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zebra, The whole fields of systems engineering, systems analysis, control systems engineering, complex dynamic modeling and many more are all about understanding the complex web of interactions involved in real world dynamic situations. Far from simplifying down to a single variable affecting a single output, the real world involves extraordinarily complex dynamics with feedbacks of all sorts. These range from immediate simple linear feedbacks to highly complex, dynamic and chaotic feedbacks with all sorts of spatial and temporal factors including varying ranges of temporal delay. Figuring out how those work and being able to predict them and utilize them is what these fields are all about. Said differently, in the relatively simple world of psychological analysis of how people think and handle problems there is a simple (and not entirely correct) model of people belonging to two classes; 1) linear thinkers, and 2) gestalt thinkers. Linear thinkers do precisely as you describe. The entire world is simple linear immediate effects with direct deterministic cause and effect every time. Gestalt (whole world) thinkers on the other hand process the dynamics of feedbacks and the complex web of interactions fairly well. Neither is right or wrong. Neither is better or worse. Both have their place. Linear thinkers dominate in fields like accounting. Gestalt thinkers dominate in fields like engineering. Each is better at doing some things than the other. For example: a person who thinks in gestalt is generally good a complex dynamic interaction systems design. Linear think would fail in that endeavor. A linear thinker 0n the other hand can go for weeks processing the counting of objects, tallying numbers, correlating their direct relationships etc... A gestalt thinker would likely go nuts and make errors trying to do the same. Trying to impose linear models on a complex dynamic and often chaotic (in the mathematical sense) world is pure fallacy. the world is no such thing. Sam
Toggle Commented Mar 4, 2017 on PIOMAS February 2017 at Arctic Sea Ice
This looks looks like a 'straight forward' chemical engineering problem. Unfortunately, there are many aspects to the problem that are less well understood than desirable. E.g. mixing with depth, temperature, pH, etc... Looks are often deceptive. You can think of this as akin to a standard problem assigned in chemical engineering classes - producing a five compartment model of blood and kidney function. That problem is easy by comparison. Blood in the tissues, blood in circulation, blood in the brain, blood in the lungs, blood in the liver, and blood in the kidneys are easily defined. So too are the interactions among these with mass transfers from one to another, and with fairly well defined parameters for various inputs from the air across the lung surface, through ingestion and out through excretion and urine. This problem by comparison is vastly more complex. The tendency is to treat it as a computational fluid dynamics problem with the oceans broken into gridded layers by depth, latitude and longitude, and the same for the atmosphere. That can work if the problem is setup sufficiently well with the necessary concentrations and interactions. However, the grid spacing with depth and across the surface has to be sufficiently fine to adequately capture the dynamics. And the time slices have to be defined based on the grid spacing so as not to result in absurdities in the calculations. Then too there is the little problem of dynamic instability in the fluid flows that may necessitate even finer grid spacing and lead to greater uncertainties. Non-dimensional analysis and tests can go a long way toward warning when certain condition boundaries are approached or crossed, or when the behavior is likely to change in fundamental ways. It doesn't take too long in pursuing this to realize that to do the problem well requires computational power greater than the entire computational power of all human devices taken together a century from now. So what do? -> simplify. That risks missing major issues, but allows for computationally doable problem development and answers in reasonable time. And this is precisely what has been done. But that begs the question of how well we understand the details of the systems and how well we have captured the interactions. The next easier step is to do even courser correlative analysis and treat the problem as a summation of other problems (akin to what you all are discussing here). Then with those sufficiently defined, a course assemblage model can be developed that can be run on light duty computers (laptops even). This is of course at the expense of rigor. The World 3 model from the club of Rome is an example of this. These do allow for a better understanding of the whoop and wow of the system. They might give us some idea about the stiffness of the problem and the likelihood that we will get kicked int he collective rears by that. Stiff equations by the way, are equations in complex dynamical system that resist movement for long periods, then suddenly respond catastrophically. These tend to be driven by partial differential equations with tanking functions where some input accumulates until it overcomes some often undefined resistance, or result in a state transit in the system. The equations sometimes reveal this from simple analysis. Sometimes they don't. The simple cases can often then can be thought of in terms of Rene Thom's Theorie' de la Catastrophe. In visual terms, the equation space is a multidimensional folded sheet. Movement across the sheet can encounter sudden transitions to other parts of the sheet. Reversal does not then reverse the transition. (Think hysteresis). I applaud your efforts to think through these dynamics. It is useful. I do encourage caution though in believing at any point that you have (any of us) captured all of the important or controlling aspects. Sam
Toggle Commented Jan 21, 2017 on Global warming 2016: Arctic spin at Arctic Sea Ice
