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  • richardmitnick 10:16 am on November 28, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Climate Change,   

    From SA: “Climate Change Will Not Be Dangerous for a Long Time” 

    Scientific American

    Scientific American

    November 27, 2015
    Matt Ridley

    Slower warming than predicted gives the world time to develop better energy technologies


    The climate change debate has been polarized into a simple dichotomy. Either global warming is “real, man-made and dangerous,” as Pres. Barack Obama thinks, or it’s a “hoax,” as Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe thinks. But there is a third possibility: that it is real, man-made and not dangerous, at least not for a long time.

    This “lukewarm” option has been boosted by recent climate research, and if it is right, current policies may do more harm than good. For example, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and other bodies agree that the rush to grow biofuels, justified as a decarbonization measure, has raised food prices and contributed to rainforest destruction. Since 2013 aid agencies such as the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the World Bank and the European Investment Bank have restricted funding for building fossil-fuel plants in Asia and Africa; that has slowed progress in bringing electricity to the one billion people who live without it and the four million who die each year from the effects of cooking over wood fires.

    In 1990 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was predicting that if emissions rose in a “business as usual” way, which they have done, then global average temperature would rise at the rate of about 0.3 degree Celsius per decade (with an uncertainty range of 0.2 to 0.5 degree C per decade). In the 25 years since, temperature has risen at about 0.1 to 0.2 degree C per decade, depending on whether surface or satellite data is used. The IPCC, in its most recent assessment report, lowered its near-term forecast for the global mean surface temperature over the period 2016 to 2035 to just 0.3 to 0.7 degree C above the 1986–2005 level. That is a warming of 0.1 to 0.2 degree C per decade, in all scenarios, including the high-emissions ones.

    At the same time, new studies of climate sensitivity—the amount of warming expected for a doubling of carbon dioxide levels from 0.03 to 0.06 percent in the atmosphere—have suggested that most models are too sensitive. The average sensitivity of the 108 model runs considered by the IPCC is 3.2 degrees C. As Pat Michaels, a climatologist and self-described global warming skeptic at the Cato Institute testified to Congress in July, certain studies of sensitivity published since 2011 find an average sensitivity of 2 degrees C.

    Such lower sensitivity does not contradict greenhouse-effect physics. The theory of dangerous climate change is based not just on carbon dioxide warming but on positive and negative feedback effects from water vapor and phenomena such as clouds and airborne aerosols from coal burning. Doubling carbon dioxide levels, alone, should produce just over 1 degree C of warming. These feedback effects have been poorly estimated, and almost certainly overestimated, in the models.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 11:13 am on November 25, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From AAAS: “Climate change can tear down mountains” 



    23 November 2015
    Eric Hand

    The Bering Glacier is one reason why the St. Elias Mountains in Alaska are eroding faster than they are being built. Robert Simmon/NASA; data source: Landsat 7 Science Team

    The St. Elias Mountains in Alaska are more than 5000 meters tall, testament to a tectonic plate wedged underneath the region that is driving them up like a snowplow. But the St. Elias range also contains some of the world’s largest glaciers, which inexhaustibly scour the mountains and dump sediment in the sea. Now, a new study finds that the glaciers are winning, eroding the mountains faster than they are being built. Moreover, a jump in the region’s erosion rates about a million years ago coincides with a transition to more powerful ice ages—a sign that climate change can have a larger than expected effect in tearing down mountains.

    For many years, geoscientists treated the erosive power of rain and ice as an afterthought to Earth’s mountain-building forces, or tectonics.

    World plate tectonics

    The new study suggests that, in special places, they can dominate. “We have more material leaving than coming in, because of this change in climate,” says Sean Gulick, a marine geophysicist at the University of Texas (UT), Austin, who led the study. “This is the first time that we’ve been able to prove that that can happen at the scale of a whole mountain range.”

    The work also helps confirm an idea that has been hypothesized for 30 years but never conclusively documented in the field: Not only can mountain-building affect climate (by changing weather patterns, for instance), but, surprisingly, climate can also affect mountain-building. Mountain slopes seek a critical resting angle that is a function of the collisional forces driving them up and the material properties of the rock—not unlike the pile of snow that gathers at a certain angle in front of a snowplow. However, if erosion takes too much weight off the top, the mountain will try to rebuild and return to that critical angle through internal deformation and changes to faults inside the mountain. The new study of the St. Elias Mountains shows that erosion has indeed upset the balance, and other studies have shown that the faults involved in building the mountain range are readjusting to the new regime.

    “The whole system is out of whack,” Gulick says. The mountain-building is “already starting to try to catch up” to the erosion, he says.

    Erosion, a notoriously difficult process to study, is extreme in the St. Elias range. Since the region is at a high latitude, moisture from the nearby Pacific Ocean can accumulate into some of the world’s most powerful glaciers. That was one reason why Gulick and his team decided to study it. Another reason: The region is relatively small, and bounded. There is one way for material to go into the mountains, and one way for it to leave. Using knowledge about the geometry of the tectonic plates, the researchers estimated that, for the past 6 million years, the rate of material going into building the mountains has been pretty constant.

