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This item was posted on August 3, 2010, and it was categorized as Climate Change, ice cores, paleoclimatology, sea level rise.
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Time to focus on adaptation. (But bye bye Miami)

Jim White in the field

Jim White leaning on the wing of an airplane at the North Greenland Ice Core Project site in 2004. (Yes, paleoclimatologists do have fun!) He has just returned from another trip to Greenland — this time with a sober assessment of where we’re headed with climate change

This morning I interviewed James White, the director of the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research here in Boulder, for KGNU radio’s “How on Earth” science show. White is a paleoclimatologist — he studies ancient climates to understand better how Earth’s climate system works. He has just journeyed back from the Greenland ice sheet, where he has been part of an international science team working on the North Greenland Eemian Ice Drilling project, or NEEM.

The “lede” for the story I would write based on this interview is pretty astonishing: In White’s view, it’s already too late to turn back the clock on climate change to save low-lying coastal cities like Miami. The ice cores that he and his colleagues drill from Greenland and Antarctica tell us that the last time greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere were as high as they are today, the world was even warmer than it is now, Greenland was largely deglaciated, and sea level was 10 to 15 feet higher.

In the interview, White barely mentioned reducing our emissions of greenhouse gases to mitigate climate change, although I know he thinks this would be a very good idea. Instead, he emphasized the need for societies to adapt to what he considers to be inevitable and very significant changes.

Click here for MP3 audio of the entire science show, including the interview. (The recording actually includes quite a bit of other material from before the science show, so scroll forward to about 13 minutes into the program, where the White interview begins.)

Below are some of the most significant moments from the interview. I’ve also included some context and my questions (which are not verbatim):

I pointed out that after two summers of work, the NEEM team has drilled down more than 1.5 miles through the Greenland ice sheet, reaching bedrock just last week. The ice Jim White and his colleagues have recovered originally fell as snow during the Eemian interglacial period, from 115,000 to 130,000 years ago. It contains valuable clues about the climate and environment at that time.

I asked White why recovering ice from the Eemian is significant.

“The Eemian, or the last interglacial period, is the last time climate was as warm as it is today. in fact, it was warmer than it is today. And that’s important because as climate warms, we want to know what the impacts are going to be. How much ice is going to melt, how are the climate patterns going to change, are the agricultural areas going to stay the same or are they going to change. And the last interglacial period, being warmer, is a good analogue for the future.”

The Eemian was as warm and perhaps even warmer than it is today. So what insights might the NEEM ice core give us about what could be in store for us in the future?

“First let me make the point that the Eemian . . . was indeed warmer. We have multiple lines of evidence for that . . . We also know that sea level was higher in the Eemian — in the neighborhood of 10 to 15 feet higher than today. Ten to 15 feet may not sound too impressive to us here in Colorado. But, for example, 10 to 15 feet would mean no Miami, no Norfolk Virginia, even Washington D.C. — the Mall would be underwater with 10 to 15 feet of sea level rise.

That’s important because it tells us that these interglacial periods, and climate in general, is not a static thing. We should expect change. We should expect that sea level will change. We should expect that temperatures will change. We should not be surprised that climate changes when we do something as fundamental as adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.”

White then pointed out that the 10 to 15 feet of sea level rise that occurred during the Eemian came from ice melting in Greenland and Antarctica. But scientists want to know what were the relative contributions from these ice sheets. And here is where the interview got very interesting:

“If sea level is rising at the rate that it is today, this is something that we can deal with. We’ll lose Miami, for example, but we can perhaps pay for that if we decide that’s the way we want to go. If sea level is rising very rapidly then that makes adaptation more difficult and more expensive.”

That really stopped me. My response: “Lose Miami? Really?”

White responded that most predictions are for roughly 3 feet of sea level rise by the end of the century.

“Go to Google Maps and plug that in and see what Miami looks like. And that’s just by the end of this century. Nobody that I know thinks that sea level is going to stop at a 3 foot rise. It’ll go maybe 10 or 15 feet at least in the next few hundred years. So most coastal cities around the world are going to have to be moved and repopulated elsewhere.

Is there anything we can do not simply to adapt but to prevent climate change and sea level rise?

“Carbon dioxide levels, methane levels, are already very high relative to what we know existed for the last million years. I don’t think that we’re going to turn that around very quickly. We could get into some very serious geoengineering in terms of removing these greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Very expensive things to do.

My feeling is we just need to understand what the science is telling us and make intelligent decisions. I don’t really believe that it’s my role as a scientist to tell policy makers what to do. My role is to tell them this is the information you’re going to get, and we need as a society to make decisions. My pitch as an educator, as a professor, is that those be educated decisions. And whether it’s we’re going to adapt or we’re going to deal with this from a geoengineering sense, it doesn’t really matter to me . . . What matters to me is that we do this with intelligence and that we don’t just deny the obvious.

So we should pay more attention to adaptation?

“I think that adaptation is in our future whether we like it or not. We’re going to have to deal with this problem. You can’t stop physics. You can argue all you want. You can say global warming is not happening all you want, but that’s not going to stop global warming. So we’re going to have to deal with it. We’re going to have to adapt to it. And as I said I think it’s just important for us to do that adaptation with some intelligence. We’re going to have to make choices . . . How are we going to spend our money? We only have so much.”

And then came the kicker:

“We’re the only creature on the planet that can actually think through these things, and we ought to start thinking”

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This thing has 74 Comments

  1. Posted August 3, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    As a possible alternative to geoengineering, see A 5 Point Program at http://aesopinstitute.org

    Note also Moving Beyond Oil on the same website. There are surprising possibilities emerging in the laboratories that suggest we can supersede fossil fuels much more rapidly and cost effectively than might be readily believed.

  2. Posted August 3, 2010 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    Great interview, Tom.

    Jim’s doing some incredible work.

  3. Orkneygal
    Posted August 3, 2010 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

    The science says that the Eemian interglacial period was warmer than today and that the level of trace GHG’s, such as CO2, is at record highs for the last one million year.

    So, that means that CO2 did not cause the Eemian warming.

    What then, did cause it?

    Isn’t what did cause also a true possible cause of the current warming and not GHG’s?

  4. Posted August 4, 2010 at 5:54 am | Permalink

    No Orkneygal, that does not mean that CO2 did not cause the Eemian warming — we haven’t yet gotten to the warming that is going to occur in response to the current levels of GHGs. Even so, it’s irrelevant. Whatever the reasons were for the Eemian warming, GHGs are warming the climate today.

    Try to use logic — just because a phenomenon in one case has a particular cause, that does not mean it is the only possible cause of the same phenomenon.

  5. Steve Bloom
    Posted August 4, 2010 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Well, Tom, I have to say I’m a little surprised at your surpise about the locked-in sea level rise. Also, I suspect that if you asked Jim a direct question about mitigation, he would be very clear on the urgent need for it in order to keep things from getting even worse.

    A key piece of information that didn’t come out in the interview is that CO2 levels in the Eemian only reached about 300 ppm, in sharp contrast to our present 390 ppm with a bullet. Another one is that the presence of ice sheets on this planet is not possible at CO2 levels we are very likely to reach in the near future, and no ice sheets gives us about 250 feet of sea level rise. Thermal lag due to the oceans means we have a chance to avoid that outcome if we can rapidly get levels back down, but that would mean developing an ability to actually care about what happens to future generations.

    Speaking of lags, one of the goals of the NEEM project is to try to figure out not only the relative contribution of the GIS to Eemian sea level rise, but how fast the melt proceeded. (Note that a couple of years ago a paper by Pfeffer et al. purported to show an upper limit on the rate of melt, but IIRC that assuned that most of the loss would have to occur in the form of ice passing through the limited number of tight glacier outlets.) The project leader (Dahl-Jensen) has hinted about some striking results in that regard, and we may be hearing about those as early as next month. It’s of obvious great import to our immediate future whether significant melt occurred on a scale of centuries versus decades. Dahl-Jensen seems to be hinting toward something closer to the latter scale, but OTOH Jim would know about theresults and is still speaking in terms of a meter minimum by 2100, so we’ll see.

