Unlocking the secrets of tomorrow’s weather?

unlock Wildly exciting, no? No: its just the Global Cooling wars, part n. This one is Lamb, H. H. Is the Earth’s Climate Changing? The UNESCO Courier: a window open on the world; Vol. XXVI (8/9), 17-20, and its the latest “killer” reference added to Poptech (tagline: the blog that’s too frightened to let a Stoat post. Still, its nice to know I’m dangerous, it would be a bit worrying if the denialists stopped censoring me).

But anyway its a new thing to me, so lets look. Its not in the magnum opus because its not a real paper. What does Lamb have to say? Firstly, “For the past 30 years the temperature of our planet has been steadily dropping” (although that may have been the subs). Not quite true, but not too wrong for something written in 1973. But that isn’t the interesting bit, the interesting bit is the predictions of the future. Which seems to be not the articles main focus. It concludes with a less than ringing:

All these events have raised an anxious demand for ultra-long-range forecasting of climate, which calls for intensified effort towards understanding of the atmosphere (and its interactions with the ocean) and for further reconstruction of the facts of the past climatic record.

Yes, its the familiar “more research needed”, which was indeed the correct conclusion in 1973. Next?

Apocalypse perhaps a little later?

economist-20130330_LDC346 The Economist is read by all the most Important People (what, you say you don’t read it? Well…), so what they say about GW matters (even if they sometimes talk twaddle it still matters). What they are currently saying under the byline “Climate change may be happening more slowly than scientists thought. But the world still needs to deal with it” is

some scientists are arguing that man-made climate change is not quite so bad a threat as it appeared to be a few years ago… “climate sensitivity”… may not be as high as was previously thought. The most obvious reason is that, despite a marked warming over the course of the 20th century, temperatures have not really risen over the past ten years. It is not clear why climate change has “plateaued” (see article). It could be because of greater natural variability in the climate, because clouds dampen warming or because of some other little-understood mechanism in the almost infinitely complex climate system. But whatever the reason, some of the really ghastly scenarios—where the planet heated up by 4°C or more this century—are coming to look mercifully unlikely. Does that mean the world no longer has to worry?

No, for two reasons. The first is uncertainty. The science that points towards a sensitivity lower than models have previously predicted is still tentative… The risk of severe warming—an increase of 3°C, say—though diminished, remains real. There is also uncertainty over what that warming will actually do to the planet. The sharp reduction in Arctic ice is not something scientists expected would happen at today’s temperatures. What other effects of even modest temperature rise remain unknown?

The second reason is more practical. If the world had based its climate policies on previous predictions of a high sensitivity, then there would be a case for relaxing those policies… But although climate rhetoric has been based on fears of high sensitivity, climate policy has not been…

So, that’s all pretty good, even if you don’t like “plateau”.

The linked article sources Ed Hawkins pic. And apparently Work by Julia Hargreaves of the Research Institute for Global Change in Yokohama, which was published in 2012, suggests a 90% chance of the actual change being in the range of 0.5-4.0°C, with a mean of 2.3°C. Nic Lewis gets a mention for an unpublished paper. And then my eyes rather glazed over, because it was more of the same old stuff, ending up with

So what does all this amount to? … a small reduction in estimates of climate sensitivity would seem to be justified: a downwards nudge on various best estimates from 3°C to 2.5°C, perhaps; a lower ceiling (around 4.5°C), certainly… global temperatures rise by about 1.5°C for each trillion tonnes of carbon put into the atmosphere… At current rates, the next half-trillion tonnes will be emitted by 2045; the one after that before 2080… this could increase temperatures compared with pre-industrial levels by around 2°C even with a lower sensitivity and perhaps nearer to 4°C at the top end of the estimates. Despite all the work on sensitivity, no one really knows how the climate would react if temperatures rose by as much as 4°C. Hardly reassuring.


* The melting north
* How The Economist got it wrong – by DANA NUCCITELLI AND MICHAEL E MANN

Cyprus: so it all ends happily

I’m sure my headline is over-optimistic. But its certainly looking good, compared to the doom-laden view mid week. And (insofar as I can tell, not having any specialised insight) the correct solution has been found – so much so, that you might wonder why it wasn’t found immeadiately. And that solution, in brief, is to honour the guarantees for deposits of less than 100k euro, close the most broken bank, and impose losses on those with more than 100k euro.

The bit I find interesting is the Russian perspective. The original bad deal – losses on accounts above 100k limited to 10% – was clearly a result of “pressure” from Russia, though in what form its hard to say: it could have been anything from direct corruption of pols, to as little as those same pols not wanting to piss off the Russians to avoid losing future business. Was the pressure coming from teh Russian gummint, or from the dodgy folk who had parked their tax-avoiding money in a quiet offshore corner? And mid-week, when their finance minister was off in Russia trying to do some murky deal, it all looked very dodgy: Russia poised to snaffle up Cyprus because the EU were too skinflint to help it. But then: all that fell apart. The Russians weren’t interested. From which I draw the conclusion that they have no spare cash to push their imperial ambitions.

