Global Warming Does Not Cause Climate Change

Global Warming Does Not Cause Climate Change; The Fever Does Not Cause The Disease; A Low Fever is Not A Cure

Did you panic in 1998? Because, remember, that at the end of the year the global mean surface temperature (“GMST”) record looked like this:

t98

Look at the 15 years from 1983 – 1998, and based on this chart, estimate what 2013 would look like. I would say that it would not be unreasonable to be concerned that some tipping point had been reached and the climate would lurch into ultra-hot territory.

Here’s what actually happened:

Screen shot 2013-06-23 at 9.35.42 PM

If you construe the world as a battle between two sides, one which wants to restrain carbon emissions and one which doesn’t, this is good news for the laissez faire folk. “Look!” they squeal. “It stopped!” they scream. “There is nothing to worry about!” they holler. “We win” they trumpet.

But this is crazy thinking. Most of us should be thinking about what the future holds and how we should best deal with it. There are no “sides”, one hopes. We all want a safe, civilized, decent world. If there are threats we need to cope with them, and if a threat turns out not to materialize, so much the better.

The question is how we should look at this hiatus.

Part of the answer is that it really is good news. The gun whose barrel we thought we were looking down in 1998 turned out not to be there. It’s silly not to be somewhat relieved.

Part of the answer is that we are overvaluing the hiatus in exactly the same way we overvalued the spike. In 1998, at the height of the El Nino, it was easy to imagine a world in imminent danger. In 2013, after a few quiet years, it is easy to imagine that we’re out of the woods, that the problem is totally overstated. Greenhouse gases have been accumulating over the last 15 years, and a 15 year window on global temperature shows nothing much happening. But in general the eye picks out the last part of a graph much more than most statistical approaches do.

What I’d like to emphasize, though, is that both in the scary picture of 1998 and the relatively less scary picture in 2013, people are overvaluing the importance of GMST for a peculiar cultural reason. That reason is that we decided to call the carbon dioxide issue “global warming”, and it’s a misnomer.

Why Greenhouse Gases Matter and CO2 Matters Most of All

The present discussion needs only the most rudimentary understanding of global warming:

That’s close enough for now. The greenhouse gases are building up, making it harder for the infrared heat radiation of the earth to escape into space. This causes the world to heat up to approach the equilibrium that the new greenhouse gas concentrations require.

Most greenhouse gases (including water vapor) are short-lived, and so the amount in the air is a rough equilibrium between the emissions and absorptions. Carbon dioxide (CO2), on the other hand, while freely exchanged between the ocean and the atmosphere, requires a very long time to exit the system. Conceptually, it is not a terrible approximation, on the timescale of a human lifespan, to say that it doesn’t go away at all; at least not on its own.

Why it matters is quantitative.

Our best understanding of the amount of fossil fuel there is available and how CO2 works leads us to an expectation that burning all that fuel will cause a severe disruption of all natural systems (even disregarding the many other insults we are visiting on Nature) and many human systems as well. This understanding is not primarily based on observations, nor on complicated computer models, but on our theoretical understanding of physics and on paleontological evidence. This understanding traditionally is boiled down to a number, “the sensitivity”. Now, in general, “a” sensitivity is the ratio of an output to an input in a system. An electrical engineer would refer to the “gain” or “amplification factor”. In our case “sensitivity” is a measure of this question: if we put in so much change in CO2, how much global temperature change will we get out?

There are numerous ways of getting at this, but in general the estimates pile up between 2 and 3, that is, between two and three degrees of warming (Celsius) of the atmosphere-ocean-sea ice system per doubling of CO2 (with water vapor as a variable quantity responding to the changed forcing). If this number is right, and we burn all the fossil fuels, the earth’s temperature record over the long run of human history will end up looking like this (this is Joe Romm’s extension of Marcott et al’s data (note, plot is in degrees Fahrenheit):

Carbon-Final

Everything on the two graphs above is compressed into that little uptick at the end of the blue part of the line.

And as we pointed out before, if the estimated sensitivity is as much as two times overestimated, the less alarming picture looks like this:

THE LUKEWARMERS' WISHFUL ALTERNATIVE

THE LUKEWARMERS’ WISHFUL ALTERNATIVE

which just isn’t all that reassuring.