    Anyway, it’s kind of funny how times have changed since just a few years ago when Jim Hansen had to make public a note about “reticent” glaciologists who refused to admit that the ice sheets were the danger they have turned out to be.

    But on the whole it was a great interview. More like this, please.

  6. Steve Bloom
    Posted August 4, 2010 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Orkneygal, the simple version is that the interglacials (e.g. the Eemian and the one we were in until a few years ago) are caused by a combination of orbital cycles (which periodically make for sharp differences in insolation at the high latitudes where the ice sheets exist) and assorted feedbacks, prominently including CO2. Since adding CO2 to the atmosphere directly will raise planetary temperature, with enough of it we can melt the ice sheets directly. As I noted above, beyond a certain CO2 level (as low as 450 ppm but no higher than 550 ppm) the ice sheets will disappear entirely. A planetary-historical perspective on this is useful, for which this recent lecture by the formerly reticent Richard Alley is good.

  7. Michael Jefferis
    Posted August 4, 2010 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    We are gradually establishing our probable rate-of-speed-to-understand-what-is-going-on and it doesn’t seem to be very fast. The rate-of-speed-to-start-doing-something-about-what-is-going-on appears to be slower, and the rate-of-speed-to-understand-what-all-else-is-going-to-happen-if-we-don’t-get-moving is slower still. So, I guess we should start planning on building New Miami now, somewhere other than the former state of Florida. We can also start planning for New Washington, D.C., New Manhattan, New New Orleans, and the like. At 250 feet of ocean rise, a good share of the lower Mississippi Valley is going to be part of the Golf of Mexico. The Central Valley in CA will be an extension of SF Bay, so maybe we should start looking for the next good garden spot.

    At times I am optimistic about the possibility of swift action or gradual adaptation, but then I think about moving the mountain of inertia about making even small changes, and it seems impossible. It isn’t that people are stupid. Just because we CAN see that 50 years down the line climate change will be changing our lives significantly, doesn’t mean that we WILL turn that recognition of distant consequences into immediate action.

    Let me ask the most foresightful people reading this: What were you most worried about 25 years ago? What did you do about it?

  8. Steve Bloom
    Posted August 4, 2010 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    I just spotted this fresh on-site report (on Sky of all places) of what another team is finding up on the Greelenad ice sheet this summer. There’s a striking photo of what industrial soot actually does to the surface during melt season. According to the article, the team has found a 6-meter (!) reduction in ice sheet thickness in just one month where they’re working (near Kangerlussuaq), and the nearby Jakobshavn glacier was observed to retreat a mile in one day (!) in early July. Not at all good, to say the least.

    It being Sky, the comment thread is about what one would expect.

    Speaking of which, hey Keith, why not try some useful journalism like this instead of just providing a venue for denialists to vent?

  9. Orkneygal
    Posted August 4, 2010 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    Steve Bloom-

    During the Ordovician there was a global glaciation at a time when the atmospheric carbon levels where higher than today. In fact, atmospheric CO2 levels then where approximately 15 times higher than today.

    Therefore I find your claim that CO2 levels above 550 PPM will cause melting of the high polar ice packs to be quite curious and not supported by the paleoclimate record.

  10. Hallie
    Posted August 4, 2010 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    I think you’re all missing the point in talking about adaptation. In the Eemian period the advent of warming (in the absence of mankind) was probably incredibly slow, allowing for organisms to adapt via evolution. By comparison, what we have starting to happen now is happening at potentially catastrophic rates, meaning that most organisms rather than evolving to adapt will simply die. Because of the rate of change there will be mass extinctions. When we think of mankind adapting, do you really think that we will when you consider that many of the lower organisms that comprise the foundations of the food chain will perish! It’s too bad that we tend to think of ourselves as independent of the entire web of life. We’re not!

  11. Steve Bloom
    Posted August 4, 2010 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    Orkneygal, the apparent Ordovician mismatch was resolved several years ago, in this paper. It seems you’re not using good sources of information. You didn’t even listen to Richard’s lecture, did you?

  12. Steve Bloom
    Posted August 4, 2010 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    That’s a bit of an overstatement, Hallie, bearing in mind that temperatures in the same range as the climate state we’re headed into were experienced as recently as 3M years ago in the mid-Pliocene. The extinction rate is very high *now* due to multiple (anthropogenic) causes, and the coming further rise in temperature isn’t going to help. In any case we’re not threatening all life on the planet, at least not yet.

  13. Steve Bloom
    Posted August 4, 2010 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

    In related news, now the *soil scientists* are in a panic: “Thawing frozen soils could unleash carbon bomb

  14. Hallie
    Posted August 4, 2010 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    Orkneygal, the Ordovician period was NOT a period of glaciation. It started at the end of a period of glaciation, and it’s beginning was marked by a major extinction event, the Cambrian-Ordovician extinction even. Whatever happened ended the previous period of glaciation, WARMING the world to 2 degrees C higher than modern levels, and RAISED the sea level up to 220 meters above present sea levels! I repeat, the sea levels were VERY high during this period, indicating that those high levels of carbonacious gases were associated with WARM temperatures. Gradually during this period things cooled off again (possibly with eventual lowering of the CO2 levels), and finally glaciers and polar ice caps reappeared. At the very end of it there was another major extinction event, probably due to the glaciation, which marked the beginning of the Silurian period.

    Please go read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ordovician. I hope this unconfuses everyone!

  15. Orkneygal
    Posted August 5, 2010 at 3:42 am | Permalink

    Steve Bloom-

    No I did not listen to Richard’s lecture. I prefer to do my own research.

    Nice try on the paper, but it refers to the Permian glaciation, not Ordovician one.

    No one has answered the basic question, how could have been colder then with pCO2 levels so massively high compared to today.

  16. Orkneygal
    Posted August 5, 2010 at 3:51 am | Permalink


    Wikipeida is hardly a source for unbiased, accurate and complete information about science.

    However, had you bothered to read that article you linked to completely, you would have found clear references to the Ordovician glaciation period within it.

    Mother Earth’s temperature was much colder then than it is now, despite the fact that atmospheric CO2 levels were 15 times or so higher then, than now.

    Mother Earth’s temperatures were much higher during the Eemian interglacial period than they are today, despite the fact that atmospheric CO2 levels were lower then than today.

    Those two facts, demonstrate conclusively that atmospheric CO2 levels are not Mother Earth’s temperature regulator.

  17. Posted August 5, 2010 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    Orkneygal: See “CO2 as primary driver of Phanerozoic climate by Royer et al, GSA Today; v. 14; no. 3, doi: 10.1130/1052-5173(2004)014<4:CAAPDO>2.0.CO;2.

    Here’s a link to a pdf of the paper:


    And here’s the relevant part of the paper:

    “The CO2 record compares
    predictably with the glacial record, with low values (<500
    ppm) during periods of intense and long-lived glaciation
    (Permo-Carboniferous [330–260 Ma] and late Cenozoic [past
    30 m.y.]) and high values (>1000 ppm) at all other times. The
    late Ordovician (~440 Ma) represents the only interval during
    which glacial conditions apparently coexisted with a CO2-rich
    atmosphere. Critically, though, widespread ice sheets likely
    lasted <1 m.y. (Brenchley et al., 1994, 2003; Sutcliffe et al.,
    2000). Given the coarse temporal resolution of the GEOCARB
    model (10 m.y.) and poor proxy coverage across this interval
    (Fig. 1C), it is perhaps unsurprising that a short-lived drop
    in CO2 has not yet been captured. Moreover, geochemical
    evidence is consistent with a late Ordovician CO2-drawdown
    (Kump et al., 1999), suggesting that CO2 and temperature did
    in fact remain coupled. Further work, however, is needed to
    more clearly decipher this important period.”

    The anomalies in the basic story (“CO2 is the most important driver of Earth’s average climate”) are dropping away with further research. And the undeniable fact is that there is simply no way to explain Earth’s climate history without CO2. Period. You can believe otherwise, but that is what the science indicates.

