The New Arctic

March 31, 2013

Really great, moving short video from a long time observer of arctic changes, Ken Dunton at the University of Texas.

A year ago I interviewed Oceanographer Josh Willis at AGU,(above) in regard to the sudden “pot-hole” in sea level rise that was then being observed – a sudden drop that had the denis-sphere all atwitter – “flaws in global warming theory” etc..

Josh did a nice job explaining how the large La Nina event of the previous year had actually moved so much water from ocean to land, that it was actually causing a temporary dip in sea level numbers.
Incredible? Now, the process has reversed, and instead of a “pothole”, we are seeing a “speed bump” in sea level, explained below by Skeptical Science.

Check the video, and if you at least skim the item below, you’ll get an increased appreciation for our top tier scientists, and how, while they will tell you they don’t know everything, they know a lot – and we do well to pay attention to expert analysis, rather than, say, bloggers with high school degrees and an agenda.

Rob Painting in SkepticalScience:

The Earth is warming which is driving the ongoing thermal expansion of sea water and the melt of land-based ice. Both processes are raising sea level, but superimposed upon this long-term sea level rise are what scientists at  NASA JPL (Jet Propulsion Lab) have coined, “potholes and speed bumps on the road to higher seas“. (See their follow-up paper – The 2011 La Niña: So strong, the oceans fell, Boening [2012]).

Since mid-2011 a giant “speed bump” has been encountered. In roughly the last two years the global oceans have risen approximately 20 millimetres (mm), or  10 mm per year. This is over three times the rate of sea level rise during the time of satellite-based observations (currently 3.18 mm per year), from 1993 to the present.


Figure 1 – mean sea level (in centimetres) since 1993 obtained by satellite altimetry observations. Annual and semi-annual signals have been removed to reveal the long-term trend. The glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA) of 0.3mm per year is added to account for the slumping of ocean basins. Image from the AVISO website.

So does this mean land-based ice is undergoing a remarkably abrupt period of disintegration? While possible, it’s probably not the reason for the giant speed bump.

Pot Holes and Speed Bumps

The largest contributor to the year-to-year (short-term) fluctuation in sea level is the temporary exchange of water mass between the land and ocean. This land-ocean exchange of water is coupled to the natural Pacific Ocean phenomenon called the El NiñoSouthern Oscillation (ENSO) – which affects weather on a global scale. (See Ngo-Duc [2005]Nerem [2010]Llovel [2011]Cazenave [2012] & Boening [2012] – linked to above)

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Turns out “climate change” isn’t the only thing you can’t say in Idaho biology class.

The headline grabber, as Raw Story covered it, was “Idaho teacher investigated for saying ‘vagina’ during biology lesson.” That would be Tim McDaniel, who has been teaching in the Dietrich, Idaho biology department for almost two decades. Here’s the part of the Twin-Falls’s Times-News story that is germane to Climate Progress:

According to McDaniel, the commission is also investigating a complaint that accuses him of using school property to promote a political candidate. The complaint was because he showed the climate change film “An Inconvenient Truth,” also in his science class. McDaniel said he includes the film to spark a discussion on climate change among the students. After watching the film, he asks students to write a response paper explaining their thoughts on climate change. “I’m not looking for one answer, I just want them to be able to explain what they believe,” he said.

How do you stop a teacher from showing one of the most popular documentaries of all time? Assert Al Gore is a political candidate. I wonder where they teach people to come up with that kind of logic.

Before I go on, there is a Facebook page in support of Mr McDaniel here. Petition of support here.

Idaho is not the only state that is vagina unfriendly. My very own rep Jim Stamos  (also climate denier) was responsible for the “you can’t say that word in polite company” majority of the Michigan legislature that made news not long ago.

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Here’s part of my August, 2012 interview with Mike MacCracken that has not made its way into any videos, but deserves some attention. There is a serious effort underway to consider mitigation of arctic ice losses. Mike starts with a brief discussion of black carbon, which is kind of standard, but the real interesting item is at about 1:12, where he talks about the effects of ice breakers, and how they might be recruited for geo-engineering.

Below, if you haven’t seen it, compare current events with Mike’s 1982 lecture at Sandia labs. What we Knew in 82.

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Capital Weather Gang:

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a storm this big before.

The storm shown here stretches west to east from Newfoundland to Portugal. Its southern tail (cold front) extends into the Caribbean and the north side of its comma head touches southern Greenland.

Not only is it big, but it’s also super intense – comparable to many category 3 hurricanes.  The storm’s central pressure, as analyzed by the Ocean Prediction Center, is 953 mb. Estimated peak wave heights are around 25-30 feet.

The storm is forecast to remain more or less stationary over the next few days before substantially weakening and then eventually drifting into western Europe in about a week as a rather ordinary weather system.