Along these same lines... As the recent El Nino years developed, a pool of very warm ocean water dominated in the northeastern pacific. It was tied to the ridiculously resilient ridge. The question of which of these drove the other, or wether some other factor drove the creation of either or both remained unresolved. The general belief in the research community was that the RRR caused the warm ocean. As the El Nino faded and near La Nina conditions developed, a long band of abnormally cool water developed from the central north pacific to the northeast pacific ocean. This cold water allowed and possibly encouraged storms to flow from the Pacific into the Pacific Northwestern US. This is the opposite of what happened with the El Nino conditions. Then the storms were shunted north into Alaska and Canada and far south to Baja California. The northern branch distorted (or was distorted by, or jointly ...) the polar and continental jet streams. This in turn led to serious incursions of cold from the arctic down through the eastern US and extreme drought in California. As the El Nino is fading, the cooling of the northeastern pacific seems to be going with it. My question for all of you is this - How is this or how has this impacted oceanic flows into or out of the Arctic on the western side? And, how is this impacting the arctic conditions and flows? I suspect it has either had a large effect, or its large effect has been involved in driving events in the northern and northeastern pacific, with wide ranging ecosystem impacts in addition to the weather and climate impacts. As an added note, I have watched this region since the early 1990s. In the early 1990s, when El Nino's developed, a band of cold water developed in this area and in its twin in the southern hemisphere. When that shifted to La Nina, the equatorial Pacific went cold, and these two bands went warm. The oscillated in opposition to the equatorial temperature oscillation. In the mid to late 1990s, this all changed. The northern band shifted to match the equatorial band (warm and warm, cold and cold). The southern band stayed as it was. The northern part of this pattern seems to be intensifying in that seeming correlation of warm to warm and cold to cold. I don't know that that has any meaning at all. These may be unlinked events and separate oscillations. It is still curious none the less. Sam
NeilT, Said more simply ... the system is buffered. It is akin to charging up a battery or putting air pressure into a tank. We've gotten to the point we've gotten, and there is no easy road back. Worse than this though, along the way we've triggered and we will now inexorably trigger the system to release immense stores of carbon that were sequestered long ago by the natural systems. In time the system will rebalance and achieve a new equilibrium. That may or may not involve putting the carbon back into storage. Whether it does or not depends upon the equilibrium the system achieves. And the timeframes unfortunately are not ones most people can think in. In the long history of the earth, the quasi stable equilibrium states have seldom looked like the one primates grew up in. Usually it has involved one of two boundary states, either hothouse earth or ice house earth. The most likely new equilibrium is the hothouse earth state. But, if we are incredibly fortunate and we collectively act immediately with all hands to the tiller, we might just barely be able to hang onto a quasi stable state near what we had. That is now highly unlikely. It is even more unlikely that we will act together, act immediately, or act strongly enough. What this means for the ice is melting, lots and lots of melting. That then changes the dynamics of the system and at some point the natural carbon stores begin their release. When that release rate approaches human caused release rates we exceed our own ability even with everyone acting together to reverse the process. At that point what we humans do will cease to matter. Th system will do what it will do. All we can do then is to try to slow the transition to allow for some limited degree of adaptation and response. Sam
Toggle Commented Jan 11, 2017 on Global warming 2016: Arctic spin at Arctic Sea Ice
jdallen, I agree with most of your points. However consider please that nature already uses every trick it has to exploit every ecological niche to the maximum that it can. Finding some organism to do better than that is I am afraid a lost cause. I agree that we have crossed many thresholds, points of no return to our current state (at least no return in biologically relevant time periods to humans). I also agree that we need to bend every effort to turn the corner on fuel burning as fast and as hard as we can physically accomplish such. Unfortunately, most of humanity has no reasonable ability to play any role in that. They exist in a day to day struggle to survive and feed themselves. Their near term future welfare is directly dependent on having children to provide for themselves, and in the process the problem becomes worse. Unless and until they can get the breathing room to change that dynamic there is no answer to that problem save for ecological overrun, starvation, and collapse. Alternately, they can flee to someplace else as we are already seeing happen from Africa and the Middle East into Europe. The floor on problems that creates and the reactions that result are sadly all too predictable in broad terms, if not in specifics. Worse, many of our brethren fundamentally do not believe, do not want to believe and cannot allow themselves to believe that this is a real and immediate threat. Instead, they see this as yet another assault on themselves, their beliefs, their culture, their values, their wants, dreams and desires. As a result, they not only are not on board with attacking the problem, they are actively pulling in the opposite direction. They are deeply trapped in the religion of growth and set beliefs that deny as even possible the very things that will destroy our societies and humanity. Unless and until that changes, there is not only no hope and no possibility of hope, their is the antithesis of hope, there is certainty that it will get worse faster and faster and faster. And like the least able defend themselves, those of us with more resources are trapped too on a path to ruin that leads to ecological collapse and destruction on a scale seldom seen on earth. For us there won't even be the option of fleeing to some other ecoregion. We live in the final bastion. But here too we have a problem. A deep part of our many cultures down through history has used fear to drive and motivate. In particular, many (most) religions rely on end times catastrophes as part of their mythos. We collectively discount any assertions of impending disaster. We've heard it all before and nothing has ever come of the warnings. Most people simply cannot reason at the technological levels required to understand how this time is fundamentally different from those and