A stream flows through the toe of Kaskawulsh Glacier in Yukon’s Kluane National Park. In 2016, this channel allowed the glacier’s meltwater to drain in a different direction than normal, resulting in the Slims River’s water being rerouted to a different river system. DANIEL SHUGAR

The Weather Network (who do a decent job on local weather forecasting) are currently raving about Glaciers:

You know climate change is getting serious when rivers are resorting to piracy.

Canadian geomorphologist Dr. Daniel Shugar and his team headed to the Yukon last year to study changes in the flow of the Slims River, only to find out the river was gone.

The Slims, which was fed by the Kaskawulsh glacier, has become the victim of the first case of what’s known as river piracy in modern recorded history.

The team’s investigation soon turned up the culprit – the retreat of the Kaskawulsh Glacier, which has been retreating thanks to more than a century of climate warming.

What Actually Happened

Prior to May of last year, the glacier had been supplying water to two watersheds and feeding multiple rivers; the Kaskawulsh River, which drains to the Pacific Ocean via the Alsek River, and the Slims, which flowed north to the Bering Sea via Kluane Lake.

During the last days of May 2016, melt water at the base of the glacier finally managed to eat through the thinning ice sheet, opening a new canyon and sending the Slims’ share of the water into the Kaskawulsh instead.

Thanks to this abrupt change, water from the glacier that used to flow north to the Bering Sea has changed direction and flows toward the Pacific, instead, leaving the Slims basin high and (mostly) dry.

And Now, the Leap of Faith

In the published paper lead author Daniel Shugar goes on to state:
Based on satellite image analysis and a signal-to-noise ratio as a metric of glacier retreat, we conclude that this instance of river piracy was due to post-industrial climate change.

And others can’t resist piling on:

“To me, it’s kind of a metaphor for what can happen with sudden change induced by climate,” said John Clague, who holds a chair in natural hazard research at Simon Fraser University and was a co-author on the report.

“Climate change is happening, is affecting us and it’s not just about far-off islands in the South Pacific. .  Climate change may bring new changes that we’re not even really thinking about.” said Shugar.

It’s a nice PR touch to call this “Piracy”, but they are “jumping the shark” by claiming humans did this by burning fossil fuels.

“Jumping the shark” is attempting to draw attention to or create publicity for something that is perceived as not warranting the attention, especially something that is believed to be past its peak in quality or relevance. The phrase originated with the TV series “Happy Days” when an episode had Fonzie doing a water ski jump over a shark. The stunt was intended to perk up the ratings, but it marked the show’s low point ahead of its demise.

Hyping a Glacier retreating to prove global warming/climate change looks to be a similarly desperate move. Most people sense that the dynamics of glaciers growing, shrinking and moving is much more complex than simply fingering CO2 as the culprit.

FIG. 3. South Glacier as seen during its 1986 surge (photo: P. Johnson) and in 2005 (photo: G. Flowers). To facilitate comparison, the black line in each photograph marks the same feature.

For context and scientific perspective we can turn to papers like this one:  Contemporary Glacier Processes and Global Change: Recent Observations from Kaskawulsh Glacier and the Donjek Range, St. Elias Mountains From the Abstract:

The scientific objectives of these projects are (1) to quantify recent area and volume changes of Kaskawulsh Glacier and place them in historical perspective, (2) to investigate the regional variability of glacier response to climate and the modulating inuence of ice dynamics, and (3) to characterize the hydromechanical controls on glacier sliding.

FIG. 1. The Donjek Range and environs (Geobase ® image, 8 September 2008) within the St. Elias Mountains (NASA Aqua – MODIS image, 9 August 2003; North and South Glaciers are outlined, and locations of automatic weather stations operated since 2006 – 07 are marked with stars.

Excerpts (bolded text is my emphasis)

Kaskawulsh Glacier is ~70 km long from its shared accumulation area with the upper Hubbard Glacier, at an elevation of ~2500 m asl, to its terminus ~25 km southwest of the Kluane Lake Research Station, at ~820 m asl (Fig. 1). It provides the source of the Slims River, the primary water input for Kluane Lake to the northeast (which drains to the Bering Sea), and the source of the Kaskawulsh River to the southeast (which drains to the Gulf of Alaska).

One of the most iconic and best studied outlet glaciers of the St. Elias Mountains, Kaskawulsh Glacier was the focus of much glaciological research during the Icefield Ranges Research Project between the 1960s and early 1970s  and contemporary studies suggest that the glacier is temperate throughout. The current area of Kaskawulsh Glacier is ~1095 km2. Ice thicknesses range from 539 m near the topographic divide with the upper Hubbard Glacier and ~500 m at the confluence of the north and central arms at ~1750 m asl to 778 m at ~1600 m asl. The equilibrium line altitude is estimated from 2007 late summer satellite imagery as 1958 m asl, and it appears to have changed little since the 1970s.

The size of Kaskawulsh Glacier has varied considerably through time, with radiocarbon dating suggesting that it expanded by tens of kilometres into the Shakwak Valley (currently occupied by Kluane Lake) ~30 kya during the Wisconsinan Glaciation. In the historical past, Borns and Goldthwait (1966) mapped three sets of Little Ice Age moraines in the glacier forefield on the basis of distinctive variations in vegetation cover, morphology, and the ages of trees and shrubs.

Kaskawulsh Glacier was advancing by the early 1500s and reached its maximum recent position by approximately AD 1680. A recent study based on tree-ring dates suggests that the Slims River lobe reached its greatest Little Ice Age extent in the mid-1750s, whereas the Kaskawulsh River lobe reached its maximum extent around 1717. However, it appears that the glacier did not start retreating from this position until the early to middle 1800s. The recent discovery of a Geological Survey of Canada map of the glacier terminus from 1900 to 1904 indicates that the glacier was still in a forward position at that time, suggesting that most of the terminus retreat occurred in the 20th century.

Recent studies conducted by researchers at the University of Alaska and the University of Ottawa indicate that ice losses from Kaskawulsh Glacier have continued through the latter half of the 20th century and first decade of the 21st century, although evidence for any recent acceleration in loss rates is equivocal.

Global Context

Of the 19 glacierized regions of the world outside of the ice sheets, the region including the St. Elias Mountains made the second highest glaciological contribution to global sea level during the period 1961 – 2000. Only Arctic Canada is expected to exceed this region in sea-level contribution over the 21st century.

The St. Elias Mountains exhibit high interannual variability in ice mass change, which is due in part to the abundance of surge-type and tidewater glaciers in different stages of their respective cycles. Ice dynamics can be a confounding influence when attempting to isolate the effects of climate as an external driver of glacier change. For example, a surge-type glacier in the “quiescent” phase of its cycle may retreat even in a stationary climate. Catastrophic retreat of a tidewater glacier may be triggered by climate, but it is largely controlled by glacier and fjord geometry. Similar “flow instabilities” exist at larger scales in the form of ice streams and marine ice-sheets or outlet glaciers, the dynamics of which dominate the mass balances (and therefore sea-level contributions) of large sectors of the modern ice sheets. Our ability to project future changes on short (sub-decadal to decadal) timescales therefore hinges on our understanding of internal glacier dynamics, as well as our ability to project future climate in a given region and relate climate to glacier surface mass balance.

The ice-walled canyon at the terminus of the Kaskawulsh River in the Yukon, with recently collapsed ice blocks, that now carries the vast majority of glacier-front water down the Kaskawulsh Valley toward the Gulf of Alaska and the Pacific Ocean instead of north along the Slims River toward the Bering Sea. (Jim Best/University of Illinois)

Whether climate has fundamentally altered the surging styles of Trapridge Glacier and South Glacier from the faster, shorter, more recognizable Alaskan style to the slower and more subtle Svalbard style is an interesting question. Many small poly-thermal glaciers, whose temperate ice content is largely controlled by meltwater entrapment and refreezing in the accumulation area, are expected to become colder under negative mass balance conditions. It is therefore conceivable that thermal evolution over the course of decades can play a role in altering surge style. However, there is some evidence that both types of surges may be preceded by a prolonged—and until recently, unrecognized—period of acceleration. Thus, a “slow surge” or “partial surge” may simply represent a truncation of the ordinary surge cycle that results from a deficit of mass, rather than a fundamental change in surge character. Mass deficits have manifested themselves differently on the well-studied and temperate Variegated Glacier, where the return interval between surges adapts itself in such a way that surges are triggered at a constant cumulative balance threshold. The nature and timing of future surges of the large glaciers in the St. Elias Mountains will be instructive as we seek a more coherent understanding of the influence of climate on surging.