Now a bunch of people are asking you to bet the farm that the sensitivity is actually zero (that blue observational spike actually could conceivably be an artifact). Indeed if the only evidence you had was a GMST record truncated before 1998, your best bet would be very close to zero.

Could the Sensitivity be Zero?

There is one thing we can be sure of. We cannot double the CO2 in the atmosphere without changing the climate. This is a very large perturbation compared to the ones ordinarily seen in nature. The system must respond because if it didn’t there would be a violation of the Law of Energy Conservation to the tune of 4 watts per square meter, or about (if I got my sums right) two billion megawatts. The reasonable expectation is that the surface heats up somehow. Perhaps mostly on land or firstly on land; that also is part of the expectation.

But other things could conceivably happen. Perhaps somehow the extra opacity of the atmosphere causes thick low clouds to form, having little greenhouse effect and much reflective capacity. Maybe a natural thermostat kicks in. There is little evidence for such a thing, but it’s not inconceivable.

In a more extreme scenario there is a sudden melt of Greenland, so cooling the North Atlantic as to cause a mini-ice age lasting a few hundred years. This scenario is no longer given much credence, but it was very much on the table for a while, and there is a paleoclimate precedent for exactly that happening, the Younger Dryas cooling.  People living through such a period would consider the sensitivity of the climate system to be negative, for practical purposes.

But notice that these scenarios are still linked with very large  climate changes.

Could the Sensitivity be Near Zero and Nothing Important Change about Climate and Everything Turn Out Great?

Yes it could.

And you could spend your last ten bucks on lottery tickets and you could win. It just isn’t a good plan.

Could We be Barking Up the Wrong Tree?

Before climate change became obvious, when it was merely a prediction, the sensitivity was a good thing to focus on. (There still are good reasons to think about it.) The presumption was that, all else equal, the hotter scenarios were responding more sensitively than the less hot ones. The scale separation between climate models and actual impacts is too big for most applications. It was hard to know what so much warming implied for climate change in real scenarios.

But this got us into backwards thinking and a backwards way of speaking. We started to speak as if global warming causes climate change, as if the number of degrees of warming were diagnostic in some sense of what would happen to us. Being humans we got wrapped up in the symbol and forgot the reality.

Greenhouse gases cause radiative transfer processes to change. These cause energy to accumulate in the system as it seeks a new equilibrium. The climate changes, in turn,  to respond to the redistributed energy. And one of the many many consequences is, probably, an increase in GMST. But there may be other consequences we care about!

The real sensitivity we care about is damage per unit of carbon emitted. And the damage is caused directly by climate change, not by GMST.

Consider most of the bizarre events of the past few years – the Australian megadrought, the Russian fires, the Pakistan floods, the Texas heatwave, Sandy, the super-summer and the endless winter recently in the midwest. Each of these was associated with a phenomenon called “blocking” wherein the jet stream develops huge, sluggish meanders, delivering “the wrong air at the wrong time” to some large area. There is considerable evidence that this phenomenon has become more prevalent in recent years. It is especially associated with an increase in local extreme heat events.

Notice that one way the system can avoid increasing its average temperature is by making the temperature more unevenly distributed – an extremely hot place far to the pole can radiate so effectively as to more than balance out a comparably cool place near the pole. This is in fact one sort of climate change that fills the bill of equilibrating the energetics without changing the mean temperature.

BastropClouds

It’s pretty clear that even if global warming has in some sense “gone away” or “on hiatus”, the world is no longer producing the reliable weather that it has over the period of human history. Most likely, this is only the beginning. So it’s a bit crazy to still be quibbling about sensitivity in policy circles. It really is starting to hit the fan.

Global Heating is Still Happening

In fact, it would be better if we still had a country that was willing to actually put instruments in space to watch the earth. A satellite (TRIANA, later called DSCOVR) to observe the global energy balance was proposed and built and mothballed an unbelievably long time ago, in 2001. Its chief proponent had political enemies. His name was Senator Al Gore.

It’s currently scheduled for launch in January of 2014. A pity we are going to miss 13 years of data.

