SkepticblogSkepticblog logo banner

top navigation:

Bride of Frankenstorm

by Donald Prothero, Nov 14 2012

The “end of the world” allegedly predicted by the Mayan calendar in December 2012 may be a myth, but 2012 had no shortage of catastrophes. We had the warmest year in history in North America, with record-breaking heat waves through much of the summer, and drought conditions approaching those of the Dust Bowl years. A July heat wave melted 97% of the surface of the Greenland ice sheet, the worst melting since satellite monitoring began 30 years ago. Arctic sea ice cover in September was at an the all-time low, beating the record set only back in 2007. 2011 was not much better, with Hurricane Irene flooding the Northeast, a large number of killer tornadoes (including deadly storms in Missouri and Alabama), 500-year floods in Nashville and Duluth, and severe wildfires all over the parched Rocky Mountains. It seems that the news is full of one unprecedented weather event after another, and those jokes about snowy winters a few years ago seem lame when most of the U.S. population sweltered through the heat waves of 2012.

And then along came Sandy. Having dodged a bullet with the less-damaging Hurricane Irene in 2011, many people in the path of Sandy were skeptical of the warnings of its power and size, and failed to take the warnings seriously. But Sandy lived up to its reputation and the damaged zone has still not recovered over two weeks later. The scale and degree of the destruction was unprecedented, and the monetary costs of the storm will certainly eclipse Hurricane Katrina or any other natural disaster in U.S. history when the final accounting is all done. More to the point, it was an unusually late storm; the hurricane season is typically done by November. Like Irene, it went much further north than the normal paths of hurricanes, which tend to focus on the southeastern U.S.

Although climate scientists have stressed over and over again that hurricanes like Irene and Sandy are expected product of global climate change, the climate deniers still cling to the technicality that we can’t blame Sandy entirely on climate change. It is true that individual weather events have multiple, complex causes so no single factor can be the sole culprit. And it is true that non-weather events, like an unusually high tide, helped contribute to Sandy’s enormous flooding and wave surge. But as a number of climate scientists have put it, the existence of Hurricane Sandy might have just been another unpredictable weather event, but the much greater size and intensity of Sandy is a result of climate change. As Jonathan Foley, director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, tweeted: “Would this kind of storm happen without climate change? Yes. Fueled by many factors. Is [the] storm stronger because of climate change? Yes.” Or as science blogger Greg Laden wrote:

“There is always going to be variation in temperature or some other weather related factor, but global warming raises the baseline. That’s true. But the corollary to that is NOT that you can’t link climate change to a given storm. All storms are weather, all weather is the immediate manifestation of climate, climate change is about climate.”

As prominent climatologist James Hansen of the NASA Goddard Institute wrote (referring to all the recent record-breaking climate events):

“Our analysis shows that it is no longer enough to say that global warming will increase the likelihood of extreme weather and to repeat the caveat that no individual weather event can be directly linked to climate change. To the contrary, our analysis shows that, for the extreme hot weather of the recent past, there is virtually no explanation other than climate change… The odds that natural variability created these extremes are minuscule, vanishingly small. To count on those odds would be like quitting your job and playing the lottery every morning to pay the bills.”

So why do climate scientists see the fingerprints of global warming in Hurricane Sandy? Consider the following:

1) Warmer oceans: anyone who understands a bit about hurricanes realizes that increased warmth in the tropical oceans promotes more intense hurricanes, and the world’s oceans have warmed dramatically since the first measurements were taken decades ago. Consider the figure below:

Surface temperature change (°C) from 1900-1910 to 2000-2011. Although the poles warm the most (as expected), the rest of the globe is significantly warmer as well, and there is no compensation of cooling in any part of the world.

As MIT climate scientist Kerry Emanuel (a conservative Republican) first predicted in 1995, and has substantiated with additional new research in subsequent years, this is the main factor promoting more energetic and more damaging hurricanes, and indeed there have been more powerful and costly hurricanes in the past seven years than ever before. Consider the recent history of the Atlantic hurricane seasons.  2005 was the record-shattering year (breaking the previous record held by 2004), with so many storms they ran out of names and went to Greek letters for the first time, saw their first-ever South Atlantic hurricane, and they had to retire five names, including superstorms Katrina and Rita. In 2007, we had two Category 5 storms (largest possible size), and three more names had to be retired. 2008 was the fifth most active season in record, three more names had to be retired, and it was the only month when a major hurricane existed in every month from July to November. 2010 was the second most active hurricane season on record, with eight named storms in September alone. 2011 tied for the third most active season on record, with Hurricane Irene bringing storms much further north than previously. And 2012 is currently tied with 2011 for third most active season on record, with a record eight named storms in August, and Hurricane Sandy—and the season isn’t officially over yet.