    As Richard Alley says in the lecture you evidently don’t want to watch:

    “If higher CO2 warms, the earth’s climate history makes sense. If CO2 doesn’t warm, we have to explain why the physicists are stupid and we also have no way to explain what happened. It’s really that simple, okay?”

    I would submit that when you say you are discussing science you are really discussing politics. You don’t want to believe the science (and in fact, it looks like you won’t even investigate science that contradicts your beliefs) because you perceive it to be in conflict with your political philosophy. A better approach: Just be intellectually honest and simply state that you don’t favor the policies being advanced to tame global warming because of x, y and z, and then propose alternative policies that are consistent with your values.

  18. Steve Bloom
    Posted August 5, 2010 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Orkneygal, sorry for the confusion — I linked from memory with double-checking. Anyway, that paper is still relevant since it describes the resolution of a similar problem.

    Thanks for that link and response, Tom. I did have another look at the Ordovician research and found this fresh on-point paper. The abstract:

    The Late Ordovician Hirnantian Stage (∼444 million years ago) was one of three time periods during the past half billion years in which large continental glaciers formed over Earth’s polar regions. The effects of this glaciation were far-reaching and coincided with one of the largest marine mass extinction events in Earth history. The cause of this ice age is uncertain, and a paradoxical association with evidence for high atmospheric CO2 levels has been debated. Precise linkages between sea level, ice volume, and carbon isotope (δ13Ccarb and δ13Corg) proxy records of pCO2 have been poorly understood due in part to uncertainties in stratigraphic correlation and the interpretation of globally important sections. Although correlation difficulties remain, recent Hirnantian biostratigraphic studies now allow for improved correlations. Here we show that consistent trends in both δ13Ccarb and δ13Corg from two well-dated stratigraphic sequences in Estonia and Anticosti Island, Canada coincide with changes in Late Ordovician (Hirnantian) climate as inferred from sea level and the extent of ice sheets. The integrated datasets are consistent with increasing pCO2 levels in response to ice-sheet expansion that reduced silicate weathering. Ultimately, the time period of elevated pCO2 levels is followed by geologic evidence of deglaciation.

    So this is pretty definitive (and do read the whole paper, Orkneygal — it’s not paywalled). Both it and the paper I linked describe very nicely how they deal with the basic problem of getting an accurate picture of abrupt changes so far back in time. Unsurprisingly, most proxies from those times tend to smear the record, which is why early work failed to show the fine-grained correlations.

  19. Steve Bloom
    Posted August 5, 2010 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    *without* double-checking

    (Tom, I suspect the answer is no, but in IE the comment window text runs under the window’s right margin by six or so characters, which makes proofing comments difficult; can that be fixed?)

  20. Orkneygal
    Posted August 5, 2010 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    Tom Yulsman-

    Your comments about my politics are incorrect, misguided and are indicative more of your agenda than mine.

    As far as that paper you linked to is concerned-

    The clear conclusion of the paper is that Earth’s paleoclimate history has periods where atmospheric CO2 correlates with surface temperature and periods where it does not. Therefore, the only reasonable conclusion is that the atmospheric CO2 level is not the primary driver of the Earth’s surface temperature.

    Correlation does not mean causation. It takes only one contrary example to prove a theory is falsified. That is the way science works.

    Since CO2 is soluable in sea water, of course there is a linkage between atmospheric CO2 levels and temperature, as stated in the quote from the paper. As sea water temperature decreases, it is capable of holding more CO2. That is level 8 science taught with the use of carbonated sugar water. Therefore, one would expect a cooling planet to lose atmospheric CO2 to the ocean.

  21. Orkneygal
    Posted August 5, 2010 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    Steve Bloom-

    The title of the article linked above is-

    “Did changes in atmospheric CO2 coincide with latest Ordovician glacial–interglacial cycles?”

    After reading the entire article, I conclude that the authors’ unequivocal answer is-

    “We don’t know, but we think so.”

    Perhaps we should remind them that the ability of sea water to absorb CO2 is proportional, inter alia, to its temperature. It is clear than any substantial global cooling should cause atmospheric CO2 levels to decrease. Likewise, a warming world should release CO2 from the ocean repository. So, as temperatures go up and down due to climatic changes, we would expect CO2 levels and other GHG levels, such as water vapour to rise and fall.

    We should also remember that correlation is not causation.

    Global temperatures then were colder than today, despite the fact that atmospheric CO2 levels were ~15 times higher then than now.

    Mother Earth’s temperatures were much higher during the Eemian interglacial period than they are today, despite the fact that atmospheric CO2 levels were lower then than today.

    Extremes of warmth and cold are in the paloeclimate records that do not correlate with the theory that CO2 is a primary driver of atmospheric temperature.

    Therefore, the theory of CO2′s preeminent position as a climate driver is falsified, completely.

  22. Posted August 5, 2010 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Steve: Sorry about the browser issue. I don’t have IE, so I’m afraid I can’t see what’s happening. In any case, this is a WordPress template, and I’m not really a coder, so I don’t think I can figure out what’s wrong. I’ll try to get someone to look at it, but it’s summer around here and it’s hit or miss. We’ll see.

    I’ve been planning a design change anyway, so maybe that will be the solution.

  23. Steve Bloom
    Posted August 5, 2010 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Tom. Obviously I can live with the problem.

    So, Orkneygal, let’s see the calculations to back up your claims, starting with how many ppm CO2 are gained or lost per degree C change? If you’re right about this, there’s a free round trip ticket to Oslo in it for you.

  24. Orkneygal
    Posted August 5, 2010 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

    CO2 is water soluable. Any water-soluble gas becomes more soluble as the temperature decreases.

    The partial pressure of CO2 over pure water versus temperature at various pressures can be found in most standard reference texts for Chemistry. My Library’s copy of Lange has it and the charts are there.

    As far as the equation for CO2 soluability in sea water and resulting changes in ppm, what that is depends on whether you believe the most recent comentary on these matters found in IPCC AR4. According to IPCC AR4, the dwell time of CO2 cannot be determined. This is not concordant with their commentary and conclusion in the 3rd report. However, that is IPCC’s current claim relevant to your request.

    If it is true that the dwell time of atmospheric CO2 cannot be determined, then there is no way write the equation you seem so interested in, Steve Bloom. Factors affecting the oceanic uptake of CO2 include the robustness of the thermocline and associated deepwater transport mechanisms, the types and amounts of biomass in the ocean, especially the extent of corals, the reference level of pCO2, ocean current factors, levels and types of sub-oceanic volcanic activity and a variety of other factors.

  25. wfm
    Posted August 6, 2010 at 5:11 am | Permalink

    First, Dr. White is correct in that we do indeed need to study the most recent interglacials, and the Eemian (or MIS-5a-e) is a good place to start being that it is the most recent one, and we are afforded the opportunity to study it in quite good detail in Greenland due to its much higher rate of snowfall than Antarctica. However, orbitally it has now long been considered not the best analogue to the Holocene (MIS-1). In terms of the precession cycle, which varies from about 19-23k years, and we are at the 23k endpoint in that cycle today, the Holocene is presently about 11,500 years old, or just about exactly one half of a precession cycle. Five of the past 6 interglacials have each lasted about half of a precession cycle. All of these, and perhaps 2 others have all occurred post the Mid Pleistocene Transition (MPT) when we switched from the 41kyr glacial/interglacial cyclicity (which matches obliquity or the degree of tilt on our rotational axis to the ecliptic) to the 100kyr cyclicity (which matches the eccentricity, or degree to which our orbit approaches a circle or ellipse around the sun) which may still be pacing us today. Eccentricity itself has cyclicity moving from minima to maxima over about a 400kyr period, and we are at an eccentricity minima now, meaning the last time we were at a minima was 400kya (MIS-11) and the one before that 800kya (MIS-19). And that 6th interglacial, the one that didn’t last one half of a precession cycle was MIS-11, or the Holsteinian interglacial, which seems to have lasted about 28-30kyrs, some say between 1.5 to 2 precession cycles. MIS-19, on the other hand, seems to have lasted about 10kyrs or so, meaning that interglacials occurring at eccentricity minima do not necessarily occasion extended interglacials. So how long will the Holocene last?

