NZ temperature expert Jim Salinger has been crunching last year’s data, and this morning confirmed that 2013 was a hot year in the New Zealand region — the second warmest in the long term record, beaten only by 1998. Based on 22 land stations and the three offshore islands, the annual average temperature was 0.84ºC above the 1961–1990 long term average of 12.17°C (1998 was +0.89ºC).
Winter 2013 was the warmest ever recorded, and Masterton, Omarama, Timaru, Invercargill and the Chatham Islands set new annual temperature records. In the last ten years only two years (2004 and 2009) have been cooler than average, and the ten year mean temperature was 0.26ºC above average, the highest on record.
Source: Jim Salinger
During 2013 the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) was in a neutral phase, and the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO) was negative. According to Salinger, this favours more easterlies and north easterlies when temperatures are above average. Sea surface temperatures were also well above average, especially around the South Island and to the east of the country. Jim is also expecting 2014 to be warm:
ENSO neutral conditions are expected to persist at least until winter 2014, and negative IPO conditions are very likely to persist for the remainder of 2014. These conditions are expected to bring temperatures of +0.2 to +0.6°C above average for the New Zealand region.
Across the Tasman, Australia has just recorded its warmest year since records began — with a remarkable number of heat records being set. Final figures for the annual global average temperature on main terrestrial datasets has yet to be released, but the World Meteorological Organisation expects 2013 to be 6th warmest. A few days ago the University of Alabama in Huntsville revealed that its satellite temperature dataset provisionally put 2013 in 4th place since 1979.
The first week here at the climate talks in Warsaw kicked off with the super typhoon Haiyan hitting the Philippines in a terrible tragedy, brought into the meeting by the country’s lead negotiator Seb Yano, whose fast has been joined by many from civil society. The plight of his people has been a rallying call around the world as we all look at the aftermath of this storm with horror. Is it a direct result of climate change? What we do know is that the sea surface temps were 1.5degC above normal, and that we can expect more intense cyclones as the earth’s temperature warms. But as NCAR’s Kevin Trenberth wrote:
“The answer to the oft-asked question of whether an event is caused by climate change is that it is the wrong question. All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be….”
As we’ve been all walking around in circles of the Polish National Stadium, trying to stay sane, looking at the images from the Philippines and the campaigning by their government to get a stronger outcome, it seems several governments have kept their eyes firmly OFF the ball, instead taking the opportunity of the occasion to walk away from their commitments. Most notably, Japan. After warning all year they’d do this, Japan announced their new target, sending it over a veritable climate cliff. The change in target would increase the emissions gap outlined by UNEP just last week by 3-4%, according to calculations by the Climate Action Tracker (disclosure: I’m here in Warsaw working for Climate Analytics, who run this analysis with Ecofys and the Pik Potsdam Institute). Instead of reducing their emissions by 25% by 2020 on 1990 levels, Japan’s emissions will now increased by 3.1%. The general thinking is that Japan’s change in target is down to the fact that they’ve had to close all 54 of their nuclear power stations, so have had to switch to coal. Not so. The CAT calculated that if Japan’s nuclear industry didn’t re-open at all before 2020, they could still reach a target of 17-18%.
“The expected increase represents only 55% of the increase in emissions from the original Copenhagen pledge to the new 2020 target. The remaining 45% must therefore represent a change in Japan’s political will to reduce emissions.”
Not exactly an inspiration to other countries who have come here to negotiate a strong new 2015 climate agreement in good faith, and certainly not an inspiration to the people in the Philippines. But perhaps this screenshot from Japan’s Ministry of Industry English website could explain it?
Screenshot of Japanese Industry Ministry’s english website.