2) More moisture in atmosphere: Warmer  atmospheres carry more moisture, which makes hurricanes wetter and increases the potential of flooding. As climate scientist Kevin Trenberth explained:

“With every degree F rise in temperatures, the atmosphere can hold 4 percent more moisture. Thus, Sandy was able to pull in more moisture, fueling a stronger storm and magnifying the amount of rainfall by as much as 5 to 10 percent compared with conditions more than 40 years ago. Heavy rainfall and widespread flooding are a consequence.”

3) Higher sea levels promotes more flooding due to storm surge: Climate deniers often scoff at the idea that a rise of sea level is so terrifying, but it’s not the average rise of sea level that’s the problem. It’s the fact that if you start with a higher sea level, then the storm surge waves coming off a hurricane like Katrina or Irene or Sandy will flood a much greater region. Consider the figure below:

Annual mean sea level rise in Battery Park, New York.

Long before sea level rises high enough to drown most coastal cities of the world, it will be high enough to make the storm surges more devastating—which will flood the cities in a different way.

4) The Arctic effect: The real surprise of Hurricane Sandy was another, unexpected effect of the warming and melting of the Arctic ice cap. As the Arctic warms, it changes oceanic circulation patterns, and causes the jet stream to shift southward. This southerly deflection of the colder jet stream air as it collided with the warm tropical air of Hurricane Sandy was one of the main reasons for the intensity of the storm, and why it dropped so much moisture in so little time.

So there you have it. Sandy could have been an ordinary storm in an earlier time before climate change, but it became a “Frankenstorm on steroids” thanks to warmer oceans, moister atmospheres, higher sea level, and the shifting of the jet stream due to Arctic warming. Thus, we got the conditions for “the perfect storm.” And climate scientists tell us that this is only the beginning of a new norm of superstorms, year after year. In the words of climatologist Dave Roberts:

“There is no division, in the physical world, between “climate change storms” and “non-climate change storms.” Climate change is not an exogenous force acting on the atmosphere. There is only the atmosphere, changing. Everything that happens in a changed atmosphere is “caused” by the atmosphere, even if it’s within the range of historical variability.”

And as Stephan Lewandowsky put it,

“We are living with climate change. It is happening now. Debating the extent to which Frankenstorm Sandy was put on steroids by climate change is a distraction. Nearly all weather events now have a contribution from climate change and it is up to us to manage and reduce that risk with mitigative action.”

And if you don’t believe climate scientists, you might consider the actions of the insurance industry. Insurers have no ideological axe to grind, but must prepare for realistic conditions in the future so they can insure their losses. The large international re-insurer Munich Re warned:

“Nowhere in the world is the rising number of natural catastrophes more evident than in North America.” … While many factors have contributed to this trend, including an increase in the number of people living in flood-prone areas, the report identified global warming as one of the major culprits: “Climate change particularly affects formation of heat-waves, droughts, intense precipitation events, and in the long run most probably also tropical cyclone intensity.”

Apparently, the recent spate of extreme weather convinces people much more than scientists talking about their data and issuing dire warnings, or climate deniers trying to obscure the nearly unanimous message of the climate science community. A  poll taken the day before the November 6 election showed that 68% of Americans now regard climate change as a “serious problem,” up from only 48% in 2011, and 46% in 2009. Even Republican politicians like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg were warning about the dangers of climate change. It may be too much to expect the Congress to act upon this information when it is paralyzed by partisanship, but sooner or later the popular concern about tragic weather events and loss of life and property will force us to vote in politicians who respect what scientists have long been saying.

57 Responses to “Bride of Frankenstorm”

  1. Max says:

    Would global cooling decrease the likelihood of extreme weather?

    • Donald Prothero says:

      Probably–but it would have to enough to offset the inertia of the continuing increase in heat in the system, and then prolonged enough to reverse the trend. And we show no signs of cutting back on greenhouse gases in any significant way yet, nor is there any cause from Mother Nature that we can see that would save us.

  2. Somite says:

    Wonderful writeup! And then I accidentally gave it 4 stars when it should have been 11.

  3. BillG says:

    “…vote in politicians” regarding science? We have been chasing energy alternatives since the 50’s with subsidies/research funding, and how should we classify our success? “Climate denier” or warming devotee, aren’t we all seeking the independence of fossil fuels and a energy breakthrough that appears always 10-years away?

    • klem says:

      When I was a kid, fusion power was just 20 years away. Billions were spent and twenty years later they said it was just another 20 years away. Billions more have been spent and last year I read that it was just 20 years away. I expect that in two decades my children will be reading that fusion power is just 20 years away.

      Here are a couple of quotes form leaders in the greenie movement regarding fusion power.

