Annals of global warming: Understanding climate change, modeling, glaciers and water supply

September 13, 2012

Even during the sturm und drang and donner und blitzen of a presidential election year, scientists carry on their work to understand our planet, its weather and climate, and help others understand it, too.

Good on them.

Comes this morning an e-update newsletter from the National Academy of Sciences, with news on the study of climate change.

First:

A National Strategy for Advancing Climate Modeling

A new report from the National Research Council concludes that climate models will need to evolve substantially to deliver climate projections at the scale and level of detail desired by decision makers. As climate change has pushed climate patterns outside of historic norms, the need for detailed projections is growing across all sectors, including agriculture, insurance, and emergency preparedness planning.

Despite much recent progress in developing reliable climate models, there are still efficiencies to be gained across the large and diverse U.S. climate modeling community. Evolving to a more unified climate modeling enterprise–in particular by developing a common software infrastructure shared by all climate researchers, and holding an annual climate modeling forum–could help speed progress.

Learn more about the report at a free webinar on September 28 at 1:30 pm EST, where you’ll be able to watch live presentations by the report’s authoring committee and ask questions about the report’s findings.

Second:

New Website Provides “101” on Climate Modeling

Earth’s climate system is, in a word, complicated. It incorporates thousands of factors that interact in space and time around the globe and over many generations. For several decades, scientists have used the world’s most advanced computers to both simulate climate and predict future climate. Industries such as those mentioned above increasingly rely on information from these models to guide decision making–and with a changing climate, the information is more important than ever. Along with its new report about advancing climate modeling, the Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate has released Climate Modeling 101, a website designed to help the public learn more about the basics of climate modeling–how they work and why they are important. The site features short videos and animations that explain everything from the difference between climate and weather to how climate models are built and verified.

Third:

Impact of Himalayan Glaciers on Water Supply Unclear

Another report from National Research Council, released on September 12, 2012, concludes that, although scientific evidence shows that most glaciers in South Asia’s Hindu Kush Himalayan region are retreating, the consequences for the region’s water supply are unclear. The study looks at the Hindu Kush Himalayan region, where several of Asia’s great river systems meet, providing water for drinking, irrigation, and other uses for about 1.5 billion people.

Recent studies show that at lower elevations, glacial retreat is unlikely to cause significant changes in water availability over the next several decades, but other factors, including groundwater depletion and increasing human water use, could have a greater impact. Higher elevation areas could experience altered water flow in some river basins if current rates of glacial retreat continue, but shifts in the location, intensity, and variability of rain and snow due to climate change will likely have a greater impact on regional water supplies.

Along with the report, the NRC has released a slideshow of stunning images and data-rich maps that explain what was learned in the report.

More:


The melting away of climate denialism?

August 2, 2012

Ben Sargent, on 2012 heat wave and views of global warming, Austin American-Statesman, July 24, 2012

Ben Sargent, Austin (Texas) American-Statesman, July 24, 2012

If only it were true that heat, weather, or any other data or information, could cause global warming denialism to melt away . . .


Shorter Anthony Watts: Ignore cities, discount all NOAA sites that show warming, and global warming doesn’t look so bad

July 30, 2012

Since he prefers a Kim Jong Il-style commenter policy –“only those who flatter the Premier need comment” — Anthony Watts‘s site doesn’t get the pleasure of my visits much, anymore.  Consequently I missed the announcement he made last week that he was “suspending” his blog, at least temporarily, until some great news came out.

English: Anthony Watts, June, 2010. Speaking i...

Anthony Watts, June, 2010. Speaking in Gold Coast, Australia, on a tour searching to find some place on Earth not affected by global warming. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Now the great news is out.  I think.  Watts may have been right to suspend blogging.  He should have kept the suspension longer.

Watts says NOAA‘s temperature measurement in the U.S. is way off, and that if we ignore all the cities, and if we ignore sites that show the greatest increases in temperature over the past century or so, global warming doesn’t look so bad.