So it is a familiar story. A complex naturally fluctuating situation, in this case glaciers, is abused by activists to claim support for their agenda. I have a lot of respect for glaciologists; it is a deep, complex subject, and the field work is incredibly challenging. And since “glacial” describes any process where any movement is imperceptible, I can understand their excitement over something happening all of a sudden.

But I do not applaud those pandering to the global warming/climate change crowd. They seem not to realize they debase their own field of study by making exaggerated claims and by “jumping the shark.”
The lead authur, Shugar, sounds like a Michael Mann wannabe, putting out sound bites to please the naive journalists. Maybe he thinks there is a Nobel prize in it if he plays his cards right.

Meanwhile real scientists are doing the heavy lifting and showing restraint and wisdom about the limitations of their knowledge.

The Kaskawulsh River, as it exits the lower terminus of Kaskawulsh Glacier and lakes. ‘ JIM BEST

NYT Readers Face Diversity


Imaginary Enemies

A lot of fuss is in the media about the New York Times hiring Bret Stephens from the Washington Post. Stephens won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is regarded as a conservative, and has written critically about Trump, as well as liberals. In particular he has poked fun repeatedly at the climatism hysteria. For this latter point, the climate faithful are up in arms about the prospect of Stephens columns appearing on pages of NYT (a kind of bible for liberals and environmentalists).

For sure Bret Stephens is as outspoken as Mark Steyn, but with his own preoccupations and style. To see what might be in store for NYT readers, let’s look at some excerpts of his commentary regarding global warming/climate change. Note: Washington Post has a paywall, so links to these articles go to blogsites where the full text is available.

In 2014 Stephens published Climate Prophets and Profiteers, which gives an idea where he is coming from.

It is now the dogma of the left that any hint of doubt when it comes to predictions of climate doom is evidence of greed, stupidity, moral turpitude or psychological derangement. “Climate denial” is intended to be the equivalent of Holocaust denial. And yet the only people who’ve predicted anything right so far are those who foresaw that the Kyoto Protocol would fail, that renewable energies didn’t really work, and that climate bureaucrats accountable to nobody but their own sense of virtue and taste for profit were a danger to everyone.

Rereading Mr. Kerry’s speech, I have to say he really does come across as a true believer. That it begins by citing Maurice Strong, the ultimate cynic, tells you what you need to know about where this strain of true belief leads.

On Climate Religion

In a November 2011 column The great global warming fizzle, Stephens described ‘the case of global warming’ as a ‘system of doomsaying prophecy and faith in things unseen’ that, like religion, ‘is susceptible to the earthly temptations of money, power, politics, arrogance and deceit.’

Consider the case of global warming, another system of doomsaying prophecy and faith in things unseen.

As with religion, it is presided over by a caste of spectacularly unattractive people pretending to an obscure form of knowledge that promises to make the seas retreat and the winds abate. As with religion, it comes with an elaborate list of virtues, vices and indulgences. As with religion, its claims are often non-falsifiable, hence the convenience of the term “climate change” when thermometers don’t oblige the expected trend lines. As with religion, it is harsh toward skeptics, heretics and other “deniers.” And as with religion, it is susceptible to the earthly temptations of money, power, politics, arrogance and deceit.

This week, the conclave of global warming’s cardinals are meeting in Durban, South Africa, for their 17th conference in as many years. The idea is to come up with a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which is set to expire next year, and to require rich countries to pony up $100 billion a year to help poor countries cope with the alleged effects of climate change. This is said to be essential because in 2017 global warming becomes “catastrophic and irreversible,” according to a recent report by the International Energy Agency. (my bold)

Yet a funny thing happened on the way to the climate apocalypse. Namely, the financial apocalypse.

All this has been enough to put the Durban political agenda on hold for the time being. But religions don’t die, and often thrive, when put to the political sidelines. A religion, when not physically extinguished, only dies when it loses faith in itself.

On Climategate Emails

That’s where the Climategate emails come in. First released on the eve of the Copenhagen climate summit two years ago and recently updated by a fresh batch, the “hide the decline” emails were an endless source of fun and lurid fascination for those of us who had never been convinced by the global-warming thesis in the first place.

But the real reason they mattered is that they introduced a note of caution into an enterprise whose motivating appeal resided in its increasingly frantic forecasts of catastrophe. Papers were withdrawn; source material re-examined. The Himalayan glaciers, it turned out, weren’t going to melt in 30 years. Nobody can say for sure how high the seas are likely to rise—if much at all. Greenland isn’t turning green. Florida isn’t going anywhere.

The reply global warming alarmists have made to these dislosures is that they did nothing to change the underlying science, and only improved it in particulars. So what to make of the U.N.’s latest supposedly authoritative report on extreme weather events, which is tinged with admissions of doubt and uncertainty? Oddly, the report has left climate activists stuttering with rage at what they call its “watered down” predictions. If nothing else, they understand that any belief system, particularly ones as young as global warming, cannot easily survive more than a few ounces of self-doubt.

Meanwhile, the world marches on. On Sunday, 2,232 days will have elapsed since a category 3 hurricane made landfall in the U.S., the longest period in more than a century that the U.S. has been spared a devastating storm. Great religions are wise enough to avoid marking down the exact date when the world comes to an end. Not so for the foolish religions. Expect Mayan cosmology to take a hit to its reputation when the world doesn’t end on Dec. 21, 2012. Expect likewise when global warming turns out to be neither catastrophic nor irreversible come 2017.

And there is this: Religions are sustained in the long run by the consolations of their teachings and the charisma of their leaders. With global warming, we have a religion whose leaders are prone to spasms of anger and whose followers are beginning to twitch with boredom. Perhaps that’s another way religions die.

Climate Crisis as a Liberal Imaginary Enemy

Stephens fully disclosed his views at the time of Paris COP in Liberalism’s Imaginary Enemies In Paris, it’s easier to battle a climate crisis than confront jihadists on the streets.

Little children have imaginary friends. Modern liberalism has imaginary enemies.

Hunger in America is an imaginary enemy. Liberal advocacy groups routinely claim that one in seven Americans is hungry—in a country where the poorest counties have the highest rates of obesity. The statistic is a preposterous extrapolation from a dubious Agriculture Department measure of “food insecurity.” But the line gives those advocacy groups a reason to exist while feeding the liberal narrative of America as a savage society of haves and have nots.

The campus-rape epidemic—in which one in five female college students is said to be the victim of sexual assault—is an imaginary enemy. Never mind the debunked rape scandals at Duke and the University of Virginia, or the soon-to-be-debunked case at the heart of “The Hunting Ground,” a documentary about an alleged sexual assault at Harvard Law School. The real question is: If modern campuses were really zones of mass predation—Congo on the quad—why would intelligent young women even think of attending a coeducational school? They do because there is no epidemic. But the campus-rape narrative sustains liberal fictions of a never-ending war on women.

Institutionalized racism is an imaginary enemy. Somehow we’re supposed to believe that the same college administrators who have made a religion of diversity are really the second coming of Strom Thurmond. Somehow we’re supposed to believe that twice electing a black president is evidence of our racial incorrigibility. We’re supposed to believe this anyway because the future of liberal racialism—from affirmative action to diversity quotas to slavery reparations—requires periodic sightings of the ghosts of a racist past.

I mention these examples by way of preface to the climate-change summit that began this week in Paris. But first notice a pattern.

Dramatic crises—for which evidence tends to be anecdotal, subjective, invisible, tendentious and sometimes fabricated—are trumpeted on the basis of incompetently designed studies, poorly understood statistics, or semantic legerdemain. Food insecurity is not remotely the same as hunger. An abusive cop does not equal a bigoted police department. An unwanted kiss or touch is not the same as sexual assault, at least if the word assault is to mean anything.

Yet bogus studies and statistics survive because the cottage industries of compassion need them to be believed, and because mindless repetition has a way of making things nearly true, and because dramatic crises require drastic and all-encompassing solutions. Besides, the thinking goes, falsehood and exaggeration can serve a purpose if it induces virtuous behavior. The more afraid we are of the shadow of racism, the more conscious we might become of our own unsuspected biases.