Next up, Australia. As we all settled into the second day of the talks, Australia’s new government was busily dismantling its climate legislation, an exercise that will cost them more than $7billion. This may take a while, not least because the current Labour/Greens dominated Senate won’t change until after July. But the CAT has calculated that this move, if successful, and combined with Tony Abbott’s so-called “Direct Action” policy to replace it, they are very unlikely to meet their (already totally inadequate) pledge of 5% reduction on 2000 levels by 2020. It’ll begin a recarbonisation of Australia’s electricity sector, just at the time when the new legislation was beginning to make a difference. Australia’s not even sending a Minister here for the High Level segment of the talks, for the first time in 16 years. One gets the impression that this government really doesn’t give a flying (Castlemaine) XXXX about climate change, an extraordinary move given the rolling 12-month heat record set in August, September and October. I think it’s clear who Tony’s listening to. Certainly not Yeb Sano. Meanwhile the Polish Government is going ahead with hosting the World Coal Summit over the next two days. More on that in my next post.
Will the sun rise over progress at the climate talks (is that a coal fired power station in the distance?)
Another year, another round of climate talks. It’s the 19th Conference of Parties to the UN Climate Convention and we’re back in Poland, the scene of an almost complete non-event in 2008, the year before Copenhagen.
It’s Eastern Europe’s turn to host another meeting, and nobody else was prepared to put their hand up, so we’re back in the land of coal, in the country that has rallied their biggest coal companies to sponsor the conference, and which is dragging the whole of the EU down to their level as they refuse to accept stronger targets. I suspect #coaland will be a well-used hashtag by the end of this.
Usually when you come to a meeting like this, the town is full of banners and signs that a climate meeting is being hosted, but there’s not much sign of it here in Warsaw, except this rather confusing industry advertisement at the airport.
Next weekend there’s a World Coal Association conference in town, being addressed by UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christian Figueres, who turned down a talk to youth at the Powershift conference in favour of talking with Big Coal. She’s assured them it’s because she wants to “talk frankly” – let’s hope she does.
Last month the Polish hosts were caught posting a news piece heralding the melting of the Arctic as a new opportunity to explore for yet more fossil fuels. While The YesMen (in a specacular own-goal, in my opinion) tried to claim the piece as their own, it was indeed the Polish Government’s own work. Given this government is chairing the talks, it’s not looking terribly hopeful.
Meanwhile in the Philippines, Cyclone Haiyan, the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded, has caused a terrible loss of life that’s still being counted – and major damage. With winds at 195mph as it made landfall, it beat the 1969 record, according to Jeff Masters’ blog. Sea surface temperatures were up to 1.5degC above normal.
What role will the science have in these talks? Will the IPCC’s recent working group 1 conclusions make a difference? Figueres has already confirmed the IPCC’s carbon budget figures will not be on the agenda.
Finance for the poorest
This meeting is supposed to be the “Finance meeting” where governments are expected to make progress on committing money to the Green Climate Fund. They’ve promised $100bn a year by 2020 to help the world’s poorest countries adapt to climate change and shift to renewable energy, but so far there’s little to show for it in the fund.
And a programme to get to 2015
Governments agreed last year that this year would be when they set up the roadmap to get to a global agreement on climate to be agreed in Paris, 2015. This should include a timetable for when they all put their increased targets on the table (early next year would be good) and that they will have a full draft negotiating text sorted out by next year, to be finalised by 2015. But of course that 2015 agreement, even if it does get finished on time, wouldn’t come into force until 2020. If the world does nothing except the Copenhagen pledges between now and 2020, it’s not going to be pretty. So there’s a strong call from many quarters for better 2020 targets to be put on the table as soon as possible.
How will New Zealand stack up? During the course of the next two weeks, expect information to come out that will make it clear what New Zealand’s “fair share” of climate action actually is. Given our walking away from Kyoto and the Ministry for the Environment’s recent admission that our emissions are set to soar, I don’t hold out much hope.
The Australians have made a spectacular start, announcing that for the first time in 16 years, no Minister will make it to the conference. Environment Minister Greg Hunt, recently famous for declaring there was no evidence of a link between climate change and bush fires (using the solid source of Wikipedia) is instead staying at home to dismantle the Australian climate legislation. That’s a Fossil of the Day right there.
Then of course there’s the Russians. What will they do? Will they continue to throw their toys out of the cot about decisions being made in Doha without their agreement? Will they actually start negotiating and be good global citizens? (hint: releasing the 30 Greenpeace activists from the Murmansk prison would be a good start).
