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Examining the science of global warming skepticism, clearing up the misconceptions and misleading arguments that populate the climate change debate.
Updated: 2 hours 19 min ago

New research, September 11-17, 2017

16 hours 1 min ago

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

Climate change

1. Modelling past, present and future peatland carbon accumulation across the pan-Arctic region

"We found that peatlands in Scandinavia, Europe, Russia and central and eastern Canada will become C sources, while Siberia, far eastern Russia, Alaska and western and northern Canada will increase their sink capacity by the end of the 21st century."

2. Annual and seasonal tornado trends in the contiguous United States and its regions

"The annual analyses indicate that the number of tornadoes per year declined in the West, North Great Plains, South Great Plains, and Midwest regions, but increased in the Southeast." ... "Seasonal analyses suggest that the proportion of tornadoes occurring in the contiguous United States in summer is decreasing whereas the proportion occurring in fall is increasing. This is especially apparent in the Southeast."

3. Beyond equilibrium climate sensitivity

"Newer metrics relating global warming directly to the total emitted CO2 show that in order to keep warming to within 2 °C, future CO2 emissions have to remain strongly limited, irrespective of climate sensitivity being at the high or low end."

4. Dynamic response of an Arctic epishelf lake to seasonal and long-term forcing: implications for ice shelf thickness

"We show that the Milne Ice Shelf, Ellesmere Island, was stable before 2004, after which time the ice shelf thinned rapidly."

5. Future changes in tropical cyclone activity in high-resolution large-ensemble simulations

"The global number of TCs decreases by 33% in the future projection. Although geographical TC occurrences decrease generally, they increase in the central and eastern parts of the extratropical North Pacific. Meanwhile, very intense (category 4 and 5) TC occurrences increase over a broader area including the south of Japan and south of Madagascar. The global number of category 4 and 5 TCs significantly decreases, contrary to the increase seen in several previous studies. Lifetime maximum surface wind speeds and precipitation rate are amplified globally. "

6. Response of Tropical Cyclone Activity and Structure to Global Warming in a High-Resolution Global Nonhydrostatic Model

"The model projected that the global frequency of TCs is reduced by 22.7%, the ratio of intense TCs is increased by 6.6%, and the precipitation rate within 100 km of the TC center increased by 11.8% under warmer climate conditions. These tendencies are consistent with previous studies using hydrostatic global model with cumulus parameterization." ... "Hence, this study shows that the horizontal scale of TCs defined by the radius of 12 m s-1 surface wind is projected to increase compared with the same intensity categories for SLP less than 980 hPa."

7. Air-Sea CO2 Exchange in the Ross Sea, Antarctica

"We find that the Ross Sea is a lesser atmospheric CO2 sink (-7.5±0.5 Tg C yr−1, -1.3±0.1 mol C m−2 yr−1) than previously reported (-13 Tg C yr−1, -1.7 to -4.2 mol C m−2 yr−1)."

8. Estimation of the fossil fuel component in atmospheric CO2 based on radiocarbon measurements at the Beromünster tall tower, Switzerland

9. Mechanistic drivers of re-emergence of anthropogenic carbon in the Equatorial Pacific

10. On the Relationship between Intensity and Rainfall Distribution in Tropical Cyclones Making Landfall over China

11. Observational uncertainty and regional climate model evaluation: a pan-European perspective

12. Estimation of melt pond fractions on first year sea ice using compact polarization SAR

13. Tropically driven and externally forced patterns of Antarctic sea ice change: reconciling observed and modeled trends

14. Heat waves in Finland: present and projected summertime extreme temperatures and their associated circulation patterns

15. Comparison of four inverse modelling systems applied to the estimation of HFC-125, HFC-134a, and SF6 emissions over Europe

16. Chemical feedback from decreasing carbon monoxide emissions

17. How well does the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasting Interim Reanalysis represent the surface air temperature in Cuban weather stations?

18. Asian droughts in the last millennium: a search for robust impacts of Pacific Ocean surface temperature variabilities

19. NMME-based hybrid prediction of Atlantic hurricane season activity

20. Robust projected weakening of winter monsoon winds over the Arabian Sea under climate change

21. Sources, Sinks and Subsidies: Terrestrial Carbon Storage in Mid-Latitude Fjords

22. Observed co-variations of aerosol optical depth and cloud cover in extratropical cyclones

23. Multi-decadal scale detection time for potentially increasing Atlantic storm surges in a warming climate

24. Climate change in the Hindu Kush Himalaya

25. Simulation of tropical cyclone activity over the western North Pacific based on CMIP5 models

26. On the causes of trends in the seasonal amplitude of atmospheric CO2

27. The evolution and volcanic forcing of the southern annular mode during the past 300 years

28. Year-to-year variability of surface air temperature over China in winter

29. Multidecadal anomalies of Bohai Sea ice cover and potential climate driving factors during 1988–2015

30. A moving windows visual approach to analysing spatial variation in temperature trends on the Spanish mainland 1951–2010

31. Local-scale changes in mean and heavy precipitation in Western Europe, climate change or internal variability?

32. Precipitation–fire linkages in Indonesia (1997–2015)

33. Quantifying the Lead Time Required for a Linear Trend to Emerge from Natural Climate Variability

34. Summer monsoon rainfall variability over North East regions of India and its association with Eurasian snow, Atlantic Sea Surface temperature and Arctic Oscillation

35. Understanding the impacts of climate change and human activities on streamflow: a case study of the Soan River basin, Pakistan

Climate change impacts

36. Glacier shrinkage driving global changes in downstream systems

"Here, we synthesize current evidence of how glacier shrinkage will alter hydrological regimes, sediment transport, and biogeochemical and contaminant fluxes from rivers to oceans. This will profoundly influence the natural environment, including many facets of biodiversity, and the ecosystem services that glacier-fed rivers provide to humans, particularly provision of water for agriculture, hydropower, and consumption."

37. Analysis of climate signals in the crop yield record of Sub-Saharan Africa

"We found that improved agricultural technology and country fixed effects are three times more important than climate variables for explaining changes in crop yields in SSA. We also found that increasing temperatures reduced yields for all three crops in the temperature range observed in SSA, while precipitation increased yields up to a level roughly matching crop evapotranspiration."

38. Behavioral responses to annual temperature variation alter the dominant energy pathway, growth, and condition of a cold-water predator

"In cooler years, fish ate more large prey from shallow nearshore regions, resulting in higher growth and condition than in warmer years, when fish ate more small prey from deep offshore regions. This suggests that the impacts of warming on aquatic ecosystems can scale from the individual to the food web level."

39. Carbon dioxide fertilization offsets negative impacts of climate change on Arabica coffee yield in Brazil

"The model projects that yield losses due to high air temperatures and water deficit will increase, while losses due to frost will decrease. Nevertheless, extra losses are offset by the CO2 fertilization effect, resulting in a small net increase of the average Brazilian Arabica coffee yield of 0.8% to 1.48 t ha−1 in 2040–2070, assuming growing locations and irrigation remain unchanged. Simulations further indicate that future yields can reach up to 1.81 t ha−1 provided that irrigation use is expanded."

40. Adapting to hurricanes. A historical perspective on New Orleans from its foundation to Hurricane Katrina, 1718–2005

41. Multitrophic interactions mediate the effects of climate change on herbivore abundance

42. Winners and losers as mangrove, coral and seagrass ecosystems respond to sea-level rise in Solomon Islands

43. Climate change resiliency in Caribbean SIDS: building greater synergies between science and local and traditional knowledge

44. Multi-model comparison highlights consistency in predicted effect of warming on a semi-arid shrub

45. Increasing atmospheric humidity and CO2 concentration alleviate forest mortality risk

46. Limits to growth, planetary boundaries, and planetary health

47. Nutrients and temperature additively increase stream microbial respiration

48. Readiness for climate change adaptation in the Arctic: a case study from Nunavut, Canada

49. Native and agricultural forests at risk to a changing climate in the Northern Plains

50. Assessment of ecosystem resilience to hydroclimatic disturbances in India

51. Forest biomass, productivity and carbon cycling along a rainfall gradient in West Africa

52. Climate change and national crop wild relative conservation planning

53. Influence of climate change on summer cooling costs and heat stress in urban office buildings

54. Opportunities for joint water-energy management: sensitivity of the 2010 Western U.S. electricity grid operations to climate oscillations

Climate change mitigation

55. Consideration of carbon dioxide release during shell production in LCA of bivalves

"When we recalculated the total kg CO2 released in past studies including CO2 release from shell production, the additional CO2 release increased the total global warming impact category (CO2equivalents) in cradle-to-gate studies by approximately 250% of the original reported value."

56. Estimation and uncertainty of recent carbon accumulation and vertical accretion in drained and undrained forested peatlands of the southeastern USA

"In the drained (GDS) vs. intact (AR) CDR sites, carbon accumulation rates were similar with 137Cs (87GDS vs. 92AR g C m-2 yr-1) and somewhat less at the GDS than AR as determined with 210Pb (111GDS vs. 159AR g C m-2 yr-1)."

57. Was it worthwhile? Where have the benefits of rooftop solar photovoltaic generation exceeded the cost?

"We find that, after accounting for federal subsidies and local rebates and assuming a discount rate of 7%, the private benefits of new installations will exceed private costs only in seven of the 19 states for which we have data and only if customers can sell excess power to the electric grid at the retail price. These states are characterized by abundant sunshine (California, Texas and Nevada) or by high electricity prices (New York)."

58. The scientific motivation of the internationally agreed ‘well below 2 °C’ climate protection target: a historical perspective

59. Public willingness to pay for a US carbon tax and preferences for spending the revenue

60. Quantifying CO2 emissions from individual power plants from space

61. Climate change and the transition to neoliberal environmental governance

62. Global wetland contribution to 2000–2012 atmospheric methane growth rate dynamics

63. Baseline manipulation in voluntary carbon offset programs

Other papers

64. A 564-year annual minimum temperature reconstruction for the east central Tibetan Plateau from tree rings

"The level of warming from 1989 to 2014 is unprecedented over the past five centuries."

65. An update on ozone profile trends for the period 2000 to 2016

"Thanks to the 1987 Montreal Protocol and its amendments, ozone-depleting chlorine (and bromine) in the stratosphere has declined slowly since the late 1990s. Improved and extended long-term ozone profile observations from satellites and ground-based stations confirm that ozone is responding as expected and has increased by about 2 % per decade since 2000 in the upper stratosphere, around 40 km altitude. At lower altitudes, however, ozone has not changed significantly since 2000."

66. Biotic impacts of temperature before, during, and after the end-Permian extinction: A multi-metric and multi-scale approach to modeling extinction and recovery dynamics

"These results suggest that global ocean temperatures best predict patterns of extinction and recovery across several ecological metrics, and that thermal episodes during the initial extinction event and subsequently in the Early Triassic recovery period significantly suppressed benthic marine community health."

67. Constructing a long-term monthly climate data set in central Asia

68. Quantifying climate changes of the Common Era for Finland

It takes just 4 years to detect human warming of the oceans

September 20, 2017 - 1:44am

We’ve known for decades that the Earth is warming, but a key question is, how fast? Another key question is whether the warming is primarily caused by human activities. If we can more precisely measure the rate of warming and the natural component, it would be useful for decision makers, legislators, and others to help us adapt and cope. Indeed, added ocean heat content underlies the potential for dangerous intense hurricanes.

An answer to the “how fast?” question was partly answered in an Opinion piece just published on, the daily online Earth and space science news site, by scientists from China, Europe and the United States. I was fortunate enough to be part of the research team.

To measure how fast the globe is warming, we focused on the extra heat that is being trapped in the climate. The key to measuring the extra heat is by comparing the incoming and outgoing energy – just like you watch your bank account, keeping track of income and expenses to tell whether your bank balance will increase or not.

Okay so how do we measure these incoming and outgoing flows? In our view, the best way is in the oceans. We know that the oceans absorb almost all of the excess heat – so, perhaps we can detect energy increases in ocean waters?

