Monday, April 02, 2018

Climate study shows Sahara getting bigger

But does it? The journal article is much more interesting than the lay article below and the abstract ends with an admission that generalizations are difficult and shaky in this area so maybe I should really just leave it at that. I append the journal abstract to the lay summary below.

The thing that bothers me is that the overall conclusions of this study appears to contradict what we have long heard about the Sahara -- namely that its green border -- the Sahel -- is expanding.  So why the reversal?

There is actually no reversal.  The authors admit (highlighted in the rubric below) that the Sahel was expanding up until 2013 -- if you look at it in a long term way. So they are putting a lot of weight onto occasional fluctuations in a way that I frankly do not understand

So why has the Sahel gone into reverse recently?  No great mystery.  Many parts of Africa have been in drought in the last few years and the drought is not yet breaking.  I think we have all heard recently about Capetown's reticulated water supply running dry. So drought in the Sahel sounds very much like just another part of that.

But WHY is a lot of Africa in drought?  It cannot be because of global warming.  The rain would be pissing down if the oceans were warmer. It is almost certainly an El Nino effect.  The recent El Nino was a strong one and much more long-lasting than expected.  And the expected reversal in the form of a La Nina has yet to clearly emerge. But just why El Nino affected Africa so strongly I will have to leave to the climatologists.  It seems likely to me that it coincided with some other natural drying cycle within the African climate system and that Africa got a doubly whammy because of that

Earth’s largest hot desert, the Sahara, is getting bigger, a new study finds. It is advancing south into more tropical terrain in Sudan and Chad, turning green vegetation dry and soil once used for farming into barren ground in areas that can least afford to lose it.

Yet it is not just the spread of the Sahara that is frightening, researchers say. It’s the timing: It is happening during the African summer, when there is usually more rain. But the precipitation has dried up, allowing the boundaries of the desert to expand.

“If you have a hurricane come suddenly, it gets all the attention from the government and communities galvanize,” said Sumant Nigam, a professor of atmospheric and oceanic science at the University of Maryland and the senior author of the study. “The desert advance over a long period might capture many countries unawares. It’s not announced like a hurricane. It’s sort of creeping up on you.”

The study was published Thursday in the Journal of Climate. The authors said that while their research focused only on the Sahara, it suggests that climate changes also could be causing other hot deserts to expand – with potentially harsh economic and human consequences.

Deserts form in subtropical regions because of a global weather circulation called the Hadley cell. Warm air rises in the tropics near the equator, producing rain and thunderstorms. When the air hits the top of the atmosphere, it spreads north and south toward the poles. It does not sink back down until it is over the subtropics, but as it does, the air warms and dries out, creating deserts that are nearly devoid of rain.

“Climate change is likely to widen the Hadley circulation, causing northward advance of the subtropical deserts,” Nigam said.

Nigam and the study’s lead researcher, Natalie Thomas, a doctoral candidate at the University of Maryland, used data from the Global Precipitation Climatology Center to arrive at their finding.


Twentieth-Century Climate Change over Africa: Seasonal Hydroclimate Trends and Sahara Desert Expansion

Natalie Thomas and Sumant Nigama


Twentieth-century trends in seasonal temperature and precipitation over the African continent are analyzed from observational datasets and historical climate simulations. Given the agricultural economy of the continent, a seasonal perspective is adopted as it is more pertinent than an annual-average one, which can mask offsetting but agriculturally sensitive seasonal hydroclimate variations. Examination of linear trends in seasonal surface air temperature (SAT) shows that heat stress has increased in several regions, including Sudan and northern Africa where the largest SAT trends occur in the warm season. Broadly speaking, the northern continent has warmed more than the southern one in all seasons. Precipitation trends are varied but notable declining trends are found in the countries along the Gulf of Guinea, especially in the source region of the Niger River in West Africa, and in the Congo River basin. Rainfall over the African Great Lakes—one of the largest freshwater repositories—has, however, increased. It is shown that the Sahara Desert has expanded significantly over the twentieth century, by 11%–18% depending on the season, and by 10% when defined using annual rainfall. The expansion rate is sensitively dependent on the analysis period in view of the multidecadal periods of desert expansion (including from the drying of the Sahel in the 1950s–80s) and contraction in the 1902–2013 record, and the stability of the rain gauge network. The desert expanded southward in summer, reflecting retreat of the northern edge of the Sahel rainfall belt, and to the north in winter, indicating potential impact of the widening of the tropics. Specific mechanisms for the expansion are investigated. Finally, this observational analysis is used to evaluate the state-of-the-art climate simulations from a comparison of the twentieth-century hydroclimate trends. The evaluation shows that modeling regional hydroclimate change over the African continent remains challenging, warranting caution in the development of adaptation and mitigation strategies.