More to come, as it happens. From both myself and from David Tong with the Adopt A Negotiator team.
Smoke from the bush fires burning in the Blue Mountains blows over Sydney in this NASA Earth Observatory image captured yesterday. The scale of the fires and their impact on the skies over Sydney and much of New South Wales is prompting much discussion in Australia about the link between weather, climate warming and wildfires, and bringing international pressure to bear on new PM Tony Abbott’s plans to scrap carbon pricing. Here’s researcher Roger Jones, writing in The Conversation:
We found that fire danger in Victoria increased by over a third after 1996, compared to 1972-1996. The current level of fire danger is equivalent to the worst case projected for 2050, from an earlier analysis for the Climate Institute.
While it’s impossible to say categorically that the situation is the same in NSW, we know that these changes are generally applicable across south-east Australia. So it’s likely to be a similar case: fire and climate change are linked.
This early start to the fire season comes after a year of record warmth in Australia — the hottest summer on record, the hottest 12 month period (to September), and it’s looking odds on that calendar 2013 will be the warmest on record. NSW also had its second warmest winter on record, which helped to dry soils out more than usual. With summer still a month away, the prospect for SE Australia’s fire-prone states looks grim.
For historical background on Aussie bush fires, see this overview from Weather Underground expert Chris Burt, and keep up to date with excellent analysis at The Conversation by following the NSW bushfires 2013 tag.
We’re running a bit late with this one: recorded last week before the big wind left Gareth powerless for six days (a bit like Glenn’s PC), John Cook ruminates on the result of the Australian election, the boys marvel at the Mail’s myth making about Arctic sea ice, and look forward to the release of the first part of the next IPCC report. And much, much more. Show notes below the fold…
Watch The Climate Show on our Youtube channel, subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, listen to us via Stitcher on your smartphone or listen direct/download from the link below the fold.
Australian election, and prospects for climate policy:
Australia’s new government is likely to repeal the carbon price, by striking a deal with crossbenchers in the Senate after July 2014, or possibly going to a special election if it looks electorally attractive. Still, carbon pricing remains the logical choice for Australia’s longer term climate policy.
AR5 WG1 summary for policymakers due at end of month:
The Twelfth Session of Working Group I (WGI-12) will take place from 23 to 26 September 2013 in Stockholm, Sweden. This Session of WGI is being convened to approve the Summary for Policymakers (SPM) of the Working Group I contribution to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (WGI AR5) and accept the underlying scientific and technical assessment.
The WGI AR5 Summary for Policymakers will be available on 27 September 2013.
Occasionally — but only occasionally — the political pantomime that is parliamentary question time throws up something interesting. Yesterday, NZ’s deputy prime minister Bill English managed to dig himself into a drought-ridden hole, only to emerge looking like a climate denier. Green Party co-leader Russel Norman tried to get English to expand on his earlier comments that the government would not be able to help farmers hit by increased incidence of droughts, which led to this astonishing little exchange [Hansard transcript here]:
Dr Russel Norman: Does he agree with the Government’s own research body the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) when it states: “Droughts are projected to become more frequent and more intense under climate change.”?
Hon Bill English: I would not want to question the scientific effort that has gone into that, although there is always uncertainty about these predictions. I recall similar predictions made by similar scientific bodies in Australia just 4 or 5 years ago and it has not stopped raining since.
Astonishing stuff. English gets the uncertainty issue completely wrong1, and then manages to insult Australians who have been suffering through their hottest summer ever. Here’s a little chart from the Aussie Climate Commission that he might find helpful.
The most likely scenario sees farmers in most North Island regions, as well as those in eastern regions of the South Island — especially Canterbury and eastern Southland – spending 5-10 per cent more of the year in drought by the middle of this century. This means that if you spend an average of 10 per cent of your time in drought at the moment, by 2040, you might expect to spend as much as 20 per cent — although this figure will naturally vary from year to year.
Throughout the exchange with Norman, the deputy PM seemed extremely loath to use the words “climate change”, and instead made extensive references to cycles and weather patterns. In a later supplementary question, Norman asked him if he accepted that “human-induced climate change is real?”
