Media is missing climate in heatwave story

By Simon Divecha, University of Adelaide

As Australia stares at “a once-in-20 or 30-year heatwave”, with temperatures over 40 degrees, it is likely that more extreme weather events similar to this are in store for us. The probability of this occurring is well researched. (For example, Professor Barry Brook has previously outlined Adelaide’s situation.)

Australia’s media largely fails to link climate change to the heat. There have been more than 800 articles in the last five days covering the heatwave. Fewer than ten of these also discuss “climate change”, “greenhouse gas”, carbon or “global warming” (from a 3 -7 January 2013 Factiva news source search conducted on 7 January at 4pm). Continue reading

Scientists predict US$2trn cost to ocean economies, March 22, 2012.  Scientists at the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) have released a new study that has placed the effects of climate change on the world’s ocean ecosystems under the spotlight. They predict climate change alone could reduce the economic value of key ocean services by up to US$2trn a year by 2100.

The scientists are now calling for a global, integrated approach to protect oceans from converging threats.
Continue reading

Pacific leaders identify climate change as a major priority.

AUCKLAND (AFP) – Pacific leaders identified climate change as the greatest threat to the region, ordering officials to start work on plans to help people forced to relocate by rising sea levels.

The 16-nation Pacific Islands Forum on Thursday said the impact of climate change was already apparent in countries such as Kiribati, where some villagers have had to abandon their homes as the seas rise, and finance was needed to help them. Continue reading

Jim Hansen’s Conservative Climate Plan

I found this post by Jim Dipeso (shown), from almost a year ago (October 2010).  It reminds us that the carbon tax is not a left-leaning proposition, and in fact is much more consistent with conservative ideology.  Here in Australia, we have it quite back-to-front in a spectacular way.  Opposition Leader Tony Abbott from our conservative Liberal National Party coalition supports direct action (Government intervention), while Prime Minister Julia Gillard is pushing a carbon tax, which depends on the dynamics of business markets to solve the problem.  Maybe they should elect for a re-start, shake hands and swap policies.  It is too confusing otherwise!

There is what Jim Dipeso said on a Republican website in the United States:

As a climate change activist, climatologist Jim Hansen takes his activism a step beyond where most would be willing to go.  Continue reading

Hoodwinking the public with faulty information

By Hans Hoegh-Guldberg, Economic Strategies, Australia.

A few months ago on this blog I reviewed the current alarming state of climate change denial pushed by big business interests,  which scientists need to debate vigorously beyond uttering the evident truth that climate change is real. The Australian government, supported by the Greens and independent members, has “committed” itself to a carbon tax, or what Treasurer Wayne Swan now calls an interim price on carbon as a step towards a future emissions trading scheme. Scientists need to help support, explain and strengthen this initiative.

The proposal is good news but there is still a long way to go, with the opposition promising to fight “the great big tax on everything” all the way. The Coalition fails to mention that the proposed price on carbon will be combined with measures to support lower-income groups, small businesses, and renewable energy.  Voters need to understand that structural change in the taxation and subsidy system is part and parcel of what must happen. Estimates of a $300 electricity price hike, petrol  costs rising by 6.5 cents a litre, and $150 increases in the annual gas bill that have been canvassed by Coalition members such as Greg Hunt are premature when nothing has yet been decided on the carbon price, or the associated reforms. An extensive consultative process will follow, in which scientists have an evident role.

Continue reading

Why was it so cold in Europe and North America if climate change is meant to be real?

We have seen record cold weather over the past few months in Europe and North America.  I keep getting asked:  why is this so if climate change is meant to be happening?  Our inept denialist ‘friends’ continue to trumpet this as evidence that climate change is not happening.  The experts, however, think very differently.  Here is some of what they say.