And so to Paris.

I’m not the first to notice the incongruity of this huge gathering of world leaders meeting to combat a notional enemy in the same place where a real enemy just inflicted so much mortal damage.

Then again, it’s also appropriate, since reality-substitution is how modern liberalism conducts political business. What is the central liberal project of the 21st century, if not to persuade people that climate change represents an infinitely greater threat to human civilization than the barbarians—sorry, violent extremists—of Mosul and Molenbeek? Why overreact to a few hundred deaths today when hundreds of thousands will be dead in a century or two if we fail to act now?

Here again the same dishonest pattern is at work. The semantic trick in the phrase “climate change”—allowing every climate anomaly to serve as further proof of the overall theory. The hysteria generated by an imperceptible temperature rise of 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880—as if the trend is bound to continue forever, or is not a product of natural variation, or cannot be mitigated except by drastic policy interventions. The hyping of flimsy studies—melting Himalayan glaciers; vanishing polar ice—to press the political point. The job security and air of self-importance this provides the tens of thousands of people—EPA bureaucrats, wind-turbine manufacturers, litigious climate scientists, NGO gnomes—whose livelihoods depend on a climate crisis. The belief that even if the crisis isn’t quite what it’s cracked up to be, it does us all good to be more mindful about the environment.

And, of course, the chance to switch the subject. If your enemy is global jihad, then to defeat it you need military wherewithal, martial talents and political will. If your enemy is the structure of an energy-intensive global economy, then you need a compelling justification to change it. Climate dystopia can work wonders, provided the jihadists don’t interrupt too often.

Here’s a climate prediction for the year 2115: Liberals will still be organizing campaigns against yet another mooted social or environmental crisis. Temperatures will be about the same.

Bret Louis Stephens is an American journalist who won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2013. He works for The Wall Street Journal as the foreign-affairs columnist and the deputy editorial page editor and is responsible for the editorial pages of its European and Asian editions.


Wow! A full-throated, articulate conservative and climate unbeliever writing columns for the New York Times. His views both on liberalism and on climatism will be repulsive to many of the readers, who profess to be “liberal thinkers” but who are closed to all but “our kind of people”. What will they allow Stephens to write about? Will he last longer than lukewarmist Roger Pielke Jr. did at 538 blog (one column)?

Stay tuned.

For Further Reading

In 2008 column Al Gore’s Doomsday Clock, Stephens wrote:

What manner the catastrophe might take isn’t yet clear, but the scenarios are grim: The climate crisis is getting worse faster than anticipated; global warming will cause refugee crises and destabilize entire nations…. And so on.

In 2009 Climategate: Follow the Money Stephens gave the subheading:

Climate change researchers must believe in the reality of global warming just as a priest must believe in the existence of God.

A week later in 2009 came Global warming and the psychology of true belief. This time Stephens wrote: ‘

Last week, I suggested that funding flows had much to do with climate alarmism. But deeper things are at work as well. One of those things, I suspect, is what I would call the totalitarian impulse.

In April 2010 came What’s the Next ‘Global Warming’? Herewith I propose a contest to invent the next panic.

Stephens declared that ‘global warming is dead, nailed into its coffin one devastating disclosure, defection and re-evaluation at a time.’ He predicted that this meant ‘that pretty soon we’re going to need another apocalyptic scare to take its place.’ He offered the wager that ‘within a few years ‘climate change’ will exercise global nerves about as much as overpopulation, toxic tampons, nuclear winters, ozone holes, killer bees, low sperm counts, genetically modified foods and mad cows do today.’


Michelle Dispels CO2 Hysteria


Thanks to a post at Friends of Science, I was alerted to an important declaration by Michelle. On March 17, 2017, Michelle Stirling presented “The Myth of the 97% Consensus” to the Annual Conference in Calgary, Alberta.

Because it’s not Michelle Obama speaking out, no one knows about it and few even care. Which tells you all you need to know about global warming/climate change.  It’s a social phenomenon, now completely detached from reason and science. It is not what you know, it’s how many friends know you that gives you impact regarding the climate. Celebrity and popularity are convincing, detailed facts and knowledge not so much.

At the end of this post is a synopsis and link showing how thoroughly Stirling debunks the “97% consensus”. Much of that will be familiar to readers, so the excerpts here will emphasize the way Michelle puts the whole climatism movement into socio-economic context.

Why Claim 97%? – Ultimate Social Proof

One feature that stands out in most of the claimed consensus studies, no matter how small the relevant sample, is the repeated figure of 97%. Many of the 97% consensus studies are co-authored or supported by social psychologists

The groundbreaking work of Cialdini (2007) demonstrated that humans are significantly motivated to comply according to ‘social proof’ – in other words, “if everyone agrees, that is proof enough so get on the bandwagon.” Just as social media ‘trending’ leads to more people following the story, social proofs work on the inherently gregarious nature of humans and our herd mentality. The 97% figure delivers two powerful psychological messages in one – i) ‘everyone’ agrees, and ii) you will be left out.

To compound the psychological impact upon the dissenting 3% of the population, climate bullying terms like ‘denier,’ and more recently various high-profile ‘witch hunts,’ even at the Presidential level, have been employed by activists. These actions activate physical and emotional pain centers in the victims, as found by Williams (2001), Kross et al (2011) on ostracism, making most people reluctant to speak up with any questions regarding the science, policy, cost or impact on industry. In practical terms, many dissidents have lost their jobs for daring to challenge ‘the consensus.’ Williams (2007) found that being ostracized was the ‘kiss of social death.’

A more nuanced study with clear definitions done by PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency reveals that out of 1,868 respondents, only 43% agreed with the IPCC definition: “It is extremely likely {95%+ certainty} that more than half of [global warming] from 1951 to 2010 was caused by [human activity].”

Clearly, van der Linden et al (2015), Ding et al (2011) Dunlap & McCright (2011) are correct in stating that consensus is an important tool and a gateway belief for acceptance of public policy on climate change. However, the question is, should we be making policy based on statistically manipulated consensus studies that lack clearly defined empirical parameters, or should public policy be based on actual scientific evidence?

The Cost of Delusion

Despite several surveys claiming that ‘consensus’ is a valuable driver of public acceptance of climate change, and expressions of dismay that a large percent of the public continue to reject the alleged ‘consensus’ and to question human-caused climate change claims in general, the foregoing demonstrates that ‘belief’ and ‘consensus’ are not grounds for action on climate change. If anything, such thinking is more likely to lead to extraordinary mass delusions, such as the Mississippi Scheme, the South-Sea Bubble, and Tulipomania, all three of which nearly bankrupted national economies of France, England and the Netherlands, respectively (Mackay 2008).

There has been a concerted effort to push the climate catastrophe perspective by well-funded foundations, philanthropies and institutional investors which are bound by the UN Principles for Responsible Investment to invest in renewables and clean-tech, despite clean-tech having been found to be a ‘noble way to lose money’ after several patient years of investment, according to past CIO of CalPERS in a Wall Street Journal interview of 2013. (my bold)

Indeed, a review of the performance of renewable energy companies is concerning – particularly the level of expectation and investment versus scope of real or possible failure. The electric vehicle company “A Better Place” cars was valued at some $2 billion in the fall of 2012, by the spring of 2013 it had gone bankrupt, valued only at $12 million, despite having had a raft of experienced Wall Street investors. More recently, Spain’s Abengoa began spectacular bankruptcy proceedings, also putting some 27,000 employees world-wide at risk of unemployment. (my bold)

Unusual new market instruments like the ‘yieldco’ has led to catastrophic financial outcomes, as in the case of SunEdison’s $16.1 billion bankruptcy filing.  Devonshire Research (Part II-May 2016)41 is claiming that the much-vaunted Tesla is reliant on subsidies: “Tesla is not a car, battery, or tech company; it is an experimental financial services company and should be regulated as such” and that “Tesla has engaged in aggressive accounting that calls to mind the experiences of Enron and WorldCom; its future is highly uncertain.” (my bold)

Recent research by Cambridge engineering professor Michael J. Kelly (2016) shows that wind and solar do not provide sufficient Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROI) to maintain even basic society, and that: “all the actions taken together until now to reduce our emissions of carbon dioxide will not achieve a serious reduction, and in some cases, they will actually make matters worse.”