that the danger we face is very real and imminent. They must rely instead on what others tell them. And here too we are trapped, as the easy rhetorical arguments of the lack of a problem are desirable and easy while the deep technical arguments on the other side argue for austerity and pain. People cannot easily see that the later is the vastly better option, and that the former is nothing but a salesman's slick speech to lure in the suckers, an illusory dream. Not long ago (a decade or two) a new phrase was coined - extinction level event - to describe the risks from asteroid impacts. The certainty (not risk -> we passed 'risk' a long while ago) is on that scale. This is a slow onset ELE. Before the bulk of people understand that it is already too late to avoid the worst aspects of the ELE, it's impacts are upon us and our potential choices become more limited with each passing moment. About all that I believe we can do at this point is to mitigate the trajectory, to try to save some parts of the biosphere and perhaps ourselves. But even that requires massive concerted effort. I don't see how we can possibly get there. I wish to be utterly and completely wrong about this. As to the ice. I'm afraid that we will not be able in anyway to slow the change before the ice goes completely. It matters little whether that happens immediately or in a decade, or in three decades. The momentum we have built into the system will carry us through to complete loss of the arctic ice before we can do much of anything to even put a dent in our trajectory. I suspect that the same is true for the Greenland sheet. That should take 1 to 3 centuries to melt. I suspect it will completely melt far faster than we even imagine is possible. For a time, Greenland will likely be our temporary salvation for climate. But that will come with its own problems as a highly asymmetrical weather pattern develops with the cold pole situated far from the north pole severely distorting the polar stream and the jet stream. And again - I stridently wish to be wrong in my evaluation. Sam
You all seem to only see negatives or risks in geoengineering. Just think how rich all the lawyers will get on all sides of the debacle. And think about all the military spending to grab resources and the pride we'll all have in our brave troops sacrificed doing so. /snark mode off/
Jai, I would love to believe that "...it will be a powerful activating event that will polarize society into mobilizing. Working together to end the fossil fuel era using techniques and economic models that have not been embraced since the beginning of World War II." etc. and "We will be back to 300 PPMv CO2 by 2075." I don't believe even for a moment that either of these can occur. The first will in all probability be ruled out by ignorant self interest that will deny reality right to the last. The second will in all probability be ruled out for the same reason. These require massive sacrifice on everyone's part and a move away from our current societal systems that price everything. That's just not going to happen. Like Vidaloo and others, I believe that this disruption event is likely to happen. What I am less convinced about is the timing. It seems likely that the change to ice free conditions will be the point of transition, that the warming of the Arctic thereafter will be much more rapid and will lead to the destabilization. This is classic high school science. Ice in a glass of water greatly stabilizes the temperature of the water. Adding heat to the glass quickly translates into melting ice with little temperature change. But once the ice is gone - hang on to your hat. Sam
Toggle Commented Dec 20, 2016 on PIOMAS December 2016 at Arctic Sea Ice
Correction... 2.25 trillion not quadrillion. 2.25 x 10^12
Wipneus, Thank you for clarifying. And - wow!! The plot bottoms out at what appears to be -8.15 sigma. As a measure of this as part of the normal distribution the chances of this occurring are over 2 quadrillion (American measures) to 1. (1 in 2.25 times 10 to the 15th power). We are in a new system now. Even at -5 sigma we are at 1 in 1.75 million. Personally I have never seen 8 sigma in a data set before. Sam
Jim, Actually, I am not quibbling with how the grey band values were calculated. I presume that was done correctly and well. As you note though, inherently there are challenges to the validity of doing that at all (apples and oranges). Still the calculation was done and the grey bar used. What I was commenting is that I don't personally know if this used the +/- 1 or +/- 2 sigma values. From appearances it is the +/- 2 sigma band. Looking only at the Arctic plot with its +/- 2 sigma band we are easily at 5 sigma on the low side. And that is extraordinary. Sam
Hans, I don't know the basis of the grey bars shown in the plot. If the grey band (barely visible) is the +/- 2 sigma error band for earlier times, then the current trend line appears to be about 3 sigma below the -2 sigma level, so 5 sigma in total. If the grey band is the +/- 1 sigma band, then the trend line appears to be about 2.5 sigma below the mean for earlier times. Either way, that is huge. At 5 sigma, well it is shall we say - significant. Which ever it is, the Arctic ice numbers are well outside the band and bode ill for the start of 2017s ice year. But then too, as the climate has shifted it has also become more erratic in any given year we can and should expect surprises in any direction. Last year early in the season I couldn't see any way that we would end up with as much ice as we did. At the same time, the quality of the ice was dramatically different and worse than in any prior year. It was immensely fractured and dispersed. As a result, the metrics that we all rely on to point us toward what to expect in the future all became highly suspect. The fundamental foundations of the definitions of ice edge and area became highly weird and uncertain. Almost uniformly they indicted more ice than our eyes showed us was present. The early definitions intentionally erred toward conservatism (in this usage - overestimating the amount of ice). But the relative potential error that introduced was small as the edges were small compared to the massive size of the ice sheet. Last year that became decidedly untrue. The edges were everywhere. The ice was shattered and dispersed. As a result, the mean tendency for the values of area and extent became misleading and highly uncertain. The error introduced by the definitions became very important, though generally unnoted and