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The Weekend Wonk: Peter Ward on Mass Extinctions and the Paleo Record

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Climate Denial Crock of the Week

One of the key indicators of what may happen in the future with higher co2 levels, is the paleo record. We can look at the Paleocene Eocene thermal maximum as a model for what our current pulse of co2 could do to the planet.

Peter Ward has been looking into much deeper time throughout his career.  The view over 4 billion years is instructive but not happy news.

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Seasonal Niño

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Open Mind

Most of the discussion surrounding Kosaka and Xie (2013, Nature, doi:10.1038/nature12534) has focused on how much, according to their research, might natural variability have altered the recent global warming trend. But some of their results that haven’t received much attention might turn out to be the more interesting aspects of that paper.

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August 2013: Hottest Ocean Surface Temperatures on Record Defy ENSO, Spur Continental Deluges

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robertscribbler

Blended Land and Sea Surface Temperatures2

(Image source: NOAA)

ENSO, the global regulator for, generally, how much heat the world ocean system dumps into the atmosphere, remained on the cool side of neutral for much of August 2013. Ocean surface temperatures in the Eastern Equatorial Pacific remained 1 to 2 degrees Celsius below the 1981-2010 average for most of the month. In a normal year, such departures would tend to depress both global ocean and land surface temperature averages. But, for the world’s global oceans and related land atmospheric system, all was well outside the range of normal.

For beyond the Eastern Equatorial Pacific, most of the world’s oceans ranged from .5 C to up to 4 C hotter than average. A particularly hot region dominated an area east of Shanghai in the Pacific bordering China, Japan and the Korean Peninsula. The hot surface water extended under the powerful influence of an anomalous heat dome…

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The Weekend Wonk: Kevin Trenberth on Climate Sensitivity

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Climate Denial Crock of the Week

Dr. Kevin Trenberth has done some significant work recently on the movement of heat into the deeper ocean during the last decade or so.  I had a conversation with him on the meaning of climate sensitivity last may, some of which appeared in my most recent video this past week.

Ars Technica:

When discussing global warming, the public eye is mostly directed to global average surface air temperatures, but that’s just one slice of the climate pie. If you haven’t noticed, the ocean is awfully big, and it holds a great deal more heat energy than the atmosphere. In fact, about 90 percent of the energy that’s been added to the climate system by human activities has gone into the ocean.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to monitor that. There are a multitude of measuring stations for surface air temperatures, but our presence in the ocean is limited. With the advent of the 

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Growth Shock, Going on Offense, and Setting an Example for Kindness Economics

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robertscribbler

Growth Shock Cover Art

If anything, the upcoming book, Growth Shock, is a call for action.

Confronting the combined threat posed by a rapid depletion of renewable and nonrenewable resources, a human population that is still growing beyond the 7 billion number it passed such a short while ago, a rapidly escalating and terrifying climate crisis, and a vast failure to act due to the power of wealthy, greedy, and entrenched special interests who, at every turn, fight to profit from harm, will be impossible without powerful, creative, and coordinated effort. What this means is action on the part of individuals, communities, organizations and governments. What it also requires is leadership from all individuals both great and small.

And if leadership means being among the first to act while compelling others to do the same, then I choose to dedicate the publication of Growth Shock and a majority of the proceeds to undertaking such…

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Climate Change Alarm is Needed and Climate Scientists Aren’t Sounding it Loud Enough

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robertscribbler

Alarmist. It’s a term climate change deniers seem to bandy about often, these days, as if ‘alarm’ were some kind of bad word. As if alarm weren’t needed or necessary. As if climate change, a primary vehicle for a range of horrors ranging from mass extinctions to catastrophic Earth changes, were some kind of carnival ride or a happy walk in the park.

But what if alarm is entirely called for? What if, for example, you’re standing in or near a river and a massive glacial melt lake up-stream has suddenly released and an immense torrent is now rushing toward you (as happened to thousands in India this year). Would you want the person on the hill near shore who sees the onrushing water to say in a calm, steady voice:

“Hey, you might want to get out. That water could rise a little.”

Or, even worse, would…

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The Methane Monster Grows New Teeth: Sea Level Rise Found to Cause Slope Collapse, Tsunamis, Methane Release

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robertscribbler

(Image source: Sea-level–induced Seismicity and Submarine Landslide Occurrence.)

At the end of the last ice age as the climate warmed, glaciers began to thaw, and sea level began to rise, a troubling spike in the number of undersea landslides and related tsunami events occurred. In total, almost half of all the undersea landslides of the past 125,000 years occurred during this period of deglaciation occurring from 8,000 to 15,000 years ago. A rate many times that seen during either the glacial period or during the Holocene.

