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Chris Reynolds

My blog post on this paper is here:

Screen has done it again, he just keeps producing grade 'A' science...

"...more people have taken their holidays abroad..." - a positive feedback. ;)


Met Office says "No-one in the world can Explain Weird Weather". http://econnexus.org/met-office-says-noone-in-the-world-can-explain-weird-weather/

That's the official line. James Screen seems to give support to Jennifer Francis. I thought the "No-one in the world can explain" comment (OK that was a paraphrase) was intended to mean "Don't panic and don't listen to Jennifer Francis".

I also understood that James Screen was at the Met Office meeting.

Strange. Can anyone explain?

Jim Hunt

Hopefully Geoff, since I wrote that headline, and pointed out that it "paraphrases matters only slightly"!

As stated by James Screen in the video, his view seems to be that:

Since around about the late 1990s, the North Atlantic has been in the warm part of that cycle and that tends to favour wetter conditions over the UK and northwest Europe in summer. So we think it's probably a combination of both this natural cycle of warming in the North Atlantic and the melting of sea ice that have together contributed to the wetter summers.

Whether that is any way some sort of "official view" I cannot say. He certainly doesn't entirely agree with Jennifer Francis, as discussed by Chris Reynolds over at Dosbat recently:

"Francis/Vavrus and the slower jetstream"


First of all, Jim, that was a good paraphrase. Thanks.

Secondly. Chris did say in the comments on Dosbat "I think Dr Francis may end up being right, but that it is too early to get a stat sig result."

Thirdly. Chris referenced Screen & Simmonds, 2013 (pub 03/2013). This is J A Screen 2013 (pub 28 October 2013). Hot of the press?

As to "official views", this latest doesn't seem to fit. You can see how cynical I have become in DECC and the Committee on Climate Change http://www.brusselsblog.co.uk/the-committee-on-climate-change-letters-and-response/

It's not direct enough but I'm sure you understand the constraints - I've just found your comments in Met Office Admit "Our Climate Is Being Disrupted by the Warming of the Arctic". http://econnexus.org/met-office-admit-our-climate-is-being-disrupted-by-the-warming-of-the-arctic/ My reading of your comments is that you are up against the same official stance as I have found.

Jennifer Francis' comment in that piece applies more strongly to the latest from James Screen. Don't you think?


some maybe relevant reading: http://scholar.google.fi/scholar?q=history+north+atlantic+subpolar+gyre&btnG=&hl=fi&as_sdt=0%2C5&as_vis=1

but in the hopes someone has read much of this already, has the NA subpolar cycle as a whole moved towards north during the 20th century?

Hans Gunnstaddar

Rainier summers in the UK & northern Europe? If that's all that occurs as a result of arctic ice melt we should all be very thankful the weather system accommodated our burning of FF.

Chris Reynolds


Sorry, but this is just the start.

Geoff, Jim,

By 'explain' I think the scientists want a higher standard of mechanistic explanation than most of the public need. That high standard of explanation isn't available yet - e.g. how much of various factors are at play.

But as I've said in my latest blog post - the UK and Europe (NW) are being subjected to colder winters and wetter summers due to loss of sea ice. As an engineer I use a mix of the scientific method and experience - customers and my bosses won't pay for exhaustive scientific studies. What I see would be enough when dealing with a faulty system to direct me to the box marked 'Arctic'.

I don't see how this paper by Screen supports Francis and Vavrus 2012. The reference to that paper will probably have been made before the Barnes paper was published, so doesn't mean Screen rejects Barnes. Furthermore in Francis & Vavrus, figure 3, shows little change in thickness and zonal wind for JAS (that's a sound result from an earlier paper), although if you don't accept Barnes you could argue that the statistical significance in Grid points per decade for JAS (fig 4) is relevant to this paper by Screen, but really Barnes is pretty conclusive.

Jim Hunt

Chris - Your initial comment must have been stuck in the Typepad moderation queue when I wrote mine. Hence I've only just read your latest post. Paraphrasing only slightly:

"I'm particularly excited about this because it goes some way to supporting something I've been going on about for five years now."

That's the "weird weather". The link to the Arctic struck me much more recently.

Hans - I'm an engineer too, and I agree with Chris.

Geoff - It seems you're a scientist turned engineer? John Gummer studied history. I once suggested to Paul Allen from the Centre for Alternative Technology that "The problem is that politicans don't understand engineering". He replied that "Another problem is that engineers don't understand politics".

Getting back to the science, the Met Office do now state things like:

An analysis of 1 in 100 day rainfall events since 1960 indicates these 'extreme' days of rainfall may have become more frequent over time.

and Julia Slingo does now say things like:

My gut feeling is that it's very likely that what's happening in the Arctic will affect our climate. We need to get to grips with it, and quickly.

and the UK Environmental Audit Committee has said things like:

Climatic change in the Arctic is affecting the UK's weather.

Given the mounting evidence I still fail to understand the continuing lack of action by the politicians. When I talk to DECC about some of the issues they tell me "the market will fix it". I paraphrase only slightly.



Is the following a misrepresentation of your views.

The Barnes paper says "We've not seen the Francis effect yet - only misleading artifacts"

But you said

"I think Dr Francis may end up being right, but that it is too early to get a stat sig result."

I've seen the video and skimmed J A Screen 2013 (above) but it says
Arctic sea ice loss induces a southward shift of the summer jet stream over Europe and increased northern European precipitation

This paper is about model runs predicting the future showing the loss of Arctic ice will affect the weather (partly) by changing the jet stream. Seems to me that's not a million miles from the message from Jennifer Francis. She has a theory, which you don't completely dismiss; he has computer models.

Jennifer Francis may not be statistically significant (a 19 to 1 on bet!) and I'm not sure whether the words and concepts used (even "jet stream") always have a precise meaning but I need to try and clear my mind for my lobbying activities (unpaid).

Can I ask you and others to what extent the papers discussed here (and on Dosbat) support the idea of melting Arctic snow and ice causing various degrees of unpleasant weird weather events. I postulate some measures for this:

S1: 0 (no effect) to 10 (really difficult events like Mid-West drought, hurricane Sandy, our wet weather, Pacific typhoons, floods, extra wild fires).

S2: How many years before S1>8 (i.e. the effects are quite severe?

S3: Your estimate of the support current evidence (all evidence not just in the paper) gives to the S1 score. -10 means S1 scores are strongly dismissed. +10 means that a high S1 score is strongly supported.

If for example one thought Jennifer Francis predicts severe weather due to Arctic snow and ice melting within a decade and her arguments are very supportive of this then one might put:

Francis: (8, 10, 8)

S1, severity: 8 significant severe events
S2, timescale: 10 yrs
S3, evidence: 8 highly supported by current evidence

Chris, I suspect you may not like this form of questionnaire but, if you were to answer, I think you would expect a higher level of severe events in the next decade or so due to Arctic changes but would give Jennifer Francis a very low (but not negative) evidence score.

My current scores:

Francis: (s1_severity 8, s2_timescale 10, s3_evidence:6)
Barnes: Does Barnes address s1&s2 or just point out s3 for Francis is low?
Screen: (s1_severity 6, s2_timescale 30, s3_evidence:6)

The Barnes paper (as you describe it) may be correct and the "Jennifer Francis effect" may not have sufficient evidence but even you have not dismissed it. I think the Barnes paper could be heard as yet another climate denying "dog whistle".

What else does it say other than "No evidence yet"? It obviously wasn't strong enough to prevent you saying that Dr Francis may end up being right.

I live in hope that scientists will give up the term "statistically significant" and use the terms that readers of the popular press know. If it's statistically significant it's a 1/19 ON bet that you probably wouldn't go for in a a one horse race.

It may be "too early to get a stat sig result" but decisions must be made now.



That last post exhausted me. I'll try and answer more later. But

Julia Slingo at the HOC Environmental Audit Committee,

This is reported in the Guardian, Met Office: Arctic sea-ice loss linked to colder, drier UK winters: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/mar/14/met-office-arctic-sea-ice-loss-winter

Slingo also dismissed fears that the Arctic could be entirely free of sea ice in summer as soon as 2015. Between 2025 and 2030 would be the earliest date she would consider it possible, she said, and the Met Office’s latest models suggested 2040-60 as most likely. "Our expectation is certainly not in the next few years as you’ve heard from some evidence," she said.