But we have clues that the world continues to absorb energy. Ice sheets and glaciers are shrinking, of course. And there are some indications of energy buildup in the ocean abyss.

But the biggest clue is a very simple one: sea level.
slr

 

The sea rises for two reasons: 1) there is more water in it 2) it gets warmer. Since the way the ocean gets more water is from melting ice, something is getting warmer.

And this is the problem for those who want the “problem went away” argument to be taken seriously. If there is no greenhouse effect, if what we are seeing is unforced natural variability in the atmosphere, then the extra heat in the atmosphere must be coming at the expense of the ocean. (In the El Nino cycle, the ocean cools in the years the atmosphere warms, and vice versa). There is no sign at all of cooling in the ocean, though, and indeed the evidence is that the ocean is warming as well. This pretty much takes natural variability off the table. (I heard this argument from Isaac Held).

It’s tempting, then, to say “global warming has not stopped, it has just gone underwater”, but I think this is an opportunity to let go of the always poorly chosen name “global warming”.

I believe John Holdren coined the term “climate disruption”, and I think it is exactly right. Our activities are rocking the boat in no small way. The climate system is more than just one number, however interesting. For now we need to look up and notice that even though the global temperature has been relatively steady for a while, there is no sign whatsoever that rapid climate change is abating.


Update: I would be remiss if I failed to point out that Chris Colose has disagreed with my claim here. I haven’t met him, but based on what I’ve seen of Colose and his writings online, ordinarily I would defer to him on climate dynamics. However, I think there is at least one difference in shade of meaning here (I suspect there are a couple) and I stand by my point.


Borehole items

Comments:

  1. Wow! Requires some study given my handicap, but I think this is a little of what I was trying to get at when our conversation went off the rails in Alaska. You probably said it much better than whatever it was I had in my head.

    Meanwhile, fwiw, here's the link until it gets fixed:

    http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abs/ha00610m.html

    which goes to Hansen Sato and Ruedy 2012 Climate Dice paper.*

    While our local unusual heatwaves might be totally irrelevant, in a way, they are not so, in another, I think it's important to note, in a way that Stu Ostro did more thoroughly than anyone else, that the evidence is pouring in. Discounting that evidence because of theory is a way of limiting perception which is infinitely exploitable.

    *Press release on Hansen with a neat little clip:
    http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/news/20120806/
    "A new statistical analysis by NASA scientists has found that Earth's land areas have become much more likely to experience an extreme summer heat wave than they were in the middle of the 20th century."

  2. I have been wondering if the amount of heat required to melt (latent heat of fusion and all that) the vast amounts of ice in the arctic and the various ice glaciers contributes at all to the stabilizing of the rising global temperature.

  3. An excellent question. What happens when you try to do the numbers?

    Specifically; what proportion of the energy imbalance is accounted for by melting ice? If it accounts for most of it, then latent heat accounts for the hiatus very simply: that specific destination for the excess energy would definitely not raise the temperature of anything at all. I am certain your theory is valid; just not sure whether it is important.

    My guess is that this has been done before and my guess is that it comes out as unimportant, but frankly I am just guessing. But we can do it over; there's no higher math involved.

  4. I remember an extended discussion on your previous weblog where you argued quite differently. And this is a very large over-simplification of the issues involved.

    The issue regarding the scientific discussion is the obvious point--not elaborated on in your post--that the magnitude of natural variability has not been accurately sized. As Judith Curry has been pointing out on her weblog for more than two years.

    The real world implications are serious. As I have tried to explain at my own modest weblog, energy consumption and the CO2 emissions accompanying energy consumption are increasing much faster than anticipated. This will provide an additional boost to temperature rises (and SLR and changes in precipitation patters) the next time the stars are lined up as they were in the period between 1976 and 1998. As my own calculations (independently arrived at by experts such as Dan Nocera and your favorite blogger Roger Pielke Jr.) show that we may be using 6 times as much energy in 2075 as we did in 2010, the boost provided by CO2 could be emphatic.

    Efforts to focus on non-existent connections between extreme weather and past emissions are worse than distracting, irrelevant and annoying. They are counter-productive, continuing a political debate that the consensus is unable to win, instead of focusing on the real issue at hand--if this planet is going to consume six times more energy than today in sixty years, we had best take steps to make sure that energy isn't derived from burning coal.