    This has become one of the more interesting, and well debated questions in paleoclimatology. Research into MIS-11 suggests that it had two broad thermal maxima, with the majority of the data suggesting that the second, or last, thermal maxima is a far better analogue to the Holocene than the first one. Many workers think that MIS-19 makes a better analogue than the second thermal peak in MIS-11.

    Tzedakis, writing in Climate of the Past Discussions (online European Geosciences Union free access website) in 2009 and 2010 provides a thorough analysis of the MIS-19/MIS-11 research in light of the Ruddiman Early Anthropogenic Hypothesis. He concludes:

    “On balance, what emerges is that projections on the natural
    duration of the current interglacial depend on the choice
    of analogue, while corroboration or refutation of the “early
    anthropogenic hypothesis” on the basis of comparisons with
    earlier interglacials remains irritatingly inconclusive.”

    Interestingly, eccentricity maxima correlate rather well with hominid evolution:

    “An examination of the fossil record indicates that the key junctures in hominin evolution reported nowadays at 2.6, 1.8 and 1 Ma coincide with 400 kyr eccentricity maxima, which suggests that periods with enhanced speciation and extinction events coincided with periods of maximum climate variability on high moisture levels.”

    state Trauth, et al (2009) in Quaternary Science Reviews. As it turns out, periods of wet maximum climate variability (in modern lingo, global warming/global cooling correctly re-branded as climate change), cook-up the larger braincases. We went from 500-550cc braincases 2.8 mya to the average of about 2,500cc today in the most rapid encephalization of any mammal in the fossil record.

    The last maxima, since we are at a minima now, occurred during MIS-7, about 200kyrs ago. Homo sapiens appears in the fossil record at that time and coexisted with H. neanderthalensis for about 30kyrs before they got rubbed out. Hmmmmm.

    But I digress. If we take a stroll between this interglacial, and the last one back, the Eemian or MIS-5, we find there were 24 Dansgaard- Oeschger oscillations, also known as interstadials. These occurred within the Wisconsin ice age. D-O events average about 1,500 years long (range is 1,000-4,000 years) and have the same characteristic sawtooth shape that the major ice age/interglacial transitions do, a rapid global warming, taking from just a few years to mere decades, and averaging 8-10C rise (DO19 cranked out a 16C rise), before relaxing back to the glacial state. The normal difference between the glacial and interglacial states is about 20C so D-O events can shoot us from 1/3 to 1/2 of the difference between earth’s cold and warm states in astonishingly little time.

    Sole, Turiel and Llebot writing in Physics Letters A (366 [2007] 184–189) identified three classes of D-O oscillations in the GISP2 Greenland ice cores; A (brief), B (medium) and C (long), reflecting the speed at which the warming relaxes back to the cold glacial state:

    “In this work ice-core CO2 time evolution in the period going from 20 to 60 kyr BP [15] has been qualitatively compared to our temperature cycles, according to the class they belong to. It can be observed in Fig. 6 that class A cycles are completely unrelated to changes in CO2 concentration. We have observed some correlation between B and C cycles and CO2 concentration, but of the opposite sign to the one expected: maxima in atmospheric CO2 concentration tend to correspond to the middle part or the end the cooling period. The role of CO2 in the oscillation phenomena seems to be more related to extend the duration of the cooling phase than to trigger warming. This could explain why cycles not coincident in time with maxima of CO2 (A cycles) rapidly decay back to the cold state. ”

    With respect to MIS-11 Lisiecki and Raymo in a landmark paper (Paleoceanography, 2004) stated:

    “Recent research has focused on MIS 11 as a possible analog for the present interglacial [e.g., Loutre and Berger, 2003; EPICA community members, 2004] because both occur during times of low eccentricity. The LR04 age model establishes that MIS 11 spans two precession cycles, with 18O values below 3.6 o/oo for 20 kyr, from 398-418 ka. In comparison, stages 9 and 5 remained below 3.6 o/oo for 13 and 12 kyr, respectively, and the Holocene interglacial has lasted 11 kyr so far. In the LR04 age model, the average LSR of 29 sites is the same from 398-418 ka as from 250-650 ka; consequently, stage 11 is unlikely to be artificially stretched. However, the June 21 insolation minimum at 65N during MIS 11 is only 489 W/m2, much less pronounced than the present minimum of 474 W/m2. In addition, current insolation values are not predicted to return to the high values of late MIS 11 for another 65 kyr. We propose that this effectively precludes a “double precession-cycle” interglacial [e.g., Raymo, 1997] in the Holocene without human influence.”

    Assuming you have not already made the leap, all of this provides a peculiarly intriguing possibility. From the GISP2 core we clearly discern that CO2 is not responsible for any of the 13 included global warmings from 60-20kya, but seems to function to ameliorate the slide back to the glacial state. From a June 21 N65 insolation perspective, a second insolation peak, such as MIS-11 experienced, isn’t due for another 65kyrs, and we are already well below the minimum interglacial insolation value of MIS-11. One is therefore left to ponder the implications.

    Could it possibly be that by pure serendipity, at what appears to be the likely end Holocene, mankind literally stumbled on what may be the singular atmospheric ingredient seemingly capable of ameliorating the drop into the next ice age?

  26. wfm
    Posted August 6, 2010 at 8:34 am | Permalink


    In my post I said “Eccentricity itself has cyclicity moving from minima to maxima over about a 400kyr period”. A clear case of typing slower than one can think. What I was attempting to intimate is that eccentricity minima and maxima occur every fourth cycle offset by half a 4th cycle, or 200kyrs. So, in 200kyrs we will be at another maxima, another 200kyrs beyond that (400kyrs from now), we will be at another minima, and so on.

  27. Steve Bloom
    Posted August 6, 2010 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    “Could it possibly be that by pure serendipity, at what appears to be the likely end Holocene, mankind literally stumbled on what may be the singular atmospheric ingredient seemingly capable of ameliorating the drop into the next ice age?”

    Maybe, but now we’ll never know. Also, I wouldn’t say singular since methane can do the job as well. (Also also, and I hate to be a grammar fascist but this bugs me, if there was stumbling in this regard it was figurative.)

    Re the Eemian, while it’s clear that its orbital forcing was different than that of the present interglacial, a short, sharp interglacial is actually best for studying the questions we care most about, which have to do with how much a melt contribution we can expect from the GIS and how soon. In any case the Eemian is where the ice ends, so it’s the only interglacial we can study in detail in the north.

  28. Steve Bloom
    Posted August 6, 2010 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    Orkneygal, I’m not seeing any numbers or specific citations, which I’m afraid could be bad news for your prize. But let’s try a little empiricism: The T difference between glacial minima and maxima is approximately 6C, and the CO2 difference is approximately 120 ppm, which gives about 20 ppm per degree C. How does that work out for your idea about the Ordovician? Other questions:

    CO2 is known to have opacity in infrared wavelengths (else e.g. CO2 lasers wouldn’t work), and is well-mixed in the atmosphere (confirmed via air sampling). That being the case, how can it not have a feedback role if a large quantity of it is bunch of it is added, and how does that fit into your ideas?

    Assuming you can get over those humps, what’s your candidate forcing/feedback to act in the place of CO2?

  29. Orkneygal
    Posted August 6, 2010 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    I am left speechless by your little calculation based upon “a little empiricism’, Steve Bloom, truly speechless.

    20 ppm of CO2 change results in 1C of global temperature change!

    What an extrodinary think to type in a public forum, Steve Bloom!

    Quick, contact the IPCC!

    The situation is much worse than we thought. According to the CO2 observatory on Mauna Loa, global tempertures must have gone up about 4C in the last 50 years. All the world’s thermometers must be wrong! All the world’s climate scientists must be wrong! Global temperatures must be rising at up to 10 times what the scientists currently think. The entire weather monitoriing system of the world must be wrong!

    That little calculation shows the true depth, extent and quality of your knowledge, understanding and comprehension of climate and the factors that affect it, Steve Bloom. Again, I am left speechless at your little calculation.