Note to Washingtonians: this is the same storm that blanketed the region with 1-4 inches of snow Monday. It’s grown into a monster from humble beginnings.  The storm’s giant circulation has drawn down the cold and windy conditions we’ve had since it passed.


If a unit of distributed electric generation, say a wind turbine, or a solar panel, has a problem, you can shut it down and replace it without pulling a huge amount of power off the grid. You certainly wouldn’t have to evacuate a city, or raise anyone’s prices.

Of course, WindBaggers like to say that renewable energy  is “intermittent” – as if EVERY  form of energy wasn’t intermittent. Nothing operates 100 percent – the question is, do you have a system that is cumbersome, expensive, and brittle, or resilient and forgiving when something goes wrong

Electric Light & Power:

The outages of both units at Southern California Edison’s San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), starting in January 2012, have created a persistent spread in wholesale power prices between Northern and Southern California.

Historically, wholesale power prices for Northern and Southern California tracked closely with one another, indicating minimal market differences between the two areas. However, after the shutdown of SONGS in early 2012, the relatively inexpensive nuclear generation produced by SONGS had to be replaced with power from more expensive sources.

Consequently, since April 2012 Southern California power prices have persistently exceeded Northern California prices, with the spread averaging $4.15/MWh, or 12 percent of the Northern California price.

Utility Dive:

Before Southern California Edison’s San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) got shut down, wholesale power prices for Southern California (SoCal) and Northern California (NorCal) were essentially the same. However, since SONGS stopped producing power, SoCal has consistently seen higher wholesale power prices than NorCal. Here’s a graph illustrating the wholesale power markets in SoCal and NorCal:

Wind vs Baseload myths discussed here.

I think that I shall never see
a billboard lovely as a tree.
Perhaps, unless the billboards fall,
I’ll never see a tree at all.

Ogden Nash
A reminder of a time when environmental problems seemed simpler..

There are these dilapidated billboards not far from my home, that have been up for so long, I wonder if anyone even remembers who put them up. They say things like “US out of UN”, and have pictures of Michigan DNR forest rangers as nazi soldiers –  things like that.  Above is a little glimpse of what decaying right-wing messages of the future will  look like.

Having had their asses handed to them with the last bonehead billboard stunt, the climate denial industry is back for more.  Well, billboard space is cheap, so I guess, with contributions drying up, that makes sense.

This new burst of crank creativity comes from CFACT, another fossil funded mouthpiece, which recycles the ever popular “it hasn’t warmed since.. (carefully pick a start date during the giant el nino of 97-98, and an end date in a la nina cycle )”

Jeff Masters in WeatherUnderground:

One often hears the statement in the media that global warming stopped in 1998, or that there has been no global warming for the past 16 years. Why pick 16 years? Why not some nice round number like 20 years? Or better yet, 30 years, since the climate is generally defined as the average weather experienced over a period of 30 years or longer? Temperatures at Earth’s surface undergo natural, decades-long warming and cooling trends, related to the La Niña/El Niño cycle and the 11-year sunspot cycle.

The reason one often hears the year 1998 used as a base year to measure global temperature trends is that this is a cherry-picked year. An extraordinarily powerful El Niño event that was the strongest on record brought about a temporary increase in surface ocean temperatures over a vast area of the tropical Pacific that year, helping boost global surface temperatures to the highest levels on record (global temperatures were warmer in both 2005 and 2010, but not by much.)

But in the years from 2005 – 2012, La Niña events have been present for at least a portion of every single year, helping keep Earth’s surface relatively cool. Thus, if one draws a straight-line fit of global surface temperatures from 1998 to 2012, a climate trend showing little global warming results. If one picks any year prior to 1998, or almost any year after 1998, a global warming trend does result. The choice of 1998 is a deliberate abuse of statistics in an attempt to manipulate people into drawing a false conclusion on global temperature trends. One of my favorite examples of this manipulation of statistics is shown an animated graph called “The Escalator”, created by (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Average of NASA’s GISS, NOAA”s NCDC, and the UK Met Office’s HadCRUT4 monthly global surface temperature departures from average, from January 1970 through November 2012 (blue), with linear trends applied to the time frames Jan ’70 – Oct ’77, Apr ’77 – Dec ’86, Sep ’87 – Nov ’96, Jun ’97 – Dec ’02, Nov ’02 – Nov ’12. Climate change skeptics like to emphasize the shorter term fluctuations in global temperatures (blue lines) and ignore the long-term climate trend (red line.) The global surface temperature trend from January 1970 through November 2012 (red line) is +0.16°C (+0.29°F) per decade. Image credit:

I thought I’d settled this with my videos on the topic several years ago. Obviously, someone is not listening.

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