Blackness in the Air - Bumps and Wiggles (7)

By: Dr. Ricky Rood , 4:36 AM GMT on June 02, 2010

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Blackness in the Air - Bumps and Wiggles (7):

Introduction: This is the seventh in a series on understanding climate variability, global warming, and what we might do about it. The series focuses on the past 30 years and the next 30 years.

This series started from the perspective that if we take a broad look at the observations and projections of warming of the Earth’s surface, then we see observations, theory, and validation that substantiate the fundamental base of knowledge about the Earth’s climate and how it will change. If we look a little closer, then we start to see some discrepancies. From the point of view of the scientist, these discrepancies are what guides future investigation. From the point of view of the “politician,” these discrepancies provide the foothold on which to base arguments of disagreement, and indeed, to fuel selective doubt and perhaps even discredit the scientists and the body of knowledge. From the point of view of the informed and interested, the discrepancies are the points of discussion, the seeds of interest, and something that needs to be understood.

The blogs that preceded this one started from the notion that the warming that has been measured thus far at the Earth’s surface is not as large as it should be for the amount of carbon dioxide that is in the atmosphere. So digging into this problem a bit, I have tried to say we need to look at the details of our prediction in light of information that is directly relevant to the here and now. (Recall, the simulations were never imagined for this purpose!) So far we have followed some heat into the ocean, worried a little about aerosols (those annoying “particles” of stuff in the atmosphere), and last time, about some simple and complex responses of water vapor to a warming at the Earth’s surface. (From a comment or two I read, I did not do such a good job on explaining the transport of water vapor to the stratosphere. Sorry. To do that well would require several blogs, or one of my compelling lectures, and that just seems too tedious.)

This blog I want to continue down the path of things that change the radiative balance of the atmosphere. That is, things that we are doing to the atmosphere, and things other than carbon dioxide. And, in particular, I want to talk about black carbon. (I refer to an excellent, requires you to know a lot of jargon, article in Nature Geoscience by Ramanathan and Carmichael (a summary.))

Black carbon is the name given to black, or perhaps better dark, particles that are in the atmosphere. These particles are primarily the products of combustion. For many, think soot from diesel engines. “Black” is important because "black" means absorbs solar radiation. For those in Tallahassee, think walking barefoot across the parking lot of the Publix on Ocala on July 4th to buy a watermelon. (Is the old ice house still around in Tallahassee?) OK, seriously.

Black carbon, after carbon dioxide, competes with methane as the most important pollutant that warms the planet. But it is complicated. Black carbon is suspended in the atmosphere, so it warms above the surface. Because the sunlight is absorbed above the surface, there is a net cooling at the surface, below the black carbon. So that warms the planet, and suppresses some of the warming at the surface.

This warming effect of the black carbon particles (that is, aerosols) is opposite of what we usually think about aerosols. Usually we think of aerosols, such as the sulfate aerosols from volcanoes (earlier in this series) as reflecting sunlight and cooling. Also aerosols have an impact on clouds that is a cooling effect. So, black carbon means that the simple construct “aerosols cool” to be untrue.

Here is a picture that conveys this notion of cooling and warming aerosols. It is from a presentation in my class.

Figure 1: Warming associated with black carbon is in contrast to the cooling effect usually associated with black carbon. This figure follows from the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development’s material on the role of managing black carbon in the environment.

Black carbon has another impact on the warming of the planet that is important. It falls on the snow and ice, darkening the snow and ice. In this role, black carbon is a great accelerator of melting. (Regular “dust” associated with dust storms and plowing also helps to accelerate melting of ice.) In this case, as we look at the amount of warming associated with carbon dioxide and the amount of melting of glaciers and snow on land, we need to disentangle the impact of black carbon and the impact of greenhouse gas warming. Again, this brings attention to needing to examine, more carefully, the role of all of the factors that are causing big changes to the planet.

