Wednesday, March 31, 2010

CRU exonerated by UK committee

The UK Parliamentary Committee has exonerated Dr Jones and CRU, found that they have no case to answer and concluded that the science is sound (thanks to Mike who's Watchingthedeniers and Eli Rabbett for the news).
The Science and Technology Committee today publishes its report on the disclosure of climate data from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia. The Committee calls for the climate science community to become more transparent by publishing raw data and detailed methodologies.

Phil Willis MP, Committee Chair, said:

"Climate science is a matter of global importance. On the basis of the science, governments across the world will be spending trillions of pounds on climate change mitigation. The quality of the science therefore has to be irreproachable. What this inquiry revealed was that climate scientists need to take steps to make available all the data that support their work and full methodological workings, including their computer codes. Had both been available, many of the problems at CRU could have been avoided."

The focus on Professor Jones and CRU has been largely misplaced. On the accusations relating to Professor Jones's refusal to share raw data and computer codes, the Committee considers that his actions were in line with common practice in the climate science community but that those practices need to change.

On the much cited phrases in the leaked e-mails—"trick" and "hiding the decline"—the Committee considers that they were colloquial terms used in private e-mails and the balance of evidence is that they were not part of a systematic attempt to mislead.

Insofar as the Committee was able to consider accusations of dishonesty against CRU, the Committee considers that there is no case to answer.

The Committee found no reason in this inquiry to challenge the scientific consensus as expressed by Professor Beddington, the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, that "global warming is happening [and] that it is induced by human activity". But this was not an inquiry into the science produced by CRU and it will be for the Scientific Appraisal Panel, announced by the University on 22 March, to determine whether the work of CRU has been soundly built.

On the mishandling of Freedom of Information (FoI) requests, the Committee considers that much of the responsibility should lie with the University, not CRU. The leaked e-mails appear to show a culture of non-disclosure at CRU and instances where information may have been deleted to avoid disclosure, particularly to climate change sceptics. The failure of the University to grasp fully the potential damage this could do and did was regrettable. The University needs to re-assess how it can support academics whose expertise in FoI requests is limited.

See here for the announcement.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Polar extremes

The arctic is warming, a lot! Antarctica as a whole is not warming like the arctic. Why the difference?

The arctic is mostly ocean covered in floating ice. It is warming faster than most other places on earth and the sea ice is rapidly melting.

Antarctica is the driest continent on earth. The climate there has been significantly modified by the ozone hole. It's not warming as fast as the arctic, but the glacial melt is contributing to rising sea levels, and could realistically add more than one metre to sea levels within the next 90 years.

Ozone declined rapidly last century and is only now stabilising. It is expected to largely recover to 1980 levels by the middle of this century.

The depletion of ozone has changed the polar vortex, which extends from the surface to the stratosphere and follows the earth's contour lines at the south pole. The loss of ozone from 1980 onwards strengthened the polar vortex winds by 15%. The winds driven by the ozone hole are shielding eastern Antarctica from the warming that is affecting the rest of the world. However, the winds transfer down to the surface and are carrying warm air to western Antarctica, where glaciers are melting.

Low pressure cells over the Amundsen Sea are forcing up deep water, which is warmer than 1°C. This warmer water is getting in under the Pine Island Glacier and melting it from below.

Of 244 Antarctic Peninsula glaciers, 87% have retreated over the last 50 years.

For a comprehensive and up-to-date reading on the Antarctic, see the Turner et al SCAR report of Antarctic Climate Change and the Environment, which was released in November 2009.

A recent slide presentation (Feb 2010) based largely on the above report can be seen here.

The Anthropocene Epoch

What will this new Anthropocene Epoch bring?

In an article in 2000, Nobel prizewinner Paul J. Crutzen of the Max-Planck-Institut für Chemie and Eugene F. Stoermer (Emeritus Professor, Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan) proposed that the Anthropocene Epoch began in the mid-1800s. (Crutzen, P. J. and E. F. Stoermer, 2000: The "Anthropocene". IGBP Newsletter, 41, 17-18)

An article in ScienceDaily suggests that this epoch may include the sixth largest mass extinction in Earth's history.
The scientists propose that, in just two centuries, humans have wrought such vast and unprecedented changes to our world that we actually might be ushering in a new geological time interval, and alter the planet for millions of years.