generally unevaluated. Even now we have the same problem, though it is largely concealed by the relatively thin first year ice that has formed at much higher temperatures than usual for winter in the Arctic. With these and other metrics and values having their own problems then being input into the ice volume models, those as well are more questionable. One measure of that is the very large differences between the various models about the thickness of the ice from place to place across the Arctic. The distributions often look quite dissimilar. Personally I have given up trying to estimate what the extent, area and volume metrics and model results may say. I am confident that they are each over estimates, though I have no confidence in assessing how far off they may be from whatever the real values are. Even that is subjective depending on definitions (just as the metrics are subjective based on definitions). About the only things I am confident in are the general trends to less and less ice, to the acceleration of those trends, and to the inevitability that those trends will reach zero in the relatively near future. I tend to think more in the decade to century or millennial time scales than the annual to five year scales. Looked at in this longer scales, the decline is quite abrupt and will cross zero almost immediately. Once that happens, all bets are off. We then enter a new regime where we have more guesses than knowledge. The potential consequences of some of the potential paths we then take are in a word terrifying. But collectively we seem unwilling to consider any of those, as they are too terrifying to consider. And so we blunder forward. Worse even than that, a large part of our global population with vested interests in the answer being different than what we see coming simply rejects that and works instead to destroy the messengers warning of impending disasters. What they miss of course is that ignoring the warnings or opposing the messages (and messengers) about what is cmiing does nothing to change the reality. Reality ultimately prevails. Reality is funny that way. Sam
Lord Soth and Wayne, Though the conditions during a hothouse earth period may sound benign, they are dramatically different than what humans are now adapted to. With a slow transition, we might well even adapt. What we have become is as far from a slow transition as is immaginable. It is in fact one of the most rapid non-asteroidal impact transitions in all of earth's history. And it is the transition that is likely to do us in. We are now in one of the six greatest extinction events in all of earth's long history. The transition is far from benign. For example: Hypoxia, Global Warming, and Terrestrial Late Permian Extinctions Raymond B. Huey*, Peter D. Ward + Author Affiliations ↵* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: hueyrb@u.washington.edu Science 15 Apr 2005: Vol. 308, Issue 5720, pp. 398-401 DOI: 10.1126/science.1108019 Elisee, An ice free earth (or even an earth with one pole ice free) operates under wholly different rules than the world we are accustomed to. The so-called equable climate world where this is true has long been a conundrum. T is only in the past decade that the pieces have come together about how the equable climate world works. It has long been known that during an equable climate period that their is little temperature difference from equator to pole just how that could be was unclear. What we now understand (as I and many others have noted here) is that during such times that the atmospheric circulation breaks down from the current three cell circulation into a single cell circulation with heavy cloud cover over the pole throughout the winter. The oceans do not boil. They circulate differently carrying heat to the pole. This has been reported here many times already. You must have missed those many discussions. Sam
Toggle Commented Dec 11, 2016 on PIOMAS December 2016 at Arctic Sea Ice
Elisee, What you seem to miss is what happens in the transition between these states, just how fast the transitions are, how poorly adapted most species are to the broad change required to survive the transition, and just how severely we have degraded the whole of the earth's ecosystems. Most species cannot adapt fast enough to survive the transition to hothouse earth, or even the lesser transition that we have assuredly triggered. Species most often adapt to a narrow range of conditions for economy reasons (energy economy, genetic and molecular economy, ... not financial economy - obviously). Most species are also highly dependent on other species in an intricate web of codependency. Obvious examples like the dodo are easy to understand. Less obvious ones like the timing of plants blooming and pollinators emerging are only slightly less hard to see. But even these simple examples are beyond the knowledge or awareness of the majority of humans. The earth will survive and thrive for the next three quarters of a billion years. That does not mean that the species we know (possibly ourselves included) will. During past transitions, oxygen levels have fallen to below 14% and stayed there for over million years. That is ample for many species. It isn't sufficient for most large mammals to remain conscious and to do all the things needed for survival. It is equivalent to living at 5-6 kilometers elevation. Three distinct populations of humans carry adaptations to such thin air (Ethiopian, Himalayan and Andean). The vast majority of people do not carry these adaptations. Some yaks, alpaca, vicuña, etc also are adapted and might survive, provided there is sufficient food. Small mammals too will have a chance. Most large mammals won't. And a similar story plays out in the oceans. Add to thus the declining pH of our blood in homeostasis with atmospheric CO2, and general health declines as well. We as a species are adapted to a narrow range of CO2. As CO2 rises our blood pH falls. As pH falls our general health declines. And again a different but similar problem plays out in the oceans as the pH moves below the range that will support formation or maintence of shells. And the shell fish perish - severely impacting all of the species that depend on them. In the hothouse earth with O2 levels potentially rising to 30% in a denser thicker atmosphere, forest fires can start and rage on, all while drenching downpours occur. Three foot spiders and six foot sea going scorpions become possible and have occurred in the past. It is a world wholly unlike the world we know.