Another characteristic of black carbon is that it is a signal of very bad air quality. Diesel motors are a source of black carbon, as is “biomass” burning. Cook stoves are a huge source of black carbon, especially in places, like India, where many people continue to cook with traditional fuels on traditional stoves. The entanglement of air quality and greenhouse-gas-caused climate change is complicated, with many instances of improving air quality accelerating the rate of warming. (Think of the relation between coal, carbon dioxide, and coal.) This is not the case of black carbon, which leads to warming (in the atmosphere) and accelerated melting of ice. Another attribute of black carbon and “air quality” is that the compounds that cause “air pollution,” in the traditional sense of Los Angeles in 1968 – smog, are relatively easy to control, regional, only in the atmosphere a few weeks, and more politically appealing to address than carbon dioxide. (This is supposed to suggest near-term ideas on managing warming and geo-engineering – but that is the next series.)

It is worth noting that black carbon is NOT part of the portfolio of pollutants mentioned in the original Kyoto Protocol, which does, still, guide the evolving carbon markets.

For the purpose of this series of blogs, I am conveying the importance of understanding the bumps and wiggles of the current observations and addressing the question of “how does the observed warming compare with the projected warming?” Black carbon is a piece of the puzzle that is important and complicated. It directly impacts the “radiative forcing.” Earlier we followed the heat into the ocean and a cooling effect of water vapor into the atmosphere. There is nothing simple to say about black carbon and how it impacts the current bumps and wiggles, but it is obviously important. (We will need to go back to ocean heating with this new result.)

I am ending this with a complex figure from the 2007 IPCC report as used by some of my students exploring the near-term solutions. This is a version of a picture that has been around for years. It is used by many as the starting point of the climate change discussion, but I have always felt that if you jumped in here, you lost most of your audience. I will offer a brief description. Contributions to the change in the radiative forcing of the Earth’s climate are plotted. This change is in comparison to something prior to the industrial revolution. For example, the carbon dioxide part of the figure is how much more carbon dioxide is warming the planet than in, say, 1750. Reading the plot, the change is about 1.5 watts/meter**2 … that is, watts (energy) per unit area of the Earth. This is 1.5 compared to a total of about 350 – small. (But last time, I talked about the big effect of small things.) Black carbon and methane are each about the same, and second most important in the CHANGE of warming. (Note there is also a cooling component of methane.) Most of the things that act to cool the planet are associated with aerosols and their impact on clouds. That’s enough; this is a picture of how all the pieces play together.

Figure 2: From IPCC 2007: Borrowed from my students: Changes in the energy budget of the Earth due to pollution and changes of the atmosphere and the surface and the sun. Marked up to point out the role of aerosols. See text.


Bumps and Wiggles (1): Predictions and Projections

Bumps and Wiggles (2): Some Jobs for Models and Modelers (Sun and Ocean)

Bumps and Wiggles (3): Simple Earth

Bumps and Wiggles (4): Volcanoes and Long Cycles

Bumps and Wiggles (5): Still Following the Heat

Bumps and Wiggles (6): Water, Water, Everywhere

And here is

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Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20390
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
Oh. I was the first person in wunderground to ask this question. Comment #3. Look at the date.

I started the trouble!


It's all about potential. Raise the heat and the potential increases for more storms.
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20390
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20390
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
Well with hundreds of cubic kilometers of net ice sheet melt into the southern oceans---fresh meltwater floats on top, and fresher water freezes more easily.

Greenland doesn't drain into the Arctic Ocean but on the east and west sides of the island, so there isn't as much meltwater in the Arctic Ocean, the salinity doesn't fall as much so warming melts sea ice.

The Naysayers will say you are wrong! SHHHHH!
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20390
Quoting MichaelSTL:

On the other hand, look at this (something that certain people evidently hasn't done yet - despite my repeated telling them to do so). Also, the increase in the rate of Antarctic ice melt actually exceeds that of Greenland - increasing by 26 gigatons per year compared to 21 for Greenland. Note again, - they are talking about SEA ICE; the link tells you why it isn't decreasing like the Arctic (and in fact, it is warming just like the Arctic).

