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A few sites I've stumbled across recently....

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Oh Godlee

Fiona Godlee has an editorial in the British Medical Journal on the subject of climate change (£, but free trial is available). It begins with a defence of the journal's climate campaigner position and moves on to discuss some of the science. For example:

The IPCC reports that it is highly likely that global warming is causing climate change, characterised by more frequent and intense temperature extremes, heavier rainfall events, and other extreme weather events.

Click to read more ...


Off target

Anthony reproduces a Nature editorial that suggests that nations should abandon the 2°C target that has allegedly focused political responses to global warming in recent years.

Bold simplicity must now face reality. Politically and scientifically, the 2°C goal is wrong-headed. Politically, it has allowed some governments to pretend that they are taking serious action to mitigate global warming, when in reality they have achieved almost nothing. Scientifically, there are better ways to measure the stress that humans are placing on the climate system than the growth of average global surface temperature — which has stalled since 1998 and is poorly coupled to entities that governments and companies can control directly.

Click to read more ...


The walrus and the ecoperson 

Tom Nelson is having some fun with uber-ecoperson Bill McKibben who has been tweeting about an AP story in SFGate about a huge congregation of walruses on the coast of Alaska. SFGate helpfully provides a photo:

According to the story, this so-called `haulout' is down to climate change:

The gathering of walrus on shore is a phenomenon that has accompanied the loss of summer sea ice as the climate has warmed.

Which is the kind of statement to get McKibben going of course.

Click to read more ...


The Pause comes of age - Josh 295

Today is the official birthday of the pause. James Delingpole says so and he is, as we know, always right - especially when he is quoting BishopHill.

What will the Pause do next? Get a job? Go on a gap year? Maybe go to college and rack up some proper student debt. Who knows, but it's worth celebrating the good news that the planet's temperatures are not accelerating to thermageddon. 

Cartoons by Josh


Climate models and clouds

Idly looking for something to write about this morning I sidled over to Geophysical Research Letters where my eye alighted on the abstract of a paper by Cheruy et al. It concerns the CMIP5 climate models and considers clouds and the transfer of moisture from land to atmosphere. Here's the abstract:

Over land, most state-of-the-art climate models contributing to Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) share a strong summertime warm bias in midlatitude areas, especially in regions where the coupling between soil moisture and atmosphere is effective. The most biased models overestimate solar incoming radiation, because of cloud deficit and have difficulty to sustain evaporation. These deficiencies are also involved in the spread of the summer temperature projections among models in the midlatitude; the models which simulate a higher-than-average warming overestimate the present climate net shortwave radiation which increases more-than-average in the future, in link with a decrease of cloudiness. They also show a higher-than-average reduction of evaporative fraction in areas with soil moisture-limited evaporation regimes. Over these areas, the most biased models in the present climate simulate a larger warming in response to climate change which is likely to be overestimated.

If I'm understanding this correctly, when you consider climate models' simulation of clouds and land-atmosphere coupling, the warmer models show the most marked biases against observations.

But don't worry, they are just fine and dandy for informing policymakers.


Inner damage

The Telegraph is carrying an interesting report about an experiment carried out by German researchers, who fired low frequency sound at human subjects to see if they could find an effect on the inner ear.

The physical composition of inner ear was “drastically” altered following exposure to low frequency noise, like that emitted by wind turbines, a study has found.

The research will delight critics of wind farms, who have long complained of their detrimental effects on the health of those who live nearby.

In fairness, the sample size is small - only 21 subjects - but almost all of them exhibited the same reaction, and one gets a warmish feeling from the work because the scientists were measuring a physical effect rather than relying on their subjects' subjective reporting of what they experienced.

Worthy of further research, I would say.


Quote of the day, murderous edition

Via Warwick Hughes comes this award of money from the government of the Australian Capital Territory:

Aspen Island Theatre Company: $18,793 to assist with costs of the creative development of a new theatre work, ‘Kill Climate Deniers’.



Hardtalking with Stern

Nicholas Stern was on the BBC's Hardtalk show, being grilled by Zeinab Badawi about his recent report.

For a BBC journalist, Badawi did not too bad a job of taking potshots at Stern, with ammunition apparently sourced from Richard Tol. I was amused when she called Stern a "climate lobbyist", before correcting herself.

Stern himself was deeply unimpressive, with the mannerisms and delivery of a minor council official rather than a great academic sage and, as Pielke Jr notes on Twitter, constantly resorting to namedropping rather than rational argument.  I was struck also by his allegation that Tol builds his conclusions into his economic models. This struck me as quite a strong thing to say.


Keenan on McKitrick

Doug Keenan has posted a strong critique of Ross McKitrick's recent paper on the duration of the pause at his own website. I am reproducing it here.