    A bigger challenge was tallying up all the sediments eroded off the mountains and dumped in the ocean by the glaciers. For 2 months in 2013, the JOIDES Resolution, the ship for the International Ocean Discovery Program, drilled into the ocean floor sediments, retrieving cores of mud and rock that were then dated. This allowed the scientists to understand how sedimentation rates changed over time. Between 2.8 million and 1.2 million years ago, the rate of material going into the mountains exceeded the sedimentation rate. About 1.2 million years ago, the sedimentation rate accelerated—the same time that Earth’s ice ages began to occur more intensely at 100,000-year intervals rather than in 40,000-year cycles. Since 700 million years ago, the transport of material out of the region has exceeded the material going in by 50% to 80%, the team reports online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    Gulick says the sedimentation rates are staggeringly high, as much as 80 centimeters per 1000 years. That’s roughly four times the rate of material currently coming off the Himalayas, he says.

    James Spotila, a geologist at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg who was not a part of the study, says the research team needs to be careful not to overstate the precision of its results. In an earlier onshore experiment, Spotila tried to estimate the material going into and out of the St. Elias Mountains, and found it difficult to precisely bound the region. Rivers and glaciers could also be depositing material eroded from outside the mountain range, he says, adding that it’s very hard to say exactly how much material the tectonic plates are bringing in.

    “How well do you really know those two numbers?” he asks. “I’m not sure that I’m personally convinced that the volumetric comparison truly captures all that complexity.” The real news, Spotila says, is the precision of the rates of offshore sedimentation. “Here they nail it quite well,” he says. “It’s ramping up, and the timing of those accelerations match changes in climate.”

    The new study will also help confirm the idea that the mountains themselves can adjust to extreme changes in erosion. There is already evidence that the St. Elias Mountains are reacting to the abnormally high erosion rates, says Terry Pavlis, a structural geologist at UT El Paso and the leader of an earlier onshore study. He discovered many geologically recent faults at shallow angles—which all point to the mountain making adjustments in the past million years to the way its rocks pile up. “It’s going to try to adjust and produce uplift where erosion has stripped out a hole,” Pavlis says. But it may be a lost cause, he says. “Basically erosion won the battle,” he says. “The mountains are trying to rebuild but they can’t keep up.”

    See the full article here .

    The American Association for the Advancement of Science is an international non-profit organization dedicated to advancing science for the benefit of all people.

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  • richardmitnick 7:42 pm on October 6, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From climateprediction.net: “New Climatology Results for Western US Drought Experiment” 



    October 2015

    We now have the first results for our Climatological simulations, investigating the influence of removing the ‘blob’ of warm sea surface temperatures off the western US coast.

    The ‘blob’ has a strong influence on the temperature, for example the climatological simulations without the ‘blob’ are colder than the actual or natural simulations.

    In the climatological simulations, it is interesting to see a different response in the precipitation between the different states. This is something our scientists will be investigating in more detail in the upcoming weeks.

    There are 3 plots for each state, here’s one of them showing temperature in California. The experiment is looking at two possible influences on the drought in the Western US – climate change and the “blob”. In the plot below, there are 3 sets of data:

    “Actual” – these are models that use observed data to simulate the climate
    “Natural” – these are models that show a “world that might have been without climate change”
    “Climatology” – these are models that include climate change, as observed, but have removed the “blob”

    There are still a few thousand models left to run, so please do sign up if you haven’t already, and help us answer this fascinating and important question!

    Read more about the experiment setup.

    See all the results so far for individual states here:


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  • richardmitnick 11:52 am on October 3, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From Nature: “Gains in Antarctic ice might offset losses” 

    Nature Mag

    02 October 2015
    Alexandra Witze

    The Antarctic ice sheet is the largest single ice mass on Earth. Radius Images/Alamy

    So much ice is piling up in the vast expanses of East Antarctica that, overall, it counterbalances the losses seen at glaciers thinning elsewhere on the frozen continent. It will take decades for Antarctic melting to overtake the mass gains and begin contributing substantially to sea-level rise, a new study argues.

    The calculations are the latest in a long-running effort to weigh Antarctica’s ice. Whereas melting in Greenland has dramatically reduced its ice sheet, the situation in Antarctica is more complex.

    “Parts of Antarctica are losing mass faster than before,” says Jay Zwally, a glaciologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and lead author of a paper to appear in the Journal of Glaciology1. “But large parts have been gaining mass, and they’ve been doing that for a very long time.”

    The findings do not mean that Antarctica is not in trouble, Zwally notes. “I know some of the climate deniers will jump on this, and say this means we don’t have to worry as much as some people have been making out,” he says. “It should not take away from the concern about climate warming.” As global temperatures rise, Antarctica is expected to contribute more to sea-level rise, though when exactly that effect will kick in, and to what extent, remains unclear.

    But the work does highlight lingering uncertainties about Antarctica’s ice sheets, says Edward Hanna, a climatologist at the University of Sheffield, UK, and leader of a 2013 review2 that explored the difficulties in measuring ice sheets.

