Deeper Updrafts: New Cloud Simulation Leads To Estimate Of 4°C Rise In Global Temperatures By 2100
    By News Staff | December 31st 2013 10:12 AM | 12 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    A new paper in Nature estimates that global average temperatures will rise at least 4°C by 2100 and potentially more than 8°C by 2200 if carbon dioxide emissions worldwide are not reduced -  due to a reestimate of the great unknowns of climate sensitivity, the role of cloud formation and whether this will have a positive or negative effect on global warming.

    This new higher estimate was created using real world observations of water vapor in cloud formation. 

    “Our research has shown climate models indicating a low temperature response to a doubling of carbon dioxide from preindustrial times are not reproducing the correct processes that lead to cloud formation," said lead author from the University of New South Wales’ Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science Prof Steven Sherwood. “When the processes are correct in the climate models the level of climate sensitivity is far higher. Previously, estimates of the sensitivity of global temperature to a doubling of carbon dioxide ranged from 1.5°C to 5°C. This new research takes away the lower end of climate sensitivity estimates, meaning that global average temperatures will increase by 3°C to 5°C with a doubling of carbon dioxide." 

    A new estimate of cloud mixing that indicates our climate is highly sensitive to a doubling of carbon dioxide. His findings suggest Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity is at least 3°C. As a result, unless we curb emissions, global temperatures will rise 4°C by 2100 and more than 8°C by 2200. Credit: UNSW TV - University of New South Wales.

    Their observations show that when water vapor is taken up by the atmosphere through evaporation, the updrafts can either rise to 15 km to form clouds that produce heavy rains or rise just a few kilometers before returning to the surface without forming rain clouds. 

    When updrafts rise only a few kilometers they reduce total cloud cover because they pull more vapor away from the higher cloud forming regions. However water vapor is not pulled away from cloud forming regions when only deep 15 km updrafts are present. The authors say that climate models that show a low global temperature response to carbon dioxide do not include enough of this lower-level water vapor process. Instead they simulate nearly all updrafts as rising to 15 km and forming clouds. Either way, the new model is sure to feed the lack of trust by global warming deniers, since the old numerical estimates were considered accurate also.

    When there are only deeper updrafts in climate simulations, predictably more clouds form and there is an increased reflection of sunlight and so the global climate in these models becomes less sensitive in its response to atmospheric carbon dioxide. 

    However, the real world observations gathered for this paper show this behavior is wrong. 

    When the processes in climate models are corrected to match the observations in the real world, the models produce cycles that take water vapor to a wider range of heights in the atmosphere, causing fewer clouds to form as the climate warms. This increases the amount of sunlight and heat entering the atmosphere and, as a result, increases the sensitivity of our climate to carbon dioxide or any other perturbation. 

    The result is that when water vapor processes are correctly represented, the sensitivity of the climate to a doubling of carbon dioxide - which will occur in the next 50 years – means we can expect a temperature increase of at least 4°C by 2100. 

    “Climate sceptics like to criticize climate models for getting things wrong, and we are the first to admit they are not perfect, but what we are finding is that the mistakes are being made by those models which predict less warming, not those that predict more,” said Sherwood. “Rises in global average temperatures of this magnitude will have profound impacts on the world and the economies of many countries if we don’t urgently start to curb our emissions.

    The developing world is not going to create less carbon dioxide and it is unethical to ask them to stop making their lives better when the developed countries can afford to switch to natural gas and nuclear power. It simply means that environmentalists have to stop migrating from alternative energy fad to alternative energy fad and embrace what works, if they care about the future. No more ethanol and wind power, focus on methane and nuclear energy and CO2 emissions, in the US at least, will drop from early 1990s levels, where they have gone back to already, all the way back to the early 1950s. What to do about increased emissions in China, India and Mexico is then a problem for the UN to handle.


    If we give you a trillion dollars can you stop it? Give it a rest. Your models are wrong. Your argument is weak. CO2 rises while the heating has disappeared for 17 years, and you an your models missed and can't explain. The scam has played out. It's over. Go home. Stop lying.

    Regardless of who you heard it from, you are factually incorrect. Land, sea and air temps are higher then ever, and we just had another record: November. Hottest on record.

    It may have been cold where you are, but the rest of the world is hot. And, it's not models, but data. You go home, you wake up, you stop the lies. But, I agree, thanks to you and your pals, it is over.

    Why is all the focus on emissions with such little regard given to deforestation and ocean health related to Earth's natural capability to sequester carbon?

    And Carbon Dioxide solution that doesn’t include protecting and reestablishing our planets ability to sequester carbon is a non-starter. Without that capability - nothing is going to work.

    Wind and alternative energy a fad? Really? And nuclear power as the solution - really?