Measuring the oceans is challenging. They are vast and they are deep – measurements can be noisy. Detecting a long-term trend (a signal) within the noise can be a challenge. But this challenge is exactly what we focused on. We wanted to know how large the signal-to-noise ratio is for ocean heat measurements because this would tell us how many years of data are needed to detect warming. Can we detect global warming with one year of measurements? With a decade? Or do we need multiple decades of measurements to be sure the climate is changing?

Our work shows that scientists need less than 4 years of ocean heat measurements to detect a warming signal. This is much shorter than the nearly three decades of measurements that would be required to detect global warming if we were to use temperatures of air near the Earth’s surface. It is also slightly better than the nearly 5 years of sea level rise data that are needed for detecting a long-term trend. This means that the warming is not natural, but rather stems from the human-induced climate change, primarily from increases in heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere.

This finding should help change the way we talk about global warming. Normally scientists and the public wait for the official annual “global temperatures” to be released (every January or February) by major research groups like Nasa, Noaa, and the Hadley Centre in the UK. Avid consumers of global warming news often use these air temperatures to “prove” or “disprove” global warming. If it was hot last year, “its global warming!” If last year was cool, “global warming is over!” 

But the year-to-year fluctuations of air temperatures are predominantly associated with El Niño and weather variability and mislead those who use any one year as climate-change proof. We saw the impact of fluctuations over the past two decades where a slowing of the rise of global surface temperatures led to false claims that global warming had “stopped” or that there was a “hiatus.” No such cessation occurred for ocean heat content.

Hence global ocean heat content data isn’t so noisy. It represents the total thermal energy in the ocean waters, and is now known with a high degree of certainty (see the figure below), in part because scientists have improved ocean temperature sensing methods and increased the number of sensors throughout the ocean waters. 

Increases in ocean heat content since 1950s. Illustration: Cheng, L., K. E. Trenberth, J. Fasullo, J. Abraham, T. P. Boyer, K. von Schuckmann, and J. Zhu (2017), Taking the pulse of the planet, Eos, Vol. 98.

According to our analysis, the top 10 warmest years of ocean heat content are all in the most recent decade (following 2006) with last two years being the hottest. 

Click here to read the rest

2017 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Digest #37

September 17, 2017 - 5:40pm

Story of the Week... El Niño/La Niña Update... Toon of the Week... Quote of the Week... SkS in the News... Coming Soon on SkS... Poster of the Week... Climate Feedback Reviews... SkS Week in Review... 97 Hours of Consensus...

Story of the Week...

The Window Is Closing to Avoid Dangerous Global Warming


Credit: David McNew Getty Images 

Deadly climate change could threaten most of the world's human population by the end of this century without efforts well beyond those captured in the Paris Agreement.

That's the finding of a pair of related reports released yesterday by an international group of climate science and policy luminaries who warned that the window is closing to avert dangerous warming. They say carbon dioxide might have to be removed from the atmosphere.

Scientists Yangyang Xu and Veerabhadran Ramanathan found in a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that there already exists a 1 in 20 chance that the 2.2 trillion tons of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere could cause an existential warming threat. This "fat tail" scenario would mean the world experiences "existential/unknown" warming by 2100 — defined in the report as more than 5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.

The Window Is Closing to Avoid Dangerous Global Warming by Jean Chemnick, ClimateWire/Scientific American, Sep 15, 2017

El Niño/La Niña Update

La Niña is now increasingly possible in the next few months, according to a new reportreleased by NOAA, and may have some impacts on weather in the United States in the fall and winter.

La Niña May Develop By Fall or Winter, NOAA Says; Here's What That Could Mean by Jonathan Erdman, Sep 13, 2017 

Toon of the Week...


Quote of the Week...

That is one reason many scientists maintain it is critical to use the megaphone that the dual devastation of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma has provided. People, they note, are finally paying attention.

“We know that as humans, we are all too good at pretending like a risk, even one we know is real, doesn’t matter to us,” Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist at Texas Tech University, wrote in an email as Harvey lashed the Texas coast.

“When we try to warn people about the risks, there’s no ‘news’ hook. No one wants to listen. That’s why the time to talk about it is now,” Dr. Hayhoe said. “The most pernicious and dangerous myth we’ve bought into when it comes to climate change is not the myth that it isn’t real or humans aren’t responsible. It’s the myth that it doesn’t matter to me. And that is exactly the myth that Harvey shatters.”

Hurricane Irma Linked to Climate Change? For Some, a Very ‘Insensitive’ Question. by Lisa Friedman, Climate, New York Times, Sep 11, 2017 

SkS in the News...

In her Washington Post Right Turn Op-ed, Will Harvey and Irma be a wake-up call?, Jennifer Rubin wrote:

And yet Republicans from Texas (both U.S. senators and a slew of congressmen), Florida (most especially Gov. Rick Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio), Alabama and Louisiana, among other locales, refuse to acknowledge the clear cause of rising sea levels and temperatures that add to the destructiveness of hurricanes that devastate their states. The GOP pols like to dodge the question by saying they are not climate scientists — and then refuse to accept the findings of 97 percent of the scientific community. Bluntly put, they’d rather cling to their know-nothingism than take steps to abate a known danger to their states. How is that any different from refusing to build levees and pumps or update building standards? (Of course, the climate-change denier in chief did cancel a flood regulation that took account of global warming, something he should be asked about when he goes for his next photo op.) 

Coming Soon on SkS...
  • Scientific models saved lives from Harvey and Irma. They can from climate change too (Dana)
  • Australia's Transition to Renewable Energy (Agnostic)
  • New research, September 4-10, 2017 (Ari Jokimäki)
  • Guest Post (John Abraham)
  • Why the 97% climate consensus is important (Dana, John Cook, Sander van der Linden, Ed Maibach, Tony Lieserowitz)
  • 2017 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #38 (John Hartz)
  • 2017 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Waming Digest #38 (John Hartz)
Poster of the Week...


Climate Feedback Reviews...

Climate Feedback asked its network of scientists to review the article, Has Climate Change Intensified 2017’s Western Wildfires? by Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic, Sep 7, 2017.

Three scientists analyzed the article and estimate its overall scientific credibility to be ‘very high’.

A majority of reviewers tagged the article as: Accurate, Insightful, Sound reasoning

Review Summary

This story in The Atlantic describes the conditions that have contributed to this year’s widespread wildfires in the western United States, including the influence of a changing climate.

Scientists who reviewed the story found that it was an accurate summary of the factors involved in this fire season—warm temperatures as well as past fire-suppression practices that have increased the density of fuel available for fires to burn. 

SkS Week in Review...  97 Hours of Consensus...



Julienne Stroeve's bio page & Quote source 

High resolution JPEG (1024 pixels wide)

2017 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #37

September 16, 2017 - 10:58am
A chronological listing of news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook page during the past week.  Editor's Pick

Asia's glaciers to shrink by a third by 2100, threatening water supply of millions

High mountains of Asia hold biggest store of frozen water outside the poles and feed many of the world’s great rivers, including the Ganges

 The Asian high mountains are already warming more rapidly than the global average. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Asia’s mountain glaciers will lose at least a third of their mass through global warming by the century’s end, with dire consequences for millions of people who rely on them for fresh water, researchers have said.

This is a best-case scenario, based on the assumption that the world manages to limit average global warming to 1.5C (2.7F) over pre-industrial levels, a team wrote in the journal Nature.

“To meet the 1.5C target will be a task of unprecedented difficulty,” the researchers said, “and even then, 36% (give or take 7%) of the ice mass in the high mountains of Asia is projected to be lost” by 2100.

With warming of 3.5C, 4C and 6C respectively, Asian glacier losses could amount to 49%, 51% or 65% by the end of the century, according to the team’s modelling study. 

Asia's glaciers to shrink by a third by 2100, threatening water supply of millions, Agence France-Presse/Guardian, Sep 13, 2017 

Links posted on Facebook

Sun Sep 10, 2017

Mon Sep 11, 2017

Tue Sep 12, 2017

Wed Sep 13, 2017

Thu Sep 14, 2017

Fri Sep 15, 2017

Sat Sep 16, 2017

New research, September 4-10, 2017

September 15, 2017 - 7:10am

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

Climate change

1. State of the Climate in 2016 See also: A Look at 2016: Takeaway Points from the State of the Climate Supplement

2. The rise in global atmospheric CO2, surface temperature, and sea level from emissions traced to major carbon producers

"Emissions traced to these 90 carbon producers contributed ∼57% of the observed rise in atmospheric CO2, ∼42–50% of the rise in global mean surface temperature (GMST), and ∼26–32% of global sea level (GSL) rise over the historical period and ∼43% (atmospheric CO2), ∼29–35% (GMST), and ∼11–14% (GSL) since 1980 (based on best-estimate parameters and accounting for uncertainty arising from the lack of data on aerosol forcings traced to producers)."

3. Optimal management of the flooding risk caused by the joint occurrence of extreme rainfall and high tide level in a coastal city

"Heavy rain is the main disaster-causing factor in inland areas, while high tide level is the main disaster-causing factor in island areas. For the area whose main disaster-causing factor is heavy rain, water storage projects could effectively reduce flooding. Meanwhile, pumps are economical choices for the area where tide level is the main disaster-causing factor."

4. Extreme tropical cyclone activities in the southern Pacific Ocean

"Between 1980 and 2016, the number of extreme cyclones did not show any tendency to increase."

5. Significant aerosol influence on the recent decadal decrease in tropical cyclone activity over the western North Pacific

"Here, we show that past changes in sulphate aerosol emissions contributed approximately 60 % of the observed decreasing trends in TC genesis frequency in the southeastern WNP for 1992–2011, using multiple simulations by a global climate model."

6. Emerging role of wetland methane emissions in driving 21st century climate change

"Our results reveal an emerging contribution of global wetland CH4 emissions due to processes mainly related to the sensitivity of methane emissions to temperature and changing global wetland area. We highlight that climate-change and wetland CH4 feedbacks to radiative forcing are an important component of climate change and should be represented in policies aiming to mitigate global warming below 2°C."

7. Recent climatic changes and wetland expansion turned Tibet into a net CH4 source

"The results showed that the drying up of wetlands from the 1980s to 1990s completely counteracted the rising CH4 emission rates (0.75 ± 0.18 and 0.77 ± 0.19 Tg CH4 year−1 in the 1980s and 1990s, respectively). However, recent precipitation-induced wetland expansion enhanced emissions to 0.96 ± 0.21 Tg CH4 year−1 in the 2000s, which exceeded the rate of CH4 uptake (0.74 ± 0.06 Tg CH4 year−1 in the 2000s)."

8. Increasing shortwave absorption over the Arctic Ocean is not balanced by trends in the Antarctic

"On the basis of a new, consistent, long-term observational satellite dataset we show that, despite the observed increase of sea ice extent in the Antarctic, absorption of solar shortwave radiation in the Southern Ocean poleward of 60° latitude is not decreasing. The observations hence show that the small increase in Antarctic sea ice extent does not compensate for the combined effect of retreating Arctic sea ice and changes in cloud cover, which both result in a total increase in solar shortwave energy deposited into the polar oceans."

9. Amplified summer warming in Europe–West Asia and Northeast Asia after the mid-1990s

"We identify a nonuniform warming pattern in summer around the mid-1990s over the Eurasian continent, with a predominant amplified warming over Europe–West Asia and Northeast Asia but much weaker warming over Central Asia. It is found that the nonuniform warming concurs with both the phase shift of the Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation (AMO) and the decadal change in the Silk Road Pattern (SRP), which is an upper-tropospheric teleconnection pattern over the Eurasian continent during summer."