Thus, there is an evident divide between evidence and ideologies when the concepts of ‘renewable’ and ‘sustainable’ are applied in the field, as well.

The Ethics of CO2 Hysteria

Climate change is often framed as a moral and ethical concern, thus one must question the ethics of those participating in peer-reviewed research who are psychology professionals but who employ such tactics, especially when the scientific evidence of global temperature rise does not support the Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming theory. This discrepancy between the surveyed ‘beliefs’ and the physical evidence demonstrates that opinion-based ‘consensus’ surveys are scientifically worthless and are an improper and potentially dangerous basis for making climate change policy.

To date, much of the world’s diverse climate policy has been predicated upon public acceptance that there is an urgent crisis of human-caused global warming, but this claim is not supported by the temperature records. As noted by Tol in a response to the Grantham Research Institute: “The twenty-two studies cited above all agree that the impact of climate change is small relative to economic growth. This was found in studies by Professor William Nordhaus and Professor Samuel Fankhauser. It was confirmed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change from its Second Assessment Report, in a chapter led by the late Professor David Pearce, to its Fifth Assessment Report, in a chapter led by me. Even the highest estimate, the 20% upper bound by Lord Professor Nicholas Stern of Brentford, has that a century of climate change is not worse than losing a decade of economic growth.” [bold emphasis added]

Thus, even economic evidence does not support the ‘belief’ in human caused global warming; actual temperature data certainly does not support the claims of impending catastrophic climate change.


The evidence shows that the world runs on three cubic miles of oil equivalent energy every year, of which one cubic mile is oil. All renewable devices such as wind turbines and solar panels are manufactured using vast amounts of oil, natural gas and coal. As Vaclav Smil notes, ‘to get wind you need oil.’


Science is not a democratic undertaking. It is unfortunate that respected scientific journals continue to publish such papers without critical vetting as to whether the ‘consensus’ claims equate to the empirical evidence. Public policy on climate change should be evidence-based and carefully thought through in the context of longer time-scales, historical evidence and paleoclimatology.

There is no consideration that the study of 4 billion years of climate change, written in the strata of the earth, might make those scientists working with fossil fuel industries question the claims of Anthropogenic Global Warming proponents whose evidence relies on spotty temperature records of some 100 years, climate models and unproven theories.

While much good came of the original impetus of the “Law of the Atmosphere” in terms of reducing noxious pollutants, much economic and social harm is being done by the current hysteria focussed solely on carbon dioxide. France has learned that lesson the hard way, having incentivized diesel cars and trucks in order to reduce carbon dioxide, only to find its gem – the City of Lights – Paris – blackened with the worst air quality in the world thanks to a significant rise in soot and nitrogen oxide.

Consensus = nonsensus. We must look at the evidence over ideology.


Climate Lemmings

The excerpts above come from Michelle Stirling’s paper Consensus Nonsensus on 97%: Science is not a Democracy

Stirling’s presentation dissects the 97% consensus, powerpoint slides are here: The Myth of the 97% consensus

Fossil Fuels ≠ Global Warming

Previous posts addressed the claim that fossil fuels are driving global warming. This post updates that analysis with the latest numbers from BP Statistics and compares World Fossil Fuel Consumption (WFFC) with three estimates of Global Mean Temperature (GMT). More on both these variables below.


2015 statistics are now available from BP for international consumption of Primary Energy sources. Statistical Review of World Energy.  H/T  Euan Mearns

The reporting categories are:
Natural Gas
Renewables (other than hydro)

This analysis combines the first three, Oil, Gas, and Coal for total fossil fuel consumption world wide. The chart below shows the patterns for WFFC compared to world consumption of Primary Energy from 1965 through 2015.

The graph shows that Primary Energy consumption has grown continuously for 5 decades. Over that period oil, gas and coal (sometimes termed “Thermal”) averaged 90% of PE consumed, ranging from 94% in 1965 to 86% in 2015.  MToe is millions of tons of oil equivalents.

Global Mean Temperatures

Everyone acknowledges that GMT is a fiction since temperature is an intrinsic property of objects, and varies dramatically over time and over the surface of the earth. No place on earth determines “average” temperature for the globe. Yet for the purpose of detecting change in temperature, major climate data sets estimate GMT and report anomalies from it.

UAH record consists of satellite era global temperature estimates for the lower troposphere, a layer of air from 0 to 4km above the surface. HadSST estimates sea surface temperatures from oceans covering 71% of the planet. HADCRUT combines HadSST estimates with records from land stations whose elevations range up to 6km above sea level.

Both GISS LOTI (land and ocean) and HADCRUT4 (land and ocean) use 14.0 Celsius as the climate normal, so I will add that number back into the anomalies. This is done not claiming any validity other than to achieve a reasonable measure of magnitude regarding the observed fluctuations.

No doubt global sea surface temperatures are typically higher than 14C, more like 17 or 18C, and of course warmer in the tropics and colder at higher latitudes. Likewise, the lapse rate in the atmosphere means that air temperatures both from satellites and elevated land stations will range colder than 14C. Still, that climate normal is a generally accepted indicator of GMT.

Correlations of GMT and WFFC

The first graph compares to GMT estimates over the five decades from 1965 to 2015 from HADCRUT4, which includes HadSST3.

Over the last five decades the increase in fossil fuel consumption is dramatic and monotonic, steadily increasing by 220% from 3.5B to 11.3 B oil equivalent tons.  Meanwhile the GMT record from Hadcrut shows multiple ups and downs with an accumulated rise of 0.9C over 50 years, 6% of the starting value.

The second graph compares to GMT estimates from UAH6, and HadSST3 for the satellite era from 1979 to 2015, a period of 36 years.

In the satellite era WFFC has increased at a compounded rate of nearly 2% per year, for a total increase of 84% since 1979. At the same time, SSTs and  lower troposphere warming amounted to 0.5C, or 3.4% of the starting value.  The temperature rate of change is 0.1% per year, an order of magnitude less.  Even more obvious is the 1998 El Nino peak and flat GMT since.


The climate alarmist/activist claim is straight forward: Burning fossil fuels makes measured temperatures warmer. The Paris Accord further asserts that by reducing human use of fossil fuels, further warming can be prevented.  Those claims do not bear up under scrutiny.

It is enough for simple minds to see that two time series are both rising and to think that one must be causing the other. But both scientific and legal methods assert causation only when the two variables are both strongly and consistently aligned. The above shows a weak and inconsistent linkage between WFFC and GMT.

In legal terms, as long as there is another equally or more likely explanation for the set of facts, the claimed causation is unproven. The more likely explanation is that global temperatures vary due to oceanic and solar cycles. The proof is clearly and thoroughly set forward in the post Quantifying Natural Climate Change.

Background context for today’s post is at Claim: Fossil Fuels Cause Global Warming.

March Air and Sea Temps

The Pause that Refreshes!

The recent El Nino is cooling down as shown clearly in both sea surface temperatures and lower troposphere air temperatures. The two relevant data sets are UAH v.6 and HadSST v3.1, both now providing averages for the month of March 2017.

The cooling pattern continues in the tropical seas while ocean temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere (NH) are  flat.  Southern Hemisphere (SH) oceans appear to be peaking and pulled the Global SST up a bit, but both are slightly below last March.

Air temperatures in the lower troposphere tell much the same story.  The greater volatility of air temperatures is evident, and we also see that the tropics (20N to 20S) and the NH (0 to 90N) are more closely aligned than are the comparable SSTs.  The downward trajectory of air temps is clear after an upward blip in the NH in February.

Enjoy the pause in warmer temperatures while we watch to see how cool it will get.

CO2 ≠ Pollutant

My university degree is a Bachelors in Organic Chemistry from Stanford. For that and other reasons, it always annoyed me that some lawyers decided CO2 can be called a “pollutant”, all the while exhaling the toxic gas themselves.

This nonsense forms the root of all the ridiculous regulations that POTUS ordered reviewed and rescinded yesterday. Thus I agree completely with this Wall Street Journal article by Paul Tice Trump’s Next Step on Climate Change. Full text below.

Reconsider the EPA’s labeling of carbon dioxide as a pollutant, based on now-outdated science.

