Arctic Warmth in Early February Sees 200,000 Square Kilometers of Sea Ice Lost, Greenland Melt as New Study Finds Massive Glacier Triples its Seaward Velocity

Leaving Jakobshavn Isbrae

(Greenland’s vast Jakobshavn Isbrae Glacier rushes toward the sea at 10 miles per year. Image source: The University of Washington)

Polar amplification. It’s kind of a dirty word in the climate science community. It’s, what would seem, a counter-intuitive displacement of much of the warming world’s heat over some of its coldest regions, during its coldest seasons.

It’s not the curse word that everyone can’t say. No, that’s more likely hydrogen sulfide gas — the veritable F-word of the oceanic climate community and only slightly worse than the M-word, methane. But it’s an uncomfortable term nonetheless because it brings up some rather uncomfortable issues.

Like why, for example, would the Arctic suck up so much of the world’s extra greenhouse gas accumulated heat during winter? And at what point, after taking on so much of this heat, do the seasons begin to change? At what point does winter, for the North, begin its slow and tumultuous, decades-to-centuries long, death? Are we now starting to see the strange attractors? Those excession offspring in the climate models. Emergent properties of Earth systems parameters wrenched into horrible forms by amplifying feedbacks?

High Arctic Heat

(Temperatures above 80 North have remained above average since January 1. Temperatures in the same zone for the past ten days have averaged 13 C above the, already warmer than average, 1954 to 2014 mean. These temperatures are roughly equal to those typically seen in May. Other regions of the Arctic, as discussed below, have also shown extraordinary warmth. Image source: DMI.)

If there are people to look back at this time, hundreds of years from now, people who still retain the knowledge and tools today afforded to us by science and a clear, unadulterated recollection of this era of history, they would point to these years and say that this period was when the first evidence of winter’s eminent demise in the north became visible.

For winter is indeed dying, the victim of our ongoing and increasing emission of heat trapping gasses. And it would take a miraculous reversal and intervention, at this point, to save her.

A rash of Arctic heat in winter

Extreme heat in the high Arctic has been an ongoing theme throughout this winter. And whether you know it or not, if you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you’ve been affected. The ‘polar vortex’ collapse episodes that have been so prominent, if misreported, in the mainstream news have been directly spurred by this excess accumulation of heat in the North. The heat — kicking out and weakening the cold core cyclones that prefer to reside directly over the world’s roof. The after-affect of which was Arctic cold fleeing south over the continents as temperatures in the High Arctic climbed to readings 36 F+ higher than average for this time of year over broad regions.

This massive polar amplification, the consequence of the hottest Arctic conditions in at least 44,000 years, induced amazing sea ice losses since 1979, tripping the polar region and related weather patterns into new, far less stable, states. Such sea ice losses have been implicated in various far-reaching effects from a drying and baking of the American West to vicious alterations in the polar Jet Stream resulting in 11 month long blocking patterns and weather conditions that tend to remain stuck over regions for months and months on end.

This extreme heat and related atmospheric and environmental changes triggered some of the hottest temperatures ever recorded in Alaska this January, setting off a flush of spring-like melt and a freakish avalanche that cut off the city of Valdez.

And all this was happening during winter time. During the time when these furthest north locales were supposed to be coldest, certainly colder than down south, which, in many instances, was not the case.

200,000 square kilometers of sea ice lost in early February

But the above isn’t all in the long list of heat-caused extremes for the Arctic during the winter of 2013-2014. Now we can add to that tally a significant sea ice melt in the midst of winter.

As heat built in the Arctic over the most recent extreme warming episode, it tended to focus on two regions along the sea ice edge now vulnerable to episodes of winter-time melt. First, in the Bering Sea, where warmth has been almost continually flooding up along the high pulse of an 11 month blocking pattern and then in Baffin Bay, where warmer than normal winds have drawn heat up along coastal areas adjacent to the western slopes of Greenland creating anomalous conditions there.

For the Bering Sea, conditions were particularly grim. Throughout the season, sea ice measures have remained about half their normal values and by the end of January had settled about 100,000 square kilometers lower than during a normal season, leaving the ice state for this, typically frozen, sea a mere shade of past winter ice states. But in early February, with the flush of new warmth coming up from the south, ice totals fell by another 100,000 square kilometers at a time when the ice should have been expanding, leaving the Bering Sea about 250,000 square kilometers below average.

Bering Sea Ice Area anomaly

(Bering Sea ice area anomaly departures from the, already low, 1979 to 2008 mean. Image source: Cryosphere Today.)

As mentioned above, Baffin Bay went through a similar, if less extreme, melt in early February falling from about 1 million square kilometers of sea ice to about 900,000 square kilometers from January 30 to February 2 before showing a slight uptick over the past day. Overall, Bering Sea ice area is its lowest on record for this time of year while Baffin Bay is currently seeing its third lowest year in the record.

Now, with melt season less than a month away, it is still possible that the Bering Sea and Baffin Bay may yet see some added freeze through March. But the weather pattern, at least over the next seven days, is not favorable for such an event and long range models seem to indicate continued flows of warmer than normal air to both of these vulnerable regions.

