand in Europe

Drop-in biofuels offer strategies for meeting California's 2030 climate mandate (open access)

Differentiated effects of risk perception dimensions on nuclear power acceptance in South Korea

Key determinants of wind energy growth in India: Analysis of policy and non-policy factors

Emission savings

Analysis and development of conceptual model of low-carbon city with a sustainable approach

Carbon and water footprints of Brazilian mango produced in the semiarid region

Predictors of electric vehicle adoption: An analysis of potential electric vehicle drivers in Austria

Climatic responses to future trans‐Arctic shipping

Cover crops may cause winter warming in snow‐covered regions


The climate effects of increasing ocean albedo: an idealized representation of solar geoengineering (open access)

Other papers

General climate science

Comparison of methods for extracting annual cycle with changing amplitude in climate series


An 800-year high-resolution black carbon ice core record from Lomonosovfonna, Svalbard (open access)

Prolonged Late Permian–Early Triassic hyperthermal: failure of climate regulation?

Linking Glacial‐Interglacial States to Multiple Equilibria of Climate (open access)

Observations on Holocene subfossil tree remains from high-elevation sites in the Italian Alps

Abrupt mortality of marine invertebrates at the Younger Dryas-Holocene transition in a shallow inlet of the Goldthwait Sea

Holocene development of subarctic permafrost peatlands in Finnmark, northern Norway

High-elevation mountain hemlock growth as a surrogate for cool-season precipitation in Crater Lake National Park, USA

Shell and Exxon's secret 1980s climate change warnings

September 19, 2018 - 1:47am

One day in 1961, an American economist named Daniel Ellsberg stumbled across a piece of paper with apocalyptic implications. Ellsberg, who was advising the US government on its secret nuclear war plans, had discovered a document that contained an official estimate of the death toll in a preemptive “first strike” on China and the Soviet Union: 300 million in those countries, and double that globally.

Ellsberg was troubled that such a plan existed; years later, he tried to leak the details of nuclear annihilation to the public. Although his attempt failed, Ellsberg would become famous instead for leaking what came to be known as the Pentagon Papers – the US government’s secret history of its military intervention in Vietnam.

America’s amoral military planning during the Cold War echoes the hubris exhibited by another cast of characters gambling with the fate of humanity. Recently, secret documents have been unearthed detailing what the energy industry knew about the links between their products and global warming. But, unlike the government’s nuclear plans, what the industry detailed was put into action.

In the 1980s, oil companies like Exxon and Shell carried out internal assessments of the carbon dioxide released by fossil fuels, and forecast the planetary consequences of these emissions. In 1982, for example, Exxon predicted that by about 2060, CO2 levels would reach around 560 parts per million – double the preindustrial level – and that this would push the planet’s average temperatures up by about 2°C over then-current levels (and even more compared to pre-industrial levels).

 Exxon’s private prediction of the future growth of carbon dioxide levels (left axis) and global temperature relative to 1982 (right axis). Elsewhere in its report, Exxon noted that the most widely accepted science at the time indicated that doubling carbon dioxide levels would cause a global warming of 3°C. Illustration: 1982 Exxon internal briefing document

Later that decade, in 1988, an internal report by Shell projected similar effects but also found that CO2 could double even earlier, by 2030. Privately, these companies did not dispute the links between their products, global warming, and ecological calamity. On the contrary, their research confirmed the connections.

Shell’s assessment foresaw a one-meter sea-level rise, and noted that warming could also fuel disintegration of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, resulting in a worldwide rise in sea level of “five to six meters.” That would be enough to inundate entire low-lying countries.

Shell’s analysts also warned of the “disappearance of specific ecosystems or habitat destruction,” predicted an increase in “runoff, destructive floods, and inundation of low-lying farmland,” and said that “new sources of freshwater would be required” to compensate for changes in precipitation. Global changes in air temperature would also “drastically change the way people live and work.” All told, Shell concluded, “the changes may be the greatest in recorded history.”

For its part, Exxon warned of “potentially catastrophic events that must be considered.” Like Shell’s experts, Exxon’s scientists predicted devastating sea-level rise, and warned that the American Midwest and other parts of the world could become desert-like. Looking on the bright side, the company expressed its confidence that “this problem is not as significant to mankind as a nuclear holocaust or world famine.”

The documents make for frightening reading. And the effect is all the more chilling in view of the oil giants’ refusal to warn the public about the damage that their own researchers predicted. Shell’s report, marked “confidential,” was first disclosed by a Dutch news organization earlier this year. Exxon’s study was not intended for external distribution, either; it was leaked in 2015.

Nor did the companies ever take responsibility for their products. In Shell’s study, the firm argued that the “main burden” of addressing climate change rests not with the energy industry, but with governments and consumers. That argument might have made sense if oil executives, including those from Exxon and Shell, had not later lied about climate change and actively prevented governments from enacting clean-energy policies.

Although the details of global warming were foreign to most people in the 1980s, among the few who had a better idea than most were the companies contributing the most to it. Despite scientific uncertainties, the bottom line was this: oil firms recognized that their products added CO2 to the atmosphere, understood that this would lead to warming, and calculated the likely consequences. And then they chose to accept those risks on our behalf, at our expense, and without our knowledge.

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