HadCRUT4.5 anomaly for September 2017 = 0.54C

The HadCRUT4.5 temperature anomaly for September calculated by spherical triangulation is 0.54C, a fall of 0.17C since August. Temperatures have seemingly returned to a long trend after the 2016 El Nino.

Monthly temperature anomalies for HadCRUT4.5 (HadSST3 and CRUTEM4.6 stations data) calculated by spherical triangulation method.

The temperature distribution in the Northern Hemisphere for September is shown below. All temperatures are relative to a 30 year norm from 1961-1990.

Temperature distribution for September 2017 over Northern Hemisphere

and for the Southern Hemisphere

Temperature Distribution over the Southern Hemisphere.

which shows a La Nina type pattern.

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Lithium in Chile

I just returned from the Atacama desert in Chile, where I was surprised to discover that 30% of world Lithium production comes from the Salar de Atacama. This huge salt flat covers ~3000 square km and is the driest (non-polar) place on earth. The only source of water and minerals flows down from the Andes onto the Salar where it becomes trapped and (mostly) evaporates. This is because flow to the sea is blocked by a long coastal mountain range. The lowest point in the Salar contains a small salty lake where pink Flamingo’s feed on algae, the only source of life.  However 40m beneath the salt flats lies a rich brine which contains 40% of all known world Lithium reserves. This brine has the highest concentration of Lithium anywhere on earth.

On the flats near Flamingo reserve

The brine is pumped up into huge evaporation ponds on the western edge of the Salar. The residue is processed into Lithium carbonate for export mainly to China. 30% of all phone, camera and electric car batteries originate from here. Lithium is the lightest metal and is easily ionised to charge and discharge anode/cathode voltage. Optimisation of electrolytes, cathode and anode materials has led to modern lithium ion batteries for cell phones and electric cars.

View from my Aeroplane. The white salt covers a vast distance and in the foreground you can just see the two huge evaporation ponds for extracting Lithium Carbonate.

Recently Britain and France pledged to ban the sale of all petrol and diesel cars after 2040. This implies that if the world follows their lead somehow billions of new electric vehicles will be produced to replace them. There are two main problems with this idea. Firstly is there enough Lithium in the world to produce so many batteries? A recent estimate by Stanford University says this is not currently feasible.

It is certainly possible to build millions of electric vehicles with lithium-ion batteries, but it may not be possible to make billions of them.

The second problem is how to generate the estimated 30% more electrical energy needed to charge all these batteries. Generally speaking cars are needed during the day so consequently they really should be charged overnight. Only Nuclear energy can really fit the bill, because wind/solar would themselves need battery storage to overcome intermittency problems and this would defeat the object.

There is also an environmental problem with Lithium mining in the Salar. Mining companies have an agreement with the local indigenous people who ‘own’ the Salar, just to ‘extract’ water. However, if too much brine is pumped to the surface and evaporated, then the Salar themselves could become unstable, and also threaten the Flamingo reserve.

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Carbon Budgets

It started as a nice simple idea: There is a finite amount of Carbon that humanity can burn before the planet warms above 2C. This idea was based on  AR5  Earth Systems Models (ESMs) ‘showing’ that the relationship between global temperatures and cumulative emissions was linear. At last the IPCC had something easy for world leaders to understand! This was all nicely  summarised in Figure SPM-10, shown below. The Paris accord is essentially derived from this one figure.

The problem though is that it wasn’t really true. After all, how could something so complex end up being as simple as a linear relationship? The difficulties  arise once you try to work back from emissions data to CO2 concentrations. One only needs to look  at Miller et al’s earlier paper to see that there were underlying problems.

A second important feature of ESMs is the increase in airborne fraction (the fraction of emitted CO2 that remains in the atmosphere after a specified period) over time in scenarios involving substantial emissions or warming (Friedlingstein et al., 2006). An emergent feature of the CMIP5 full complexity ESMs appears to be that this increase in airborne fraction approximately cancels the logarithmic relationship between CO2 concentrations and radiative forcing, yielding an approximately linear relationship between cumulative CO2 emissions and CO2-induced warming.

However their paper then found that AR5 carbon cycle models could not actually reproduce the Mauna-Loa CO2 concentrations from the historic emissions data. In short they needed to use a lower and stable airborne fraction to reproduce historic CO2 levels. I  found exactly the same problem when applying the BERN model- see Carbon Circular Logic

Their new 1.5C carbon budget paper  then found that models based on 2015 “cumulative emissions” were 0.3C warmer than reality (1.3C as opposed to 0.93C). Naturally this was then  reported across the world’s media as climate models were running too hot, and that global warming has been exaggerated.  The Climate Science community then reacted in horror with a string of denials by their peers:

which all culminated in a climb down by the authors: Authors respond to misinterpretations of their 1.5C carbon budget paper

The basic underlying problem is that climate models are CO2 concentration based and not emissions based. ESMs are required to derive atmospheric CO2 concentrations from Carbon emissions. Millar et al. showed conclusively that they fail to do this. That is why models appear warmer than reality for a given carbon budget. The models are running too hot with carbon emissions.

The real result of the Miller et al. paper is that CMIP5 Earth System Models (ESMs) are not handling the carbon cycle correctly. For a given emission scenario ESMs predict too high an atmospheric concentration for any given year. This is because the models result in a higher airborne fraction than reality, and they assume it is slowly increasing (it isn’t).

Temperatures shown in the Miller et al. paper are all plotted against Cumulative Emissions and NOT against CO2 concentrations. It is perfectly true that models are 0.3C warmer than measurements for the same Cumulative Emission. Only if you compare models and temperature measurements against atmospheric CO2 do the ‘Climate’ models appear now to be doing fine, albeit still somewhat on the warm side.

This then explains why the authors find that the remaining Carbon budget to reach 1.5C is now much larger! We now need more emissions than predicted in AR5 to bring CO2 levels up to where model reach 1.5C levels. As a direct result of this, the remaining budget has risen from ~50 GtC to ~200 GtC, which is an increase of a factor 4!

Posted in climate science, GCM, IPCC, Science | Tagged , | 16 Comments