Greenland shows sporadic melt during Winter

In addition to the fits of sea ice melt occurring during coldest months in nearby Baffin Bay, the West Coast of Greenland is also showing patchy melt during the period. Model and sensor measures of the Greenland ice sheet provided by DMI showed patchy melt and ice mass loss not only in the most recent assessment, but also throughout the month of January.

Greenland Mass Balance February 4

(Ice Mass Balance for Greenland on February 3 on the left, 2014 compared to the, already warm, 1990-2011 base period on the right. Note the small but visible areas of pink indicating patches of ice mass loss along Greenland’s Western and Southeastern Coastal zones in the 2014 map. Also note the notably larger areas of ice mass gain in the 1991-2008 base period map which shows almost no areas of ice loss. Image source: DMI)

Certainly, these are small melt zones, but any Greenland melt during February is worth sitting up and taking notice of.

New study shows Greenland’s fastest glacier tripled its seaward velocity

As Greenland struggled not to melt during what should be the frigid month of February, a scientific report released this week in the journal The Cryosphere provided yet more evidence of its ongoing thaw and glacial destabilization. The report, also covered in LiveScience, showed the Jakobshavn Isbrae glacier had more than tripled its 1990s speed as of 2013.

According to reports, the glacier had sped up to 150 feet per day (11 miles per year) during the summer of 2012 and had maintained this forward velocity through the summer of 2013. The glacier slowed somewhat during winter, but only to about 8.6 miles per year, resulting in a combined average speed of about 10 miles per year. By contrast, the glacier’s rush to the sea during the 1990s was considerably slower, at less than 3 miles per year and, by 2000, the glacier had sped up to around 6 miles per year, about half the current rate.

Jakobshavn Isbrae collapse 2010

(Satellite Shot of Jakobshavn Isbrae collapse in 2010. Image source: Earth Observatory)

Overall, this single glacier has contributed about 1 millimeter to sea level rise over the past decade. It is worth noting that Greenland hosts hundreds of sea terminating glaciers, 99% of which are speeding up or increasing their melt rates.

“We’ve been watching it for over a decade now, so it was quite a surprise when it popped up in 2012 with these unusually high speeds,” said Ian Joughin, lead study author and a glaciologist at the University of Washington’s Polar Science Center in Seattle.

Unfortunately, glaciologists expect the Jakobshavn Isbrae glacier to speed up by a factor of 10 during the coming decades, dumping more than 35 miles worth of glacial ice into the ocean each year.


Greenland Glacier hits New Speed Record

Earth Observatory


Cryosphere Today

Arctic Heatwave Sets off Hottest Ever January Temperatures, Disasters in Alaska 

Polar Vortex to be Ripped in Half 

Colorado Bob’s Climate Feed

Hat Tip to Coop Geek

Leave a comment


  1. Great post, Rob. Your material is so informative that I hardly go to RealClimate anymore!

  2. Phil

     /  February 5, 2014

    I saw a bit of a dip on the Cryosphere Today web-site over the last few days although it now seem to have flattened out again. Currently, it is very close to the lowest extent readings of previous years for the same time of year. It will be interesting to see if the warming returns in similar patterns to what has occurred in January 2014 over the remainder of February after the current cold snap works it way through. If it does, then this might keep the extent reasonably close to the lowest previous ones entering into the melt season.

    On the US navy site, on 30 day speed and drift gif file, there seemed to be some type of storm at the end. This could also be an interesting event if it eventuates and churns and breaks things up.

    Do you know if there are any Arctic storms forecast for over the next week and are the old extreme heat patterns expected to return?

    • The CAA could see a storm by middle of next week, according to the Jet Stream models. We might actually end up with a polar vortex near the Arctic Ocean, at that point.

  3. 150 feet a day might add up to 11 miles a year, but the glacier is only moving that fast at the peak of the melt season. The total it moves in a year is much much less.

    “The researchers believe Jakobshavn is in an unstable state, meaning it will continue to retreat further inland in the future. By the end of this century, its calving front could retreat as far back as the head of the fjord through which the glacier flows, about 50km upstream from where it is today.”

    • The summer speed is 11 mpy, the winter speed is 8.6. So the average is 10. Fact checked and fixed.

      • Wow. Not as big a difference as I thought. But I guess there’s a difference between grounding line retreat and flow rate. Which I seem to have confused in my earlier post.

        • Grounding line retreat is a function of flow rate, but does not directly correlate.

          Thanks for the catch. Big help on this one 🙂

  4. Tom

     /  February 5, 2014

    todaysguestis: yes, but it never comes back! Once their gone, that’s it!

  5. Tom

     /  February 5, 2014

    “they’re” – gotta get some coffee

  6. Gerald Spezio

     /  February 5, 2014

    Watching our upcoming deaths unfold; I despair at the rampant criminal peeyar & criminal propaganda about climate change as the probability of near term extinction comes closer.

    Self-deception makes monkeys out of all of us & science is (was) our best antidote.

    Conscious & willful deception by our fellows is the worst of the “human condition.”

    The lying bastards are winning hands down.

