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Arctic methane sets global warming alarm bells ringing

Paul Hudson | 15:11 UK time, Friday, 25 May 2012

Research published this week which identifies thousands of sites in the Arctic where methane gas is being released into the atmosphere could have serious ramifications for global warming.

Methane is twenty times more powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and it's estimated that there's billions of cubic metres of natural methane gas trapped underneath huge areas of perma-frost in Siberia, and under the frozen wastes of the Arctic.

The Arctic has warmed more quickly than any other area of the planet, and has led to year on year decreases in the extent and thickness of ice cover since satellite measurements began in 1979.

As the ice has melted, naturally formed methane gas which would otherwise be trapped under the ice is bubbling to the surface, according to the research in the journal Nature Geoscience.

The research is very important in that such 'feedback mechanisms' - whereby initial warming caused by carbon dioxide leads to more warming by, in this case, natural methane gas - has been widely predicted by scientists, and could lead to an acceleration of warming in the coming decades.

Simple physics shows that an approximate doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would cause an approximate 1 degrees Celsius rise in global temperatures, which in itself would be manageable.

This is a point which most scientists - on both sides of the global warming debate - agree on.

After that, most climate scientists believe that the real danger is that feedback mechanisms kick in, leading to further warming, an example of which is methane gas release.

Another example is evaporation from the oceans, releasing water vapour, itself the most powerful greenhouse gas of all, which would also lead to more warming.

Climate sceptics though argue that not all feedback mechanisms will be positive, in other words, they may not lead to further warming, and cause cooling.

An example of a negative feedback would be that evaporation from the oceans, forming increased levels of water vapour (or higher humidity), would cause more cloud development.

And a cloudier planet would reflect sunlight back out into space and cause the planet on average to cool, according to climate sceptics.

It's still early days and work is on-going into the vital area of climate feedback mechanisms.

But this research does give an ominous first glimpse of what may lie in store in the coming decades should global temperatures rise, because of possible future warming caused by man-made carbon dioxide.

Follow me on twitter @Hudsonweather

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Well I asked for something contentious . . . don't know where to start on this one.

  • Comment number 2.

    Well the Arctic is looking like it will be another low/bad year. From almost hitting average it's plummeted and doesn't look to great on Cryosphere.

  • Comment number 3.

    This all sounds very worrying but the problem is that the Arctic has not had proper monitoring for methane release for any great length of time.

    It is possible, though I think unlikely, that this is a fairly normal occurrence. Methane has been increasing in the atmosphere, more so recently so it is likely that this is the start of a feed back mechanism associated with the current warming trend.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Methane.jpg

  • Comment number 4.

    @ 1. lateintheday

    Strike a match, stand back and watch the little blue flames. Or just spend the next 3 months and a bit watching the ice retreat?

    http://www.dwd.de/bvbw/generator/DWDWWW/Content/Oeffentlichkeit/WV/WVFK/English/Dynamisches/Objective/osisafIceConcNH__m00s__en,templateId=poster,property=poster.png

  • Comment number 5.

    PH says . . .
    "Simple physics shows that an approximate doubling of (man-made) carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would cause an approximate 1 degrees Celsius rise in global temperatures, which in itself would be manageable."

    LOL. First of all, simple physics doesn't show 'would', it shows could, might or possibly. Secondly, since arctic ice is claimed by AGW scientists to be melting faster than predicted and according to this post, potentially releasing billion of tons of methane which would be a positive feedback, how on Earth can we say that 1 degree is manageable?

    And what do you mean by "doubling of (man made) carbon dioxide". Only a small fraction of atmospheric CO2 is 'man made'. Are you saying that the one degree warming will come from raising our contribution from say 3% to 6% (or whatever the numbers are).

  • Comment number 6.

    "But this research does give an ominous first glimpse of what may lie in store in the coming decades should global temperatures rise, because of possible future warming caused by man-made carbon dioxide."

    One cannot glimpse something which has not happened - one can only imagine it. The more it is imagined, the more real it becomes and then the fear kicks in. Ever had that awkward conversation on a beach where someone tells you there had been a shark spotted the previous month? You don't know if it's true, you don't know what type of shark it might have been and even if you did, you don't know if it would go for human flesh anyway. What you do know is that shark attacks are extremely rare and that the chances of you personally being bitten among the other five hundred folks in the water are infinitesimal - even if there were a man eating shark in the water!
    But despite all your rationale, the open water suddenly seems more menacing. "Hey, what just brushed against my leg." Another swimmer says it was probably just a jellyfish and that's it, you're out of the water. Not scared or spooked of course . . . just . . .well . . . going for a lie down.

  • Comment number 7.

    LITD;
    “First of all, simple physics doesn't show 'would', it shows could, might or possibly.”

    No - Simple physics done in any school lab shows that doubling of CO2 causes a rise of just over 1C. There is more than every reason to expect that much warming WILL happen because the most credible science we have shows that feedbacks are mostly positive and will most likely result in three times that much.

    “And what do you mean by "doubling of (man made) carbon dioxide"”

    He doesn’t mean "doubling of (man made) carbon dioxide", he means doubling of carbon dioxide from pre-industrial levels. That means going from about 280ppm to 560ppm which should occur at current rates of CO2 increase about 2050.

    "One cannot glimpse something which has not happened - one can only imagine it.”

    No – research and experimentation can give glimpses of things that have not happened. Using your irrational logic you would have certainly refused to believe that space flight was possible before it happened even though the research and science showed that it most likely was.

  • Comment number 8.

    A couple of days of sunshine and silly season starts, how's that for controversy!

  • Comment number 9.

    "But this research does give an ominous first glimpse of what may lie in store in the coming decades should global temperatures rise..."

    "first glimpse"???