Zalasiewicz, Williams, Steffen and Crutzen contend that recent human activity, including stunning population growth, sprawling megacities and increased use of fossil fuels, have changed the planet to such an extent that we are entering what they call the Anthropocene (New Man) Epoch.

An excerpt from the full article, that poses much food for thought:
Whether to formalize the Anthropocene or not is a question that will be decided on geological, and, more precisely, stratigraphic grounds. Does the present scale of the global change, measured against deep Earth history, justify the term?—and will formalizing the term be beneficial to working scientists?

It can be argued that a formal Anthropocene Epoch would inherently downplay the scale and significance of preindustrial (early agricultural) modification of landscape (24, 29) and oversimplify the complex and historically protracted human effects on the natural environment. In response, one might say that existing formal boundaries within deep geological time do not typically have such a deleterious scientific effect; more typically the research carried out to establish them illuminates the complex course of palaeoenvironmental history. Regardless, the Anthropocene has taken root in the scientific community, and is now unlikely to decline through practical neglect by working scientists.

The term, also, has a resonance that goes beyond the modification of a geological classificatory scheme. It has attracted public interest, probably because it encapsulates—indeed integrates—the many and diverse kinds of environmental change that have taken place. The transition from the Holocene into the Anthropocene may be developed, too—somewhat controversially—into the concept of planetary boundaries (30), wherein a safe operating space for humanity may be defined. Moreover, formalization may represent “official” acknowledgment that the world has changed, substantially and irreversibly, through human activity—an acknowledgment akin to the IPCC consensus statements on climate change.

Much of this global change will be to the detriment of humans. Not all of it (Greenland, for example, is currently greening—and booming), but the present and likely future course of environmental change seems set to create substantially more losers, globally, than winners.
For further reading, check out the article in html or pdf as published in Environmental Science & Technology, 25 Feb 2010.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Earth Hour 8:30 pm 27 March 2010

Earth hour starts in nineteen minutes, so I'm writing a short piece to mark the occasion. Lights out at 8:30 pm. It's dark here, but a nice evening for a walk or just to sit outside and look at the stars, which are beautiful and brilliant in this part of the world.

Enjoy an hour of peace and quiet :)

It's still warm(ish) in Hobart, Tasmania

The other day I posted about Melbourne having a record 100 days where the maximum temperature was over 20C. Now it's 108 days and still counting, that's 30 days more than the previous stretch.

Down in Hobart they've had a record spell of warmer than normal weather as well. Here is some of what the Bureau has to say:
Come Saturday, Hobart should have had 100 consecutive days where the temperature reached at least 17 °C. This is easily the longest run of such mild weather recorded in Hobart, where comparable records extend back to 1895. It is common to have mild weather interrupted by a few cool days, even in summer. 20 °C is forecast for both Friday and Saturday, and the run of mild weather is forecast to continue into next week.

On 17 December 2009, the temperature in Hobart reached only 12.4 °C. But since then the coldest day has been 17.4 °C on 27 February — the hottest was 38.3 °C on New Year's Eve.

The previous longest stretch of such mild weather saw 72 consecutive days with the temperature reaching 17 °C from 7 December 2002 to 16 February 2003. On only 7 occasions in Hobart's climate record have there been 50 consecutive days over 17 °C — ending in 1900, 1961, 1972, 1979, 2001, 2003 and now 2010.

Hobart's average daily maximum temperature from December 2009 to March 2010 so far has been 23.0 °C, over 2 °C above the long-term average of 20.9 °C for those 4 months, and likely to be a record.

Friday, March 26, 2010


A look at radiation changes

During a discussion at, I was prompted to investigate some of the ways of determining the radiation flux.

I came across an interesting NASA website, which shows an animation of the monthly radiation flux on earth from July 2006 to now. It also shows changes in cloud cover and snow together with the radiation flux. It's fascinating to look at the radiation changes through the seasons in the northern and southern hemisphere. And how some parts of earth have almost constant cloud cover, particularly over northern Africa. The changes in snow cover are interesting as well. The animation clearly shows the extensive snow over North America this winter (January 2010).