Toggle Commented Dec 10, 2016 on PIOMAS December 2016 at Arctic Sea Ice
Neven, and all, I had thought we here had collectively gotten past the point of confusing desires with reality. I have never had that option. My comments are not meant to nor are they apocalyptic by desire or design. They are simply observations on the real world and where we are. My experience of this world is that the only way we stand any chance of benefiting our future is by realistically coming to grips with where we are, where we are headed, and the bounds of what we can do to adjust that path. Then knowing those things, buckling down to do the hard work to make the future better match what we wish within the bounds of what is physically possible. I have been stunned frankly in the past decade to come to the unwelcome realization that the vast majority of humanity does not do this. Instead, people most generally start by deciding what they want, then select data and information to bolster their own views and desires (irrespective of any test against reality, against sufficiency, adequacy or anything else). Next, they tend then associate with those who affirm their desires and views and who reject other views. That's all well and good so long as it isn't in direct contradiction to physical reality and the limits it imposes. I wish most fervently to be wrong, to have erred in assessing where we are and where we are headed. I see little potential for error large enough to significantly change the conclusions. It is fundamentally clear that human emissions of carbon gases are radically changing our climate. It is clear these are directly tied to the numbers of us and the "living standard" we demand. It is clear that our numbers are growing exponentially and are now far beyond sustainable levels. We are now rapidly degrading all of the earth's supporting systems. And we continue to grow exponentially. It is also clear from the trends on Arctic ice area, extent and volume that within the next decade that we will have a substantially ice free Arctic for at least one month each year. It is also clear that ice melt will continue and likely worsen thereafter. It is clear that sometime by about the mid 2030s that the Arctic will be ice free year round save for Greenland. With that change, the fundamental driving force for atmospheric circulation in the northern hemisphere will break down. We are already seeing the beginnings of that now. With Greenland as the only cold source we will have at best a severely weakened and highly unbalanced driver for our current three cell atmospheric circulation. Weather patterns will at the very least shift dramatically and non uniformly. Simultaneously, the great oceanic conveyor will lose its northern driving force as the diving current fails with the loss of ice to melt. This too will lead to dramatic changes in the oceanic circulations, productivity, and impacts on weather, as well as further warming of the Arctic, clathrate breakdown and consequent methane release, tundra collapse and more. There is little to nothing we can meaningfully do about that now. But the only chance we have of doing anything about these things comes about by first understanding the brutal condition we have placed ourselves in. With CO2eq now over 500 ppm, our room to maneuver is extremely limited. We are currently releasing an ever increasing amount of warming gases to the tune of an additional 3.5+ ppm CO2eq each year (and rising each year). Things only get worse from here. But again, we can only have any possible chance of changing this trajectory if we first come to grips with where we are and with what is actually required to accomplish a significant change. Not recognizing that or coming to grips with it leaves us failing to do what is required. It frankly doesn't matter how we feel about it, or what we desire if we fail in these things. As to your question about why I raise this here? Where else is there to raise it? If this group of people cannot deal with this, there is no other forum or group apparent in the world that can. And if it is indeed the case that this group cannot come to grips with this, then we are good and truly done. As to the comments that we will not become Venus or Mars, or that the earth is 'stable'. In time, the earth will become Venus like. That too is inevitable. Fortunately, we have about 750 million years before the suns rising heat emissions push us inside the inner edge of the Goldilocks zone. It is highly unlikely that anything man could now do could trip us over that edge. But that doesn't mean that we cannot create or force conditions that we as a species cannot survive. We are proving quite capable of that. In its long geologic history, the earth has most often alternated between two quasi stable states - hothouse and icehouse earth. Seldom has the earth stayed in an intermediate state. And even when it has, the orbital and other oscillations have typically been so large and chaotic that agriculture would not be possible. It is only in this quasi stable midground with ice covering both poles that we have had this relatively stable period that allowed us to develop the food supplies needed to support civilization. Sam
Toggle Commented Dec 10, 2016 on PIOMAS December 2016 at Arctic Sea Ice
Neven, As you correctly note, year round ice sheet loss will mean the collapse of civilization. The full reality sadly is very much worse than that. Worse yet, it is now inevitable. Whether it happens in 2021 or 2035 is irrelevant. Measured in geologic scales this is a blink. Measured in human scales it is quick. There is now quite literally nothing we can do to prevent it. We had perhaps the possibility to delay it a bit. That opportunity is now sadly lost. The future is dire. Billions will die as a direct consequence of humanities failure in the very near future. While it was likely that our children's generation would suffer and our grandchildren would perish due directly to the compound cataclysms brought about by climate change, now we know that even we who discuss this here are likely to die as a direct result of climate changes impacts. And that is even true for those of us now nearing retirement. The cataclysm is fast upon us. At the same time, denial and self interest are so powerful that precisely when we most need to know more and to act decisively, humanity is doing the opposite. We will even be denied a good record of what happened. It is the sadest of times for those who can see. But then again, what does it matter? Extinction is forever. Whatever species finally achieves sentience after us will be so far into the future that no record even of our prior existence is likely to remain. Sam