March 28, 2017 6:41 p.m. ET

The executive orders on climate change President Trump signed this week represent a step in the right direction for U.S. energy policy and, importantly, deliver on Mr. Trump’s campaign promise to roll back burdensome regulations affecting American companies. But it will take more than the stroke of a pen to make lasting progress and reverse the momentum of the climate-change movement.

On Tuesday, in a series of orders, Mr. Trump instructed the Environmental Protection Agency to rework its Clean Power Plan, which would restrict carbon emissions from existing power plants, mainly coal-fired ones. Last year the U.S. Supreme Court stayed enforcement of the CPP pending judicial review.

Mr. Trump also directed the Interior Department to lift its current moratorium on federal coal leasing and loosen restrictions on oil and gas development (including methane flaring) on federal lands. And he instructed all government agencies to stop factoring climate change into the environmental-review process for federal projects. The federal government will recalculate the “social cost of carbon.”

These actions are a good start, but all they do is reverse many of the executive orders President Obama signed late in his second term. While easy to implement and theatrical to stage, such measures are largely superficial and may prove as temporary as the decrees they rescind.

Because they don’t attack the climate-change regulatory problem at its root, Mr. Trump’s orders will not provide enough clarity to U.S. energy companies—particularly electric utilities and coal-mining companies—for their long-term business forecasting or short-term capital investment and head-count planning.

To accomplish that, the Trump administration, led by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, needs to target the EPA’s 2009 “endangerment finding,” which labeled carbon dioxide as a pollutant. That foundational ruling provided the legal underpinnings for all of the EPA’s follow-on carbon regulations, including the CPP.

It also provided the rationale for the previous administration’s anti-fossil-fuel agenda and its various climate-change initiatives and programs, which spanned more than a dozen federal agencies and cost the American taxpayer roughly $20 billion to $25 billion a year during Mr. Obama’s presidency.

The endangerment finding was the product of a rush to judgment. Much of the scientific data upon which it was predicated—chiefly, the 2007 Fourth Assessment Report of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—was already dated by the time of its publication and arguably not properly peer-reviewed as federal law requires.

With the benefit of hindsight—including more than a decade of actual-versus-modeled data, plus the insights into the insular climate-science community gleaned from the University of East Anglia Climategate email disclosures—there would seem to be strong grounds now to reconsider the EPA’s 2009 decision and issue a new finding.

In 2013, the IPCC issued a more circumspect Fifth Assessment Report, which noted a hiatus in global warming since 1998 and a breakdown in correlation between the world’s average surface temperatures and atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, causing the U.N. body to revise down its 2007 projections for the rate of planetary warming over the first half of the 21st century.

Although this initially reported “pause” was subsequently eliminated through the downward manipulation of historical temperature data, this latest IPCC assessment calls into question both the predictive power and input data quality of most global climate models, and further highlights the scientific uncertainty surrounding the basic premise of anthropogenic climate change.

An updated EPA endangerment finding based on an objective review of the latest available scientific data is warranted, along with a more sober discussion of the threat posed by carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to the “public health and welfare of current and future generations,” in the words of the original endangerment finding.

As long as the 2009 finding remains on the books, it will provide legal ammunition for environmentalists, academics and state government officials seeking to sue the administration for any actions related to climate change, including this week’s executive orders.

Issuing a new endangerment finding would be a bold move requiring thorough work, but the Trump EPA would be well within its legal rights to undertake such an updated review process. In Massachusetts v. EPA (2007), the Supreme Court ruled that the Clean Air Act gives the EPA the authority, but not the obligation, to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The EPA needs to “ground its reasons for action or inaction” with “reasoned judgment” and scientific analysis.

Addressing the 2009 endangerment finding head-on would show that Mr. Trump is serious about challenging climate-change orthodoxy. Thus far he has sent a mixed message, as demonstrated by this week’s ambivalence on CPP (reworking rather than repealing) and his administration’s silence on U.S. participation in the U.N.’s 2015 Paris Agreement.

Simply standing down on regulatory enforcement, cutting government funding for climate-change research and stopping data collection for the next four years will not suffice. Ignoring the EPA’s 2009 endangerment finding would mean that it is only a matter of time before another liberal-minded occupant of the White House reasserts this regulatory power, bringing the country and the domestic energy sector back where Mr. Obama left them.

Mr. Tice is an executive-in-residence at New York University’s Stern School of Business and a former Wall Street energy research analyst.

Mann-made Global Cooling

The usual suspects are sounding alarms about the ocean “conveyor belt” AMOC slowing down, and predicting that global warming will result in global cooling.

The Ocean’s Conveyor Belt Is Slowing Down: What You Need to Know About AMOC, Greenland and ‘Unprecedented’ Sea Level Rise

Using data gathered from ice cores, tree rings and coral samples, the research team (led by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany) posits that weakness in the AMOC after 1975 “is an unprecedented event in the past millennium.”

Planet Expert Michael Mann co-authored the study and told ClimateCentral that a “full-on collapse” of the AMOC could be possible in the coming decades.

The exact consequences will be difficult to predict, but it will definitely have an impact on marine life, which benefits from the nutrients the AMOC delivers up from the ocean depths. “The most productive region, in terms of availability of nutrients, is the high latitudes of the North Atlantic,” said Mann. “If we lose that, that’s a fundamental threat to our ability to continue to fish.”

Hurricanes and nor’easters like the recent Winter Storm Juno that brought Snowmageddon to the East Coast could also become more common, he warned.

“If you shut down this mode of ocean circulation, you’re denying the climate system one of its modes of heat transport,” said Mann. “if you deny it one mode of transport, it’s often the case that you will see other modes of transport increase.”

The published paper is Exceptional twentieth-century slowdown in Atlantic Ocean overturning circulation by Stefan Rahmstorf, Jason E. Box, Georg Feulner, Michael E. Mann, Alexander Robinson, Scott Rutherford & Erik J. Schaffernicht 23 March 2015 (Three of the first four names are the most outspoken climatists of our time.)  The Abstract is not as alarming as Mann’s interview.

Possible changes in Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) provide a key source of uncertainty regarding future climate change. Maps of temperature trends over the twentieth century show a conspicuous region of cooling in the northern Atlantic. Here we present multiple lines of evidence suggesting that this cooling may be due to a reduction in the AMOC over the twentieth century and particularly after 1970. Since 1990 the AMOC seems to have partly recovered. This time evolution is consistently suggested by an AMOC index based on sea surface temperatures, by the hemispheric temperature difference, by coral-based proxies and by oceanic measurements. We discuss a possible contribution of the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet to the slowdown. Using a multi-proxy temperature reconstruction for the AMOC index suggests that the AMOC weakness after 1975 is an unprecedented event in the past millennium (p > 0.99). Further melting of Greenland in the coming decades could contribute to further weakening of the AMOC. (wiggle words in bold)

Recent Observations of AMOC Trends

Activists pushing global warming/climate change are trying to get ahead of the likely coming cooling phase following the recent warming phase of the natural climate cycle. The kernal of truth in their hand waving resides in the initial report from the RAPID project.

The RAPID moorings being deployed. Credit: National Oceanography Centre

The RAPID project report is Observed decline of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation 2004–2012 by D. A. Smeed, G. D. McCarthy et al.

10-year time series of the strength of AMOC, measured as water transported in Sverdrups (millions of cubic metres of water per second). Graph shows 10-day average measurements (grey line) and 180-day average (red line). Source: Srokosz & Bryden ( 2015)

“We have shown that there was a slowdown in the AMOC transport between 2004 and 2012 amounting to an average of −0.54 Sv yr−1 (95 % c.i. −0.08 to −0.99 Sv yr−1) at 26◦ N, and that this was primarily due to a strengthening of the southward flow in the upper 1100 m and a reduction of the southward transport of NADW below 3000 m. This trend is an order of magnitude larger than that predicted by climate models associated with global climate change scenarios, suggesting that this decrease represents decadal variability in the AMOC system rather than a response to climate change. (lower North Atlantic deep water (LNADW) upper (UNADW) . . .our observations show no significant change in the Gulf Stream transport over the 2004–2012 period when the AMOC is decreasing.”