The strongly negative NAO is back again this winter. High pressure has replaced low pressure over the North Pole, and according to NOAA, the NAO index during November 2010 was the second lowest since 1950. This strongly negative NAO has continued into December, and we are on course to have a top-five most extreme December NAO. Cold air is once again spilling southwards into the Eastern U.S. And Europe, bringing record cold and fierce snowstorms. At the same time, warm air is flowing into the Arctic to replace the cold air spilling south–

temperatures averaged more than 10°C (18°F) above average over much of Greenland so far this month. The latest 2-week forecast from the GFS model predicts that the Hot Arctic-Cold Continents pattern will continue for the next two weeks. However, the coldest air has sloshed over into Europe and Asia, and North America will see relatively seasonable temperatures the next two weeks.

Severe winters in eastern US and E. Asia are related by teleconnections to changes in atmospheric pressure and winds following loss of Arctic sea ice

Hot Arctic-Cold Continents

Dr. Jim Overland of NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, one of the world’s experts on Arctic weather and climate, [has] demonstrated that the Arctic is normally dominated by low pressure in winter, and a “Polar Vortex” of counter-clockwise circulating winds develops surrounding the North Pole. However, during the winter of 2009-2010, high pressure replaced low pressure over the Arctic, and the Polar Vortex weakened and even reversed at times, with a clockwise flow of air replacing the usual counter-clockwise flow of air around the pole. This unusual flow pattern allowed cold air to spill southwards and be replaced by warm air moving poleward. This pattern is kind of like leaving the refrigerator door ajar–the refrigerator warms up, but all of the cold air spills out into the house.

The North Atlantic Oscillation NAO

This is all part of a natural climate pattern known as the North Atlantic Oscillation NAO, which took on its most extreme configuration in 145 years of record keeping during the winter of 2009 – 2010. The NAO is a climate pattern in the North Atlantic Ocean of fluctuations in the difference of sea-level pressure between the Icelandic Low and the Azores High. It is one of oldest known climate oscillations–seafaring Scandinavians described the pattern several centuries ago. Through east-west oscillation motions of the Icelandic Low and the Azores High, the NAO controls the strength and direction of westerly winds and storm tracks across the North Atlantic. A large difference in the pressure between Iceland and the Azores positive NAO leads to increased westerly winds and mild and wet winters in Europe. Positive NAO conditions also cause the Icelandic Low to draw a stronger south-westerly flow of air over eastern North America, preventing Arctic air from plunging southward. In contrast, if the difference in sea-level pressure between Iceland and the Azores is small negative NAO, westerly winds are suppressed, allowing Arctic air to spill southwards into eastern North America more readily. Negative NAO winters tend to bring cold winters to Europe and the U.S. East Coast, but leads to very warm conditions in the Arctic, since all the cold air spilling out of the Arctic gets replaced by warm air flowing poleward.

The winter of 2009 – 2010 had the most extreme negative NAO since record keeping began in 1865. This “Hot Arctic-Cold Continents pattern”, resulting in a reversal of Polar Vortex and high pressure replacing low pressure over the Arctic, had occurred previously in only four winters during the past 160 years—1969, 1963, 1936, and 1881. Dr. Overland called the winter of 2009 – 2010 at least as surprising at the record 2007 loss of Arctic sea ice. He suspected that Arctic sea ice loss was a likely culprit for the event, since Francis et al. (2009) found that during 1979 – 2006, years that had unusually low summertime Arctic sea ice had a 10 – 20% reduction in the temperature difference between the Equator and North Pole. This resulted in a weaker jet stream with slower winds that lasted a full six months, through fall and winter. The weaker jet caused a weaker Aleutian Low and Icelandic Low during the winter, resulting in a more negative North Atlantic Oscillation, allowing cold air to spill out of the Arctic and into Europe and the Eastern U.S. Dr. Overland also stressed that natural chaos in the weather/climate system also played a role, as well as the El Niño/La Niña cycle and natural oscillations in stratospheric winds. Not every year that we see extremely high levels of Arctic sea ice loss will have a strongly negative NAO winter. For example, the record Arctic sea ice loss year of 2007 saw only a modest perturbation to the Arctic Vortex and the NAO during the winter of 2007 – 2008.

