The uncertain legacy of Copenhagen

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 8:39 PM GMT on December 22, 2009

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The Copenhagen (COP15) climate summit is over, and leaves an uncertain legacy. What was accomplished in Copenhagen was far outweighed by what was not accomplished. While the final Copenhagen Accord affirmed that we must hold the warming of our planet below 2°C above pre-industrial levels by 2100 to avert dangerous climate change, no timetable for accomplishing that goal was specified. The promises made by the various nations at the summit would likely lead to a 3.9°C warming of the planet, according to an analysis by MIT's Sustainability Institute. Copenhagen did demonstrate that the hype preceding the talks was not undeserved--the stakes involved are huge, and we have an epic political battle on our hands that will afford high drama in 2010. Probably the best summary of the political battle at Copenhagen was posted by author Mark Lynas on the UK Guardian's web site. The title of the article was, "How do I know China wrecked the Copenhagen deal? I was in the room".

The leaders for greenhouse gas reductions
While the Copenhagen Summit made it clear that the coming battle will feature the U.S. and China, the voices of two tiny island nations--Tuvalu and The Maldives--will be important as well. When ranked by percentage of population located near the coast at an elevation of ten meters or less, the top five spots are held by small island nations with more than 90% of their population in this Low Elevation Coastal Zone--the Maldives, Marshall Islands, Tuvalu, Cayman Islands, and Turks and Caicos Islands (McGranahan et al., 2007). The very existence of these island nations are threatened by sea level rise due to climate change. The leaders of Tuvalu and The Maldives brought considerable attention to their plight at the Copenhagen conference, and President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives, in particular, has made his tiny country a force to be reckoned with in the coming battle.


Figure 1. President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives, Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed and 11 cabinet ministers donned scuba gear and submerged 4 meters below the surface of sea to hold the world's first underwater cabinet meeting on October 17, 2009, in order to dramatize the threat sea level rise poses to their country.

The leaders against greenhouse gas reductions
Canada has joined Saudi Arabia as a leading voice against efforts to control emissions of greenhouse gases. According to The Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI), which is published annually by Germanwatch and CAN-Europe, Canada ranks second to last in climate policy and in overall efforts to tackle climate change, among the 57 industrialized countries and emerging economies that together account for more than 90 per cent of global energy-related CO2 emissions. Canada's national statement at COP15 featured no commitments of money or targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and Canada also lobbied to change the "base" year from when emission reductions should be computed from 1990 to 2006. Croatia was the only other country to support Canada's position. The notorious political pranksters The Yes Men dramatized Canada's position by issuing a phony press release during COP15 claiming that Canada had come to its senses and was now going to work toward a 40 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions, the type of cut scientists say is necessary if we are to avoid dangerous warming of more than 2°C over pre-industrial levels. Canadian reporters immediately recognized the news release as a hoax. Canadian politics is heavily dominated by the fossil fuel industry, and Canadian reporters immediately saw the impossibility of the Canadian government performing an about-face on climate policy.


Figure 2. The top ten and bottom ten performing countries on the Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI), published annually by Germanwatch and CAN-Europe to rank the efforts to combat climate change of the 57 industrialized countries and emerging economies that together account for more than 90 per cent of global energy-related CO2 emissions. The ranking system factors in three scores: the emissions level (CO2 per primary energy unit, primary energy unit per GDP, and primary energy unit per capita); the emissions trend (whether emissions are rising or falling), and a subjective rating of the nation's national and international climate policy. Tall bars indicate a higher ranking, and thin bars represent a poor ranking. None of the 57 countries were doing enough to keep global warming below 2°C, so the top three spots on the list were left blank. Image credit: Germanwatch.org.

Comparison with the battle over CFC regulations and the ozone hole
On June 28, 1974, Sherry Rowland and Mario Molina, chemists at the University of California, Irvine, published the first scientific paper warning that human-generated chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) could cause serious harm to Earth's protective ozone layer (Molina and Rowland, 1974). They calculated that if CFC production continued to increase at the going rate of 10%/year until 1990, then remain steady, CFCs would cause a global 5 to 7 percent ozone loss by 1995 and 30 - 50% loss by 2050.