  5. Pingback: Nice Article on the Alaska Heatwave | Planet3.0

  6. I agree with your long term prognosis and (mirabile dictu!) even with most of the reasoning behind it.

    But regarding your advice on severe events, what if that connection to severe weather fails to actually nonexist? Did Hansen Sato & Ruedy make no impression on you whatsoever?

  7. For me the jury is still out on Hansen, Sato et al. I haven't seen a list of the three sigma events characterized as extreme weather, and the temptation to lump events into the extreme category without a careful look at historical perspective and complicating factors would be very hard to resist--although I am not in any way impugning their integrity.

    My non-scientific p.o.v. is that coverage and reporting technology has improved dramatically during the period covered by the study and that I would need to see potentially confounding issues at least addressed in the paper before taking it on wholesale.

  8. "I haven’t seen a list of the three sigma events characterized as extreme weather..."

    sigh...

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/68%E2%80%9395%E2%80%9399.7_rule

    This is all done on a global reanalysis dataset using objective methods. There's no way for the sort of bias you are suggesting to enter. There may be other issues, but I suspect the inadvertent bias at hand is not where you are looking at but where you are looking from...

  9. MT "the world is no longer producing the reliable weather that it has over the period of human history. "

    I think you lack historical perspective. First, almost always, climate changes. Second, I stumbled on this link

    http://dept.kent.edu/ksutop_story/archive_99/991216_top10ohioweather.html containing the top 10 weather events of the 20th century for Ohio. No. 9 was Nov. 1950 Blizzard "Cold wave with 10o temperatures, 40-60 mph winds statewide, more than 10 inches statewide, 25-35 inches in eastern counties, OSU 'Blizzard Bowl' played in Columbus." No. 10 was the Xenia tornado that killed 36 people. The No. 1 event was a 1913 flood that caused "467 dead, 6-11 inches of rain." Also, in 1913 there was a Great Lakes Hurricane in November that caused: "A full blizzard, 12-24 inches snow in central and eastern Ohio, winds over 75 mph, communication failures, 235 sailors dead on the Great Lakes." If you look at the list, you will see that there is no accumulation of unusual events in the latter part of the 20th century when it was warm.

    My point being that there has to be systemic studies showing that climate change is making matters comparatively worse. Recently, in the U.S., there has been a drop off in the number of Hurricanes to make landfall as well as the number of tornadoes. The most prominent person studying this issue systematically has been Pielke, Jr., and he generally hasn't found a rise in extreme events. Other than mentioning several events, you cite no systematic findings showing that the recent climate has caused more extreme events than have occurred in the past.

    JD

  10. I keep citing Hansen, Sato and Ruedy as the first paper showing a distinct change in the observations.

    Statistics of severe events are noisy.

    I am somewhat deferring to expert opinions. The number of practicing meteorologists who think the weather is strange and in particular producing a lot of persistent ridges is growing. And that is exactly the meteorological phenomenon that Hansen et al captures.

    The smaller the region you look at, the noisier. "Top ten" lists like the one you cite are subjective.

    I make no claim here about severe events that are not associated with blocking events. (Yet.) I expect some classes will become more common and/or severe and some less.

    Also, as climate changes, events of certain types will inevitably visit unfamiliar places. Consider the winter ice storm in Montreal in 1998 (too far north) and the hurricane in Brasil in 2004 (no known precedent in the South Atlantic). There's no way to do statistics on these one-offs but they are very striking. Are they becoming more common? It's hard to say either way.

    But we do see increased ridging and blocking. There is no doubt about that. This means hot spots at the ridge and wet spots to the east in middle and high latitudes. Having one in Alaska is pretty jaw-dropping, though.

  11. mt, please feel free to borehole this. I sat on it for a couple of days because I'm trying to open up but ...