    Many earlier studies have found an overall net loss of ice from Antarctica. A 2012 review3, which aimed to reconcile findings from the many techniques that are used to measure ice-mass balance, calculated a loss of 72 billion tonnes of ice from the entire Antarctic ice sheet each year between 2003 and 2008. For roughly the same period, Zwally’s team calculated a gain of 82 billion tonnes a year.

    Zwally and his colleagues used data on the changing height of the ice-sheet surface from the European Space Agency’s European Remote Sensing radar satellite between 1992 and 2001, and from NASA’s ICESat laser-ranging satellite between 2003 and 2008.

    Across the period of the study, East Antarctica gained the most mass, followed by the West Antarctic interior. Glacial ice forms as snow compresses under its own weight. In this case, the gain in ice mass in parts of Antarctica has not come from snowfall in the modern era, but from heavier snows that fell about 10,000 years ago, says Zwally. That snow became ice and started to flow slowly towards the sea — but so slowly that the ice began to thicken.

    The effect is not big — a little more than a centimetre of thickening each year. But over thousands of years, and over the vast expanse that is East Antarctica, those tiny bits of extra ice add up to a lot of extra mass.

    Around the edges of the continent, Zwally’s team saw the same rapid retreat of glaciers that many other groups have documented. At places such as the Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers, and along the Antarctic Peninsula, glaciers are melting at rates unprecedented in recorded history.

    Disputes about the rate of Antarctic ice loss will probably continue. The gravity-measuring Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites, run by NASA, have measured accelerating losses in Antarctica4 (although Zwally argues that the discrepancy is due at least partly to how GRACE researchers account for changes in the height of the bedrock as ice melts). And ESA’s Cryosat-2 radar satellite found small losses5 in that region in 2010–13.

    More work is needed to understand the various measurements obtained using different techniques over different time periods, says polar scientist Andrew Shepherd of the University of Leeds, who led the 2012 reconciliation effort.

    See the full article here , especially for noted references.

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    Nature is a weekly international journal publishing the finest peer-reviewed research in all fields of science and technology on the basis of its originality, importance, interdisciplinary interest, timeliness, accessibility, elegance and surprising conclusions. Nature also provides rapid, authoritative, insightful and arresting news and interpretation of topical and coming trends affecting science, scientists and the wider public.

  • richardmitnick 2:36 pm on October 2, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Climate Change,   

    From UBC: “Climate change moves mountains — literally” 

    U British Columbia bloc

    University of British Columbia

    October 1, 2015

    Public Affairs
    310 – 6251 Cecil Green Park Road
    Vancouver, BC Canada V6T 1Z1
    Tel 604 822 6397
    Fax 604 822 2684
    Website http://news.ubc.ca
    Email public.affairs@ubc.ca

    The Surprise Glacier in Alaska. Credit: U.S. Geological Survey/Flickr

    Climate change is causing more than just warmer oceans and erratic weather. According to scientists, it also has the capacity to alter the shape of the planet.

    In a five-year study published today in Nature, lead author Michele Koppes, assistant professor in the Department of Geography at the University of British Columbia, compared glaciers in Patagonia and in the Antarctic Peninsula. She and her team found that glaciers in warmer Patagonia moved faster and caused more erosion than those in Antarctica, as warmer temperatures and melting ice helped lubricate the bed of the glaciers.

    Michele Koppes in Alaska.

    “We found that glaciers erode 100 to 1,000 times faster in Patagonia than they do in Antarctica,” said Koppes. “Antarctica is warming up, and as it moves to temperatures above 0 degrees Celsius, the glaciers are all going to start moving faster. We are already seeing that the ice sheets are starting to move faster and should become more erosive, digging deeper valleys and shedding more sediment into the oceans.”

    The repercussions of this erosion add to the already complex effects of climate change in the polar regions. Faster moving glaciers deposit more sediment in downstream basins and on the continental shelves, potentially impacting fisheries, dams and access to clean freshwater in mountain communities. “The polar continental margins in particular are hotspots of biodiversity,” notes Koppes. “If you’re pumping out that much more sediment into the water, you’re changing the aquatic habitat.”

    The Canadian Arctic, one of the most rapidly warming regions of the world, will feel these effects acutely. With more than four degrees Celsius of warming over the last 50 years, the glaciers are on the brink of a major shift that will see them flowing up to 100 times faster if the climate shifts above zero degrees Celsius.

    The findings by Koppes and coauthors also settle a scientific debate about when glaciers have the greatest impact on shaping landscapes and creating relief, suggesting that they do the most erosive work near the end of each cycle of glaciation, rather than at the peak of ice cover. The last major glacial cycles in the Vancouver region ended approximately 12,500 years ago.

    The study, Observed latitudinal variations in erosion as a function of glacier dynamics, appears in Nature.

    See the full article here .