For more information

The NOAA web page, Future of Arctic Sea Ice and Global Impacts has a nice summary of the “Hot Arctic-Cold Continents” winter pattern.

NOAA’s Arctic Report Card is also a good source of information.

Francis, J. A., W. Chan, D. J. Leathers, J. R. Miller, and D. E. Veron, 2009: Winter northern hemisphere weather patterns remember summer Arctic sea-ice extent. Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L07503, doi:10.1029/2009GL037274.

From Climatesignals

Cancun climate talks reach ‘historic deal’

Protesters make hope sign at CancunBy North America correspondent Lisa Millar, wires

After an all-night session of the UN climate talks in Cancun, countries have reached a deal that commits all major economies to greenhouse gas cuts.

For the first time the pledges by developing and developed nations to cut pollution have been brought under a UN agreement, despite vigorous opposition from Bolivia.

A multi-billion dollar Green Climate Fund was established for poorer countries to deal with climate change and progress was made on deforestation and clean energy technology.

It also reaffirms a goal of raising an annual $100 billion in aid for poor countries by 2020.

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet says it is now up to Australia to introduce a carbon price as soon as possible.

“We have a responsibility internationally. You can’t come to an international forum and participate in important agreements like this, the Cancun agreement, and then not go home and do our best to meet our emission reduction obligations,” he said.

The Australian Conservation Foundation executive director, Don Henry, has described the agreement as a historic step forward.

“We have a significant agreement here in Cancun, it includes over 80 countries taking on board pollution targets, including the US and China, which is good. We are also seeing a major fund to help poorer nations deal with climate change,” he said.

Mexican foreign minister Patricia Espinosa banged down her gavel on the deal despite objections by Bolivia, which said the plan demanded too little of developed nations in cutting greenhouse gases.

Bolivia said approval of the package violated a need for consensus.

“I urge you to reconsider,” Bolivian delegate Pablo Solon told Ms Espinosa.

After repeated anti-capitalist speeches by Mr Solon, Ms Espinosa retorted that Bolivia’s objections would be noted in a final report but could not derail a deal by 190 nations.

The plan was unlocked after delegates simply put off until 2011 a dispute between rich and poor nations over the future of the UN’s Kyoto Protocol.

Kyoto obliges almost 40 developed nations to cut emissions until 2012.

The deal does not include a commitment to extend Kyoto beyond 2012, when its first period expires, but it would prevent a collapse of climate change negotiations and allow for some modest advances on protecting the environment.

– ABC/wires

NASA reports 2010 hottest year on record so far.

From Climate Progress, Nov 11 2010

Last month, NASA reported it was the hottest January-September on record.  That followed a terrific analysis, “July 2010 — What Global Warming Looks Like,” which noted that 2010 is “likely” to be warmest year on record.

This month continues the trend of 2010 outpacing previous years, according to NASA:

October 2010 NASA

It now seems pretty certain 2010 will outpace 1998, which currently ties for fourth hottest year in the NASA dataset (though it is technically described by NASA folks as tied for the second hottest year with 2005 and 2007).

Outpacing 2005, the hottest year on record, will be closer.  In NASA’s surface-based dataset, we are unlikely to set the record monthly temperatures for the rest of this year; last month wasn’t close to the hottest October for NASA, though it was third warmest.  We  have entered a moderate to strong La Niña, which NOAA says is “expected to last at least through the Northern Hemisphere winter 2010-11.”  That said, as you can see, the October anomaly (deviation from the 1951-1980 average) was higher than September, in spite of the La Niña.

NASA’s surface-based temperature record appears to be the most accurate, as I’ve noted many times (see Finally, the truth about the Hadley/CRU data: “The global temperature rise calculated by the Met Office’s HadCRUT record is at the lower end of likely warming”).