  30. Steve Bloom
    Posted August 6, 2010 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    Orkneygal, I’m just going off your hypothesis. Do you doubt the information about the temperature and CO2 changes? If not, and if your idea is correct, then the temperature increase must have driven CO2 out of the ocean at the indicated rate. Kindly explain where I’ve gone wrong with this calculation, and in particular how it’s not a necessary implication of what you propose.

  31. Steve Bloom
    Posted August 6, 2010 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    Orkneygal, let me remind you of what you wrote above:

    “Perhaps we should remind them that the ability of sea water to absorb CO2 is proportional, inter alia, to its temperature. It is clear than any substantial global cooling should cause atmospheric CO2 levels to decrease. Likewise, a warming world should release CO2 from the ocean repository. So, as temperatures go up and down due to climatic changes, we would expect CO2 levels and other GHG levels, such as water vapour to rise and fall.”

    Hmm, seems clear enough.

  32. Posted August 6, 2010 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    Orkneygal: Steve has been uniformly courteous in his responses to you. (He hasn’t always been to me. Hah!) So let’s keep this civil and focus on the issues. No need to be condescending.

    As a conservative friend often says to me: “Breath in, breath out. Breath in, breath out…”

  33. Steve Bloom
    Posted August 6, 2010 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, I was only courteous that time you hung me out to dry. :)

  34. Orkneygal
    Posted August 6, 2010 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    During the Ordovician glaciation, paleoclimate estimates of the atmospheric CO2 level are that they were in excess of 4000ppm.

    If it is to be believed that that a 20ppm change in pCO2 results in a 1C change in atmospheric temperatures then the calculation for that period would be

    (4000ppm CO2 then minus approximately 380ppm Now) divided by 20ppm CO2/1C=+181C+15C (Now)

    So the suggested relationship of temperature vs CO2 would mean that during the global Ordovician glaciation earth’s atmospheric temperature was +196C, or higher.

    I don’t find that believable. Therefore the suggested relationship cannot be correct.

  35. Posted August 6, 2010 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    WFM: Thanks for taking the time to write such a thoughtful, detailed post.

  36. Steve Bloom
    Posted August 6, 2010 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    Right, Orkneygal, and that means in turn that something else is going on. What do you suppose it is? A CO2 feedback *would* generally explain things, recalling from above that in order to exclude such a CO2 warming effect one has to reject some pretty basic physics.

  37. Orkneygal
    Posted August 6, 2010 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    So, Steve Bloom, you are agreeing that during the Ordovician glaciation Earth’s atmospheric temperature would have been around 196C based upon your claim about the relationship?

  38. Posted August 7, 2010 at 6:16 am | Permalink

    Steve and Orkneygal: I’m going offline for a couple of days — a short backpacking trip. So have at it without me. Back Monday some time.

  39. Steve Bloom
    Posted August 7, 2010 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    No, Orkneygal, that was based on your claim that ocean temps drive CO2 levels without the CO2 having a warming effect in turn. If you think that’s true in the present, era but not in the Ordovician, you have some explaining to do.

  40. Orkneygal
    Posted August 7, 2010 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    Then your statement about 20ppm CO2 resulting in 1C temperature change is not correct.

    Is that what you now admit?

    Until you clarify your earlier claims about the “little empiricism” you used above, the discussion is obviously at a standstill.

  41. wfm
    Posted August 7, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Steve Bloom, I don’t really understand the part about “we will never know”. Perhaps you could elucidate. I am assuming that you mean we won’t really know if CO2 can lengthen this late Holocene thermal, perhaps extending it beyond what may have been its normal end. If that assumption is correct, then let me add a few things regarding the end post MPT extreme interglacials. Many paleoclimatologists subscribe to the notion that the Holocene should have already ended. They cite many things, including CO2. The problem here is the climate system is not only non-linear and chaotic, but composed of a great many variables, quite a few of them we simply just don’t understand well enough yet to say with much certainty precisely what would happen if one is adjusted this way or that. This definitely seems to be the case with CO2. I, and many others, are awaiting some published results from some of the new ice coring programs, such as NEEM and the one whose name I have forgotten currently running in west Antarctica.

    As to the end Holocene being extended by atmospheric loading of CO2, because of the complexity of climate we may indeed never know, or we could be living in the extension now, and what I was trying to relate is that this would be an expected result based on what we have observed happening many times in the most recent paleoclimate records with regards to D-O events. Meaning we may have done precisely the correct thing with the Industrial Age at precisely the right time at an end interglacial. As counterintuitive as that may seem to the lay reader, it remains a distinct possibility.

    As regards the end extreme post MPT interglacials, more meticulous proxy studies, from more and better locations where these proxies are found to exist, strongly suggest that the end interglacials can be quite the bumpy ride. Hearty and Neumann (Quaternary Science Reviews 20 (2001) 1881–1895) in their abstract describe it thusly:

    “The geology ofthe Last Interglaciation (sensu stricto, marine isotope substage (MIS) 5e) in the Bahamas records the nature of sea level and climate change. After a period of quasi-stability for most of the interglaciation, during which reefs grew to +2.5 m, sea level rose rapidly at the end ofthe period, incising notches in older limestone. After briefstillstands at +6 and perhaps +8.5 m, sea level fell with apparent speed to the MIS 5d lowstand and much cooler climatic conditions. It was during this regression from the MIS 5e highstand that the North Atlantic suffered an oceanographic ‘‘reorganization’’ about 11873 ka ago. During this same interval, massive dune-building greatly enlarged the Bahama Islands. Giant waves reshaped exposed lowlands into chevron-shaped beach ridges, ran up on older coastal ridges, and also broke off and threw megaboulders onto and over 20 m-high cliffs. The oolitic rocks recording these features yield concordant whole-rock amino acid ratios across the archipelago. Whether or not the Last Interglaciation serves as an appropriate analog for our ‘‘greenhouse’’ world, it nonetheless reveals the intricate details of climatic transitions between warm interglaciations and near glacial conditions.”

    The paper may be found online for free and is well worth reading all the way through. Another thoughtful analysis of the end Eemian may be found in Boettger et al (2009) entitled “Instability of climate and vegetation dynamics in Central and Eastern Europe during the final stage of the Last Interglacial (Eemian, Mikulino) and Early Glaciation” Their abstract:

    “In terrestrial records from Central and Eastern Europe the end of the Last Interglacial seems to be characterized by evident climatic and environmental instabilities recorded by geochemical and vegetation indicators. The transition (MIS 5e/5d) from the Last Interglacial (Eemian, Mikulino) to the Early Last Glacial (Early Weichselian, Early Valdai) is marked by at least two warming events as observed in geochemical data on the lake sediment profiles of Central (Gro¨ bern, Neumark–Nord, Klinge) and of Eastern Europe (Ples). Results of palynological studies of all these sequences indicate simultaneously a strong increase of environmental oscillations during the very end of the Last Interglacial and the beginning of the Last Glaciation. This paper discusses possible correlations of these events between
    regions in Central and Eastern Europe. The pronounced climate and environment instability during the interglacial/glacial transition could be consistent with the assumption that it is about a natural phenomenon, characteristic for transitional stages. Taking into consideration that currently observed ‘‘human-induced’’ global warming coincides with the natural trend to cooling, the study of such transitional
    stages is important for understanding the underlying processes of the climate changes.”

    The result of such observations should inform even the most casual reader that the end interglacials are replete with considerable natural climate noise which can occasion sea level excursions to at least 6 meters (possibly +8.5 as noted in Hearty and Neumann above). Further back in MIS-11, a closer analog than the Eemian, Olson and Hearty (2009) (Quaternary Science Reviews 28 (2009) 271–285) provide evidence for a sustained +20 meter highstand with a pulse to at least +21.3 meters.

    A thoughtful individual will recognize that the envelope of natural climate “noise” we wish to discern our anthropogenic “signal” within is considerably larger than the predicted anthropogenic signals from the more reputable sources. The chaotic natural climate signal is also so noisy, in terms of abrupt, sometimes large climate swings, that recognizing what is proposed as the anthropogenic “signal” that it will be difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish from the noise unless the AGW signal becomes significantly larger than the embedding noise. Something which has not been predicted to date. So in its simplest consideration, this becomes a typical signal to noise ratio problem, with anthropogenic signal predictions (AR4 worst case of 0.59 meters rise by 2100) somewhat anemic when compared to +6, +8.5, +20 and +21.3 meters in fair to good recent (I use the term loosely here) climate analogues (MIS-5 and MIS-11, respectively).