Watts said he is the lead author on a new paper questioning all warming calculations:

This pre-publication draft paper, titled An area and distance weighted analysis of the impacts of station exposure on the U.S. Historical Climatology Network temperatures and temperature trends, is co-authored by Anthony Watts of California, Evan Jones of New York, Stephen McIntyre of Toronto, Canada, and Dr. John R. Christy from the Department of Atmospheric Science, University of Alabama, Huntsville, is to be submitted for publication.

Wait a minute.  “Prepublication draft paper?”  ” . . . to be submitted for publication?”

Yes, Dear Reader, that claxon you hear is your and my Hemingway III Solid Gold [Excrement] Detectors™ going off.  It may be a false alarm, but still — isn’t this how bogus science is done, isn’t this what Robert Park warns us about?  Indeed, in the Seven Warning Signs of Bogus Science, Park says to pay attention to key indicators:  “1. The discoverer pitches the claim directly to the media.”  It is, indeed, a press release from Watts, about a paper he hopes to get through the peer review process at some point in the future — but it has not yet been pitched to the science journals.  (Yes, that’s also one of the Seven Warning Signs of Bogus History . . . one discipline at a time, please.)

What’s the rush?  Oh:  Tuesday, July 31, is the deadline for peer reviewed papers to be submitted to the international agency studying climate change, the Internatioinal  (IPCC), for consideration and inclusion in the next report.

Same old stuff, new day.  Watts has been arguing for years that NOAA’s temperature measurements err, but after the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperatures (BEST) Project determined that warming exists, even using Watts’s modified measurements and accounting for his claimed errors, some of us hoped Watts might turn to blogging about science, instead.

No, Watts turned to finding a hint of a methodology that might support his preconceived notions.  He found one.

So, Watts’s big announcement is that he’s found a methdology which favors his criticisms of NOAA; so we should ignore temperature readings from cities, because cities are hot, and we should ignore temperature readings from suburbs of cities, because suburbs are warm; and if we do that, then warming in the U.S. doesn’t look so bad.

Were I allowed to ask questions at Watts’s blog, I’d ask why we should ignore warming in cities, because are they not part of the planet?  Oh, well.

The Twitter version:

Watts: Ignore city temps (hot!) and ‘burbs (warm!), temps on farms don’t show so much global warming!  Oops – did we say that before?

Anthony, how about you suspend your blog until you get the paper accepted at a good journal?  Make sure you got the numbers right . . .

More:


LCV’s “Flat Earth Five,” targets for election defeat – two named, who are the last three?

July 26, 2012

 

Naming one of their top five targets per week, the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) will name three more Members of Congress to their “Flat Earth Five,” members who not only vote against LCV positions, but also seem to dwell among flat-Earth believers on science, generally.

First two of the Flat Earth Five:

  1. Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (N.Y.)
  2. Rep. Dan Benishek (Mich.)

Who will fill the three remaining slots — and will they survive election?

 


EU climate authority approved Britain’s plans to reduce carbon dioxide emissions

July 11, 2012

It’s stunning to listen to radio, or read newspaper letters-to-the-editor sections in the U.S., and see people who argue we have no need to control carbon emissions.

Meanwhile, in Europe, the European Commission (EC) Climate Change Committee (CCC) approved Britain’s plan to auction pollution rights, part of the UK plan to control and limit carbon emissions.

You’d think we don’t share the same planet.

Here’s the news, from Britain’s Department of Environment and Climate Change:

EU Emissions Trading System: European Commission approves the UK’s national auction platform

Press Notice 2012/081

11 July 2012

Today the European Commission (EC) Climate Change Committee (CCC) voted to approve the UK’s national auction platform for phase III and aviation auctions under the European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS).

Welcoming this important vote, Greg Barker said:

“This announcement is a further step towards ensuring that we can start auctioning phase III and aviation allowances as planned. The endorsement by the EU Climate Change Committee reflects the strength of the UK’s proposal and continued leading role in carbon auctioning.”

The CCC endorsement is the latest step in the UK’s preparations for auctioning phase III and aviation allowances. Under EU rules, the Commission and Member States in the form of the CCC must first approve the platform. This will be followed by a three month scrutiny period by the European Council and Parliament. The UK expects auctioning to start in November 2012, subject to successful completion of this scrutiny process.