AMOC Observations in Historical Context

Oceanographers are not alarmed, unlike activists Ramsdorf, Mann and Box.  For example these recent papers: Recent slowing of Atlantic overturning circulation as a recovery from earlier strengthening by Laura C. Jackson, K. Andrew Peterson, Chris D. Roberts & Richard A. Wood 23 May 2016.   Abstract:

The Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) has weakened substantially over the past decade. Some weakening may already have occurred over the past century, and global climate models project further weakening in response to anthropogenic climate change. Such a weakening could have significant impacts on the surface climate.

However, ocean model simulations based on historical conditions have often found an increase in overturning up to the mid-1990s, followed by a decrease. It is therefore not clear whether the observed weakening over the past decade is part of decadal variability or a persistent weakening. Here we examine a state-of-the-art global-ocean reanalysis product, GloSea5, which covers the years 1989 to 2015 and closely matches observations of the AMOC at 26.5° N, capturing the interannual variability and decadal trend with unprecedented accuracy.

The reanalysis data place the ten years of observations—April 2004 to February 2014—into a longer-term context and suggest that the observed decrease in the overturning circulation is consistent with a recovery following a previous increase. We find that density anomalies that propagate southwards from the Labrador Sea are the most likely cause of these variations. We conclude that decadal variability probably played a key role in the decline of the AMOC observed over the past decade. (my bolds)

And this paper: A reversal of climatic trends in the North Atlantic since 2005
by Jon Robson, Pablo Ortega & Rowan Sutton 06 June 2016. Abstract:

In the mid-1990s the North Atlantic subpolar gyre warmed rapidly, which had important climate impacts such as increased hurricane numbers and changes to rainfall over Africa, Europe and North America. Evidence suggests that the warming was largely due to a strengthening of the ocean circulation, particularly the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation. Since the mid-1990s direct and indirect measurements have suggested a decline in the strength of the ocean circulation, which is expected to lead to a reduction in northward heat transport.

Here we show that since 2005 a large volume of the upper North Atlantic Ocean has cooled significantly by approximately 0.45 °C or 1.5 × 1022 J, reversing the previous warming trend. By analysing observations and a state-of-the-art climate model, we show that this cooling is consistent with a reduction in the strength of the ocean circulation and heat transport, linked to record low densities in the deep Labrador Sea. The low density in the deep Labrador Sea is primarily due to deep ocean warming since 1995, but a long-term freshening also played a role. The observed upper ocean cooling since 2005 is not consistent with the hypothesis that anthropogenic aerosols directly drive Atlantic temperatures.


Once again climatists exaggerate and ignore ocean oscillations in favor of their CO2 hysteria.  In the details of the AMOC report are observations that the heat transports slowed in part, increased in another part, and the warm gulf stream flow remained the same.

The AMO index supports this latter point, showing the continuing pulses of warm Atlantic water into the Arctic.

The next phase of the AMO will be cooler than the present, and will not be caused by human activity.

Background on AMOC is at Climate Pacemaker: The AMOC

Ocean Physics in a Cup of Coffee


The Great Arctic Cyclone of 2012 from satellite.

 Recently I posted Ocean Climate Ripples summarizing an article by Dr. Arnd Bernaerts on how humans impact upon the oceans and thereby the climate. His references to activities in the North and Baltic Seas included this comment:

It works like a spoon stirring hot coffee, attracting cold air from Siberia. In this respect they serve as confined research regions, like a unique field laboratory experiment.

This post presents an article by John S. Wettlaufer who sees not only the oceans but cosmic patterns in coffee cup vorticies. His essay is The universe in a cup of coffee.  (Bolded text is my emphasis.)

John Wettlaufer is the A. M. Bateman Professor of Geophysics, Physics, and Applied Mathematics at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

As people throughout the world awake, millions of them every minute perform the apparently banal act of pouring cold milk into hot coffee or tea. Those too groggy to reach for a spoon might notice upwelling billows of milk separated by small, sinking, linear dark features such as shown in panel a of the figure. The phenomenon is such a common part of our lives that even scientists—trained to be observant—may overlook its importance and generality. The pattern bears resemblance to satellite images of ocean color, and the physics behind it is responsible for the granulated structure of the Sun and other cosmic objects less amenable to scrutiny.

(a) Everyone knows that if you wait for a while coffee will get cold. The primary agent doing the cooling is evaporatively driven convection. Pour cold milk into hot coffee and wait. The cold milk mixes very little as it sinks to the bottom of the cup, but eventually cold plumes created by evaporation at the surface sink down and displace the milk. In time, a pattern forms of upwelling (lighter) and downwelling (darker) fluid.

Archimedes pondered the powerful agent of motion known as buoyancy more than two millennia ago. Children do, too, when they imagine the origins of cloud animals on a summer’s day. The scientific study of thermal and compositional buoyancy originated in 1798 with a report by Count Rumford intended to disabuse believers of the caloric theory. Nowadays, buoyancy is at the heart of some of the most challenging problems in nonlinear physics—problems that are increasingly compelling. Answers to fundamental questions being investigated today will have implications for understanding Earth’s heat budget, the transport of atmospheric and oceanographic energy, and, as a corollary, the climate and fate of stars and the origins of planets. Few avenues of study combine such basic challenges with such a broad swath of implications. Nonetheless, the richness of fluid flow is rarely found in undergraduate physics courses. 

Wake up and smell the physics

The modern theory of hydrodynamic stability arose from experiments by Henri Bénard, who heated, from below, a thin horizontal layer of spermaceti, a viscous, fluid wax. For small vertical temperature gradients, Bénard observed nothing remarkable; the fluid conducted heat up through its surface but exhibited no wholesale motion as it did so. However, when the gradient reached a critical value, a hexagonal pattern abruptly appeared as organized convective motions emerged from what had been an homogenous fluid. The threshold temperature gradient was described by Lord Rayleigh as reflecting the balance between thermal buoyancy and viscous stresses, embodied in a dimensionless parameter now called the Rayleigh number. 

When the momentary thermal buoyancy of a blob of fluid—provided by the hot lower boundary—overcomes the viscous stresses of the surrounding fluid, wholesale organized motion ensues. The strikingly structured fluid, with its up-and-down flow assuming specific geometries, is an iconic manifestation of how a dissipative system can demonstrate symmetry breaking (the up-and-down flow distinguishes horizontal positions even though the lower boundary is at a uniform temperature), self-organization, and beauty. (See the article by Leo Kadanoff in PHYSICS TODAY, August 2001, page 34.)

Astrophysicists and geophysicists can hardly make traction on many of the problems they face unless they come to grips with convection—and their quests are substantially complicated by their systems’ rotations. Despite the 1835 publication of Gaspard-Gustave Coriolis’s Mémoire sur les équations du mouvement relatif des systèmes de corps (On the Equations of Relative Motion of a System of Bodies), debate on the underlying mechanism behind the deflection of the Foucault pendulum raged in the 1905 volume of Annalen der Physik, the same volume in which Albert Einstein introduced the world to special relativity. Maybe the lack of comprehension is not so surprising: Undergraduates still more easily grasp Einstein’s theory than the Coriolis effect, which is essential for understanding why, viewed from above, atmospheric circulation around a low pressure system over a US city is counterclockwise but circulation over an Australian city is clockwise. 

Practitioners of rotating-fluid mechanics generally credit mathematical physicist Vagn Walfrid Ekman for putting things in the modern framework, in another key paper from 1905. Several years earlier, during his famous Fram expedition, explorer Fridtjof Nansen had observed that ice floes moved to the right of the wind that imparted momentum to them. Nansen then suggested to Ekman that he investigate the matter theoretically. That the deflection was due to the ocean’s rotating with Earth was obvious, but Ekman described the corrections that must be implemented in a noninertial reference frame. Since so much in the extraterrestrial realm is spinning, scientists taken by cosmological objects eventually embraced Ekman’s formulation and sought evidence for large-scale vortex structures in the accretion disks around stars. Vortices don’t require convection and when convection is part of a vortex-producing system, additional and unexpected patterns ensue. 

Cream, sugar, and spinning

The Arctic Ocean freezes, cooling and driving salt into the surface layers. Earth’s inner core solidifies, leaving a buoyant, iron-depleted metal. Rapidly rising air from heated land surfaces creates thunderstorms. Planetary accretion disks receive radiation from their central stars. In all these systems, rotation has a hand in the fate of rising or sinking fluid. What about your steaming cup of coffee: What happens when you spin that?