She also said that suggestions the volume of sea ice had already declined by 75% already were not credible. "We know there is something [happening on the thinning of sea ice] but it’s not as dramatic as those numbers suggest."

The problem, she explained, was that researchers did not know the thickness of Arctic sea ice with any confidence. She hoped a new ice-monitoring satellite launched in 2010, Cryosat2, would help with more accurate measurements.


Interesting stuff! As an amateur weather experiencer :-) I was amazed that the almost one month of north/northeasterly wind that we experienced this winter got so little attention here in Holland (even though it caused a major lengthening of the winter).

I've been thinking that it would be nice if there was some measure that shows the cumulative momentum of the air in the Northern Hemisphere Jetstream (all the air between 30 and 60 degrees North). This measure would be high if it moves East-West, as it normally does, and low if it strongly meanders North-South/South-North, as during blockages.

I can't ration if this value would be static (a blockage on one side of the earth must lead to a speedup elsewhere) or if the circulation around the earth can actually change/diminish/stop.

Jim Hunt

Geoff - I'll consider your "exhausting" comment in more detail later, if I may.

Regarding your most recent one, that's one of my points. Julia Slingo does seem to have changed her tune somewhat over the last 12 months or so.

Maybe events post March 2012 had something to do with that? Or maybe she's been reading some of our musings about the deficiencies of current sea ice models?!

Colorado Bob

Pacific Ocean waters absorbing heat 15 times faster over past 60 years than in past 10,000


Chris Reynolds


That would be a fair representation of my view. Without going into the text or details too much, Dr Barnes presents a complex case, if you have a copy of the paper check out figure 3. Unfortunately the copy on Dr Barnes personal page has vanished. Figure 3 shows the seasonal and daily calculations of max and min extent of the 'waves' in the jet stream. At the 500mb pressure level in the atmosphere the waves have moved north with time, follow the vertical axis and the gap between the two horizontal lines. However their extents have not, follow the horizontal axis and the two vertical lines that meet the horizontal axis. As Barnes is saying, what has tricked the method of Francis and Vavrus is the northward movement of the 500mb isopleth, a movement that is happening as the atmosphere expands with AGW. So I can only restate what I've said before, we can't use Francis & Vavrus because there are problems with the methodology of that paper (see also the Screen/Simmonds paper referenced on my blog), but that doesn't discount that Arctic amplification will have impact on the jetstream.

What Dr Screen has found is not a northwards movement of the upper extents of jetstream waves, which is what Francis and Vavrus found. Screen is talking about a movement south that brings the jetstream over NW Europe during the summer. This does not seem to me to be at all the same thing.

Francis & Vavrus looked at the temperature difference between mid latitudes and the Arctic due to Arctic Amplification and suggested this was responsible for the claimed change in behaviour of the jetstream (quite reasonable). The effect Screen has found has happened since 2007, there has been no jump in warming since then to explain the effect.
What has happened since 2007 is far more complex, from Screen's summary of possible mechanisms it should be apparent the problems an untrained amateur like myself has had trying to grasp the process.

With regards your score matrix (3, ?, 10), i.e. Arctic impacts on mid latitude weather are strongly supported and are definitely happening now, within a decade - significant but manageable impacts not outside the range of natural variability (similar to the current status). I cannot say how severe things may get, the further forward one goes it becomes impossible to seperate the Arctic from the wider impacts of AGW, notably the findings of Hansen with regards 3 sigma warm events (Hansen's Climate Dice paper). To complicate things further research like Petoukhov/Semenov 2010 shows cold winters due to low sea ice in Barents only manifest from (IIRC) 30 to 70% sea ice concentration in Barents/Kara during winter, as the ice concentration drops below 30% in the model the cold outbreak probability actually declines.

Note I cannot assign a score matrix to individual papers, it is the sum of the parts that is important in forming my opinion.

I'm deciding whether to post a second part to this reply which would help you to understand my stance with regards the question mark in the above matrix.

Colorado Bob

“Australia may face more intense and frequent bouts of extreme weather in the future as global warming "energises" the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the dominant climate system over the Pacific, according to an Australian-led team of researchers.

The research, led by Shayne McGregor at the University of NSW's Climate Change Research Centre, found that the ENSO phenomena were more active and intense during the 1979-2009 period that at any time in the past 600 years.

Chris Reynolds


You need zonal flow.

Purple/blue is easterly flow (from east to west) green/orange is westerly. The plot is for some recent cold winters showing the unusual easterly flow involved.

Chris Reynolds


I've balked about posting the next part of this reply. Perhaps it would throw some light on the question mark in the above score (my uncertainty w.r.t. future impacts) if I outline below some steps I think the UK needs to do now, because of what I fear is coming later this century. And I know some of this will make me seem like a rabid right wing nutter. I am factoring in the effects of peak oil/gas into this reasoning and assume we have a few decades to make the transition to a more secure situation.

Let me preface this by stating that I am totally unconvinced that humanity will leave any economically recoverable fossil fuels unburnt. Sorry but there it is. If you want some evidence - look at how the talk is now of dropping green taxes when the fuel bills rise.

Here is a rough list of things the UK needs to do now.

Stop immigration and encourage people to breed less, we are massively overpopulated and cannot feed the mouths we have with a potentially stressed domestic production.

Prevent further incursions into green belt, we need all the arable land we can get if we are to be self sufficient. Allow land to go fallow where farming is not economic, it can be reverted to farming if protected from building.

Slim down the welfare state, regenerate our work ethic.

Invest in nuclear power and gradually build up a large reserve of fissile materials. Build no nuclear power plants below (I guess) 50m above current sea level - we may not have the wealth to decomission and may need to entomb. The current policy of building new plant on the shore is utterly idiotic. My thinking - in the worst case a basic backbone of electricity supply for essential services is critical for social order.

Like the national grid for power and gas, we need to be able to grid water from Scotland and Northern England to the South East.

Strengthen ties with the EU - and from within encourage the EU not to expand further, indeed a retraction around France Germany and the 'Low Countries' is preferable. A small core of like minded democracies with a similar social outlook is a necessity to weather what is coming. A geographically limited cluster of nations has smaller borders to defend. What is coming over the Mediterranean from the Middle East / Africa is but a trickle compared to the flood that is to come.

Stop all military engagements in places like the Middle East, continue to ring fence foreign aid. Special forces should be kept (Para's SBS, SAS) and directed to small localised hard incursions, nuclear submarines kept (quite man with a BIG stick - stealthy and deployable anywhere in the world), but much of the navy slimmed down. The bulk of the military should be re-designed as a civil defence force (Military aid to the civil power).

As an island we are like a lifeboat, if you're in a lifeboat when the sinking ship sinks rapidly dumping hundreds of people in the ocean - you should row like hell away from the sinking people. Trying to save them will only get your lifeboat sunk, a pyrrhic victory.

Frankly if I were younger I'd rather be living in New Zealand, that's a much better lifeboat.



Thanks. Those are great posts. Although I don't agree with some of your judgements, I will quote them - with your permission. I will ask about that later.

Your last answer raises a question I'm not keen to ask. Sellafield, 20m above sea level?

Chris Reynolds


Sellafield and the other coastal nuclear sites (all except Trawsfyndd IIRC).

It may seem surprising to some that I'm so pessimistic. But my argument (e.g. methane) has been with those expecting a rapid (years/decade) disaster within decades. I still see the process as playing out slowly in human terms, but if we're to try to ride out what I suspect is coming we have to start the measures to try to cope now. The later we leave it the more the risk that increasing fossil fuel costs will reduce our capability.


Chris - I to appreciate the posts and the spirit, even if I don't agree with some of the details. That, and, being US rather than UK, I'm not as familiar with many of the political issues you face.

Transition is necessary - cutting off Fossil fuel would be as bad as GW short term in its impact on society. The welfare doesn't need to be rolled back (at least in this country) as much as it needs to be retasked to give people wages for work, which they would in fact prefer, rather than the dole. Dumping the welfare state is another recipe for civil disorder and dystopian outcomes.