  7. Gerald Spezio

     /  February 5, 2014

    Newest cartooning to stunting & distort the brains of billions of innocent pilgrims.
    Be terrified.
    The Koch Kronies;–the-latest-koch-backed-project-is-a-viral-cartoon-even-the-left-can-love-224333470.html

    • Hmm. So Koch, the chief kronies, want to paint anyone else who’s a competing kronie with the kronie tar? I bet they never bash Citizen’s United… Ah well..

  8. coopgeek

     /  February 5, 2014

    Thanks for another dose of doom Robert. At risk of sounding woowoo, I want to grasp at a couple of hopeful straws here:

    On the most basic level, the relatively rapid heating in the Arctic, while alarming and dangerous, is moving heat to where it will radiate most quickly. I guess the hyper-simplified analog is that a coffee cools more quickly when it is stirred. I totally don’t have a grasp on what this really means, but I’m wrestling with the idea that this might be a negative feedback loop. It doesn’t appear to be enough at current levels but perhaps this is ultimately a positive direction as the system seeks to maintain equilibrium.

    The second straw is of a different sort entirely. You say that Winter will die without “miraculous reversal and intervention.” I am guessing that this is primarily a figure of speech. However, there seems to be some sort of correlation between intensifying prayers for rain and a significant shift in California’s weather this week.

    So my question is this (at risk sounding almost as loony as the Denialists): What is the role of prayer/visualization/intention in our crisis? The past weekend saw major interfaith rituals organized by Muslims, Mormons and Native Americans (all peoples with a deep connection to dry lands as well as histories of communal organizing to share scarce resources of such lands). Shortly thereafter it rained, quite a bit. Not only that, but the broader pattern seems to have shifted: For the last couple of months (or year) models predicted rain that failed to materialize; now we are seeing rain that wasn’t predicted in the models even a couple of days out with increasing frequency and intensity.

    Now, I’m not suggesting that the CO2 will disappear if we all just pray hard enough. But what if there is an opportunity to marshal some sort of intangible help to encourage negative feedbacks and discourage positive feedbacks? I think it’s pretty well established that chaotic systems can change greatly based on small influences, so it’s worth watching to see if the prayer-rain correlation continues and strengthens. I’m also not suggesting that anyone convert; just hoping that those who already believe in such things might join forces in a coordinated and intelligent way based on scientifically-identified points of feedback.

    Let’s say we are at or past the tipping point where our economic and political systems can survive the dramatic downshift needed to avoid destruction of the ecosystem’s ability to support advanced civilization. Science and Economics aren’t gonna get us out of this mess that they created and keep worsening (with help from corrupted versions of many religions). We must keep working in those realms but why not also marshal the resources of Religion? Even if coordinated prayer/visualization doesn’t actually solve or even mitigate the problem, it could (repeat, could) create an atmosphere of shared struggle that will lay the groundwork for adjusting to this disaster as well as possible.

    More here:

    • Sorry to say that this is misinformation.

      The atmosphere in the Arctic, according to recent research, acts like a layer cake that traps heat close to the surface (within the first 1 to 2 miles).

      So there is no mechanistic radiation into space, as has been, falsely, asserted in a number of places recently.

      Good report on this research here:

      Also, it makes no sense that an accumulation of heat trapping gasses would allow the excess heat to be re-radiated if we are already showing a positive energy balance of about + .6 to +.9 Watts per meter squared.

      That’s the rate at which the globe is accumulating excess heat. And it will continued until energy balance is restored.

      So no, no magical release of heat from the Arctic to the rescue. To the contrary, the Arctic, due to various physical properties, like the one mentioned above, is a heat amplifier, not a radiator.

      • coopgeek

         /  February 5, 2014

        Well shoot. I had a feeling that arctic release valve notion was a dead end. I was trying to evade the correlated reality that even if it did work that way we’d then have a cooler area with more direct sun. It’s almost like the earth is thermally more complex than a cup of coffee!

        But isn’t it possible that the “layer cake” thermal inversion could break down? I grew up in Sacramento so I’m intimately familiar with the general process, and even in a valley the air can still eventually get scooped out by a storm. In the arctic the correlation between the mountains ringing the valley would be the polar vortex (which is destabilized), right? And your link suggests that it is a lack of heat energy that allows the persistent layering:

        “The Arctic atmosphere looks like a layer cake compared with the tropics. In those regions, thunderstorms carry heat from the surface miles upward, where it then radiates out into space. But in the Arctic, air and heat at the surface rarely mix with air located high in the atmosphere, Pithan said.”

        So it seems like that layering might break down with enough abuse – the polar vortex collapse you’ve been warning about. I don’t reckon that this transition would go smoothly for advanced human civilization, but am I at least looking in the right direction that more stirring of the atmosphere is ultimately a negative feedback?

      • In any event there is a very large annual release of heat from the Arctic. For now at least it is releasing all the extra heat captured during the melt season – and a decent portion of that goes back into space during the long dark winter. That’s good news insofar as it means no year to year heat accumulation (which would imply we were moving forwards total loss of ice, not just a seasonally ice free regime).