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    The University of British Columbia is a global centre for research and teaching, consistently ranked among the 40 best universities in the world. Since 1915, UBC’s West Coast spirit has embraced innovation and challenged the status quo. Its entrepreneurial perspective encourages students, staff and faculty to challenge convention, lead discovery and explore new ways of learning. At UBC, bold thinking is given a place to develop into ideas that can change the world.

  • richardmitnick 10:56 am on September 29, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From NOVA: “$20 Million Xprize Wants to Eliminate Waste Carbon Dioxide” 



    29 Sep 2015
    Tim De Chant

    Five out of five climatologists agree—we’re probably going to emit more CO2 than we should if we want to prevent the worst effects of climate change.

    Fortunately, there’s a solution—capturing that CO2 and doing something with it. Unfortunately, the “somethings” that we know of with are both costly and not that profitable. A new Xprize announced this morning aims to change that. Funded by energy company NRG and COSIA, an industry group representing Canadian oil sands companies, the prize will fund the teams that develop the most valuable ways to turn the most CO2 into something useful.

    A smokestack vents emissions to the atmosphere.

    “It’s the second largest prize we’ve ever launched,” Paul Bunje, senior scientist of energy and environment at Xprize, told NOVA Next. “It’s a recognition of a couple of things: One is the scale of the challenge at hand—dealing with carbon dioxide emissions is obviously an epic challenge for the entire plant. Secondly, it also recognizes just how difficult, technologically, this challenge is.”

    Starting today, teams have nine months to register, and by late 2016, they’ll need to submit technical documentation in support of their plans. A panel of judges will then pick the best 15 in each “track”—one which captures emissions from a coal-fired power plant, the other from a natural gas-fired plant.

    The 30 semifinalists will then have to develop laboratory-scale versions of their plan. The best five from each track will receive a $500,000 grant to help fund the next stage, where teams will have to build demonstration-scale facilities that will be attached to working power plants. Four and a half years from now, a winner from each track will be chosen and be awarded $7.5 million.

    Bunje, who is leading this Xprize, hopes the prize will show that “CO2 doesn’t just have to be a waste project that drives climate change—rather, that you can make money off of the products from converted CO2,” he said. “That kind of a perception shift will be pretty remarkable.”

    See the full article here .

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    NOVA is the highest rated science series on television and the most watched documentary series on public television. It is also one of television’s most acclaimed series, having won every major television award, most of them many times over.

  • richardmitnick 9:33 am on September 23, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From NOVA: “Why Doesn’t Everyone Believe Humans Are Causing Climate Change?” 2014 But Important 



    19 Nov 2014
    Brad Balukjian

    Last week during his tour of Asia, President Barack Obama struck a new global warming deal with China. It was a landmark agreement that many expect could break the logjam that has kept the world’s two largest emitters largely on the sidelines of talks to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Both countries agreed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, with the U.S. ramping up reductions starting in 2020 and China beginning cuts in 2030.

    Yet back home, President Obama still faces an electorate that doesn’t believe climate change is caused by humans. Only 40% of Americans attribute global warming to human activity, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll. This, despite decades of scientific evidence and the fact that Americans generally trust climate scientists.

    Despite decades of evidence, most Americans don’t believe that humans are causing climate change.

    That apparent cognitive dissonance has vexed two scientists in particular: Michael Ranney, a professor of education at the University of California, Berkeley, and Dan Kahan, a professor of law at Yale University. According to both, we haven’t been asking the right questions. But they disagree on what, exactly, those questions should be. If one or both of them are right, the shift in tone could transform our society’s debate over climate change.

    The Wisdom Deficit

    In the 1990s, Michael Ranney started informally asking people what they perceived to be the world’s biggest problem. He hadn’t set out to tackle environmental issues—he was first trained in applied physics and materials science before turning to cognitive psychology. But time and again, he heard “climate change” as an answer.

    Ranney had also noticed that while the scientific community had converged on a consensus, the general public had not, at least not in the U.S. The Climategate controversy in late 2009 over leaked e-mails between climate scientists and Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe’s insistence that anthropogenic global warming is a hoax are just two examples of the widespread conflict among the American public over what is causing the planet to warm.

    Ranney and his team say that a “wisdom deficit” is driving the wedge. Specifically, it’s a lack of understanding of the mechanism of global warming that’s been retarding progress on the issue. “For many Americans, they’re caught between a radio talk show host—of the sort that Rush Limbaugh is—and maybe a professor who just gave them a lecture on global warming. And if you don’t understand the mechanism, then you just have competing authorities, kind of like the Pope and Galileo,” he says. “Mechanism turns out to be a tie-breaker when there’s a contentious issue.”

    Despite the fact that the general public has been inundated with scientific facts related to global warming, Ranney says that our climate literacy is still not very high. In other words, though we may hear a lot about climate change, we don’t really understand it. It’s similar to how lots of people follow the ups and downs of the Dow Jones Industrial Average but don’t understand how those fluctuations relate to macroeconomic trends.

    Climate illiteracy isn’t just limited to the general public, either. Ranney recalls a scientist’s presentation at a recent conference which said that many university professors teaching global warming barely had a better understanding of its mechanism than the undergraduates they were teaching. “Even one of the most highly-cited climate change communicators in the world didn’t know the mechanism over dinner,” he says.