    Earth and Environmental Science, Biogeochemistry

    Volume 21, Number 2 (1993), 117-139, DOI: 10.1007/BF00000874

    "Methane emission from Arctic tundra"

    Torben R. Christensen

    "Concerns about a possible feedback effect on global warming following possible increased emissions of methane from tundra environments have lead to series of methane flux studies of northern wetland/tundra environments....."

    http://www.springerlink.com/content/gg80354160l62804/

  • Comment number 10.

    I have to say it's good to see that Paul Hudson's understanding of climate science is grounded in reality. I was starting to get a bit worried with all his talk of solar influences, and his constant highlighting of Roy Spencer's UAH graph, complete with its irrelevant polynomial trend line.

    Just an update on WeatherAction's May 2012 prediction, which I remind you went as follows:

    "The coldest or near coldest May for 100 years in Central and East parts with a record run of bitter Northerly winds... Confidence of E / SE England mean temps: Coldest in 100yrs 80%; In 5 coldest in 100yrs 90%"

    CET values are currently no different to normal for May. Short term weather forecasts suggest they will continue above normal across the UK for the remainder of May.

    My prediction is that WeatherAction's May forecast is very likely to be completely wrong - confidence level 95%.

  • Comment number 11.

    Arctic methane is already a well established alarmist industry:

    http://ameg.me/

    I haven't read much of the site so I am not sure if it is serious or a spoof; it's becoming increasingly difficult to tell the difference.

  • Comment number 12.

    10. newdwr54 wrote:

    “I have to say it's good to see that Paul Hudson's understanding of climate science is grounded in reality.”

    DW you may well be right but also not in the way that you assume. The one thing this issue has taught me to do is watch the pea!

    “”SHOULD” global temperatures rise, because of “POSSIBLE” future warming caused by man-made carbon dioxide.”

    I wonder why PH now references this one piece of a research train that goes back decades?

    A Damascus moment? Possibly, we will just have to watch future posts.

  • Comment number 13.

    @7, Lazarus wrote:

    “ No - Simple physics done in any school lab shows that doubling of CO2 causes a rise of just over 1C. “

    This wouldn't be the 'simple physics' that Al Gore got so wrong?

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/climate-fail-files/gore-and-bill-nye-fail-at-doing-a-simple-co2-experiment/

  • Comment number 14.

  • Comment number 15.

    #14. - quake wrote:
    "HadCRUT3 April is out at 0.482C"

    Yes, I commented on that on the previous topic.
    The reason for the figure being a bit higher than I expected, seems to be the relatively high land temperatures in crutem3, in particular for the N.H.
    Even though crutem3 is relative to 1961-90, they appear to be higher than NASA/GISS, which is relative to 1951-80, although not as high as NCDC/NOAA.

  • Comment number 16.

    I remember a post on the drought and within a few weeks water levels were back to normal. I think Global warming by man, is a true as the Euro is good for us.

  • Comment number 17.

    Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.
    The simple school lab experiment tells us (when it works) how additional CO2 can raise temperature in a sealed glass jar. Last time I looked, we don't live in a sealed glass jar. Wood's experiment repeated by Nahle a couple of years ago, showed what a difference convection makes. Unfortunately, nobody seems able to come up with an experiment that even remotely approximates the real world. The reality is, that the 'one degree' is purely theoretical. That's why this PH article should read could/might/possibly.

  • Comment number 18.

    It's funny how the BBC, which is continually telling us how terrible "global warming" is going to be, is shouting this morning about the "good news" that it is going to be sunny and warm for the next few days.
    When the weather was cloudy and wet, that was portrayed as being "bad weather", even though we needed the rain to end the drought.
    Personally, I don't particuarly like warm weather and could never see why it was "good", while rainy weather was "bad". However, the Great British Public seems to prefer sunny and warm weather and spends large quantities of money to travel to climates where that weather predominates.
    That, amongst other things, probably means that the public will welcome any warming that does happen, with open arms, and measures to prevent it will not be appreciated.

  • Comment number 19.

    Wont someone just hurry up and tax me more and start building more power stations to generate electricity from wind, sun and ground unicorn horn!!!!

  • Comment number 20.

    arctic methane - alarmist claptrap

    plus as we keep being told the arctic has seen unprecedented ice loss so why hasnt this methane already been released

    come on - either the ice has been lost or it hasnt

  • Comment number 21.

    20. openside50:

    The massive ice loss reported in the Arctic is *sea ice* loss. Most of the methane released is from thawing permafrost, i.e. previously frozen *soils* that can be 4m deep.

  • Comment number 22.

    Since Paul didn't provide a link to this research article, I did a search, and found this:
    http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ngeo1480.html
    Obviously this is only an article preview, but I find the following sentence interesting:
    "Younger seeps in Greenland were associated with zones of ice-sheet retreat since the Little Ice Age."
    Since temperatures were apparently rising prior to the "little ice age", i.e. before industrialisation, tbe question I ask is, is this just a return to the situation as it existed prior to the "little ice age"?
    I also found an earlier article in "nature geoscience", which states that Methand has contributed approx. 20% of the earth's warming since "pre-industrial times". If that is the case, then approx. 80% has been due to other causes, including CO2, so it appears that the effect of rising CO2 has been less than it appears, based on the temperature anomaly figures.
    Also, it isn't clear over what period the 1c rise in temperatures due to doubling of CO2 applies to. I believe that the temperature rise quoted by the IPCC (& in the past quoted at climate conferences), is relative to "pre-industrial times", which makes it look worse than it is, since much of that rise has already occurred.

  • Comment number 23.

    Sorry, I forgot to post a link to the earlier article:
    http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v1/n7/abs/ngeo234.html

  • Comment number 24.