        However, even with all the extra heat captured locally from albedo release being got rid of again, that doesn’t really help – as what the heat does in the process also matters. In this case more of it is going into the atmosphere and helping disturb the jet stream.

        Likewise, on the extra heat note – anyone with misplaced optimism for even the nearer future would do well to note just how small the changes in the Arctic so far really are compared to what we can expect to come as we experience seasonal ice loss (within the next few years if the PIOMAS extrapolation holds and not impossible this year). I’ve made noise about this point off and on for a while now, but recently rehashed it:

        Please forgive my laziness:,30.msg19942.html#msg19942

        • Oh the PIOMAS curve is a deadly one. Puts us at zero ice around 2015 to 2017. I have reason to suspect the curve might not exactly fit. But think it will be closer than not.

          And, oh yes, there is risk of near zero ice this year.

    • mikkel

       /  February 5, 2014

      I really like John Michael Greer’s teaching about magic. He says that magic is real but that we misunderstand it because we live in a time of materialism.

      We think that magic means flying or shooting energy or whatnot, but instead it is actually about psychology and intentionality. Specifically, he believes that people who practice magic can develop fortitude and understanding that then allows them to “project” it outwards and influence people psychologically/spiritually. He has several posts about how various times in history (specifically the Middle Ages) were not materialistic and are difficult for us to grasp or talk about, so we say nothing happened and they discovered nothing. This is not true, it is just that their discoveries and history are framed differently.

      I can’t really do his writing justice but you’ll find his thoughts

      • mikkel: magic can be useful in that it gives people a sense of agency and that rituals are socially bonding. And it’s certainly legitimate to claim we do not understand everything. But using magic as an excuse for inaction is a terrible corruption of this, and unfortunately that’s where most people are at.

      • mikkel

         /  February 6, 2014

        Haha yes Miep. Magic of God, magic of the invisible hand of the Market, magic of the Inevitable March of Progress, magic of the Earth.

        They are all used as excuses for escapism as Robert says below.

        I’d say JMG’s focus is on magic of the Self and thus how people are moved to action or kept captive. He calls marketing a massive form of magic in that it creates people’s reality for them to act towards regardless of its relevance to physical or mental truths.

  9. Gerald Spezio

     /  February 5, 2014

    coopgeek; “… there seems to be some sort of correlation between intensifying prayers for rain and a significant shift in California’s weather this week.”

    There sure is a definite correlation – not just ‘some sort of correlation,” just as surely as the change in the CA weather is correlated with the bowel movements of 61.245 million people in Bangladesh.

    • They might get one or two decent storms before spring sets in. Not enough to take the edge off of what appears to be a 500 year drought settling over the region.

      A switch to El Nino appears to be their best hope. Problem being, when it rains there, it’s going to rain like crazy.

      • Burgundy

         /  February 5, 2014

        Robert, I read a couple of weeks ago somewhere that an El Nino was possibly in the early stages of forming (ie. cooling in the Western Pacific, If that’s correct).

    • coopgeek

       /  February 5, 2014

      Gerald: I softened my claim of correlation because human religious acts are admittedly outside of the usual factors that go into meteorology. However, I think the novelty, proximity and symbolic potency of the rituals make this correlation more interesting than that of remote digestive events – which were presumably going on at similar rates during the dry spell as well as previous floods. One generation’s magic is another’s science (and vice versa, acknowledging the retreat from science woefully prevalent in the US).

      • I’m seeing one or two decent storms in the model runs through March. From Nov-March the west would usually get 20-30 such events. Unfortunately, the dry weather would tend to reassert come spring to summer depending on the pattern.

        The blocking pattern has shallowed a bit, backing up a little. We’ll have to see if this trend reinforces and the pattern shifts west over the Pacific.

        • coopgeek

           /  February 5, 2014

          That’s probably true but it seems like all bets are off – maybe CA is moving toward a year-round rain regime (although probably still inadequate overall with most rain in the winter/spring). Last summer in the Bay Area we had two of the year’s most substantial rainfalls, one of which was followed by some moist heat that reminded me of the East Coast. Tropical storms have hit SoCal in our history and might do so again.

        • The big thunderstorms that will inevitably rise in the eastern Pacific during spring and summer will bring their usual drying influence further north. And the summer will bring with it its typical dryness to this region. No. All bets are not off. Just the safe ones.

    • Sadly this sort of nonsense is partly what prevents a grand awakening to the implications of climate change science. It isn’t just the religious elements that undermine the future for my and later generations – but also those morons who gladly grab at anything they can, however implausible, in order to try to twist reality into something they can understand. Which is fine – until they start to contaminate other people with their fantasies.

      Exhibit A – Religious groups and end times beliefs
      Exhibit B – Conspiracy theorists who think the government(s?) are deliberately worsening the climate
      Exhibit C – Classical deniers

      Unfortunately, all such groups of people dig themselves ever deeper into delusion and fantasy as things worsen. There is no break through in scientific terms. People just don’t think rationally enough on average.