    One of the most common misconceptions, according to Ranney, is that light energy “bounces” off the surface of the Earth and then is trapped or “bounced back” by greenhouse gases. The correct mechanism is subtly different. Ranney’s research group has boiled it down to 35 words: “Earth transforms sunlight’s visible light energy into infrared light energy, which leaves Earth slowly because it is absorbed by greenhouse gases. When people produce greenhouse gases, energy leaves Earth even more slowly—raising Earth’s temperature.”

    When Ranney surveyed 270 visitors to a San Diego park on how global warming works, he found that exactly zero could provide the proper mechanism. In a second experiment, 79 psychology undergraduates at UC Berkeley scored an average of 3.8 out of 9 possible points when tested on mechanistic knowledge of climate change. In a third study, 41 people recruited through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, an online marketplace for freelance labor, scored an average of 1.9 out of 9. (Study participants in Japan and Germany had a similarly poor showing, meaning it’s not just an American problem.) With every new experiment, Ranney found consistently low levels of knowledge.

    At least, he did at first. In his experiments, after the first round of questions, Ranney included a brief lecture or a written explanation on the correct mechanism behind global warming. He then polled the same people to see whether they understood it better and whether they accepted that humans are causing climate change. In the UC Berkeley study, acceptance rose by 5.4%; in the Mechanical Turk study, it increased by 4.7%. Perhaps most notably, acceptance increased among both conservatives and liberals. There was no evidence for political polarization.

    That doesn’t mean polarization doesn’t exist. It’s certainly true that liberals are more likely to accept anthropogenic global warming than conservatives. Myriad studies and surveys have found that. But political affiliation doesn’t always overwhelm knowledge when it becomes available—Ranney found no evidence for a difference between conservatives’ and liberals’ change in willingness to accept climate change after his “knowledge intervention.”

    Convinced that the key to acceptance is understanding the mechanism, Ranney created a series of no-frills videos of varying lengths in multiple languages explaining just that. More than 130,000 page views later, Ranney is not shy about his aims: “Our goal is to garner 7 billion visitors,” he says.

    Depolarizing Language

    Meanwhile, Dan Kahan says that it’s not a wisdom gap that’s preventing acceptance of human’s role in climate change, but the cultural politicization of the topic. People don’t need a sophisticated understanding of climate change, he says. “They only need to be able to recognize what the best available scientific evidence signifies as a practical matter: that human-caused global warming is initiating a series of very significant dynamics—melting ice, rising sea levels, flooding, heightened risk of serious diseases, more intense hurricanes and other extreme weather events—that put us in danger.”

    According to Kahan, the problem lies in the discourse around the issue. When people are asked about their acceptance of anthropogenic global warming, he says the questions tend to confound what people know with who they are and the cultural groups they identify with. In those circumstances, declaring a position on the issue becomes more a statement of cultural identity than one of scientific understanding.

    Kahan’s ideas are based on his own surveys of the American public. In one recent study of 1,769 participants recruited through the public opinion firm YouGov, he assessed people’s “ordinary climate science intelligence” with a series of climate change knowledge questions. He also collected demographic data, including political orientation. Kahan found no correlation between one’s understanding of climate science and his or her acceptance of human-caused climate change. Some people who knew quite a bit on the topic still didn’t accept the premise of anthropogenic climate change, and vice versa. He also found that, as expected, conservatives are less likely to accept that humans are changing the climate.

    Unlike Ranney, Kahan did find strong evidence for polarization. The more knowledgeable a conservative, for example, the more likely they are to not accept human-caused global warming. Kahan suggests that these people use their significant analytical skills to seek evidence that aligns with their political orientation.

    Still, despite many people’s strong reluctance to accept anthropogenic global warming, cities and counties in places like southeast Florida have gone ahead and supported practices to deal with global warming anyway. Kahan relates one anecdote in which state and local officials in Florida have argued for building a nuclear power generator higher than planned because of sea-level rise and storm surge projections. But if you ask these same people if they believe in climate change, they’ll say, “no, that’s something entirely different!” Kahan says.

    Kahan’s not exactly sure why some people act in ways that directly contradict their own beliefs—he laughs and verbally shrugs when asked—but he has some ideas. The leading one is the notion of dualism, when someone mentally separates two apparently conflicting ideas and yet feels no need to reconcile them. This happens on occasion with religious medical doctors, he says, who reject evolution but openly admit to using the principles of evolution in their work life.

    Whatever the cause, Kahan thinks the case of southeast Florida is worth studying. There, the community has been able to examine the scientific evidence for climate change and take action despite widespread disagreement on whether humans are actually driving climate change. The key, Kahan says, is that they have kept politics out of the room.