The changes are monitored by satellites: the Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System (CERES) sensors on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites described here.

Ceres is the goddess of agriculture and motherly love and we may need to seek her help in coming years if we want to keep producing enough food to feed everyone.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Nancy Millis on Ada Lovelace Day

Today is Ada Lovelace Day and the person I am choosing to write about is my lecturer in microbiology, Dr Nancy Millis.

Dr Millis was born in 1922, the same year as my father was born. Despite all the barriers she faced, particularly early on in her studies and career, she made a huge contribution to science and education in Australia.

Dr Millis was refused entry to the Science Degree solely because of her sex, and instead took a degree in agricultural science at the University of Melbourne (where she later lectured we third year students in microbiology). She obtained a Masters Degree from The University of Melbourne and a PhD from Bristol University in the UK. In 1977 she was awarded the MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) in recognition of her achievements. In 1990 she was awarded the Companion of the Order of Australia (AC). And in 1993, she was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science (DSc (Hon)) from the University of Melbourne.

Nancy introduced fermentation technologies to Australia and established the first applied microbiology course in Australia, at the University of Melbourne. She impressed me as being possibly the most knowledgeable and expert lecturer in my Ag Science degree course. She was also one of the older lecturers but full of energy. Her brilliance was evident at every class. I was unfortunate to miss a lot of her lectures because I became ill part way through the year, but was grateful for what opportunity I did have.

Nancy Millis went on to become the Chancellor of Latrobe University in Melbourne from 1992, retiring in 2006.

More details can be found here.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Between the devil and the deep blue sea

In this week's Science, John Bohannon discusses the dilemma faced by Egypt as the Nile delta sinks. With the strong likelihood of the Mediterranean rising as the climate changes, the options available to Egypt are few and costly. Egypt constructed the massive Aswan High Dam in 1960, with the help of the Soviet Union.
The article says:
Today, 30% of the land is less than a meter above sea level, and in some areas close to the Mediterranean coast, it is sinking by nearly a centimeter per year.

At the same time, the Mediterranean Sea is expected to rise as a result of global warming. If the sea level increases by a meter by 2050, which is in the range of mainstream predictions, one-third of the delta could be lost. Meanwhile, the population here is growing by a million people per year—the delta is already home to 50 million, most crammed into an area no bigger than the state of Delaware. Because of these perfect storm conditions, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007 named the Nile Delta among the three areas most vulnerable to climate change. "If we continue with business as usual, the impact on the delta will be devastating," says Mounir Tabet, director of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Egypt.
Read the full article here. (Subscription might be required)

Some people still believe what they read Part II

Today the followers of WUWT were happy. They were shown a photo purporting to be a weather station of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology's RCS network and it didn't look great. Only a couple of responders managed to figure out that the station hasn't recorded any temperatures since February 2007, but that didn't dissuade most people from their delight at this new proof that it's no longer warming down-under.
Or perhaps it still is getting just a bit hotter!

By the way, the automatic weather station for temperature and rainfall at Cunderdin is at the Cunderdin airfield.

And just because Melbourne has broken yet another temperature record, doesn't mean it's warming does it?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Some people still believe what they read

Some people are still quoting the Sheahan's false tale about chopping down 250 eucalypts. What they did and what they were fined for was clearing land without a permit. This article, written by the President of the Upper Yarra and Dandenongs Environment Council, describes what actually took place as well as I could. It also points out that in the rush to get items to press, not one journalist contacted the Mitchell Shire to find out what really happened.

The saga dates back long before the 2009 bushfires in Victoria (Australia) and you can read a description of what really happened in item 9.6 on page 12174 of the Minutes of Mitchell Shire Council here.

This might be a post that I'll keep adding to from time to time. It's not as if there is a lack of good material.

100 day warm record for Melbourne

Melbourne has broken yet another climate record. Last November (2009), the extended heatwave meant that the average temperature for the month was 5.3C above the 1961-1990 average (that's 9.5F for those still on the old scale). The average minimum was 3.9C above the 1961-1990 average minimum. That's for a whole month. Pretty incredible.

Now Melbourne has just had 100 straight days of temperatures higher than 20C, and it's not over yet. Now anyone who knows Melbourne knows how unusual that is, you don't need to go to the records. But if you do go to the records, the closest it's come in the recorded past is 78 days in 2000-01. By the way, the recorded past goes back to 1855.

