Posts Tagged ‘PNAS’


Rahmstorf: Is it OK to call him an “alarmist” now?

May 9, 2012

Some folks never give up.  In the following video Stefan Rahmstorf says…

To me a tipping point in the climate system is like a sweet spot in the climate system, where a small perturbation can have a major, even qualitative effect.  It’s like a small change in temperature moving, for example, the Greenland Ice sheet beyond the point where eventually it will melt down all together…from about 2 degrees global warming there would be a risk of the complete meltdown of the Greenland Ice sheet…I think this two degree limit agreed in Cancun by the politicians may not be enough to prevent a dangerous interference in the climate system.

Now let’s be clear about this: a “complete meltdown” of the Greenland ice sheet would raise the planet’s sea level 7 meters (7000 mm).  The sea level rise rate today is about 3 mm per year and decreasing according to satellite data.  A rational reading the tide gauge data is even less.

I guess in Greenland ice must melt at -25°C.  Here is today’s temperature outlook…

Oh, I know, the scientifically sophomoric sophisticated will tell us all about the rapidly accelerating glaciers.  Well, their favorite journal, Science, throws a little icy cold water on their dreams of catastrophic nirvana.  In 21st-Century Evolution of Greenland Outlet Glacier Velocities ( T. Moon, et. al., Science, 4 May 2012, Vol. 336, pp. 576-578)  Moon et. al. produced “a decade-long (2000 to 2010) record documenting the ongoing velocity evolution of nearly all (200+) of Greenland’s major outlet glaciers.”  They found that in some regions there was a glacier acceleration (SEE! SEE!), but not very consistently over the last 10 years.  Here is their conclusion

Our observations have implications for recent work on sea level rise. Earlier research (33) used a kinematic approach to estimate upper bounds of 0.8 to 2.0 m for 21st-century sea level rise. In Greenland, this work assumed ice-sheet–wide doubling of glacier speeds (low-end scenario) or an order of magnitude increase in speeds (high-end scenario) from 2000 to 2010. Our wide sampling of actual 2000 to 2010 changes shows that glacier acceleration across the ice sheet remains far below these estimates, suggesting that sea level rise associated with Greenland glacier dynamics remains well below the low-end scenario (9.3 cm by 2100) at present. Continued acceleration, however,may cause sea level rise to approach the low-end limit by this century’s end. Our sampling of a large population of glaciers, many of which have sustained considerable thinning and retreat, suggests little potential for the type of widespread extreme (i.e., order of magnitude) acceleration represented in the high-end scenario (46.7 cm by 2100). Our result is consistent with findings from recent numerical flow models (34).

So, Rahmstorf is worried about a “complete meltdown of the Greenland ice sheet” which would lead to 7 meters (7000 mm) of sea level rise, but the data shows “sea level rise associated with Greenland glacier dynamics remains well below the low-end scenario (9.3 cm by 2100)” (93 mm by 2100).  Does being off by a factor of 75 (7000/93) qualify as “alarmist?”

By the way, when Moon says “Earlier research (33) used a kinematic approach to estimate upper bounds of 0.8 to 2.0 m for 21st-century sea level rise” he is talking about Kinematic Constraints on Glacier Contributions to 21st Century Sea-Level Rise (Pfeffer, et. al., Science, 5 September 2008, Vol. 321. no. 5894, pp. 1340 – 1343).  I discussed this paper at length two years ago in my “Reply to John Mashey.” (Still feeling smug, John?) 

And finally,  Moon’s last sentence says “Our result is consistent with findings from recent numerical flow models (34).”  He is talking about Committed sea-level rise for the next century from Greenland ice sheet dynamics during the past decade (Price, et. al., PNAS, 31 May 2011, vol. 108 no. 22 pp. 8978-8983).    Price, et. al. say

The modeling conducted here and some reasonable assumptions can be used to make approximate upper-bound estimates for future SLR from GIS [Greenland Ice Sheet] dynamics, without accounting for future dynamical changes explicitly. As discussed above, numerous observations indicate that the trigger for the majority of dynamic thinning in Greenland during the last decade was episodic in nature, as the result of incursions of relatively warm ocean waters. By assuming that similar perturbations occur at regular intervals over the next century and that the ice sheet responds in a similar manner, we can repeatedly combine (sum) the cumulative SLR [sea level rise] curve from Fig. 4B to arrive at additional estimates for SLR by 2100. For example, if perturbations like those during the last decade recur every 50, 20, or 10 y during the next 100 y, we estimate a cumulative SLR from GIS dynamics by 2100 of approximately 10, 25, and 45 mm, respectively…Addition of the estimated 40 mm of SLR from changes in SMB [surface mass balance] by 2100 would result in a total SLR from Greenland of 85 mm by 2100.