    Two Sides of the Same Coin

    Ranney and Kahan, much like the skeptics and supporters of human-caused climate change, question the other’s conclusions. Kahan is skeptical that Ranney’s approach can be very effective on a large scale. “I don’t think it makes sense to believe that if you tell people in five-minute lectures about climate science, that it’s going to solve the problem,” he says. He also questions the applicability of Ranney’s experiments, which have mostly included students and Mechanical Turk respondents. “The people who are disagreeing in the world are not college students,” he says. “You’re also not in a position to give every single person a lecture. But if you did, do you think you’d be giving that lecture to them with Rush Limbaugh standing right next to them pointing out they they’re full of shit? Because in the world, that’s what happens.”

    Hundreds of millions of in-person lectures would certainly be impossible, but Ranney has high hopes for his online videos. Plus, Ranney points out that Kahan’s studies are correlative, while his are controlled experiments where causation can be more strongly inferred. In addition, most of the measures of climate science knowledge that Kahan uses in his research focus on factual knowledge rather than mechanism. (For example, the multiple choice question, “What gas do most scientists believe causes temperatures in the atmosphere to rise?”). Ranney’s work, on the other hand, is all about mechanism.

    Despite their apparent disagreement, Ranney thinks the debate is a bit of a false dichotomy. “It’s certainly the case that one’s culture has a significant relationship to whether or not you accept [anthropogenic global warming], but that doesn’t mean your global warming knowledge isn’t also related to it. And it doesn’t mean you can’t overcome a cultural predilection with more information,” Ranney says. “There were a lot of things that were culturally predicted, like thinking we were in a geocentric universe or that smoking was fine for you or that the Earth was flat—all manner of things that eventually science overcame.”

    Perhaps Ranney and Kahan are on the same team after all—they would probably agree that, at the end of the day, both knowledge and culture matter, and that we’d be well-served to focus our energy on how to operationally increase acceptance of anthropogenic global warming. “Whatever we can do now will be heroic for our great-grandchildren, and whatever we do not do will be infamous,” Ranney says.

    See the full article here .

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    NOVA is the highest rated science series on television and the most watched documentary series on public television. It is also one of television’s most acclaimed series, having won every major television award, most of them many times over.

  • richardmitnick 4:06 pm on September 17, 2015 Permalink | Reply
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    From livescience: “The Planet Is Going To Have Its Hottest Year on Record” 


    September 17, 2015
    Brian Kahn

    Temp 1
    This year set a record for the warmest August on record.Credit: NCEI

    This year is in the pole position to take the title for hottest year on record and it shows no signs of slowing down.

    August is the sixth month of the year to set a heat record, according to new data from the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) released on Thursday. Five of those months also happen to be among the 10 most freakishly warm months that NCEI has ever recorded.

    According to calculations NCEI performed using temperatures through July, this year had a 97 percent chance of being the hottest year on record, taking over the dubious title from 2014. That percentage will have to be revised upward with August’s new record.

    “This continues a trend we’ve seen since the latter part of 2014 for a very warm temperature trend relative to history,” Deke Arndt, the head of NCEI’s climate monitoring division, said.

    The reason this year’s record is so certain is because it’s been tracking record hot since January and has shown no signs of slowing down. In a graphic showing the six hottest years on record that Arndt likened to a horse race, it’s clear that 2015 is the American Pharaoh of global heat. The planet would have to seriously fall to the back of pack to not be the hottest year on record.

    “We would have to see some really unusual cooling behavior. We’d have to spend at least a few months hanging out near the 20th century average and we haven’t done that since the 1980s,” Arndt said.

    Temp 2
    In a horserace for the warmest year on record, 2015 has held the pole position since January. Credit: NCEI

    This year has outpaced all other years from start to finish by riding on the back of record ocean heat. August set the record for the warmest ocean temperatures ever recorded, though land areas were also more than 2°F above normal for the month. Oceans are very slow to respond to temperature changes, which is in part why it’s so unlikely 2015 will lose the race for warmest year.

    Decades of human-induced warming have gotten the planet to this point. It’s been 368 months in a row of above normal heat and it’s been more than 100 years since the planet had a record cold year. Arndt said El Niño is essentially helping the planet stand on its tippy toes to set a record.

    With that El Niño expected to persist through at least the early part of 2016 and the continued influence of global warming, it’s possible that this year will also have a short reign as the hottest on record.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 1:31 pm on September 15, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Climate Change,   

    From New Scientist: “Global warming slowdown could be over as temperatures soar” 


    New Scientist

    14 September 2015
    Michael Le Page

    More extreme weather is likely (Image: Justin Sullivan/Getty)

    This year may be a critical one for the world’s climate. Not only is a strong El Niño causing record warming and altered rainfall patterns around the planet, longer-term changes under way in the Pacific and Atlantic could affect our climate for decades to come.

    All this may lead to the end of the so-called slowdown in global warming, although it’s too soon to be sure.

    “We are at an important turning point in the Earth’s climate,” says Adam Scaife of the UK’s Met Office, lead author of a new report on how the climate system is shifting. “So many big changes are happening at once.”

    After failing to materialise last year, a strong El Niño is now under way in the Pacific. The phenomenon is caused by a weakening of trade winds, allowing warm water to spread east along the equator. It is already affecting weather around the world, from boosting the number of supertyphoons in the Pacific to weakening the Indian monsoon.