They warned that the loss of ozone would significantly increase the amount of skin-damaging ultraviolet UV-B light reaching the surface, greatly increasing skin cancer and cataracts. The loss of stratospheric ozone could also significantly cool the stratosphere, potentially causing destructive climate change. Although no stratospheric ozone loss had been observed yet, CFCs should be banned, they said. A huge international political battle ensued, one that eerily echoes many of the same themes as the battle over global warming. In a 1984 interview in The New Yorker, Dr. Rowland concluded, "Nothing will be done about this problem until there is further evidence that a significant loss of ozone has occurred. Unfortunately, this means that if there is a disaster in the making in the stratosphere we are probably not going to avoid it." These prophetic words were proved true the very next year with the discovery of the Antarctic ozone hole. Speedy action to save the planet from potentially disastrous loss of the ozone layer was realized with the swift implementation of the Montreal Protocol two years later, though.

As was the case with the battle over the CFCs and the ozone layer, I expect it will take a obvious imminent climate change disaster to motivate governments to take strong action. I believed in September 2007 that such an event had occurred, when the Arctic ice cap lost more than half of its area, compared to levels observed in the early 1950s. I was astounded at the nonchalance the event earned in the press and among politicians. But, in hindsight I should not have been surprised, since the stakes are very much higher than the battle to ban CFCs--now we are talking about the fossil fuel industry, the very basis for our modern industrialized society. A very big, very obvious disaster in the making will probably be needed to motivate strong enough action to make a major difference in CO2 emissions. Our climate is certainly capable of generating such an event in the coming decade. Unfortunately, if we wait until a disaster is obviously imminent, we will have far less time to prevent a climate disaster than we had for the ozone depletion crisis. The lifetime of CFCs in the atmosphere is 50 - 140 years, but a substantial portion of the CO2 put in the air stays for thousands of years. According to the 2007 IPCC report, "About 50% of a CO2 increase will be removed from the atmosphere within 30 years, and a further 30% will be removed within a few centuries. The remaining 20% may stay in the atmosphere for many thousands of years."

References
McGranahan, G., D. Balk, and B. Anderson, 2007, "The rising tide: assessing the risks of climate change and human settlements in low elevation coastal zones", Environment & Urbanization, 19(1), 17-37.

Molina, M.J., and F.S. Rowland, "Stratospheric Sink for Chlorofluoromethanes: Chlorine Atom-Catalyzed Destruction of Ozone", Nature 249, 810-812, 1974.

Next post
Have a great Christmas, everyone, and I'll be back with a new post on Monday (at the latest).

Jeff Masters

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Quoting GrtLksQuest:


We have had more snow than you but I still feel deprived when we see what Texas & Oklahoma have been getting.


If you live in Ontario, I am sure you will finally be getting your Arctic cold and snow!
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Quoting GrtLksQuest:


We have had more snow than you but I still feel deprived when we see what Texas & Oklahoma have been getting.


yeah no doubt, where are you from anyway?
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
Quoting tornadodude:


k thx.


You're welcome. That huge Low out to the west of you at 336hrs should change the weather pattern to a more normal pattern, with regular shots of rain every 3 to 4th day. Just a hunch!
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Quoting tornadodude:


That will be great if that gets down here, finally got some snow today :P


We have had more snow than you but I still feel deprived when we see what Texas & Oklahoma have been getting.
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Quoting Bordonaro:


Come on! You have a Polar Vortex that is moving into Canada. You have Arctic air dammed up behind a stationary front from near Vladivostok, Russia to the NW Arctic, another stationary front over N America from Southern Alaska to North central Saskatchewan. A surface Low over N Quebec, with 2 trailing cold fronts!!


ok:

It's gonna be COLD!!!!!
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
Quoting tornadodude:


haha :P


Come on! You have a Polar Vortex that is moving into Canada. You have Arctic air dammed up behind a stationary front from near Vladivostok, Russia to the NW Arctic, another stationary front over N America from Southern Alaska to North central Saskatchewan. A surface Low over N Quebec, with 2 trailing cold fronts!!