Something is happening in the State of Victoria. It's called climate change and in Melbourne it's warming!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Feeling a bit crook

I'm a bit crook at the moment so probably won't be posting much for the next couple of weeks. The break will give me a bit of time to think about the blog.

Monday, March 15, 2010

YES, it's irrefutable: the climate is changing NOW

As published by the ABC Australia: 15 March 2010

Based on the State of the Climate report from CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology, March 2010:
Two of the nation's top research bodies - the Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO - have come out strongly in defence of the science behind global warming.

The leading research bodies say the evidence is irrefutable: climate change is real and the link with human activity is beyond doubt.

Universities have also joined the fray, saying it is time to stand up for Australian science and research. "We've had some serious tabloid junking of ... science and research in our community," Professor Peter Coaldrake, the chairman of Universities Australia, said. "If the two bodies together come out and make a statement of this sort, then we in the community have to acknowledge that."

The weather bureau's director, Greg Ayers, says a century's worth of climate records show definitively that weather patterns are shifting and the planet has already been warming. There are simply more extremely hot days, and fewer cold and wet ones. "When we look back over the last 50 years or so and look at the succeeding decade as we roll forward, what we see ... is a trend of increasing temperatures from decade to decade," Dr Ayers said. "We also see shifts in patterns of rainfall with the drying in the east and the south and the west of the continent.

"There is an increase in temperature in the surface oceans around Australia as well that goes hand in hand with the ... surface temperature increases over the continent, and there's also ... a rise in sea level."

Open to public

Dr Ayers says the bureau's data is available for the public to scrutinise. "For the Australian region, we have around 100 climate reference stations, as we call them, where we pay a great deal of attention to doing the best possible measurements," he said.

"I'm very pleased to be able to say that our climate record in Australia is as good or better than any comparable record anywhere in the world." But Mr Ayers says the weather bureau is primarily responsible for measuring the climate, whereas it is the CSIRO that handles climate projections. The CSIRO says on its current path, the planet is heading for a rise in temperature of a further 2 degrees Celsius this century.

The head of the organisation, Dr Megan Clark, says the evidence is clear. "Hotter days, more extreme heat and less rainfall are the snapshot of Australia's climate now, not the forecast," she said. "In Australia, we're seeing that all of Australia is warming, in every state, over every season."

Dr Clark says it is clear the climate is being affected by the carbon emissions caused by human activity. "Our scientists and those around the world are now about 90 per cent sure that these things are happening at the same time and are linked," she said.

More from the Dr Megan Clark, Head of the CSIRO

And from the ABC interview.

A man with no friends

The conservative lobby group SPPI recently published a long article by Nicola Scafetta. The poor man has no friends, it seems. His papers have previously been debunked by the climate scientists on and this recent tome has now been trashed on the un-science site WUWT, even by young Anthony himself!

In only the second paragraph of the introduction, Scafetta chose to refer to the fake Oregon petition and the stolen CRU emails to support his thesis. This raised red flags from the word go. Although I'm not a climate scientist nor a physicist, my guess is that the paper only went downhill from there. And it seems most people agree with me, whether they are deniers, sceptics or already understand why human emissions of CO2 are causing the earth to heat up.

Shame :(

I notice that among other activities, Scafetta is doing some work in collaboration with the NASA team on ACRIM whose website even has a link to this set of deniosaur links. Very strange!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The anti-science brigade

I've just looked at a site that promotes itself as "Commentary on puzzling things in life, nature, science, weather, climate change, technology, and recent news". Although most of its articles are pseudo-science or political, every so often it posts an article from a top quality scientific journal. Today it posted an article from Science on N2O emitted to the atmosphere from the oceans.

For some strange reason, even though the website promotes itself as a science and technology site, many of the visitors who comment are blatantly anti-science. With this article only a minority of comments addressed the substance of the paper. The majority were denigrating science. The comments included:
Grant Forcing?

and he needs a big grant to study it

They are losing the battle on CO2 grounds, and are desperate to find some other “greenhouse” gas to keep scaremongering and getting grants. Pathetic.

I’m so tired and over all this hyped up science.

