Understanding Climate Risk

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Discussion paper for open review

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After promising to have our flagship paper on reconciling the signal and noise of global warming on decadal timescales subject to open review, it is finally on. The paper has been submitted and accepted for open review at Earth System Dynamics.

Reconciling the signal and noise of atmospheric warming on decadal timescales

Roger N. Jones and James H. Ricketts
Victoria Institute of Strategic Economic Studies, Victoria University, Melbourne, Victoria 8001, Australia

Received: 13 Aug 2016 – Accepted: 22 Aug 2016 – Published: 23 Aug 2016

Abstract

Interactions between externally-forced and internally-generated climate variations on decadal timescales is a major determinant of changing climate risk. Severe testing is applied to observed global and regional surface and satellite temperatures and modelled surface temperatures to determine whether these interactions are independent, as in the traditional signal-to-noise model, or whether they interact, resulting in steplike warming. The multi-step bivariate test is used to detect step changes in temperature data. The resulting data are then subject to six tests designed to show strong differences between the two statistical hypotheses, hstep and htrend: (1) Since the mid-20th century, most of the observed warming has taken place in four events: in 1979/80 and 1997/98 at the global scale, 1988/89 in the northern hemisphere and 1968/70 in the southern hemisphere. Temperature is more steplike than trend-like on a regional basis. Satellite temperature is more steplike than surface temperature. Warming from internal trends is less than 40 % of the total for four of five global records tested (1880–2013/14). (2) Correlations between step-change frequency in models and observations (1880–2005), are 0.32 (CMIP3) and 0.34 (CMIP5). For the period 1950–2005, grouping selected events (1963/64, 1968–70, 1976/77, 1979/80, 1987/88 and 1996–98), correlation increases to 0.78. (3) Steps and shifts (steps minus internal trends) from a 107-member climate model ensemble 2006–2095 explain total warming and equilibrium climate sensitivity better than internal trends. (4) In three regions tested, the change between stationary and non-stationary temperatures is steplike and attributable to external forcing. (5) Steplike changes are also present in tide gauge observations, rainfall, ocean heat content, forest fire danger index and related variables. (6) Across a selection of tests, a simple stepladder model better represents the internal structures of warming than a simple trend – strong evidence that the climate system is exhibiting complex system behaviour on decadal timescales. This model indicates that in situ warming of the atmosphere does not occur; instead, a store-and-release mechanism from the ocean to the atmosphere is proposed. It is physically plausible and theoretically sound. The presence of steplike – rather than gradual – warming is important information for characterising and managing future climate risk.

Comments welcome: here or there. Deadline October 4.

Step change hypothesis and working paper

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Imagine you didn’t know anything about climate change and the greenhouse effect but were interested and you know a bit about general science. Would you accept the following story?

“Earth’s climate is a large, complex system, affected by forces that produce both linear and nonlinear responses. Shortwave radiation – basically UV – from the sun comes in and heats up the planet, producing infrared radiation. Some UV gets reflected straight back out by clouds, snow and ice and stuff. The land can heat up quite a lot, but it cools back down again and doesn’t store much. If a forest is cleared and replaced by buildings, it will warm up a bit but the effect is only local.”

“But the ocean – that’s another story. It absorbs a lot of radiation, so is taking up heat all the time. Huge streams of energy are entering and leaving the ocean store each year. Some is ‘dry’ or sensible heat, which is ordinary warmth. Some is ‘wet heat’ or evaporated moisture. Energy gets taken up when the moisture is evaporated and it will be released again when the moisture cools, condenses and then gets rained out. In this way, the oceans provide a lot of heat to the land every year, largely as rainfall and a bit of snow.”

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BoM Annual Climate Statement 2013 – SWWA SST

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As a result of the statement I made regarding the BoM Annual Climate Statement 2013, I was asked to do a radio interview on ABC drivetime radio in WA, so had a close look at the WA numbers to provide some local background. Average temperature was 0.98°C warmer than the 1961-90 average, the next highest being +0.93°C in 1998. Maximum temperature was also the warmest at +1.11°C compared to +1.00°C in 1994. Minimum temperature was not quite the warmest on record.

But the big shock I got was when I looked at sea surface temperatures (SSTs) for south-west WA. Have a look at this graph (note that 2013 isn’t up there yet due to a delay in processing):

Sea Surface Temperature anomalies south-west WA 1900-2012
Sea Surface Temperature anomalies south-west WA 1900-2012 (Source: BoM)

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BoM Annual Climate Statement 2013 – quick links

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On Friday Jan 3, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology released its Annual climate statement 2013. The headline statements include:

Data collected and analysed by the Bureau of Meteorology show that 2013 was Australia’s warmest year on record while rainfall was slightly below average nationally.

  • Summer 2012–13 was the warmest on record nationally, spring was also the warmest on record and winter the third warmest
  • Overall, 2013 was Australia’s warmest year on record: annual national mean temperature was +1.20°C above average
  • All States and the Northern Territory ranked in the four warmest years on record
  • Nationally-averaged rainfall was slightly below average for the year, with 428 mm (1961–1990 average 465 mm)
  • Rainfall was mostly below average for the inland east and centre, and above average for the east coast, northern Tasmania and parts of Western Australia

The statement was widely reported – two good summaries by the BoM crew and Lewis and Karoly can be found on The Conversation. One of the biggest talking points was that 2013 was a normal year meteorologically – no El Niño in sight – but the temperature was still a record. Much of the reporting in Australia pointed out the disjuncture between observations and current government policy. The Australian Science Media Centre also had a rapid round-up that included some words from me.