From previous real life experience, one way or another some of that cold air is going to spill into the US, due to its sheer density. IF the upper level winds do become favorable, Arctic air will sink south to central Mexico, the Bahamas/Jamaicia/Virgin Islands!
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1482. hydrus
Quoting jhigd:
Dr.
You stated: "...I expect it will take a obvious imminent climate change disaster to motivate governments to take strong action. I believed in September 2007 that such an event had occurred, when the Arctic ice cap lost more than half of its area, compared to levels observed in the early 1950s. I was astounded at the nonchalance the event earned in the press and among politicians..."

The loss of Artic sea ice is due to the wind patterns in summer that blow the drifting ice to warmer waters where it melts.

I have no doubt that you are aware of this fact and you are being disingenuous in an attempt to deceive the gullible.
lol
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Quoting Bordonaro:


Don't be a chicken!!


haha :P
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
Quoting Tazmanian:
some of your guys links do not work if you guys are going too post links Please make sure they work


Taz, #1467 is fixed! I fixed the link showing the 336HRS GFS MAP below. I am sorry :o)
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Quoting Bordonaro:
Taz, at the end of the 18Z GFS run, this picture at 336 HRS (1-10-10)shows the blocking High moving into Central British Columbia, which should allow the major storm system to get shot into California :

Link



link dont work
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Quoting Tazmanian:
some of your guys links do not work if you guys are going too post links Please make sure they work


k thx.
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
some of your guys links do not work if you guys are going too post links Please make sure they work
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Quoting tornadodude:


honestly I'm not sure what to think, I do however expect things to get cold soon tho


Don't be a chicken!!
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Quoting Grothar:


Spoken like a true professional! LOL


LOL I'm bound to be right 50% of the time! or wait, does that only apply if I'm 50% percent below sea level?
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
1474. Grothar
Quoting tornadodude:


honestly I'm not sure what to think, I do however expect things to get cold soon tho


Spoken like a true professional! LOL
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26557
Quoting Bordonaro:


Good! Do you see how much territory that High pressure area covers? As a meteorology student, what is you opinion, seeing a 995MB Low is over N Quebec, a stationary front over N Asia around to 2 Artic fronts over N Canada


honestly I'm not sure what to think, I do however expect things to get cold soon tho
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
Quoting tornadodude:


That will be great if that gets down here, finally got some snow today :P


Good! Do you see how much territory that High pressure area covers? As a meteorology student, what is you opinion, seeing a 995MB Low is over N Quebec, a stationary front over N Asia around to 2 Arctic fronts over N Canada: See map!

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Quoting Bordonaro:


Take a look at this map of the Siberian Arctic airmass, 1046MB-1049MB High Pressure from Siberia into N Canada, destination, the USA!!:



That will be great if that gets down here, finally got some snow today :P
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
Quoting hydrus:
Well it is worth mentioning that the GFS model you posted @156 hours does suggest to me a large contrast in air masses temperature wise. It usually is these large and cold air masses diving into the deep south that causes explosive deepening of these lows that move up the Appalachians and the Eastern Seaboard. And that 972 mb low sure grabs my attention.


Take a look at this map of the Siberian Arctic airmass, 1046MB-1049MB High Pressure from Siberia into N Canada, destination, the USA!!:

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1469. hydrus
Quoting Bordonaro:


The European model ECMWF shows a major Arctic outbreak over the next 10-14 days. GFS indicates the majority of the Arctic air will remain in Canada. The shear weight/density of this Siberian airmass will allow at least a modest amount of very cold air to penetrate the US. Over the next week, we will have a better idea.
Well it is worth mentioning that the GFS model you posted @156 hours does suggest to me a large contrast in air masses temperature wise. It usually is these large and cold air masses diving into the deep south that causes explosive deepening of these lows that move up the Appalachians and the Eastern Seaboard. And that 972 mb low sure grabs my attention.
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Taz, everyone, here's an intersting article concerning the wild weather the US has been experiencing. The author is meteorologist Allan Hoffman, who lives in Raliegh, NC. I caught his blog from using the "raleighrx" weather maps/links:

Link
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Taz, at the end of the 18Z GFS run, this picture at 336 HRS (1-10-10)shows the blocking High moving into Central British Columbia, which should allow the major storm system to get shot into California :

Link
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Quoting hydrus:
definitely no shortage of deep low pressure areas in the northern hemisphere. It is so early in the winter season, makes me wonder what is yet to come.