    "We estimate that as much as one third the warming of the past few decades as reported in Fig. TS.6 of the Summary for Policymakers of AR4 (IPCC 2007) may have been due to the speeding up of the thermohaline circulation."

    On the time-varying trend in global mean surface temperature
    Zhaohua Wu, Norden E. Huang, John M. Wallace3, Brian V. Smoliak and Xianyao Chen
    http://www.springerlink.com/content/akh241460p342708/fulltext.html

    Discussed at http://judithcurry.com/2012/05/23/time-varying-trend-in-global-mean-surface-temperature-3/

    Methane 20%
    Natural Ocean variability 30%
    Solar and GCR?
    Aerosols and Black Carbon soot?
    CO2?

    The cause of the late twentieth century warming will undoubtedly be a mixture of at least the above, and governments are starting to realise this.
    http://opinion.financialpost.com/2012/05/23/deal-with-climate-reality-as-it-unfolds/

  • Comment number 25.

    24. ukpahonta:

    Where did you obtain the 20% figure for methane? It's not mentioned in the Wu et al paper or in Curry's blog post.

  • Comment number 26.

    #25 newdwr54

    See #22,23 from QuaesoVeritas, the link is repeated here:
    http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v1/n7/abs/ngeo234.html

  • Comment number 27.

    newdwr54 - there was a realclimate post on methane a few months ago (January, I think) which looked at worst case scenarios. In the comments section even Ray Ladbury called methane a 'sideshow'. I believe the bottom line was that based on past temp variation, (and methane variation) not enough of it will be released to make any significant difference. And that of course, is assuming that greenhouse gases actually work in the way AGW folk think.
    As I've said before - this physics isn't simple or basic by any standard. It is presented as such for the general public. I can understand why they simplify it though. How many people know that according to AGW theory, CO2 has a nett cooling effect on the planet?

  • Comment number 28.

    When I was searching for information about the "Little Ice Age", I came across the following article on Wikipedia:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Ice_Age
    What interested me was the Reconstructed Temperature chart:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:2000_Year_Temperature_Comparison.png
    It seems to me that prior to the "Little Ice Age", all of the reconstructed temperatures were rising and if that had continued, they would be at approximately the same level as they are currently.
    It therefore seems to me that it is the "Little Ice Age", from which we are currently recovering which was the period of unusually low temperatures, rather than the current period of warming, which appears to be a continuation of the situation prior to the "Little Ice Age".

  • Comment number 29.

    RobWansbeck wrote:

    "Arctic methane is already a well established alarmist industry"

    The contributors to the site you link to sound extremely qualified, not alarmist at all;
    http://ameg.me/index.php/about-ameg/contributors

    Then you follow it with a link to a blog by a retired TV weather man with no record of climate research and a post about what some has been American politician has done - use straw men much?

  • Comment number 30.

    lateintheday wrote:
    "Unfortunately, nobody seems able to come up with an experiment that even remotely approximates the real world. The reality is, that the 'one degree' is purely theoretical."

    Yes using the scientific definition it is purely theoretical.

    But you seem content to ignore this science in favour of a chance that the experts are not only wrong but wrong in the direction that you hope. You offer no alternative science to suggest that this theory is wrong and an over estimate.

    Are you irrationally holding out for some unidentified property of physics that is going to stop this warming trend at just the right level for the best experts to be wrong and people to feel silly for having been concerned by listening to them?

  • Comment number 31.

    26. ukpahonta:

    Thanks, I hadn't seen the previous links.

  • Comment number 32.

    27. lateintheday:

    I think the residence time of methane in the atmosphere reduces its long term impact in some forecast model. I think methane's RT is around 70 years (it's decades anyway). CO2's residence time is measured in centuries.

    "How many people know that according to AGW theory, CO2 has a nett cooling effect on the planet?"

    Well there's me, for one!

    CO2 retains heat in the atmosphere directly by absorption and re-emission in all directions of out-going heat radiation. In so doing it increases atmospheric water vapour concentration, amplifying the warming effect.

    I don't see how that can be described as contributing a nett cooling, but I'm standing by for enlightenment.

  • Comment number 33.

    28. QuaesoVeritas:

    "It seems to me that prior to the "Little Ice Age", all of the reconstructed temperatures were rising and if that had continued, they would be at approximately the same level as they are currently."

    I'm sure you'd be the first to acknowledge that there is a great deal of conjecture in that view, QV?

    Past changes in climate may look similar in terms of the conditions they produced, but this does not imply that they result from the same mechanism. Do we know if there were past circumstances that might explain the MWP?

    I think it is generally believed that solar output was higher and volcanic activity was lower in the period leading up to and during the MWP than during the period that followed. Solar activity also played a role in early-mid 20th century warming, as the IPCC has acknowledged.

    Clearly natural variability has caused earth's climate to change repeatedly in the past. But that doesn't mean that natural forcing accounts for the current observed changes, or that the late 20th century warming was an abrupt continuation of the natural warming forces that led to the MWP.

  • Comment number 34.

    @29, Lazarus wrote:

    “ The contributors to the site you link to sound extremely qualified, not alarmist at all; “

    A few quotes from their website: http://ameg.me/

    “Our mission is PROTECTION
    To warn the world that the Arctic and the Earth are in a state of dire emergency and that only immediate drastic action can save us from catastrophe. We have no time left.
    This planet is a sacred trust we hold for all future generations of humanity and all species. We must respond.”

    “But intervention on a large scale has to be accepted in order to avert the ultimate catastrophe of runaway global warming. No amount of adaptation or insulation could make that survivable. We demand for all nations to pull together in battle against these threats. We consider it a moral duty: to fight against destruction of the climate system in order to protect the lives of all citizens.”