(b) Several views of a volume of water 11.4 cm deep with a cross section of 22.9 × 22.9 cm. Panel b shows the liquid about 7.5 minutes after the fluid is set in motion at a few tenths of a radian per second. The principal image indicates particle density (light is denser) at a depth of 0.6 cm below the surface. The inset is a thermal image of the surface

Place the cup in the center of a spinning record player— some readers may even remember listening to music on one of those. The friction from the wall of the cup transmits stresses into the fluid interior. If the coffee is maintained at a fixed temperature for about a minute, every parcel of fluid will move at the same angular velocity; the coffee is said to be spun up.

On the time scales of contemporary atmospheric and oceanographic phenomena, Earth’s rotation is indeed a constant, whereas the time variation of the rotation could be important for phenomena in planetary interiors, the evolution of an accretion disk, or tidal perturbations of a distant moon. Thus convective vortices are contemplated relative to a rotating background flow. Perturbations in the rotation rate revive the role of boundary friction and substantially influence the interior circulation. Moreover, evaporation and freezing represent additional perturbations, which alter how the fluid behaves as stresses attempt to enforce uniform rotation. Returning to the coffee mug as laboratory, the model system shown in panel b of the figure reveals how the added complexity of rotation momentarily organizes the pattern seen in panel a into concentric rings of cold and warm fluid.

(c) Panel c shows the breakup of the rings, 11 minutes after the initiation of rotation, due to a shearing instability.

Fundamental competitions play out when you rotate your evaporating coffee. As we have seen, evaporative cooling drives narrow regions of downward convection; significant viscous and Coriolis effects balance each other in those downwelling regions. Rotation then dramatically organizes the sinking cold sheets and rising warm billows into concentric rings that first form at the center of the cup. By about 7.5 minutes after rotation has been initiated, the rings shown in panel b have grown to cover most of the horizontal plane. Their uniform azimuthal motion exists for about 3.5 minutes, at which time so-called Kelvin–Helmholtz billows associated with the shearing between the rings appear at their boundaries, grow, and roll up into vortices; see panel c. Three minutes later, as shown in panel d, those vortices lose their azimuthal symmetry and assemble into a regular vortex grid whose centers contain sinking fluid.

(d) As panel d shows, at 14 minutes the breakup leads to a grid of vortices. (Adapted from J.-Q. Zhong, M. D. Patterson, J. S. Wettlaufer, Phys. Rev. Lett. 105, 044504, 2010.)

Panel d shows one type of coherent structure that forms in rotating fluids and other mathematically analogous systems if the persistence time of the structure—vortices here— is much longer than the rotational period. Other well-known examples are Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, which is an enduring feature of the chaotic Jovian atmosphere, and the meandering jet streams on Earth.

Moreover, persistent vortices in superconductors and superfluids organize themselves. Indeed, it appears that vortices in superconductors are as mobile as their counterparts in inviscid fluids. And although scientists have long studied rotating convective superfluids, the classical systems considered in this Quick Study suggest that we may yet find surprising analogies in superconductors. Will we one day see superconducting jet streams?

If you are reading this article with a cup of coffee, put it down and take a closer look at what is going on in your cup.


Wettlaufer has been an advocate for getting the physics right in climate models.  His analogy of a cuppa coffee is actually a demonstration of mesoscale fluid and rotational dynamics and perturbations that still defy human attempts to simulate climate operations.


The Limitations of Climate Science

Here is a fine exposition of Bob Carter’s thoughts on the field of climate science and why we should not jump to conclusions concerning global warming/climate change.  The text and some illustrations are provided by Russ Swan in his post (here).  I added one at the end.

Have you ever wondered about these people when they are so definite about mankind causing climate change? Have you ever wondered how much of the information is from their own expertise and how much is what they’ve learned from someone else? Are they really passing on real proven scientific facts or just what they believe to be true from information provided by someone else?

Or do you just accept what they are telling you?

The average person on the street might be forgiven for thinking that climate change scientists are primarily meteorologists or climatologists plus perhaps some others with supporting expertise.  But that would be only partially right.

The subjects relating to climate change actually diverge into more than 100 scientific sub-disciplines, the elements of which can be exceptionally intricate, highly complicated and intertwined.  Just changing one of the many data inputs e.g. the output chemistry of sub-sea volcanoes to a climate change puzzle can flow-on to incorrect or at least misleading changes in the final solution. And the answer will still be a “best probable” result – not fact.

At most there may be a handful of scientists that have mastery of two or three scientific disciplines such as Professor Robert M. Carter (decd) who was a qualified palaeontogist, stratigrapher and marine geologist.  Yet even if a scientist does have expertise in two or more of the climate change elements, he/she still needs to find and use data from other sources to cover the gaps in his/her own knowledge. Such data may in turn only be a “best probable” solution as opposed to fact(s) as will be explained further below.


No Such Thing as a Climate Expert

It must therefore be obvious that there can be no such thing as an “expert” simply because no one can fully comprehend the entirety of it all.

This doesn’t stop the media, in particular the TV media in regularly presenting interviewees as experts to lend credibility to their show. But anyone who claims or admits to being an expert in climate change is either kidding themselves, egocentric or is being deceitful.

The bottom line is that when a supposed expert fronts up in the media – watch it guardedly or else switch the channel.   At the end of the day everyone, including the scientists themselves are basically amateurs when a topic is outside their own field of expertise – even if they are an educated amateur.

But having someone with at least some scientific background involved in climate change discussions has got to be far more preferable than pulling celebrities into the debate. These people despite their best intentions, are simply promoting their own views and muddying the waters for the public to make a realistic conclusion in their own minds.



Apart from that all three groups of scientists generally DO agree that the Earth’s climate has always changed, that human emissions affect local climates e.g. urban areas and have a summed potential to affect climate globally, and that carbon dioxide is a mild greenhouse house – note the word “mild”.

The real argument then is not about whether the Earth is heating up, but about how relevant is AGW when considered against natural climate change processes.

The Blind Men and the Elephant (Indian Fable)


Footnote:  For more on science as knowledge rather than opinion see Yellow Climate Journalism


Reservoirs and Methane: Facts and Fears


A previous post explained how methane has been hyped in support of climate alarmism/activism. Now we have an additional campaign to disparage hydropower because of methane emissions from dam reservoirs. File this under “They have no shame.”

Here’s a recent example of the claim from Asia Times Global hydropower boom will add to climate change

The study, published in BioScience, looked at the carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O) emitted from 267 reservoirs across six continents. In total, the reservoirs studied have a surface area of more than 77,287 square kilometers (29,841 square miles). That’s equivalent to about a quarter of the surface area of all reservoirs in the world, which together cover 305,723 sq km – roughly the combined size of the United Kingdom and Ireland.

“The new study confirms that reservoirs are major emitters of methane, a particularly aggressive greenhouse gas,” said Kate Horner, Executive Director of International Rivers, adding that hydropower dams “can no longer be considered a clean and green source of electricity.”

In fact, methane’s effect is 86 times greater than that of CO2 when considered on this two-decade timescale. Importantly, the study found that methane is responsible for 90% of the global warming impact of reservoir emissions over 20 years.

Alarmists are Wrong about Hydropower

Now CH4 is proclaimed the primary culprit held against hydropower. As usual, there is a kernel of truth buried beneath this obsessive campaign: Flooding of biomass does result in decomposition accompanied by some release of CH4 and CO2. From HydroQuebec:  Greenhouse gas emissions and reservoirs

Impoundment of hydroelectric reservoirs induces decomposition of a small fraction of the flooded biomass (forests, peatlands and other soil types) and an increase in the aquatic wildlife and vegetation in the reservoir.

The result is higher greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions after impoundment, mainly CO2 (carbon dioxide) and a small amount of CH4 (methane).

However, these emissions are temporary and peak two to four years after the reservoir is filled.

During the ensuing decade, CO2 emissions gradually diminish and return to the levels given off by neighboring lakes and rivers.

Hydropower generation, on average, emits 50 times less GHGs than a natural gas generating station and about 70 times less than a coal-fired generating station.

The Facts about Tropical Reservoirs

Activists estimate Methane emissions from dams and reservoirs across the planet, including hydropower, are estimated to be significantly larger than previously thought, approximately equal to 1 gigaton per year.