Nuclear is another transition, not a solution, and I'd abandon any 'nuke which requires active controls or pressurized containment - all very bad ideas - Thorium salt cores are the way to go... and could be used to burn up the plutonium and other crap we already have created.

Its all about winning the media war and education. For better or worse, sea ice disappearing in the arctic may give us the weight of evidence we need to win this fight. Now, to keep the damn energy companies out of it...!

John Christensen

So jet streams are moving north and weakening, and we should see stronger storms:


Yet, ACE in the Atlantic Ocean was 70% below normal by September this year, and the phenomena has been global:


From other weather sites and blogs, there seems to be strong agreement that the lack of strong storms was caused by wind sheer at high altitude.
I am not trying to disagree with this entry in general, but can blocking highs (i.e. north-south movement) help explain the lack of storm activity this year, where we passed 400ppm CO2. Does not seem this would be likely and explain the wind sheer, which seemed to have been west-east in the tropics, but then what happened and how does this fit in?

John Christensen

Sorry, correction:

"the Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) for the Atlantic this August was “70 percent below the mean“."

John Christensen

Article on potential reasons for low ACE this year; dry, sinking air, dusty dry air from the Sahara, and wind sheer:


John Christensen

So what if AGW is causing air temperatures over continental areas to increase so much that continental/drier air will rise more than moist air from ocean surfaces?

Then you would see rising of dry air, which would spread at altitude and sink over the oceans, inhibiting the otherwise warm and moist air from rising. Was this what happened this year (see article in prior entry)?

And does this impact wind sheer/jet streams at tropical latitudes or not?

Sorry for the ranting, I would appreciate feedback.

Jim Hunt

John - There have certainly been far fewer North Atlantic hurricanes than originally forecast this year. Nonetheless here's some anecdotal evidence hot off the presses from my "local rag":


As alarming statistics were released showing the true effect of appallingly bad weather during 2012, farming leaders have appealed for Government commitment to ensure agriculture continues to trade realistically.

The weather of 2012 will shape farming's fortunes in the current financial year, particularly the knock-on impact of planting problems last autumn on this year's cropping.

Colorado Bob

John Christensen -
Speaking of the blocking highs , Chris Burt at Weather Underground has a new post on one off the west coast of America that has been in place since May .

Is This the New Normal?

Alaska and California seem to be stuck in a pattern since last May. A high pressure aloft over the eastern Pacific has brought abnormally warm weather to Alaska since May and dry weather to California since January. It is hard to make a case that this persistent ridge will remain in place indefinitely but, should it persist through this winter, it will have a significant impact on the California water supply.


Colorado Bob

Chris Reynolds -
RE: Nukes

What happens when the stream flows from fresh water sources become too warm to cool the reactors lest they boil the down stream aquatic life ?

By the way I'm in the same boat with you , I think thaw going on in Siberia , is the first of those monsters behind the door Hansen spoke of .

Colorado Bob

Pacific Ocean warming 15 times faster over past 60 years than in past 10,000

Read more: http://www.sciencerecorder.com/news/pacific-ocean-warming-15-times-faster-over-past-60-years-than-in-past-10000/#ixzz2jP0FSzvc

Chris Reynolds


In virtually every weather impact study I've read (mid latitudes) the changes are not outside of the range of natural variability, yet. So there really is no problem with 2012 having low ACE.

Colorado Bob,

Karl et al provide a schematic showing how warming causes a large increase in extreme warm events:

However what Hansen has found is not just an upward shift of the distribution of temperature, but a flattening and further upwards shift.
This is probably due to the amplifying effect of drying ground. Until the ground has dried energy goes into evaporating water from the ground(e.g. soil), this keeps temperatures lower, once the ground has dried temperatures rise substantially.

What I'm getting at is that AGW itself is dangerous without the additional risks like methane or rapid sea level rise.

As for nuclear, I just think it's the best bet for secure power generation in a world of increasing fossil fuel prices. For cooling - dam a nearby valley? In the UK winters are cold enough to dissipate a lot of heat, the reservoir acts like a capacitor.

JD Allen,

As far as I can see the only long term solution is fusion (I don't but the cold fusion meme). But that's likely to be very difficult - possibly impossible. Thorium could be a useful bridge.

Hans Gunnstaddar

Colorado Bob: "Alaska and California seem to be stuck in a pattern since last May. A high pressure aloft over the eastern Pacific has brought abnormally warm weather to Alaska since May and dry weather to California since January. It is hard to make a case that this persistent ridge will remain in place indefinitely but, should it persist through this winter, it will have a significant impact on the California water supply."

Yes, we live in no. CA and I can tell you first hand we have been stuck in high pressure zones that have been handing on with intermittent lows passing thru quickly. Latter half of last winter rain went bust. Summer was brutal! Only a brief drizzle and not much else so far. Still drip irrigating on Nov. 1st. In spite of climate change, blocking needs to take a hiatus with longer lasting lows to pull in storms or water rationing here we come.

Not a short term trend either. I've noticed since childhood high building in for longer periods of time, but winter has usually been the exception with enough long lasting lows to get the precip. Now it may have reached a threshold that portending disastrously low rainfall totals. Not something the CA or US economy needs right now.

Colorado Bob

Chris Reynolds -
" Until the ground has dried energy goes into evaporating water from the ground(e.g. soil), this keeps temperatures lower, once the ground has dried temperatures rise substantially."

Yep, and the same goes for the melting of ice. I have been trying to explain this to deniers for some years. The fact that the water cycle is key to all this. And the 2 phase changes that water goes through . A hell of a lot of energy is moving around to achieve these phase changes.

The best example I have found is a glass of ice water at room temp. As long as the ice remains in the glass the water stays cold, but once that ice melts the water goes to room temp. rapidly.

Colorado Bob

Hans Gunnstaddar -
The New Normal

Sadly this same story is playing out everywhere. If one is not drilling ever deeper wells, one is getting 14' of rain in 12 hours.

Colorado Bob

Hans Gunnstaddar -

You're not the Lone Ranger :

New study: Rising temperatures challenge Salt Lake City's water supply


Colorado Bob

The first time I ever really thought about the climate was when I went to Chaco Canyon. Some 27 years ago. Those people hauled over 50,000 pine trees across 60 miles just to make the roof beams of the buildings. Without the wheel, horses, or oxen. Then, once they built it all , it stopped raining and snowing for about 30 years.

I've been following climate change ever since.

Colorado Bob

New "Tipping Points" episode, "Arctic Permafrost Peril", airs Saturday at 9 pm EDT/8 pm CDT.


Hans Gunnstaddar

Thanks for the heads up on 'tipping points'. Checked local listings and it shows at 6pm PacificST (for one hour). Usually 3 hours can be subtracted from EDT, but not always the case.


Hans, up here in Washington it was similar for much of the summer, then several cutoff lows traversed my area with a behavior liken to tropical storms over land. There were 2 days when it rained 4+inches on each of these days right where I live. Several other days there were also rains that would be considered heavy rain for that time of year here...a half inch to 2 inches a day. I have lived here for over 50 years and I have only had a few days in totality during that time when it has rained 2 inches or more on a given day during August and September. Four + inches twice on different days in the same year is highly unusual for that time period.
The high pressure has dissipated some now but is forecast to build farther west in the Pacific and the Gulf of Alaska late next week which would create some interesting weather here if it indeed works out this way.

Bob Bingham

Of all the climate change problems the loss of Arctic sea ice is the most immediate and the resulting changes to northern hemisphere weather is instantaneous. Three years ago this whole set of research was unknown and the sea ice was an academic problem. If the weather changes dramatically it will disrupt food production and be disastrous for this crowded part of the World.

Colorado Bob

The newest "Tipping Points" episode, "Arctic Permafrost Peril", last night visited the "Stinking Hills" on the Itkillik River, Alaska. There a 100 meter tall cliff of 50,000 year old Yedoma permafrost is thawing. To see the mud flowing down the face of that formation was very sobering.