Correct there is so much ice there it could even melt faster and still come in last place because it is so massive!
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20390
Tunnels prevent this! Do any of you get it?

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Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20390
Quoting martinitony:
Sea Ice Extent Anomoly

Just wondering. How do you guys explain that there is more sea ice extent this day than average in the whole dang world?
My guess is, you will say the whole world doesn't really matter much. We only want to talk about the Arctic right now. Or maybe you will say "aerosols" .
It's OK. I understand. What you can't explain just doesn't require explanation in your world.
Maybe that Simon guy can pull another "lie" out of his hat to get rid of an inconvenient "FACT".
Hey Dr. Rood, maybe you want to address global ice extent and why it just doesn't want to cooperate.

Oh, about that Arctic ice extent. Let's see how that's going in about six weeks. My bet is you won't want to be discussing it.

Because we all know the Antarctic is going to be the last to melt because it is the most massive!
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20390
Sadly, I have been trying to convince scientists how good they are for the last 14 years now. If they had listened back then we would not have the oil in the GOM now and the Arctic Ice would be recovering.
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20390
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
James Hansen and Jeff Masters are active in I read about it in Dr Hansen's "Storms of my Grandchildren" and from a link to I found on Dr. Master's facebook page.

You do know my Tunnels can keep us under 350?
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20390
What does the number 350 mean?
350 is the most important number in the world—it's what scientists say is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Two years ago, after leading climatologists observed rapid ice melt in the Arctic and other frightening signs of climate change, they issued a series of studies showing that the planet faced both human and natural disaster if atmospheric concentrations of CO2 remained above 350 parts per million.

Everyone from Al Gore to the U.N.’s top climate scientist has now embraced this goal as necessary for stabilizing the planet and preventing complete disaster. Now the trick is getting our leaders to pay attention and craft policies that will put the world on track to get to 350.

Is 350 scientifically possible?
Right now, mostly because we’ve burned so much fossil fuel, the atmospheric concentration of co2 is 390 ppm—that’s way too high, and it’s why ice is melting, drought is spreading, forests are dying. To bring that number down, the first task is to stop putting more carbon into the atmosphere. That means a very fast transition to sun and wind and other renewable forms of power. If we can stop pouring more carbon into the atmosphere, then forests and oceans will slowly suck some of it out of the air and return us to safe levels.

Is 350 politically possible?
It’s very hard. It means switching off fossil fuel much more quickly than governments and corporations have been planning. Our best chance to speed up that process will come in December in Copenhagen, when the world’s nations meet to agree on a new climate treaty. Right now, they’re not planning to do enough. But we can change that--if we mobilize the world to swift and bold climate action.
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20390
LOL the naysayers don't think Co2 is a pollutant!

Ocean acidity has increased by 30% since preindustrial times due to the uptake of anthropogenic CO2. It is projected to rise by another 100% before 2100 if CO2 emissions continue at current rates. Polar seas are considered particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification because the high solubility of CO2 in cold waters results in naturally low carbonate saturation states. CO2 induced acidification will easily render these waters sub-saturated, where seawater becomes corrosive for calcareous organisms. By the time atmospheric CO2 exceeds 490 parts per million (2040 to 2050, depending on the scenario considered), more than half of the Arctic Ocean is projected to be corrosive to aragonite. Arctic waters are home to a wide range of calcifying organisms, both in benthic and pelagic habitats, including shell fish, seas urchins, coralline algae, and calcareous plankton. Many of these are key species providing crucial links in the Arctic food web, such as the planktonic pteropods, which serve as food for fishes, seabirds and whales.

Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20390
Geenland is burning up melting ice!

