Climate Change: The Evidence and Our Options


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  • Eruption of Pinatubo June 1991 – in Philippines on Island of Luzon
  • Here is an outline of the structure of my talk. First I’ll discuss some of the key findings of a recent Intergovernmental report that investigated the nature and causes of climate change. Then I’ll define some terms that I’ll be using in my talk. Next I’ll try to give you some indication of the principal advances that have been made in our knowledge of the causes of climate change. Most of the talk will focus on discussion of one example of a so-called “fingerprint” study - a statistical comparison of patterns of climate change in observed data and in model predictions. Finally, in my concluding remarks, I’ll point out some of the key uncertainties in this type of work, and tell you why I believe that we all have a stake in advancing the science.
  • Data from weather balloons and satellites show a warming trend in the troposphere, the lower layer of the atmosphere, which extends up about 10 miles (lower graph), and a cooling trend in the stratosphere, which is the layer immediately above the troposphere (upper graph). This is exactly the pattern expected from increased greenhouse gases, which trap energy closer to the Earth’s surface. Source: National Research Council, 2010a The red curve is RSS; blue curve is UAH; black is HADAT2; green is the surface
  • Solar irradiance from composite satellite-based time series. Data sources: For 1976/01/05 to 2011/02/02 Physikalisch Meteorologisches Observatorium Davos, World Radiation Center and for 2011/02/03 to 2012/01/11 University of Colorado Solar Radiation & Climate Experiment .
  • Comment to use to avoid stating some “average CO2 lifetime” - "Half the CO2 we pump into the atmosphere disappears into the ocean relatively quickly, but the other half stays in the atmosphere for thousands of years." 
  • This is a composite picture of the earth as photographed at night courtesy of NASA. It clearly depicts the concentration of world electricity demand. But the earth and our world is changing … Populations and economies are expanding around the globe, both in developed and developing economies. The standard of living is rising in many parts of the world – better access to housing, clean water, education, medicine, transportation, entertainment, - and the enabler is electricity. Therefore; our 100 year old industry that has been the backbone of innovation and industrialization will continue to be vital to the future of our society and our planet. However there are many challenges and uncertainties we need to work through as a Power Generation Industry to meet the needs. We have the opportunity --- and the obligation, to support population growth, sustain economic growth and to reduce the intensity of our environmental footprint. Ongoing commitment is required for Technology, Innovation, Project Execution Excellence, Stable Policy and Public Awareness. Over the past few years we’ve seen the dynamics of our marketplace shifting … Growing population & energy density Cost of energy … fuel supply & demand Increasing environmental requirements Escalating energy security concerns
  • Looking ahead to 2030 … you can see sustained growth in global demand for electricity is inevitable. Demand is forecasted to more than double by 2030 (According to The Energy Information Administration)
  • The advance over 300 meters in 1600 years equals about 0.19 (about 0.2 m per year (0.0005 m per day) The retreat over 300 meters in 25 years (12 meters per year) 0.03 m per day
  • 63 years - 800 meters thick - retreated 15 kilometers up valley
  • 47 years
  • 35 hectares (86 acres) - change shown is over 33 years 60 m deep (200 feet)
  • 1 cu km = 1 Gt
  • Naimona’nyi Glacier – we drilled three cores
  • From marine nuclear testing from 1952 to 1958 in the South Pacific
  • The retreat of the Northern Ice Field on the top of Kilimanjaro is measured with the aid of accumulation stakes that were placed in 2000. The surface of the ice field has lowered 2.34 meters between 2000 and 2006.