Hon Bill English: It may well be, but I am not sure what that has got to do with this particular question.
Weasel words, at best. English wants to ignore the clear advice the government is receiving from the Crown Research Institute tasked with studying the issue, and can’t bring himself to directly accept the reality of anthropogenic climate change. You’d think it would be a simple matter for a senior politician to take reality at face value and act accordingly, but that seems be something that English and his cabinet colleagues find difficult in lots of areas…
The best evidence (NIWA summary pdf here) we have indicates that the frequency of droughts is going to increase — the uncertainty is by how much and when.
Australia may have had an extraordinary “Angry Summer“, but New Zealand’s been having a bit of a cracker too. Prolonged warm and sunny weather over much of the country has driven North Island soil moisture deficits to levels not seen for at least 70 years (see map at left). Official drought status — which means farmers are eligible for various forms of government assistance — has been declared in Northland, South Auckland, Coromandel, Bay of Plenty, Waikato, and Hawke’s Bay. The Manawatu and Rangitikei regions have also asked government for drought status. Most of the North Island is also subject to total fire bans — another first for this dusty summer. Preliminary estimates of economic losses are already heading towards $1 billion.
Long, dry spells are forecast to double by 2040 as temperatures continue to rise and New Zealand heads towards a more Mediterranean climate.
Experts warn it could spell the end for farming as we know it and may cost the country billions of dollars in drought relief each year before practices are adjusted.
“This is historic,” said climate scientist Jim Salinger, who has calculated that the amount of rain needed for grass growth was the highest since records began. “It’s like comparing your income against expenditure in your cheque book. And we are in deficit.”
Looking to the future, the risk of drought in New Zealand is on the rise. The persistent high pressure systems typical of the subtropics are already moving our way and this trend looks set to continue. The “subtropical high pressure belt” is where the world’s deserts are located, and that belt is edging our way as the tropical region expands outwards under a warming climate.
Combine that with higher temperatures, increased evaporation, lower soil moisture, and we have a recipe for at least doubling the risk of drought in many of the drier parts of the country by late this century, possibly by mid-century in places. A recent report for the Ministry of Primary Industries projected an increase in drought occurrence for almost all of the country, even under an optimistic scenario for greenhouse gas emissions.
We’ve certainly been getting persistent high pressure systems. This surface pressure anomaly plot for the NZ region from mid January to a few days ago1 shows that a substantial blob of high pressure has been parked over us.
The MetService blog has a (much) more detailed explanation of what’s been going on in the southern hemisphere’s atmosphere here.
Finance Minister [Bill] English, standing in for John Key while he is visiting Latin America, said that while the Government was providing support now, this may not be sustainable if severe droughts became regular events.
“If there’s going to be more droughts, more regularly, farming practices will simply have to adapt,” he told TVNZ’s Breakfast.
“We’ve got research in place for instance to find more drought resistant grasses and farmers have for years been adapting their management practices.
“That would have to continue because . . . Government simply can’t support them to maintain practices in the face of continuous droughts, if that’s what happens.”
If that’s what happens? The government knows exactly what NIWA’s modelling of future climate has to say about the likelihood of increased frequency and severity of droughts, and has done for years. A prudent government might have done some thinking about risk and sensible strategies for the future, and considered the wisdom of encouraging diversification away from water intensive and drought sensitive agricultural systems such as dairying.
Unfortunately, our government has preferred to gut the emissions trading scheme and dismember all but the bare bones of a rational national response to the climate challenge. By delaying a carbon price signal for agriculture, the government locks the near term NZ economy into high carbon, high water use agricultural systems — the very worst outcome.
Meanwhile, the drought isn’t all bad news. Looking beyond the bones of the cow’s arse, the national grape harvest is looking good (perhaps great)2, and apple growers aren’t complaining either. That’s what diversification and adaptation are all about…
The nets are on, and there’s a potentially exciting crop of pinot noir ripening at Limestone Hills — the last thing I want is drought-breaking rain, at least not before the main harvest is in (mid April in Waipara).