Scientists have revealed plans to examine temperature changes in the Arctic Ocean after a long-term study found the Greenland Sea is warming 10 times faster than the global ocean


Colorado Bob

Above image shows IASI methane readings end October 2013 on the Northern Hemisphere. Clearly, high methane levels are very prominent over the Arctic. Over this period, the following peak methane readings have been recorded:
- October 28 - 2369 ppb.
- October 29 - 2303 ppb.
- October 30 - 2480 ppb.
- October 31 - 2332 ppb.



On what to do...

I’ve been factoring in the effects of EROEI too. And I’m counting on a complete collapse of the foundations of Western economic civilization as we knew it since the fundamental line-up with fossil-fuel based finance around 1925. It puzzles me, but when asked, I’d suggest within a couple of years (not too much away from Arctic Ocean icefree in summer).

As for a secure situation; I think there is none. As we’re here with almost 7 billion ‘fratelli et sorelli’ (love the new Pope), we can’t expect to salvage ourselves. Not at a cost. And that cost will deprive the haves (obviously the counterpart of the have-nots) of humanity and soul or karma, or whatever integrity known to define one as a worthy living creature.

On the topic of burning FF’s, I have only a slight hope to support a grass-root movement to quit fossil-fuel-burning. I am an idealist, while I masochistically enjoy a more pessimistic form of irony.

I guess you could sign up for the neo-lib BAU scenario when you start restraining the to-do list to one nation solely. But an island-feel always had an appeal. Though I’ve a hunch this time it won’t pass…

For the arable lands, given a sustainable exploitation, the European countries are massively overpopulated. So are most other parts of the world. Does that mean we should shut our eyes for suffering? In my opinion we have an obligation to direct whatever means left to compassion. The other choice is for totalitarianism.

The green belt left is to be exclusively available for sustainable food-production. It should be done within an insight that natural cycles have to be part of the deal.

The modern welfare state was accomplished on the sideline of fossil-fuel-based economic planning. As a FF-based economy is unsustainable, it will prove to be impossible to sustain the accepted degree of welfare-provisions. It will be unavoidable to scale them back to a family and community level.

As I would support a massive incentive into sustainable forms of energy-supply, I acknowledge it may be in vain if not supported by nuclear technology. I agree with Chris that all investment near present-day sea-level or active tectonical zones is dangerously irresponsible.

Fatal disruption of known food-production is to be expected. It is essential to prepare for emergency-aid. In that sense, an appeal to clear European EU-policies to reality is essential. When, as Chris suggests, present day nations could reform a new European deal in that direction, chances could improve (Please let's do this with our American friends...).

Within this deal, securing territorial integrity as a way of enforcing democratically agreed law is essential. All other military means should be re-shaped into a form of humanitary aid elsewhere.

For the rest, even New-Zealand won’t provide a life-boat. With BAU, only a secure grave-yard.


Hi Colorado Bob,

Those readings are there, however, the reading that Sam uses to locate sources are 7,500-9,200 ft ASL and may reflect smoke, soot and refreezing.

If one was interested in surface discharge of methane hydrates - that would be at the 1000-918 mb or sea level to about 2,700 ASL.

When one uses methanetracker for those periods (10-28 to 10-31, the areas above 1950 ppb are more clustered around Svalbard, Franz Joseph Islands, and Novaya Zemlya - not the Laptev Sea.

Jim Hunt

David Rose is plugging the Stadium Wave in today's Mail on Sunday. For some strange reason he neglects to mention James Screen. Perhaps he's learnt his lesson though, because the article is full of phrases like "may" and "is likely to" and "according to new research".

Meanwhile The Mail on Sunday has finally sent us sent us some evidence in an attempt to justify Rose's original "Million more square miles" and "Unbroken ice sheet" claims, the latter still uncorrected:


To say that we are unimpressed is something of an understatement. Press Complaints Commission here we come!


Thanks Werther, I was fearing Chris's comment above might encourage everyone to head down here!
Someone posted this elsewhere, Hot-Topic I think? Of course most of thisalready has/is happening here! Well not the (land based) volcanoes bit lately.
"A good game plan might be to drop NZ’s profile – make it less desirable to others. Perhaps by.
Not wining Americas Cup.
Changing the name of the country.
Tainting milk products so people think our land is polluted.
Spreading the idea that our rivers are sewers.
Having some oil spills.
Arranging some significant earthquakes.
Having some volcanoes erupt.
Welcoming fracking.
Dropping our incomes.
Encouraging political corruption…
Who would want to come here then?"



For the arable lands, given a sustainable exploitation, the European countries are massively overpopulated.

From my BrusselsBlog

In Ireland before the famine, potatoes, with some milk and pigs could support a population density approaching 10 people per hectare (1).

The world now has about 0.5 people per hectare.

That’s about 5% of the population density of pre-famine Ireland.

So the problem is not food (calories, protein & etc.) per. se.

The problem is that the rich (i.e. us) turn lots of food growing capacity into not much food at all. Foods like beef and lamb require many more times the land area (and other resources) than fruit, vegetables and pulses.


also see It's the poor that starve

My small amount of hope is based on the belief that capitalism could solve the problem IF we had a very large pollution tax. I talking here of a carbon price ramping up to about $1000 (or more) within the next decade for each tonne of CO2e emitted.

The pessimism comes from the fact that seems politically impossible. See my rather pathetic attempt at an AVAAZ petition http://ow.ly/qs4Zg Apart from people I more-or-less forced to sign I got about 10 signatures (57 signatures in all).

But do look at Carbon tax in the mainstream ?

A small amount of hope there.

Before we can make progress we need some public awareness. That's why I like Last Hours

I met some execs from BBC and Channel4 - I'm challenging them to show it. It would certainly raise the temperature of the debate.

Is it's message plausible?

(I suppose much of this should be moved to the Forum but I think this thread has quite naturally moved in this direction.)


Of course NZ cannot be a lifeboat. They don't believe in nuclear power. Essentially they are luddites.
Luddites had some points. They understood that, under the extant system of apportioning livelihoods, increased use of systems that decrease the worth of common humans is essentially inhumane.
That extant system remains extant essentially unaltered by the passage of time from Adam Smiths time and now.
So what do we do?
The probability is a plummet through the Endocene.
Humanity is in the aggregate, which is what matters in a democracy, too stupid to make the right, informed, choices.
Nuclear power is one of the right choices. There are a bunch of other right choices.
None of these mean shit unless the whole planet takes them.
And I think that's not going to happen, because humans are either too fucking stupid or too fucking psychopathic to average out to anything sustainable.

Rob Dekker

Does anyone know why there is such a big difference between the daily ice extent from NSIDC :


from Cryosphere today :


Look at the differences between Svalbard and Bering Strait...

It seems that Bremen AMSR2 is in between these two :


Which one has the most credibility ?

Rob Dekker

Seems that CT has an issue with the NASA data feed. Still, UBremen/AMSR2 is still quite different from NSIDC...



The world now has about 0.5 people per hectare.

I will take minor issue with this... This presumes two things - all available land can be put under production, and there will be no consequences environmentally for biome destruction resulting from over-cultivation.

It also overlooks the disruption of agriculture that will result from climate change.

The other points - about the "haves" converting usable crops into higher density protein - is very relevant. Over half of US agriculture ends up being dumped into that, or the monumental stupidity of corn based ethanol.

Back to the arctic - reduction of permafrost and change in annual climate *will* potentially open up billions of hectares to possible cultivation which may help replace that lost to desertification et. al. However, the rub will be whether humanity will be nimble enough to adjust population densities and how we utilize the land.

Another wild card will be whether or not the severe weather that comes with climate change doesn't flatten our infrastructure on a massive scale, al la "Storms of my Grandchildren".


Hot Topic skims the NIPCC report cryosphere section here...



There are several misanthropic comments upthread.

I think it worth noting that humans are the only hope. There is very little chance that polar bears and walruses are going to do much to help.


@ Rob Dekker,

CT and NSIDC maps are dated 23/10/13.

I'd pick Bremen, dated 3/11/13.

Can't explain the huge difference between CT and NSIDC, except to say that NSIDC looks plain wrong.