10. Sensitivity of global warming to carbon emissions: effects of heat and carbon uptake in a suite of Earth system models

11. An Extreme Value Model for United States Hail Size

12. Application of a two-step approach for mapping ice thickness to various glacier types on Svalbard

13. North American wintertime temperature anomalies: the role of El Niño diversity and differential teleconnections

14. An Iberian climatology of solar radiation obtained from WRF regional climate simulations for 1950–2010 period

15. Deducing climatic elasticity to assess projected climate change impacts on streamflow change across China

16. GHG emission pathways until 2300 for the 1.5 °C temperature rise target and the mitigation costs achieving the pathways

17. Precipitation extremes and their relation to climatic indices in the Pacific Northwest USA

18. Salient differences in tropical cyclone activity over the western North Pacific between 1998 and 2016

19. Sensitivity of extreme precipitation to temperature: the variability of scaling factors from a regional to local perspective

20. Projected warming portends seasonal shifts of stream temperatures in the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem, USA and Canada

21. Investigation of temperature changes over India in association with meteorological parameters in a warming climate

22. Using remote sensing information to estimate snow hazard and extreme snow load in China

23. Heat waves in lowland Germany and their circulation-related conditions

24. Extreme reversals in successive winter season precipitation anomalies across the Western United States, 1895–2015

25. A climate stress test of Los Angeles’ water quality plans

26. Changes in the Spatial Heterogeneity and Annual Distribution of Observed Precipitation across China

27. Dominance of climate warming effects on recent drying trends over wet monsoon regions

28. Dimming in Iran since the 2000s and the potential underlying causes

29. Internal variability of a dynamically downscaled climate over North America

30. Estimation of the SST response to anthropogenic and external forcing, and its impact on the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation

31. Modeling monthly meteorological and agronomic frost days, based on minimum air temperature, in Center-Southern Brazil

Climate change impacts

32. The combined effects of ocean warming and acidification on shallow-water meiofaunal assemblages

"The hypothesis that increased temperature will increase meiofaunal abundance was not supported. The hypothesis that a reduced pH will reduce meiofaunal abundance and species richness was supported. The combination of future conditions of temperature and pH (19 °C and pCO2 of 1000 ppm) did not affect overall abundance but the structure of the nematode assemblage changed becoming dominated by a few opportunistic species."

33. Indicators of climate change adaptation from molecules to ecosystems - A special issue of Regional Environmental Change.

34. Vulnerability of California specialty crops to projected mid-century temperature changes

"High-producing counties (e.g., Fresno County in the San Joaquin Valley) are the most vulnerable in absolute terms, while northern Sacramento Valley counties are the most vulnerable in relative terms, due to their reliance on heat-sensitive perennial crops."

35. The impact of sustained hot weather on risk of acute work-related injury in Melbourne, Australia

"Overall, two and three consecutive days of hot weather were associated with an increased risk of injury, with this effect becoming apparent at a daily maximum temperature of 27.6 °C (70th percentile). Three consecutive days of high but not extreme temperatures were associated with the strongest effect, with a 15% increased risk of injury (odds ratio 1.15, 95% confidence interval 1.01–1.30) observed when daily maximum temperature was ≥33.3 °C (90th percentile) for three consecutive days, compared to when it was not."

36. Detection of climate change-driven trends in phytoplankton phenology

"We find that bloom timing generally shifts later at mid-latitudes and earlier at high and low latitudes by ~ 5 days per decade to 2100."

37. Climate change alters stability and species potential interactions in a large marine ecosystem

"We found that the structure of the ecosystem has changed with a decrease in asymmetrical geographical overlaps between species. This suggests that the ecosystem has become less stable and potentially more susceptible to environmental perturbations."

38. Spatiotemporal variations of the start of thermal growing season for grassland on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau during 1961–2014

"More obvious advancing trends were found after 1980, which coincided with more rapid climate warming. The advancing trends weakened after 1998 when climate warming hiatus occurred."

39. Tree growth response of Fokienia hodginsii to recent climate warming and drought in southwest China

"Tree growth is significantly (p < 0.05) and positively correlated with January–April mean temperature from AD 1961–1987, while correlations with precipitation are insignificant. In contrast, from 1988 to 2014, tree growth correlated negatively with mean temperature of previous summer and positively with precipitation of previous August–September. This indicated that the limiting factors for tree growth have changed under different climate conditions."

40. Quality-assured long-term satellite-based leaf area index product

41. Individual fitness and the effects of a changing climate on the cessation and length of the breeding period using a 34-year study of a temperate songbird

42. Separating out the influence of climatic trend, fluctuations, and extreme events on crop yield: a case study in Hunan Province, China

43. The Influence of Temperature on Chytridiomycosis In Vivo

44. Extreme weather exposure and support for climate change adaptation

45. Tornado disaster impacts and management: learning from the 2016 tornado catastrophe in Jiangsu Province, China

46. Vulnerability of forests of the Midwest and Northeast United States to climate change

47. Heat stress increase under climate change twice as large in cities as in rural areas: A study for a densely populated midlatitude maritime region

48. Using Climate Models to Estimate Urban Vulnerability to Flash Floods

49. Impact of ocean acidification on the early development and escape behavior of marine medaka (Oryzias melastigma)

50. Ice acidification, the effects of ocean acidification on sea ice microbial communities

51. Integrated assessment on the vulnerability of animal husbandry to snow disasters under climate change in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau

52. Complex resource supply chains display higher resilience to simulated climate shocks

53. Staying cool or staying safe in a human-dominated landscape: which is more relevant for brown bears?

54. A linkage between flowering phenology and fruit-set success of alpine plant communities with reference to the seasonality and pollination effectiveness of bees and flies

Climate change mitigation

55. Responsible for what? Carbon producer CO2 contributions and the energy transition

"Judgments of moral responsibility should be informed by both scientific analysis and societal standards. Society distinguishes responsibilities into positive and negative, general and special, and backward-looking and forward-looking. Ekwurzel et al. in Clim Chang 2017 shows that 90 major carbon producers have contributed most of the atmospheric CO2 emissions. Once it became clear no later than the 1960s that continuing CO2 emissions would progressively undermine the climate, the major carbon producers could see that they were marketing harmful products. The simple and merely negative responsibility to “do no harm” required them to reduce that harm rapidly either by modifying the product in order to capture its dangerous emissions or by developing safe substitutes to perform the same function, that is, by developing non-carbon-based forms of energy. The seriousness of the harms brought by climate change made this responsibility especially compelling. Ceasing to contribute to harm includes ending exploration for additional fossil fuels. The half century of failure by corporate carbon producers to reduce the harms caused by their products now gives them additional responsibility to correct the damage done by their decades of neglect of the underlying negative responsibility. If major carbon producers also wish to fulfill the general responsibility to make more than a minimal positive social contribution, their distinctive capacities of political power, wealth, and expertise qualify them for leadership in the transition to an energy regime that would be safe for future generations to rely on."

56. Emissions embodied in global trade have plateaued due to structural changes in China

"After strong growth in the early 2000s, emissions exported from developing to developed countries plateaued and could have even decreased since 2007. These changes were mainly due to China: In 2002–2007, China’s exported emissions grew by 827 MtCO2, amounting to almost all the 892 MtCO2 total increase in emissions exported from developing to developed countries, while in 2007–2012, emissions exported from China decreased by 229 MtCO2, contributing to the total decrease of 172 MtCO2 exported from developing to developed countries."

57. Scientists’ views on economic growth versus the environment: a questionnaire survey among economists and non-economists

"The survey results indicate substantial disagreement across research fields on almost every posed question. Environmental problems are most frequently mentioned as a very important factor contributing to an end of economic growth. Furthermore, we find that researchers are more skeptical about growth in the context of a concrete problem like the compatibility with the 2 °C climate target than when considering environmental problems more generally. Many respondents suggest ideology, values and worldviews as important reasons for disagreement. This is supported by the statistical analysis, showing that researchers’ political orientation is consistently correlated with views on growth."

58. Energy production, economic growth and CO2 emission: evidence from Pakistan

59. Redefining climate change inaction as temporal intergroup bias: Temporally adapted interventions for reducing prejudice may help elicit environmental protection

60. Renewable energy programmes in the South Pacific – Are these a solution to dependency?

61. How to shape climate risk policies after the Paris agreement? The importance of perceptions as a driver for climate risk management

62. Does the lower stratosphere provide predictability for month-ahead wind electricity generation in Europe?

63. Large soil organic carbon increase due to improved agronomic management in the North China Plain from 1980s to 2010s

64. Limiting climate change: what's most worth doing?

65. A multivariate causality analysis between electricity consumption and economic growth in Turkey

66. Seizing policy windows: Policy Influence of climate advocacy coalitions in Brazil, China, and India, 2000–2015

Other papers

67. Reconstructing Climate from Glaciers

"For example, glacier modeling has demonstrated that the near-ubiquitous global pattern of glacier retreat during the last few centuries resulted from a global-scale climate warming of ∼1°C, consistent with instrumental data and climate proxy records. Climate reconstructions from glaciers have also demonstrated that the tropics were colder at the Last Glacial Maximum than was originally inferred from sea surface temperature reconstructions."

68. Spatial Coverage of Monitoring Networks: A Climate Observing System Simulation Experiment

69. How to reduce long-term drift in present-day and deep-time simulations?

70. An overview of European efforts in generating climate data records

71. Aerosol Effects on Climate via Mixed-Phase and Ice Clouds

72. Plant Evolution and Climate Over Geological Timescales

73. Temporal–spatial variability of atmospheric and hydrological natural disasters during recent 500 years in Inner Mongolia, China

New research, August 28 - September 3, 2017

September 11, 2017 - 6:12am

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

Climate change

1. Continuously Amplified Warming in the Alaskan Arctic: Implications for Estimating Global Warming Hiatus

"Focusing on the "hiatus" period 1998-2012 as identified by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, the SAT has increased at 0.45 °C/decade, which captures more than 90% of the regional trend for 1951-2012. We suggest that sparse in-situ measurements are responsible for underestimation of the SAT change in the gridded datasets."

2. Extreme warming in the Kara Sea and Barents Sea during the winter period 2000 to 2016

"The maximum warming occurs north of Novaya Zemlya in the Kara Sea and Barents Sea between March 2003-2012 and is responsible for up to 20°C increase. Land-based observations confirm the increase but do not cover the maximum regions that are located over the ocean and sea-ice."

3. Tropical semi-arid regions expanding over temperate latitudes under climate change

"We show that a global expansion of this climatic domain has already started according to climate observations in the twentieth century (about + 13% of surface increase, i.e. from 6 to 7% of the global land surface). Models project that this expansion will continue throughout the twenty-first century, whatever the scenario..."

4. Representation of mid-latitude North American coastal storm activity by six global reanalyses

"All reanalyses are found to successfully represent most aspects of mid-latitude North American coastal strong storm activity, annually and seasonally, along both coasts. Nevertheless, ERA-Interim, MERRA, and CFSR provide the better representations of mid-latitude North American coastal strong storm activity, with ERA-Interim performing best overall."

5. Is Nitrogen the Next Carbon?

"The increased use of nitrogen has been critical for increased crop yields and protein production needed to keep pace with the growing world population. However, similar to carbon, the release of fixed nitrogen into the natural environment is linked to adverse consequences at local, regional, and global scales. Anthropogenic contributions of fixed nitrogen continue to grow relative to the natural budget, with uncertain consequences."

6. Annual and seasonal tornado activity in the United States and the global wind oscillation

"Combined, these analyses suggest that seasons with more low atmospheric angular momentum days, or phase 2, 3, and 4 days, tend to have greater tornado activity than those with fewer days, and that this relationship is most evident in winter and spring."

7. Assessing climate change impacts on extreme weather events: the case for an alternative (Bayesian) approach

"Using a simple conceptual model for the occurrence of extreme weather events, we show that if the objective is to minimize forecast error, an alternative approach wherein likelihoods of impact are continually updated as data become available is preferable. Using a simple “proof-of-concept,” we show that such an approach will, under rather general assumptions, yield more accurate forecasts."