    “there now exists an extremely high international security risk from abrupt and runaway global warming being triggered by the end-summer collapse of Arctic sea ice...and release of huge quantities of methane gas from the seabed.”

    Not alarmist at all? Not even an eency weency bit alarmist?

  • Comment number 35.

    @29, Lazarus wrote:

    “ Then you follow it with a link to a blog by a retired TV weather man with no record of climate research and a post about what some has been American politician has done - use straw men much? “

    My post was a relevant response to your assertion:
    “ No - Simple physics done in any school lab shows that doubling of CO2 causes a rise of just over 1C. “

    Since you have failed to answer my question and instead resorted to ad hominem attacks I can only assume that you have come to realise that your assertion was incorrect hence your straw man reply.

  • Comment number 36.

    I've just noticed that the extended GFS forecast on the Ryan Maue website is again showing below normal temperatures over the U.K. for the beginning of June.
    Previously it had been showing mostly positive anomalies.
    Also, some pretty high global anomalies at the same time, I might add.

  • Comment number 37.

    newdwr54 - enlightenment!
    I'm struggling to find the link that explained it best which is a shame. I was following lots of tracks where the science was way above my pay grade. If I remember correctly, it was presented as non-contentious AGW science and was used to refute the claims of the 'Slayers' as well as other 'deniers' who seek to challenge the mainstream view through more complex physics theory.

    If it helps, the quote below from Dr Spencers site is on similar lines and if you read some of the comments section, (or read Science of Doom etc) you'll see why AGW theory is usually presented in rather simplistic terms. My head was spinning at the end of the week and I almost wish I hadn't bothered looking into it. That's why I get a little irritated when Lazarus uses the 'basic physics' argument. It's only basic if you don't understand it properly.

    "The SECOND misconception is that because greenhouse gases allow the atmosphere to cool to outer space, adding more GHGs can’t cause warming. While it is true that GHGs do lead to an overall decrease in the mass-weighted average temperature of the atmosphere, their altering of the energy budget of individual layers leads to net warming of the lowest layers of the atmosphere."

    http://www.drroyspencer.com/2012/02/more-musings-from-the-greenhouse/

  • Comment number 38.

    37. lateintheday:

    Your quote from Roy Spencer specifically says that it is a "misconception" to think that GHGs *don't* cause warming because they facilitate the passage of heat energy to space via radiation. The point he is making here is the exact opposite of what you seem to think it is.

    CO2, like all greenhouse gases, re-radiates heat energy in *all* directions, including downward (causing surface warming) and upward (causing heat energy escape to space).

    If there were no greenhouse gases the heat would radiate off the surface and into space without any atmospheric re-radiation whatsoever.

    The point Spencer is making is that greenhouse gases must always serve to warm the surface, since it is only by the presence in the atmosphere of greenhouse gases that *any* departing heat energy can be re-radiated downwards.

    Spencer does not deny the warming influence of CO2. He never has done. His argument is that the warming created by CO2, by increasing atmospheric water vapour content, will increase cloud cover - and it is the clouds, Spencer believes, that will alleviate the warming by reflecting incoming UV.

    This statement by Spencer is by no means an argument supporting your earlier statement that CO2 causes a net cooling of the atmosphere. It's the direct opposite in fact.

  • Comment number 39.

    newdwr54 - I think you're wrong on a number of accounts. However, I think it equally possible that I have misunderstood the physical process. First of all, let's get something out of the way. I'm not trying to argue against the mainstream here - I'm actually trying to explore what the mainstream science says.

    If you read my post carefully, you'll find that you're arguing against position that I haven't actually taken on this occasion.

    It's clear that GGs actually serve to facilitate radiation in all directions and in that way, they actually increase radiation potential to space. That's what I think Spencer is saying. But then quite specifically, he states that GGs change the vertical temp profile, making the surface warmer - despite an overall net loss to space.

    If this is wrong then fine. . . I'm always happy to learn.

    You say . . "If there were no greenhouse gases the heat would radiate off the surface and into space without any atmospheric re-radiation whatsoever."

    So do you think more or less radiation to space would occur?

  • Comment number 40.

    In the long term, radiation into space must equal radiation received otherwise the planet would warm or cool until this balance was achieved.

    A better radiation emitter can achieve this balance at a lower temperature but there will still be a radiation (energy) balance.

    This can lead to a reduction in the average temperature of the total atmosphere but if that better emitter is also a better absorber of low frequency radiation then it will lead to a rise in the temperature of the lower atmosphere.

    You can have both a reduction in the total atmosphere's temperature and an increase in the lower atmosphere's temperature at the same time but the radiation into space will, and must, remain the same.

  • Comment number 41.

    RobWansbeck wrote:

    “Not alarmist at all? Not even an eency weency bit alarmist?”

    As I said the contributors to the site sound extremely qualified. If you think it alarmist then perhaps you should start being alarmed. What they say is based on research similar to that related in the post above. If you know of more credible research then present it instead of claiming alarmism.

    “Since you have failed to answer my question and instead resorted to ad hominem attacks I can only assume that you have come to realise that your assertion was incorrect hence your straw man reply.”

    I’m not sure you understand what ad hominem means. You linked a politician with the physics worked out by scientists over the last century or so, then used an unqualified blogger to criticise the politician and proceeded to imply that was enough to dismiss the physics. Pointing that out is fact not ad hominem. What you did was created a straw man and one that was very disingenuous to some of histories pioneering physicists.

  • Comment number 42.

    lateintheday wrote:

    "That's why I get a little irritated when Lazarus uses the 'basic physics' argument. It's only basic if you don't understand it properly."