Following a decision by the CCC last year, Member States are due to start auctioning some 120m phase III emissions allowances early before the end of this year. The UK’s share of these allowances is 12m. Subject to EU approval, it is expected that these allowances will be auctioned in November and December this year. In addition, the UK is expected to auction approximately 7m aviation allowances by the end of 2012.

Auctions of these allowances will be held separately during the same period.

Further detailed information on the UK’s phase III and aviation auctions, including the proposed auction calendar and how to access the auctions, will follow in due course.


Notes to editors

  • The European Union Emission Trading System (EU ETS) is at the heart of UK Government policy to tackle climate change
  • The rules governing the system are set out in the EU ETS Directive; it covers sectors responsible for around half of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions
  • In 2008, the EU ETS Directive was revised to make auctioning the main method for allocating emissions allowances in Phase III of the EU ETS (2013-2020). In Phase III, at least 50% of general emissions allowances will be auctioned across the EU. In addition, EU member states will auction 15% of aviation allowances
  • Under the rules set out in the EU Auctioning Regulation, Member States have the option to either auction via a common EU platform, or set up their own, national platform. The UK, Germany and Poland have opted to set up national auction platforms.
  • In April DECC announced that ICE Futures Europe was its preferred supplier for the contract to conduct auctions of phase III and aviation EU ETS. This followed an EU-wide competitive tender process that launched in December 2011.
  • Before auctions can begin on the UK platform, the platform must first be approved by the Climate Change Committee and then be subject to a 3 month scrutiny period by the European Parliament and Council. These requirements are set out in the EU Auctioning Regulation.
  • Both Germany and the European Commission (auctioning on behalf of 24 Member States) have announced their intention to start auctioning after the summer.

Further information can be found on:


Odd site to defend Peter Gleick’s exposing of Heartlandgate, citing the law that will let him skate

March 18, 2012

Much angst among Heartlandgate perpetrators over the increasingly obvious fact that Peter Gleick not only shouldn’t be prosecuted, but can’t be prosecuted under federal law, for duping Heartland employees into revealing their true intentions, to lie about global warming so people won’t “believe” it and support solutions.

Peter Gleick - World Economic Forum Annual Mee...

Peter Gleick, lifetime of informing the public accurately at a researcher's greatly diminished salary; Heartland Institute is spending thousands of dollars to convince people he changed suddenly. Who to believe? Here's Gleick at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2009 (Photo credit: World Economic Forum)

But this odd site cut through the clutter and posted the words of the relevant law, establishing Peter Gleick’s lack of criminality:

18 U.S.C. 1343:
Whoever, having devised or intending to devise any scheme or artifice to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, transmits or causes to be transmitted by means of wire, radio, or television communication in interstate or foreign commerce, any writings, signs, signals, pictures, or sounds for the purpose of executing such scheme or artifice, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both….

Did you catch that, Dear Reader?  Gleick would be guilty of federal wire fraud had he asked the perpetrators of Heartlandgate to send him money or property.

But all Gleick asked for was a copy of their agenda for a meeting, and the supporting data.  No money, no property.  Nothing of value.  Nor did he intend to use, nor could he use, any of that information to get money or property.

You noted, of course, the site is one promulgated by the Heartland Institute itself.

(Did they really mean it that way?  Probably not.)

(By the way — you may want to read the actual law from an authoritative source like the Cornell University Law Library’s Legal Information Institute (LII), and not a version filtered by people who deny global warming, nor its severity, nor its causes, or who don’t work to hoodwink gullible politicians.)

Peter Gleick:  Deep Throat of the climate denial scandals.

How can you tell whether you should be concerned, Dear Reader?

For example, if you’re a teacher, should you be concerned that in Heartlandgate, the Heartland Institute reveals itself to be working to “dissuade” science teachers from teaching science?  Or, if you’re just a concerned citizen, should you be concerned that you’ve heard precious little about the analysis of the documents released, from major news outlets?

If you are in any degree confused about who to believe in this issue, or worse, if you are convinced that there is a pattern of skirting of the laws by scientists (contrary to the evidence), you should be concerned that you’re not getting the full story.