8. Trends in extreme temperature indices in Huang-Huai-Hai River Basin of China during 1961–2014

9. Is the choice of statistical paradigm critical in extreme event attribution studies?

10. How will precipitation change in extratropical cyclones as the planet warms? Insights from a large initial condition climate model ensemble

11. Improved Sea Ice Forecasting Through Spatiotemporal Bias Correction

12. New methodology to estimate Arctic sea ice concentration from SMOS combining brightness temperature differences in a maximum-likelihood estimator

13. Modulation of the seasonal cycle of Antarctic sea ice extent related to the Southern Annular Mode

14. Lake dynamics and its relationship to climate change on the Tibetan Plateau over the last four decades

15. On the short-term grounding zone dynamics of Pine Island glacier, West Antarctica observed with COSMO-SkyMed interferometric data

16. The weakened intensity of atmospheric quasi-biweekly oscillation over the western North Pacific during late summer around the late 1990s

17. Causal Pathways for Temperature Predictability from Snow Depth

18. Spatial patterns of summer speedup on south-central Alaska glaciers

19. Increased Ocean Heat Convergence into the High Latitudes with CO2-Doubling Enhances Polar-Amplified Warming

20. Consistently estimating internal climate variability from climate-model simulations

21. Comparison of climatic trends and variability among glacierized environments in the Western Himalayas

Climate change impacts

22. Seasonal temperature is associated with Parkinson’s disease prescriptions: an ecological study

"The prescribed LED was 4.2% greater in January and 4.5% lower in July. Statistical analysis showed that temperature was associated with the prescription of Parkinson medications. Our results suggest seasonality exists in Parkinson’s disease symptoms and this may be related to temperature."

23. The effects of hot nights on mortality in Barcelona, Spain

"The estimated associations for both exposure variables and mortality shows a relationship with high and medium values that persist significantly up to a lag of 1–2 days. In mortality due to natural causes, an increase of 1.1% per 10% (CI95% 0.6–1.5) for hot night hours and 5.8% per each 10° (CI95% 3.5–8.2%) for hot night degrees is observed."

24. Leap-frog in slow-motion: divergent responses of tree species and life stages to climatic warming in Great Basin sub-alpine forests

"Bristlecone pine juveniles establishing above treeline share some environmental associations with bristlecone adults. Limber pine above-treeline juveniles, in contrast, are prevalent across environmental conditions and share few environmental associations with limber pine adults. Strikingly, limber pine is establishing above treeline throughout the region without regard to site characteristic such as soil type, slope, aspect, or soil texture. Though limber pine is often rare at treeline where it coexists with bristlecone pine, limber pine juveniles dominate above treeline even on calcareous soils that are core bristlecone pine habitat. Limber pine is successfully “leap-frogging” over bristlecone pine, probably because of its strong dispersal advantage and broader tolerances for establishment."

25. Ocean acidification alters zooplankton communities and increases top-down pressure of a cubozoan predator

"Specifically, we show that in the combined presence of OA and a cubozoan predator, populations of the most abundant member of the zooplankton community (calanoid copepods) were reduced 27% more than it would be predicted based on the effects of these stressors in isolation, suggesting that OA increases the susceptibility of plankton to predation. Our results indicate that the ecological consequences of OA may be greater than predicted from single-species experiments, and highlight the need to understand future marine global change from a community perspective."

26. Future reef growth can mitigate physical impacts of sea-level rise on atoll islands

"Comparatively, vertical reef accretion in response to SLR will prevent any significant increase in shoreline wave energy and mitigate wave driven flooding volume by 72%."

27. Climate change and Population Growth Impacts on Surface water Supply and Demand of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

28. The relationship between extreme weather events and crop losses in central Taiwan

29. Spatial distributions of Southern Ocean mesozooplankton communities have been resilient to long-term surface warming

30. Long-term Ecological Changes in Marine Mammals Driven by Recent Warming in Northwestern Alaska

31. Characteristics of meteorological drought pattern and risk analysis for maize production in Xinjiang, Northwest China

32. County-level climate change information to support decision-making on working lands

33. Alterations in microbial community composition with increasing fCO2: a mesocosm study in the eastern Baltic Sea

34. Metabolic compensation constrains the temperature dependence of gross primary production

35. Phenology of a dipterocarp forest with seasonal drought: insights into the origin of general flowering

36. Modeling Arctic sea-ice algae: Physical drivers of spatial distribution and algae phenology

37. Evaluating the classical versus an emerging conceptual model of peatland methane dynamics

38. Patterns and biases of climate-change threats in the IUCN Red List

39. Heat stress mortality and desired adaptation responses of healthcare system in Poland

40. Quantifying climate change induced threats to wetland fisheries: a stakeholder-driven approach

Climate change mitigation

41. Does the world have low-carbon bioenergy potential from the dedicated use of land?

ABSTRACT: "While some studies find no room for the dedicated use of land for bioenergy because of growing food needs, other studies estimate large bioenergy potentials, even at levels greater than total existing human plant harvest. Analyzing this second category of studies, we find they have in various ways counted the carbon benefits of using land for biofuels but ignored the costs. Basic carbon opportunity cost calculations per hectare explain why alternative uses of any available land are likely to do more to hold down climate change. Because we find that solar power can provide at least 100 times more useable energy per hectare on three quarters of the world's land, any “surplus” land could also provide the same energy and mitigate climate ~ 100 times more if 1% were devoted to solar and the rest to carbon storage. Review of large bioenergy potential estimates from recent IAMs shows that they depend on many contingencies for carbon benefits, can impose many biodiversity and food costs, and are more predictions of what bioenergy might be in idealized than plausible, future scenarios. At least at this time, policy should not support bioenergy from energy crops and other dedicated uses of land."

42. Who Wins from Emissions Trading? Evidence from California

"Importantly, conditional on race and ethnicity, we find that higher income areas receive larger reductions in pollution under cap-and-trade. Furthermore, conditional on income (or poverty rates), we find that Blacks benefit while Hispanics lose relative to whites under RECLAIM."

43. Climate change and the re-evaluation of cost-benefit analysis

"In this essay, I discuss the shortcomings of CBA framed by its historical development and argue that its relatively recent application to climate change has contributed to growth in the literature re-evaluating its normative foundations."

44. The Value of Energy Efficiency and the Role of Expected Heating Costs

"Results suggest that heating cost considerations are less relevant than previously thought."

45. Some problems in storing renewable energy

46. Improving building energy efficiency in India: State-level analysis of building energy efficiency policies

47. The withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris Agreement and its impact on global climate change governance

Other papers

48. On the impacts of computing daily temperatures as the average of the daily minimum and maximum temperatures

"Our results show that the calculation of daily temperature based on the average of minimum and maximum daily readings leads to an overestimation of the daily values of ~ 10+ % when focusing on extremes and values above (below) high (low) thresholds. Moreover, the effects of the data processing method on trend estimation are generally small, even though the use of the daily minimum and maximum readings reduces the power of trend detection (~ 5–10% fewer trends detected in comparison with the reference data)."

2017 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #36

September 9, 2017 - 9:35am
A chronological listing of news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook page during the past week.  Editor's Pick

6 Questions on Hurricane Irma, Harvey and Climate Change


Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm, barrels toward the Florida coast on Sept. 7, 2017. Credit: NOAA GOES Project via Getty Images

A third of the way into the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, NOAA looked at the ocean and air temperatures and issued an ominous new forecast: the region would likely experience "an above normal hurricane season" that "could be extremely active," with more named storms than previously expected—14 to 19 this season—and two to five major hurricanes.

Now, halfway through the season, Hurricane Harvey's destruction stretches along the Texas coast, and Hurricane Irma looks likely to make landfall in Florida after causing mass destruction in the Caribbean. Just a few days behind Irma, Hurricane Jose appears to be following the same deadly path, while Hurricane Katia churns off Mexico's eastern coast.

As global temperatures continue to rise, climate scientists have said this is what we should expect—more huge storms, with drastic impacts.

Though scientists are still wrestling with some of the specifics of how climate change is impacting hurricanes, a lot is known, including the fact that hurricane seasons like this one could be the new norm.

6 Questions About Hurricane Irma, Harvey and Climate Change by Sabrina Shankman, InsideClimate News, Sep 6, 2017

Links posted on Facebook

Sun Sep 3, 2017

Mon Sep 4, 2017

Tue Sep 5, 2017

Wed Sep 6, 2017

Thu Sep 7, 2017

Fri Sep 9, 2017

Sat Sep 10, 2017

Study: mild floods are declining, but intense floods are on the rise

September 8, 2017 - 1:32am

It is well known that humans are causing the Earth to warm. We also know that a warmer atmosphere has more water vapor. Just like the air is more humid when it is warm, and less humid when cold. The more humid air leads to more intense precipitation and potentially more flooding. But how much change we will see is an open scientific question.

This question is made complex by the fact that flooding isn’t just about rain. It reflects a dependence on evaporation, rain, the ability of land and water management to handle water surges, and other factors. Fortunately, a very recent study out of Science Advances has helped advance our understanding of the confluence of global warming, intense rain and flooding. 

The authors, Conrad Wasko and Ashish Sharma, from the University of New South Wales investigated various non-urban catchments. These are regions where precipitation drains to a common site. We know that in many places the rainfall is increasing. What these authors wanted to know was whether there was a coincident increase in floods found in these various catchments.

This study isn’t as simple as it might sound. The authors had to make choices about which rainfall event and which temperature peak corresponded to each other and to a potential water flow peak. According to the paper, “precipitation events were identified where the precipitation was separated by five days of zero rainfall.” That is, it had to be dry ahead of time. Streamflow and flooding events were selected as peaks separated by more than seven days. The authors then picked the largest peak from the precipitation and the streamflow observations and matched them to a coincident temperature measurement. 

The tough part is that there can be a delay in temperatures and precipitation. Furthermore, there can be a physical distance between the source of the storm and the location of precipitation. Finally, many times we see flooding without the required five-day dry period. So admittedly this study has real limitations. On the other hand, the authors had to make some choices of selection and these are as good as any others. And, they compensated for these limitations by using extensive rainfall, temperature and streamflow data, data that represented the entire world and allows confident conclusions to be drawn.

What they found was that in most cases there is no direct link. That is, higher temperatures does not generally cause an increase in water flow or flood risk. 

So this begs the question, why not? Why isn’t there a clear direct relationship between the temperature peaks and flooding? Well the authors explain that there is an important role of hydrologic loss (water loss due to evaporation for instance). When the authors separated the results by size of catchment, they found that the importance of these water losses was reduced for smaller catchment areas. They write:

if the catchment or region capturing the precipitation is smaller, but the precipitation event intensity remains the same, the potential for losses is less. In large catchments, the peak streamflow is more likely to be influenced by the catchment wetness conditions preceding the storm event. 

When they broke the analysis into different catchment sizes, the authors found that for extreme rainfalls, the flooding and temperature move together. The authors also broke analysis into different geographical zones and found that their conclusions held true, regardless of the zone location.

As I stated earlier, there are limitations to this study; the authors did a great job discussing those limitations. For instance, they point out it’s possible that human changes to the catchment itself can affect flooding. Urbanization in recent years may have “increased streamflow due to a larger proportion of impermeable surfaces while the development of dams for storage may have had the opposite effect.” They also report that the temperature at which the high water flows are recorded do not necessarily correspond to the temperature of the storm. Evaporation can happen for instance over an ocean, the moisture can be carried hundreds of miles inland, where it falls as rain. But, the fact that their results exclude urban catchments and use data from over 5,000 streamflow and 50,000 rainfall gauges lends credibility to their assertions.

So is this good news or bad news?

Click here to read the rest

I was an Exxon-funded climate scientist

September 7, 2017 - 1:50am

Katharine Hayhoe, Professor and Director, Climate Science Center, Texas Tech University.  This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

ExxonMobil’s deliberate attempts to sow doubt on the reality and urgency of climate change and their donations to front groups to disseminate false information about climate change have been public knowledge for a long time, now.