    Right now there is over 70,000 metric tons of Spent Nuclear Fuel the taxpayer is on the hook for; which doesn’t even include the high level plant infrastructure and returned fuel from foreign sales which is also the taxpayers responsibility. The industry is no longer paying into the waste fund and is now receiving huge litigated rewards for storing their own waste on site. This means the industry has no economic incentive to evolve the technology. And since this was all done under contracts provided for under The Nuclear Waste Policy Act instead of through regulation, the taxpayer will continue to increase economic share of supporting the business model of nuclear energy, with no way out except default of the US Treasury.

    The ONLY way the economic model for Nuclear Power works is with the taxpayer taking on the very significant cost of waste disposal where lifecycle costs can not yet even be determined. Without the tax payer picking up that very significant cost of doing business the Nuclear Power Industry would be unable to compete against ANY other currently applied alternative energy source.

    I’ve read the SKY PIE about the “new” technologies and I have seen the REAL growth in alternative energy. Nuclear power maybe renewing the “too cheap to meter” mantra of the gullible, but the economics remain unchanged.

    Well, yes, but you are leaving out an important context. We made nuclear power too expensive, which led to the increased use of coal and the resultant extraordinary CO2 emissions. Environmentalists caused America to lead the world in global warming.  Saying, 'it is not economical' when activists insist that economics are unimportant when it comes to wind and solar and, before that, ethanol, and before that, natural gas, is putting you squarely in defiance of both science on one side and environmentalists on the other.

    I am inclined to think that energy is a strategic resource, like food (and science), and should be subsidized for the public good. But wasting $72 billion on solar panel subsidies in the last four years was idiotic. With that money, we could have built enough nuclear energy to provide the new energy we need for the next 20 years.  So if economics is going to be the issue, we need to make sure the administration isn't allowed to write checks for pet projects.
    The suggestion that natural gas is clean is misinformed at best - it's a carbon emitting fossil fuel with big methane leakage issues. See Cornell University's paper by Dr. Howrath's . All segments of the process leak methane, a greenhouse gas 100 times more powerful than carbon dioxide when emitted..

    And, I certainly no nuclear engineer, but in a rapidly changing climate, nuclear has to be very risky, especially since none of the existing plants were designed with climate change in mind. Just look at how many are at sea level. Furthermore, the tremendous increase in seismic activity since 2000 may be a function of climate change as per the presentations I watched at the AGU conference in 2012 and 2013. With all the changes in forces on the plates from ice melt and changes in water levels, more shakeups are sure to come.

    Lastly, now that EPA methods has been found to under call methane emissions from industry and agriculture by a whopping 50 percent, I wonder if our American Emissions have really gone down as much as the article indicates, if any..

    CO2 emissions have gone down in actual measurements. Saying that Political Body X has been underestimating in numerical models means that the models for everyone may be rubbish - they could just as easily be off by 100% the other way. Every week some numerical model is shown to be wrong.

    And just because a study violates your personal world view does not make it bad science.  Natural gas does emit far fewer emissions than coal, that is something introduced today - it is why environmentalists loved it before it actually became viable. Nuclear energy is another matter; yes, it hasn't advanced much, but that is because Democrats and their constituents in the 1990s gutted the science and made sure it starved. If they hadn't canceled a terrific program and made sure scientists were blocked from getting funding, we would have really great nuclear power already. Instead, we will soon have newer modular stuff that is better than the things from 60 years ago, which means better than wind and solar, but still leaves us with a 'what if?' scenario regarding where we would be if John Kerry and Bill Clinton had not been so anti-science.
    Hey, I'm all for the 3rd or 4th generation small plants that I've hear about. Except in a changing climate. Hydrology changes and earthquake activity increases - the risk is to great. I wont be conned again like with natural gas. Look at Fukushima. That one accident to date has cost more than all the economic benefits that Japan received from all of her nuclear plant combined, because someone ignored sound safety advice when it was build 40 years ago, . And as to natural gas, it leaks. I can smell it as I work. But on the bright side, we now have lovely sunrises in Pittsburgh, though everyone now suffers from allergies. It has a footprint bigger the coal. Nuclear power has huge construction carbon footprint too.

    And, what really surprises me is that you assume we have a future with a 4C temperature rise. We don't. Maybe a few thousand hidden in high latitude caves, but not for you and I. It's collapse for you and I and frankly, I want a little high efficient personal solar panel with battery for the road. Happy new year.

    To say that bill clinton and john kerry were anti-science is a bit bigoted Hank just because they put nuclear power in the too hard basket.You are verging on being anti-environmental science.We have to live in our environment,we can't just ignore it.Ultimately as Darwin showed,everything has to be judged by our environment,whether it's genetic engineering ,nuclear power,modern agriculture or yes,even modern society.You are advocating nuclear power with a trust us mentallity when the world has already trusted nuclear physics and found it wanting.If you want to live in a plutocracy run by plutocrats with plutonium as it's foundation then count me out.As far as i am concerned green is the scene and i believe locally science can enable us to obtain all our energy needs from it.