    No it is basic physics. It isn't any more complicated that what is done for GCSE. If doubling CO2 increased temps in a lab by just over a degree then there is absolutely no reason not to expect that on average temperatures in the environment will increase a similar amount once equilibrium is reached unless there are physical forces and feedbacks in the environment that are not present in the lab.

    Now perhaps 'skeptics' will look for negative feedbacks and claim less warming and 'warmists' will claims positive ones but that might be cherry picking to confirm your bias. But even if most credible research did not show an overall positive bias, 1C is still a significant amount of global warming - it is more than the difference between the MWP and the LIA for example.

  • Comment number 43.

    Interesting comment that year on year ice has been decreasing in the arctic since 1979.

    Article here from the real world. Shell unable to start drilling due to ice levels not seen in a decade.

    http://phys.org/news/2012-05-heavy-ice-shell-alaska-arctic.html

    Apparently sea ice is low on the Canadian side but thicker on the Alaskan side.

  • Comment number 44.

    #41. - Lazarus wrote:
    "As I said the contributors to the site sound extremely qualified. If you think it alarmist then perhaps you should start being alarmed. What they say is based on research similar to that related in the post above. If you know of more credible research then present it instead of claiming alarmism."

    I haven't read the web site referred to, so I can only go off RobWansbeck's quotes, but they do look "alarmist" to me. Remember that "alarmist" would mean the exaggeration of the likely effects of "climate change". When terms are used such as:
    "dire emergency", "catastrophe", "runaway global warming", "no amount of adaptation or insulation could make that survivable", "destruction of the climate system", and "abrupt and runaway global warming", I don't see how anyone can not agree that those terms are "alarmist". There may be "credible research" to support the underlying effects to which these terms are referring, but not to justify the use of such "alarmist" phrases.
    Even if all of the arctic sea ice were to melt overnight, that would not cause a "catastrophe", and I don't think that there is any research which says that land ice is going to melt "abruptly".
    I also find it odd that while the quotes say that: "only immediate drastic action can save us from catastrophe - We have no time left." If there is no time left, exactly what is the "immiediate drastic action" which is being proposed?
    I put it to you that whatever that action is, will probably have worse consequences than "climate change".
    One thing I am sure of, is that there is no risk to the human species as a result of "climate change". We have always adapted to climate variability and we will continue to do so. Anyone who thinks otherwise has probably been over-influenced by such fiction as "The Day After Tomorrow", or "The Age of Stupid".

  • Comment number 45.

    More alarmism Paul?
    observation of the Arctic ice over the last few days has shown that whilst some ice from Northern Canada has melted, around Alaska ice is building up to such an extent that Shell Petroleum has postponed their summer drilling start in Alaskan waters.
    Considering the cyclic nature of Arctic ice, and the production of methane, I wonder that the signature of these occurrences has yet to be found. It should be obvious IF the theory of GHG's is correct. Methane readily oxidizes to CO2 and water and over the past few years its atmospheric content has fallen much against model predictions.

  • Comment number 46.

    Lazarus - do me a favour. Read Science of Doom for a week and then tell me this GCSE level. Also, could you ask all those pesky AGW denier Phds to sit your GCSE physics exam, they obviously missed it on the way to their doctorates.

  • Comment number 47.

    QV, re NH/SH and or even NH/Arctic, keep a watching brief on:-

    "An Observational Estimate of Climate Sensitivity"

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/05/29/an-observational-estimate-of-climate-sensitivity/

    Whilst something does't seem quite right (Brian H has pointed to it in the comments) the ensuing discussion could be quite interesting.

  • Comment number 48.

    #47. - greensand wrote:
    "Whilst something does't seem quite right (Brian H has pointed to it in the comments) the ensuing discussion could be quite interesting."
    Do you mean the bit about the slope of the ovals?
    I thought that when I read the article, but it doesn't seem to have been corrected.
    I haven't read all of the comments but I must admit I don't understand much of this, or it's significance. I am going to have to read it a few times and have a look at the spreadsheet, to get my head around it.

  • Comment number 49.

    @48 QuaesoVeritas wrote:

    "Do you mean the bit about the slope of the ovals?"

    Yes, at first look I thought that NH and SH had been transposed. Must admit that I am very short of time at present and have not yet read further comments. I was hoping for a meaningful discussion re land/ocean, it might be rapped up in hemispheres but essentially it is land/ocean.

  • Comment number 50.

    @41, Lazarus wrote:

    “ I’m not sure you understand what ad hominem means. You linked a politician with the physics worked out by scientists over the last century or so, then used an unqualified blogger to criticise the politician and proceeded to imply that was enough to dismiss the physics. Pointing that out is fact not ad hominem. What you did was created a straw man and one that was very disingenuous to some of histories pioneering physicists. “

    Your knowledge of language is as fragile as your knowledge of simple physics. Nowhere in your response do you refer to the argument, you simply refer to the people involved. That is the very definition of ad hominem although you also throw in a dose of argumentum ad verecundiam for good measure. Whether or not your description of the people involved is correct is completely irrelevant to their actual arguments.

    Your understanding of straw-man and disingenuous is equally flawed and QV dealt very well with your understanding of 'alarmist' at #44.

  • Comment number 51.

    39. lateintheday wrote:

    "It's clear that GGs actually serve to facilitate radiation in all directions and in that way, they actually increase radiation potential to space."

    Yes, but the point is that GHGs are the only component of the atmosphere that also direct heat *downwards*. Without GHGs *all* the heat energy would simply radiate off to space, and *none* would be detained to warm the lower atmosphere.

    Therefore *any* GHG must act to heat the surface and lower atmosphere. CO2 does this in the same way as any other GHG.

    It's similar to turning a light bulb on in your loft on a cold winter's night to stop the pipes from freezing. Much of the radiated heat is directed into the roof tiles, but a significant fraction of it is directed downwards towards the pipes - just enough to raise their temperature by a fraction.