Investigative reports in 2015 revealed that Exxon had its own scientists doing its own climate modeling as far back as the 1970s: science and modeling that was not only accurate, but that was being used to plan for the company’s future.

Now, a peer-reviewed study published August 23 has confirmed that what Exxon was saying internally about climate change was quantitatively very different from their public statements. Specifically, researchers Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes found that at least 80 percent of the internal documents and peer-reviewed publications they studied from between 1977 and 2014 were consistent with the state of the science – acknowledging that climate change is real and caused by humans, and identifying “reasonable uncertainties” that any climate scientist would agree with at the time. Yet over 80 percent of Exxon’s editorial-style paid advertisements over the same period specifically focused on uncertainty and doubt, the study found.

The stark contrast between internally discussing cutting-edge climate research while externally conducting a climate disinformation campaign is enough to blow many minds. What was going on at Exxon?

I have a unique perspective – because I was there.

From 1995 to 1997, Exxon provided partial financial support for my master’s thesis, which focused on methane chemistry and emissions. I spent several weeks in 1996 as an intern at their Annandale research lab in New Jersey and years working on the collaborative research that resulted in three of the published studies referenced in Supran and Oreskes’ new analysis.

Climate research at Exxon

A scientist is a scientist no matter where we work, and my Exxon colleagues were no exception. Thoughtful, cautious and in full agreement with the scientific consensus on climate – these are characteristics any scientist would be proud to own.

Did Exxon have an agenda for our research? Of course – it’s not a charity. Their research and development was targeted, and in my case, it was targeted at something that would raise no red flags in climate policy circles: quantifying the benefits of methane reduction.

Methane is a waste product released by coal mining and natural gas leaks; wastewater treatment plants; farting and belching cows, sheep, goats and anything else that chews its cud; decaying organic trash in garbage dumps; giant termite mounds in Africa; and even, in vanishingly small amounts, our own lactose-intolerant family members.

On a mass basis, methane absorbs about 35 times more of the Earth’s heat than carbon dioxide. Methane has a much shorter lifetime than carbon dioxide gas, and we produce a lot less of it, so there’s no escaping the fact that carbon has to go. But if our concern is how fast the Earth is warming, we can get a big bang for our buck by cutting methane emissions as soon as possible, while continuing to wean ourselves off carbon-based fuels long-term.

For the gas and oil industry, reducing methane emissions means saving energy. So it’s no surprise that, during my research, I didn’t experience any heavy-handed guidance or interference with my results. No one asked to review my code or suggested ways to “adjust” my findings. The only requirement was that a journal article with an Exxon co-author pass an internal review before it could be submitted for peer review, a policy similar to that of many federal agencies.

Did I know what else they were up to at the time? I couldn’t even imagine it.

Fresh out of Canada, I was unaware that there were people who didn’t accept climate science – so unaware, in fact, that it was nearly half a year before I realized I’d married one – let alone that Exxon was funding a disinformation campaign at the very same time it was supporting my research on the most expedient ways to reduce the impact of humans on climate.

Yet Exxon’s choices have contributed directly to the situation we are in today, a situation that in many ways seems unreal: one where many elected representatives oppose climate action, while China leads the U.S. in wind energy, solar power, economic investment in clean energy and even the existence of a national cap and trade policy similar to the ill-fated Waxman-Markey bill of 2009.

Personal decisions

This latest study underscores why many are calling on Exxon to be held responsible for knowingly misleading the public on such a critical issue. For scientists and academics, though, it may fuel another, different, yet similarly moral debate.

Are we willing to accept financial support that is offered as a sop to the public conscience?

The concept of tendering literal payment for sin is nothing new. From the indulgences of the Middle Ages to the criticisms some have leveled at carbon offsets today, we humans have always sought to stave off the consequences of our actions and ease our conscience with good deeds, particularly of the financial kind. Today, many industry groups follow this familiar path: supporting science denial with the left hand, while giving to cutting-edge research and science with the right.

As an academic, how should one consider the sources of funding? Gabe Chmielewski for Mays Communications, CC BY-NC-ND

The Global Climate and Energy Project at Stanford University conducts fundamental research on efficient and clean energy technologies – with Exxon as a founding sponsor. Philanthropist and political donor David Koch gave an unprecedented US$35 million to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in 2015, after which three dozen scientists called on the museum to cut ties with him for funding lobbying groups that “misrepresent” climate science. Shell underwrote the London Science Museum’s “Atmosphere” program and then used its leverage to muddy the waters on what scientists know about climate.

It may be easy to point a finger at others, but when it happens to us, the choice might not seem so clear. Which is most important – the benefit of the research and education, or the rejection of tainted funds?

The appropriate response to morally tainted offerings is an ancient question. In the book of Corinthians, the apostle Paul responds to a query on what to do with food that has been sacrificed to idols – eat or reject?

His response illustrates the complexity of this issue. Food is food, he says – and by the same token, we might say money is money today. Both food and money, though, can imply alliance or acceptance. And if it affects others, a more discerning response may be needed.

What are we as academics to do? In this open and transparent new publishing world of ours, declaration of financial supporters is both important and necessary. Some would argue that a funder, however loose and distant the ties, casts a shadow over the resulting research. Others would respond that the funds can be used for good. Which carries the greatest weight?

After two decades in the trenches of climate science, I’m no longer the ingenue I was. I’m all too aware, now, of those who dismiss climate science as a “liberal hoax.” Every day, they attack me on Facebook, vilify me on Twitter and even send the occasional hand-typed letter - which begs appreciation of the artistry, if not the contents. So now, if Exxon came calling, what would I do?

There’s no one right answer to this question. Speaking for myself, I might ask them to give those funds to politicians who endorse sensible climate policy – and cut their funding to those who don’t. Or I admire one colleague’s practical response: to use a Koch-funded honorarium to purchase a lifetime membership in the Sierra Club.

Despite the fact that there’s no easy answer, it’s a question that’s being posed to more and more of us every day, and we cannot straddle the fence any longer. As academics and scientists, we have some tough choices to make; and only by recognizing the broader implications of these choices are we able to make these decisions with our eyes wide open, rather than half shut.

Denying Hurricane Harvey’s climate links only worsens future suffering

September 5, 2017 - 1:20am

Human-caused climate change amplified the damages and suffering associated with Hurricane Harvey in several different ways. First, sea level rise caused by global warming increased the storm surge and therefore the coastal inundation and flooding from the storm. Second, the warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor, which intensifies extreme precipitation events like the record-shattering rainfall associated with Harvey. Third, warmer ocean waters essentially act as hurricane fuel, which may have made Harvey more intense than it would otherwise have been.

There are other possible human factors at play about which we have less certainty. For example, it’s possible that Harvey stalled off the coast of Texasbecause of changes in atmospheric circulation patterns associated with human-caused global warming. As climate scientist Michael Mann notes, his research has shown that these sorts of stationary summer weather patterns tend to happen more often in a hotter world, but we can’t yet say if that happened in Harvey’s case.

Other human activities also worsened Harvey’s impacts. For example, Houston suffers from urban sprawl, covering a larger area (nearly 600 square miles) than the cities of Chicago, San Francisco, Washington DC, Boston, Manhattan, and Santa Barbara combined. With urban sprawl and poor planning came expansive impervious surfaces – absorbent soil covered instead by concrete and asphalt, increasing flood risks. Houston’s lack of zoning laws combined with the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) also encouraged development in flood prone areas.

We’re subsidizing risky behavior

Private insurance companies don’t want to insure homes that face a significant risk of flooding, but with a lack of regulation and/or government insurance offered by NFIP, development in relatively high-risk flood areas can be profitable. That is, until a flood strikes. 85% of Houston homeowners don’t have flood insurance and will be unable to recover most of their losses from Hurricane Harvey. Others are covered by NFIP, which was already $24 billion in debt before Harvey. That’s because NFIP hasn’t been charging sufficiently high premiums, in large part because it has underestimated flood risks based on maps and projections that are sometimes decades out of date. And climate change is amplifying those flood risks.

It’s a challenging problem because for homeowners living in areas where flood risks have significantly increased, flood insurance premiums should hypothetically increase significantly to cover those risks. But factors like rising sea levels and expanding urban sprawl that contribute to that increased risk aren’t the fault of the homeowners, who can then become angry constituents for politicians working on updating NFIP. And so needed changes to the program have yet to be made.

As a result, the government is effectively subsidizing the costs associated with living in high-risk flood areas. Between 1978 and 2005, NFIP paid out $5.5 billion (9.6% of paid claims) to just 30,000 properties (0.6% of the total covered by flood insurance) that each flooded an average of five times. Because the NFIP premiums are too low, taxpayers end up footing billions of dollars of those payouts.

The situation is analogous to climate change. Without a price on carbon pollution, industries and individuals can dump carbon in the atmosphere for free. But that carbon pollution has costs that we eventually pay, in the form of increased property damage due to amplified storms like Hurricane Harvey, for example. Or from higher food prices when farmers are struck by an intensified drought, or decreased worker productivity in heat waves, or valuable coastal property lost to encroaching sea levels, or homes lost to bigger wildfires and increased costs to fight them – the list of climate costs goes on and on. 

Those costs are eventually paid by taxpayers, but we’re picking up the tab for the polluters. It’s effectively a subsidy for the fossil fuel industry to the tune of trillions of dollars every year, and as with artificially cheap flood insurance premiums, we’re subsidizing risky behavior that ultimately causes severe damages.

The Trump administration is in denial

Ten days before Hurricane Harvey hit, the Trump administration rolled back the Federal Flood Risk Mitigation Standard. The policy was implemented by the Obama administration, and required taxpayer-funded public infrastructure projects to plan for future flooding risks. Much infrastructure within and around Houston is now underwater, and accounting for future flooding risks when replacing it would be smart. But the Trump administration considered this policy a burdensome regulation, claiming that the infrastructure permitting process has too many “inefficiencies.” Apparently those “inefficiencies” include saving taxpayer money by reducing future flood losses.

When asked about the causes and contributors to Hurricane Harvey and its damages, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt sidestepped the subject by using the Trump administration’s favorite strategy – attack the media:

I think for opportunistic media to use events like this to, without basis or support, just to simply engage in a cause and effect type of discussion, and not focus upon the needs of people, I think is misplaced.

Worse yet, EPA spokesperson Liz Bowman accused climate scientists of “engaging in attempts to politicize an ongoing tragedy.” It’s similar to the argument that we shouldn’t talk about gun control in the aftermath of a mass shooting. That’s precisely when we should be working on solutions to prevent these types of disasters from happening again and again.

Denial increases suffering

Those who oppose climate policies will often argue that we can simply adapt to the consequences of human-caused climate change. Most recently, New York Times columnist Bret Stephens suggested that Harvey will just be a “speed bump” for Houston’s economy, and that the world should follow Houston’s example of “environmental resilience” by following “the path of its extraordinary economic growth.” The people in Texas suffering from having lost their homes and possessions probably aren’t comforted that Stephens considers Harvey a “speed bump” for the local economy (which coincidentally is probably not true). As renowned glaciologist Lonnie Thompson put it:

Click here to read the rest

2017 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming Digest #35

September 3, 2017 - 7:56am

Story of the Week... Editorial of the Week...Toon of the Week... Coming Soon on SkS... Poster of the Week... Climate Feedback Reviews... SkS Week in Review... 97 Hours of Consensus...

Story of the Week...

The Strange Future Hurricane Harvey Portends

 A Syrian refugee walks toward his tent at Zaatari refugee camp through puddles and in front of storm clouds. 

Humans have begun an international project to move water around the world, far more ambitious than any network of aqueducts or hydroelectric dams ever constructed or conceived. The drivers of this global system are billowing vapors, which trap heat and propel the world’s water faster and farther around the globe. The first results of this project may already be seen in the outrageous rainfall totals of storms like Hurricane Harvey, or in landslides on remote mountain hillsides, and even in the changing saltiness of the oceans.