      • And actually, even people who “get” the problem to some extent but entirely fail to understand the depth and breadth of it, and who dogmatically insist on the validity of wholly inadequate solutions and the invalidity of “worse than predicted” outcomes. Alas, even good intentions allied with a reasonable level of knowledge (by general public standards) aren’t enough necessarily…

        • I see many people who claim to be religious and spiritual only using their religion and spirituality as a means of escapism. For my part, I do not believe this is healthy. Spirituality, in its best form, prepares the mind and heart for greater understanding, not for flight from truth — be it objective or otherwise.

      • Magical thinking is a problem. Spiritual thinking is personally healthy. In any case, if so-called spirituality interferes with one’s ability to understand physical truth, then it’s not spirituality at all but a form of voluntary mental insanity.

        Ironically, I tend to agree with Dawkins in this respect.

  10. Burgundy

     /  February 5, 2014

    Britain is being pummelled by Atlantic storms again. Interestingly it is the infrastructure that is taking the brunt of the damage. I think this is an important manifestation of climate change that is generally being overlooked or perhaps underestimated. The effects on electrical grids, transport systems, essential services and of course homes. Things like sewage systems seem to be badly affected, which makes living in those areas near impossible even though there is little visible damage otherwise. Even potholes in roads are becoming a severe problem, slowing traffic, damaging cars, causing economic disruptions and becoming increasingly costly to repair.

    It’s not just the big events, its also all those little hardily noticeable things chewing away at the infrastructure in so many different ways.

    • 42 Billion dollars in damages to infrastructure last year. Largest tally ever.

      • Burgundy

         /  February 5, 2014

        Snow / ice storm damage to the forests in Slovenia, amazing (hat tip ClimateCrocks).

        Seemingly up to 50% of the national forests have been damaged. I also read somewhere that Iran has been badly hit with snow too.

  11. james cole

     /  February 5, 2014

    I have spent many years reading climate blogs, even some of the very early ones years ago. This one is fast becoming the “go to” place for heavy duty climate science. So good job with getting this information out.
    As climate changes, wildlife has to adapt, move or die. Northern Minnesota is a home to Moose, a famous cold weather animal. But in the last decade they have come under climate pressure and are moving north into Canada, or just dieing here in summer heat waves. A moose just can’t handle temperature much into the 80 degree F range. This level of heat was always a rare one off event, lasting a day or two and then being replaced by cooler air. But now 90 degrees + in the boreal forests is not rare, and can last days. I have been out into the wilderness by canoe in May, where we were forced to camp and stop all travel because of unbearable heat. I watched Moose in distress make for the lakes to cool down, but even that can only last awhile. Moose are dying, our local people know this, and us older ones know it is climate change that is killing them.

  12. Gerald Spezio

     /  February 5, 2014

    Burgundy, your video of damage to Slovenian forests is terrifying evidence of James Hansen’s worst fears coming too soon.
    Fifty % of the national forests damaged is catastrophe.

    • This is Hansen light… What we are seeing now is precursor.

      • Burgundy

         /  February 5, 2014

        Nasty looking storm heading towards the UK this weekend according to the weather model, 950mb or lower. Its interesting how storms also sweep in over Southern Europe along the Med, battering Italy and then get channelled Northwards over poor Slovenia and into Central and Eastern Europe.

        If this happened in the Summer, I assume these storms would become tropical or hurricane like with the additional heat. Is it possible this can happen?

        • Fall. That’s when this crazy cycle might intersect with a Hurricane or two or three. With the warming tropics, at some point we are likely to see hurricane season extend longer into fall and early winter. As the tropics get a heat kick (next to amplify) and Greenland gets a melt kick, the two systems more often become entrained. At that point, things really get bad.

          So, yeah, we see precursor stuff now. It’s bad. But it will almost certainly get worse.

  13. Gerald Spezio

     /  February 5, 2014

    mikkel, all the hard data – the evidence – on Robert’s site resulted from the inquiries of scientific materialists looking for physical causation & physical mechanism.

    Scientific materialism is NOT the materialism of shopping for stuff.

    Greer is a muddleheaded mystic.

    Plenty of witches convicted & combusted in the Middle Ages.

    Magic is “human” legerdemain.

    These are desperate times, & calls for magic are not new.

    • mikkel

       /  February 6, 2014

      Materialism is fundamentally based in the concept of cause and effect; observer and observed. It separates and believes in objective truth.

      It is a fine and useful tool, but all tools have limits.

      The effects of meditation are solidly in the magical realm. Ability to ignore pain and temperature, relieve depression, recover more quickly from illness and injury? These are magical things that were derided by science.

      The placebo effect is magic as well and took forever to be accepted, but it did so only out of necessity. I’ve always thought it weird that the placebo effect is seen as an enemy to conquer rather than a power to be nourished.

      These things are now solidly accepted by many mainstream scientists and have had physical markers identified: whether it is changes in EEGs, cortisol, cardiorespiratory coupling and a host of other biological markers. The materialism of science has incorporated it into its own language and now claims that the markers “cause” the change, but do they really, or are they merely the marker of what exists?

      You can’t cause meditation, it is a state of being.