Toggle Commented Dec 9, 2016 on PIOMAS December 2016 at Arctic Sea Ice
Neven, Bravo. Many of us, like you, are transitioning from worrying about the coming calamity, or even from trying to prevent or lessen the severity or speed with which the calamity hits us. Now we must focus far more locally on doing what we perhaps can for ourselves and those we love. A blog where you and we can share what works(ed) and what doesn't (didn't) is a grand idea. Lessons learned from the front lines of transition. How to become independent of all of society to the degree we can. Power, heat, cooling, food and water rank high on that list. Being able to share and store that abundance locally come next. There is already a huge base to start from that began in the 1970s and has continued through the present. Sam
Toggle Commented Dec 5, 2016 on Sabbatical (I hope) at Arctic Sea Ice
Al, Thank you! I don't know how I missed that source in my search. There are some small differences in factors that appear to account for the 7 ppm difference between their estimate and my own. That's not a lot considering all of the factors involved. Very helpful. Thanks again. Sam
Toggle Commented Nov 20, 2016 on PIOMAS November 2016 at Arctic Sea Ice
Neven, Thank you for all you have done in creating this wonderful site and forum. You are in no way alone. I think nearly all of us here are in very nearly the same place as yourself. Trying to make sense out of any reasonable way forward from here is crazy making. Peace and best wishes to you and your wife, and to us all. Sam
Toggle Commented Nov 20, 2016 on Sabbatical (I hope) at Arctic Sea Ice
Also, As I noted previously, one of the things that jumped out at me in doing the calculation myself (and redoing it many times) is that we are at 520 ppm CO2e now. This is much higher than the numbers reported elsewhere. I am somewhat anxious for someone else here to independently grind through it all to compare notes in order to find any errors I may have made. If we are indeed at 520 ppm CO2e, then the situation is substantially worse than is generally recognized. With the political and institutional pressures the major organizations face to iron clad prove every iota of information (or be forced to exclude it) it is not surprising for the published estimates to be very nonconservative (understating the seriousness of our condition). Also, if we take the preindustrial contribution of methane and use it instead of current methane, we get a somewhat higher relative equivalent CO2(re) of something like 435-450 ppm. What that number shows is not the combined effects, but rather what the CO2 alone would need to be to get to the current CO2e with only CO2 and preindustrial CH4 levels. And what that in turn shows is that the gases other than CO2 are all of relatively minor importance. The huge caveat with that is that if we emit the carbon from the tundra stores or the oceanic methane clathrates that that dramatically and suddenly changes. In those cases, methane becomes immensely important. More than all of this, what these calculations hide is the most important big picture. They all inherently presume a regularity and quasi linearity to how the system responds to heating. That is nearly true for small changes. That is decidedly false for large changes. Once large changes occur, the base conditions change and the calculations lose relevance. And it is here that the paleoclimatic correlations take on huge significance. But that too is deceptive as it is based on the quasi stable climatic conditions the earth has been in for many millions of years with two ice covered poles. It is relatively rare in the long history of the earth to exist in these quasistable midregions between snowball earth and hothouse earth. The change we are driving now looks to most definitely eliminate the northern ice sheets. That will likely create then an unsymmetrical atmosphere with a unicellular northern circulation and a cloud covered warm northern pole; and an ice covered (though melting) Antarctic pole with a three cell atmospheric circulation in the Southern Hemisphere. The earth existed in those conditions for tens of millions of years. So, it might be stable enough that we could return to near present conditions in a few million years. That is provided we do not push the earth so hard that we release the tundra carbon stores and:or the oceanic clathrates. Should those occur, the heating may be prolonged and serious enough to fully melt Antarctica. If that happens, we enter a hothouse earth. Temperatures bang up to the top end of the geologic scale and limit out there. The atmospheric pressure rises and the O2 content falls leaving an atmosphere that won't support large animals. In time that too changes and O2 soars to the point that forests can occasionally burn during torrential downpours and three foot spiders roam the earth. Any of those are conditions we should not want to explore. Agriculture will likely become impossible in the northern hemisphere at least during the transition to a unicellular atmospheric circulation system. We won't be able to predict temperatures or rainfall from year to year. Catastrophic variations from jet stream movements will make that even worse. Once things stabilize in the unicellular flows, we might again get to some sort of predictable system for crops if we are very fortunate. However, the changes in oceanic circulation may take a thousand to several thousand years to stabilize. In the mean time, large anoxic areas may form with large atmospheric and continental consequences. Are any of these provably true. I don't know. They are likely true, and equally likely unprovable. We lack the data. The danger from them to human survival is so large it would be unwise to roll the dice and find out. But roll the dice we have. So, in time (perhaps not too much time) we will find out.