Holy cow! Rahmstorf is telling us to be worried about 7000 mm of sea level rise due to the “complete meltdown of the Greenland ice sheet,” but Price et. al. say maybe 85 mm due to Greenland by 2100.


Updated PSMSL sea level video

March 11, 2012

The following video shows all the PSMSL tide gauge data so you can search for a sea level rise acceleration.  It replaces an earlier version that was taken down by youtube because of music license violations.  This version has music with Creative Commons license.  The text and data are the same as before.

Vermeer’s and Rahmstorf’s “Global sea level linked to global temperature” (PNAS, 2009) relied on Church’s and White’s “A 20th century acceleration in global sea-level rise” (GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 33,) for their sea level data.  Church and White built their sea level time series from the Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level (PSMSL) tide gauge data.

There is no attempt to analyse the data here, but I have started that process and will report on it later.  The first two minutes may be a little boring, but please read along.  It livens up later.   For now, sit back and enjoy.


Rahmstorf vs. Rahmstorf

March 5, 2012

Oh, what a tangled web we create, when first we practice to exaggerate.

with apologies to Sir Walter Scott

Intrepid mathematician Stefan Rahmstorf has calculated the global temperature increase rate for the last 31 years.  (Global temperature evolution 1979–2010, Foster and Rahmstorf, Environ. Res. Lett. 6, 2011) For the fun of it, lets take him at his word.  The problem is that when his temperatures from this new paper are inserted into his sea level rise rate formula from one of his earlier papers (Global sea level linked to global temperature, Vermeer and Rahmstorf, PNAS, 2009), the calculated sea level rise rate isn’t anywhere close to reality.

These papers can’t both be correct.  My guess is that neither of them are. 

In the 2011 paper he starts with five different global temperature records and adds his version of corrections for volcanoes, el Nino and solar variations.  He then calculates the temperature rate of change per decade for each of the five temperature records.  The five ranged between 0.141 °C/decade to 0.175 ° C/decade, but the average was 0.163 °C/decade as shown in figure 1,  below.

He also calculated the temperature rise rate acceleration, and found none.  In his own words

“To look for changes in the warming rates over time, we computed the rate in adjusted data sets for different time intervals, for all start years from 1979 to 2005 and ending with the present. The results show no sign of a change in the warming rate during the period of common coverage.”

Figure 1 Rahmstorf's version of global temperature for 1979 to 2010. This is figure 4 and table 1 from Foster and Rahmstorf. Trendline, based on the average of table 1, added by ClimateSanity

You know what higher temperatures mean: higher sea level rise rates.  Nobody knows this better than Herr Rahmstorf, who has spent the better part of his career making the point.  He has even provided a formula in his 2009 paper to translate the global temperature to the sea level rise rate.

Some easy math

Assuming his calculated temperature increase rates for the last three decades are correct, what does his sea level rise rate formula tell us?  In Rahmstorf’s parlance H is the sea level and dH/dt is the sea level rise rate.  His formula, from which sprang the famous 1.8 meter sea level rise for the 21st century meme, looks like this…

From Rahmstorf’s graph of global temperature from 1979 to 2010 (figure 1, above), we see that his temperature and the rate of temperature change are given by …


Substituting equations II & III into equation I and gathering terms reveals

While equation IV won’t tell us the exact sea level rise rate for a particular year, it will tell use how much the sea level rise rate changes between two years.  That is

Let’s say that Rahmstorf’s temperature data from the his 2011 Environmental Research Letters paper is correct and his formula relating sea level rise rate from his 2009 PNAS paper is correct.  And let’s say that we wanted to know how  much the sea level rise rate had increased between (oh, I don’t know – how about) 1993 and 2010. Then equation V would tell us that the sea level rise rate should have increased by 1.55 mm/year (0.09128 mm/year X (2010-1993)). 

Comparing to reality

Lucky for us, we have measured sea level data to compare the calculated value to.  As figure 2, below makes abundantly clear, the sea leve rise rate has been about 3.1 mm/year over this time period.   The combination of Rahmstorf’s 2009 PNAS paper and 2011 Environmental Research Letters paper indicate that it should have increased by 1.55 mm/year (an additional 50%).
How can this discrepancy be explained?  Oh yeah, I almost forgot, we already know the Rahmstorf’s formula relating sea level rise rate to global temperature is totally bogus.