Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Australia: Warmists admit to pervasive uncertainties

So their hedging is well underway. They feel sure that there is SOME warming but not sure how much. And one of their scenarios envisages a temperature rise of around one degree Celsius -- which even skeptics would be comfortable with. Such a rise would be trivial in its effects -- as it was in the 20th century

It was a long way from picture postcard blue skies in Cairns yesterday as the nation's top 450 climate scientists gathered to take stock of global warming.

The tropical rainstorm may pale alongside the political cyclone that has been unleashed by the federal government's talk about a carbon tax. But the continued wet weather may prove relevant to this week's scientific discussions, which are expected to have a heavy focus on how much there is still to understand about climate change.

For Australia, whether the north can expect to get more or less rainfall because of global warming remains one of the great unknowns.

The Cairns meeting is Australia's peak biannual conference at which climate scientists meet to discuss the state of research. And while organisers of Greenhouse 2011 say participants represent a broad church, the uniform view is undeniably one of a warmer future for the planet.

Beyond that, everything from atmospheric carbon, feedback cycles, ocean temperatures, sea levels, carbon sinks, mitigation and adaptation are on the table for discussion.

Delegates will even be told how emotional responses to climate change represent a missing link to behaviour, with those who accept man-made climate change motivated to act by fear. Others who believe the climate is changing naturally are likelier to feel irritation and refuse to engage or respond.

CSIRO principal research scientist Kevin Hennessy says understanding the causes, both natural and human, of climate change is central to the conference agenda, as is consideration of future projections of climate change globally and regionally.

Surprisingly, a key theme through the conference will be the state of scientific uncertainty. This does not mean that sceptics have crashed the CSIRO-sponsored climate change party, however. "These are the real uncertainties as opposed to the uncertainties that some of the sceptics might claim are important," Hennessy says.

The uncertainties include things such as the various causes of regional climate change and extreme weather events, uncertainty about the future level of greenhouse gas emissions, the rate of global warming, the rate of future sea level rises and the scale and impact of future extreme weather events.

"When we are talking about global warming it is not about whether there will be global warming but about the rate of change," Hennessy says.

The approach reflects a new approach by the climate science community after the issue lost significant momentum in the lead-up to the 2009 Copenhagen conference following claims of exaggerated research claims.

The new caution was reflected in an updated statement issued by Britain's Royal Society last year summarising the scientific evidence on climate change and its drivers. The statement highlighted the areas where the science is well established, where there is still some debate and where substantial uncertainties remain. The Royal Society even held a two-day discussion meeting in March last year on handling uncertainty in science.

The Australian conference agenda reflects the new approach has been taking place elsewhere ahead of the release of a new data from global modelling that will form the basis of the International Panel of Climate Changes update due in 2013.....

Penny Whetton, a senior scientist with the CSIRO's Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, says there are two ways to deal with the uncertainty. "One is trying to reduce it," she says. "The other is working with uncertainty and communicating it because we have to decide how to deal with the climate change issue while the information is somewhat uncertain.

"There are some things we know with great certainty in our climate change understanding and some things we know with less certainty, and we really need to make that clear in our communications as well. "The best example is that we are expecting increasing temperatures in future and the only uncertainty associated with that is how much and exactly how rapid it will be.

"If you move to another variable such as rainfall change, although we are reasonably certain about decreased rainfall in southern Australia we don't actually know the direction of rainfall change in northern Australia.

"As we go forward, some of that growth in knowledge creates new uncertainties while clarifying the certainties we have been previously working with." ....

Clarification is also needed on what global warming means for rainfall in the tropical north. "I will be particularly interested to see what the new crop of models are showing for rainfall in northern Australia because that has been a major source of uncertainty," Whetton says.

"Many lines of evidence over many years have pointed towards decreases in rain in southern Australia. "But it has been more uncertain about how precipitation will change in the north, with some models showing decrease and some showing increase," she says.... Research is still under way to establish what role, if any, climate change has had on the most recent extreme rainfall events in Queensland.

Climate scientists generally say it is not possible to identify a climate change signal in any particular weather event. And the higher than average rainfall in eastern Australia last year is consistent with the La Nina weather pattern.