      Similarly, a very small number of experiences with hallucinogens under the proper conditions can cause permanent changes to psychology and thus behavior. (; changes that need to occur on a wide scale or will literally die.

      Is this not magic as well?

      This is what JMG speaks of when he speaks of magic.

  14. Gerald Spezio

     /  February 5, 2014

    Wovoka & the Ghost Dance – religious ritual, medicine men, spirits, magic, angels, & flap doodlers.

    • We need to see reality clearly. But fragile human beings need to keep heart and spirit. A tough challenge for both in the face of hard truths.

  15. coopgeek

     /  February 5, 2014

    I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised that my little prayer red herring was a big distraction, but I do somewhat regret it. I think it’s important to preserve the essentially scientific evidence-based nature of this discussion, since there is so much pseudoscience out there.

    So even though a group of people engaged in physical ritual is a physical event and potentially in the realm of physical causation (like the proverbial butterfly’s wings flapping), we can’t really see how it might impact the weather. So until there is more clear evidence from some sort of experiment, or even a hyphothesis about causation, I guess it’s better to leave the woowoo to other blogs even if my intention was to extend rather than undermine the scientific nature of the conversation.

    I’m sorry for the disruption; please join me at the link above if you’d like to go further down this rabbit hole.

    • mikkel

       /  February 6, 2014

      Well my opinion, for whatever it’s worth, is that many of the greatest scientists in history were either directly spiritual or came from a family that produced both great scientists and literature/spiritualists (such as the Huxleys).

      I believe great science and discovery comes from living in the deep infinity of the Unknown that spirituality tries to grasp, while translating what can be translated into core material truths that are demonstrable through numbers and action.

      Much of ecology and climatology comes directly from earth worship and belief in Gaia, even if only in spirit. Most of physics is based on the literal attempt to determine God’s Will and Plan for the Universe.

      We sit here and watch the world die, fretting that people aren’t doing anything, because they are blind. In my experience, both personal and reading of historical figures, respect for Truth is a universal quality and engagement on the spiritual level actually opens people up to understanding scientific truth.

      The culture of both science and many religions are far weaker for not recognizing this fact.

      So I despair that it’s considered improper to discuss the two realms together, and despair that rational sorts only see witches in talk of magic while spiritualists only see eugenics in science. Bad things come from power struggles, righteousness, greed, fear and sloth. Good things come from compassion, action, inquiry and humility.

      We need the latter no matter what tools are used to elicit them; and that’s not even counting the fact that the majority of the world populace responds to spiritual tools stronger than rationalist ones!

      • Spirituality, though unquantifiable, does produce a degree of drive to discover unknown truths. There’s an intangible quality there that leads one on. And there’s a kind of beautiful paradox that emerges in individuals who stand with one foot firmly planted in this world and the other intensely questing for the ephemeral. In general, such persons draw all sorts of slings and arrows from those both more spiritually and more materially inclined.

  16. Gerald Spezio

     /  February 5, 2014

    Jeez coopgeek, whadda switch.
    I am your humble servant, but down the rabbit hole is not for me.
    There is more than enough grief on the ground.
    Since we are all in hospice, whether we know it or not; I felt guilty when I criticized your woo.
    I is feeling more better now.

  17. A Finnish friend of mine told me that there was no snow in Finland for Christmas last year for the first time ever. She was disappointed.

  18. Gerald Spezio

     /  February 6, 2014

    Like patriotism, spirituality is routinely a refuge for self-justifying scoundrels, lawyers milking their own clients, politicos, propagandists, robed priests of all persuasions, obscurantists, hucksters, & charlatans.

  19. David Otness

     /  February 6, 2014

    Again, thank you for your efforts.

  20. Jean Harris

     /  February 6, 2014

    I’m a retired life scientist. From the moment I first heard it I considered Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis complete and utter rubbish. Palaeontologist Peter Ward has the correct take on this kind of wishful thinking:

    While we’re on this topic, you may want to learn life is a manifestation of the second law of thermodynamics if you aren’t aware of this already:

    • Thanks Jean. I’m very fond of Ward’s work and thinking, especially for its unadulterated realism.

      Truth, both in paleoclimate research and in thermodynamics, can be very unforgiving.

      Warmest regards to you.

    • All that said, I’m still uncertain if it’s a simple choice between Medea or Gaia. It’s probable that both forms exist and either succeed or fail based on one or the other paradigm. Successful life supports itself and supports other life, unsuccessful life kills itself and other life. That said, we’re probably about to confront the Medea side of the paradigm pretty soon. So there’s a bit that’s compelling about it, especially of the notion that certain forms of life and certain Earth/life states are incompatible.

      As a life scientist, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. In any case, I believe Ward was a top-rate thinker and am not comfortable with directly criticizing his work. Nor, do I feel, that I’ve developed enough information to completely form a challenge or a counter-theory in this respect.

      So please view my thoughts in this context.

      • mikkel

         /  February 6, 2014

        Robert, I’d go so far as to say the interlocking nature of creation and destruction — and the cycles that are created from this linkage — is the foundation of spirituality and myth making.

        They don’t just both exist, but are the distinguishing characteristic of life itself.