Place Temperature Humidity Pressure Conditions Wind Updated
Aasiaat 37 F 87% 29.86 in Mist West at 13 mph 7:50 PM WGST
Angisoq 35 F 92% 29.77 in WNW at 17 mph 7:00 PM WGST
Aputiteeq 33 F 88% 30.13 in NE at 13 mph 7:00 PM WGST
Cape Harald Moltke

Ikermiit 42 F 97% 30.07 in NNW at 14 mph 7:00 PM WGST

Ilulissat 45 F 66% 29.83 in Mostly Cloudy West at 5 mph 7:50 PM WGST
Kangerlussuaq 63 F 30% 29.77 in Scattered Clouds East at 12 mph 7:50 PM WGST

Kitsissorsuit 33 F 99% 29.93 in North at 8 mph 7:00 PM WGST
Kitsissut 55 F 51% 29.77 in N/A WNW at 17 mph 7:50 PM WGST
Kulusuk 48 F 77% 30.10 in Mostly Cloudy Calm 7:00 PM WGST
Maniitsoq 45 F 71% 29.77 in N/A WNW at 17 mph 7:50 PM WGST
Mittarfik Nuuk 46 F 66% 29.77 in Mostly Cloudy North at 10 mph 7:50 PM WGST
Narsarsuaq 45 F 87% 29.77 in Rain NW at 2 mph 5:50 PM WGST
Navy Operated

Nunarsuit 39 F 20% 29.82 in WNW at 7 mph 7:00 PM WGST
Nuuk 46 F 66% 29.77 in Mostly Cloudy North at 10 mph 7:50 PM WGST

Paamiut 46 F 55% 29.78 in Mostly Cloudy West at 2 mph 7:00 PM WGST
Pituffik 45 F 52% 29.86 in Clear SE at 29 mph 6:55 PM ADT
Prins Christian Sund 45 F 79% 29.73 in Light Rain NNW at 17 mph 7:00 PM WGST
Qaarsut 38 F 96% 29.90 in WNW at 13 mph 7:00 PM WGST
Qaqortoq 45 F 87% 29.77 in Rain NW at 2 mph 5:50 PM WGST
Sioralik 45 F 71% 29.77 in N/A WNW at 17 mph 7:50 PM WGST
Sisimiut 55 F 51% 29.77 in N/A WNW at 17 mph 7:50 PM WGST
Sisimiut Mittarfia 55 F 51% 29.77 in N/A WNW at 17 mph 7:50 PM WGST

Tasiilaq 48 F 83% 30.09 in Light Rain NNW at 5 mph 7:00 PM WGST
Ukiivik 43 F 83% 29.78 in NNW at 6 mph 7:00 PM WGST
Upernavik 46 F
Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20390
Giant long lasting warm Polynas melt massive amounts of Arctic ice from below. Upwelled warmer waters melting ice from below in many areas of North Arctic. Check it out and watch the video link at the bottom.We don't need anymore record HIGH global SST's this will make the Polynas even worse in the future!

Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20390
Quoting crucilandia:
Where was I wrong? sulfates are aerosols. ....
More weaseling. What you said in comment 48 was
Quoting crucilandia:
it is common knowledge that aresols represent sulfates
I'm glad to see you've done a little research since then though and expanded your knowledge of aerosols beyond just sulfates.
Member Since: July 26, 2006 Posts: 58 Comments: 9154
Quoting crucilandia:
.... All graphs posted in the blacknes in the air section were from goverment and scientifc agencies
Weasel words. The fraudulently altered graph you posted was in the previous blog, "Water, Water Everywhere". Dr. Rood removed the graph but your false assertions that is was genuine are still there for anyone to see in comment 208
Quoting crucilandia:
the first graph is from National Snow and Ice Data center

the second is from National Center for Environmental Prediction/NOAA
and comment 220
Quoting crucilandia:
all graphs were from official sources such as

. The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC)
. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency IARC-JAXA Information System

no comments means you do not have counterargument or do not understood the message
Member Since: July 26, 2006 Posts: 58 Comments: 9154
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
Are you talking about when the cabinet of the Maldives met underwater?