“Potty peer” Chris Monckton has reacted to criticism of his threats to sue Australian academics by doubling down on his commitment to pursue legal action. In a typically overblown piece at an Australian sceptic site, Monckton tries to reassure the faithful that their guru has not gone off the rails:
Going to court is the deadliest weapon we have against the extremists who have lied and lied and lied again to save the Party Line. Lies have consequences.
Indeed they do, as Monckton may find out one day. He goes on to demonstrate how “successful” this tactic can be by re-writing the history of one or two cases he’s been involved with, and then states:
“Dr.” Michael Mann, fabricator of the “hockey-stick” graph that falsely abolished the medieval warm period, sued Dr. Tim Ball for calling the graph scientific fraud. Tim Ball’s defence was to propose showing the judge the many dodges by which “Dr.” Mann had done what “Dr.” Overpeck had called for in 1995: “We have to abolish the medieval warm period.”
Rather than face cross-examination, “Dr.” Mann gave up the case at a cost that cannot have been much less than $1 million.
This is not true. It is an invention. Monckton is lying about the state of the Ball/Mann court case, and repeating Ball’s libel of Mann to boot. Mann’s lawyer, Roger McConchie, has described Monckton’s statement as “nonsense”. The legal process continues — in fact, Mann’s legal team were deposing Tim Ball as part of the discovery process on the same day that Monckton concocted and published his story!
The discount viscount concludes his epistle with a rousing call to his own arms:
But if the liars tell lies about me, if the fraudsters deny the scientific truth when I speak it, if the cheats make up baseless personal attacks on me, then I have the opportunity to fight back, not so much on my own behalf as on behalf of the silent, broken millions who cannot speak for themselves and whom your political class no longer bothers to represent.
Monckton’s hypocrisy is breathtaking. He is a puffed-up propagandist who has repeatedly lied about many things, and who has misrepresented the science of climate at every one of the many opportunities he has been given by those campaigning against action to reduce emissions. When the “silent, broken millions” who will be hit by climate changes made worse by Monckton’s efforts wake up to his mendacity, his words will surely return to bite him on his upper class bum. And the sooner they do, the better.
Christopher, Viscount Monckton of Brenchley’s tour of Australia must be going very badly, because the “high priest of climate scepticism” is indulging in another of his increasingly desperate displays of attention seeking behaviour. After giving a poorly attended lecture in Hobart last week, Monckton took umbrage at an article in the Sunday Tasmanian (on the web here) reporting the views of Tony Press, CEO of the University of Tasmania’s Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Co-operative Research Centre, who was not impressed by Monckton’s efforts. In response, Monckton has thrown his toys out of his fossil fuel funded pram, and called for the University of Tasmania to fire Press. Here’s the last paragraph from his typically pompous and ludicrous letter [pdf] to the Vice Chancellor:
On any view, Press is not a fit and proper person to be employed in any capacity at the University of Tasmania. I hope that the University will investigate his misconduct and fraud and will dismiss him forthwith.
Connoisseurs of Monckton’s antics will note that this is a well established pattern of behaviour. Remember when he took exception to the comprehensive dismantling of one of his lectures by John Abraham, and tried to get him fired? Nothing came of that threat — except that Abraham was motivated to become more active in countering climate crank nonsense wherever it appears.
In his latest attack on academic freedom, Monckton accuses Press of fraud:
The multiple falsehoods by Press published in an article in the Sunday Tasmanian on 24 February 2013 manifestly constitute frauds as defined in your policy. Press’ deceptions, false suggestions, suppressions of truth and other unfair means were calculated – individually and by mutual reinforcement – to occasion loss to me and continuing profit to himself.
Monckton’s hypocrisy here is breathtaking. He is himself a fraud, as I demonstrated in this post nearly three years ago. I might also note that in order to suffer a loss of reputation, you first have to have a good one. Anyone who cares to peruse the history of his climate activities, as recorded by Barry Bickmore at Monckton’s Rap Sheet, will find that the discount viscount has a chequered past, as well as plenty of evidence of Moncktonian toy-throwing and threats when criticised1 — none of which amount to more than a considerable waste of time for the people he attacks.