Only the application of more grant money can save us from the oncoming disaster

Just shows how silly some people have become

Methinks they have been partaking too much of this Nitrous Oxide themselves

Science is dead. Why should I believe any of this doomsday propaganda?

They sure are gullible. The risk and drama must be high because the cry for funding is so strong. These guys are kinda stupid.

I think he “May” be looking for grant money so he “Can” fund his research.

What a bogus article. Actually I want to say what a crap article. What crap science. ... I don’t think Science or Nature can be trusted. What about the other publications. Are they all on the take, too?

Yep. Grant Forcing.

Obviously the Gravy Train that runs on the old Grant Rail Road Line is behind all this junk.

Feed-me-back-some-grant-money is more like it.

The sound of science. Coming off the RAILS. And HOW many faeries dance on the head of a pin?

I love this kind of “science”, short on facts and long on “may” and “could” and “might”. ... Science Magazine just keeps sinking to new lower lows.

Whatever next? One can only hope that this truly ridiculous “research” will only add to the growing awareness of the general public that the whole thing is one big multi-governmental con. I thought we’d already passed the point where it could not get any more farcical. Clearly I was wrong.

The only thing that must be killed ASAP is our tax funding of all this CAGW baloney. The sooner the better.

Another howler from their article: "An increase in horizontal respiration rate gradients toward low-oxygen oceanic eastern boundaries could also increase N2O production. Some models predict a deeper thermocline (lower respiration) as a result of global warming; others suggest the opposite (13)." Well, that science is settled. Either way, it requires more funding.

… or maybe they are just desperate scientists trying to extort a grant from the government.

“research” as represented in this paper is a threat to truly protecting the environment – we cant properly allocate research dollars to true problems if everything is disingenuously pitched as a “crisis”

Another problem is identified, more calamities predicted. $billions for additional research must be granted and spent.

Note: This looks to be the first blog article I wrote about Anthony Watts' climate conspiracy blog WUWT. I've now archived the article so you can see for yourself that it hasn't changed in at least five years. Here is a link to the press release in Science Daily, which has links to two papers - in Science and in PNAS.
Sou 10 January 2015 at 8:11 pm AEDT

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

For how long does CO2 stay up in the air?

This article in Nature discusses the length of time it's likely that CO2 stays up in the air. It's a very long time. Some of it stays around for thousands and thousands of years.

Some people find it hard to understand why CO2 makes a difference to warming. (I've already outlined a simple description of why the earth is warming.)

CO2 warms the earth because of its greenhouse properties. Greenhouse gases are the ones that stop the earth from turning into an ice block. They keep us nice and warm so that we can grow crops, go swimming and do a host of things that would be impossible if the earth was too cold.

Because we keep adding CO2 to the atmosphere by digging up fossil fuels and removing trees, the earth is getting warmer. Because the earth is getting warmer, the amount of water vapour in the air increases. Water vapour in the air can't be seen. It's just another gas.

When water vapour condenses, it forms clouds and we can certainly see clouds but that's no longer water vapour. Clouds are made up of drops of liquid water or ice. Clouds don't have a greenhouse effect as such. Some of them cool the earth and some of them warm the earth. On balance, they don't make much difference to the temperature overall.

Water vapour, on the other hand, is another greenhouse gas so it also makes the earth warmer. That means that now there are two gases that have increased in the air, making the earth warmer - the extra water vapour plus the extra CO2. So the earth gets even warmer than if only one of these greenhouse gases was increasing.

If the earth wasn't getting warmer, the amount of water vapour on average wouldn't change. In fact, water vapour recycles through the air every few days. So if we could cool the earth a bit the amount of water vapour would lessen and the temperature of the earth would drop back to what it used to be like a few years ago.

Unfortunately, it's not easy to cool the earth. One way would be to soak up the extra CO2 in the air. Some scientists are working on how this could be done. But at the moment even if it could be done it's expensive and could have unwanted effects. In any case, we'd have to soak up more than we're putting up in the air to make any difference.

That's why, for now, the best thing to do is to switch over to renewable energy sources as soon as we can, and stop digging up fossil fuels.