      “Giving society cheap, abundant energy would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun.” —Dr. Paul Ehrlich, Anne Ehrlich, and Dr. John Holdren, Ecoscience: Population, Resources, Environment, 1970, p. 323

      “The prospect of cheap fusion energy is the worst thing that could happen to the planet.” —Jeremy Rifkin, environmentalist, Los Angeles Times, Apr. 19, 1989

  4. sham says:

    a colleague of mine who is very critical on the immediate consequences of the climate change (but is not a climate deniers as far as I know) raises these following issues and I hope I am not distorting his view. I would be happy to have your thoughts on these issues.
    1) listing catastrophic events is not how we should do statistics. since it’s possible to just take the appropriate window in order to reach your point.
    2) the raise of temperature according to your graph is around 1F (0.5C), so according to Kevin Trenberth, it’s 4% more moisture in the atmosphere. The raise of the sea level since the 70s is also around 10cm. The question is, are these enough to change a normal storm into a huge one? Especially compared to the effect of the huge tides during the hurricane?

    I don’t think you will convince him but I, on the other hand, will welcome the answers!

    PS: I’m a not a native English speaker in case you read weird sentences and odd typos…

    • itzac says:

      Question 1) is about establishing a trend as opposed to picking out a single event or cluster of events. Prothero spends a lot of time in this article doing precisely this. It’s a common stalling tactic of deniers to demand one more year of data before admitting that a trend exists.

      Question 2) is about understanding scale. To specifically address sea level rise, it’s easy to look at the width of your hand (10cm) and say that’s not a lot. But remember that coast can have a very shallow slope once you get away from the beach. That 10 cm rise can cause a surge to run several hundred meters further inland and drastically increase the flooded area.

  5. Nyar says:

    ” It may be too much to expect the Congress to act upon this information when it is paralyzed by partisanship”

    We can only hope. I thought that Americans voters did a great job of keeping the government divided this year. Keep Obama, let the Republicans hold the house, and let the Democrats keep the Senate, that is about a perfect outcome.

  6. markx says:

    It seems strange to me so much emphasis is placed on one storm (in regard to climate science I mean, I know it is very important to those involved).


    Has it happened before?
    How often?

    Although maybe it is different in the southern hemisphere….

    Here is an Australian report showing we should expect a super cyclone every 200 to 300 years, not every several thousand as previously suspected.

    “…..Here we determine the intensity of prehistoric tropical cyclones over the past 5,000 years from ridges of detrital coral and shell deposited above highest tide and terraces that have been eroded into coarse-grained alluvial fan deposits.

    …… We infer that the deposits were formed by storms with recurrence intervals of two to three centuries and we show that the cyclones responsible must have been of extreme intensity (central pressures less than 920 hPa).

    Our estimate of the frequency of such ‘super-cyclones’ is an order of magnitude higher than that previously estimated (which was once every several millennia..).”

    Nature 413, 508-512 (4 October 2001) | doi:10.1038/35097055; Received 20 February 2001; Accepted 21 August 2001

    High frequency of ‘super-cyclones’ along the Great Barrier Reef over the past 5,000 years. Jonathan Nott & Matthew Hayne

  7. markx says:

    From a site which empathizes the role of AGW: But a couple of interesting points:

    Since detailed records of hurricane size began in 1988, only one tropical storm (Olga of 2001) has had a larger area of tropical storm-force winds, and no hurricanes has. Sandy’s area of ocean…

    … How did Sandy get so big?

    We understand fairly well what controls the peak strength of a hurricane’s winds, but have a poor understanding of why some hurricanes get large and others stay small. A number of factors probably worked together to create a “perfect storm” situation that allowed Sandy to grow so large, and we also must acknowledge that climate change could have played a role. Here are some possible reasons why Sandy grew so large:…….

  8. markx says:

    typo: “From a site which emphasizes …”

  9. markx says:

    Are we redefining the word ‘unprecedented’?

    Re 97% of Greenland’s ice surface melt:

    “….They described the event as being without precedent because such a massive loss of ice has not been observed by humans before, although estimates derived from studying old, compressed ice suggest that melts on this scale happen about once every 150 years.

    “Researchers have not yet determined whether this extensive melt event will affect the overall volume of ice loss this summer and contribute to sea-level rise,” NASA said….

    ……The manager of Australia’s climate monitoring section at the Bureau of Meteorology, Karl Braganza, said the observation was a disturbing development.

    “In terms of just one event taken in isolation, you can’t tell much from it. We had a similar event back in the 1800s so it does happen from time to time,” Dr Braganza said….”

    • tmac57 says:

      There is a mountain of research indicating that the record Arctic sea ice loss and the surface melt of Greenland this summer is unprecedented in the past several millennia,and climate models cannot account for this without human caused Co2 levels being the prime forcing:

      • markx says:

        tmac57 says: November 16, 2012 at 12:09 pm

        “….record Arctic sea ice loss and the surface melt of Greenland this summer is unprecedented in the past several millennia…”

        1. Absolutely certainly not so in the case of the surface melt.

        2. And re the ice cap …. we can only comment with any certainty for the satellite era.

    • LovleAnjel says:

      Humans have lived on Greenland for over 800 years. If this level of melt happened every 150 years, it would have been observed by humans multiple times.