Does anyone know why there is such a big difference between the daily ice extent from NSIDC :

Look at the differences between Svalbard and Bering Strait...

That grey between Svalbard and Bering Strait means it is unavailable, caused by the data problems with the DMSP F17 satellite. Discussed on the forum in the NSIDC tread.



all available land can be put under production

not "all" just much more. "5% of the population density" was an invitation to look deeper. Your comment begins to do that.

Would "Can the world feed itself" be a good topic on the forum? - except that's a bit too narrow.

Jim Hunt

@Geoff - There are already a variety of "food" related topics on the forum. This one seems to be "hottest" at the moment:

"Climate change, the ocean, agriculture, and FOOD"

Here's one of my personal hobby horses:

"Terra Preta / Biochar - Theory and Practice"

Is it feasible to sequester carbon whilst reducing runoff and increasing fertility on a large scale? The NFU seem to think it's worth looking at, if the price were right!

Getting back to your lobbying of Lord Deben, a thought has just occurred. I'll be doing another "Great White Con" video in the very near future. Would a customised version of some sort be in any way helpful to you in your endeavours?

Jim Hunt

According to David Rose in yesterday's Mail on Sunday "Arctic sea ice has already started to recover". We think otherwise:



Colorado Bob

A4R -
Many thanks for that methane comment.

As for moving farming north :

27. Daisyworld 2:23 AM GMT on October 01, 2013

Forgive me if this is lengthy and verbose, but because it runs close to my scientific expertise, I would like a shot at answering the question. This is straight off the top of my head and not cut/pasted, hence the lack of links. If you need further definition for any of the terminology, just do a quick wiki search, and I think you'll find a decent answer:

Until this most recent human-induced global warming, the tundra and the taiga (boreal forests) of the northern hemisphere were in a steady ecological state (climax communities), which were established after the last glaciation as part of a process called "primary succession". The soil quality in both the tundra and the taiga are poor, due primarily to how recent the last glaciation was (the Late Glacial Maximum ended 13,000-10,000 years ago), and the poor quality of the vegetation that has established since (moss and lichen for tundra, and conifer forest in taiga, which results in a very acidic forest floor). This is because the soils of these regions are in the early stages of their pedogenesis (the processes of soil formation and evolution). They are primarily gelisols (permafrost) and spodosols (see USDA soil orders); a young soil order characterized by a thin, high drained, acidic organic layer (or "O" horizon), layered over relatively unaltered parent material such as granite or sandstone, that being rocks exposed by the last glaciation. In this stage, the soil is high in phosphorous-based nutrients, but low in nitrogen. The high phosphorus is due to the abundance of exposed and relatively un-eroded rock. However, good farming soil requires abundance of both phosphorous AND nitrogen. Nitrogen in soil comes from many sources, but comes primarily from the build up of organic material due to successive growth cycles of vegetation over thousands, sometimes millions of years. Because of the cold and the short growing seasons of the northern latitudes, the tundra and taiga have not been able to build up their organic layers like soils further south.

Comparatively, good farming soils in the Midwest United States are classified as mollisols, which have formed over thousands of years of seasonal freeze-thaw, extensive vegetation growth and decomposition, and liquid moisture penetration down to their mineral layers. They have a thick organic layer, characterized by the dark brown, almost black texture, and are a perfect balance of nitrogen and phosphorus needed for agriculture.

So, the upshot is this: A melting Arctic will most certainly NOT provide good farming land. The soil is very poor for agriculture, and will not be even close to the quality of soils further south for many thousands of years. Anyone who uses the excuse "oh, we'll have more farmland further north thanks to global warming!" do NOT know what they are talking about.

Edit: I found a good online resource to help you understand soil formation (it's almost 200 pages/5.6MB download):

Hans Jenny. 1994. "Factors of Soil Formation." A System of Quantitative Pedology. New York: Dover Press. (Reprint, with Foreword by R. Amundson, of the 1941 McGraw-Hill publication).

Several factors go into soil formation, following the standard (in ecology) "clorpt" pneumonic: cl=(regional) "climate"; o="organisms" (potential biota); r="relief" (topography); p="parent material"; t="time";

The reference suggests soil formations times from hundreds to thousands of years, depending upon the intensity of these factors.


james cobban

Colorado Bob, or anyone,

I've been trying to remember the source of something I read within the last few months on the topic of the Earth's sustainable carrying capacity for humans. Someone here may have linked to it, but I couldn't locate it with a google search. The author's conclusion was remarkable - that the carrying capacity was a mere 70 million. This is far lower than other estimates, of course, but the reasoning they used seemed quite sound. He or she took more issues into consideration than other writers in this field do, which, IMHO, causes those writers to posit unrealistically high figures for a sustainable human population, on the order of 1.5 billion. He/she points out that in the absence of FF-based nitrogen fertilizers, upon which our current civilization is based, a field will have to lie fallow for 17 years between each crop, with a cover crop of clover or some other nitrogen-fixer, if it is to be truly sustainable indefinitely and not become exhausted in a few years or decades. This requirement alone radically reduces the amount of usable arable land, which, IIRC, comprises a mere 9 percent of the planet's land surface. And this figure will drop very precipitously (does anyone have estimates of how much?) in the fairly near future due to desertification, drought/flood intensification making it more difficult to bring a crop to maturity, salt-water intrusion due to rising sea levels, northward shift of the growing belt (into areas with poor soils, as stated above), and the expected increase of days with daytime highs, in the agricultural belts, hitting a maximum temperature of 112 F. or above, a temperature which instantly kills wheat or corn crops (can't remember which). I would like to re-read that article, so if anyone knows of it, I'd be thankful if they could post a link to it.

Shared Humanity

"My small amount of hope is based on the belief that capitalism could solve the problem IF we had a very large pollution tax.

These kinds of statements are very distracting. To suggest that an inanimate concept (capitalism) will suddenly attain a level of consciousness that it will start solving human induced problems like global warming is maddening. The birth of modern capitalism as a way of organizing humanity occurred less than 300 years ago. One could argue that this "growth system" is at the root of most of our current problems including AGW.

Capitalism depends on growth and all growth systems result in exponential growth. CO2 emissions behave this way as do population



...and oil consumption.


Growth systems will always tend towards exponential growth until the system hits a constraint to growth. Peak oil will constrain the growth of oil consumption just as the finite carrying capacity of the planet will constrain population growth. Growth systems that grow exponentially until it hits a constraint are prone to collapse.

The solutions to our problems will not be found in capitalism. We cannot grow ourselves past this problem. The solutions lie outside of the system of capitalism.


I think we are entering 'interesting times'. I think mans pollution of the earths surface is out of control and no amount of writing about it is going to have a significant effect on it. However we are still in a period of very low carbon dioxide even with the recent increases and much as we tend to believe we are causing the current fluctuations in climate I still tend to think that our influence on climate is still relatively minor and moves in to new energy sources are interesting and neccessary but will have an almost immeasurably small effect on climate at the current population levels.

Comment above about agriculture is very true, and we are rapidly reaching a tipping point in world population where depleted soils around the world will be less and less able to support plant life no matter how good the technology. Personally from my own experience in my own field of agriculture i would think the crisis point will be around double the current population level - which is not far away.

But and its a big but, one cannot rule out the pure ingeniousness of man and I would expect it will be possible to extend this even further delaying the tipping point further.

One thing is for sure carbon dioxide at its present level is no where near a level where it is a pollutant - in fact it is a very welcome promoter of plant growth and both water and land based plants benefit enormously from the increase. This increase in growth increases the amount of carbon going back in to long term storage (consider the incredibly huge amounts of carbon held in chalk for instance, the old ocean floor).

We too easily take up ideologies that are far from proven. Anyone who is convinced that AGW is a definite and is unable to accept counter arguments is not a true scientist and is in danger of taking his eye off the bigger picture due to blinkered thinking.

It is entirely possible that for the very first time in the earths history carbon dioxide is causing warming of the earth rather than vice versa (the norm) but there is along way to go on weather data and Piomas data before the trend is proven.