    It's hard to join a conversation with the potential to be truly interesting without these atmospherics where Nocera is cited as an expert while Hansen et al. and the worldwide scientific community largely dismissed. It is not thinking to form an opinion and search out people who agree with you. Thinking and learning are work and don't involve shutting most qualified expertise. What it does do is shed more light on the sad fact that smart people can make false choices. It's a piece of my beef that people are not taught how to admit and cope with lack of knowledge, but rather how to find ways to support their opinions and bypass the hard reality. For example, while my knowledge is technically limited, Dr. Annan below perfectly describes my reaction to Dr. Curry which I arrived at without knowing much except the obvious difference between response and evasion.

    In addition, there are a lot of people who regard Pielke's political science and enabling of the squishy middle as distinctly unhelpful, and Curry has made a name for herself as characterized by, among others, Dr. Annan (recently adopted by the phony skeptics because he's done some work to lower expectations about sensitivity):

    http://julesandjames.blogspot.com/2010/11/wheres-beef-curry.html
    (go to original for much more and backup links)

    She's really building up quite a history of throwing up vague or demonstrably wrong claims, then running away when shown to be wrong.... her absurd claim about the IPCC that "they will tolerate no dissent, and seek to trample and discredit anyone who challenges the IPCC." Her eventual response (which had to be dragged out of her through repeated challenges that she kept on ducking) was merely to dismiss it as an "anecdote", even though one single case serves to refutes her claim. ... While I'm not an unalloyed fan of the IPCC process, my experience is not what she describes it as.... If she ever deigns to address the substantive point on probability, maybe she can let me know, but I'm not holding my breath. Her main tactic seems to be throwing up layers upon layers of an increasing shaky edifice as quickly as possible hoping that no-one will notice that the foundations are collapsing as quickly as people can read.

    (I was there for her early forays into attacking people who question her rather than answering their questions on RealClimate, and was impressed with her clever ability to avoid the tough science - something wrong there but of course it has a massive cheering section of people who will take any supposed expert. (Curry's CV is terrific, and her espousal of the Montford nonsense and so on pretty recent; a lot of people are wondering what happened there.)

    Having indulged in posting the reasons for this detour I will try to put it behind me and read more closely on the subject matter. I can't help feeling that getting replacing "global warming" in our vocabulary at this late date is a non-starter, though I agree that it might distract from the more obvious weirding impacts of our breaking planetary circulation.

  12. The idea that there is one and only one figure for climate sensitivity doesn't make a lot of sense to me. There are many vicissitudes that would effect the sensitivity figure at any given time:

    1) There is a huge amount of ice on the planet, which can absorb a huge amount of heat as it changes phase from solid to liquid, without raising temperatures

    2) The oceans are enormous heat wells and whose heat transfers are not uniform in time and space

    to name two of these vicissitudes.

    For those of us concerned with solving our AGW problem, climate sensitivity is useful for policy and politics. For the deniers, what the whole discussion of climate sensitivity really is, is a way to obfuscate issues by directing our attention to small time scales. Climate sensitivity is a measurement which is a rate. And what, it seems to me, it is measuring is the rate that observable temperatures and theoretical values are converging. What the earth is collecting is heat, but what we are measuring is temperature. These are very different things.

    Eventually, the temperature of the biosphere is going to come to equilibrium with the greenhouse forcing. Climate sensitivity is just giving a rough approximation of how long that may take, not necessarily how much change we can expect in the long term. For that, we need to keep our eye on the ball - and that has to do with extra calories of heat retained, the mass of the biosphere, and the steady-state concentration of atmospheric CO2.

  13. "It stopped ..." What?! I just took a piece of semitransparent paper, held it to the graph from both sides and eyeballed it from both sides. Straight linear trend from 1970 onward, perhaps slightly upsloping, perhaps not. The 1998 excursion is nicely balanced by a few lower years later. Nothing to see. Move on.

  14. Forget the lists. Look at the pretty pictures in loc. cit. (links below). They visualize that the lists are quite Gaussian and show/self-explain the relative sigma thing.

    http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2012/20120803_DicePopSci.pdf
    http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1204/1204.1286.pdf

  15. There is a well-defined quantity that is called the Charney sensitivity. A lot of the other quantities being bandied about are less precise. It's on my list to discuss the sensitivity question, but the list keeps getting longer, not shorter...