Climate alchemy

Using a climate model the authors reach conclusions that contradict well-known thermodynamic principles. They claim that a DECREASE in global atmospheric pressure would cause a WARMING?! Amazing what you can do with models.  Someone should give them an erector set

Long-term climate forcing by atmospheric oxygen concentrations

Christopher J. Poulsen1 et al.


The percentage of oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere varied between 10% and 35% throughout the Phanerozoic. These changes have been linked to the evolution, radiation, and size of animals but have not been considered to affect climate. We conducted simulations showing that modulation of the partial pressure of oxygen (pO2), as a result of its contribution to atmospheric mass and density, influences the optical depth of the atmosphere. Under low pO2 and a reduced-density atmosphere, shortwave scattering by air molecules and clouds is less frequent, leading to a substantial increase in surface shortwave forcing. Through feedbacks involving latent heat fluxes to the atmosphere and marine stratus clouds, surface shortwave forcing drives increases in atmospheric water vapor and global precipitation, enhances greenhouse forcing, and raises global surface temperature. Our results implicate pO2 as an important factor in climate forcing throughout geologic time.


Climate chaos claims continue causing consternation

From the Oakland v. oil company lawsuit to ridiculous “research,” the onslaught never ends

Anyone who thought “manmade climate cataclysm” rhetoric couldn’t possibly exceed Obama era levels should read the complaint filed in the “public nuisance” lawsuit that’s being argued before Federal District Court Judge William Alsup in a California courtroom: Oakland v BP and other oil companies.

The allegations read at times like they were written by a Monty Python comedy team and a couple of first year law students. Defendant companies “conspired” to produce dangerous fuels, the complaint asserts, and “followed the Big Tobacco playbook” to promote their use, while paying “denialist front groups” to question “established” climate science, “downplay” the “unprecedented” risks of manmade global warming, and launch “unfounded attacks on the integrity” of leading “consensus” scientists.

“People of color” and other “socially vulnerable” individuals will be most severely affected, it continues. (They’ll be far more severely impacted by climate policies that drive up energy and food prices.)

Oakland’s lawyers excoriate astrophysicist Wei Hock “Willie” Soon for committing the unpardonable sin of suggesting the sun might have something to do with climate change. They couldn’t even get his PhD degree right. They call him an “aerospace engineer,” and claim he personally received $1.2 million that was actually paid to Harvard University (as multiple, easily accessible documents make clear).

They don’t even mention the billions of taxpayer dollars that have been divvied up year after year among researchers and activists who promote alarmist views on global warming and renewable energy.

Oakland and its fellow litigants expect the court to accept their claims at face value, as “established” science, with no need to present real-world evidence to support them. They particularly emphasize rising seas and the resulting “imminent threat of catastrophic storm surges” that are “projected” by computer models that assume carbon dioxide from fossil fuels is now the primary or sole driver of climate change, replacing the sun, cosmic rays, ocean currents and other powerful natural forces that did so “previously.”

In suing the five major oil companies, they ignore the fact that the companies burn very few of the hydrocarbon fuels they produce. It is the plaintiff city governments and their constituents who have happily burned oil and natural gas for over a century, to fuel their cars, heat, cool, light and electrify their offices and homes, and make their industries, communications, health and living standards possible.