The Earth system is getting warmer. Water is evaporating faster. There’s more of it in the air. It’s moving through the system faster. As a result, the coming centuries will play out under a new atmospheric regime, one with more extreme rain, falling in patterns unfamiliar to those around which civilization has grown.

“Basically the idea is that as the climate warms there’s more energy in the atmosphere,” says Gabriel Bowen, a geochemist at the University of Utah. “That drives a more vigorous water cycle: Evaporation rates go up, precipitation rates go up—there’s just more water moving through that cycle faster and more intensely.”

For each degree Celsius of warming the atmosphere is able to hold 6 percent more water. For a planet that’s expected to warm by 4 degrees by the end of the century, that means a transition to a profoundly different climate.

“Rainfall extremes have increased in intensity I think at every latitude in the northern hemisphere,” says Massachusetts Institute of Technology climate scientist Paul O’Gorman.

The Strange Future Hurricane Harvey Portends by Peter Brannen, The Atlantic, Aug 31, 2017 

Editorial of the Week...

Harvey should be a warning to Trump that climate change is a global threat

As rains fell and floodwaters rose in Houston, President Trump took to Twitter with an “oh, gosh” tweet: “Wow - Now experts are calling #Harvey a once in 500 year flood! We have an all out effort going, and going well!”

How refreshing it is when the president directs our attention to the words of experts — people who ascertain facts, study the issues, dissect the causes of problems, and put their biases and suppositions aside to figure out solutions.

If Trump himself were to consult the experts — such as, you know, climate scientists — he would learn that global warming is real. He’d also learn that although warming did not cause Hurricane Harvey, it certainly makes such storms stronger, more unpredictable and quicker to intensify. Experts — there’s that word again — say that warmer air temperatures mean more evaporation of moisture from the seas to the skies, and thus more rainfall from storms. Warmer seas — including the Gulf of Mexico — intensify storms, from their size to their wind speeds, and amplify storm surges. (In southeast Texas, the flat geography allows a surging Gulf to intrude farther inland.) Another wrinkle, according to atmospheric scientist Michael E. Mann: Climate change modeling suggests that human-propelled global warming could lead to weaker prevailing winds and a jet stream tracking father north. And that appears to have been what led Harvey to park over southeast Texas and dump more than 40 inches of water in places rather than spreading the rain (and pain) around or drifting back out over the Gulf.

Harvey should be a warning to Trump that climate change is a global threat, Opinion by Editorial Board, Los Angeles Times, Aug 30, 2017 

Toon of the Week...


Coming Soon on SkS...
  • I was an Exxon-funded climate scientist (Katharine Hayhoe)
  • Denying Hurricane Harvey’s climate links will only increase future suffering (Dana)
  • Research this week (Ari)
  • Guest post (John Abraham)
  • Why the 97% climate consensus is important (Dana, John Cook, Sander van der Linden, Ed Maibach & Tony Lieserowitz)
  • 2017 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #36 (John Hartz)
  • 2017 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Waming Digest #36 (John Hartz)
Poster of the Week...


Climate Feedback Reviews...

Climate Feedback asked its network of scientists to review the article, Did Climate Change Intensify Hurricane Harvey? by Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic, Aug 27, 2017

Three scientists analyzed the article and estimated its overall scientific credibility to be ‘high’ to ‘very high’. 

A majority of reviewers tagged the article as: .

Review Summary

This article in The Atlantic attempted to investigate what can be said about the relationship between Tropical Storm Harvey and climate change. Harvey’s record rainfall totals around Houston, Texas are partly the result of how long it has persisted in the same location, making it an unusual storm.

Scientists who reviewed the article indicated that it provides an accurate summary of how tropical cyclones are expected to change due to global warming, as well as what aspects of Harvey do not have clearly understood relationships with climate change. 

The Atlantic accurately explores climate context for Tropical Storm Harvey, Climate 
Feedback, Aug 29, 2017 

SkS Week in Review...  97 Hours of Consensus...



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2017 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #35

September 2, 2017 - 10:57am
A chronological listing of news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook page during the past week.  Editor's Pick

Global warming doubles growth rates of Antarctic seabed's marine fauna – study


Antarctic sea has a species-rich environment but global warming could make some species dominant with devastating implications for marine life. Photograph: STAFF/Reuters

Marine life on the Antarctic seabed is likely to be far more affected by global warming than previously thought, say scientists who have conducted the most sophisticated study to date of heating impacts in the species-rich environment.

Growth rates of some fauna doubled – including colonising moss animals and undersea worms – following a 1C increase in temperature, making them more dominant, pushing out other species and reducing overall levels of biodiversity, according to the study published on Thursday in Current Biology.

The researchers who conducted the nine-month experiment in the Bellingshuan Sea say this could have alarming implications for marine life across the globe as temperatures rise over the coming decades as a result of manmade greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Gail Ashton of the British Antarctic Survey and Smithsonian Environmental Research Center said she was not expecting such a significant difference. “The loss of biodiversity is very concerning. This is an indication of what may happen elsewhere with greater warning.” 

Global warming doubles growth rates of Antarctic seabed's marine fauna – study by Jonathan Watts, Guardian, Aug 31, 2017

Links posted on Facebook

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The Trump administration wants to bail out failed contrarian climate scientists

August 31, 2017 - 1:31am

Climate contrarians, like Trump’s EPA administrator Scott Pruitt and Energy Secretary Rick Perry, don’t understand how scientific research works. They are basically asking for a government handout to scientists to do what scientists are should already be doing. They are also requesting handouts for scientists who have been less successful in research and publications – a move antithetical to the survival of the fitness approach that has formed the scientific community for decades.

The helping handout would be through a proposed exercise called a “red team/blue team” effort. It is a proposal that would reportedly find groups of scientists on both “sides” of the climate issue (whatever that means), and have them try to poke holes in each others’ positions. I will explain why this is a handout but first let’s talk about the plan and how it interferes with the scientific process.

I say that Pruitt and Perry don’t understand how science works because we are already doing “red team/blue team” exercises everyday in our normal line of business. Science works by challenging each other and our ideas. If we think that a colleague has made an error, we tend to be merciless and tenacious to correct the errors. This is part of the premise of the concept of peer review – where we send studies and manuscripts to journals to have other experts objectively review them for errors.

So back to the basic premise of a red team/blue team exercise – basically the “red team” would critique some conclusion of a “blue team.” The blue team would be able to respond, and there would be this back and forth exchange. On its face it sounds pretty straightforward even though scientists are already doing that in the scientific literature. But how would this work in practice? 

First, how would the red team and blue team members be selected? Would they be picked by Pruitt and Perry who have already demonstrated a commitment to unbridled fossil fuel usage? The red team would almost certainly be selected from the very small but vocal group of contrarian scientists and non-scientists who have failed in the scientific arena. The fact is, there are no credible scientists who doubt that human emissions of greenhouse gases cause global warming. They just don’t exist. 

There are some “lukewarmist” scientists who think the problem won’t be that bad, but these “lukewarmers” have failed to provide compelling evidence in the scientific literature. In many instances, their work has been shown to be wrong, the mainstream scientists have evaluated their claims and found them lacking or faulty. And this is why 97% of the world’s top climate scientists agree with each other on climate change. 

So forming a red team would basically amount to a governmental helping hand to scientists who have not succeeded in the scientific arena. Since they cannot compete in the cut-throat area of scientific research, they would be given a free pass by the government to circumvent the normal peer review process. Let’s be clear, the red team cannot make the case in the scientific arena so they would be given a free pass to make their claims in the political arena.

What would the exercise look like? Well that isn’t clear. Some ideas have been floated such as a live debate. Perhaps a red team response to a summary article such as the National Climate Report made public recently by the New York Times? Would it be special earmarked funding for contrarians to perform research? Would it be an “official” U.S. government report that is written by the contrarians? We just don’t know.

Click here to read the rest

New research, August 21-27, 2017

August 30, 2017 - 2:17am

About five years ago, Skeptical Science had a weekly feature called "new research from last week" which was compiled by me. I stopped doing the posts at the end of 2012. Now I'll start making those posts again. This time I won't promise to have a post at a certain time every week, but only that there will roughly be one new post per week.

Below are the new papers I noticed between August 21 and August 27. The title for each paper is shown and links to its abstract. Additionally, I have included a quote from the abstract for some papers. Papers have been divided into four categories: climate change (containing climate science relating to climate change), climate change impacts (contains papers on how climate change affects different things such as biosphere and mankind), climate change mitigation (contains research on actions we can do to mitigate climate change), and other papers (contains for example papers on past climates and on general climate science).

Climate change

1. North Atlantic observations sharpen meridional overturning projections

"Our results present more evidence that AMOC likely already started slowing down."

2. Longwave Emission Trends over Africa and Implications for Atlantic Hurricanes

"GCMs predict a continuation of the increasing OLR gradient in response to greenhouse gas forcing. Assuming a steady linear relationship between African easterly waves and tropical cyclogenesis, this result suggests a future increase in Atlantic tropical cyclone frequency by 10% (20%) at the end of the 21st century under the RCP 4.5 (8.5) forcing scenario."

3. Evaluating the evidence of a global sea surface temperature threshold for tropical cyclone genesis

"Here, a basin-by-basin analysis of the SST distributions in the five most active ocean basins is performed, which shows that there is no global SST threshold for TC genesis. The distributions of genesis SST show substantial variations between basins."

4. How much have California winters warmed over the last century?

"Averaged across California over 1920-2015, Tmax trends vary from -0.30 to 1.2 °C/century while Tmin trends range from 1.2 to 1.9 °C/century."

5. Western North Pacific tropical cyclone model tracks in present and future climates

"The first is a statistically significant increase in the North-South expansion, which can also be viewed as a poleward shift, as TC tracks are prevented from expanding equatorward due to the weak Coriolis force near the Equator. The second change is an eastward shift in the storm tracks that occur near the central Pacific in one of the multi-model ensembles, indicating a possible increase in the occurrence of storms near Hawaii in a warming climate."

6. North Atlantic polar lows and weather regimes: do current links persist in a warmer climate?

"While a relationship has been identified for the present climate, under a warmer climate, polar low favorable conditions are expected to occur less often, and the large-scale circulation variability appears to have reduced influence on stability, and thus, on polar low occurrence."

7. Examining the Climatology of Shortwave Radiation in the Northeastern United States

"Statistically significant decreases in shortwave radiation are identified which are dominated by changes during the summer months. Because this coincides with the season of greatest insolation and the highest potential for energy production, financial implications may be large for the solar energy industry if such trends persist into the future."

8. The origins of the anomalous warming in the California coastal ocean and San Francisco Bay during 2014-2016

"Concerning the warming in the SFB, an examination of the observations and the heat budget in an unstructured-grid numerical model simulation suggested that the warming during the second half of 2014 and early 2016 originated in the adjacent California coastal ocean and propagated through the Golden Gate into the Bay."

9. Evaluating Model Simulations of Twentieth-Century Sea-Level Rise. Part II: Regional Sea-Level Changes

"Climate models show that the spatial variability in sea-level trends observed by tide-gauge records is dominated by the GIA contribution and the steric contribution over 1900-2015. Climate models also show that it is important to include all contributions to sea-level changes as they cause significant local deviations; for example, the groundwater depletion around India which is responsible for the low 20th century sea-level rise in the region."