My point here is that the crisis for mankind is human population increase which will prove to be catastrophic long before the ice disappears or the seas rise significantly or temperatures rise to a historical new highpoint. This site is very interesting and I must thank again Neven for it being so. Having said that the true way to reduce pollution and achieve equilibrium again is through reduction of population - that will need some huge faith in our politicians who at the moment would never even consider such a thing. Likeliest scenario - catastrophy followed by politics on a world scale.


The September ice volume has been out on PIOMAS for a few hours now.

Colorado Bob

james cobban

I have not seen that paper , or a post , or comment.
Personally I think we are like a one off event. When we got our hands on all that carbon, we opened Pandora's Box.

It's like a drunken meth fueled night in Vegas. Where we all wake up broke, on a bus bench, 2,000 miles from home.

I quote Lone Wati :
"Get ready little lady , Hell is coming to breakfast"

Colorado Bob

james cobban

T have thought this for over 40 years, it's why I never had children.

Let me give one other great quote from 40 years ago -

Steve Bare founder of Zome Works :

" Future generations will curse us, because we burnt all these wonderful molecules in low grade heat engines . "

He was speaking to all the things that we can make from hydrocarbons , but once we burn them, they are gone.


Colorado Bob, James Cobban, the topic concerning agriculture also borders on my area of expertise. I concur with what both of you are saying.
Most of the agricultural plants we grow are either C-3 or C-4 plants(Wikipedia has a decent explanation of C-3 and C-4 plants.) C-3 plants reach maximum photosynthesis near 86 F. C-4 plants can tolerate higher temperatures and photosynthesize best at 90 F to 95F. Corn is a C-4 plant and most of the rest of them are C-3 plants. Rubisco is an enzyme that catalyzes both photosynthesis and respiration in C-3 plants. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RuBisCO
As temperatures increases above 86 F the respiration reaction increases and photosynthesis slows. When the temperature is too hot for too long respiration in the plants exceeds photosynthesis and the plants will die. Even when the plant does photosynthesize extra sugar in the daytime higher nightime temperatures cause the plant to respire faster and use up the manufactured sugar thereby slowing growth and potentially killing the plant if the temperatures are too warm for too long. C-4 plants have helper enzymes that make rubisco more efficient so the plants can continue to grow at somewhat higher temperatures.
Of course, these plants need more water at higher temperatures and nitrogen and phosphorous are used less efficiently at higher temperatures as well.
Hotter temperatures will NOT make C-3 plants grow faster where they are already at or above the maximum temperatures where they are most efficient.

Dan Ellis-Jones


Although I think those that understand the science (I try not to use the terms believer/denialist - it's science, not religion) can be overly vehement about their positions, which is understandable as it's the future of the planet/human civilisation that we're talking about, I accept that there are various details that are not well understood, and so there are some holes in the AGW argument (but I don't think they take away from the overall message).

My personal soap box on the issue of CO2 concentration is the RATE of change. It is unprecedented outside of a cataclysm.
This is a huge test of the planet's ability to adapt and set up a new equilibrium. The rate of change is an issue that is not often discussed. I've been looking at the trends in CO2, and we're tracking way over 2ppmv a year at the moment - and at times over 3ppmv. So 500ppm CO2 is only 40-50 years away at the current rate - sooner if the rate continues to climb. We’ve pushed the pendulum hard, and who knows where it will end up, or when it’ll stop swinging.

Another thing I've noticed is the lack of discussion of CO2-e (as opposed to just CO2). I remember that 450ppm CO2-e was a point at which tipping points and/or 2C was highly likely. Well, we're way over that now, and no one seems to talk about it. Especially with the increase in methane that seems to be occurring (although I've not seen recent global measures of methane concentration).

So, in answer to your point about CO2 being good for plant growth - yes it is, and then very quickly it'll be detrimental as it will increase temperatures and reduce their yields and growth as they choke on the too-high levels that will happen a couple of decades later.

Colorado Bob

VaughnA -

Thanks for that knife in the heart of the "happy plant theory" .

Cotton loves heat , but in a drought it just shrinks. The plants don't die, they get smaller and smaller.

In nature , small numbers mean big changes.
My favorite example is alligator eggs.
If an alligator nest changes just 3F degrees . They will all be females, or all males. It's a very tiny bubble they live on.


james cobban | November 04, 2013 at 22:41 said:

that the carrying capacity was a mere 70 million

Could it have been William Rees.

Colorado Bob

the "happy plant theory" .

Plants will no doubt gain from our dumping several trillion tons of carbon back into the system. But like an old junkie , what we are doing is too pure to fast.

What we all need say is this :

"It's not the change, it's the speed of the change"

Colorado Bob

I believe that the Arctic Ice is the thermostat of Northern Hemisphere.

That's why I read this stuff. And because you guys write stuff way over my head , and learning is the only thing humans do well.


Plants may grow faster with more CO2 until the temperatures warm enough to be a limiting factor. However there may be other limiting factors that prevent plants from growing faster with more CO2 as well. Low nitrogen levels, too high or too low phosphorous levels, salt intrusion or any other nutrient or pollution factors may affect plant growth. For example, small amounts of ozone inhibit plant growth. Colorado Bob discussed low nitrogen and high phosphorous in an earlier post. Nitrogen and phosphorous levels can rise to toxic levels but that is normally due to over-fertilization by humans or in field runoff causing "dead zones" in bodies of water. Salts of different chemicals can also accumulate in soil in areas where rainfall is low and the salts aren't flushed from the soil in water runoff.
pH can also be a limiting factor. Many agricultural plants are very sensitive to acid soils and will not survive where the soil is too acidic. Increased CO2 will decrease the pH of rain(acid rain) and cause the soils to become more acidic. Hydrated lime or regular lime is typically applied to soils to make them less acidic.
I am pessimistic about an increase in CO2 precipitating very much increased plant growth. When plant growth was shown to increase in controlled studies none of the other factors of plant growth were limiting factors because the soil was amended so only CO2 was a limiting factor. The other factors will limit plant growth and CO2 availability will have virtually no effect, except maybe initially.


Colorado Bob said... So, the upshot is this: A melting Arctic will most certainly NOT provide good farming land.

I agree, absolutely... if we're talking about trying to use "traditional" grains like wheat, corn or rice... But not necessarily if we actually use arctic species (Such as Lyme Grass, which was used by Inuit and Vikings), which also has the advantage of being a perennial, and adapted to poor soils. It will not be traditional agriculture for sure, nor as productive as that in lower latitudes, but I think it is possible.


PIOMAS update:
Latest value: Updated, 2013-9-30 5.343
I have updated my graphics at ArctischePinguin for the latest data.

Monthly DataMonthly data
Daily AnomaliesDaily Anomalies
Daily data Daily data
Daily data with a "prediction" based on exponential trend Daily data with a

The minimum 2013 value was 4.942 [1000 km3] at September 7.

Fits based on exponential, linear and Gomperts curves are here:

ExponentialMonthly data
LinearMonthly data
GompertsMonthly data


PIOMAS did update, my ususal announcement of the graphics in ArctischePinguin went to the spambox.

Rob Dekker

Thanks, idunno and especially Wipneus.
Seems that the problem is resolved at NSIDC. The 11/03 update came through, and looks much more reasonable :


The rate of CO2 increase is an interesting one - is this just a larger spike than the last time or is it genuinely a nightmare moment - only time will tell. Mans contribution is not big enough to cause the increase alone so there are other factors involved, again we are in the territory of theory as to why the increase is so sudden. The increase from 300ppm to 400ppm is more than mans total contribution. Could it be we are upsetting the global balance somewhere else.

I still believe this is cyclical and a balancing reduction will occur. To say we have passed a tipping point is rather daft considering the levels of CO2 in our prehistoric past, we are still at a low point not a high point. Scaremongering comments are made to attempt to reinforce point of view.

It does not mean however that anthropological involvement is not now causing a runaway CO2 increase. But this would need backup of considerably more factors than pure anthropological CO2 production.

Most of the historical data comes from the deep antarctic ice cores where the CO2 content is known to diffuse out so the actual rate of increase/decline is difficult to measure. The recent increases are over a very short period which makes them very difficult to match up with data thousands of years old.