    Considering this, you may wish to ponder what success in diminishing the predicted AGW affects might look like. Say we do whatever and get CO2 rapidly back to whatever the chosen atmospheric concentration may be (300ppm? suggestions for something else?) and we successfully prevent that IPCC AR4 worst case 0.59 meters of sea level rise. Sea level goes up +6, +8.5, +20 or +21.3 meters anyway, as it seems to have done in the past, recent, extreme interglacials. I am unsure of how one would feel good about it all should boulders be lofted over +20 meter cliffs from centuries long, really big waved storms as happened at the end Eemian. And yes, we were indeed there. We had been on the stage longer in the Eemian as our stone-age selves, than we have been as our civilized selves during this interglacial.

    As regards methane, I stand corrected. Though it is a much shorter-lived gas in the atmosphere, when reacted out increases CO2. And then there is the Clathrate Gun Hypothesis……………..

  42. wfm
    Posted August 7, 2010 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, I forgot to mention that I am not really following you on the grammar thing. Please be more specific.

  43. wfm
    Posted August 7, 2010 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    I apologize to the readership in advance, but sometimes, when one re-reads a paper, with respect to the discussion occurring here, one is struck with the sheer relevance of the material to that discussion. With that in mind the abstract of the Olson and Hearty 2009 paper is riveting. Read it carefully, casting your mind back to what things were like in Bermuda for calcareous lagoonal sediments to have formed +21 meters above present:

    A sustained +21 m sea-level highstand during MIS 11 (400 ka): direct fossil
    and sedimentary evidence from Bermuda

    Storrs L. Olson, Paul J. Hearty

    Quaternary Science Reviews 28 (2009) 271–285

    “A small, protected karstic feature exposed in a limestone quarry in Bermuda preserved abundant sedimentary and biogenic materials documenting a transgressive phase, still-stand, and regressive phase of a sea-level in excess of 21.3 m above present during Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 11 (400 ka) as determined by U/Th dating and amino acid racemization. Cobbles and marine sediments deposited during the
    high-energy transgressive phase exhibit rim cements indicating a subsequent phreatic environment. This was succeeded stratigraphically by a still-stand deposition of fine calcareous lagoonal sediments containing bioclasts of red algae and benthic and planktonic foraminifera that was intensely burrowed by marine invertebrates, probably upogebiid shrimp, that could not be produced under any condition other than sustained marine submergence. Overlying this were pure carbonate beach sands of a low-energy regressive phase containing abundant remains of terrestrial and marine vertebrates and invertebrates. The considerable diversity of this fauna along with taphonomic evidence from seabird remains indicates deposition by high run-up waves over a minimum duration of months, if not years. The maximum duration has yet to be determined but probably did not exceed one or two thousand years. The most abundant snails in this fauna are two species indicative of brackish water and high-tide line showing that a Ghyben-Herzberg lens must have existed at >+20 m. The nature of these sediments and fossil accumulation is incompatible with tsunami deposition and, given the absence of evidence for tectonic uplift of the Bermuda pedestal or platform, provide proof that sea-level during MIS 11 exceeded +20 m, a fact that has widespread ramifications for geologists, biogeographers, and human demographics along the world’s coastlines.”

  44. Steve Bloom
    Posted August 7, 2010 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    Orkneygal, I’m simply applying your idea to the known behavior of the climatye system. The question is, does the idea that under natural conditions CO2 levels are controlled by ocean temps and that the CO2 had no warming (feedback) effect once it was in the atmosphere make any sense based on what we know about the Plesistocene and Ordovician glaciations? No, in my opinion, precisely because applying the known relationship between ocean temps and CO2 during the recent glacial cycles then leads to unphysical consequences for the Ordovician. But please do explain if you think I’m not presenting things accurately.

  45. Steve Bloom
    Posted August 7, 2010 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    wfm, you used “literal” to apply to something that was not literal.

    Re the Storrs and Hearty paper, IIRC this one was more or less a re-do of a previous one that got a lot of pushback from others in the field. Where does that discussdion stand? (Run it through Google Scholar to find out.)

    Also, if you’re going to post a paper with such a coy abstract, maybe you should discuss the implications somewhat or very few people reading here will know what they are. Have you read the paper itself?

  46. Orkneygal
    Posted August 7, 2010 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    Steve Bloom you have no proof of your claimed “known relationship between ocean temps and CO2 during the recent glacial cycles”.


    Therefore, you are presenting things inaccurately. What is the basis of your claims about the relationship between atmospheric CO2 levels and temperature of 20ppm CO2 equates to 1C?

    The IPCC says such equations cannot be written and the relationship(s) cannot be determined based upon their consideration of the best known science as of AR4 publication.

    You are mis-representing the state of the art knowledge about the relationship between pCO2 levels and global surface tempertures.

    I claim that such a relationship cannot be determined with any acceptable level of skill.

    You claim you have the answer.

    So, quote your source.

  47. Steve Bloom
    Posted August 7, 2010 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    I know what the IPCC says, Orkneygal, and I don’t differ with any of it. What we’re doing in comparing your claim about a physical mechanism to the paleoclimatic record.

    But now you seem to be disputing the record. OK, what’s your reason for doubting that there were differences of about 6C and 120 ppm CO2 between the Pleistocene glacial minima and maxima? The main proof is ice core isotope analyses, BTW, although there’s plenty of supporting evidence.

    And recall once again your cliam:

    “Perhaps we should remind them that the ability of sea water to absorb CO2 is proportional, inter alia, to its temperature. It is clear than any substantial global cooling should cause atmospheric CO2 levels to decrease. Likewise, a warming world should release CO2 from the ocean repository. So, as temperatures go up and down due to climatic changes, we would expect CO2 levels and other GHG levels, such as water vapour to rise and fall.”

    So again, if we know what the CO2 and temperature changes were, why can’t we point to a simple relationship between them? I realize the IPCC doesn’t do that, but your idea call for it. Also, why do you resort to the IPCC for support on one point but rejecting what they say on a closely-related second point?

  48. Orkneygal
    Posted August 7, 2010 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    The Vostok ice core result clearly proves that CO2 levels follow temperature, not the other way around. So does the Dome Concordia result.

    Estimates of the lag time are between 800 and 1300 years, depending on the analysis technique, according to the peer reviewed literature. The paleoclimate evidence from ice cores for the last 400,000 years or so show that CO2 levels are affected by temperature, not the other way around.

    As global temperatures rise, CO2 is released from the ocean repository. As global temperatures retreat, the oceans absorb CO2. The rate at which absorbtion/de-gassing occurs cannot be determined, according to the IPCC AR4 based upon the state of art of the science. I am not so egotistical as to contradict the IPCC on such an important matter, though you seem to be willing to disagree with IPCC with your 20ppm claims. I will note however, that there are others that are willing to contradict the IPCC on this subject, and they do not agree with your point of view, Steve Bloom.

    Vostok and Dome Concordia results clearly support every single statement that I have typed in this thread.

  49. Steve Bloom
    Posted August 7, 2010 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    Orkneygal, ppm/C isn’t a rate. Ppm/time is a rate. I’m talking about the former. How fast the process goes has nothing to do with what I’m saying.

    Just out of curiosity, why do you feel free to disagree with the IPCC about something so fundamental as the greenhouse effect itself despite having such difficulty expressing your reasons for holding such a view?

  50. Orkneygal
    Posted August 8, 2010 at 12:03 am | Permalink

    People who have been reading this thread carefully know that your 20ppm means 1C of temperature change is falsified by the measured atmosphere CO2 levels from Mauna Loa that I referred to several posts ago.

    Your claim about the relationship between CO2 levels and temperature, which you make without reference to any source, and is contrary to the view of the IPCC, does not match the observed data.

    In science, the term “rate” refers to the observed relationship or ratio between two measurements, when they are related to each other. “Rate of Speed” refers to velocity, or distance divided by time.

