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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Note to wind developers. Getting  Donald Trump to oppose your project could speed the approval process.


Scottish ministers have given the go-ahead to an experimental offshore windfarm site near Aberdeen after ignoring Donald Trump‘s angry threats of legal action to block the project.

Trump has repeatedly attacked the European offshore wind deployment centre (EOWDC) proposal, alleging the turbines will ruin the view from his £750m golf resort, which overlooks the North Sea and sits several kilometres north of the site’s boundary.

The billionaire property magnate again threatened to use his financial muscle to oppose the 11-turbine project in the courts using “every legal means” to defeat it. Despite recently announcing plans to build a second 18-hole golf course at his resort, he repeated his threat to put his entire project on hold because the windfarm threatened the financial viability of his resort.

trump2The decision also confirms Aberdeen city and shire’s status as a world-class energy hub, bringing with it significant economic benefits which will be pivotal to ensuring the region’s long-term prosperity.” But he added that the project was chiefly designed to test and evaluate advanced new offshore wind power designs, potentially helping to find new breakthrough technologies. Scottish and UK ministers, who also support the project, believe it could be crucial to helping the UK exploit the £100bn offshore wind industry.

Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “Offshore wind will be a huge part of our energy future and this scheme is a big step forward.

“Well done to the Scottish government for standing up to Donald Trump’s threats and bluster.”

John Abraham

John Abraham, a professor at St Thomas college in St. Paul, Minnesota, is best known for his utterly devastating takedown of His Splendiferous Weirdness, Lord Monckton.

Now, Abraham has responded to a high profile interview with climate denier and high school graduate Anthony Watts. Mr Watts is  known as a reliable supplier of denialist helium to residents of GlennBeckistan.

Abraham’s response is factual, thorough, and, well, rather brutal. As for the interview with Watts, I’m not going to give him the attention he craves, find it yourself if you have time to waste.

John Abraham: The fact is that Mr. Watts is not a pragmatic sceptic. Real scientists are sceptical by nature. We don’t believe what our colleagues tell us until we verify it for ourselves.  Scientists honestly develop views of how the world works and they test those views by experimentation. As a result of approximately 150 years of climate science, the vast majority of scientists are convinced that humans are a major cause of climate change. Mr. Watts, on the other hand, dismisses evidence that is counter to his viewpoint. That is not scepticism–that is plain denial.

Let me expand on this by going back to his interview. Mr. Watts’s claimed that:

“’Global warming’ suggests a steady linear increase in temperature, but since that isn’t happening, proponents have shifted to the more universal term “climate change,” which can be liberally applied to just about anything observable in the atmosphere.”

First, scientists have never predicted a linear increase in temperature–we are not that naive. Things are much more complex than that.

Mr. Watts also argues that “proponents” have shifted from using the phrase global warming to “climate change”. He didn’t bother telling you that this was actually suggested by a conservative consultant, Frank Luntz, as a way to reduce public concern. Ironically, “climate change” is a better description of what is happening, and climate scientists use it to be more accurate. Let me give you some examples….

•         We are causing the ocean chemistry (pH) to change–that isn’t warming or cooling.
•         We are causing some areas to become wetter and others to become drier–again, not warming.
•         We are increasing humidity in the atmosphere.
•         We are cooling the upper part of the atmosphere (the stratosphere).
•         We are making weather swings more severe.
•         We are losing polar ice at a rapid rate.
•         Warmer oceans make hurricanes more severe here and here.

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The latest in my series for the Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media.

Todd Tanner has an offer for you. Convince him that climate change is not real, and he’ll give you his gun.

Field and Stream:

The Conservation Hawks is a new group dedicated to harnessing the power of sportsmen to address climate change. Stop. Before you give in to anger, or to the “conservation fatigue” that can fall upon us like a giant wet carpet whenever climate change is mentioned, consider this: If you can convince Conservation Hawks chairman Todd Tanner that he’s wasting his time, that he does not have to worry about climate change, he will present to you his most prized possession: A Beretta Silver Pigeon 12 gauge over/under that was a gift from his wife, and has been a faithful companion on many a Montana bird hunt. I know the gun, and I’ve hunted and fished with Todd for years. He’s not kidding. You convince him, he’ll give you the gun.

tannertoddConservation Hawks has an all-star board of directors, including my friends Bill Geer and Katie McKalip, who both work for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and have a deep understanding of the issues we face as sportsmen. I talked with Todd Tanner recently about what the Conservation Hawks hope to accomplish.

Hal Herring: First, are you serious about the Beretta?

Todd Tanner: I am serious. If somebody can convince me that I don’t have to worry about climate change, I’ll give it them. Or I’ll auction it off and donate the proceeds to the charity of their choice. But it will have to be a real argument, with real facts. I don’t think that argument exists, but I’m willing to be surprised.

HH: Why the Conservation Hawks?

TT: Let’s say you are walking down a trail in the wilderness with your wife and kids, and you come upon a grizzly sow, standing on a carcass. She charges, flat out. You’re in front of your family. What do you do? Just give up? Pretend it’s not happening? Let her maul you and everything your care about? Of course you don’t. You take action. That is how I see climate change. It’s real, it’s threatening everything we love. Not taking action is not an option.

HH: Why now?

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