    Increasing GHG concentrations (including CO2) in that analogy, is like steadily increasing the wattage of the bulb in your loft.

    How is that effect "cooling"?

  • Comment number 52.

    40. RobWansbeck:

    As you say, the total energy balance at the top of the atmosphere must be in equilibrium - the earth must put out what it takes in, otherwise it would heat up like kebab meat on a spit.

    Because there is a greenhouse gas element, some of this departing heat energy is delayed by re-radiation throughout earth's atmosphere. The more GHGs in the atmosphere, the greater the delay, and the warmer the atmosphere becomes in response.

  • Comment number 53.

    @51 & 52, newdwr54,

    I agree with your general points regarding the lower atmosphere although I am not convinced by your light bulb analogy as you are adding heat to the system and it warms both the top of the loft and the bottom. Unfortunately it's late, I'm well served, and I can't think of a better analogy.

    Also, everything above absolute zero radiates so even a transparent atmosphere would radiate some heat picked up initially by conduction from the surface.

    As for the upper atmosphere, a better radiator can emit the required amount of energy at a lower temperature. In fact the average temperature of the whole atmosphere can actually fall.

    Of course for any of this to happen the lower atmosphere must warm. One argument is that the warmer lower atmosphere and cooler upper atmosphere may lead to an increase in convective heat transfer and hence a negative feedback.

  • Comment number 54.

    greensand,
    Another comment which puzzled me was that there had been no "net global warming", since 1940".
    That seemed to go unchallenged, although I haven't had time to go through all of the subsequent comments.
    I would be interested to know how that conclusion was arrived at!

  • Comment number 55.

    newdwr54 said . . .
    "Without GHGs *all* the heat energy would simply radiate off to space, and *none* would be detained to warm the lower atmosphere."
    That's just plain wrong. Now it's likely that you're just trying to explain it to me in a way that you think I'll understand - dumbing it down, so to speak. Or it could be that like me, you also don't grasp the complexity behind the theory. I'm not trying to catch you out or trip you up. I'm just fed up with the 'it's simple physics' argument which I hear from people who don't actually understand it beyond the GCSE level.
    Look, most of us on this blog will be aware that the name 'greenhouse gas' is a misleading term, but accept that it is easily (mis)understood in the sense that it describes something that makes air warmer. In common parlance, the GG effect it often described as 'trapping heat'. That's the basic explanation which is wrong but easy to understand. A better explanation might be that GGs slow down the heat loss - but that's not brilliant either as doesn't describe the relevant processes. And so it goes on. The bottom line is that the deeper you look, the more complex AGW becomes - no great surprise perhaps. Nevertheless, I think that the 'simple' or 'basic' physics argument for AGW is shallow. By completely ignoring the inherent complexities and uncertainties of the underlying physics, one skews the debate to the advantage of the consensus of consensus views.

    FWIW, I suspect Rob already has a very good understanding of the various radiative/conductive/convective complexities involved and will learn nothing new from either of us!

    Lazarus - for your info, here's a taster of the 'simple physics'.
    http://scienceofdoom.com/2010/08/16/convection-venus-thought-experiments-and-tall-rooms-full-of-gas/

  • Comment number 56.

    Simple school experiments show a doubling of CO2 levels gives a temperature rise of 1C. That is only half the experiment. Check how fast the doubled flask cools compared to the first. When Anthony Watts did this experiment he got a slight fall in temperature.
    Is the above Roy Spencer the same man who told me that heat will flow from cold to hot and gave the example of getting into a cold bed and ending up feeling warm!? That, I am afraid, is a load of codswallop since you are only increasing the insulation so reducing your heat loss. The bed does not produce heat.
    Same with the theory of GHG's. If you believe that reradiated heat warms the surface then you believe that warm water placed into a thermos flask gets hotter due to the heat reradiated by the reflective surface inside the flask.

  • Comment number 57.

    This looks interesting . . .

    http://tallbloke.wordpress.com/2012/05/29/lucy-skywalker-graeffs-second-law-seminar/

    Perhaps this lot have forgotten their basic GCSE physics as well!

  • Comment number 58.

    lateintheday,

    Cutting edge stuff and some recognisable commentators in there too.
    Rogers site is always worth keeping an eye on.

  • Comment number 59.

    ukpahonta - agreed. I just wish they had subtitles!

  • Comment number 60.

    Only 10000 years ago the ice extent was down to the Great Lakes and much of northern land masses were covered. Sea ice cover was down to the Bay of Biscay.

    So what's happening now appears to be just a continuation of that process. If we could look back at what was happening with all the methane that has been produced during this time it should help us with understanding. Is there any research on this?

    I know I'd sooner live now than back then so the process is not all bad. In fact its been very nice for us.

  • Comment number 61.

    #60. - TJ wrote:
    "Only 10000 years ago the ice extent was down to the Great Lakes and much of northern land masses were covered. Sea ice cover was down to the Bay of Biscay.
    So what's happening now appears to be just a continuation of that process."

    I have expressed a similar view here myself.
    I believe that the human race came near to extinction at the time, due to the LOW temperatures, but obviously managed to survive, even thrive during the subsequent warming, even without the superior technology we currently have at our disposal, so I don't really think the human race is at any risk from a little bit of additional warming.

  • Comment number 62.

    @55, lateintheday,

    I hope you were referring to me else I'll be extremely embarrassed :)

    Thank you for the kind words but I must disagree. We can all learn from each other.

    BTW, I am also waiting for an example of this simple school experiment that shows that CO2 causes a 1C increase, whatever that means.