The European model ECMWF shows a major Arctic outbreak over the next 10-14 days. GFS indicates the majority of the Arctic air will remain in Canada. The shear weight/density of this Siberian airmass will allow at least a modest amount of very cold air to penetrate the US. Over the next week, we will have a better idea.
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1465. hydrus
Quoting Bordonaro:


Look at this, 18Z GFS Surface map @156HRS 1-3-10, 1AM EST map for the E Coast. A 972MB Low off the coast of New England!!

definitely no shortage of deep low pressure areas in the northern hemisphere. It is so early in the winter season, makes me wonder what is yet to come.
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Taz, GFS 18Z Model run is up to 168 HRS or "Day 8". After 1-2-10, so far all areas of rain is just to the north over Norther California and Washington/Oregon. I know, this El Nino is weird!!
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Quoting hydrus:
I have been here for a year, last winter arrived one month early, old timers I spoke with said its unusual but not unheard of. It has been and continues to be very windy and chilly here ( gust to 32 mph today ).


Look at this, 18Z GFS Surface map @156HRS 1-3-10, 1AM EST map for the E Coast. A 972MB Low off the coast of New England!!

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1462. hydrus
Quoting Bordonaro:


I visited my daughter in Nashville, TN from late July-late Oct 09. A breezy day is rare in TN, no less 65MPH wind gusts on the Cumberland Plateau. The SW jet just LOVES TN!!
I have been here a little over a year, last winter arrived one month and a half early, old timers I spoke with said its unusual but not unheard of. It has been and continues to be very windy and chilly here ( gust to 32 mph today ). Still picking up large branches and debris from the last storm. Lost part of garage awning also.
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Quoting hydrus:
Yes, the subtropical jet is definitely active. If it continues to be this strong, it will add a lot more moisture to the primary storm track. Might add to the intensity too, that last low had some powerful wind(65 mph here on the plateau).


I visited my daughter in Nashville, TN from late July-late Oct 09. A breezy day is rare in TN, no less 65MPH wind gusts on the Cumberland Plateau. The SW jet just LOVES TN!!
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1460. hydrus
Quoting Bordonaro:


This El Nino so far has made the SW Sub Tropical Jet more volitile, added extra moisture, while allowing Arctic air to dump into the US.
Yes, the subtropical jet is definitely active. If it continues to be this strong, it will add a lot more moisture to the primary storm track. Might add to the intensity too, that last low had some powerful wind(65 mph gusts here on the plateau).
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Quoting Tazmanian:
cool


Taz, the new model is running, I am checking for California storm systems for you. I will post the links to the maps for you :o)

12-31-09 at 10pm your time, storm skirts your area to the north, link:

Link

1-1-10 at 10am your time, area or rain just north of San Francisco. Link:

Link
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Quoting hydrus:
Sounds reasonable considering the fact that El_Nino usually means more low pressure areas moving over the state. They had a couple howlers move through a little while back.


This El Nino so far has made the SW Sub Tropical Jet more volitile, added extra moisture, while allowing Arctic air to dump into the US.
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1457. hydrus
Quoting Bordonaro:


I believe after the Polar Vortex dumps Arctic/Siberian air into the CONUS, the pattern will shift, returning regular storms into the Central California coast.
Sounds reasonable considering the fact that El_Nino usually means more low pressure areas moving over the state. They had a couple howlers move through a little while back.
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cool
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Taz, Monday at 4AM your time, a weak Low is headed for Central and Southern California:
GFS 18Z Run, surface map



Link below is Tuesday night 10PM your time, a decent storm is in your part of town:

