15 February 2009

Climate News from The Windy City

Posted by Dan Satterfield

I wanted to attend the American Assoc. for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Chicago this weekend.

I’m a member, and it promised to be really good. Alas, a heavy year of traveling ahead, meant that there was not a budget for it. Some interesting, and disturbing news delivered there today.

Dr. Chris Field of Stanford made a significant announcement.  The rate of CO2 rise, in the last 8 years, is running well ahead of the IPCC predictions.

Some background here.

For Climate Scientists to predict what kind of warming the planet will endure by the end of this century, certain things must be known. Most obviously, is how much Carbon Dioxide will there be in the atmosphere. Not just at the end of the century, but all through the century. More CO2 means warmer temps. The IPCC folks have produced several scenarios. The ” business as usual scenario”, assumes we don’t really get a handle on our CO2 emissions for another 30 years or more. This is the most dire prediction.

What Dr. Chris Field announced, is that this business as usual scenario is not accurate. The Carbon Dioxide is rising faster than it was thought likely. To be exact, for most of the 1990’s, CO2 rose about 0.9% per year. Since 2000, it is rising at 3.5% per year from 2000-2007. 

That’s bad. Real bad. 

The next IPCC assessment will have to take this into account. The climate models will be run with higher CO2 levels. Guess what that means.

Yup, even more bad news.


Sea level rise is also running ahead of the IPCC predictions. French researcher Anny Cazenave reported that the RATE of sea level rise is, itself increasing. From the 1960’s to 1993, it rose about 1.7 mm per year. Since 1993, it is rising at around 3.35mm per year. Scientists tend to make very conservative predictions and the IPCC folks are no different. 

Using the previous Business as usual scenario, the IPCC models showed a range for Sea Level rise from 26-59 cm, by 2100. (See IPCC graphic below)


It is important to remember that there are many things that influence our climate. Ocean/Atmosphere currents, slight changes in solar radiation reaching the Earth, and natural volcanic activity are the main ones.

The Elephant in the room is the greenhouse gases emitted by we Humans. 

I will post a a fascinating graphic in my next entry that shows just where the uncertainties lie in Climate. It shows how big, or small they are in each case. I’ve had this for awhile, but I wanted to do it right! 

Those of you who take the time to read my journal posts deserve no less!



Science Magazine, and the BBC provided some info in this post. I looked some data up on Real Climate as well.