Yeah. I think that was the one I was remembering.
Member Since: February 19, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 571
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
Some good news for low-lying Pacific islands

Yeah. I saw that too. Kind of ironic, I guess. It still cracks me up remembering the guy that signed the climate change accord underwater. What people won't do...

Added: Looks like I drove everyone away. LOL. Maybe I forgot my deodorant this morning...
Anyway, I'm out for now.
Member Since: February 19, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 571
№ 126

Definitely had never seen that before. I doubt we will ever see wind farms on that scale but still interesting.
Member Since: February 19, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 571
№ 122

I'm pretty sure UAH has always used the 1979-1998 base line (well, at least since 1998 anyway). The starting point is 1979 probably because the data began in 1979. The ending point of 1998 seems arbitrary, perhaps even to obtain a higher baseline due to the 1998 temperature peak. Regardless, it's the trendline that's important anyway.
Member Since: February 19, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 571
Here is something you all can have some fun with :)

The paper is free and the links to it are in the info... interesting numbers?

or you can go strait to the abstract and link to the revised paper here

Potential climatic impacts and reliability of very large-scale wind farms

Have fun ! L8R

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
look at Hanssen's justification of why 1951 to 1980 is used in GISS analysis

because everybody uses it and because many people grew up on that period

"The GISS analysis uses 1951-1980 as the base period. The United States National Weather Service uses a three-decade period to define "normal" or average temperature. At the time we began our global temperature analyses and comparisons with climate models that
climatology period was 1951-1980. It seems best to keep the base period fixed, because manygraphs have been published with that choice for climatology. It is a good choice for another reason: many of today's adults grew up during that period, so they can remember what climate was like then"

Global Surface Temperature Change
J. Hansen, R. Ruedy, M. Sato, and K. Lo
Member Since: March 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 2212
This is interesting, and at least somewhat related:

It's a work in progress, but here is an article investigating another possible warm bias in the GISS temperature record. It's only a tenth of a degree, but still interesting.

The most interesting GISS/TEMP errors. Can this be an accident?

Member Since: February 19, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 571

why are they using the base period of 79 to 98 for the average (the zero line)??

why did they not use the "official" base period of 1961-1990?
Member Since: March 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 2212
UAH temperature update:

This graph also shows the 2000-2009 time period to be on average warmer then the 1990-1999 time period, but I certainly see a "leveling off". 1998 and 2009/10 similar, 2000 and 2008 similar, peaks and troughs correlating to ENSO data. This is of course too short of a time period to say much about long term temperatures, but to say that warming is accelerating...I don't see it.
Member Since: February 19, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 571
why do you think it will probably change anyway?
Member Since: March 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 2212

look at figures 11 and 13 to see that since 1997 the anomalies are basicaly the same on average (eyeballing about 0.45)

the high peak in 1998 can be counterbalanced by the lower values of 1999 and 2000

Member Since: March 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 2212
it can be seen easily on Fig 11 that a trend line from 1997 to 2009 would produce a flat line (no change in the anomaly value)

can you focus on that period?

why is the anomaly value relatively constantant after 1997?
Member Since: March 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 2212
№ 109

I'll even set aside the fact that this is based on GISS data for the time being but...

Is 2010 Heading For A Record?
Today’s Times says, “Nasa analysis showing record global warming undermines the skeptics.” However, a closer look at the information which the Times bases its headline on shows that a combination of selective memory and scientific spin play a large role in arriving at it.

The conclusion is based on a new paper written by James Hansen and submitted to Reviews of Geophysics. The paper released by Hansen has not been peer reviewed, and he admits that some of the newsworthy comments it contains may not make it past the referees

LOL. Why let that spoil a good headline though, right?
Member Since: February 19, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 571
we are discussing the rate of heating since the late 90's. What does 2000 has to do with the trend?

why is this a fabrication?

why are you giving me the trend since 1970? this is not the range period we are discussing
Member Since: March 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 2212

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About RickyRood

I'm a professor at U Michigan and lead a course on climate change problem solving. These articles often come from and contribute to the course.