      • markx says:

        LovleAnjel says:November 16, 2012 at 3:19 pm

        “…Humans have lived on Greenland for over 800 years. If this level of melt happened every 150 years, it would have been observed by humans multiple times….”

        Correct. And it was.

  10. markx says:

    re Greenland surface melt.

    Interesting comment from Dartmouth IGERT – Polar Environmental Change
    :a polar research blog

    “……Dave Bell July 25, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    The Alley and Anandakrishnan paper (Variations in melt-layer frequency in the GISP2 ice core: Implications for Holocene summer temperatures central Greenland, ANNALS OF GLACIOLOGY, VOL 21, 1995 pg:64-70) says that the average melt frequency over the last 10kyrs is 1 every 153yrs.

    However, it points out that these events have become less frequent with time, decreasing from an average of 1 every 82yrs (between 5500-8500 yrs BP) to 1 every 250yrs (between 1000-4000yrs BP).

    They attribute it to orbitally induced decreasing local summer insolation values, although they can’t rule out reduced summer temperature variability….”

  11. markx says:

    Why of all people is Stephan Lewandowsky quoted as an expert source?

    The man is a Cognitive Psychologist.

    ….Whose idea of a good scientific paper is is to send links to a web survey by email, do a little filtering of the largely uncontrolled responses, then put it through a sophisticated stats process, and publish a paper with no data tables whatsoever.

    Oh would that we could all research and publish on that basis; …apparently more effort has gone into accumulating esoteric verbiage than has gone into the research itself or in creating a useful summary or a meaningful title.

    Lewandowsky however has a saving grace in that he is a riveting and convincing speaker:

    • markx says:

      Someones amusing opinion of psychologists:

      “Dressing psychiatrists like wizards on the witness stand”

      by Walter Olson on January 17, 2012

      Checking out a published report, Erik Magraken contacted former New Mexico state senator Duncan Scott and found that it was true, the lawmaker had indeed introduced a legislative amendment in 1995 providing that:

      When a psychologist or psychiatrist testifies during a defendant’s competency hearing, the psychologist or psychiatrist shall wear a cone-shaped hat that is not less than two feet tall. The surface of the hat shall be imprinted with stars and lightning bolts. Additionally, a psychologist or psychiatrist shall be required to don a white beard that is not less than 18 inches in length, and shall punctuate crucial elements of his testimony by stabbing the air with a wand. Whenever a psychologist or psychiatrist provides expert testimony regarding a defendant’s competency, the bailiff shall contemporaneously dim the courtroom lights and administer two strikes to a Chinese gong…

      The amendment — intended satirically, one should hasten to add –”passed with a unanimous Senate vote” but was removed from its bill before consideration by the state house and never became law. (& Coyote, Above the Law)

    • tmac57 says:

      He didn’t cite Lewandowsky as an expert source,he merely liked his characterization of why climate change is affecting nearly all</i) weather events.Michael Mann and other climate scientists have made similar characterizations.The point is,that with the increased global temperatures,that energy base line has been raised,which adds fuel to the 'fire' so to speak.

  12. markx says:

    Re Battery Park Sea level Rise:

    It is worth noting the east coast of USA is undergoing subsidence. It is not only sea level rise.

    “……exhibiting subsidence rates of <0.8 mm a−1 in Maine, increasing to rates of 1.7 mm a−1 in Delaware, and a return to rates <0.9 mm a−1 in the Carolinas.

    ….(we) …. estimate a mean 20th century sea-level rise rate for the U.S. Atlantic coast of 1.8 ± 0.2 mm a−1, similar to the global average.

    However, we find a distinct spatial trend in the rate of 20th century sea-level rise, increasing from Maine to South Carolina. This is the first evidence of this phenomenon from observational data alone. We suggest this may be related to the melting of the Greenland ice sheet and/or ocean steric effects….."

    Spatial variability of late Holocene and 20th century sea-level rise along the Atlantic coast of the United States Engelhart etal 2009

    • tmac57 says:

      All the more reason to be concerned…right?

      • markx says:

        If you happen to live on the east coast of the USA, yes, perhaps so.

      • tmac57 says:

        Last time I checked,FEMA was still using my tax dollars to fund it’s worthy efforts.In addition to that,I also have family that resides in New York,so yeah,it concerns me,and it rightly should concern anyone who doesn’t only think of themselves as the center of the universe.

  13. markx says:

    Interesting points on our ability to measure sea level changes, and other causes of sea level change:

    Satellite data tells us the sea is rising by 3.1 mm/year, and tidal gauges (land based, with all the complications that involves) tell us the rise is about 1.5 mm per year. (see below re satellite precision).