For more information on climate change, check out the links on this site.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Too much mea culpa

Robyn Williams is the presenter of the ABC National Radio's science show - a radio broadcast that has been run since pussy was a pup (ie for just about ever).

This is an abridged version of the 2010 Commonwealth Day address he gave today to a lunch organised by the Commonwealth Day Council, as reported in The Drum on the ABC website.

His strong words are warranted in my view, and scientists who say things that appear to support the skeptics bluff and bluster - like 'they should be more open', when climate science is the most open and transparent of any science, should take note.

As a taster, here is an extract:
At times such as these, we expect goodwill, a sense of national urgency, and a respect for evidence. Bipartisanship, if we're lucky.

Instead, we have a shambles. Science itself is under attack. It is being relegated to a relativistic sideline, where any opinion must have equal merit, where you can bury Darwin, trash the value of vaccination, take herbal unguents instead of science-based medications and avoid GM everything in case it makes you grow horns or give birth to an alien.

Or do we have a complete shambles? Actually, not quite. As with so called fundamentalist views among Muslims or Christians, it is a loud minority attracting all this attention, a persistent few in the blogosphere, overwhelming those of you with commonsense and erudition. A recent survey conducted by the Federal Government (in Oz) and presented at ICONN (the nanoscience conference two weeks ago) reveals that 84 per cent of us feel that science and technology are improving society. This survey is one of several that show a majority of us do not wish to occupy the extremes of political opinion or invective.

So why does the opposite seem to prevail? Three reasons, I suggest.

One is that the scientists themselves have been naive, even lazy. When I asked Tim Flannery and Philip Campbell, editor of the journal Nature, their opinion of so called deniers like Ian Plimer, or the incongruous toff Lord Monkton, they just shrugged and said "the climate debate has moved on." Well, it hasn't. It's gone backwards. Not least because the scientists, in the main, have been passive, restrained and much too polite. And after Climategate - too much mea culpa. It's time for them to get their skates on. To be aggressive in the cause of truth.

(My bold for emphasis - because it's also what I firmly believe and have stated on several occasions.)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Generating power through your window

Pilkington North America to Collaborate with Dyesol on BIPV

Mar 4th, 2010
By admin
Category: Industry News

Pilkington North America in Toledo, Ohio, has announced a collaboration with Dyesol Inc., the California-based division of Australia’s Dyesol Ltd., to develop opportunities in the building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) marketplace utilizing Pilkington’s TEC series of transparent conductive oxide (TCO) coated float glass and Dyesol’s dye solar cell (DSC) materials and technology.

“Pilkington believes it is time to begin developing the next generation of photovoltaic power,” says Stephen Weidner, senior vice president of building products for North America. “BIPV is an emerging market segment with great opportunity for utilizing our TCO technology to bring photovoltaic power into building design.”

“The collaboration with Dyesol has the potential to bring a significant change in the value of architectural glass as we know it today. No longer will glass be viewed solely for its insulation and aesthetic properties, but for its power generating potential as well,” Weidner adds.

More on the main article here

(Declaration of interest: I hold shares in Dyesol.)

Friday, March 5, 2010

A highly simplified view of global warming

To change the climate of the entire earth requires a change in the balance of radiation.

Energy in = energy out - stable climate
Energy in less than energy out - earth gets cooler (ice ages)
Energy in more than energy out - earth gets warmer (interglacials)

Temperature is one way of measuring energy. The same object measured at a higher temperature has more energy than that object when it's cooler.

When as much energy goes out of the earth as comes into the earth, there won't be a global temperature change. There will continue to be changes in climate in different parts of earth but it will balance out over the whole earth.

The temperature of the whole earth is rising and has been more or less doing so since about the time the industrial revolution took off. This rise in temperature can in essence be only from one of two causes. Either there is more energy coming in from the sun or there is less energy going back out to space from the earth. (If the earth was cooling it would be the reverse.)

The reason the earth is warming is that the earth is holding in more energy than is going out into space. Since the middle of the 20th century, measurements of the sun's energy and the earth's current orbit and the way it is aligned to the sun show that the earth has not been receiving more energy from the sun. (Before this time, some of the extra heat can be attributed to there being more energy coming in from the sun as well as the extra CO2.)