    To say that bill clinton and john kerry were anti-science is a bit bigoted Hank just because they put nuclear power in the too hard basket.
    You need to learn what 'bigoted' means. Until you use words properly you will dismissed as a hyperbolic who can't make a reasoned point. They labeled all nuclear energy as nuclear weapons and they, and Democrats, cheered when they canceled the best nuclear design in history - one that could not melt down or have a problem like Fukushima. It's really that simple. They put the science back decades.

    'Green is on the scene' is probably a very glib little rhyme, it is entirely divorced from reality unless nuclear is part of that green. The '60s are over, even anti-nuclear, award-winning filmmakers like Robert Stone have come out in favor of nuclear power. Dr. James Hansen, the world's leading advocate for reducing CO2 emissions, has abandoned activists and agrees with science on this issue, and co-authored a paper showing that 1.6 million lives have been saved by displacing coal with nuclear power.

    Don't agree with James Hansen? Then you must be a bigot.

    Hank, your comments hardly welcome discussion do they? And, you do seem a bit biased. I thought this was a discussion where evidence for ones position was outlined for polite comment. I am still waiting for replies to my climate concerns, but I see you have gone off to attack others. You can hardly blame the guy for his opinion with Fukushima going on, and with Chernobyl in his past. Plus, during these and other emergencies, management maintained a cover you as- stance rather than a public health stance. People aren't finding out their exposures until long after the cancers start. Look at 3 Mile and Brookhaven. People have lost everything they loved, their children and their belief that government acts in their behalf. And the ill effects of exposure are still taking their toll.

    I don't think this lack of trust in nuclear energy has anything to do with the science, but rather the lack of trust in management to make decisions on their behalf in an emergency rather than their corporate employer. Look at Topco - their concerns lie with keeping costs down as evidenced by their initial decisions and employing the homeless as minimum wage clean-up workers. I'm sure they figure that their liability is limited that way too - the homeless do not have the power to fight for their rights when the illnesses begin, nor will their families likely care. I bet they are contractors too, rather than employees.

    So back to my question: how did the designers compensate for climate change impacts to our existing nuclear reactors? I know that the science was pretty clear even back then - it's a matter of simple physics that was determined 150 years ago. And, if they are not equipped to deal with more extreme geo-physical events, shouldn't they be de-activated first before introducing the newer smaller units that utilize old waste as fuel? Can these aging reactors withstand a 1000, 5000 or 10000 year event, what ever that might be?. Can they withstand a 10.0 earthquake, a 250 mph tornado or a 200 foot wall of water let alone the creeping changes like sea level rise?

    I don't know; I'm just asking here...

    So back to my question: how did the designers compensate for climate change impacts to our existing nuclear reactors? 
    Climate is a non-issue when it comes to a nuclear plant. Not even sure why you brought that up.

    As for a level 12 Beaufort hurricane, it makes no difference, as the tests back then demonstrated. That was the whole point.  There was no science or technological reason to cut the program, it is was a simple anti-science agenda, and Kerry and Clinton led the way.

    As for the remainder of your comment, I know you feel like any dispute of your conspiracy theory makes you feel 'unwelcome' but you keep attributing evil and unethical behavior to people you know nothing about, so claiming some big corporate interest will cut corners and doom the world is goofy. Would you do that? Why do you believe that the people who work and live there will risk their families because they are getting paid? Cherry-picking instances where that has happened (hey, there are lots of examples of unethical, evil anti-nuclear protesters too, and they have placed a lot more lives at risk trying to derail trains full of nuclear fuel - are they all evil?) is just that, cherry-picking anecdotes as evidence, and that isn't going to cut it in a serious conversation.
    A bigot is someone who dismisses reason simply on the grounds that it's not on our part.There is a positive reason for regarding both co2 and fossil fuel as clean and green and that is the botanical fact that it is the breath of life to green plants and is also a major constituent of their food.The depletion of our soils of carbon in the western world particularly contributes to the loss of nutrients from our soils,the degradation of the quality of our food,and an addiction to artificial fertilisers which use vast amounts of fossil fuels[and nuclear energy will do very little to change that].Green plants convert co2 to o2 our breath of life,is nuclear power going to do that for us as well?The danger of unlimited energy is unlimited population without environmental balance.I am disappointed that someone like yourself,overseeing science 2.0 should not take more of an overall view of science,dismissing environmental science,which is the foundation of our existence for nuclear energy which has never been necessary .