I, like most people, am extremely concerned when a trend like this occurs and doesnt stop - we dont fully know what is causing it or what will happen in the future.

In the past we have knowledge of cataclysmic volcanic and meteoric events that changed life on this planet - however the planet recovered. Should we as humans cause our own demise the rest of life on earth will probably say thank you.

Doomsday scenarios are all very well but they are just scenarios or theories until the prediction is proven by events themselves. if we continue to pour trillions of dollars into AGW prevention and we succeed in reducing CO2 emissions and catastrophy doesnt occur, we will never know if we prevented disaster or whether nature did it on its own. ie AGW will still be unproven scientifically. However if we continue with the trillions of dollars and warming still occurs, we will have spent huge amounts of money to prove we can do little to stop it. Worse still we spend trillions and the earth significantly cools and shows no further warming trend - what then. If it cools to the extent of the recent mini ice ages the consequences for food production are very dire indeed and we will have spent huge resources following an erroneous trend instead of investing in the science to help cope with global cooling.

That to me is what is worrying - we have good scientific theory as to what is happening but the earth keeps surprising us and shows us we dont yet have the knowledge. Global warming is continually showing us that graphs and trends and historic data and cycles still do not mirror climatic reality.


We, we, we, we, we...

Could you please cut back on the concern trolling, MarkH? Thanks.

Colorado Bob

Lakes of the Hudson Bay Lowlands, in northeast Canada, are showing evidence of abrupt change in one of the last Arctic regions of the world to have experienced global warming, according to Canadian research published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal.



Meanwhile in The Netherlands:

De Graaf (PVV): "De grootste wetenschappelijke fraude ooit is de klimaatfraude"

or in English:

De Graaf (of the one member, 2 million sheeple party PVV) : "The greatest scientific fraud ever is climategate"

I'll stick with jetstream research, just to be sure.

james cobban

Could it have been William Rees.

Thanks for pointing me towards William Rees, Wal. I don't think he's the one I was looking for, but as the originator of the concept of the 'ecological footprint' he's certainly worth reading. I can't resist sharing some quotes from this 2000 paper of his that my search turned up:


"The ‘complexification’ of industrial society was funded by abundant fossil fuel. Cheap energy vastly increased the availability of resources (seemingly expanding carrying capacity) but at the expense of ecosystems integrity.Consequently, the world is experiencing declining marginal returns on various resource fronts and may be facing an energy supply/price shock. Any resultant implosion of biophysical limits would destroy prospects for sustainability and trigger the collapse of contemporary society."

"If energy-intensive fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation were withdrawn, corn yields would drop from 130 bushels to about 30 bushels per acre."

"Billions of people are now dependent on non-renewable artificial inputs, pollution is worsening, and natural long-term productive capacity is steadily eroded. Indeed, the green revolution may have run its course – per capita grain production has been falling since the mid 1980s. The net social effect is a swollen human population likely in overshoot and increasingly exposed to the risk of a crash."

"How did we arrive at this impasse? Humanity’s current dilemma may simply represent the inexorable unfolding of prescribed destiny. In the first place, humans cannot avoid perturbing any earthly habitat they occupy. This is the inevitable working of the second law of thermodynamics combined with two additional facts of human biology: humans are large animals with correspondingly inflated individual energy and material requirements; and humans are social beings who live in extended groups."

"Large animals, due to their size, longevity, and food and habitat requirements necessarily have substantial physical and systemic impacts on their host ecosystems. This is practical biothermodynamics and the general phenomenon greatly complicates carrying capacity estimates, even when dealing with non-human organisms."

“There is, of course, a major difference between human ‘patch disturbance’ and that of other species. Because of language and culture, human knowledge and technology are uniquely cumulative. Human patch disturbance has therefore been intensifying in stages since the Paleolithic. It climbed a notch with metal weapons, received a major boost with agriculture, and became the dominant force in the ecosphere with the use of fossil fuels and the industrial revolution. (As we shall see, cheap plentiful fossil fuels have enabled humans to accelerate the exploitation of everything else.) Today, human patch disturbance is evident on a continental and even global scale in the form of such persistent trends as deforestation, desertification, fisheries collapse, greenhouse gas accumulation, and, of course, accelerating biodiversity loss. It seems that the makings of the ecological crisis are programmed into the ecology and sociobiology of our species."

"Joseph Tainter, perhaps the best-known student of the rise and fall of civilizations has developed a comprehensive explanation of this cycle. According to Tainter, societies are forced to complexify in response to particular stresses. There is plenty of evidence to suggest, for example, that even the adoption of agriculture – deliberate food production – was stimulated more by the decline in ‘natural’ food supplies due to over-exploitation, than it was by positive attraction. In this light, cultural complexity is a consequence of patch disturbance – it is an effective survival tactic that compensates for humanity’s tendency to overwhelm its natural habitats."

"Eventually, a point is reached at which there are insufficient reserves of resources or of popular support for the society to cope with unanticipated stress surges (e.g., significant climate change, land degradation, hostile incursions, etc.). At this stage society may descend into economic stagnation, civil disorder, or even disintegration. Again, the virtuous cycle of (complexity) growth becomes a vicious cycle of social decline."

Rob Dekker

Since I prefer to discuss facts and science, it's not often that I state my opinion about environmental protests, since often this is a matter of opinion.

But now that a Dutch vessel has been raided by the Russian authorities after Greenpeace staged a pre-announced protest, and the entire crew of 30 has been detained in a Russian prison for almost 2 months now, I do feel the need to point out that Russia is setting a dangerous president here, which would grant unprecedented liberty to drill the Arctic for oil if remained unchallenged :

So let me say that I admire the Kingdom of the Netherlands in challenging Russia's actions here in front of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).

Under international laws (such as UNCLOS), you can't just go and raid a foreign ship in international waters, confiscate the vessel, take it's crew captive and throw them in jail, just because you don't like their presence ! Even if you believe that they are "Hooligans". There are rules for this, and Russia even ratified these under UNCLOS.

If these actions by Russia go unchallenged, then the International Laws of the Sea seem to be considered null and void by Russia. And if Russia does not comply with them, why would anyone else ?

Rob Dekker

Apologies, Neven, for my comment being off-topic. If there is a better place for my comment about Arctic protests, please direct me, and I'll take it there.

Jim Hunt

Rob - See also the "Arctic Sunrise Seized" thread on the forum.


Rob, I don't mind so much, as it's quiet on the blog now, but you could take it to the Open Thread or the ASIF.


Global sea ice area is reaching it's highest level since the 90s, partly because of ridiculously large amounts of Antarctic sea ice.

Chris Reynolds

Mark H,

"I still believe this is cyclical and a balancing reduction will occur."

Belief is irrelevant, facts and logic are the only things that cut it.

Shared Humanity

We, we, we, we, we...

Could you please cut back on the concern trolling, MarkH? Thanks.

I know I've mentioned this before but the most reliable "tell" for a troll is the use of "we". They need to establish an artificial atmosphere of consensus where
none exists. On this site, I find a reassuring level of disagreement between well informed people which is a sure sign of learning.


The human emission is more than 150 times that of volcanoes, the next largest 'natural' source. Unless, that is, you count the growing Arctic CO2 feedback as 'natural.' But since that's been the result of manmade emissions as well, calling the Arctic feedback natural is more than a stretch.

'We' have emitted more than enough to account for the rise in CO2 in the atmosphere, the saturation of the world ocean system with CO2, and the filling of various other stores with a dangerously high level of carbon.

To wit, worldwide CO2 is already back to 394 ppm and rising (in November!). At the current rate of rise we'll probably break 400 ppm by mid to late February and hit around 402 to 403 ppm by April. The human source will probably exceed 32 gigatons of CO2 for 2013. We might see another .5 to 1.5 gigatons from stores that are now becoming sources. Volcanoes will be lucky to contribute .3 gigatons CO2. Human forcing + human caused feedback vastly overwhelms any natural source.

RE: Sea ice. Interesting year. Any news/assessment for this melt season that's provided clear rationales for the pseudo-recovery? My 2 c is that fresh water melt/runoff may be beginning to complicate issues a bit. As usual, it's speculation. But I'd be interested to hear everyone's thoughts.