But the question of whether the La Nina system was strengthened by associated climate change phenomena is contested, just as there is global discussion about the extent to which natural feedback mechanisms, such as cloud and air-borne particulate matter, complicate the task of modelling effectively.

One of the reasons global climate models differ from one another on how much warming they show relates to different feedback processes operating in those models. Water vapour feedback is well understood as a positive feedback, reinforcing warming. Aerosols tend to have a cooling effect, but the amount of aerosol in the atmosphere is expected to decrease, limiting their beneficial effect.

While high cloud is understood to reinforce warming, there is uncertainty about the extent to which low cloud has a cooling effect.


Warmist technology reporter Andrew Leonard suggests that Marc Morano is "gibbering mad" for not believing that trace amounts of CO2 are overheating the planet

From Salon.com:

"Last Friday's post on scorned climate skeptics generated some heat from Watts Up With That?, the website that, (outside of Marc Morano's gibbering mad Climate Depot) is the most angry about Berkeley scientist Richard Muller's surprising testimony before a House panel last week on global warming temperatures."


Morano may not be worrying too much about comments from an abusive, tofu-eating, bicycle riding, bigot from Berkeley

Ocean life can handle radioactive water

Even Woods Hole says so

RELEASES of radioactive water into the ocean near Japan's stricken nuclear complex shouldn't pose a widespread danger to sea animals or people who might eat them, experts say.

That's basically because of dilution. "It's a very large ocean," noted William Burnett of Florida State University.

Very close to the nuclear plant - less than 800 metres or so - sea creatures might be in danger of problems like genetic mutations if the dumping goes on a long time, he said. But there shouldn't be any serious hazard farther away "unless this escalates into something much, much larger than it has so far", he said.

Ken Buesseler of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, said readings for radioactive iodine and cesium show a thousand-fold drop from the shore to monitors about 30km offshore.

He said radioactive doses in seafood may turn out to be detectable but probably won't be a significant health hazard. They'd probably be less of a concern than what people could get from land-based sources like drinking water or eating produce, he said.

No fishing is allowed in the vicinity of the complex.

Radioactive water has been seeping into the Pacific Ocean from the nuclear plant, and on Monday plant operators began releasing more than 11.3 million litres of tainted water to make room at a storage site for water that's even more radioactive.

Igor Linkov, an adjunct professor of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, also said he did not expect any major impact on ocean wildlife or people who eat seafood.

He agreed that animals near the plant may be affected. It's not clear in what way, because the level of radiation isn't well known, he said. In any case, fish would probably escape such an effect because unlike immobile species such as oysters, they move around and so would not get a continuous exposure, he said.


Neville Nicholls on Australia's Extreme Rainfall

Neville Nicholls is one of Australia's leading climate scientists. He is also a long-time participant in the IPCC and current president of the Australian Meteorological & Oceanographic Society. I first met Neville in the mid 1990s (at a meeting in Vietnam I think) and I have had nothing but great respect for him ever since. In his latest "AMOS - President's Column" he asks, "What caused the eastern Australia heavy rains and floods of 2010/11?"

He begins his answer by pointing to the strength of the current record La Niña event and the relationship of the SOI (Southern Oscillation Index, a measure of the strength of La Niña and El Niño events) and Australian rainfall (see his figure above). He concludes: "Given the well-known relationship between the SOI and heavy rains in eastern Australia (eg., McBride and Nicholls, 1983) we can conclude that the fundamental cause of the heavy rains this past six months was indeed this record La Niña event. Other heavy rain years (1917/18, 1950/51, 1973/74, 1975/76) were also the result of strong La Niña events. The relationship between rainfall and the SOI is very strong, with a correlation coefficient of 0.66. So, the heavy rains were not caused by global warming, but by a record la Niña event – a natural fluctuation of the climate system."

But he doesn't stop there. He next asks: "But perhaps 2010/11 was a record La Niña because of global warming?" His answer: "There has not been any trend in the SOI over the past 111 years, despite the warming of global mean temperature of about 0.75°C over that period. Nor do climate models consistently predict increased strength of La Niña events from enhanced atmospheric content of greenhouse gases (eg., Vecchi and Wittenberg, 2010). So there is no reason, at this moment, for us to suspect that global warming is increasing the frequency or intensity of La Niña events.