There’s a fun quote from some lawyer: “Since last Saturday, we are just answering calls from angry clients,” said the lawyer, whose firm has helped Russians and Ukrainians setup 6,000 companies in Cyprus so that they can avoid taxes, benefit from a sound legal system and, they hoped, keep their money safe. Cyprus still offers those draws, he insisted, but his clients “thought we had betrayed them.” Notice the bizarre juxtaposition of “avoid taxes” and “sound legal system” but in the end, they did indeed get a sound legal system, and are wishing they hadn’t.

[Update: as some of my commenters have pointed out, the “haircuts” imposed on the depositors seems rather high. Timmy has what looks like a plausible explanation for this – that only two banks are now affected. It has some interesting consequences.]


* Timmy, as usual, is on hand to point out economic illiteracy in the meeja.
* Economist: interview with Athanasios Orphanides has harsh words for the former prez, and for the Krauts


The Daily Fail has been lying to the public again says says KK but he sneaks in a dig at the Grauniad on GMOs as he passes, for balance. QS notes that Myles Allen has a column in the Graun about the same (not the GMOs, obviously, you wouldn’t get that past the Graun) which seems bizarrely forgiving of David “I made it up” Rose. JA is caustic as ever.

In misc news, I’ve made my first foray into advice on how to row, and been climbing again. And running (pix).

Cyprus is a disaster area featuring enormous political stupidity for such a small country. That the finance minister flew off to Russia tells you a lot.

Retraction watch has a fun one about how “Unfortunately, due to the system of publishing fast, often and in high-impact factor journals, scientists are under greater pressure to produce quantity, at the expense of research quality” got pulled because a supervisor didn’t like it. Tut.

Meanwhile, “climategate3.0” remains totally invisible in the real world (and the google trends graph has now had time to catch up, and its still nothing). As of the date of writing, WUWT is still valiantly keeping it as a top sticky post, but no-one cares.

Update: and don’t miss the dramafest in the comments of Anthropological data point. Whodathunkit? The interview is worth reading too.

Man slumped after hitting wall

Eli offers us a new wheelchair but I think its a man slumped to the ground after smashing his head against the wall, leaving a trail of blood dribbling down.


* The two epochs of Marcott by Jos Hagelaars.
* WUWT is still fulminating (I throw that in as a token gesture of non-tribality, but you know my heart isn’t in it).
* Global Temperature Change — the Big Picture

When will the Summer Arctic be Nearly Sea Ice Free?

Its hardly an original question. And the answer (we don’t know) isn’t original either. In case you were wondering, this is Overland and Wang, GRL 2013, doi: 10.1002/grl.50316 (PDF courtesy of V). Different but not entirely different to A sea ice free summer Arctic within 30 years?, also in GRL; or even A sea ice free summer Arctic within 30 years-an update from CMIP5 models by Wang and Overland.


W+O discuss three methods for predicting future Arctic sea ice: extrapolation, wild guesswork, and cherrypicking your favourite model (of course they don’t use those names, they’ve made up some fancier ones, but it comes to the same thing).

Extrapolation is to be done from ice volume, not ice extent. No expense is spared to fully justify this important choice: Their main points are that sea ice volume is decreasing at a rate that is
faster than sea ice extent, and that volume is a better variable than extent to use for sea ice loss
. Well, you can’t argue with that, so I won’t try to.

Wild guesswork is the idea that ice loss occurs primarily through big loss years like 2007 and 2012, so we sort-of think of a trend, and then guess that things like 2007 or 2012 might happen, errm, sometimes.

Cherrypicking your favourite model is when you look at the sea ice observations (oddly, at this point you silently switch back to extent from volume, but since you do this silently you don’t have to explain why) plotted on top of spaghetti diagrams from CMIP and realise that you can make nothing of them. So perhaps you should throw the slower ones away.

These three different methods produce completely different answers, and so you end up concluding that you know nothing.

How might we do things better? Weeeeeellll, I’m not in the game anymore, so I can have fun. The O+W approach reminds me of Lord Dorwin, the aristocrat in Foundation whose idea of research is only to re-read the works of others. I’ve always thought (though I may not have said it very loudly, so please don’t challenge me to find me saying it somewhere) that plotting all the CMIP models is silly: some of them aren’t very good (I have a paper sort-of saying this: An Antarctic assessment of IPCC AR4 coupled models). Fig 3, reproduced above, needs to have the goo-n-dribble models removed (ah yes, cherrypicking: but no, it needs to be done on some objective grounds; see my paper). The most obvious thing about fig 3 isn’t that the obs disagree with the models, but that the spread in the models is enormous. But even with the junk removed I fear you’d find the obs retreat faster than the models; and I’m beginning to wear thin the idea that this is just a few years anomaly. So, really, we need better models and a better understanding of what is going wrong with the current models. That won’t come from spaghetti graphs or equation-free papers, though.