NASA January 2016 temperature update

The NASA GISTEMP global average surface temperature data have been updated to include January 2016, which had the largest monthly temperature anomaly ever recorded: 1.13°Celsius above the 1951-1980 baseline. This is slightly above the  December 2015 anomaly of 1.11°C.


The graph shows month-by-month anomalies for selected warm years. In addition, I have added my guess for how monthly temperatures might trend over the year. This is not an expert forecast and I have done it just to calculate what the annual surface temperature for 2016 would be if that trajectory were followed. Basically, I have assumed that the elevated temperature attributable to the big El Niño will persist until May and will drop off until September. My guess is that the annual anomaly for 2016 will be 0.93°C, 0.07°C higher than 2015. This is shown by the orange dot in the graph below. Continue reading

Shell: internal carbon pricing and the limits of big oil company action on climate

Originally posted at Skeptical Science on March 24th, 2015.

Shell evaluates all of its projects using a shadow carbon tax of $40 per tonne of carbon dioxide. That’s great. But why is the company still exploring in the Arctic and busy exploiting the Alberta oil sands?

Of all of the big fossil-fuel companies, Shell has adopted perhaps the most constructive position on climate change mitigation. Recently, the company’s CEO, Ben van Buerden told an industry conference:

You cannot talk credibly about lowering emissions globally if, for example, you are slow to acknowledge climate change; if you undermine calls for an effective carbon price; and if you always descend into the ‘jobs versus environment’ argument in the public debate.

Shell employs engineer David Hone as their full-time Climate Change Advisor. Hone has written a small ebook Putting the Genie Back: 2°C Will Be Harder Than We Think, priced at just 99¢ and he writes a climate change blog that should be part of every climate-policy geek’s balanced diet.

Shell also has a position they call Vice President CO2, currently occupied by Angus Gillespie. Here’s Gillespie talking recently at Stanford on the company’s internal shadow carbon pricing strategy (hat-tip to John Mashey). It’s worth watching if only for Gillespie’s vivid example of the limitations of looking at averages. The slides can be downloaded here.

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Nothing abusive about stating climate facts

This article originally appeared in the Gulf Islands Driftwood on January 7th, 2014

Elizabeth Nickson1 gets some things right: there is some good news about the Earth’s population. According to the Swedish statistician Hans Rosling2 we may have reached Peak Child — the number of people aged less than 15 may well never again be larger than it is today. And she may be correct that material consumption in rich countries may be reaching a plateau.

However, this is not the same as saying that the demand on the Earth’s resources has stopped growing. The population of the planet will continue to grow from the current seven billion to, about ten billion by the end of the century. That’s roughly 40 per cent more mouths to feed than now. More importantly, the six billion poorest people on the planet are quickly getting richer. While this is undoubtedly great news, nine billion people at the end of the century aspiring to live like the richest billion of us do today will place huge additional demands on the planet’s resources.

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Subcap Methane Feedbacks, Part 1: Fossil methane seepage in Alaska

Originally published at Skeptical Science.

As permafrost thaws, methane is released as the vegetable matter in the soils decomposes. This methane bubbles to the surface in lakes and ponds and accumulates under the ice in the wintertime. New research has shown that the most vigorous methane seeps in Alaska are fed also by methane emitted by thermal decomposition of organic matter in deeper and much older sediments. Continuous permafrost acts as a top seal to this fossil methane, preventing it from reaching the surface and, as global warming melts and perforates this cap, we can expect the pent-up gas to be released more quickly. This source of methane, released from traps under the permafrost, is a potential third source of methane feedback in the Arctic, in addition to permafrost soils and methane hydrates. 

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Subcap Methane Feedbacks. Part 2: Quantifying fossil methane seepage in Alaska and the Arctic

Originally posted at Skeptical Science

The previous article in this series looked at the recent discovery of significant releases of fossil methane through the thawing permafrost in Alaska. In this second instalment we will look at the potential of the rest of the Arctic to produce subcap methane, and will compare the size of these seeps to other global methane-producing mechanisms.

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Subcap Methane Feedbacks. Part 4: Speculations

Originally posted at Skeptical Science

Previous articles in this series have reviewed recent research on methane sources from beneath permafrost and ice sheets. Part 1 looked at subcap fossil methane seeps in Alaska;Part 2 provided a perspective for the size of these seeps in relation to other natural and human sources; and Part 3 looked at potential methane sources resulting from the withdrawal of glaciers and ice sheet. In this final section, I will try to make estimates of what subcap methane emissions may mean for future climate change; more as a speculative basis for discussion rather than an authoritative prediction. Firstly, though, I will argue for a role for subcap methane emissions on the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS). 

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Modelling the permafrost carbon feedback

Originally posted at Skeptical Science and reposted at Climate Progress.

A recent modelling experiment shows that climate change feedbacks from thawing permafrost are likely to increase global temperatures by one-quarter to a full degree Celsius by the end of this century. This extra warming will be in addition to the increase in temperature caused directly by emissions from fossil fuels.  Even in the unlikely event that we were to stop all emissions in the near future, this permafrost climate feedback would likely continue as a self-sustaining process, cancelling out any future natural draw-down in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels by the oceans or vegetation. Avoiding dangerous climate change by reducing fossil-fuel emissions becomes more difficult once permafrost emissions are properly considered. 

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