        This is why I believe it is so important to incorporate this angle into any movement to combat global warming.

    • mikkel

       /  February 6, 2014

      Much of systems development was built on the idea that ecosystems were self modulating and predator/prey populations held in equilibrium. A formalized notion of Mother Earth and such. Many tools and computer algorithms were developed to analyze all the data and flows to prove this.

      They never could of course and instead the data revealed predator/prey populations crashed and boomed. Reality was not held in equilibrium but was in constant disequilibrium.

      These insights have sense been applied to unlock truths in many fields, although the impact has yet to penetrate society on a wide scale and thus we are victims of economic crashes, poor understanding of climate change risks, etc.

      Life begets life in that it provides the necessary conditions to flourish. But it also creates its own destruction when a species evolves that has too much of a competitive advantage…or often, it changes the environment to its own benefit and therefore redefines the rules.

      Yet on the other end of these bottleneck events creates an explosion of new forms of life (new survival mechanisms/ways of thinking) and most of the time at least some more complex forms evolve.

      Life is both creator and destroyer.

      You can point to ecological evidence or computer models or that life is the second law of thermodynamics (modified by the Maximum power principle or any of that other jazz.

      At the end you still can’t escape the stories of Shiva and other gods who bring forth destruction in the service of creation. You can’t reject the idea that the universe is evolving en masse towards some form of self recognition and high consciousness a la Brahma waking from its sleep.

      I’ve known a lot of fine minds who insist this is so, who am I to say it’s not?

      • This fine discussion makes me want to re-read Gaia and Medea to see what might be shaken out. Shiva as you mention, perhaps?

        Did they actually formulate models to prove the theory rather than test it? That sounds a bit backward.

      • As for incorporation of such a notion, it would be elegant and desirable. Perhaps a more directly honest, inclusive and diverse outgrowth of the dialectic? One that’s not so easily manipulated?

      • mikkel

         /  February 6, 2014

        Robert, I’ll try to be brief, but what you say about it being backward is a major and unresolved issue in the philosophy and practice of science itself.

        On one hand you have reductionist science which is the formalized scientific method we’re all taught, in which you are supposed to isolate variables until you’re only testing one at a time, have a null hypothesis which is compared to some p-value and so forth. Feynman has a great defense of this

        On the other hand, if you are a studying a complex system then it is impossible to isolate variables because doing so changes the system. In this case, it is basically impossible to objectively test the system and instead you must construct an a priori model that works, then go back and see if the data can fit within the model.

        Formally, this requires a new type of reasoning and inference: Bayesian instead of frequentist (

        The powers and limitations of Bayesian inference is a rapidly researched area and in my experience is almost wholly unknown by scientists. It’s primarily being driven by AI and statistical learning algorithms.

        So yes, in the system ecology experiments they knew they had to capture all the biomass/nutrient transfer through the system and thus set up flow models that they then balanced, which then told them what to look for. These were things like number of predators/prey, amount of rain, grass growth and all sorts of stuff.

        Then tons of graduate students and volunteers spent years observing and collecting all the information to put into the model, but they could never make it balance the same way as the theory. They then hypothesized new areas they weren’t measuring and thus faster/slower loops of control and then measured those new things. Eventually the model got to be 10x more complicated than it started out and still didn’t balance.

        At that point they realized if they just looked at it in disequilibrium with mutual inhibition, then the model collapsed onto only needing a few variables and that new model fit the data well.

        One of my criticisms with climatology is they understand and talk about disequilibrium issues such as tipping points, forcing, etc. but then focus on equilibrium oriented ways of talking about outcomes and use frequentist methods for statistical analysis. I believe that we need to create hypotheses that have some outcome a priori, then use Bayesian updating to see which models still hold based on the observations as they come in. This has been proven mathematically to be the way to do forward looking rather than historical looking logic.

      • mikkel

         /  February 6, 2014

        Well Robert, Buddhism is explicitly and truthfully built on this very dialectic at its core, and is what they mean by non-attachment.

        “The third kind of dukkha is the most important; it is to the fact that all things are conditioned and therefore cannot remain the same for ever. Everything which comes into existence remains so long as there are conditions for it to do so and then ceases. Birth, decay and death cause a great deal of dukkha when we cling to things or people, and the concept of a permanent self is the prime source of mental pain…

        Ignorance means not knowing the truth that everything is impermanent, liable to suffering and void of any intrinsic self. It is the delusion which makes us believe that we can find happiness in sense gratification and ignore the fact that it may end or change at any time. Even the most delightful sensations will become painful or tedious if they continue for very long. It is impossible to visualise any pleasure which would be bearable for ever.

        People do not always realise that it is attachment itself which makes then unhappy. They often think that if they can get what they want now they will be happy afterwards, but once they have got that thing conditions have changed and they nay be afraid of losing it, or it may bring other problems. ”

        So it’s not about not caring about outcomes or not doing anything, but merely recognizing that the act of living will itself change conditions that create destruction or dissatisfaction.

        Yet even this plain teaching has been twisted into a message of passivity, as you have pointed out. I am not sure that any myth or philosophy can withstand the primacy of ignorance on this topic.