Toggle Commented Nov 20, 2016 on PIOMAS November 2016 at Arctic Sea Ice
Al, I agree with you that it is inappropriate to use CO2e as the be-all end-all for calculating temperature rise. It is all to easy to fall into that trap. As Wayne points out from the work so many hard scientists have done, there are other effects that are more important. If one relied only on CO2e the indicated temperature rise would greatly understate the real temperature change. Hansen and others have pointed out the strong correlation between CO2 rise and temperature rise and how much larger that is than would be predicted from the simplest assessments and thermodynamic calculations. A large part of these effects seems to be from a group of combined effects from the increase in moisture and clouds in the atmosphere, the heightening of moisture into the high atmosphere and albedo changes. I suspect too that differences in these changes with latitude are large and that the changes in the polar regions are very much more important than equatorial changes for example. Though CO2e does allow for relative comparisons of the effects of the various warming gases and maximizing what good we might do, it easily misleads as well by missing these larger impacts. What became really clear to me in doing the research to do the calculations for myself was that the minor gases (gases other than CO2, CH4, N2O and H20 as gas and as clouds) have essentially a constant and quite small impact on the outcome. Yes, it is very important to limit all of these. In the grand scheme, the only two we must focus on are CO2 and CH4. Both of those come down to stopping the use of fossil fuels. If we fail on this all of the rest are irrelevant. And we are badly failing on those two. If we globally somehow turn the corner (immediately) on CO2 and CH4, then the others might become important, otherwise they are of minor significance. But we are not going to turn the corner on CO2 or CH4, so that is moot anyway. Sam
Toggle Commented Nov 20, 2016 on PIOMAS November 2016 at Arctic Sea Ice
Oops CO2e runs about 1.30 to 1.38 * CO2.
Toggle Commented Nov 20, 2016 on PIOMAS November 2016 at Arctic Sea Ice
Wayne, Calculating CO2 equivalent (CO2e) is far from trivial. And though the result has some use, it obscures the immense complexities involved in heat transport across the IR spectrum and through the atmosphere. With that caveat out of the way, CO2 heating is approximately logarithmic with concentration. The way the value is calculated is by using a set of observed correlation factors to convert CO2 and other gas concentrations to equivalent forcings in watts/meter^2. This includes a couple of compounding factors between CO2 and methane and N2O. As it turns out, these are negligible. After you sum all of the forcings, including effects on water vapor and ozone, you then back out the CO2e through the logarithmic relationship. If you take the preindustrial gas levels (278 ppm CO2 etc...), the preindustrial CO2e was about 378 ppm CO2e. If you take the past years average for all of the major gases (CO2, CH4, N2O, resulting water vapor changes) and then add the ozone change (very minor) and the top three dozen trace gases (HCFCs, SF6, NF3, etc...). The current CO2 of 402.5 (annual global mean) etc... you get a grand total of 520 ppm CO2e. That then converts to a thermodynamic temperature change from preindustrial due to these gases of 1.03 C. Doing the calculation is an interesting exercise. There are clearly missing factors. The elevation of moisture into the high atmosphere leading to increased warming, and the cooling from sulfate and particulate aerosols are probably the largest. Then add stochastic variation and even as a simple model it all gets rather complex. If you then extrapolate the observed trends on all of these gases through 2070 (the date isn't important) a couple of things jump out. First, CO2e can be approximated as 1.38 * CO2. Second, the trace gases (chlorofluoro yada yada) amount to about 10 ppm (I.e. small and nearly constant). Third, even though the temperature rise attributed to these gases is exponential, it can reasonably be approximated through late in the 20th century as [CO2]/278ppm - 0.45 C. The actual rise is considerably higher for the reasons noted above, plus immense changes when the atmospheric and oceanic changes kick in. Fourth, this is a very simple model and does not account for a variety of huge factors. It only gives an idea of the direct impact of the warming directly. In other words - use caution - there be dragons here. Fifth, we are in deep trouble already and we are toast by mid century. We must all simple stop burning things and stop all emissions of carbon gases (principally CO2 and methane) and the consequent N2O. I encourage everyone interested to research the complexities and run the calculations yourself. As you do so, a huge array of questions and challenges will become apparent. Mostly these boil down to how little we actually understand the immense complexities involved in the earth's energy balance. It also becomes quickly apparent that many of the relied upon estimates (EEA) shouldn't be relied upon at all.