  • From the 2012 Arctic Report Card (Box et al.) Greenland ice sheet standardized melting index (SMI). The index is calculated by subtracting the melt index (MI) from the 1979 - 2012 average and dividing by its standard deviation (Tedesco, 2007). MI is the number of days on which melting occurred multiplied by the area where melting was detected. Extent of surface melt over Greenland’s ice sheet on July 8 (left) and July 12 (right). Measurements from three satellites showed that on July 8, about 40 percent of the ice sheet had undergone thawing at or near the surface. In just a few days, the melting had dramatically accelerated and an estimated 97 percent of the ice sheet surface had thawed by July 12. In the image, the areas classified as “probable melt” (light pink) correspond to those sites where at least one satellite detected surface melting. The areas classified as “melt” (dark pink) correspond to sites where two or three satellites detected surface melting. The satellites are measuring different physical properties at different scales and are passing over Greenland at different times. As a whole, they provide a picture of an extreme melt event about which scientists are very confident. Credit: Nicolo E. DiGirolamo, SSAI/NASA GSFC, and Jesse Allen, NASA Earth Observatory
  • On the question of climate change, one might ask whether we have the institutions in place to deal with long term issues like greenhouse gas build up in our atmosphere. It also raises the question of whether it is like other crises in our past which dealt with local, region or national problems. Carbon dioxide, for example, has a residence time in our atmosphere of over 100 years. Thus the carbon dioxide which we are releasing today will be impacting our climate 100 years from now. So if we wait until the first crisis to take action on this issue, we will likely have already built in a whole series of crises that we will all have to deal with. Earth Image: This image of the Earth was taken by the Galileo spacecraft at about 6:10 a.m. PST on December 11, 1990. The spacecraft was about 1.3 million miles from the Earth. South America is near the center of the picture, and the white, sunlit continent of Antarctica is below. Picturesque weather fronts are visible in the South Atlantic, lower right. (Courtesy of NASA/JPL) Link: Byrd Polar Research Center 2005
  • Climate Change: The Evidence and Our Options

    1. 1. Ice Core Paleoclimate Research Group Ellen Mosley-Thompson Henry Brecher Mary Davis Paolo Gabrielli Ping-Nan Lin Matt Makou Victor Zagorodnov Post-doc. Chiara Ugietti Anna Wegner Funding provided by: NSF: Paleoclimate and Polar Programs NASA: Earth Sciences (Glaciology) NOAA: Paleoclimatology Gary Comer Foundation OSU Climate, Water & Carbon Program Graduate Students: Brad Goodwin Katelyn Johnson Karl Philippoff Donaldi Permana Stacy Porter Climate Change: The Evidence and Our Options          Lonnie G. Thompson School of Earth Sciences and BPRC, The Ohio State University Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments Cincinnati, Ohio, August 16, 2013
    2. 2. Objective Introduction to global climate change Glaciers as recorders of global climate change Examples of how changes in climate impacted past Peruvian cultures Evidence for recent acceleration of the rate of glacier loss Evidence that some glaciers like the Quelccaya ice cap are smaller than they have been in the last 6,000 years Our Options Why B.F. Skinner became pessimistic about human beings. “Immediate consequences outweigh delayed consequences” “Consequences for the individual outweigh consequences for others” P. Chance, 2007 Our greatest challenges in the 21st Century
    3. 3. Natural mechanisms influence climate Changes in solar output Changes in the amount of volcanic aerosols in the atmosphere Internal variability of the coupled atmosphere-ocean system (e.g., ENSO, monsoon systems, NAO) Natural mechanisms
    4. 4. Human factors also influence climate Non-natural mechanisms Changes in the concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases Changes in aerosols and particles from burning fossil fuels and biomass coal (sulfate aerosols) – cooling biomass (black carbon) – warming Changes in the reflectivity (albedo) of Earth’s surface and the hydrologic cycle Smoke from fires in Guatemala and Mexico (May 14, 1998)