In the process, it is they who have generated the plant-fertilizing CO2 that is allegedly causing the unprecedented global warming, melting ice caps and rising seas. Hydrocarbons also fuel essential backup electricity generators for California’s wind and solar facilities – and provide raw materials for fabrics, plastics, paints, pharmaceuticals and countless other products the litigants use every day.

Equally problematical for the plaintiffs, the “established, consensus” science asserted throughout their complaint and courtroom presentations is increasingly uncertain and hotly debated. As Heartland Institute scholar Joe Bast points out, even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change now expresses numerous doubts and uncertainties about rates of sea level rise, the role of CO2, the cause and duration of a global warming “pause” that has now lasted some 23 years. Indeed, the temperature spike caused by the 2015-16 El NiƱo has now almost disappeared, as the oceans and atmosphere continue to cool once again.

The oil companies decided not to present much climate science in the courtroom. However, expert materials prepared by Christopher Monckton, Will Happer, Richard Lindzen and colleagues addressed questions about equilibrium climate sensitivity and related issues in amicus curiae filings for the court.

Oakland’s claim that the oil companies “conspired” to hide and misrepresent “the science” on global warming and climate change is on thin ice. Some reports say Judge Alsup dismissed the claim or ruled that plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that there was a conspiracy. In any event, a decision on the merits will eventually be made, the losing party will appeal, and the case will likely end up in the US Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, climate chaos claims continue causing consternation in some circles. Too much money, power, prestige, control and wealth redistribution is at stake for anything else to happen.

Indeed, many in the $1.5-trillion-a-year Climate Industrial Complex are determined to use this issue (and equally malleable “sustainability” mantras) to replace free enterprise capitalism with totalitarian one-world governance; fossil fuel and nuclear power (the source of 85% of US and global energy) with expensive, land-intensive wind, solar and biofuel energy; and the hopes and dreams of poor people everywhere with policies that permit their living standards to improve only minimally, at the margins.

Actually, climate chaos hype-potheses now blame not just carbon dioxide and methane for runaway global warming, but also asthma inhalers and meat diets. The results aren’t just rising seas, warmer and colder weather, wetter and drier seasons, forest fires, nonexistent mass extinctions and the other oft-cited pseudo-cataclysms. They also include shrinking animals, a worse opioid crisis, and the endless litany of often amusing afflictions and disasters chronicled in The Warmlist and its video counterpart.

The “solution” isn’t just keeping fossil fuels in the ground. It also includes accepting profound lifestyle changes and dining on climate friendly insects (not ruling elites; just the rest of us).

And the real effects of manmade climate cataclysm fears are not just soaring prices for less available, less reliable, grid-destabilizing “green” electricity. They also include having to rescue adventurers who try to sail, snowmobile or trek across supposedly melting Arctic and Antarctic ice packs – only to become stranded and frostbitten or have their ships trapped in rapidly freezing ice.

So, what should climate disaster stalwarts do, when temperatures and sea levels refuse to cooperate with Al Gore speeches and computer model “projections” and “scenarios”? Or when forecasts of more hurricanes are followed by a record 12-year absence of any Category 3-5 storms hitting the US mainland?

One strategy is refusing to debate anyone who challenges the dire hypotheses, data or conclusions. Another involves “homogenizing,” “correcting” and manipulating original data, to make Dust Bowl era temperatures less warm – and this year’s long and bitterly cold winter not nearly so frigid, by adjusting records from local temperature stations by as much as 3.1 degrees Fahrenheit (1.7 Celsius).

As to the numerous articles and studies published on,,, and other sites that focus on evidence-based climate studies and research, and challenge assertions like those relied on in the Oakland complaint – the increasingly preferred strategy is to employ algorithms and other tactics that relegate their work to the bottom of search engine results. Long lists of alarmist claims, articles and perspectives appear first, unless a student or other researcher enters very specific search terms. Even the major shortcomings of wind power are hard to find, if you don’t know precisely what you are looking for.