Toggle Commented Nov 20, 2016 on PIOMAS November 2016 at Arctic Sea Ice
In my career in heavy industry one of the disheartening lessons was that when those in charge in a plant do not understand the fundamental technical basis of how the plant works (or worse - simply do not care) that all I could do was get out of the way and wait. Once events took their natural course and the plant failed completely and only then could I help put it right with the new management and staff that replaced the old management and staff. I simply had to hope that the damage done as the plant systems collapsed wasn't so great or severe as to make the situation hopeless. Sadly, the situation we face was already hopeless. I ran the numbers a while back. From basic principles we are now at about 520 ppm co2 equivalent. The EEA number in the high 400s is just plain wrong. Other estimates at about 500 omit several important gases, including co2, methane and nitrous oxide effects on ozone and water vapor induced warming. Based solely on these, the thermodynamic warming predicted is 1 degree C. Based on extrapolations of current trends for the various gases we should expect co2e to rise to between 750-950 ppm by 2070 with a thermodynamic predicted temperature rise of 2 C. The actual temperature rise is larger of course do to compounded effects on water vapor in the atmosphere. We are currently at about 1.6-1.85 C above the historic background. And so we were already rapidly headed for a 3-5 C increase in temperature, which is cataclysmic. Above 1.5-2 C the likelihood of thermal runaway is almost certain --> to the upper temperature stable ice free world State that has dominated most of geologic time. That is where we were if we put all hands on deck globally and did every conceivable thing to limit global warming gas emissions. Now, well -> those cheery days are behind us. Now we get to watch in horror as all of the ice melts. We get to journal the earth's transition to a hothouse earth. We get to plumb the depths of oceanic and atmospheric science to try to stay slightly ahead of the changing circulations in the hope that we can salvage something from the age of the monkeys as we transition from the Cenozoic to the Neozoic. It appears inevitable now that we will collapse the tundra releasing 1,680 GT of carbon to the air, and in trigger the massive breakdown of oceanic clathrates that make that look puny. In the end we only start by losing the Arctic ice. Next up, Greenland melts and the continental glaciers all go with horrific impacts on humans and ecosystems globally. Finally, Antarctica melts. About the only questions we now face relate to just how far this all goes before it runs its course. The complete melting of Greenland and an 80-100 sea level rise appear to be inevitable. But will Antarctica complete its melting before things stabilize? Will we enter a single atmospheric cell circulation system before those of us on this list pass on? How fast is this transition going to be? We are already seeing telltale hints of the slowing of the great oceanic circulation in the North Atlantic. Will those of us commenting here live long enough to see it stall completely? What then of the oceans? I can now only look on in horror and chronicle what happened. Will there be anyone to read that chronicle in 500 years? But then as I noted at the start, it may well be that the only change we could ever have accomplished required first that we collapse our societal systems. If so, we can soon check that step off our list. What will be left after that remains the most immediate question.
Toggle Commented Nov 11, 2016 on PIOMAS November 2016 at Arctic Sea Ice
Beyond the metrics, the amount of 'old' 'thick' ice transported eastward north of Greenland and disgorged into the Fram over the past week is stunning. That has to bode ill for the ice next year.
Toggle Commented Sep 23, 2016 on ASI 2016 update 7: minimum time at Arctic Sea Ice
Wayne, This is why I warned about assumptions, metrics and uncertainty. A variety of assumptions are used in developing metrics (lost work days as a surrogate for safety, ice edges ...). It is extremely common for those assumptions to then be forgotten or ignored over time and for the metric to be taken as gospel. They aren't gospel. They are subject to all sorts of errors based on the assumptions and presumptions that went into their development. Equally often, the assumptions and presumptions aren't even recognized or noted. These are hidden assumptions which are almost never challenged. As conditions change, the assumptions can become huge problems as the bases for using those assumptions become invalid. Ice cover is one such case as you have correctly noted. While there may be physical limitations of the tools (e.g. Microwave). That does not then mean that the information is necessarily meaningful for assessing the ice. As the ice conditions change, a formerly wonderful tool, may simply no longer be adequate to the needs. That the only tool we have becomes incapable of providing the information we need, does not then mean that it is useless. But neither does it mean that we should blindly accept the result as meaningful when it clearly isn't. However, all that being true, another way to view this is as measures of true uncertainty (not calculational sensitivity, or model sensitivity). The true uncertainty in the measure makes the utility of the tool less as the ice conditions change. We can visually see this to be true. The tool cannot. And this in turn has impacts on the various products, particularly ice volume. The outputs of those models has a huge uncertainty that is not readily apparent. That limitations of the tools are masking the actual conditions and causing the products and metrics to provide a falsely high value for extent and volume, and probably for area (though to a lesser extent) is important for us to recognize. If we fail to recognize this and fail to correct it, this will likely lead us to make poor decisions that fail to warn us of impending events. In the end however, it won't matter at all. It is all happening too fast. Where it does matter is in the discussion, rhetoric, and politics and hence in actions. But, the transition is happening so very quickly in geologic time that it is far outpacing any meaningful human response no matter whether we get the metrics right or not. The ice will fail, the Arctic will go ice free, the atmospheric circulation will dramatically change (it has already begun) and the world will not be as we have known it again. Things may return to what we've known in a million years or so. But in the long history of earth, the quasi stable regime we have lived in and that we developed civilization and agriculture in is but a brief blip in time with conditions that are rare in earth's history. It seems unlikely that the earth will ever return here again. Instead, we will now go through a horrible transition to some other stable or quasi stable state. We have overbuilt our societies on a fiction of stability. We have pushed everything to the very limit. Collapse is now inevitable. But knowing better what is coming, we might be able to better handle the transition to salvage something. Instead, we seem hell bent on pushing the accelerator to the floor and ploughing into the wall at the highest speed possible.
Toggle Commented Sep 18, 2016 on ASI 2016 update 7: minimum time at Arctic Sea Ice