    5. 5. Karl et al., 2009 Climate Responses to Different Forcing Mechanisms
    6. 6. Stratosphere is cooling Troposphere is warming This response is expected from GHG forcing & is predicted by climate models. It is not forced by the sun! Source: Hadley Center (data available at Atmospheric temperatures since 1958 
    7. 7. The Meteorological Record is Very Short Year A.D. Globally averaged temperature (land & ocean) relative to the 1951-1980 mean Year
    8. 8. It’s not the Sun! Source: Solar irradiance from composite satellite-based time series: 1976/01/05 to 2011/02/02 Physikalisch Meteorologisches Observatorium Davos 2011/02/03 to 2012/01/11 University of Colorado Solar Radiation & Climate Experiment
    9. 9. Ice Cores Pollen Corals Ocean & Lake Sediments Tree rings Speleothems Various archival systems provide paleoclimate records
    10. 10. Class-100 clean room houses the equipment to analyze dust, isotopes and chemicals      Machine shop for fabrication of our drills Freezers for storage and cold rooms for physical property measurements
    11. 11. Guliya ice cap, Tibet Ice cores are powerful contributors to multi-proxy reconstructions: 1) they provide multiple lines of climatic & environmental evidence 2) ideal for revealing rapid climate changes
    12. 12. Dasuopu Glacier Southern Tibet Ice cores provide unique histories …… from regions where other recording systems are limited or absent Huascarán, Peru
    13. 13. Lüthi et al., Nature, 2008 Today: CO2 is 393 ppmv CH4 is 1800 ppbv Thousands of Years (B.P.) 800 600 400 200 0 393 1800 1100 900 3700 IPCC Emission Scenarios for 2100 AD CO2 remains in the atmosphere for decades to millennia Carbon Dioxide & Methane Concentrations Past, Present and Future Dome C  EPICA Dome C ice core extends back  through eight glacial and interglacial  stages (800,000 years) recording changes in the composition of Earth's atmosphere
    14. 14. The fraction of CO2 remaining in the air, after emission by fossil fuel burning, declines rapidly at first, but 1/3 remains in the air after a century and 1/5 after a millennium (Atmos. Chem. Phys. 7, 2287-
    15. 15. 4 3 5 0 GlobalTemperature(°C) 1000 1200 1400 1600 1800 2000 Year (C.E.) 2 1 0 0.4 -0.4 -0.8 IPCC Fourth Assessment, February 2007 IPCC 4th Assessment (2007) Projection for 2100 AD 2.0 – 4.5 o C Northern Hemisphere temperature (°C) for the last 1000 years
    16. 16. Population 1.0 billion in 1850 2.0 billion in 1930 4.1 billion in 1975 6.1 billion in 2000 7.0 billion in 2012 9.0 billion by 2050  In 2012 we also need animals and crops 17 billion Fowl 1.9 billion Sheep and goats 1.4 billion Cattle 1.0 billion Pigs 400 million Dogs 500 million Cats In contrast, the pre-exploitation number of American Bison: 60 - 80 million
    17. 17. today Energy consumption growing Coal – 40% Natural gas – 20% Renewables – 20% Nuclear – 15% Oil / Other Petroleum – 5% World electricity 65% fossil fuels
    18. 18. … to unprecedented demands  Looking ahead to 2030 … you can see sustained growth in global demand for electricity is inevitable. Demand is forecasted to more than double by 2030 (Energy Information Administration). Source: Mark Little, General Electric Global Research 2030
    19. 19. (Modified after Sobel, 2002)
    20. 20. Quelccaya Ice Cap, Peru
    21. 21. 25 Quelccaya Ice Cap 1983
    22. 22. Thompson et al., PNAS, 2006 MWP LIA Reference period (1961 – 1990 A.D.) 77 new cores High elevation, low latitude ice cores reveal - regional differences - larger scale changes Thompson et al., PNAS, 2006
    23. 23. Pre-Colonial Cultures
    24. 24. Quelccaya Ice Cap, Peru 2002 Photo: Lonnie G Thompson 1977
    25. 25. Compton Tucker; NASA
    26. 26. Compton Tucker; NASA
    27. 27. Compton Tucker; NASA
    28. 28. 1977 2002 Quelccaya, Peru
    29. 29. 2002 Quelccaya Ice Cap, Peru 5177 ± 45 yr. BP 200 - 400 m above its modern range Plant
    30. 30. 2005
    31. 31. Thompson et. al. Science, 2013
    32. 32. “Ice asks no questions, presents no arguments, reads no newspapers listens to no debates. It is not burdened by ideology and carries no political baggage as it changes from solid to liquid. It just melts.” From A World Without Ice by Henry Pollack, 2009 Nature’s best thermometer, perhaps its most sensitive and unambiguous indicator of climate change, is ice.