    Warmest year

    The seasonal forecasting models used by centres globally, including the Met Office, now all suggest this El Niño will persist and strengthen over the northern hemisphere winter, which would make it one of the four strongest ever recorded.

    This means we can expect drought in regions such as southern Africa and parts of Australia, as well as higher rainfall in eastern Africa and the southern US. That could ease the dry conditions in California, but with the state now missing an entire year’s worth of rainfall, it’s unlikely to end the drought.

    With lots of warm surface water releasing heat into the atmosphere, in addition to ever-rising levels of greenhouse gases, 2015 is likely to surpass the warmest year on record, and 2016 will be similarly hot. As New Scientist has previously reported, this means we are passing an ominous milestone, with global surface temperatures now more than 1 °C above the pre-industrial average.

    This represents a return to the rapid rates of global surface warming – around 0.2 °C per decade – last seen in the 1990s. And this rapid warming could continue even after the El Niño ends.

    There are signs that a phenomenon known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) is switching from a negative phase, associated with cool surface temperature across much of the Pacific, to a positive one with warm temperatures.

    PDO positive phase global pattern

    If this rapid warming continues, it could mean the end of the so-called slowdown – the period over the past decade or so when global surface temperatures increased less rapidly than before. While the planet’s surface didn’t warm as fast, vast amounts of heat energy continued to accumulate in the oceans and with the switch in the PDO, some of this energy could now spill back into the atmosphere.

    The day after tomorrow

    Scaife stresses it’s too soon to say for sure that the slowdown in surface warming is over, though.

    Meanwhile, major changes are happening in the Atlantic too. The deep circulation that drives warm surface waters north is weakening, leading to a cooling of the north Atlantic relative to the rest of the oceans. “The circulation does appear to be slowing down,” says Rowan Sutton of the University of Reading, UK. “There’s a rather striking decline.”

    Sutton emphasises that this does not mean the current is about to shut down entirely – as in the apocalyptic film The Day After Tomorrow. In fact, he says its slowing could be mainly due to natural variability, rather than a result of climate change.

    But whatever the causes, the expectation is that that it will persist for several years. In climatological jargon, the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation appears to be switching from a warm, positive phase to a cold, negative phase. This could affect weather around the Atlantic, leading to cooler, drier summers in northern Europe, for instance.

    Atlantic multidecadal oscillation spatial pattern obtained as the regression of monthly HadISST sea surface temperature anomalies (1870-2013) on the north atlantic average ssta after the global mean has been removed.
    Note: The regression pattern is unitless(°C/°C), it depict sea surface temperature anomalies in °C per °C of the AMO index. Over the instrumental period the 10 yr average amo index computed as the north atlantic ssta minus global ssta has fluctuated from a maximum of about +0.3 °C to a minimum of -0.2 °C thus the ssta variability associated with the amo from the maximum to minimum has been roughly half that in the map. http://climexp.knmi.nl/amo.cgi

    Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation Timeseries with a 12 month moving average (black), 1856–2013

    But this is far from certain, Scaife says, because there are so many competing influences, such as the positive PDO that might outweigh the effects of a negative Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation.

    With all these climatic changes in an ever-warmer world, there could be yet more wild weather ahead. Hold on to your hat.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 7:14 am on August 21, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Climate Change,   

    From The Conversation: “How much has global warming worsened California’s drought? Now we have a number” 

    The Conversation

    August 20, 2015
    Park Williams, Assistant Research Professor of Bioclimatology at Columbia University

    With each passing year, human-caused global warming bullies California for more water. Each year, the heat squeezes more moisture from soils and ecosystems.

    This is because, as the atmosphere warms, its demand for moisture rises. Just as a puddle evaporates more quickly on a warm day, soils dry out more quickly during warmer years, which are becoming increasingly frequent in most locations globally.

    Currently, California is in the grips of a severe drought, which motivated my colleagues and me to conduct a study to determine how much of this drought can be blamed on natural climate variability. And how much can be blamed on the global warming shakedown? Our answer is 8-27%.

    This finding, done using a model built on historical data, sheds light on California’s future and the effect higher temperatures have on the natural forces that drive California’s droughts.

    California of buckets

    Global warming is an emerging background effect on the year-to-year variations in drought caused by natural climate variations, such as El Niño and La Niña. This is especially true in California, where year-to-year precipitation varies wildly.

    The 1997–98 El Niño observed by TOPEX/Poseidon. The white areas off the Tropical Western coasts of northern South and all Central America as well as along the Central-eastern equatorial and Southeastern Pacific Ocean indicate the pool of warm water.

    Sea surface skin temperature anomalies in November 2007 showing La Niña conditions

    NASA Topex Poseiden

    During most years, when natural climate variations cause wet or near-average conditions, the demands of the increasingly greedy atmosphere are still met with relative ease. During the last few years, however, natural climate variations have caused precipitation totals to be low and temperatures to be high. Human-caused warming, meanwhile, demands additional atmospheric moisture, at a time when water resources for natural and human systems are already in short supply.