The greenhouse effect describes how earth retains heat to support life on earth. The recent rise in temperature is mainly caused by the large rise in one of the greenhouse gases, CO2, which means less energy is being radiated out, which means the earth is getting warmer. As a result of this initial warming, there are other effects that all add to the change - water vapour, which is another greenhouse gas, increases and lets even less energy escape, ice reduces and means less energy is reflected out to space, and so on.

Eventually, the energy state will re-balance. The temperature will stabilise at a new higher level and the amount of energy coming in will again equal the amount of energy going out.

An analogy of the adjustment to the change in energy balance is - if you turn on a tap over the sink and allow the water to drain out the plughole. If you partly plug up the drain then water will start to rise in the sink. There will be more water coming in from the tap than going down the drain. This is the same effect as adding more CO2 blocks some of the heat from leaving the earth, and the energy increases and temperature rises. For a while the water will continue to rise in the sink (similar to the temperature going up) until it reaches a point where the water coming out of the tap equals the water going down the drain. The pressure of the water in the sink will cause more water to go down the drain and equalise with the water coming out of the tap. The water level will be higher when it equalises, just like the temperature will be higher when the earth's energy balance gets to a new equilibrium.

The above description is a very simplistic description of the situation. Much more detail is available from reputable sources closer to the science itself. Check the links here for a more detailed and scientific explanation and other related information.

Sub-sea methane instability

As reported today in various media, including Climate Progress, an NSF article and the Wall Street Journal, there is a paper in the current edition of Science that points to an urgent need for further research into methane venting from sub-sea deposits in the arctic.

If the measured CH4 escaping from the shallow seas is a new phenomenon, then it has serious implications for the climate. Current climate models do not provide for this, and in the near term, it would mean a sudden warming of the earth if the vast amounts of trapped methane were to escape to the atmosphere.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Queensland floods

Right now in Queensland, Australia, an area the size of the state of Victoria is under flood water. At Cunnamulla, the flood waters are expected to peak at 10 metres next week. This year so far almost eighty per cent of local councils in Queensland have become eligible for natural disaster relief.

BOM flood report for Queensland

Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology

Flood Summary

Issued at 12:06 PM on Thursday the 4th of March 2010

The following Watches/Warnings are current:















The CSIRO has long predicted more rain in northern Australia. Last summer there were major floods up north at the same time as there were devastating bushfires and a record-breaking heat wave down south. The CSIRO has also predicted that parts of southern Australia will be drier and hotter.

I haven't yet come across anyone in the media linking the floods to climate change, but it has been predicted and these current floods are described as being 'unprededented'.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

UK Science Committee hearings on CRU

I've just been watching the hearing of the UK House of Commons (HoC) Science and Technology Committee looking at the disclosure of climate data from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.

The Committee questioned witnesses, most of whom would be expected. However the first witnesses were a couple of rather strange people - a certain Rt Hon Lord Lawson of Blaby, Chairman, and Dr Benny Peiser, Director, of the Global Warming Policy Foundation. This "Foundation" was only set up in November 2009, coincidentally just after the CRU's emails were stolen. The Chairman refused to disclose to the HoC committee the names of any donor.

The Global Warming Policy Foundation is colocated at 1 Carlton Terrace London with the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining. Its website lists several people on the Board (mostly old public servants)and says it gets all its funds from private individuals and charitable trusts (which in the UK means any non-profit organisation, not charities in the normal sense of the word). It says it doesn't accept donations from energy companies or anyone with a significant interest in an energy company. The website suggests that Peiser is the only employee, so they probably don't get or need much money. Their aim seems to be to put out papers denying the world is warming.

The first two witnesses were an odd couple, not just in appearance but in demeanor and in their rather extreme conspiracy theories. They wanted to accuse all the world's scientists and research institutions of fraud, and while they insinuated as much they did seem to stop short of saying it outright - at least at the hearing. As in their written submission, these two tried to make much of the 'divergence problem', probably not realising there is no problem at all. They were also a bit behind the times in regard to satellite data, thinking it showed a different trend to surface observations (which it doesn't).

