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Cancun and News - Again:

By: Dr. Ricky Rood , 10:57 PM GMT on December 09, 2010

Cancun and News - Again:

Cancun, Conference of the Parties - 16: The Conference of the Parties (COP) are the annual meetings that are part of the governing body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. We went into the Cancun meeting with far lower expectations than the 2009 meeting in Copenhagen . Much of the talk preceding the meeting was focused on small good things (A Small Good Thing, this is just a good short story.) This is, perhaps, an implicit statement that a comprehensive global agreement on climate change and reduction of emissions are just beyond our ability of collective action. Some would argue that this has been evident for some time, and it is finally emerging that we need to piece together, more effectively, bottoms-up solutions.

Like last year, there is a group of University Michigan and Alma College students at the conference. They are going and coming, and they are writing their own blogs, which appear on ClimateBlue. There are a few students and members of the Michigan Delegation who were also at last year’s meeting, providing a perspective of the two meetings. (We thank Wunderground.com for helping to sponsor the students.)

Figure 1. Cancun Climate Conference. (Photo from Kevin Reed)

In my entries from the 2009 COP meeting, I recall talking about the quiet work of the people sitting at coffee-shop tables talking about their community-based approaches to adaptation (Rood). That is, in the big storm of international politics, people dismiss their political leader’s relevance to the real world and take on the opportunities to anticipate and to prepare based on information provided by climate simulations. In short, adaptation to the consequences of climate change rises to the forefront.

The January 13, 2011 issue of The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society explores the world of four degrees warming. This issue implicitly and explicitly recognizes that we are not likely to limit warming to a global average of two degrees, and that it is critical to describe this new warmer world and to plan for this new world. Here are links to the preface and the editorial accompanying this issue. At the start of the Cancun meeting there was a flurry of press coverage of reports coming from the International Livestock Research Institute. These reports fed off of looking at a world that is closer to a four degree warming, as opposed to the increasingly unrealistic world where “dangerous” climate change has been avoided. What struck me about the people looking at these adaptation problems was the thorough, serious approach, and their ability to cut a rational path through all of the political, economic, and scientific uncertainty to develop convincing strategies for problems such as – can we still grow corn in Africa? Here are a set of reports and press coverage over the past few weeks and years:

Climate variability and climate change: Impacts on Kenyan agriculture

A wonderful collection of stories on agriculture and climate change in Africa

Climate change as opportunity in Africa

Voice of America Coverage of African Climate Adaptation

Africa’s Growing Water Crisis

I respond to efforts such as the one outlined above on many levels. It is gratifying to see the use of the climate projection information in systematic and rational ways. Further, to me, this response and knowledge is being developed in Africa, and these efforts serve as examples of the increasingly deep and distributed intellectual base vested in addressing climate change. These efforts proceed while the international political clamor imagines moving towards a problem more tractable than reducing emissions – namely, who will pay, setting up international funds and ways to hand off technology (as a poor writer, I note a tone of the incredulous).

It also makes me wonder about us, here, in the United States. At last year’s meeting, in the exhibits it was not the U.S. exhibitors who had the leading technology. As I look around the world the self-organization that is taking place is not in the U.S. Here, on the national scale we argue about prosecuting climate scientists, and shoot, literally, cap and trade in political ads. I see European firms building U.S. wind technology. I sit in meetings where U.S. scientists argue about the same data provision issues they argued about in 1995, probably 1985, while Canada already has a facility to provide climate data for applications. In short, the political argument and the cultural inertia places the U.S. further and further behind in both science and technology – an issue of basic economic and societal success. (Does this only seem relevant to me? Molybdenum and test scores)

Going back to the students and the University of Michigan Delegation in Cancun – it is these students and their peers who are starting to address these problems. It is this generation who will live with the warming planet, and who will take advantage – or not – of the opportunity that is provided by climate projections. I point out some of their entries from Cancun: Climate Action Network Canada Press Conference, Moving Beyond Coors Light Solutions, Top Three Warmest Year.

Figure 2. Cancun Climate Conference – UoM Students, Sarah Katherine Pethan (SNRE) and Marisol Ramos (Ford School), point at a white square that says “United States.” (Photo from Kevin Reed)

Book of the Year: A Vast Machine I have mentioned Paul Edwards’ book A Vast Machine many times. The Economist has selected it as a Book of the Year. A quote. “Not enough intelligent, scholarly and critically minded history of contemporary science gets published, but this work, by a professor at the University of Michigan, is a nice exception on an important area.”