Link
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Quoting hydrus:
It looks like CA will have weak systems around 12/31 and 1/02. The further north you are the better chances for precip. Pretty tranquil considering all the El-Nino talk.jmo


I believe after the Polar Vortex dumps Arctic/Siberian air into the CONUS, the pattern will shift, returning regular storms into the Central California coast.
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1453. hydrus
Quoting Tazmanian:
i kill the blog like all ways when i come in evere one leves
It looks like CA will have weak systems around 12/31 and 1/02. The further north you are the better chances for precip. Pretty tranquil considering all the El-Nino talk.jmo
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Quoting Tazmanian:
i kill the blog like all ways when i come in evere one leves


Taz, link below is to the NCEP page. The GFS 18Z will update next. Select the fine setting for the best pictures. Best to look at pictures on the 2M Surface, 10M Wind. You can click on each map from current (-0-) through day 16 (348 HRS). I am not sure if the "loop" feature works. I can only load 45 of the 48 total java loop.

A quick peek at the GFS 12Z model runs shows a few weaker storm systems affecting the Norther half of CA. Looks a like a stronger system may approach near 1-8-10.

Link
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1451. hydrus
Quoting Tazmanian:
i kill the blog like all ways when i come in evere one leves
I was looking at models to see what California might expect in the coming days.
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Quoting Tazmanian:
i kill the blog like all ways when i come in evere one leves


No, the blog has been quiet ALL day!! Here's the link to the PNA, all looks kind of quiet for California. But this pattern will eventually change!

Link
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1449. aquak9
no, Taz, you didn't kill the blog! it has been slow on the blog for a few days.

Everyone is still enjoying the last bit of Christmas.

It's not your fault- I am very happy to see you!
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1448. jhigd
Dr.
You stated: "...I expect it will take a obvious imminent climate change disaster to motivate governments to take strong action. I believed in September 2007 that such an event had occurred, when the Arctic ice cap lost more than half of its area, compared to levels observed in the early 1950s. I was astounded at the nonchalance the event earned in the press and among politicians..."

The loss of Artic sea ice is due to the wind patterns in summer that blow the drifting ice to warmer waters where it melts.

I have no doubt that you are aware of this fact and you are being disingenuous in an attempt to deceive the gullible.
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i kill the blog like all ways when i come in evere one leves
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1446. hydrus
Quoting Bordonaro:
The NWS office in Dallas-Ft Worth, TX, stated today in their Area Forecast discussion that they're expecting the Polar Vortex to be over Central Canada, allowing Artic Air to sink down to North Texas, link below:

Link
It should be interesting to watch the timing, track and intensity of future low pressure areas. The earlier they gain strength the more intense the low is when exiting the Eastern Seaboard. Also a much larger portion of the U.S. is effected.
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with all the new mode runs comeing in is there any thing good has far has storms go for CA?
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Quoting Bordonaro:


NAO is negative
PNA, neutral to slightly positive
PNA link below:
Link



link dos not work
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1443. TomSal
Quoting Skyepony:
One thing about the article I posted. Completely contradicts what happened the days after 9/11..but soot is a huge problem accelerating the melt in the arctic.

I remember storys from my grandparents about being dropped from the second story window to tunnel through snow out to the barn in Ohio.
Skyepony: What happened after 9/11 that contradiscts what your post indicated? Hope this is not a bumb question.
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The NWS office in Dallas-Ft Worth, TX, stated today in their Area Forecast discussion that they're expecting the Polar Vortex to be over Central Canada, allowing Artic Air to sink down to North Texas, link below:

Link
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1441. hydrus
Quoting Bordonaro:


NAO is negative
PNA, neutral to slightly positive
PNA link below:
Link
I believe what will ultimately decide how much of the bitterly cold air enters the Conus depends on how much this El-Nino and negative NAO interact with each other. If the PNA becomes positive, better chances of bitter cold for the U.S.
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1440. barbamz

Your former Noreaster is reaching Europe.
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ECMWF on possible cold shot 240 hours out:


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18Z NAM RUN** Tues 12-29-09 NAM 48HRS solution, 850MB

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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