    These figures also include an allowance of 0.3 mm per year made for glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA) which is a gradual enlargement of the ocean basins in response to the retreat of the great glaciers some 12,000 years ago. (I’m not sure how this is measured).

    And sea level measurements are also affected by groundwater extraction, not accounted for in earlier IPCC reports:
    “…. have found, groundwater depletion is adding about 0.6 millimeters per year …. to the Earth’s sea level….” a team of Dutch scientists led by hydrologist Yoshihide Wada, Utrecht University.


    “..We find that, together, unsustainable groundwater use, artificial reservoir water impoundment, climate-driven changes in terrestrial water storage and the loss of water from closed basins have contributed a sea-level rise of about 0.77 mm yr−1 between 1961 and 2003, about 42% of the observed sea-level rise. ….. the unsustainable use of groundwater represents the largest contribution…”

    Nature Geoscience | Letter Model estimates of sea-level change due to anthropogenic impacts on terrestrial water storageYadu N. Pokhrel

    Sea level Rise (SLR) and satellites; There are major problems calibrating satellite instruments to our un-cooperative planet, and the proposed GRASP project will resolve that giving us an accuracy to 1 mm (ie, we don’t have that now): The baselines between RF/Optical phase centers of all sensors on the supremely-calibrated GRASP spacecraft will be known to 1 mm accuracy and stable to 0.1 mm/year,….

    The complexity of this work and the level of detail required to solve problems is awe-inspiring.

    “ …. Beckley et al. [2007] reprocessed all the TOPEX/Poseidon and Jason-1 SLR & DORIS data within the ITRF2005 reference frame, and found that the differences in the older CSR95 and ITRF2000 realizations and ITRF2005 caused differences of up to 1.5 mm/yr in regional rates of mean sea level rise….”

    “….Thus, we assess that current state of the art reference frame errors are at roughly the mm/yr level, making observation of global signals of this size very difficult to detect and interpret.

    This level of error contaminates climatological data records, such as measurements of sea level height from altimetry missions, and was appropriately recognized as a limiting error source by the NRC Decadal Report and by GGOS….” (

    • tmac57 says:

      If you have about 30 minutes,you might find this talk interesting:

      Jerry Mitrovica is a Professor of Geophysics at Harvard University in the USA. He is one of a group of scientists who have, in the last few decades, dramatically increased our understanding of sea level rise from the last ice age to present-day. As his lengthy list of peer-reviewed scientific publications will attest
      ( ), he is one of the world’s foremost experts on this topic.

      • markx says:

        Thanks Tmac, interesting and detailed discussion.

        Was a bit surprised at the supposed ‘skeptic claim’ of a constant and relentless 2mm/year sea level rise. I think perhaps the argument is more along the lines of “the sea level has changed before, without our help”. Perhaps demonstrated by his comment on 3 meter above sea level 5000 year old corals. (Hey, was not the early Holocene 1 or 2 degrees warmer than we are now?)….(but a fascinating study on the physics of the earth’s slowing rotation, and an amazing use of historical astronomical records, from European, Arabian, Babylonian and Chinese observations).

        The Douglas (1997)paper he cites seems very interesting, and carefully done, selecting tidal guages from very stable areas (seems paywalled, here is a wiki link;

        That work gives us 1.5 mm per year corrected for ice age effects,… these figures also include an allowance of 0.3 mm per year made for glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA) which is a gradual enlargement of the ocean basins in response to the retreat of the great glaciers some 12,000 years ago.

        The gravitational effects of the huge volume of ice are also fascinating, and much larger than I would have imagined (ie, a Greenland melt sufficient to raise the average sea level 1 metre, would actually drop the sea level around Greenland by 25 metres).

        This regional drop sounds like a marvelous self limiting effect, especially in relation to a melting Antarctica, where warm ocean currents are said to be the major culprit.

        He shows his 1.5 mm/year figure can be explained by melting of various reservoirs, such as Greenland, glaciers, and Antarctica.

        But is Antarctica really melting?

        Zwally etal 2011 would indicate no… well, only perhaps a contribution of 0.1 mm/year to SLR.

        Two ERS-based estimates, the modified IOM, and a GRACE-based estimate for observations within 1992-2005 lie in a narrowed range of +27 to -40 Gt/year, which is about 3% of the annual mass input and only 0.2 mm/year SLE. Our preferred estimate for 1992-2001 is -47 Gt/year for West Antarctica, +16 Gt/year for East Antarctica, and -31 Gt/year overall (+0.1 mm/year SLE)…

        OK, then, if not Antarctica, where might the extra water have come from? Groundwater depletion?

        “…. have found, groundwater depletion is adding about 0.6 millimeters per year …. to the Earth’s sea level….” a team of Dutch scientists led by hydrologist Yoshihide Wada, Utrecht University. (see next comment for ref)

        or Pokhrel estimates 0.77 mm/year from this source:

        Interesting too that he discusses the Eemian interglacial (the one immediately prior to the Holocene) which was 4 to 6 degrees hotter than we are now, and the sea levels some 6 meters higher, all without an A in CGW.