As I discussed earlier, last month, the hottest September in UAH satellite record, puzzled Roy Spencer with its “stubborn” temperatures.  He now concedes that this year is likely to tie 1998 for the hottest year in the UAH satellite record (see “January-to-October tied for hottest in satellite record“).

For what it’s worth, here’s the latest UAH data, which, at least until it’s ‘adjusted’, shows what appears to be the warmest early November on record:

UAH 11-10+

UPDATE:  Michael in the comments directs us to this map of recent temperature anomalies from NOAA, which shows remarkably warm temperatures over much of Northern Hemisphere:

Finally, it bears repeating that the record warmth we are seeing this year is all the more powerful evidence of human-caused warming “because it occurs when the recent minimum of solar irradiance is having its maximum cooling effect,” as a recent must-read NASA paper noted:

It is just hard to stop the march of human caused global warming — other than by sharply reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Interview with Naomi Oreskes and John Cook (Sceptical Science)


We hosted Naomi Oreskes recently and admire the work of John Cook of Sceptical Science.  This link takes you to a cracking episode of The Climate Show at Hot Topic this week, featuring a must-listen interview with Naomi Oreskes discussing the background to her book Merchants of Doubt. The people who attacked her 2004 paper on the scientific consensus about global warming didn’t know what they were letting themselves in for. Also in the show: excellent infographics, Arctic warming bringing colder winters to the northern hemisphere, European biofuels, John Cook of Skeptical Science discusses the new Twitter bot that auto argues with denier tweets, electric cars again, and steady state economics.

The end of cheap coal?

As coal reserves are depleted, busy coal-train facilities, such as this one in Norfolk, Virginia, will become a thing of the past. C. DAVIDSON/CORBIS. Nature article: doi: 10.1038/nature08017

An article released in Nature today has challenged the commonly held view that the world has cheap and plentiful coal supplies that will fuel the world for decades to come.

Richard Heinberg and David Fridley argue that coal prices are likely to rapidly increase in the near future, due to a combination of rapid growth in the demand for coal, and recent findings which suggest useful coal reserves are less abundant than what has previously been assumed.

In China, proven recoverable reserves of coal (that is, those that are technically and economically feasible to mine) have been estimated at a total 187 billion tonnes, which is expected to last another 62 years – assuming the rate of consumption of coal remains at 2009 levels.

But this estimate is likely to be too optimistic, since consumption of coal in China is accelerating rapidly. Applying the same techniques used to estimate the future expected peak production of oil , researchers have found that coal production in China could peak as early as 2025.

There are of course coal supplies to be found elsewhere (including Australia), but at current rates of import growth, China alone could absorb all current Asia-Pacific exports with just three years – ultimately increasing competition (particularly with other rapidly developing nations such as India) and driving up the cost of coal.

What does this mean for climate change? Well, apart from the fact that we simply can’t afford to burn all of the Earth’s available fossil fuels if we want to maintain a stable climate, Heinberg and Fridley suggest that coal supply limits also have implications for the development of clean-coal technology. If coal prices do increase as recent studies suggest, then it makes little economic sense to continue building new coal plants — whether they be conventional or retrofitted with CCS technology (which still hasn’t been proven on a commerical scale).

Seems like it may be time to invest heavily in energy efficiency and alternative energy.


Listen to Richard Heinberg on ABC radio from this morning.

Youtube: Richard Heinberg: The Inconvenient Truth on Clean Coal



Heinberg, R. and D. Fridley (2010). “The end of cheap coal.” Nature 468(7322): 367-369. doi: 10.1038/468367a

Meinshausen, M., N. Meinshausen, et al. (2009). “Greenhouse-gas emission targets for limiting global warming to 2ºC.” Nature 458(7242): 1158-1162. doi: 10.1038/nature08017

Tao, Z. and M. Li (2007). “What is the limit of Chinese coal supplies–A STELLA model of Hubbert Peak.” Energy Policy 35(6): 3145-3154. doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2006.11.011