A Couple of Updates: Johannes Feddema sent me a note on focusing of targeted studies of land use changes in response to some of my recent blogs. (White Roofs in the Cities).

And my blog got a great write up in the Cody Enterprise.

Pakistani Flood Relief Links

Doctors Without Borders

The International Red Cross

MERLIN medical relief charity

U.S. State Department Recommended Charities

The mobile giving service mGive allows one to text the word "SWAT" to 50555. The text will result in a $10 donation to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Pakistan Flood Relief Effort.

Portlight Disaster Relief at Wunderground.com

An impressive list of organizations

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

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127. martinitony
7:25 PM GMT on December 17, 2010
Quoting MichaelSTL:

Plus all of the lies about cold being worse than warming, because far more people die from excessive heat than die from excessive cold. Well, except for countries that don't normally get that hot - but that is of course cherry picking. How about the U.S., located in a temperate zone? Here is what NOAA says:

Heat is the number one weather-related killer. On average, more than 1,500 people in the U.S. die each year from excessive heat. This number is greater than the 30-year mean annual number of deaths due to tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and lightning combined.

In fact, deaths from cold are the lowest of any causes shown here. Yes, this probably only includes deaths from actually freezing to death, not say, having an accident on ice or a heart attack from shoveling snow (but of course the cold didn't actually kill them, and note that when including winter storm it is still much lower than heat; meanwhile, lightning is mainly a summertime hazard because thunderstorms are a warm-weather phenomenon, and warmer air can hold more moisture, thus more flooding potential). Also, it is easier to stay warm than it is to cool off; you can dress warmer but if you are already naked and still hot...

Also, I would definitely say that deaths from unprecedented events have climate change as a contributor, because such events are extremely unlikely to have ever happened otherwise (I am talking about events that go far beyond anything ever recorded for the area and more than several standard deviations away from the mean).

Michael, you missed drownings and shark attacks which are, no doubt, caused by the heat causing people to jump in the ocean. Yeah, thanks for that info, you really got me convinced. Those heart attacks and auto accidents on the ice and viruses don't really count.
I hope those heat strokes include all those young football players and marathoners who die every year from heat stroke. That never happened 40 years ago when I was young.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
122. martinitony
4:08 PM GMT on December 17, 2010
Quoting cyclonebuster:

Check this out you might like this.

I was looking at your graph and thinking about two things. The first is that no one has sad to you that it looks phony. Like whose graph...?

But the second thing is more interesting. There is nothing about the graph that doesn't indicate that the sun is the major factor. Let me explain.
I used to be in the restaurant business and at one restaurant that we built the HVAC engineers screwed up. On hot days the A/c was adequate to handle the equipment load and the people load until we reached a certain level of business at which time the heat began to build up and temperatures rose from 72 to 85.
Now here's what's interesting. The tonage put in initially was about 35 tons. Now you'd think they would need to add like another ten to handle the load, but they only needed to add like 2 or 3 tons, just enough to stop the build up of heat from getting out of control and surging to 85.
I think the Earth works the same way because, you know, the green house effect.
So when I see your graph I think that maybe what's missing is the levels that preceded the past 30 years because if there was just a little bump in sun heat during the last 30 years the build up, like my restaurant, might be much more significant than just that little bit of extra radiation. Whatdya think?
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
119. martinitony
2:17 AM GMT on December 17, 2010
Quoting DoverWxwatchter:
Global warming kills hundreds of thousands of people every year. As malaria and other diseases expand their range. Thousands dead in Pakistan from flooding driven by global warming. And many thousands dead in Russia due to the unprecedented heat wave there.

Global warming kills! No one with intelligence doubts or questions that.

No one? I"m wondering why most of the human race chooses to live in warmer climates. Do you wonder why the Eskimos are having so much trouble keeping all those immigrants from over running their territory? Hell, I do.
Your remarks are so foolish. How many humans die each year from complications from cold related illnesses? How many old people pass during the coldest months of the year?
How many die worldwide from accidents related to snow storms, heart attacks shoveling snow?.. the list goes on. Truth is only a fool blinded by the global warming religion could actually believe our lives are imperiled by a warmer world.
God help us if Columbus Ohio gets as warm as Atlanta Georgia over the next couple of hundred years.