  • Comment number 63.

    lateintheday wrote:

    "Lazarus - for your info, here's a taster of the 'simple physics'."

    I think you had better start here;
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/science/ocr_gateway/energy_resources/global_warmingrev3.shtml

    Tell us how far you go before you get stuck.

  • Comment number 64.

    @56, John Marshall wrote:

    “ Same with the theory of GHG's. If you believe that reradiated heat warms the surface then you believe that warm water placed into a thermos flask gets hotter due to the heat reradiated by the reflective surface inside the flask. “

    If you put energy into the flask then a flask with a reflective surface will rise to a higher temperature than a flask with a transparent surface. The same applies to the Earth's surface. For a given amount of energy input a reflective atmosphere will lead to a higher surface temperature than a transparent atmosphere.

    I guess everyone here knows that the 'greenhouse effect' is a misnomer but in common use it allows energy to enter a system but restricts its exit. In the case of the Earth's surface it allows energy to enter in the form of high-frequency electro-magnetic radiation but restricts its exit in the form of low-frequency electro-magnetic radiation.

    This is not fundamentally different from a thermos flask with an electrical energy source or a human body with a chemical energy source.

    In all the above cases the body surrounded by a surface reflective to the energy that it emits will be warmer than a body surrounded by a surface transparent to the energy that it emits.

  • Comment number 65.

    Interesting blog:
    http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/ucee8/hi_im_anthony_barnston_im_a_climate_scientist/

    "My name is Anthony Barnston, and I'm a scientist at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, which is part of Columbia University's Earth Institute. I develop seasonal climate forecasts, which tell us the likelihood that a given place in the world will get abnormally high or low temperatures and rainfall at different points in the future. This kind of forecasting is incredibly important to farmers, water-resource managers and even public health workers in the developing world. Knowing what the climate is expected to be like helps these groups make better decisions, and prepare for droughts and other extreme events.

    If you want to know about how we make climate forecasts, what they can and can't tell us, or have questions about El Niño or La Niña and their impacts on global weather patterns, I'm here to answer them! One thing I'd like to emphasize-- my area of specialty is on shorter term climate prediction, and not so much on long term climate change."

  • Comment number 66.

    QV@54
    I haven't seen the comment you reference about 'no net global warming since 1940' but I did spot this on the top post at Tallbloke. The post is about a new paper on Greenland ice variation which introduces some interesting aerial photos from the 1930s/40s. This may not be news to you, but it might surprise others.

    http://oi50.tinypic.com/294o0i8.jpg

  • Comment number 67.

    lateintheday mentions the Tallbloke note and experiment that, perhaps, shows a failure of the 2nd law.

    A tall column of any gas, but take the atmospheric column from surface to tropopause, will be warmer at the bottom than the top due to adiabatic compression. this has nothing to do with the 2nd law but shows the working of the 1st law in that energy is added to the lower gas molecules due to gravity increasing their kinetic energy which reveals itself as a temperature rise. This simple energy generator, gravity compressing a gas, is revealed in the atmosphere of Jupiter emitting more energy that it receives from the sun, actually drives enough compression to start suns shining. It is the reason why our atmosphere is warmer than expected, not the Greenhouse Gas Theory.

  • Comment number 68.

    #66. - lateintheday wrote:
    "I haven't seen the comment you reference about 'no net global warming since 1940' but I did spot this on the top post at Tallbloke. The post is about a new paper on Greenland ice variation which introduces some interesting aerial photos from the 1930s/40s. This may not be news to you, but it might surprise others."
    Not sure where the temp. graph comes from, the only one I can see in the paper is for a single location. Anyway, I wasn't aware that Greenland temperatures were as high in that period, but it doesn't entirely surprise me.
    The quote was from a comment from Allan MacRae (May 29th 03:01am), in the "What's Up with that" link posted by greensand:
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/05/29/an-observational-estimate-of-climate-sensitivity/

  • Comment number 69.

    QV

    The Allan MacRae quote 'no net global warming since 1950' has been around for a while:

    http://antigreen.blogspot.co.uk/2008/05/no-net-global-warming-since-1940-email.html

  • Comment number 70.

    69. thesnowmanwhonevermelts wrote:

    "The Allan MacRae quote 'no net global warming since 1950' has been around for a while"

    MacRae makes the point in your link that "There has been no net LT warming since ~1980, when such measurements began."

    He's talking about satellite data. Here are both sets of global satellite data from 1980 - April 2008 (the month before MacRae wrote his email) complete with linear trends:

    http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/rss/from:1980/to:2008.25/mean:12/offset:-0.10/plot/uah/from:1980/to:2008.25/mean:12/plot/rss/from:1980/to:2008.25/trend/offset:-0.10/plot/uah/from:1980/to:2008.25/trend

    The linear rate of warming from Jan 1980 to April 2008 was +0.14C per decade in UAH, and in RSS it was +0.16C per decade. MacRae appears to suggest that it was ~ +0.02C. It is trivially easy to show that he is wrong.

    It's telling that people are *still* using +4 year old links that were wrong even at the time when they were written to support incorrect claims about temperature changes on the lower troposphere.

    Links to the raw data used to create those graphs are available from the WfT link.

  • Comment number 71.

    55. lateintheday wrote:

    ""Without GHGs *all* the heat energy would simply radiate off to space, and *none* would be detained to warm the lower atmosphere."

    That's just plain wrong."

    What's wrong about it? By what means would heat be retained in the atmosphere if there were no greenhouse gases?

    It's no good of accusing me of being wrong without explaining how, and without providing your alternative explanation.

  • Comment number 72.

    One last comment on Allan MacRae.

    He was, reportedly, the person who first gave Roy Spencer the idea of adding polynomial trends to the UAH graphs he publishes for popular consumption (as opposed to Spencer adding the linear trend that UAH actually publish every month).