  16. Thanks Steve, but I was OT nonetheless, and beating the dead horse aka endless loop of dubious authorities. Nocera was particularly egregious. I found the choice of those particular three so distracting I lost track of mt's point. It was also such a pleasure to find the Annan quote since the denialsphere is so hipped on him on sensitivity. This kind of selective thinking will have some nasty consequences if we don't find a way past it.

  17. This is an interesting thesis and addresses some communication issues head on. I'm not sure it's possible to get rid of the terminology no matter how accurate that might be, but fixations on quantifiable parts of a bigger picture can lead to distortions, most particularly the obvious dissonance between global temperature records and climate disruption.

    In the middle of saying to myself "that's it!" I couldn't help chuckle over the fact that your point is identical to my own poorly expressed one that I base on my observation of global water vapor animations over time. You are welcome to disbelieve that it is possible to get this perspective in that way, but I am accustomed to and prefer visual input and apologize for failing to make explicit what I was trying to say. The intrusion of 5-6 percent (figure from Trenberth via one of Sinclair's "This is Not Cool") more water vapor and more energy in the system is messing with a lot of boundaries.

    Science likes boundaries, and we like to feel safe and secure in the realm of the predictable. But it ain't so, and getting less so.

  18. One point to bear in mind is that equilibrium climate sensitivity of any sort is an artificial concept since the ocean-atmosphere system can only approach equilibrium as a limit, never actually reaching it. This is especially true in our present circumstance of continuing rapid GHG additions.

    In broadly related news, I was interested to see a few days ago that a nascent subduction zone has been identified off Portugal, meaning that the Atlantic is already in the earliest stage of its inevitable disappearance, although for the moment spreading remains the dominant process. Some millions of years from now, that subduction zone (along with others acting to assemble the next supercontinent) will start pushing CO2 levels back up into the range that has prevailed for most of the latter Phanerozoic. Warmer times are ahead, albeit long after our current climate blip has become part of the geologic record.

  19. I’m wondering. And I’m a layman. But let me offer a theory, or explore a phenomenon.

    We hear a lot about that meandering/lazy jetstream, and the extreme weather it can cause, and of course, we think and live terracentrically, but what effect does this have out in the vast other 2/3 of the world, especially the North Atlantic?

    Are winds pushing heat down into the ocean? Are heavier and heavier rains (or snows!), on the open seas, cooling the surface? Could this help explain the sudden slowing of atmospheric temperature?

    Jus’ sayin’ I’d like to hear an assessment from the pros.

  20. Is there enough freshwater rain in your average extreme event to change the salinity of large areas of the ocean?

    If the surface of the ocean cools, would this not make it more receptive to warmth from the atmosphere?

    So many questions. So little time.

  21. "Large" is sort of vague, and so is "area". But yes, a pool of floating fresh water from rain could be cooler than the undisturbed surface. To my understanding this is not a big effect, and it could cut both ways - warm rain can fall on a cool ocean as well.

  22. Some commenter asked about whether or not 'weather events' can be characterized by a Gaussian distribution. The answer for precipitation recorded individually at each weather station is no. However, meteorologists do use a Gaussian approximation for weekly, monthly and seasonal temperature readings at weather stations.

    That assumes that the climate is trendless, statistically stationary. So as the 21st century progresses, the assumption may provide less high quality predictions.

  23. Pingback: Another Week of GW News, June 30, 2013 – A Few Things Ill Considered

  24. "It’s silly not to be somewhat relieved."

    You mean relieved like the Trojans were when they saw the Greek ships on the horizon, and wondered what to do with that big wooden horse that was left on the beach? 🙂

  25. GJ, if you're still around, you might be interested in some of the science that is being done about this. I watched carefully but find the disagreement as to which elements of the system are causing which distortions less important than the undoubted fact that there is little disagreement about the distortion itself, is obvious to those not sporting tin-hat blinders.

    Peter Sinclair did one of his wonderful "This Is Not Cool" videos interviewing Drs. Trenberth and Francis:
    http://climatecrocks.com/2013/06/19/kevin-trenberth-and-jennifer-francis-on-climate-ice-and-weather-whiplash/

    (I'm putting the youtube in below, but suggest a look at the original as there's a second video and some interesting comments as well. This is more accessible to amateurs and shorter than many of the scientific presentations that are difficult for interested non-scientists.)

