February 27, 2012

Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and High Climate Sensitivity

A few months ago, we reported on a paper in the scientific literature (Schmittner et al. 2011) that concluded that there were only “vanishing probabilities” that the value of the earth’s climate sensitivity—the amount of global temperature change resulting from a doubling of the atmospheric carbon dioxide content—was above 3.2°C, and that a climate sensitivity exceeding 6°C was “implausible.” Now, a new paper has been published (Olson et al., 2012) that finds that the 95% confidence range for the value of the earth’s actual climate sensitivity extends only to a value as great as 4.9°C. This is yet another in an expanding list of papers that strongly suggest that that the IPCC entertainment of the possibility that the earth’s climate sensitivity is extremely high (say, greater than 5-6°C, is wrong).

As apocalyptic climate change lurks among high sensitivity values, these new findings virtually eliminate the places where it could be hiding—and relegate talk of apocalyptic climate change to that of Loch Ness monsters, big foot, and woolly mammoths in Siberia.

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February 15, 2012

Flowers Love CO2

Filed under: Adaptation, Plants

As this time of the years reminds us, flowers never go out of style. Whether it is to celebrate a holiday or make up for some bad behavior, flowers just get it done every time. This has been the case for generations and will be the case from now until eternity. There is a good reason why we have flower shops on every other street corner.

According to AboutFlowers.com, “the U.S. floral industry includes fresh cut flowers, cut cultivated greens, potted flowering plants, foliage plants and bedding/garden plants, making floriculture the third largest U.S. agricultural crop. The U.S. floral industry consists of more than 60,000 small businesses, such as growers, wholesalers, retailers, distributors and importers.” Total revenue for these businesses is over $35 billion annually with 67% of fresh flowers being imported largely from Colombia and Ecuador. Can you name the state leading fresh flower production? California dominates the market with 77% of the US production; Washington produces 6%, Hawaii is at 4%, and Florida, Oregon, and New Jersey each produce 3% of our fresh flowers.

Commercial flower growers are fully aware that higher levels of atmospheric CO2 produce great results in indoor greenhouses, and the industry has dreamed up many creative ways to cheaply produce the magic gas. There is no doubt the CO2 creates better flowers, but maintaining higher levels of CO2 can be expensive and in some cases, not cost effective. Flowers in the real world don’t have to worry about the financial cost of higher levels of atmospheric CO2 – it is coming to them absolutely free given emissions from fossil fuel consumption throughout the world. Flowers today are growing in a world of ever-increasing CO2 levels, and research continues to show us that the flowers are thrilled with the situation.

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February 8, 2012

“A significant measure of negative feedback to global warming”

Filed under: Climate Forcings

A new paper just published in Geophysical Research Letters by Roger Davies and Mathew Molloy of the University of Auckland finds that over the past decade the global average effective cloud height has declined and that “If sustained, such a decrease would indicate a significant measure of negative cloud feedback to global warming.”

Davies and Molloy are quick to point out that part of the decline from 2000 to 2010 in cloud height is due to the timing and variability of El Niño/La Niña events over the same period, however, there still seems to be evidence that at least part of the decline may remain even when El Niño/La Niña variability is accounted for.

Figure 1 shows the history of the effective cloud height, as determined by Davies and Molloy from satellite observations, from March 2000 through February 2010. The dotted line is the linear trend through the data as determined by Davies and Molloy and has a value of -44 meters per decade (+/- 22m). However, clearly the trend is influenced by the large negative departure centered around the beginning of 2008 that was related to a moderate La Niña event in the Pacific Ocean. To avoid the influence of the this event, Davies and Molloy calculate the difference between the cloud heights during the first and last years of their record and still find a decline of 31 m/dec (+/- 11m). Although this latter technique doesn’t fully account for the El Niño/La Niña signal in the record, it does at least give some indication of the influence of the large negative departures in the latter half of the record, and indicates that the overall decline is not simply an artifact of a single event.


Figure 1. Deseasonalized anomalies of global effective cloud-top height from the 10-year mean. Solid line: 12-month running mean of 10-day anomalies. Dotted line: linear regression. Gray error bars indicate the sampling error (±8 m) in the annual average (source: Davies and Molloy, 2012).

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February 6, 2012

The Sun: O Inconstant Star!

Filed under: Climate Forcings, Solar

As solar activity declines and rate of global warming follows suit, it is natural to wonder whether the two are in some manner related.

Science is all over the map on this one—and is hardly the “settled” stuff our greener friends want us to believe. One school holds that there is little-to-no detectable relationship between solar changes and surface temperatures, while another holds that there is a strong influence and that a projected period of low solar activity over the next several decades will offset much of the anthropogenic greenhouse-gas induced warming. Of course, there are also gradations in between these poles of opinion.

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