Google, Facebook, You Tube and other search, information and social media sites appear determined to be the arbiters of what information, facts and realities we can access, what our children can learn. They help stigmatize and bully scientists whose research or views do not hew to accepted liberal perspectives, and have even enlisted corporate advertisers into policing the speech of political opponents.

All this from the champions  of free speech, tolerance, diversity and inclusion. Just bear in mind:

The issue is not whether our planet is warming, or whether climate and weather are changing. The issue is what is causing those fluctuations, how much is due to fossil fuels versus to natural forces, and whether any coming changes will be as catastrophic as natural forces have caused multiple times in the past. (Imagine what would happen to cities, farms and humanity if we had another Pleistocene ice age.)

All of this once again underscores why America and the world need “Red Team” climate science exercises, more evidence-based climate education, and a reversal of the Obama EPA’s unsupported finding that carbon dioxide emissions somehow endanger human health and welfare.

Via email

The Climate Change Trial: Reason vs. Extremism

The legal battle against oil companies for their purported role in contributing to a climate change crisis is starting to take shape. This past Wednesday, a federal judge in San Francisco made history, holding the first-ever U.S. court hearing exploring the impact of climate change. Lawyers representing the cities of Oakland and San Francisco as well as five of the largest multinational oil companies named in the lawsuit, participated in a climate change “tutorial,” a chance to explore both sides’ positions on several questions related to climate change.

Here’s what we learned from the hearing: future litigation will pit reasoned dialog in line with mainstream climate science against the politically charged rhetoric of climate change extremism.

Attorneys from the two California cities allege that rising sea levels and other extreme weather phenomena are the result of climate change, which will force the municipalities to spend unspecified billions of dollars to mitigate the damage. Further, the lawsuits they filed last fall seek to pin all the blame and financial responsibility for the purported damage on just five publicly traded American energy companies: BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, and Shell.

Climate change is a global issue, yet greedy trial lawyers are targeting the five major energy companies exclusively because they see them as a potential jackpot in attorneys’ fees; a whopping 23.5 percent of the entire multibillion-dollar payout if they succeed. In truth, we all share a responsibility for climate change. The petroleum industry is primarily interested in extracting, producing, and promoting petroleum products or fossil fuels. Third-party consumers use fossil fuel materials to heat their homes, run their vehicles, and power industry and manufacturing.

The case is flawed and relies on fundamentally weak arguments that have been tried before and failed in court. The plaintiffs attempt to portray a handful of energy companies as solely responsible for climate change. Interestingly enough, they might succeed in making the oil companies seem like the only adults in the room.

Oil companies recognize that climate change is a long-term issue which requires global attention. Each of the companies named in the lawsuit is making significant strides to take a balanced and measured approach toward addressing unique problems associated with climate change. These five companies have invested billions of dollars into efforts to develop technology solutions that boost energy efficiency, expand the supply of cleaner burning fuels, and lead industry engagement toward positive policy solutions. The oil industry is interested in understanding and addressing issues associated with potential climate change. This was made abundantly clear at the hearing on Wednesday.

U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup called for the climate change tutorial as a primer to obtain a better understanding of climate change, and rightfully so. Climate science includes aspects of atmospheric chemistry, atmospheric physics, oceanography, and biogeochemistry. It’s a complex field.

The energy companies were able to present a fair and objective answer to every question. Their analysis was based on the most widely-accepted peer-reviewed scientific views on climate change. This wasn’t an opportunity for advocacy of a specific position but rather a forum to present dispassionate scientific findings in line with most mainstream climate science.

It’s also worth noting that Judge Alsup did not warm to the cities’ argument that the oil and gas industry has been conducting a conspiracy to suppress climate science from the public. San Francisco’s city attorney had charged that the companies “have known for decades that fossil fuel-driven global warming and accelerated sea level rise posed a catastrophic risk to human beings and to public and private property.”

In dismissing the plaintiff’s conspiracy accusation, the judge gutted the core component of the bizarre lawsuit. It was a big test for the energy companies and they won.