Activists also claim that dams in boreal regions like Quebec are not the problem, but tropical reservoirs are a big threat to the climate. Contradicting that is an intensive study of Brazilian dams and reservoirs, Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Reservoirs: Studying the Issue in Brazil

The Itaipu Dam is a hydroelectric dam on the Paraná River located on the border between Brazil and Paraguay. The name “Itaipu” was taken from an isle that existed near the construction site. In the Guarani language, Itaipu means “the sound of a stone”. The American composer Philip Glass has also written a symphonic cantata named Itaipu, in honour of the structure.

Five Conclusions from Studying Brazilian Reservoirs

1) The budget approach is essential for a proper grasp of the processes going on in reservoirs. This approach involves taking into account the ways in which the system exchanged GHGs with the atmosphere before the reservoir was flooded. Older studies measured only the emissions of GHG from the reservoir surface or, more recently, from downstream de-gassing. But without the measurement of the inputs of carbon to the system, no conclusions can be drawn from surface measurements alone.

2) When you consider the total budgets, most reservoirs acted as sinks of carbon in the short run (our measurements covered one year in each reservoir). In other words, they received more carbon than they exported to the atmosphere and to downstream.

3) Smaller reservoirs are more efficient as carbon traps than the larger ones.

4) As for the GHG impact, in order to determine it, we should add the methane (CH4) emissions to the fraction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions which comes from the flooded biomass and organic carbon in the flooded (terrestrial) soil. The other CO2 emissions, arising from the respiration of aquatic organisms or from the decomposition of terrestrial detritus that flows into the reservoir (including domestic sewage), are not impacts of the reservoir. From this sum, we should deduct the amount of carbon that is stored in the sediment and which will be kept there for at least the life of the reservoir (usually more than 80 years). This “stored carbon” ranges from as little as 2 percent of the total carbon output to more than 25 percent, depending on the reservoirs.

5) When we assess the GHG impacts following the guidelines just described, all of FURNAS’s reservoirs have lower emissions than the cleanest European oil plant. The worst case – Manso, which was sampled only three years after the impoundment, and therefore in a time in which the contribution from the flooded biomass was still very significant – emitted about half as much carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2 eq) as the average oil plant from the United States (CO2 eq is a metric measure used to compare the emissions from various greenhouse gases based upon their global warming potential, GWP. CO2 eq for a gas is derived by multiplying the tons of the gas by the associated GWP.) We also observed a very good correlation between GHG emissions and the age of the reservoirs. The reservoirs older than 30 years had negligible emissions, and some of them had a net absorption of CO2eq.

Keeping Methane in Perspective

Over the last 30 years, CH4 in the atmosphere increased from 1.6 ppm to 1.8 ppm, compared to CO2, presently at 400 ppm. So all the dam building over 3 decades, along with all other land use was part of a miniscule increase of a microscopic gas, 200 times smaller than the trace gas, CO2.


Background Facts on Methane and Climate Change

The US Senate is considering an act to repeal with prejudice an Obama anti-methane regulation. The story from activist source Climate Central is
Senate Mulls ‘Kill Switch’ for Obama Methane Rule

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote soon on whether to use the Congressional Review Act to kill an Obama administration climate regulation that cuts methane emissions from oil and gas wells on federal land. The rule was designed to reduce oil and gas wells’ contribution to climate change and to stop energy companies from wasting natural gas.

The Congressional Review Act is rarely invoked. It was used this month to reverse a regulation for the first time in 16 years and it’s a particularly lethal way to kill a regulation as it would take an act of Congress to approve a similar regulation. Federal agencies cannot propose similar regulations on their own.

The Claim Against Methane

Now some Republican senators are hesitant to take this step because of claims like this one in the article:

Methane is 86 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over a period of 20 years and is a significant contributor to climate change. It warms the climate much more than other greenhouse gases over a period of decades before eventually losing its potency. Atmospheric carbon dioxide remains a potent greenhouse gas for thousands of years.

Essentially the journalist is saying: As afraid as you are about CO2, you should be 86 times more afraid of methane. Which also means, if CO2 is not a warming problem, your fear of methane is 86 times zero. The thousands of years claim is also bogus, but that is beside the point of this post, which is Methane.

IPCC Methane Scare

The article helpfully provides a link referring to Chapter 8 of IPCC AR5 report by Working Group 1 Anthropogenic and Natural Radiative Forcing.

The document is full of sophistry and creative accounting in order to produce as scary a number as possible. Table 8.7 provides the number for CH4 potency of 86 times that of CO2.  They note they were able to increase the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of CH4 by 20% over the estimate in AR4. The increase comes from adding in more indirect effects and feedbacks, as well as from increased concentration in the atmosphere.

In the details are some qualifying notes like these:

Uncertainties related to the climate–carbon feedback are large, comparable in magnitude to the strength of the feedback for a single gas.

For CH4 GWP we estimate an uncertainty of ±30% and ±40% for 20- and 100-year time horizons, respectively (for 5 to 95% uncertainty range).

Methane Facts from the Real World
From Sea Friends (here):

Methane is natural gas CH4 which burns cleanly to carbon dioxide and water. Methane is eagerly sought after as fuel for electric power plants because of its ease of transport and because it produces the least carbon dioxide for the most power. Also cars can be powered with compressed natural gas (CNG) for short distances.

In many countries CNG has been widely distributed as the main home heating fuel. As a consequence, methane has leaked to the atmosphere in large quantities, now firmly controlled. Grazing animals also produce methane in their complicated stomachs and methane escapes from rice paddies and peat bogs like the Siberian permafrost.

It is thought that methane is a very potent greenhouse gas because it absorbs some infrared wavelengths 7 times more effectively than CO2, molecule for molecule, and by weight even 20 times. As we have seen previously, this also means that within a distance of metres, its effect has saturated, and further transmission of heat occurs by convection and conduction rather than by radiation.

Note that when H20 is present in the lower troposphere, there are few photons left for CH4 to absorb:

Even if the IPCC radiative greenhouse theory were true, methane occurs only in minute quantities in air, 1.8ppm versus CO2 of 390ppm. By weight, CH4 is only 5.24Gt versus CO2 3140Gt (on this assumption). If it truly were twenty times more potent, it would amount to an equivalent of 105Gt CO2 or one thirtieth that of CO2. A doubling in methane would thus have no noticeable effect on world temperature.

However, the factor of 20 is entirely misleading because absorption is proportional to the number of molecules (=volume), so the factor of 7 (7.3) is correct and 20 is wrong. With this in mind, the perceived threat from methane becomes even less.

Further still, methane has been rising from 1.6ppm to 1.8ppm in 30 years (1980-2010), assuming that it has not stopped rising, this amounts to a doubling in 2-3 centuries. In other words, methane can never have any measurable effect on temperature, even if the IPCC radiative cooling theory were right.

Because only a small fraction in the rise of methane in air can be attributed to farm animals, it is ludicrous to worry about this aspect or to try to farm with smaller emissions of methane, or to tax it or to trade credits.

The fact that methane in air has been leveling off in the past two decades, even though we do not know why, implies that it plays absolutely no role as a greenhouse gas.

More information at THE METHANE MISCONCEPTIONS by Dr Wilson Flood (UK) here


Natural Gas (75% methane) burns the cleanest with the least CO2 for the energy produced.

Leakage of methane is already addressed by efficiency improvements for its economic recovery, and will apparently be subject to even more regulations.

The atmosphere is a methane sink where the compound is oxidized through a series of reactions producing 1 CO2 and 2H20 after a few years.

GWP (Global Warming Potential) is CO2 equivalent heat trapping based on laboratory, not real world effects.

Any IR absorption by methane is limited by H2O absorbing in the same low energy LW bands.

There is no danger this century from natural or man-made methane emissions.


Senators and the public are being bamboozled by opaque scientific bafflegab. The plain truth is much different. The atmosphere is a methane sink in which CH4 is oxidized in the first few meters. The amount of CH4 available in the air is miniscule, even compared to the trace gas CO2, and it is not accelerating. Methane is the obvious choice to signal virtue on the climate issue since governmental actions will not make a bit of difference anyway, except perhaps to do some economic harm.

Give a daisy a break (h/t Derek here)

Daisy methane


For a more thorough and realistic description of atmospheric warming see:

Fearless Physics from Dr. Salby