Nothing above suggests that we should do nothing about man kinds influence on nature, but get real about the issue and the dangers.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
112. martinitony
11:44 PM GMT on December 16, 2010
Quoting cyclonebuster:

"How many people has global warming killed?"

Jack Wagon makes it sound like it is zero. Very uninformed writer trying to spread untruths about global warming. Where do they find such ignorant people to write these articles?

Actually, Cyclone, the question should be easy to answer. However, it's not really necessary because the author is trying to make a point that all of us surely know.Warming is not nearly as dangerous as cold. Far more people have died, gone bankrupt or just become really miserable because of extreme cold. We all know that. Yet, where is all the money to deal with cold?
I know what you're thinking. What's the point? The cold is just part of mother nature, right? You'd be right about that.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
110. Patrap
10:50 PM GMT on December 16, 2010
Unstable Antarctica: What's Driving Ice Loss?

When surface winds are strong, they stir the Southern Ocean and lift the warm water (red) onto the continental shelf where the additional heat contributes to melt of the ice shelf.

When surface winds are strong, they stir the Southern Ocean and lift the warm water (red) onto the continental shelf where the additional heat contributes to melt of the ice shelf. Credit: Frank Ippolito Scientists have previously shown that West Antarctica is losing ice, but how that ice is lost remained unclear. Now, using data from Earth observing satellites and airborne science missions, scientists are closing in on ice loss culprits above and below the ice.

The findings, presented Dec. 15 at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco, Calif., are expected to improve predictions of sea level rise.

Time Not Healing Glacial Wounds

A new analysis by Ted Scambos, a glaciologist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder Colo., and colleagues found that more than a decade after two major Antarctic ice shelves collapsed, glaciers once buttressed by the shelves continue to lose ice.

Changes are most evident in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and along the Antarctic Peninsula. A spine of mountains forces passing winds to give up their moisture as snow, feeding glaciers that in turn feed the ice shelves that jut out into the Southern Ocean. More than a decade ago, dramatic changes started affecting a series of ice shelves, collectively called Larsen, along the Peninsula's northeast coast. In 1995, Larsen A was the first to collapse followed by a larger loss of Larsen B in 2002. Today, a small piece of the Larsen B and the entirety of the vast Larsen C hang on.

Investigating how the glaciers have responded to the loss of these ice shelf "dams," Scambos and colleagues tracked elevation information using data from satellites such as NASA's Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) and previous airborne missions. They show that between 2001 and 2006, glaciers feeding Larsen A and Larsen B lost 12 gigatons of ice loss per year, or 30 percent of all ice lost throughout the Peninsula.

Moreover, the continued draw down of glaciers, such as Drygalski Glacier, fifteen years after the loss of Larsen A, have set precedent for what to expect elsewhere. Losses by glaciers that fed the Larsen B, such as Crane Glacier, are likely to continue.

Scambos and a team of colleagues have now placed instruments on glaciers just south of the area where the shelves disintegrated, anticipating that further warming will lead to further glacier speed-ups. The instruments and new aircraft overflights will provide further insight into shelf break-up and the onset of ice acceleration.

When surface winds are strong, they stir the Southern Ocean and lift the warm water (red) onto the continental shelf where the additional heat contributes to melt of the ice shelf. Credit: Frank Ippolito

Wind Matters

Further south is West Antarctica's Pine Island Glacier, another site of major ice loss presently draining more than 19 cubic miles of ice per year from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. It continues to deteriorate rapidly and scientists want to know why.

By combining satellite and airborne data, Bob Bindschadler, a glaciologist with the Goddard Earth Sciences and Technology Center at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., has successfully gained more insight into interactions between the atmosphere, ocean and ice even though the data cant reveal these connections directly.

Bindschadler and colleagues looked at images from the Landsat satellite and spotted a series of large surface undulations on the ice shelf. Next they matched the undulations with the timing of warm water pulses in the waters adjacent to the ice shelf. When surface winds are strong, they stir the Southern Ocean and lift the warm water onto the continental shelf where the additional heat contributes to melt.

Airborne data showed the ice shelf was up to 150 meters (492 feet) thinner when the warmer water was present, allowing Bindschadler's team to establish a direct link between the rate of ice shelf melting and atmospheric wind speed. When the team accounted for the heat coming in and the ice lost, they concluded that only 22 percent of the heat is used in melting. Whether the remaining heat might melt additional ice is unknown, but it is clear that the atmospheric circulation has a strong role on the future of the ice shelf and the fate of the ice sheet inland. Stronger winds would lead to an acceleration of ice loss; weaker winds would have a stabilizing effect.