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The scientific origins of the gradualist adaptation narrative and how to move beyond it

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The following statements are typical of the gradualist adaptation narrative:

  1. Within limits, the impacts of gradual climate change should be manageable.
  2. Therefore, climate change adaptation can be understood as: (a) adapting to gradual changes in average temperature, sea level and precipitation.
  3. Gradual climate change allows for a gradual shift in the mix of crops and to alternative farming systems.

So why are Gauss and Newton in the bath and Ed Lorenz in the hot tub?

Bath&Jacuzzi

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Perth morgues are full and SW WA has been unseasonally cold – coincidence?

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During the last weekend in July, Perth experienced an unusually high number of deaths, putting pressure on the state’s mortuaries. All facilities are full, according to the ABC.

Curiosity piqued, I checked Perth’s weather data for unseasonal cold. Sure enough, during June and July, Perth and the rest of south west WA had experienced cold conditions, not seen in Perth for 13 years and longer elsewhere. This linked article was published in mid July. In the last three weeks of July, daily temperatures were below 10 degrees on 3, 4 and 3 days, respectively preceding the last weekend of July.

Was it the the poor, the aged and the infirm filling the mortuaries, after repeated, unseasonal cold snaps? Has an overall warmer climate not insulated people from such events? The average temperature at Perth Airport is 13°C and for July was 11°C; perhaps there are some bad respiratory diseases around making things worse.

Perth average daily temperature June-July 2012, showing 10°C threshold

Cold remains dangerous for the vulnerable in southern winters. At this range of temperature, contrasts in temperature are the largest risk to vulnerable people, rather than absolute temperatures themselves.

Written by Roger Jones

August 19, 2012 at 11:46 am

Feedback from Evans – there is no feedback

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After me getting an op-ed in The Age representing real climate science and policy, it’s time for some asshattery, c/- both the Melbourne Age and the Sydney Morning Herald. The Fairfax press has decided to redress the balance of knowledge with some agnotogeny* from Dr David Evans. From his tagline:

Dr David M. W. Evans is a mathematician and engineer who consulted full-time for the Australian Greenhouse Office (now the Department of Climate Change) from 1999 to 2005. He says he changed from being a warmist to a sceptic after ”evidence supporting the idea that CO2 emissions were the main cause of global warming reversed itself from 1998 to 2006”.

Cartoon by Fiona Katauskas

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Written by Roger Jones

August 2, 2012 at 10:29 pm

Climate steps at The Conversation

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Rapid warming in SE Australia challenges plans to adapt gradually

Step changes in warming of a few tenths to 1°C can produce rapid changes in risks such as extreme heat and fire danger. Yet, adaptation-planning that follows the dominant model of smooth climate change makes gradual adjustments to keep up with small changes in extremes. In these circumstances, a rapid change can catch sensitive systems out. Poorly planned responses may also lead to maladaptation.

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Studies of prehistoric climate change in Victoria’s western lakes imply that future changes might not be smooth.
 Dacre Smith's painting of Lake Gnotuk, from Views of Victoria in the steps of von Guerard.

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Written by Roger Jones

March 30, 2012 at 5:03 pm

ACORN-SAT is AOK

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Last Friday the global climate conspiracy erected another plank dressing up the façade that is record of warming record in Australia. At an extra-ordinary nerdfest held the Victorian State Library, the cruel manipulations of temperature records by the Bureau of Meteorology were described. ACORN-SAT, I mean, really! Lies dressed up as statistics were outlined to an audience who hung on every word. The conspirators have done such a good job that the Australian record so closely resembles the tricked up records from Hadley-CRU, the Goddard Centre for Space Studies and NASA, that they all have to be made up. There’s no way that independent analyses of measurements of something we can’t see – air – can be so accurate.

Well, that’s the objections of the denialati out of the way.

The BoM did release The Australian Climate Observations Reference Network – Surface Air Temperature (ACORN-SAT) data on Friday and it looks excellent. Today I’m downloading some of the data for a project I’m involved in, so it’s good to have. The data were also used in the recent State of the Climate 2012 released by the Bureau and CSIRO.

Part of the impetus to get this done was a barely coherent set of assertions on how Australia’s climate records were being massaged by the Bureau. These assertions were formally submitted (pdf) as a request to audit climate records to the Attorney-General in February 2010. Co-signees were Senator Cory Bernardi, Joanne Nova (an alias), Andrew Barnham, Anthony Cox, James Doogue, Chris Gillham, Ken Stewart and Dr David Stockwell. They also alleged that BoM and CSIRO advice on climate change was misleading. This follows up similar fishing expeditions in New Zealand and the US yielding similar results. Not only were the records validated, quality control methods and subsequent adjustments improved those data giving us even more confidence that the record of warming they contain is unimpeachable.

Improved methods, external international review and a more comprehensive coverage have led to the Bureau to claim they have the some of the best quality records of temperature of any country. I think they’re right.

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Written by Roger Jones

March 28, 2012 at 10:56 am

Climate shifts paper published

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The climate shifts paper on non-linear anthropogenic climate change in SE Australia with earlier descriptions here and herehas been published in the Journal of Geophysical Research. We had plans to make it open access  but must not have paid the invoice yet, so it’s behind a paywall here (pdf). If you can’t get access, get in touch with me via comment below or email (firstname.lastname at vu.edu.au) and I’ll send a reprint.

Following is an edit of the draft press release that should go out in the next week or so. The press release implies that this pretty much goes on everywhere – not just SE Australia. That’s what I believe from further work currently underway – the ocean runs the climate system and the atmosphere doesn’t warm quite the way people assume it does. The energy from greenhouse warming goes into the ocean first, then is re-emitted periodically into the atmosphere. The atmosphere doesn’t warm in situ (or not yet to any significant degree). It may later under increased radiative forcing, but at the moment the ocean is pretty much running the show. This pattern of non-linear change fits in with palaeoclimatic evidence from the region that I’ll get round to describing some time.

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