10. Extreme cyclone events in the Arctic: Wintertime variability and trends

11. Atmospheric eddies mediate lapse rate feedback and Arctic amplification

12. Interpretation of Factors Controlling Low Cloud Cover and Low Cloud Feedback Using a Unified Predictive Index

13. Towards consistent diagnostics of the coupled atmosphere and ocean energy budgets

14. Mechanisms underlying recent decadal changes in subpolar North Atlantic Ocean heat content

15. The warmer the ocean surface, the shallower the mixed layer: How much of this is true?

16. Horizontal and vertical variability of observed soil temperatures

17. Conditions leading to the unprecedented low Antarctic sea ice extent during the 2016 austral spring season

18. Highly temporally resolved response to seasonal surface melt of the Zachariae and 79N outlet glaciers in Northeast Greenland

19. On the importance of the albedo parameterization for the mass balance of the Greenland ice sheet in EC-Earth

20. The response of surface mass and energy balance of a continental glacier to climate variability, western Qilian Mountains, China

21. Evaluation of snow cover and snow depth on the Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau derived from passive microwave remote sensing

22. Climatic variability of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and western US snowpack

23. The influence of topography on midlatitude cyclones on Australia's east coast

24. Detection of Sea Level Fingerprints derived from GRACE gravity data

25. Climatology of Heavy Precipitation over Corsica in the Period 1985 – 2015

26. Response of ENSO amplitude to global warming in CESM large ensemble: uncertainty due to internal variability

27. Variability of temperature properties over Kenya based on observed and reanalyzed datasets

28. Bathymetric control of warm ocean water access along the East Antarctic Margin

29. EOF analysis of COSMIC observations on the global zonal mean temperature structure of the Upper Troposphere and Lower Stratosphere from 2007 to 2013

Climate change impacts

30. Promoting flood risk reduction: the role of insurance in Germany and England

"We find that in both countries FRM [Flood Risk Management] is still a reactive, event-driven process, while anticipatory FRM remains underdeveloped. However, collaboration between insurers and FRM decision-makers has already been successful, for example in improving risk knowledge and awareness, while in other areas insurance acts as a disincentive for more risk reduction action."

31. The Role of Health in Urban Climate Adaptation: An Analysis of Six U.S. Cities

"We found that interviewees’ ability to understand the connection between climate and health was a major determinant for health adaptation implementation."

32. The Brazilian World Cup: too hot for soccer?

"The results showed the air temperature and relative humidity data analyzed here both individually and in the form of an index indicate that the World Cup held in Brazil in 2014 did not put any of the players at risk due to extreme heat."

33. Environmental indicators of oyster norovirus outbreaks in coastal waters

"Among the six environmental indicators, the most important three indicators, including water temperature, solar radiation and gage height, are capable of explaining 77.7% of model-predicted oyster norovirus outbreaks while the extremely low temperature alone may explain 37.2% of oyster norovirus outbreaks."

34. Sound physiological knowledge and principles in modeling shrinking of fishes under climate change

35. A first look at factors affecting aragonite compensation depth in the eastern Arabian Sea

36. Implications of climate and outdoor thermal comfort on tourism: the case of Italy

37. Potential climate change impacts on fire intensity and key wildfire suppression thresholds in Canada

38. Simulating plant invasion dynamics in mountain ecosystems under global change scenarios

39. Humidity does not appear to trigger leaf out in woody plants

40. Tracing biogeochemical subsidies from glacier runoff into Alaska's coastal marine food webs

41. Net community production in the bottom of first-year sea ice over the Arctic spring bloom 

Climate change mitigation

42. Negative Emissions from Stopping Deforestation and Forest Degradation, Globally

"Accounting for these committed emissions, we estimate that stopping deforestation and allowing secondary forests to grow would yield cumulative negative emissions between 2016 and 2100 of about 120 PgC, globally. Extending the lifetimes of wood products could potentially remove another 10 PgC from the atmosphere, for a total of approximately 130 PgC, or about 13 years of fossil fuel use at today's rate." ... "But if greater negative emissions are to be realized, they will require an expansion of forest area, greater efficiencies in converting harvested wood to long-lasting products and sources of energy, and novel approaches for sequestering carbon in soils. That is, they will require current management practices to change."

43. Assessing ExxonMobil’s climate change communications (1977–2014)

"We conclude that ExxonMobil contributed to advancing climate science—by way of its scientists’ academic publications—but promoted doubt about it in advertorials. Given this discrepancy, we conclude that ExxonMobil misled the public."

44. Will technology advances alleviate climate change? Dual effects of technology change on aggregate carbon dioxide emissions

"We found that technology change indeed reduced aggregate carbon dioxide emissions, but the scale and intensity effects of technology change separately expressed positive and negative values. As a consequence, previous studies that only consider the intensity effect overestimate the impact of technology change on carbon dioxide emissions."

45. Assessment of spatio-temporal changes in terrestrial carbon sequestration due to Kochi metro rail project in India

"Carbon emissions due to loss of urban trees were found to be significant and unaccounted for the metro rail project."

46. The perspectives of the urban poor in climate vulnerability assessments – The case of Kota, India

47. How Much Does Wind Power Reduce CO2 Emissions? Evidence from the Irish Single Electricity Market 

Other papers

48. An 810-year history of cold season temperature variability for northern Poland

"Investigations into climate-growth relationships found year-to-year ring-width variability to be more strongly correlated to cold season temperature (November to April) prior to the growing season than summer temperatures during tree-ring formation."

49. Late Quaternary glaciation of the northern Urals: a review and new observations

50. Marine paleoclimatic proxies: A shift from qualitative to quantitative estimation of seawater parameters

51. Assessment of Mg/Ca in Saccostrea glomerata (the Sydney rock oyster) shell as a potential temperature record

52. Investigating δ18O of Turbo sarmaticus (L. 1758) as an indicator of sea surface temperatures

53. On the spatio-temporal representativeness of observations


Exit, Pursued by a Crab

August 29, 2017 - 1:32am

This is a re-post from Critical Angle

Participating in social media creates a wide and diverse network of acquaintances. Often, these people become “friends”, even though direct personal contact may never made with them. It can be hard to establish traditional friendships without face-to-face encounters. Before the Internet, reading body language, voice inflections and facial expressions was as big a part of communication as speech itself. For many of us who spend a disproportionate amount of time in front of screens, much of our communication has become disembodied. But we still have bodies and, unfortunately, bodies break down.

I never wanted to write this post, but I feel that I owe it to the people I have come to know as online friends. They deserve to know that I’m suffering from a fatal illness. However, I hate the idea of now being treated differently because of this disclosure. I am not fishing for compliments or looking for moral support.

In 2002, at age 48, I was diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer. I had a prostatectomy, but, despite the entire removal of the gland, there were small amounts of metastatic disease detected in nearby lymph nodes. The cancer had not been cured. Progression of the disease was slowed for many years by intermittent hormone treatment. I experienced no physical symptoms of the disease for twelve years, although the consequences of surgery and hormone treatment were no fun. But life continued and it was good.

As Hemingway remarked about going bankrupt, my cancer progressed gradually at first and then suddenly. About two years ago, my body’s plumbing and scaffolding started to show signs of trouble. More aggressive hormonal drugs were prescribed, which brought me back to good health for a year. Then, as the effectiveness of those drugs failed, chemotherapy beat back the worst symptoms for most of another year. Chemotherapy side-effects can often be managed quite well these days and it is not the horror that many imagine.

You become aware that the treatment options are running out when the oncologists start talking about maximizing quality, rather than quantity, of life. That’s where I am now. My life expectancy has been reduced from years to months. There still may be a few tricks left in my doctors’ books that may help extend my life beyond current expectations, but they are long shots and may not be available.

Reasons to be thankful

I was originally given a median life expectancy of six years. I have lasted fifteen and I’m not done quite yet. The palaeontologist and science writer Stephen Jay Gould wrote an excellent essay on statistics and cancer: The Median Isn’t the Message.  He had an eight-month median life expectation after his diagnosis of mesothelioma, but Gould lasted twenty years and was eventually killed by a different kind of cancer.

Being born as a white, male baby-boomer into a good family in a prosperous country (Britain) and having made some lucky life choices means I’ve been a big winner in the human lottery. I’ve never had to live through a war, never gone hungry, never been abused. My career as an industrial scientist was challenging and rewarding. I even managed to sneak in a little publishable research along the way.

For most of my teenage and adult life I’ve been a keen—if average ability—rock-climber, back-county skier and alpinist. I’ve had several near-misses and the occasional epic outing, but never suffered any serious injury. A careless slip or an avalanche could easily have ended my life early. Only once did a climbing companion of mine need rescuing and hospitalization. He was hit by a falling rock in Bristol’s Avon Gorge. His helmet saved him from lasting injury, we lowered him to the roadside below and he was in an ambulance in minutes. I’ve indulged in many dangerous activities and never paid the price.

Living in Canada means that I have received first-class medical treatment, without once having had to worry about paying for it. I held a high-stress oil-company executive job for a few years before and after my diagnosis. I had an inkling that the long hours would have killed me if I had kept it up. My employer was understanding and eventually laid me off with a generous redundancy package. There wasn’t room in that corporate culture for employees who were not able to give their all.

I quit full-time work in 2005 and moved from Alberta to the beautiful coast of British Columbia. I became a geoscience consultant, setting my own hours and my own pace. Working mostly from home removes the stress of the daily commute, although I did have to make occasional trips to Calgary as well as to the UK, Peru, Argentina, Romania and Russia. Consultants get paid for travel time, employees often have to give up their weekends unpaid. The relationship between client and consultant is usually easier than between boss and employee.

There were no worries about losing health insurance. Had I been an American, I would likely have faced a terrible decision about whether to hang on to my stressful job, or impoverish my dependents by quitting and giving up health coverage.

Canada now permits physician-assisted suicide, so I’m reassured that I won’t have to needlessly endure a protracted death. I’m told that relatively few people follow through with it in practice, but it’s comforting to know that there is an option.

Most importantly, I have had indispensable support from loved ones. Family members can suffer as much or more than the patients. They feel obliged to stay strong and supportive whereas I’m allowed—even expected—to let go emotionally. Perhaps I’m revealing too much detail about myself in this blogpost, but I’m going to respect the privacy of my carers by saying nothing more about them.

There are plenty of younger, better people who have suffered worse diseases. The British physicist Sir David MacKay springs to mind. He died of cancer at age 48—the age at which I was diagnosed fifteen years ago—leaving behind a young family and the potential to add to his already brilliant contributions to the debate on climate solutions. MacKay wrote a detailed and fascinating account of his treatment on his blog, I’m not going to attempt to do that.

Seeing young children in cancer centres and the horror in the faces of their parents, provides a sense of perspective for those of us who face a perhaps untimely death after decades of happy lives.

Nothing more terrible, nothing more true

Philip Larkin, in his masterpiece poem Aubade, expresses the deep fear of death that most of us have felt. An extract:

The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
—The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused—nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, 
not seeing
That this is what we fear—no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.

He writes later:

…Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.

Perhaps it’s understandable that a young man like Dylan Thomas (who died at 39) should urge his elders to “Rage, rage against the dying of the light”, but older folk might be better advised instead try to find the wisdom to be grateful for a long life, well-lived, and accept the inevitable with as much grace as they can muster.

A recent, brilliantly written piece in the New Yorker by Cory Taylor expresses my current attitude about dying almost exactly.

Lessons learned

Initial reactions to a dire diagnosis vary, but most of us initially suffer denial. People like me who are used to having technical control instinctively try to find out everything we can about the disease. Almost everyone I know who has been given a cancer diagnosis has looked for an unconventional cure at first. They try a drastic change of diet or concoctions of herbal infusions. I did too. But I’ve given up trying to pretend that I can find out anything that the specialists don’t already know. I’ve learned to try to focus on living well and leave the treatment choices to the consensus of the experts.

Many people become uncomfortable around cancer sufferers. There’s a natural tendency to look for reasons for the disease—why them, why not me?—and to resist the notion that in most cases getting cancer is just lousy luck. Humans instinctively  try to find underlying reasons for outcomes. Good health can sometimes be attributed to having lived a virtuous life, with illness blamed on bad lifestyle choices. This can be partly true, of course, but more often than not, shit just happens.