    33. 33. Muir Glacier, SE Alaska August, 1941 (photo by William Field) August, 2004 (photo by Bruce Molnia
    34. 34. Kyetrak Glacier, Eastern Himalayas Courtesy of the Royal Geographical Society Courtesy of Glacier Works 1921 2009
    35. 35. 19031903Foto: Archivio Storico – Biblioteca della Montagna SATFoto: Archivio Storico – Biblioteca della Montagna SAT Foto: G. Alberti CGTFoto: G. Alberti CGT 20052005 Ghiacciai della Lobbia e dell’Adamello/Mandrone (102 anni)
    36. 36. 1978 – no lake Retreat of the Qori Kalis Glacier (Peru) 1978 – no lake 2011 lake covers 84 acres
    37. 37. Qori Kalis Glacier, Quelccaya Ice Cap, Peru
    38. 38. The Third Pole … high, cold, remote & threatened by climate change - Centered on the Tibetan Plateau & Himalayas - Covers 5 million km2 - One of the largest glacial stores of fresh water over 46,000 glaciers (Asia’s water tower) - Glaciers feed Asia’s largest rivers - Help sustain 1.5 billion people in 10 countries
    39. 39. Naimona’nyi Glacier, southwestern Himalaya (Tibet)
    40. 40. Recovered three ice cores to bedrock in 2006 157.5, 137.8, 113.7 meters Photo: Lonnie G Thompson
    41. 41. Naimona’nyi Glacier, Himalaya - 2006
    42. 42. Naimona’nyi Glacier, Himalaya - 2006
    43. 43. Naimona’nyi Glacier, Himalaya - 2006
    44. 44. Kehrwald et al., GRL, 2008 36 Cl from the Ivy Tests (1952-1958)
    45. 45. T.Yao, L.G.Thompson and 13 others, Nature Climate Change, September, 2012 Area Reduction for 7090 glaciers
    46. 46. 85% of the ice present in 1912 has disappeared Kilimanjaro, Africa
    47. 47. 16 Feb 2000 Furtwängler Glacier 28 Jan 2006 Thompson et al. , PNAS, 2009
    48. 48. Northern Ice Field Stake 2 (2000) From 2000 to 2007 - Northern Ice Field surface lowered 1.9 meters - Furtwängler Glacier surface lowered 3.1 m - Southern Ice Field surface lowered 5.1 m Nearly equivalent volumes of ice are now lost by shrinking and thinning 2004 2000 Thompson et al., PNAS, 2009
    49. 49. Photo: Lonnie Thompson January Photo: Michael O'Toole September Furtwängler Glacier, 1999 2012
    50. 50. Ice Fields near Puncak Jaya, Papua, Indonesia drilled 2010 64 1936 2001 1991
    51. 51. Papua, Indonesia (New Guinea) May 26, 1989 October 29, 2009 Adam Voiland Writer NASA's Earth Observatory
    52. 52. East Northwall Firn, 2010 Papua, Indonesia (New Guinea)
    53. 53. 2006 2007 2007
    54. 54. 2011
    55. 55. Recent and rapid melting of glaciers around the world Climatologically we are in unfamiliar territory, and the world’s ice cover is responding dramatically.
    56. 56. Courtesy of Dan Schrag, Harvard Univ.
    57. 57. Courtesy of Dan Schrag, Harvard Univ.
    58. 58. How to manage a world with threats from climate change, rising sea levels and rising energy consumption?