    These maps rank the three-year drought severity during 2012-2014 compared to all other consecutive three-year periods since 1901. The map on the left is calculated from the observed climate records. The map on the right is calculated after removing the global warming trend from the temperature records. Park Williams, Author provided

    Unlike natural climate variation, which only sometimes produces extreme conditions, the amount of additional moisture demanded by the atmosphere due to global warming increases each year as the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide rises ever higher. The squeeze that global warming is putting on California’s water balance is therefore becoming increasingly detectable.

    My colleagues and I quantified the effect of global warming on the recent California drought using a computational soil-moisture accounting approach. In this approach, we treat California as if it is a grid of 24,000 buckets laid side by side, each about seven square miles in area, and we simulate monthly changes in the amount of water held in each bucket from 1901 through 2014.

    Precipitation causes the buckets to fill up and potentially overflow, and evaporation causes the buckets to empty out. We calculated the evaporation from monthly records of temperature, humidity, wind speed and net radiation. Annual changes in the water content of the buckets during the summer months indicate annual changes in California water balance and can therefore be evaluated to determine the severity of the current California drought.

    Dry weather versus higher temps

    Because these drought calculations are all done mathematically using historical climate data, we can repeat our calculations over and over again while holding certain variables constant. This method allows us to isolate the relative contributions of specific climate processes, such as a lack of precipitation or the occurrence of extreme heat to the current California drought.

    Performing these calculations, we find that about 70% of the California drought severity during 2012-2014 was attributable to a lack of precipitation and the other 30% is attributable to increased atmospheric evaporative demand, which was mainly driven by very warm temperatures.

    Change in California’s annual temperature and atmospheric evaporative demand during 1896-2014. The grey lines are the observed annual records and the smooth dark red lines are the trends caused by global warming (averaged across the various global warming trends we considered). Values in these graphs indicate departures from the 1931-1990 mean conditions. Park Williams, Author provided

    We next calculated how much of this temperature effect on drought was due to human-caused global warming and how much was due to natural temperature variability. We determined this by repeating our calculations using temperature records that exclude year-to-year temperature variations and only contain the long-term warming trend.

    We found that half to two-thirds of the temperature influence on drought conditions during 2012-2014 can be blamed on the warming trend, depending on the climate datasets considered. In other words, in the absence of global warming, the recent drought would have been approximately 15-20% less severe.

    Running the numbers

    It is important to acknowledge that we cannot be positive what portion of the long-term warming trend in California is related to human-caused global warming versus natural climate variability, so there is a fairly wide range of uncertainty surrounding the 15-20% estimate.

    Higher temperatures are contributing to an active forest fire season in the West. Mike McMillan – USFS, CC BY-NC

    For example, has the effect of global warming on the California drought been steadily rising each year? Or has the effect increased in recent decades due to accelerating greenhouse gas concentrations? Or did regulations to remove air pollutants in the latter half of the twentieth century affect the warming rate due to increasing greenhouse gases?

    To address this uncertainty, we considered four alternate long-term warming trends, derived from actual temperature measurements and from temperature records simulated by climate models. Collectively, these warming scenarios are very likely to encompass the full range of possibilities. Considering the range of warming trends and all combinations of climate datasets used in this study, we concluded that global warming contributed between 8% and 27% to the severity of 2012-2014 California drought.

    Natural variability still dominant

    This result means that global warming is already having an important impact on California drought, but also that natural climate variability is still dominant.

    During 2012-2014, naturally low precipitation totals and high temperatures were mainly caused by a persistent high pressure system off the US west coast that blocked storms from making landfall in California. Combined with the increased evaporative demand due to global warming, this naturally occurring drought event produced record, or near record, drought throughout much of California.

    While there have been other three-year periods in the past when state-wide drought severity has been similar to that observed in 2012-2014, drought conditions during 2012-2014 have received much more attention than previous droughts partly because of where the most intense conditions were focused. Record-breaking drought conditions occurred in California’s Central Valley, which is important for agriculture, the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains, which is important for human water resources, and the southern and central coastal areas, which is where a large proportion of the population resides.

    Given that natural climate variability still dictates when the dry and wet periods occur in California, it is highly likely that wet conditions will return to the state in the next few years.

    Also because of natural climate variability, drought conditions are sure to return again and again, and each time the atmospheric bully and its high temperatures will demand an extra moisture payment, increasingly enhancing the likelihood of severe droughts with increasing duration. If California finds itself struggling with this drought, serious planning needs to take place in order to be resilient to a future where it’s increasingly likely that the current drought will look like child’s play.

    See the full article here.

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    The Conversation US launched as a pilot project in October 2014. It is an independent source of news and views from the academic and research community, delivered direct to the public.
    Our team of professional editors work with university and research institute experts to unlock their knowledge for use by the wider public.
    Access to independent, high quality, authenticated, explanatory journalism underpins a functioning democracy. Our aim is to promote better understanding of current affairs and complex issues. And hopefully allow for a better quality of public discourse and conversation.

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