    I'm an amateur, but have seen a lot of evidence of massive changes in the Jet Stream - larger, more sluggish, and broken up. My sloppy metaphor is of Arctic weather breaking through the normal polar circulation, bringing some extreme cold to mid latitudes such as Canada and the northern midwest of the US, Siberia, and the like. The rollercoaster of extremes is hard for an observant person to miss. The phony skeptic argument is that cold is not part of the rollercoaster, which to me looks like obvious nonsense.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQpS8f66vMw

  26. It's a complicated system; both optimists and pessimists have plenty of ammunition by its nature.

    We misdecided to put most of the attention on surface temperature. Pessimists were involved in this decision when that curve looked especially scary.

    I am not saying the situation is especially relaxing, obviously. But it was certainly possible to imagine a worse 15 year scenario in 1998.

  27. Michael,

    In the paragraph in which you cite Hansen et al., wouldn't you be better off citing papers that explore trends in blocking patterns and/or connect these patterns to local extreme heat events?

    I'm not suggesting that the Hansen et al. doesn't support the narrow point made by the text actually hyperlinked (increase in local extreme heat events). Of course it does. The choice just seems unsatisfying.

    Moreover, and maybe of greater interest, this lack of satisfaction is amplified a bit by the cite unavoidably, for those interested in the causality language issues, generating an expectation that you will engage with the causality language used by Hansen et al. Their language seems so relevant to your overall discussion (cf., your title and your point "We started to speak as if global warming causes climate change...")

    Here are some examples of their causality language:

    "...[the] extreme anomalies...were a consequence of global warming..."
    "Global warming causes spring warmth to come earlier..."
    "...this level of average warming is already having important effects"
    "...the dice loading is an expected effect of global warming"
    "...warming may cause snowfall to increase..."
    "...recent global warming, with high probability, is responsible for recent extreme anomalies"

    Did anyone else experience an expectation like mine, and subsequent dissatisfaction -- lack of resolution -- in conjunction with seeing the link to Hansen et al.?

  28. ABC in Australia has aired an excellent summary of links between extreme weather and climate science research and study. I'd like all the world's power brokers to see this, but what a hope! The opening minutes are a bit hyper, though I think the hype is justified, but when it gets into presenting the science the presentation and style are IMHO hard to beat.

    http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/3796205.htm

    (h/t Adelady at Tamino's and the busy blabbosphere)

    http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/3796205.htm

    Here from youtube:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kpigok-lVK4&feature=c4-overview&list=UUR_kFbcwWy1cKLCkmcMf4lg

  29. Truely excellent, if not best of all!
    I see no hyper in the first minutes. Just this year seems to bring more of the same. (Well, who has airconditioning like the currently baking U.S. West won't "die by the 10s of thousands" like the French did in 2003 and the Russians in 2010. Only a few brave firefighters will burn.)

  30. Thanks, Paulina, great questions.

    I would love to see some informed discussion along these lines. The business (literally) of dissociating weather from climate and global warming and the sciences involved in studying our planet's dynamic weather systems has provided too many escape routes from serious discussion. Getting the connection front and center is probably the only way we can engage the general population and our celebrity culture.

  31. Thanks! I was bowled over by the straightforwardness and fact-filled discussion.

    Here in normally temperate Boston, we are having seven days 90F (32+ C) or above for 7 days. We are spoiled - very few do without A/C, even in the further north coast here. Another culprit in the accelerating cycles. On the positive side, they've put in a bike rack for public bikes (affordable annual fee and rent cheap by the day) in this neighborhood!

    I like pictures, and this older view from ClimateCentral (op cit.) tells our current and temporary (early July 2013) story straight.
    http://www.climatecentral.org/images/sized/images/uploads/news/7_1_13_news_andrew_westridge-500x375.jpg

  32. Playing a little with wood for trees, does total solar irradiance have an appreciable effect on temperature? We might be in for some hotter temperatures soon, as it's been down for the last ten years...
    http://woodfortrees.org/plot/wti/mean:12/normalise/plot/pmod/mean:12/normalise


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