While Judge Alsup’s evenhanded approach to the tutorial may have been praiseworthy, U.S. climate policy is inherently complex and impacts every American. It is therefore preposterous to suggest that such a matter can rightfully be decided by one judge acting alone in a California courtroom. But unless, as the Supreme Court has already ruled, this case is left to the EPA and the Congress to resolve, that is exactly what will happen.


Australia: Wholesale electricity prices up in Victoria since closure of big brown coal generator

Brown coal is more polluting than black coal so the Greenies wanted it closed.  It also produced power very cheaply and that was unforgiveable

Wholesale electricity prices have shot up in Victoria since the closure of the coal-fired Hazelwood power station, which has also caused Victoria to rely on power from other states for the first time in almost a decade, according to a new report.

A year on from the closure of the 1600 megawatt-sized plant in the Latrobe Valley, the report from the Australian Energy Regulator found wholesale prices in Victoria were up 85 per cent on 2016.

The regulator's chair Paula Conboy said the rise was driven by the replacement of Hazelwood's cheap, brown coal-fired power generation with power from higher cost sources such as black coal, gas and hydro, at a time when black coal and gas prices were rising.

"The impact of the Hazelwood closure has been, and continues to be, significant right across the [National Electricity Market]," Ms Conboy said.

From mid-2017, for the first time in almost a decade, Victoria relied on energy from interstate to meet its needs, as it increased its imports of gas-generated power from South Australia, and black coal-fired electricity from New South Wales.

Ms Conboy said the price increases and the energy market's response to Hazelwood's closure had been as expected, but new investment in electricity generation was "critical" to put downward pressure on prices.

The regulator said it was difficult to determine the impact of Hazelwood's closure on retail prices, because of the way energy retailers use contracts to purchase power in advance.

But the Australian Energy Market Commission said it expects retail prices in Victoria to increase 15.9 per cent this financial year compared to 2016-17.

However the commission expects prices for households to drop 6.6 per cent in 2018-19 and a further 9.7 per cent in 2019-20, as more wind and solar power becomes available.

Mario Mancusso, a butcher in the Melbourne suburb of Flemington, said his business was feeling the pinch. "At the moment, I'm looking at $3,500 to $4,000 a quarter — 14 years ago when I opened, I was paying $600," he said.

He said power bills were having a huge impact on his business and he had to pass on the costs to his customers. "Once I pay this bill, it will take me weeks to recover. It's costing me a fortune."

He said he understood the closure of Hazelwood had cut greenhouse gas emissions, but the pros did not outweigh the cons. "At the end of the day, I look after my own interests. And I cannot sustain those sorts of bills."




Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here



C. S. P. Schofield said...

A point regarding the Sahara's possible expansion;

Back in the 1980's I moved into the Baltimore Washington corridor and (because a free subscription was offered) started reading The Washington Times (a fairly new paper at that time). I remember an interview they did with a PhD. in Meteorology at Georgetown. It was mostly concerned with the drought then extant in some parts of Africa, and the good Doctor said that the North African Desert expanded and contracted on a fairly predictable cycle (I believe he said it was 200 years, but it may have been 200 expanding, then 200 contracting...or even some completely different cycle). He said that the last time the desert expanded there were no recognized international borders in the way, and people just moved south.

So there's that, for what it's worth. Wish I had the clipping, or a name for you to run down.

He also said that at that time we appeared to be emerging from a historically unusually STABLE period of weather, dating back to the beginning of the reign of Queen Victoria. We were accustomed to winter being reliably cold, summer reliably hot, and so on. But from written accounts and oil traditions (he said) we can tell that it is more (historically) 'normal' to get occasional warm spells in winter and the odd snowstorm in July.

Again, for what it's worth.

Julie said...

If you are ever in Maine, you can go to the "Desert Of Maine."

A friend tipped us off to it, so when we went we had to take the tour. It was amusing. 30 years now, and Maine hasn't turned into the New England Sahara.

Side Note - as we were on the tour, I looked down and saw a mushroom. Mushrooms need moisture, which wouldn't be present in a real desert. I just smiled, and let the tour guide go on without interruption, something I won't allow the chatbots to get away with.

All Best, John.