This large increase in subsea landslide events had long been observed in the science. But, up until this point, there has been little research to determine why so many landslides occurred. But this year, a team of scientists developed a model to investigate the cause of these continental shelf slope failures and large undersea landslides. The report, published in Geology, is available here:

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Triggers to Release the Methane Monster: Sea Ice Retreat, Ocean Warming and Anoxia, Fires, Sea Level Rise and The Fresh Water Wedge

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robertscribbler

Perhaps the most hotly debated topic among climate scientists, when they are not facing off with the ignorance of underhanded climate change deniers, is the potential rate of Earth Systems response to human caused climate change. In general, the low hanging fruit of climate research is a more easy to puzzle out pace of likely warming due to the direct forcing of human greenhouse gas and CO2 emissions and the more rapid climate feedback coming from increasing water vapor due to increased evaporation. But higher up the tree hang the critical fruits of pace of albedo change and pace of carbon response as the Earth System warms. Understanding these two will provide a much greater clarity to the question of a long term rate of warming given a doubling of atmospheric CO2.

Paleoclimate, Paleoclimate, and Paleoclimate

Perhaps the best way to test the accuracy of our long-term Earth Systems global…

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A Song of Flood and Fire: One Million Square Kilometers of Burning Siberia Doused by Immense Deluge

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robertscribbler

About a week and a half ago, I reported on a great burning event in which a massive region of Russian Siberia erupted in hundreds of wildfires blanketing it in a sea of smoke clearly visible in the NASA Aqua Satellite record. Today, reports from Interfax/Radio Russia describe an immense flood emergency in which over 1 million square kilometers of Russia’s Yakutia region have been submerged by a catastrophic rain event.

From the Interfax report:

“It is a unique situation in the sense that it has spread over more than 2,000 kilometers if one looks from west to east, while its depth or width is more than 500 kilometers,” Vladimir Stepanov, head of the National Crisis Management Center of the Emergency Ministry, told a news conference in Moscow.

According to the report, hundreds of villages in this, thankfully, sparsely populated region have been inundated by water putting hundreds…

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Mangled Jet Stream to Collide with Tropical System over Southeastern US for Major Rain Event?

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robertscribbler

(Image source: NOAA)

In the southeast this year, rain follows rain follows rain. Now a tropical system may be preparing to add its own moisture to the already very wet mix.

The river of upper level airflow called the Jet Stream begins an almost due south movement at the Arctic Circle near the Northwest Territory and Canadian Arctic Archipelago. The atmospheric river dives down over Central Canada and into the Great Lakes region. Continuing ever southward, it finally encounters a wall of warmer air setting up near the south Tennessee border where it speeds up and turns eastward, joining another Jet Stream flow coming in over the Rockies.

Riding along these convergent Arctic and Pacific Jet Stream flows are a number of wet and stormy impulses. Because this deep north to south dip has been in place over the Eastern and Central US for much of the summer, storm…

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China Falls Under Suspicion of Covering Up Deaths as Ocean Heat Dome Expands to Blanket Korea and Japan

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robertscribbler

(Image source: NOAA)

According to recent reports from NOAA and the CDC, heat is the most lethal form of weather in the United States. Death and injury rates have been on the rise as human-forced temperature increases have expanded, surging northward into major metro areas such as New York City. The CDC report showed a growing number of heat deaths and injuries for this northern region, with the New York Metro area seeing an average of 13 deaths and over 440 heat injuries each year during the period from 2000 to 2011. Nationwide, the average number of heat fatalities surged to 117 during a period from 2003 to 2011.

Heatwaves have hit the NYC region time and time again over the past decade, driving the death and injury rate inexorably higher. However, the heat impacting that area is paltry when compared to the extreme and deadly temperatures that…

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A Deadly Climb From Glaciation to Hothouse — Why the Permian-Triassic Extinction is Pertinent to Human Warming

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robertscribbler

In looking at the potential impacts of human caused climate change over the coming decades and centuries, scientists have often pointed toward more recent times such as the Eemian (the most recent warm interglacial in which global temperatures are similar to what they are now and where they are expected to be over the next 20 years), the Pliocene (2-3 million years ago and the most recent time in which CO2 levels were about equal to those of today), and the PETM (about 55 million years ago and the most recent period during which CO2 levels were above 600 ppm and in which there was very rapid warming, possibly due to methane hydrate release).

The PETM has been a period of very intense study for leading climatologists such as James Hansen who has warned of the potential for a mini-runaway warming event of this kind should humans continue along a…

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