"In short, ice shelves are affected by what winds are doing," Bindschadler said. "As Antarctic Circumpolar winds continue to increase, ice shelves are at increasing risk."

West Antarctica is seeing dramatic ice loss particularly the Antarctic Peninsula and Pine Island regions. Ice loss culprits include the loss off buttressing ice shelves, wind, and a sub-shelf channel that allows warm water to intrude below the ice. Credit: NASA/NSIDC

Underwater Channel Promoting Melt?

A gravity instrument, flown during NASA's Operation IceBridge campaign in 2009, revealed the presence of a sinuous channel (blue) below West Antarctica's Pine Island ice shelf. The channel allows warm ocean water to reach the grounding line, leading to melting of the ice shelf from below. Credit NASA

Taking a closer look at Antarctica's Pine Island Glacier is Michael Studinger, a glaciologist with the Goddard Earth Sciences and Technology Center at NASA Goddard.

Studinger is project scientist for NASA's Operation IceBridge mission -- an airborne science campaign that makes annual surveys of polar snow and ice -- that is helping researchers understand changes to Pine Island and other critical regions along West Antarctica and the Peninsula.

After analyzing data from the mission's first Antarctic deployment in 2009, the team revealed for the first time a curious feature below the Pine Island shelf: a sinuous channel that allows warm ocean water to reach the grounding line, leading to melting of the ice shelf from below.

More information will become available throughout Operation IceBridge, which sustains watch over Earth's poles until the launch of ICESat-2, scheduled for January 2016. In November 2010, teams concluded the second Antarctic campaign during which they flew over sea ice and key glaciers including a return mission over Pine Island Glacier. These data will be incorporated into the tools scientists use to refine estimates of future sea level rise.
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108. idontknowforsure
11:40 AM GMT on December 16, 2010
They are talking about Dr. Rood and his students
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105. martinitony
11:28 PM GMT on December 15, 2010
Quoting cyclonebuster:

This guy is sick suggesting us to eat aborted fetuses! You need jail time!

I was trying to decide whether or not to click on his link when I read your post, Cyclone. Now that was really funny. I knew you could do it if you tried.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
101. martinitony
9:54 PM GMT on December 15, 2010
Quoting DoverWxwatchter:
Flagging that post too Michael, that was sick.

i think that both you and Michael demonstrate conclusive proof that liberals lack a sense of humor. His posts were funny and on a cold icy day out here in the midwest it's a nice break from the monotony of short days and scraping frost, ice and snow off the windshield.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
95. martinitony
7:52 PM GMT on December 15, 2010
Quoting meatballa720:
Also we did call corporate too. All they said is they would forward this on to the franchisded owners who we have already talked too. So that is usless, as for the ordering it is not done in a weird way, the workers are just too stupid to understand the order. While we were there wensday the manager told them to fix the 2 double cheeseburgers plain with no cheese. the cook kept trying to put cheese on them. The manager finally told the cook look I need a bun with 2 pieces of meat and nothing else. Even after that he still said not to come back. Their idiots

I think you should teach your family and yourselves to like cheese and pickles. A lot worse could happen. The greenies might start taxing you if you want to eat toast or for that matter even plain white bread instead of whole grains. Then whatcha gonna do?
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
91. martinitony
5:45 PM GMT on December 15, 2010
Quoting cyclonebuster:

Extremes in either direction would harm life. We need to find the sweet spot and hold it there.

Yes, "We need to ..hold it there." That would be the natural thing to do.

PS. I'm in favor of keeping the northern hemisphere in summer year around, Cyclone. Maybe you could build a tunnel to get that done.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
89. martinitony
10:39 AM GMT on December 15, 2010
Consensus ?
I think this is important. In the survey, about 2/3 didn't respond. The author doesn't address why they don't. I have a theory about that. I believe that many of these didn't agree at all, but because of the potential stigma of being branded a denier, they just avoided the issue.
I would also note that some people are easy to fool.
I anticipate that the response to this post will simply be to bring out an assortment of supportive articles about warming as opposed to attempt to discuss what this author has posted, but let's see. The arithmetic is rather simple and should be easy for all to deal with.
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Dr. Ricky Rood's Climate Change Blog

About RickyRood

I'm a professor at U Michigan and lead a course on climate change problem solving. These articles often come from and contribute to the course.

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