    You'll not be surprised to hear that this also dates back to 2008, when MacRae was apparently getting all excited about the cold start to the year. MacRae was then saying:

    "Are we seeing the beginning of a natural cooling cycle? YES."
    http://icecap.us/index.php/go/joes-blog/is_this_the_beginning_of_global_cooling/

    Citing the UAH data and adding what he himself claimed was "the best fit polynomial [trendline]" (which was a 6th order polynomial trend) MacRae published this chart, which ends in August 2008: http://icecap.us/images/uploads/uah7908.JPG

    As you can see, back then a 6th order polynomial certainly suggested that the world had indeed entered a period of cooling. That's because the higher the order the polynomial, the more responsive it is to the latest changes. 2008 happened to be a relatively cold year, hence the rapid downturn and MacRae's opportune cherry pick.

    Spencer, following communication with MacRae, started using a 4th order polynomial on the UAH popular charts, instead of a linear trend (http://deepclimate.org/2009/04/09/the-alberta-oil-boys-network-spins-global-warming-into-cooling/%29. Then temperatures went on the rise again, and Spencer stopped using any trend line. Then he started using a 3rd order polynomial, which once again gave the impression of a cyclical rhythm.

    As has been pointed out recently (http://rabett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/grandpa-jumps-curve.html%29 the April 2012 figure is now starting to make the 3rd order poly look a bit ridiculous. Perhaps Spencer will return to a period of no trend line soon? (Anything but add the linear trend.)

    As for MacRae and 'best fit polynomial' trends: if you add a 6th order polynomial trend to the UAH data today you will see why this technique has been quietly dropped by MacRae and co. I just wish that those who are continually taken in by the claims made by these people would spend the same time examining their track records as they do examining those of the mainstream climate science community.

  • Comment number 73.

    The link to the post highlighting the anomalous appearance of the high April 2012 UAH global temperature value in a 3rd order polynomial trend appears to be broken. Hopefully this one will work:

    http://rabett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/grandpa-jumps-curve.html

  • Comment number 74.

    sorry newdwr54 - but I assumed you had tried to simplify your answer for my benefit and would therefore pick up the inference, especially considering the recent links I've dropped for Lazarus. Anyway - see John Marshall's post @ 67. No doubt you will disagree with his concluding statement, but that's a different issue.

  • Comment number 75.

    #70. - newdwr54 wrote:
    "It's telling that people are *still* using +4 year old links that were wrong even at the time when they were written to support incorrect claims about temperature changes on the lower troposphere."
    Who is doing that?
    Only MacRae himself, I think.
    I was interested in knowing the origin of the quote in the "wattsupwiththat" blog and "thesnowmanwhonevermelts" helpfully provided a link to the 2008 blog quote.
    I am struggling to work out the logic behind MacRae's claim, but it seems to depend on ignoring the decimal places in the CRU figures, "The whole graph would be a horizontal line if it were calibrated in whole degrees", and the claim that the average LT anomaly in early 2008 was only +0.02c, but I can't work out where that figure comes from.
    I can only assume that what MacRae means is that since the anomaly (for only the first 4 months of 2008) was almost zero, there has been no rise in the TL temperature, but (assuming he is referring to UAH), that anomaly was not relative to 1980, but the period 1979-98.
    Of course current UAH anomaly figures are now relative to 1981-2010.

  • Comment number 76.

    #72. - newdwr54 wrote:
    "As has been pointed out recently (http://rabett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/grandpa-jumps-curve.html%29 the April 2012 figure is now starting to make the 3rd order poly look a bit ridiculous. Perhaps Spencer will return to a period of no trend line soon? (Anything but add the linear trend.)"

    I don't understand your point. I don't think the fact that the fact that the April figure is above the 3rd order poly trend makes it any more ridiculous than an individual figure below a linear trend would make that ridiculous.
    Presumably the 3rd order poly *includes* the April 2012 figure, so is perfectly in keeping with it.
    That said, I don't agree with Spencer's use of the 3rd order poly trend anyway, or at least it's use while claiming that it is only for "entertainment purposes only", when clearly it isn't.
    It is interesting to know the background involvment of Alan MacRae, if that is true.
    I haven't personally been "taken in" by any claims made by MacRae, since until now, I was unaware of those claims. I don't think I would have been taken in by the claims, since he seems to be stretching the facts a little.

  • Comment number 77.

    nwwdwr

    I was just trying to help out QV with the original source of the quote and the rational behind it - faulty or otherwise. Isn't that the whole point of the debate and this blog?
    You do yourself no favours by making sweeping assumptions...

  • Comment number 78.

    77.thesnowmanwhonevermelts and QV:

    I wasn't referring specifically to you or QV; just to the fact that MacRae's debunked 2008 claims repeatedly crop up on certain sites and in comment sections as though they were still valid.

    Apologies for causing any misunderstanding.

  • Comment number 79.

    newdwr54 . . .now you know why some people get so cheesed off with the hockey stick!

  • Comment number 80.

    newdwr54

    No apology required - I may well have been a bit over the top myself with a comment I made about one of your postings a couple of months ago. The comment on the recent WUWT posting QV was alluding to was made by Macrae himself and was not something being repeated ad nauseum by acolytes. Personally, like QV, I was suprised no one else picked up on his repeating it. My own view is that I can see the logic of where he is coming from with the claim, but think it is obviously flawed and somewhat disingeneous to keep repeating it.

  • Comment number 81.

    80. thesnowmanwhonevermelts:

    Thanks for the clarification.

  • Comment number 82.

    newdwr54 - nothing to say re my comment at 74? Perhaps you missed it.
    Another day irelander . . . .

 

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