He doesn't stop there either, and next asks, "But was the impact of the 2010/11 La Niña on Australian rainfall stronger because of the record warm sea surface temperatures around northern Australia in 2010?" His answer: "These waters have increased substantially over the last century and are now about a degree warmer than early in the 20th century. If these warmer waters were enhancing the impact of La Niña on Australian rainfall we might expect to be seeing heavier rains in recent decades, relative to the rains that accompanied earlier strong La Niña events. There is some evidence of this (eg., Nicholls et al 1996), and there has been a weak tendency towards increased rainfall since 1900, independent of the influence from the El Niño – Southern Oscillation. Perhaps this trend towards increased rainfall might be related to the warmer sea surface temperatures – but much more work is needed to test this. The effect, if there is one, does not look very strong."

He concludes: "The record La Niña event was the fundamental cause of the heavy rains and floods, ie it was a natural fluctuation of the climate system. There may be a global warming signal enhancing this natural variability, but if so then this effect has been quite subtle, at least thus far."


What Could We Have Done To Stop The Horrific Weather Of 1900?

Climate scientists tell us that humans control the climate, and probably have since the dawn of time. It is time that we take this huge responsibility seriously.

1900 was an extreme weather year. Forest fires burned up huge areas of the Pacific Northwest, the upper midwest, New England and elsewhere. Australia was having a disastrous drought. A hurricane destroyed Galveston, killing most of the people who lived there. We should have been able to prevent all this.

CO2 levels in 1900 were very low at 296 ppm, so mitigating CO2 wouldn’t have helped. Raising taxes might have fixed the problem, or they could have taken it one step further and started mass human sacrifice – the solution top Aztec scientists came up with.





Ructions in Australia's Green/Left coalition

GREENS leader Bob Brown has labelled Julia Gillard's claim his party is out of touch as "obnoxious, quite insulting and unacceptable" and demanded a face-to-face meeting to settle the row.

Mr Brown slammed the Prime Minister's claim in a speech last Thursday that the Greens would never embrace "Labor's delight" at sharing the values of average Australians who led "purposeful and dignified lives, driven by love of family and nation".

He said her comments, whilst delivering the Gough Whitlam Oration, had been a "huge mistake" and accused her of "very clearly turning both barrels on her supporters in government".

"The tone of those words, carefully weighted, I would say, that 1.5 million Australian voters who backed the Greens at the last election weren't people who would love their family or love their country or who would want to do the right thing was obnoxious, quite insulting and not acceptable," Mr Brown told ABC's Lateline. He did temper his remarks, however, saying the stoush would not undermine his party's alliance with the minority Labor government.

His comments come as a liberal MP and gay rights advocate also rejected Ms Gillard's as "desperate" and warned it could leave her open to the suspicion she was homophobic.

And the Prime Minister faced a fresh attack from former Labor leader Mark Latham, who has accused her of lacking empathy because of her decision not to have children and to focus instead on her career.

Coalition MP Warren Entsch, who represents the Queensland seat of Leichhardt, said Ms Gillard's comments were like saying only the Greens cared for the environment or that only Labor cared for social justice.

Mr Entsch said no politician had the right to make comment on another politician's love of their family.

"If I was a Greens supporter, I would be highly offended by that," said Mr Entsch, who campaigned hard in the Howard government for equal legal rights for same-sex couples. "I don't agree with a lot of the stuff that he (Senator Brown) does, either, but I don't say that he doesn't love his mum or love his family or anyone else."

Ms Gillard made clear she stood by her speech. She said through a spokesman late yesterday that some suggestions about the speech and her views which had appeared in the media were "absurd".

Carol Johnson, a professor of politics at the University of Adelaide, said Ms Gillard might have been deliberately provocative.

"I think Labor is currently sandwiched and is losing votes to the Liberals and votes to Greens and they are desperately trying to differentiate themselves from both to regain support," she said.



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