Not satisfied with vilifying Press alone, Monckton has widened his hissy fit to call for the prosecution of climate scientists in general — another of his favourite themes. Here he is at WND2:
A senior Australian police officer specializing in organized-crime frauds tells me the pattern of fraud on the part of a handful of climate scientists may yet lead to prosecutions.
When the cell door slams on the first bad scientist, the rest will scuttle for cover. Only then will the climate scare – mankind’s strangest and costliest intellectual aberration – be truly over.
The strange and costly aberration here is not in the state of our understanding of the climate of our planet, but in the weird and wonderful mindset of people like Monckton who think that climate science is a scam designed to usher in world government.
Monckton brings his conspiracy roadshow to New Zealand in April for an extensive tour of the nation’s smaller venues. I’m sure he will get a warm welcome from the dim and deluded, and the local branch of the Flat Earth Society.
There’s a particularly amusing recent example from the Newcastle Heraldhere.
He has repeated the call in interviews on Sydney radio station 2GB in the last couple of days.
At long last: John Cook from Skeptical Science rejoins the Climate Show team for the first show of 2013. He hooks up with Glenn and Gareth to review Australia’s big heatwave, and stays around to dig into the new Greenpeace report on dirty energy, discuss Obama’s inauguration speech and Boris Johnson’s climate blunder, the latest scary news on sea level rise and the implications for the future. Plus much much more…
Watch The Climate Show on our Youtube channel, subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, listen to us via Stitcher on your smartphone or listen direct/download from the link below the fold.
If global warming continues, the study projects that the number of new monthly records will be 12 times as high in 30 years as it would be without climate change. “Now this doesn’t mean there will be 12 times more hot summers in Europe than today — it actually is worse,” Coumou points out. For the new records set in the 2040s will not just be hot by today’s standards. “To count as new records, they actually have to beat heat records set in the 2020s and 2030s, which will already be hotter than anything we have experienced to date,” explains Coumou. “And this is just the global average — in some continental regions, the increase in new records will be even greater.”
A new report commissioned by Greenpeace says the world could be locked into dangerous levels of global warming if 14 planned fossil fuel projects get the go ahead. The projects in the Point of No Return report include the expansion of Indonesian and Australian coal exports, a tripling of production from the Canadian tar sands and extensive offshore drilling in Brazilian waters.All in all, the 6,340 million tonnes of CO2 a year by 2020, more than the total output of the US. RTCC news, full report pdf.
But if Obama has his way that’s all about to change: Youtube video here.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says his top hopes for 2013 are to reach a new agreement on climate change and to urgently end the increasingly deadly and divisive war in Syria.
Dispatch from London…. Shock! Horror! Boris says something really stupid! He says this week’s snow casts doubt on Climate science. Of course, as Leo Hickman points out in The Guardian he’s only trolling BUT it still matters because he could be Britain’s PM one day…
The researchers found that the natural relationship displays a strong rise in sea level for CO2 increase from 180 to 400 parts per million, peaking at CO2 levels close to present-day values, with sea level at 24 +7/-15 metres above the present, at 68 per cent confidence limits.
A catastrophic rise in sea level before the end of the century could have a hitherto unforeseen side effect. Melting icebergs might cool the seas around Greenland and Antarctica so much that the average surface temperature of the planet falls by a degree or two. This is according to unpublished work by climate scientist James Hansen of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City.
Sprinkling billions of tonnes of mineral dust across the oceans could quickly remove a vast quantities of climate-warming carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, according to a new study. The proposed “geoengineering” technique would also offset the acidification of the oceans and could be targeted at endangered coral reefs, but there’s a downside — it would require a mining effort on the same scale as the world’s coal industry and would alter the biology of the oceans.
Researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) are embarking on an £800,000 project to replicate photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert sunlight into sugars to help them grow.
The process will be used to create hydrogen, which can be used as a zero-emission fuel for cars, or converted into green electricity.
It is hoped the method, which involves placing tiny solar panels on microbes to harness sunlight and drive the production of hydrogen, will be a more efficient way of converting the sun’s energy than currently exists.