      • markx says:

        “…. have found, groundwater depletion is adding about 0.6 millimeters per year …. to the Earth’s sea level….” a team of Dutch scientists led by hydrologist Yoshihide Wada, Utrecht University.

      • tmac57 says:

        I guess that we are lucky that we aren’t now having the same orbital forcings that were driving the warming (greater insolation) in the Eemian era since the Co2 levels were closer to preindustrial levels then.
        Imagine what hell a combination of both of those forcings would create.

      • markx says:

        But Tmac, (re Eemian insolation forcings) that is surely reason for re-assurance! – according to researchers it took those temperatures (equivalent to future IPCC ‘no action’ projections) PLUS a massive increase in isolation: 60 Wm−2 compared to the 0.85 Wm−2 loading estimated to occur from CO2 increases.

        Eemian near-surface summer temperatures were higher than today, by about 2 K in Europe and 2–4 K in the Arctic, comparable to the temperature rise in 2100 following Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projections for a business-as-usual scenario.

        During the Eemian, global sea level peaked at levels that were 4–7m above present. The contribution of the GrIS to this peak in Eemian sea level is estimated to range between 2.2 and 4.5 m, representing a loss of 30–60% of its present-day volume…….

        ……Eemian summertime top-of-atmosphere insolation in the Northern Hemisphere was up to 60Wm−2 higher than today

        Hence, we suggest that projections of future Greenland ice loss on the basis of Eemian temperature–melt relations may overestimate the future vulnerability of the ice sheet.

        Significant contribution of insolation to Eemian melting of the Greenland ice sheet (2011) van de Berg etal

      • tmac57 says:


        is why I am NOT reassured.Keep the big picture in mind.Rehashing questions that have been asked and answered a thousand times is a denial tactic.
        There is no good answer for the observed upward trending heat accumulation other than human caused increases in greenhouse gasses.
        Muller finally came to that conclusion,so why do you refuse to concede that reality?

      • markx says:

        tmac57 says: November 23, 2012 at 10:59 am

        “….There is no good answer for the observed upward trending heat accumulation other than…”

        You sum it up right there:

        We don’t know.

        We have a good theory, some understanding and now we are collecting data.

      • tmac57 says:

        Lame attempt at cherry picking and editing my statement out of context to make it say what you like.

      • markx says:

        I’m not so interested in cherry picking your thoughts, Tmac.

        The above has always been my stance on the matter ever since I had read enough to have a clear overview of the current state of the research.

      • tmac57 says:

        The above has always been my stance on the matter ever since I had read enough to have a clear overview of the current state of the research.

        That, essentially,is where you have gone wrong markx. You stopped reading with an open mind once your sources had confirmed your bias.Everything after that that didn’t agree with you,was a product of conspiracy,greed by climate scientists trying to get one more grant out of the cash cow,willful fraud by people like Mann or Hansen etc.,panicky alarmists jumping to catastrophe scenarios without due diligence,and so on,and so on.
        It continues to amaze me how people who think as you do, can blithely dismiss the massive amounts of data on the AGW side,while hungrily grasping at any pitiful scrap of contrarian nonsense,or anomalous data point,as though this is going to cause the whole fabric of our understanding of climate science to summarily unravel.
        And as I have said several times before,to you,yes,there are uncertainties and gaps in the science that are yet to be filled in (and probably always will be),but those uncertainties should be of no comfort what so ever,as they can go BOTH ways.That unsettling truth about probability continues to elude your risk versus benefit evaluation of the tenuous climate reality that we are watching begin to reveal itself even now.

      • markx says:

        tmac57 says: November 25, 2012 at 11:26 am

        “…..was a product of conspiracy,greed by climate scientists trying to get one more grant out of the cash cow, willful fraud by people like Mann or Hansen etc., panicky alarmists jumping to catastrophe scenarios without due diligence,and so on,and so on….”

        Do I see a whole field of strawmen erected hastily on the horizon there?

        No, Tmac, I don’t hold all or any of those to be true.

        I simply see the available data and the political and MSM statements and see the story is not quite so cut and dried as they would state.

        Who knows, they may even turn out to be correct.

        But they sure as hell don’t know that yet.

      • markx says:

        tmac57 says: November 25, 2012 at 11:26 am

        “…hungrily grasping at any pitiful scrap of contrarian nonsense,or anomalous data point…”

        The problem is every area of research in this theoretical construct is relying on the fact that although their own data may not be perfect, it is supported by the data from other disciplines….

        But, as you work through each one you find:

        1. TOA radiation measurements are very imprecise: theorized 0.85 w/m2 imbalance, measured 6.5 w/m2, modeled adjustment required.