Latest IPCC report (prelim) showing CO2 forcing alone grew by .16 watts per meter squared from 2005 to 2011. The slow increase in CH4 added another .01 watts per meter squared through 2011. Total net forcing beyond 1750 is estimated at 2.3 watts per meter squared, which is many times the initial solar forcing that set off the end of the last ice age.

IPCC models do not include loss of sea ice albedo in their calculations.

Overall growth of forcing is greater than in most previous reports despite declining solar activity (which is at -.05). Even a new grand solar minimum would only reduce net forcing enough make up for about 5 years of human CO2 emissions. Which provides yet one more proof as to how powerful and rapid the human emission is.

Susan Anderson

Colorado Bob, thank you for the tutorial on soil quality and other honest remark later (Nov. 5). I didn't even know I was in desire of such help on the issue but you solved a question I had been carrying around.

Susan Anderson

My more recent comment has briefly gone missing and will no doubt as usual reappear when Neven has time (no problem, it was just an appreciation). However, I'd like to add that comment thread at Angela's blog at Wunderground was an education in how to stop phony arguments in their tracks! (definitely OT, except for the appearance of MarkH in traditional garb of distraction)

repeating Colorado Bob's citation:


james cobban | November 05, 2013 at 23:53 said:

Could it have been William Rees.

On reflection, a more likely candidate is Jack Alpert.

james cobban

Thank you Wal, I think you've found who I was looking for, or at least a prominent member of the same camp. Jack Alpert comes up with the figure of <100 million, assuming that all 100 million will be able to live at current North American levels of consumption indefinitely. Here's a six-minute video for anyone who wants to hear Jack Alpert summarize his ideas:


A Facebook User

Interesting to see that as the Arctic rebounds to a less critical level for the time being, that the climate in the UK has reverted to it's usual endless wet and windy days of Autumn with the inevitable strings of low pressure areas queing up to dump rain on this sodden island. The correlation between Arctic ice extent and Eurasian weather from a subjective perspective looks stronger every year. Ps. I note I've been down graded to a 'Facebook user ', hopefully I will get it fixed again. Gareth


Regarding the "100 million" assertion, I've seen a bit of this before, and don't buy it. It is founded on a number of assumptions which are not dependable. First, that classic capitalism will remain as the driving economic force. Second, it ignores profound improvements in material science which are and will be very relevant. Next it presumes "North American" quality of life cannot be reached sustainably. Lastly, it assumes we cannot or will not change our behavior.

I do not doubt that humanity is going to suffer a few rather painful reversals; it has happened before. I however do not see a Malthusian collapse as inevitable.

Jim Hunt

Hello again Gareth.

How do you define the words "inevitable" and "usual" in this instance?

James Screen uses the word "extraordinary". The Met Office had this to say at the start of the year:

We have always seen a great deal of variability in UK rainfall because our weather patterns are constantly changing. However, preliminary evidence suggests we are getting slightly more rain in total and it may be falling in more intense bursts.


Hi Jim, inevitable is in reality a somewhat subjective view, but this Autumn seems to have been much wetter and warmer that the previous few years, the Met office charts seem to confirm my suspicions though with this October being a real soaker. It's worth correlating rainfall to Ice extent in these charts. http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/public/weather/climate-anomalies/#?tab=climateAnomalies

Jim Hunt

Gareth - How about a correlation with SSTs in the North Atlantic?

In case it's of interest, there's a workshop taking place at the Icelandic Met Office later this month on the topic of "The Northern Hemisphere Polar Jet Stream and Links with Arctic Climate Change".


I suppose on a crude correlation an increase in SST and the Gulf stream extensions would fit in well with the pattern of Arctic melting. As a result I feel that the Arctic is melting more due to SSTs than air temps. I must admit though I am puzzled by numerous reference to increased air temps in the Arctic, but the DMI graphs show temps above 80 degrees as being pretty well average, which to my mind points to sea temps as the smoking gun in Arctic melting.

james cobban

"Regarding the "100 million" assertion, I've seen a bit of this before, and don't buy it."

While you're undoubtedly right that improvements in materials science will be relevant to carrying capacity, I'm not so sure I can agree with your other arguments.

You say "It is founded on a number of assumptions which are not dependable. First, that classic capitalism will remain as the driving economic force."

I haven't delved deeply into Alpert's publications, but he does not seem to premise his ideas on 'classic capitalism' continuing to operate. He makes it clear that any expansion of consumption must be balanced by a further reduction in carrying capacity; even an increase in average life-span from 85 to 86 years would require a 1% reduction in population for sustainability to be maintained. Capitalism is premised on infinite growth, and would seem to run counter to the spirit of what Alpert is trying to say.

"Next it presumes "North American" quality of life cannot be reached sustainably."

But he does so presume, though only for 100 million or so people. That's his whole point.

"Lastly, it assumes we cannot or will not change our behavior."

I think you might be right there. Alpert makes it clear that he thinks those 100 million humans will probably want to continue to improve their quality of life, but that IF that improvement required more material throughput from the environment, then the carrying capacity would have to drop commensurately. OTOH, if people gave up some of the North American habits, like eating so much meat, then the carrying capacity would increase. He's not asking what the absolute number of humans is that the earth could support, but what that number would be at a North American level of comfort (or indulgence).

"I do not doubt that humanity is going to suffer a few rather painful reversals; it has happened before."

Well, it hasn't really, not like this. Sure, we were down to perhaps 4000 individuals at one point in the distant past, but that did not involve the potential collapse of a global civilization, or the potential death of many billions within just a few generations, nor the accompanying loss of biodiversity that is clearly happening now. For that you have to go back 65 million years, before humans existed, and this extinction event might even outdo that one.

I too have some criticisms of Alpert, but they are of a different nature than yours. For one thing, he has assumed that 100 percent of the arable land would be used for food production for humans, with none of the most productive land being set aside for other species' exclusive, and perpetual, use. Fields would lie fallow for 15 years, but would not revert to old-growth forests or any other kind of self-sustaining ecosystem, because they would be plowed under again too soon. This would have to have some impact on the rest of Earth's ecosystems, in ways that might not be favourable to humanity's perpetuation, at least not at that level of land-usage. Secondly, he doesn't seem to address the northward shift of the growing belts into regions of poor soil quality. Your idea of growing lyme grass notwithstanding, I don't see how those regions could make up for the loss of productivity of our current agro-belts, especially around the major deltas. How many calories/hectare could lyme grass and the like produce anyway, even if such arctic species were able to survive in their new, sub-arctic or temperate climate?

As for a Malthusian collapse not being inevitable, I hope you're right but I fear mightily that you're wrong. A controlled economic contraction of about 9 percent/year is thought to be required this century, IIRC, to avoid intolerable climate change, and Soviet Russia imploded with only a 1 percent/yr contraction. The idea of contraction is repellent to capitalism, and to capitalists who want to see healthy returns, and to a debt-based banking system that requires endless expansion to work, and to politicians who have counted on growing their way out of debt. What are the odds that we can keep a tightly-integrated global economy functioning, with just-in-time delivery (and therefore with little resilience to shock), practically no food reserves, diminishing oil for (food) transportation, a teetering banking system, and many, many other factors that readers of this blog are familiar with, all the while maintaining degrowth at 9%/yr, without descending into conflict and systemic disruption or outright failure?

I think its best to expect a massive disruption, and for smart, creative people to start thinking about what it would look like, and what might be done to ameliorate its worst effects.

Just in case you're wrong. :^)

Susan Anderson

While the 100K is off, one might hypothesize that a comfortable carrying capacity might top off at 2 or 3 billion.
However, I dropped in to go totally off topic, with apologies: typhoon Haiyan is bearing down on the Philippines, currently sustained winds of 190 mph with gusts up to 230.

Anyone interested may find more at Masters Wunderground where a new post has gone up, and many commenters are interested and qualified:



Scary film, a bit late for Halloween, and about Arctic Methane, so...

Press release:


Website with link to free film:


Abandon hope all ye that click here.


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