More, Resources, Further reading:


Annals of Global Warming: Dramatic Links Found Between Climate Change, Elk, Plants, and Birds

March 14, 2012

Understanding the physics of the Earth’s atmosphere poses great problems — it is an astonishingly dynamic, fluid environment.  Understanding the relationships between species in ecosystems is no less complex, and no less vexing.

Wise followers of science recognize that when findings in biology, chemistry and physics, point the same direction, something powerful creates the convergence, and is not to be ignored.

So it is with these findings from the University of Montana and the U.S. Geological Survey, demonstrating clear links between climate change and the changing life patterns of large animals like elk, small animals like birds, and the plants the animals live in and consume.  This study is so complex that climate denialists haven’t figured out which part to deny, yet.  (This press release came out in January.)

From the USGS, with no adornment from the Bathtub, a press release on a letter in Nature Climate Change:

Dramatic Links Found Between Climate Change, Elk, Plants, and Birds

Released: 1/9/2012 11:30:00 AM

U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Communications and Publishing

In partnership with the University of Montana

Missoula, MT – Climate change in the form of reduced snowfall in mountains is causing powerful and cascading shifts in mountainous plant and bird communities through the increased ability of elk to stay at high elevations over winter and consume plants, according to a groundbreaking study in Nature Climate Change.

Red-faced warbler in Arizona, photo by Tom Martin, USGS

Red-faced warblers are one of the species affected by climate change in the form of reduced snowpack in the Arizona Mountains, according to a USGS Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit study. Photo by Tom Martin, USGS, May 1998, in the Coconino National Forest

The U.S. Geological Survey and University of Montana study not only showed that the abundance of deciduous trees and their associated songbirds in mountainous Arizona have declined over the last 22 years as snowpack has declined, but it also experimentally demonstrated that declining snowfall indirectly affects plants and birds by enabling more winter browsing by elk. Increased winter browsing by elk results in trickle-down ecological effects such as lowering the quality of habitat for songbirds.

The authors, USGS Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit scientist Thomas Martin and University of Montana scientist John Maron, mimicked the effects of more snow on limiting the ability of elk to browse on plants by excluding the animals from large, fenced areas. They compared bird and plant communities in these exclusion areas with nearby similar areas where elk had access, and found that, over the six years of the study, multi-decadal declines in plant and songbird populations were reversed in the areas where elk were prohibited from browsing.

Hermit thrushes in the Coconino National Forest, Arizona - 2005 photo by Tom Martin, USGS

Hermit thrushes are a songbird species that was strongly affected by plant community changes in mountains because of reduced snowpack and cascading ecological effects, according to a USGS Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit study. 2005 photo by Tom Martin, USGS, in the Coconino National Forest

“This study illustrates that profound impacts of climate change on ecosystems arise over a time span of but two decades through unexplored feedbacks,” explained USGS director Marcia McNutt. “The significance lies in the fact that humans and our economy are at the end of the same chain of cascading consequences.”

The study demonstrates  a classic ecological cascade, added Martin. For example, he said, from an elk’s perspective, less snow means an increased ability to freely browse on woody plants in winter in areas where they would not be inclined to forage in previous times due to high snowpack. Increased overwinter browsing led to a decline in deciduous trees, which reduced the number of birds that chose the habitat and increased predation on nests of those birds that did choose the habitat.

Elk excluded, aspen growth increases - photo by Tom Martin, USGS, Coconino National Forest

When elk are excluded, aspen growth dramatically increases - Climate change in the form of reduced snowfall in mountains is causing powerful and cascading shifts in montane plant and bird communities through the increased ability of elk to stay at high elevations over winter and consume plants. Here, you can see an example of the difference in aspen growth inside versus outside a fence that excludes elk. Photo by Tom Martin, USGS, in Coconino National Forest

“This study demonstrates that the indirect effects of climate on plant communities may be just as important as the effects of climate-change-induced mismatches between migrating birds and food abundance because plants, including trees, provide the habitat birds need to survive,” Martin said.

The study, Climate impacts on bird and plant communities from altered animal-plant interactions, was published online on Jan. 8 in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Elk in winter at Camp Creek Feed Ground, Northwestern Wyoming - USGS photo

Elk in winter at Camp Creek Feed Ground, Northwestern Wyoming - USGS photo

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