    I take it from your last response that you agree with the significance of the alskdfj and jadflka ice core data, and that they clearly show that CO2 levels follow temperature, not lead it.

    Exactly where in this thread have I typed that I disagree with the “greehouse effect”? I am quite familiar with the power of the greenhouse gases, including the fact that atmospheric water vapour is the most potent GHG, far more potent that the trace gas CO2.

    Why are you trying to attribute remarks to me that I have not made?

    Some might think it is because you have no evidence to support many of your claims and therefore are resorting to false attribution in the hopes of obscuring the issues. Yes, some might think that.

  51. Orkneygal
    Posted August 8, 2010 at 2:04 am | Permalink


    In my last post I typed

    “the significance of the alskdfj and jadflka ice core data”

    I left in placeholders for the obvious references to the careful follower.

    The typing should have read.
    “the significance of the Vostok and Dome Concordia ice core data”

    I apologize for any confusion this may have caused.

    My meager excuse is that Hura, my brother’s helper dog, needed to go walkies and that was more important at the time than double checking my comments.

    Lectures resume here in Wellington in a few hours, so I will likely not be able to respond to any comments on this thread for the next week or so. Any tardy response by me should not be interpreted as agreement with the message.


  52. wfm
    Posted August 8, 2010 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    “Re the Storrs and Hearty paper, IIRC this one was more or less a re-do of a previous one that got a lot of pushback from others in the field. Where does that discussdion stand? (Run it through Google Scholar to find out.)”

    Most recent discussion I am aware of was a second “pushback” paper by McMurtry, et al (who wrote the original “pushback” that you refer). Its “standing” might depend on whether or not you subscribe to who had the last word or what was in the words. McMurtry et al seem to have had the last word. In terms of their words, they provide no photographs, mapped sections, literature citations or other geological documentation for their megatsunami hypothesis versus Storrs and Hearty’s massive evidence, photographs, mapped sections, fossil analyses, sedimentary environments etc. Upon further analysis, as you have suggested, and after re-reading the relevant papers from both camps, the evidence from throughout the Bahamas and Caymans seems fairly convincing that there was indeed a sustained sea level highstand in MIS-11, as well as in MIS-5e.

    “Also, if you’re going to post a paper with such a coy abstract, maybe you should discuss the implications somewhat or very few people reading here will know what they are. Have you read the paper itself?”

    Yes, in fact I have read them all several times, again, just a few minutes ago for points comparison with McMurtry et al’s alternative megatsunami hypothesis. Actually, the second lengthy post of mine discusses in some detail post-MPT sea level highstands. In fact, in it I also allude to the sedimentary conditions described by Storrs and Hearty for the heavily bioturbated lagoonal deposits formed at the +21 meter highstand. Such bioturbation is unlikely to have occurred over a short interval of time such as might result from the passage of a single, or even multiple megatsunamis.

    So again, perhaps I am not following you.

    Just out of curiosity would you be the Steve Bloom who is a lawyer working with/for the Sierra Club in California?

  53. googler
    Posted August 8, 2010 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    “Just out of curiosity, why do you feel free to disagree with the IPCC about something so fundamental as the greenhouse effect itself despite having such difficulty expressing your reasons for holding such a view?”

    Steve – can you point me to the IPCC first principles reference on the “greenhouse effect”? It is something I looked for and never found. Recent threads at Science of Doom, the AirVent and Watts Up show that it would be a very useful document.

  54. Steve Bloom
    Posted August 9, 2010 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Orkneygal, some might think you’re engaging in a Gish Gallop. You seem quite creative enough on your own steam, but if you find yourself falling short Googler can give you pointers on how to proceed.

    (Googler: As I’m sure you’ve been told so many times before, try a grad atmo physics text.)

  55. Steve Bloom
    Posted August 9, 2010 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    wfm, the anonymati get no service on requests for personal data.

    On the issue under discussion, it occurred to me to do a search of “MIS 11″+highstand to pick up whatever the direct search of the S+H paper might have missed, and turned up quite a lot, including this paper. Given who the authors are, I think this answers the question of where the specialist field stands.

  56. wfm
    Posted August 9, 2010 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Spoken like an attorney!

    Yes, the Rohling et al paper is well known to me. Once I clicked on your link, I recognized the paper immediately, then did a quick serach of my “cybrary” and found 4 copies in four different folders, reflecting MIS-11, sea level highstands, Holocene comparisons and MIS-19.

    “Given who the authors are” definitely provides a sense of how to project authority on a discussion, which even Judith Curry now recognizes as perhaps not the wisest approach. In fact, only a single, brief mention is made of Storr’s and Hearty’s works, McMurtry et al are in the references but not referred to in the paper, so one is left with no hint at the debate swirling in the paleoclimatology world over the MIS-11 highstand imbroglio. Which is not so much of an imbroglio from what I can discern.

    No, this seems more relevant in terms of something far more fundamental in science. You see, even on things which HAVE happened, the science is not so well settled. Which makes consideration of consensus on things which HAVEN’T happened yet more a psychological curiosity than settled science.

    To place this in context, a few years ago, one of our biologists forwarded me a news piece about a soon to be published study which showed that one model of future predictions had proven that another model of future predictions was correct. I was fascinated by the fact that someone with a PhD would send something around that stated essentially “one future fantasy proves another!”.

    So here we have observational evidence from the Bahamas (Storrs and Hearty) and from the Red Sea (part of the Great Rift Valley of Eastern Africa). One shows a possible sea level highstand greater than present (stable platform region) and one doesn’t (tectonically active area). For a scientist, this means one must drag out of our closet the thing which should never be stored there in the first place; the Theory of Multiple Working Hypotheses. Here we have this view based on this evidence, and here we have thos other view based on this other evidence. If one obviates the other, we can reduce the number of hypotheses by at least one. But this is not the case here, yet, or is it?

    In general, with fairly recently published studies that contradict or oppose another, responding authors are often caught up in the processes associated with attracting funding to do more research to address or answer the concerns, or such answers, if forthcoming, can be in the production/peer-review process for some time. The 2010 Rohling et al paper is fairly recent, however the McMurtry 2008 re-pushback is a little dated. Time will tell if and when Storrs and Hearty choose to respond.

    Other than that, I do not detect the level controversy that you have.

  57. googler
    Posted August 9, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Steve – “try a grad atmo physics text”

    Should I take that to mean you don’t have/know an IPCC first principles reference to quote on the “basic physics” you mentioned?

  58. Steve Bloom
    Posted August 9, 2010 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    Or the second law of thermodynamics either, googler. Or lots of other basic physics that was well-established long before the IPCC existed. And the IPCC should add an appendix on this stuff for people like you who understand perfectly well that there’s no issue with that material but just want to have an argument? Nope, sorry.

  59. Steve Bloom
    Posted August 9, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    Spoken like somebody who’s pretending to have some science expertise, wfm. But keep ‘em coming, you just can’t make stuff like this up:

    “No, this seems more relevant in terms of something far more fundamental in science. You see, even on things which HAVE happened, the science is not so well settled. Which makes consideration of consensus on things which HAVEN’T happened yet more a psychological curiosity than settled science.”

    Translation: The things we don’t know prove that we don’t really know the things we know. Oh, it’s the reincarnation of Feynman, it is. Or maybe Rumsfeld.

    BTW, I’m being a little nasty to you since the thing to do when you’ve been caught failing to provide a key piece of information, regardless of whether it’s intentional or out of ignorance, is to apologize and try to do better. Bluster is so unbecoming.

  60. googler
    Posted August 9, 2010 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    Just insults and no references – par for the course.

  61. Steve Bloom
    Posted August 9, 2010 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    I’d be way more polite if I hadn’t seen you ask that question and get answered before, googler.

    But your mention of Science of Doom reminded me that I hadn’t visited there in a while, and now that I have I see a) a thorough explication of greenhouse physics laid out over the course of many threads, couched as much as possible in terms that non-physicists can understand and b) lots and lots of questions and answers, but none from one “googler.” So we see that your demand relates entirely to form, not substance. Watch out, wfm might conclude you’re a lawyer!