        2. Ocean heat content, where supposedly 93% of the heat (that 0.85 w/m2 imbalance)is going. So we see published a measured rise of 0.09 degrees C over 55 years for the top 2000 meters of the oceans.

        3. Sea surface temperatures are probably accurate enough. There are some problems with apparent recent cooling of the southern oceans.

        4. Sea level rises: problems with satellites detailed above. Problems with the accounting, groundwater contributions as above. Problems with recent falls in southern sea levels (increased rain, now is in land reservoirs? Or…perhaps a pause in aquifer usage? And note no MSM published sea level forecasts yet take into account Mitrovica’s work on polar ocean retreat.

        5. Ice losses, similar satellite problems to above, unresolved as yet. And the apparent contradiction that Antarctic may be gaining ice, or at least not losing it, while the Arctic is undoubtedly warming. They quickly flail around a find that a model somewhere predicted that, and push it up front and center.

        Then there is the incessant touting of every storm, drought and wildfire as the final absolute proof.

        We were told Australia may remain in the grip of incessant drought forever onwards, but this was immediately followed by five of the wettest years seen for some time…. which then became the ‘predicted norm’ with the focus changing to the dangers of flooding… There are still enough old-timers around who remember these things have all happened before.

  14. markx says:

    Re the Jerry Mitrovica video:

    Very interesting as he discusses the work of his young graduate student: When she discovered the phenomenon of the polar tidal gravitational retreat of the seas in response to melting ice caps, (ie something which will alleviate and moderate the severity of such an event) she went to Mitrovica and said:

    “What do we do?”

    He answered; “Well, we publish it”.

    Intriguing to think that the politics and pressures are such that she even felt she had to ask the question.

    • tmac57 says:

      You don’t know why she asked the question,and assuming that it was “politics and pressures” reveals your bias.You could have also speculated that she was uncertain of the data,or that more research was necessary before publishing,thinking that it was premature.
      The bottom line is,you haven’t shown that politics or other pressures played any part in her question.
      Motivated reasoning rears it’s ugly head once more.

      • markx says:

        Thanks for the heads up. It had not occurred to me that this may have occurred during an early part of the research when she was not yet sure of her data. Luckily, her supervisor apparently was able to reassess it and assuage her doubts on the spot.

        Yes, obviously we both (you and I) reveal here our particular biases.

  15. markx says:

    Latest analysis df GRACE data: Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment (GRACE) spacecraft.

    Greenland ice loss revised to 220 Gtonne/year.

    That is a loss rate of 0.0085% per year.

    Mapping Greenland’s mass loss in space and time
    Christopher Harig and Frederik J. Simons
    Department of Geosciences, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544

    2012 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

  16. markx says:

    Here is a fascinating, dignified and gracefully written piece on the IPCC and its processes. Really worth a read, although I expect it is much too long for many here.

    The article is a discussion on the IPCC and its processes by David Henderson detailing his discussions and collaborations with Ian Castles.

    These two started out questioning some of the basic economic calculations by the IPCC, (their particular area of expertise), then eventually some other IPCC processes.

    Some quotes:

    In projecting the growth of GDP per head to 2100, the scenarios provided, in varying degrees, for the closure, or substantial reduction, of this greatly overstated initial gap between rich and poor countries. We argued that in consequence these growth projections for poor countries were biased upward; and we inferred from this – though here we were mistaken, which it took us some time to realise – that a corresponding upward bias had entered into the projections of emissions from those countries……

    …..Increasingly, and unexpectedly, I have become critical of the way in which issues of climate change have been viewed and treated by governments across the world. In particular, I have become a critic of the official expert advisory process which governments have created and continue to rely on, within which the main single element is the work of the IPCC as reflected in its successive Assessment Reports. Over the past 22 years governments everywhere, and a great many outside observers too, have put their trust in the expert advisory process as a whole and the IPCC process in particular. I have come to believe that this widespread trust is unwarranted.’….

    ….For both of us, this broadening of our concerns, beyond economic aspects, led to a development which I at any rate had not anticipated, and which for some time I failed to notice or suspect. In becoming increasingly preoccupied with the defects (as we saw them) of the official expert advisory process as a whole, including the treatment of climate science, we unwittingly separated ourselves from the majority of economists, whether in official positions or the academic world, who had come to hold views on climate change issues. …

  17. tmac57 says:

    Sydney Morning Herald:

    THE world is on the cusp of a “tipping point” into dangerous climate change, according to new data gathered by scientists measuring methane leaking from the Arctic permafrost and a report presented to the United Nations on Tuesday.

    “The permafrost carbon feedback is irreversible on human time scales,” says the report, Policy Implications of Warming Permafrost. “Overall, these observations indicate that large-scale thawing of permafrost may already have started.”

    While countries the size of Australia tally up their greenhouse emissions in hundreds of millions of tonnes, the Arctic’s stores are measured in tens of billions.