With good intentions, friends will sometimes urge sufferers to adopt a more positive attitude. Certainly, if cancer patients are unduly stressed it may not be helpful for the progression of their disease—perhaps misery depresses immune systems and it certainly makes lives less bearable. But there’s scant evidence that urging sufferers to buck-up and look on the bright side helps outcomes at all. On the contrary, this can place an extra burden on the victims by making them feel they are not doing enough to help themselves. If you know someone with cancer, please put aside any advice and judgment. Just be nice.

Importantly, the family members on the front line of providing care can suffer even greater mental anguish than the patients. Their pain and grief will endure long after the patient has died. Help them, sympathize with them, never tell them they are not doing enough.

The certainty of a premature death focuses the mind. Strangely, at moments of acute stress, one sometimes feels the exhilarating sensation of living in the present moment—experiencing a beautiful, perfect, harmonic world—instant Zen mastery. But it is fleeting. Familiar mental attitudes reassert themselves. At least that’s what happens to me.

But one unexpected change is acquiring a lasting and enhanced appreciation for the humdrum, the everyday stuff of living, rather than the extraordinary experiences that we sometimes think ought to define our lives. As he died of cancer, the singer Warren Zevon advised: “Enjoy every sandwich.” It sounds trite, but it’s true.

Forget about bucket lists. Get used to replacing the thrill of new experiences with the intensity of doing ordinary things for perhaps the last time.

Climate change and me

It may seem a little odd to end this disclosure about my looming demise with a technical commentary on climate change. However, concern about what happens to the planet after my death—whenever that date might be—has been important to me over the past few years. Having the fatal moment moved forward doesn’t change anything.

For the past ten years, I’ve become obsessive about learning and writing about climate change. I’ve done my best to provide my own perspective as an ex-oilman and geoscientist. Most of my contributions are recorded on this blog. I’ve lately found it hard to apply the sustained effort to research and write in-depth pieces that add anything coherent and novel enough to be worth publishing. I would love, for example, to dig deeper into the means and benefits of mitigation technologies and the costs of inaction.

I have become reluctantly pessimistic about our ability to avoid dangerous global change. If the best mitigation efforts are made and we get lucky with climate sensitivity and carbon-cycle feedbacks, we might succeed in limiting surface warming to 2-3°C. If we are mitigation laggards and the response of the Earth System to the abrupt chemical changes we are delivering to the atmosphere turns out to be severe, the consequences could be dire. Even in the best imaginable case, we are in for some nasty, disruptive shocks, unfairly focussed on the poorest people: those who have done the least to cause the problem.

A recent paper by Mora et al. predicts that parts of Brazil, W Africa and SE Asia will experience, by 2100, “deadly” outdoor conditions of heat and humidity for humans for most of the year, even under a middling emissions  scenario like RCP4.5.

The very worst cases—much more than 4° C of average surface warming—may have only low chances of happening. Nevertheless, such outcomes would force such drastic transformations in the world order that conventional economic cost-benefit analysis and discount-rate considerations would no longer apply. When it becomes a matter of survival—war, disease, disaster—money becomes no object. Rates of return on investment and enhancing economic growth take a back seat when the future of civilization itself is threatened. Admittedly, finite resources would still need to be optimally allocated: I wouldn’t argue for throwing the entire discipline of economics out of the window.

Geoengineering as a remedy

I fear that the defining issue of the latter part of the twenty-first century will be the application of geoengineering, particularly albedo modification. The technical uncertainties and political implications are staggering. But it’s likely coming, whether we are ready or not. It’s crazy that policy makers and researchers are giving it so little attention.

We can speculate, of course, that there might be other perils—a horrible pandemic; out-of-control artificial intelligence; an all-out nuclear war; an asteroid; unforeseen consequences of genetic modification—that could prove even more destructive. But anthropogenic climate change is a certainty rather than some remote risk. The temptation to apply a quick fix will one day prove irresistible for those countries that find themselves under acute climatic stress.

I dislike applying both military and disease metaphors to the climate crisis. More often than not, they distort rather than illuminate the true nature of the problem.

Nevertheless, proposed geoengineering remedies for global warming have some parallels with cancer treatments. There’s little doubt that they will reduce the impact of some of the worst symptoms and prolong survival. But some problems, most notably ocean acidification, will remain unaddressed by solar radiation management. Even though average global temperatures can certainly be lowered by feeding reflective particles into the stratosphere—we know this from observations of big volcanic eruptions—regional consequences can’t yet be adequately predicted by climate models.

Cancer treatments affect only the patients. Medical ethics protects them by insisting on first obtaining their informed consent. Albedo geoengineering, in contrast, can be applied unilaterally and inexpensively by any middle-power country, which could well be oblivious to any negative consequences inflicted on its neighbours.

The dosage of the stratospheric sulphate medication will forever have to be maintained. It will have to be increased if we continue to burn fossil fuels. If, for any reason, the albedo meds were suddenly interrupted, the shock to the global climate system would be sudden and truly catastrophic. Global temperatures could shoot up several degrees in a few years: it would be like taking a wrecking ball to our planetary home.

The only “cure” for climate change will be in attempting to restore the stable climate in which human civilization developed. We will have to find a way to reduce atmospheric CO2 concentrations back to below 400ppm, perhaps even to 350ppm, as James Hansen and other scientists have recommended. That will be extraordinarily expensive and perhaps not even physically possible.

It will demand sacrifice, investment and restraint from the majority of the world to achieve a positive result that will take decades to manifest itself. It will require not only sucking CO2 out of the air, but a nearly equal and additional amount out of the oceans. Basically, we would have to put back in to the Earth most of the carbon we have taken out of it since the Industrial Revolution. The challenge is made harder because the physical mass of the required carbon disposal is amplified by a factor of more than three: those carbon atoms we dug up and burned are now wedded to two heavier oxygen atoms.

A long-term program of planetary CO2 liposuction, combined with a strict carbon diet, could eventually turn things around. But even with such an attempted cure, there will still be the earthly equivalents of scar tissue, damaged vital organs and lost limbs—coral reefs, ice sheets, precious ecosystems—that may never restore themselves within human timelines. 


One of the great benefits of my engaging in research and activism on climate change has been making friends with some determined and talented people. They have taught me so much. They will continue the struggle to communicate the nature of the crisis and advocate for solutions. In particular, the volunteers in the Skeptical Science team have been an inspiration. Long may they run.

I’m still keen to continue conversations, especially with people I don’t agree with. There’s so much more to learn. A politically conservative perspective on climate solutions is essential. It’s a tragedy that many right-wingers have ruled themselves out of serious debate, with their idiotic, tribally motivated denial of basic science. To solve this problem we will have to change everything. That will require willing contributions from all of us.

Participating in the struggle against denial of the scientific consensus on climate is something I would dearly like to continue doing, but force majeure dictates some triage of my efforts. I’m no longer going to bicker with those who don’t engage in good faith. Life really is too short.

I’m not gone quite yet and I’ll try to keep doing what I can.

Study: Katharine Hayhoe is successfully convincing doubtful evangelicals about climate change

August 28, 2017 - 1:31am

Approximately one-quarter of Americans identify as evangelical Christians, and that group also tends to be more resistant to the reality of human-caused global warming. As a new paper by Brian Webb and Doug Hayhoe notes:

a 2008 study found that just 44% of evangelicals believed global warming to be caused mostly by human activities, compared to 64% of nonevangelicals (Smith and Leiserowitz, 2013) while, a 2011 survey found that only 27% of white evangelicals believed there to be a scientific consensus on climate change, compared to 40% of the American public (Public Religion Research Institute, 2011).

These findings appear to stem from two primary factors. First, evangelicals tend to be socially and politically conservative, and climate change is among the many issues that have become politically polarized in America. Second, there is sometimes a perceived conflict between science and religion, as Christians distrust what they perceive as scientists’ “moral agenda” on issues like evolution, stem cell research, and climate change. As Webb and Hayhoe describe it:

theological conservatism, scientific skepticism, political affiliation, and sociocultural influences have reinforced one another to instill climate skepticism into the evangelical tribe mentality, thus creating a formidable barrier to climate education efforts.

Evangelical climate leaders

There are also evangelicals who have tried to convince their peer group about the reality of human-caused climate change and our moral obligation to address it. These include the Evangelical Environmental Network, the Evangelical Climate Initiative, the Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, and evangelical climate scientists like Sir John Houghton and Doug Hayhoe’s daughter Katharine Hayhoe(one of TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people). However, a majority of evangelicals continue to reject the reality of human-caused climate change, and there hasn’t been research quantifying the effectiveness of these evangelical climate leadership efforts.

Brian Webb and Doug Hayhoe’s study did just that by testing the effectiveness of a climate lecture delivered by Katharine Hayhoe to undergraduate students at the predominantly evangelical Houghton College in New York. Approximately half of the participants self-identified as conservatives and Republicans, 28% as liberals and Democrats, and the remainder as neither liberal nor conservative. 63% of the participants identified as evangelicals (most of the rest were of other Christian denominations).

Katharine Hayhoe’s lecture presented climate science information through the lens of an evangelical tradition. In addition to presenting scientific evidence, it included an introduction about the difference between faith and science (faith is based on things that are spiritually discerned, whereas science is based on observation). About six minutes of the 33- to 53-minute lectures were devoted to theology-based ethics.

Hayhoe lecture’s effectiveness

The participants filled out a survey before and after the lecture, detailing their acceptance that global warming is happening, its cause, whether there’s a scientific consensus, how high of a priority they consider it, how worried they are about it, and how much it will harm various groups. The results showed an increase in pro-climate beliefs for every single question after listening to Katharine Hayhoe’s lecture.

Acceptance that global warming is happening increased for 48% of participants, and that humans are causing it for 39%. Awareness of the expert scientific consensus increased among 27% of participants. 52% were more worried about climate change after watching the lecture, and 67% increased their responses about how much harm climate change will do. 55% of participants viewed addressing climate change a higher priority after attending Katharine Hayhoe’s lecture. For most of the remaining participants, there was no change in responses to these questions.

By testing three different lecture approaches, Webb and Hayhoe also concluded that the lecture was equally effective when presented in person or as a recorded video, and that adding material about common climate misconceptions didn’t make the lecture any more effective.

Facts matter – especially when they come from trusted sources

There’s been some debate among social scientists about how much facts matter in today’s politically polarized society. 

Click here to read the rest

2017 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #34

August 26, 2017 - 10:09am
A chronological listing of news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook page during the past week.  Editor's Pick

Climate change threatens agricultural trade in Pacific Rim economies, UN agency warns 


Harvesting rice in Viet Nam. Global rice consumption trends are rising. Photo: FAO/Hoang Dinh Nam

With global warming expected to significantly impact future yields in countries located closer to the equator, the United Nations agriculture agency is calling on Asia-Pacific economies to take a leading role in adaptation and mitigation.

“Many APEC [Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation] economies have already felt the full force of agricultural losses from natural disasters in recent years, with the vast majority of these being climate related,” said Kundhavi Kadiresan, Assistant Director-General and FAO Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific.

Geographically, the negative impact of climate change on agricultural output could result in lower yields of rice, wheat, corn and soybeans in countries with tropical climates, compared with the impacts experienced by those in higher latitudes. Fisheries could also be affected by changes to water temperature, warned the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today.

“The annual tally runs into the billions and billions of dollars in losses. So, the time to act is now. Policy makers need to prepare for changes in supply, shifting trade patterns and a need for greater investment in agriculture, fisheries, land and water management, that will benefit smallholder farmers and others that produce our food,” Mr. Kadiresan added.

Many vital agricultural regions in Asia are at risk of crossing key climate thresholds that would cause plant and animal productivity to decline, according to a meeting in Viet Nam of Agriculture Ministers of APEC member economies.

Based on the findings of the global research community, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) anticipates that these trends are expected to worsen in the future with the projected impacts of anthropogenic climate change.

Much can be done to increase the efficiency of agriculture and land-use activities in Asia, according to Mr. Kadiresan. 

Climate change threatens agricultural trade in Pacific Rim economies, UN agency warns, UN News Center, Aug 25, 2017

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