The other witnesses included Richard Thomas, the immediate past Freedom of Information Commissioner, Sir Muir Russell who is heading up Independent Climate Change E-Mails Review, and three of the top scientists in the UK, Professor John Beddington, Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Julia Slingo OBE, Chief Scientist, Met Office, and Professor Bob Watson, Chief Scientist, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs . The scientists appeared together and were unanimous and forceful in stating the earth is warming and its caused by human activities. I thought they could have been more clear about when data and workings should be made available to the public, and that most scientists in other fields don't put all their stuff on the internet for the public to pull apart. (I'd love to see the face of physicists everywhere if they were told to put up all their workings and data on the internet 'immediately'.)

The key witnesses were Professor Jones and Professor Edward Acton, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of East Anglia. Professor Jones was very straight in his responses. Acton hardly said a word but was supportive of Jones.

None of the witnesses pointed out that the main protagonist in all of this debacle, McIntyre was hardly squeaky clean and certainly not a climate scientist. I thought someone at least should have pointed that out. Neither did anyone point out that the FOI storm was instigated from McIntyre's website, with the majority of the 61 requests of last year coming in over a forty-eight hour period.

Some of those on the committee were better informed than I expected them to be. I'd be surprised if they decided to do anything other than wait for report from the Muir Russell inquiry.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Clive Hamilton's book release

Thought it worth giving a plug to Clive Hamilton's new book, Requiem for a Species, given he wrote such a terrific series on ABC Unleashed.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Carbon tax or cap and trade?

There are signs that the USA might switch to a carbon tax, if the blogs and op eds are anything to go by. Tom Friedman's column today talks about the new USA energy bill being drafted by Senators Kerry, Lieberman and Graham, with Republican Senator Graham favouring a carbon tax.

If this happens it might be the death knell for Australia's proposed ETS, which could get replaced with a direct tax. So far, the Greens is the only political party touting a carbon tax, with the Liberal Party wanting to use consolidated revenue to fund any carbon-related expenditure.

Maybe this is why Australia's Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd isn't rushing to a double dissolution yet. It gives him time to replace the ETS with a proposal that's easier to describe (and maybe sell) to the public.

Extreme weather, deniosaurs and myth debunkers

While extreme weather events have been making the news around the world, the deniosaurs are still spruiking their misinformation. Meanwhile, others are doing their bit to debunk the increasingly vocal cries of denialists, including Clive Hamilton, who has written a series of articles for ABC Unleashed about the methods and means of the anti-humanity crowd.

Although a single weather event on its own can't be put down to climate, the record rain, snow and storms we've been seeing lately is exactly what we'd expect with a warming earth.

Birdsville in outback Australia had it's annual quota of rain yesterday (yes, all in one day). This little town in the desert had nine inches of rain in less than 48 hours.

Europe is reeling from storms and floods.

Last month, parts of the USA and Europe has massive snow falls, while other parts were much too warm for this time of the year.

And it's only just beginning!

UNEP IPCC review

The Nusa Dua meeting of UN Environment Programme's (UNEP) Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum (what a mouthful!) has re-affirmed the central importance of the IPCC. It has also announced a review of the IPCC: a result of recent criticism of the IPCC and some key errors in the body's fourth assessment report, several governments called for an independent review of the IPCC.

Full details of the review and its scope will be announced next week with the report to be presented to the IPCC Plenary taking place in the Republic of Korea in October.

It will be interesting to see the terms of reference and who is appointed to conduct the independent review. It will not be easy to find people of sufficient standing in climate science who have not been associated with the IPCC in some manner. In fact, this may prove impossible. However if the review is to focus solely on the review processes rather than the science itself, expertise in climate science may be of less consequence than expertise in science communication and management.

Nusa Dua Declaration - Toward a Green Economy

From the UN
Bali (Indonesia), 26 February 2010 - In the first landmark Declaration issued by ministers of the environment in a decade, governments pledged to step up the global response to the major environmental and sustainability challenges of this generation.

The wide-ranging Nusa Dua Declaration, agreed today in the closing session of the UN Environment Programme's (UNEP) Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum, underlines the vital importance of biodiversity, the urgent need to combat climate change and work towards a good outcome in Mexico later in the year and the key opportunities from accelerating a transition to a low-carbon resource-efficient Green Economy.

The statement also highlights the need to improve the overall management of the global environment, accepting that that 'governance architecture' has in many ways become too complex and fragmented.
Click here for the UN press release