    • markx says:

      Yeah, I saw that one Tmac….. here it is in written form (not so keen on video with my slow squinternet connection):

      Certainly a worry, and if it is indeed occurring now, an unavoidable one. How to put a carbon tax on that one I do not know.

      But, that aside, if you have time and an inquiring mind (which I believe you have) take a look at the above mentioned David Henderson article, it (just published) is a worthwhile read.

      • tmac57 says:

        Markx,I tried…really,but first,the article seemed mainly to begin as a tribute to Ian Castles who died in 2010,much too early to witness the latest empirical manifestations of AGW,namely last year’s freaky warm weather,and this year’s record melting in Greenland and Arctic,and of course Sandy.
        Secondly,the main thrust was about economic minutiae,that while important,does not negate the fact of AGW. Thirdly,the cast of usual AGW denier suspects were brought to bear as witnesses like clockwork:
        Energy and Environment ‘Journal’
        Ross McKitrick
        Stephen McIntyre
        Global Warming Policy Foundation etc.etc.
        Then of course the discredited, so called ‘Climategate’ and ‘Glaciergate’ (as though glaciers around the world were not melting at record pace).
        These worn out discredited talking points and spokespersons
        are too big a red flag to ignore,so thanks for the link,but no thanks.They are just not trust worthy.Sorry… but they did it to themselves.

  18. markx says:

    tmac57 says:November 29, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    “…They are just not trust worthy. Sorry….”

    Ha ha. Sounds like you have about as much faith in them as I have in those two paragons of sanity, Mann and Hansen.

    Anyway, I do appreciate you taking a look at it.

    • tmac57 says:

      I thought that you might have that reaction.
      By the way,regarding your Greenland reference above,for another perspective,see this article from Climate Crock of the Week (don’t worry,it references reliable sources ;)

      • markx says:

        Ya know what, tmac, that is a well written article.

        One article like that is more convincing than about 100 rambles about storms of a magnitude seen many times before, about melts which have occurred previously, and heat waves similar to ones recorded decades ago, and headlined with words such as “frankenstorm”.

        You can’t feed thinking people over-hyped stories and expect to get the desired response for very long… eventually everything gets received with the same level of doubt.

        Interesting also to see in the Sinclair article the data and hypotheses of “the groundwater guys” are apparently very rapidly being accepted.

        Funny how previously all our scientific measures could be added up with great certainty to explain sea level rises of far great magnitude than that discussed here, and people went searching for and found “missing heat” … then the groundwater guys threw a small spanner in the works…but it still all “added up”.

        Perhaps we are starting to get somewhere. I hope the GRASP project goes ahead, apparently GRACE has its share of difficulties, and although this particular group of scientist are now finally sure they have got it right, I for one will be interested to see if that is the case:

        As I like to say, we have an interesting and plausible theory, and we are in the early stages of data collection.

        Then … later we may even have enough to fully understand the mechanism of the warming, rather than just rubberizing “facts” into computer models.

  19. Canman says:

    Markx, nice to see you back arguing about the uncertainties in climate science, with enough research to make most science writers feel inadequate. Penn Jillette has a more succint summary (with the requisite strong language warning):

  20. Canman says:

    About the methane leaking from the permafrost. I think it’s highly unlikely that our pidly efforts at CO2 reduction are going to decisively keep us below some tipping point. If this is going to be bad, bring on the fast breeders and 4th gen nuke plants, Nathan Myhrvold’s balloon hoisted sulfate hose and maybe some space mirrors. Here’s a new one:

  21. markx says:

    Tmac, re the permafrost melt:

    You may deserve bit of reassurance on this particular bit of hype:

    Georg Delisle is an expert on permafrost. …… Delisle said at a presentation:

    ‘…it is utter imbecility to suppose that the entire permafrost could thaw out by the end of the century. It would take thousands of years.‘

    His study ‘Near-surface permafrost degradation: How severe during the 21st century?’ was the basis for his presentation. ..peer reviewed …

    He studied time periods from the last 10,000 years when the global temperature was warmer than today for several thousand years by as much as 6°C. Ice cores that had been extracted from Antarctica and Greenland provide exact information about the composition of the atmosphere during the these warm periods. His conclusion: ‘The ice cores from both Greenland and Antarctica provide no indication of any elevated release of greenhouse gases at any time even though back then a deep thawing of the permafrost when compared to today would have been the case.’

    It appears frozen earth (permafrost) has a helluva cooling influence, several hundred times greater than the feared surface warming.

    Quote from the paper:

    “…The first key difference between the approach of this paper and Lawrence and Slater [2005] lies in the inclusion vs. omission of an energy flux component from the core body of permafrost toward the base of the active layer. This component cannot be disregarded. The negative energy flux from below (cooling) is on the order of several hundred mW m_2…..
    …in comparison to the positive energy flux from the Earth’s surface (typically 1–5 W m 2, averaged over the course of one year)…”