  62. wfm
    Posted August 9, 2010 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    Well, now that is too bad Steve. I was looking forward to a thoughtful response. One might suspect from the response you did make that we have reached the ends of your knowledge on this little tempest in the paleoclimatology teapot. Going ad hom. at just skin deep are we? I would have expected even more, even from a lawyer.

    So, and I think now many would like to know, just what do you mean when you say the Storrs and Hearty data and analysis is in such controversy? Surely you do not mean McMurtry et al’s objections? In further examination of their 2008 response, it seems that every objection raised had been countered in Storr and Hearty’s 2007 response.

    Evidence of sea level highstands 400,000 years (four sea level rises and falls up to 400 feet at each glacial termination) may be expected to be sparse and inconsistent. Such is the state of the data at present. But there are a lot of speleothem and ocean sediment samplings to ponder. Somehow, based on your vacuous response, I rather doubt you have afforded an examination of these.

    And no, I don’t have to make this stuff up. I am quoting from the papers themselves. As I have done for 20 years now, as an expert witness. Would I be wrong in assessing the tactic you now employ is to draw me out? Well, you already have.

    You do indeed have a scientist on your hands, one that does a lot of business with environmental attorneys. And I always check up on the attorneys.

  63. Steve Bloom
    Posted August 9, 2010 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, wfm, not a word of that is credible.

  64. wfm
    Posted August 10, 2010 at 4:25 am | Permalink

    Well, at least you provided no supporting evidence Steve. Are we to presume that your “not credible” is therefore more credible? Not merely an appeal to authority, but authority itself? That dog hasn’t hunted too well since about mid-November last year.

  65. Orkneygal
    Posted August 10, 2010 at 4:31 am | Permalink

    Steve Bloom certainly illustrates the depth of his knowledge with parsimony.

    Is he past his “Best by” date?

  66. googler
    Posted August 10, 2010 at 5:55 am | Permalink

    Steve Bloom – “So we see that your demand relates entirely to form, not substance.”

    No, your conclusion is wrong: My request relates to both and I’m still asking it because I still haven’t seen an answer.

    You are the one upthread claiming you know what the IPCC say and that you agree with it, yet you cannot produce a quantified first principles theoretical derivation for the position you support of atmospheric CO2 concentration change induced global warming. As the foundation of the whole AGW theory this elemental building block should be available as a referenced source. Or do the IPCC refer to Science of Doom’s polite and patient discussions of the physics? Or Roy Spencer’s? Or Tom Vonk’s? Or Jeff ID’s? Their threads are open to all contributor’s btw – perhaps you could drop by and give them the benefit of your empirical approach?

  67. wfm
    Posted August 10, 2010 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    Orkneygal, perhaps past his “Use By: date”, but by no means out of his depth. I think he just reached it. Would I be mistaken to assume that “Sorry, wfm, not a word of that is credible” is Steve’s way of calling me a liar? If that assumption is correct, then it only took five posts for Steve to get to the pure ad hominem, about 2 posts less than I had estimated. We are getting to know this species better all the time.

  68. Steve Bloom
    Posted August 10, 2010 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, googler, neither I nor the IPCC care about your hurt feelings or any other consequences of the universe’s failure to deliver on whatever it is you imagine is your birthright. That you’re too lazy to crack open a textbook is entirely your problem.

    On a related topic, we can see here the sort of company you like to keep. Next we’ll probably see your ideological cohorts demanding that NASA put all of its activities on hold until every denialist with barely a high school education is personally satisfied. Which will, of course, be never, but that’s the point, isn’t it? Anyway, pound sand.

    Hey, Tom, I do believe you’ve acquired an infestation of denialist trolls. I’ll do my part by setting them to ignore from now on.

  69. Posted August 10, 2010 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    I think the conversation that this post has sparked has run its course, but I don’t like to shut off comments. So if anyone has something truly new and substantive to add, that’s fine. Otherwise, I think it’s time to wind this one down.

  70. googler
    Posted August 10, 2010 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    Steve Bloom – Just insults and no references – par for the course.

  71. googler
    Posted August 10, 2010 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    Hi Tom – I’m not trolling, I’d be grateful if SB could provide a reference to support his views. The fact he can’t and that he resorts to snide ad homs is an indication of the interest he has in advancing debate. Given the AGW proposal and the “settled science” claims that are made in some quarters it is shocking that no one has got a consistent reference for an actual quantified (I’m talking ball park, not to 3dp)real atmosphere CO2 effect. IMO it should be exhibit A in any discussion of AGW but it just doesn’t seem to exist. Check out the blogs I mentioned – there are some very sharp people discussing the “basic physics” and how it may or may not play out in the real world. And for the most part they are doing it in considered tones without insults and ad homs. Ok logging out, trust all is good with you and yours. G

  72. Steve Bloom
    Posted August 10, 2010 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    Now googler wants “a consistent reference for an actual quantified (I’m talking ball park, not to 3dp) real atmosphere CO2 effect.”

    And so a new but pea-less thimble is introduced. Googler doesn’t want an analysis from the IPCC, he doesn’t even want a textbook discussion (he could have had that long ago), he wants an *direct* in situ measurement of the warming effect of CO2. Tell you what, googler, if you can tell me what sort of measurement along those lines we should expect to be able to obtain given the known physics and available instrumentation, I’ll get you your answer. Since your answer will be “none,” then you can explain how it’s not an appropriate application of the scientific method to measure the radiative characteristics of CO2 in the lab, measure it in the atmosphere and then calculate the resultant radiative forcing. Good luck with that.

  73. googler
    Posted August 10, 2010 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    yawn – “And so a new but pea-less thimble is introduced” yes, by SB. From the context of all my comments in this thread it should be obvious that I’m referring to a quantified estimate based on a theoretical derivation. Guess I should just be happy with the 20ppm/degC SB calculates. Time to stop feeding the troll. I’ll do my part by setting him to ignore from now on.

  74. Steve Bloom
    Posted August 11, 2010 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    Science marches on, Orkneygal:

    An ancient Earth like ours

    Geologists reconstruct the Earth’s climate belts between 460 and 445 million years ago

    IMAGE: This is a specimen of the chitinozoan species Armoricochitina nigerica (length = c. 0.3mm). Chitinozoans are microfossils of marine zooplankton in the Ordovician. Their distribution allows to track climate belts…

    An international team of scientists including Mark Williams and Jan Zalasiewicz of the Geology Department of the University of Leicester, and led by Dr. Thijs Vandenbroucke, formerly of Leicester and now at the University of Lille 1 (France), has reconstructed the Earth’s climate belts of the late Ordovician Period, between 460 and 445 million years ago.

    The findings have been published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA – and show that these ancient climate belts were surprisingly like those of the present.

    The researchers state: “The world of the ancient past had been thought by scientists to differ from ours in many respects, including having carbon dioxide levels much higher – over twenty times as high – than those of the present. However, it is very hard to deduce carbon dioxide levels with any accuracy from such ancient rocks, and it was known that there was a paradox, for the late Ordovician was known to include a brief, intense glaciation – something difficult to envisage in a world with high levels of greenhouse gases.”

    The team of scientists looked at the global distribution of common, but mysterious fossils called chitinozoans – probably the egg-cases of extinct planktonic animals – before and during this Ordovician glaciation. They found a pattern that revealed the position of ancient climate belts, including such features as the polar front, which separates cold polar waters from more temperate ones at lower latitudes. The position of these climate belts changed as the Earth entered the Ordovician glaciation – but in a pattern very similar to that which happened in oceans much more recently, as they adjusted to the glacial and interglacial phases of our current (and ongoing) Ice Age.

    This ‘modern-looking’ pattern suggests that those ancient carbon dioxide levels could not have been as high as previously thought, but were more modest, at about five times current levels (they would have had to be somewhat higher than today’s, because the sun in those far-off times shone less brightly).

    “These ancient, but modern-looking oceans emphasise the stability of Earth’s atmosphere and climate through deep time – and show the current man-made rise in greenhouse gas levels to be an even more striking phenomenon than was thought,” the researchers conclude.

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