McKitrick [2014] performs calculations on series of global surface temperatures, and claims to thereby determine the duration of the current apparent stall in global warming. Herein, the basis for those calculations is considered.

Much of McKitrick [2014] deals with a concept known as a “time series”. A time series is any series of measurements taken at regular time intervals. Examples include the following: the maximum temperature in London each day; prices on the New York Stock Exchange at the close of each business day; the total wheat harvest in Canada each year. Another example is the average global temperature each year.

The techniques required to analyze time series are generally different from those required to analyze other types of data. The techniques are usually taught only in specialized statistics courses.

Click to read more ...


A physicist does Bayes

Physicist and science writer Jon Butterworth has written a layman's introduction to Bayes' theorem, touching at one point on its use in climate change:

If you have a prior assumption that modern life is rubbish and technology is intrinsically evil, then you will place a high prior probability on Carbon Dioxide emissions dooming us all. On the other hand, if your prior bias is toward the idea that there is massive plot by huge multinational environmental corporations, academics and hippies to deprive you of the right to drive the kids to school in a humvee, you will place a much lower weight on mounting evidence of anthropogenic climate change. If your prior was roughly neutral, you will by now be pretty convinced that we have a problem with global warming. In any case, anyone paying attention as evidence mounts would eventually converge on the right answer, whatever their prior - though it may come too late to affect the outcome, of course.

The use of Bayes' theorem in climate science is so much more interesting than this: as readers at BH no doubt know, the IPCC's use of a uniform prior in ECS for its "neutral" starting point biased the posterior towards higher estimates of future warming. Secondly, do we really have "mounting evidence"? Surely what we have is comparisons of unvalidated physical models to observations.


Fire down below

Another day, another fire at a recycling plant, this time at a site near Hull (H/T Stewgreen).

Firefighters were battling a major fire at a waste recycling plant in Melton early today.

The fire broke out at a large facility in Gibson Lane shortly after 7am.

At least six crews from Humberside Fire and Rescue were in attendance and large plumes of acrid black smoke could be seen coming from the scene.

This is getting to be a familiar story isn't it?

Click to read more ...


Carbon Brief does energy budgets

One criticism of the energy budget model approach that lies behind these kind of studies is that it doesn't take into account the role of the oceans in taking up excess heat. Other estimates of climate sensitivity using climate models support the higher end of the IPCC's likely range.

Carbon Brief is struggling again.


More Curry

Another day, another Judith Curry paper. This time it's in Geophysical Research Letters and is concerns the much-neglected question of just how good climate models are at hindcasting:

The bulk of our knowledge about causes of 20th century climate change comes from simulations using numerical models. In particular, these models seemingly reproduce the observed nonuniform global warming, with periods of faster warming in 1910–1940 and 1970–2000, and a pause in between. However, closer inspection reveals some differences between the observations and model simulations. Here we show that observed multidecadal variations of surface climate exhibited a coherent global-scale signal characterized by a pair of patterns, one of which evolved in sync with multidecadal swings of the global temperature, and the other in quadrature with them. In contrast, model simulations are dominated by the stationary — single pattern — forced signal somewhat reminiscent of the observed “in-sync” pattern most pronounced in the Pacific. While simulating well the amplitude of the largest-scale — Pacific and hemispheric — multidecadal variability in surface temperature, the model underestimates variability in the North Atlantic and atmospheric indices.


In honour of Nigel Calder

This notice of a meeting to honour the life and works of Nigel Calder has just been published.

Nigel Calder 1931-2014

Memorial meeting

Royal Astronomical Society
Burlington House
London W1J OBQ

Tuesday 2 December 2014 at 4pm

Followed by an informal reception 5-6pm

This is to let you know that we are arranging an hour-long programme of talks celebrating the life and work of the science writer Nigel Calder.  Speakers are to be confirmed but will include his co-writer and friend Professor Henrik Svensmark. This event will take place on 2 December, which would have been Nigel’s 83rd birthday.

Further details, including how to reserve a seat, will be published on Nigel's blog on 11 November.  In the interim, any enquiries may be made by phone to 07771 620433.


Wind in the doldrums

The Telegraph is reporting the latest official figures about wind energy generation in the UK. Despite a rapid increase in capacity since last year, output in the three months to June was actually lower than a year ago  because the wind hasn't been blowing hard enough.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said that the impact of increased capacity was “out-weighed by that of very low wind speeds”.

“Average wind speeds were 1.6 knots lower than a year earlier, and the lowest for quarter two for four years. Average wind speeds in June were the lowest for any month in the last 14 years,” it said.

A glance at Gridwatch suggests that the next three months is going to be even worse. September has been nothing short of disastrous for wind generators, with the whole wind fleet at a virtual standstill.

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