    59. 59. Perfect Storm is Brewing Ingredients for a Perfect Disaster: 1000-year CO2 Lifetime Climate System Inertia Positive (Amplifying) Feedbacks Fossil Fuel Addiction Alternative: A Brighter Future Low Cost Fuels Clean Air & Water Economic Development, Good Jobs
    60. 60. “ Immediate consequences outweigh delayed consequences” P. Chance, 2007
    61. 61. Tornado approaching Tuscaloosa, April 27, 2011 (source: ABC news)
    62. 62. Aftermath of tornado in Joplin, MO, May 22, 2011 (source: NY
    63. 63. In 2011, Ohio experienced its wettest year on record. The cost of extensive repairs to roads and bridges was estimated at almost $40 million. In requesting assistance for disastrous flooding that Occurred in April and May, Ohio's Governor John Kasich said in a letter to President Obama that the impacts in Ohio were "of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the state and local government." Findlay, Ohio March 1, 2011 Toledo Blade
    64. 64. Pakistan flooding, Sept. 25, 2011, Sindh Province (source: Faisal Mahmood/Reuters)) 2011: Overall losses: $148 billion Insured losses: $55 billion
    65. 65. Fire near Colorado Springs, June 27, 2012 (Source: Sa BIne, The U.S has endured a near-record wildfire season with the total acres burned roughly the same size as Massachusetts and Connecticut combined: 2006-- 9.8 million acres 2007-- 9.3 million acres 2012-- 9.1 million acres
    66. 66. Waldo Canyon fire west of Colorado Springs, June 26, 2012 (source: RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post) “Consequences for the individual outweigh consequences for others” P. Chance, 2007
    67. 67. Arctic Sea Ice 6 to 7 meters of sea level rise eq. Large and Fast Changes in the Arctic July 8, 2012 July 12, 2012 40% 97% 2012 record summer surface melting 2005
    68. 68. Data: September 17, 2012 Left Panel: Sea ice extent (>15% ice); Right: sea ice concentration (%). Pink Line: Climatological extent (1979—2000). Source: National Snow and Ice Date Center, Boulder, Colorado. Sea ice cover in September, 2012 was 3.42 million square kilometers (1.32 M sq. mi.) which is 18% smaller than the 2007 record low of 4.17 million square kilometers (1.61 M sq. mi.).
    69. 69. 87 Model runs: Stroeve et al., 2007 Climate System Models Did Not Predict This!
    70. 70. Hurricane / Superstorm Sandy Death toll: 110 Estimated cost: $60 Billion Illustrates the conditions and events and scenarios that we can expect from climate change. In New York and New Jersey there are 45 superfund toxic waste sites within half a mile of the coast. October 30, 2012
    71. 71. • Mitigation, means taking measures to reduce the pace & magnitude of the changes in global climate that are caused by human activities. Examples of mitigation include reducing emissions of GHG, enhancing “sinks” for these gases, and “geoengineering” to counteract the warming effects of GHG. • Adaptation, means taking measures to reduce the adverse impacts on human well-being that result from the climate changes that do occur. Examples of adaptation include changing agricultural practices, strengthening defenses against climate-related disease, and building more dams and dikes. But it’s a moving target! • Suffering, the adverse impacts that are not avoided by either mitigation or adaptation. So Society has Three Options!
    72. 72. Gov. Cuomo of New York to President Obama “we have a 100-year flood every two years now” In fact, three of the 10 biggest floods in Lower Manhatten since 1900 have occurred in the last 3 years. Rising seas create a higher baseline for future storm surges. Current estimates are that coastal waters will rise by two feet by 2050 and four feet by the end of the century
    73. 73. NASA Climate Briefing.pdf 2012
    74. 74. Source:
    75. 75. Source:
    76. 76. Summer 2013, Australia
    77. 77. Summer 2013, Smoke from Australia’s Fires
    78. 78. Our greatest challenges of the 21st Century will be: (1) learning how to get along with each other and (2) learning how to get along with our Planet. These two challenges deal with human behavior and are closely related!
    79. 79. Earth For Global Climate Change --- Nature is the Time Keeper!
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