        That said, the novel I am working on is about this learning to live with this very thing. It is dystopian in the fact that society has collapsed due to climate change and destruction of globalization, but ultimately it demonstrates that basic needs and small comforts can still be met with a bit of engineering and scientific insight. The major social conflict is how to raise the generations that were born after collapse and how the people that lived before the collapse can redefine themselves away from specialized egos with access to massive information/manufacturing infrastructure.

        Would children growing up in small groups and uncertain climate be able to learn how to use tools built on an assumption of careful study and specialization? Is it even desirable? Or would they need to live in the present now and develop completely intuitive ways of engagement as they created their own way forward? Perhaps there is room for magic in this world?

        It has always fascinated me that ancient civilizations built structures that still stand even though they had no formal concept of physics. They had complex agriculture without understanding chemistry or weather models or anything of the sort. How was this information encoded? Largely through myth and superstition. There were some horrific and hilarious outcomes from these superstitions, yet many of the civilizations lasted 5-10x longer than we have post enlightenment. Surely it’s not completely disconnected from reality.

        Just as superstition and religious insanity led to the black death and inquisition that catapulted the Renaissance, perhaps our current insanity of materialism and obsession with control will lead to a collapse that brings on a myth centric world once more. The variety of culture would explode, modified of course by the tragedy and misery becoming ever near.

        So the novel is grounded in the idea that the destruction of society provides opportunity for the rebirth of nature-centric man, while acknowledging the challenges of maintaining fundamental truths we’ve discovered about reality in the prior 10k+ years of civilization and ultimately maintaining justice.

      • mikkel

         /  February 6, 2014

        As an addendum to the comment caught in moderation above…

        “In a frequentist approach to inference, unknown parameters are often, but not always, treated as having fixed but unknown values that are not capable of being treated as random variates in any sense, and hence there is no way that probabilities can be associated with them. In contrast, a Bayesian approach to inference does allow probabilities to be associated with unknown parameters, where these probabilities can sometimes have a frequency probability interpretation as well as a Bayesian one. The Bayesian approach allows these probabilities to have an interpretation as representing the scientist’s belief that given values of the parameter are true”

        This means that instead of arguing correlation or causation, the Bayesian approach formalizes “I believe the aggregate of what we don’t know will resolve in this way” and then testing the extent the data fits the belief given what is quantified. Creating the distributions is tricky, but hypothetically it means that if someone said “but we don’t know everything” then you can just say “here is my a priori distribution, now show me yours and we’ll track which one wins out.”

      • And in what contexts have the Bayesian-based models adequately defined reality? And do we know that some climate models don’t already use these concepts? Or is this just a case of one field not shaking hands with another?

        The NCAR models, for example, seem more accurate based on the only real-world test we have — paleoclimate.

      • mikkel

         /  February 7, 2014

        Bayesian models are not detached from data in any way, they simply force definition of what we don’t know as well.

        A priori simply means the status of what we believe is true, but obviously beliefs can (should) be based largely on data.

        So in a Bayesian model, one would use paleoclimate data as we all basic physics models to create probability distributions as the a prioris, weighting each factor on the amount of certainty we have. We’re very certain about data in the last 150 years and less certain about 50 million years ago, so this would be incorporated. We have a good understanding of radiative physics but poor understanding of feedback processes. We know that catastrophic things happened in the past, but we also know that continent configuration is immensely important in all dynamics.

        Etc etc.

        So the primary base of the model is still in collecting data, still in studying the past and still in creating dynamics models. It is just that the evaluation of what we know going forward changes.

        So for instance, on the anomaly graphs it looks like an exponential fit works pretty well for PIOMAS and whatnot. The fit has an uncertainty and you can create whatever fit you want and see whether the data seems to stay within the bands or go outside the error bars. This then supports or rejects the hypothesis at some level.

        But of course, fits aren’t reality and there are many factors that we don’t yet know which could greatly impact the outcome. In a standard way of looking at things, if you wanted to argue otherwise then you’d need to build your own model with its own dynamics and then try to show the fit was better.

        In a Bayesian model, you could merely create variables representing the aggregate behavior of the unknown parts, and then incorporate those into the model with a given weighting. In real time we could then track whether that grouping of behaviors (a combination of dynamics, observations and projected beliefs) seemed to make sense or not as more data was added.

        The reason why this approach is so important is that the frequentist outlook only lets you see whether new data is likely to be a part of the historical population or not. When we start getting a bunch of 100+ year events in a row it’s obvious the distribution is changing, but frequentist tools do not give the ability to incorporate this information for a very long time (getting enough new samples to demonstrate the distribution is different). By contrast, in a Bayesian model, you could create an IPCC outcome case, a catastrophic case and an unchanged case, etc. which then is updated stepwise with every recorded event. These models evolve dynamically and that’s why they are the basis of learning algorithms for computer intelligence.

        I’m sorry if I’m not adequately describing the paradigm shift this entails, but in part that’s because outside of computer vision, IBM’s Watson, credit reporting and the like, it’s rather in its infancy; so it’s difficult to pull up concrete examples in basic science.

        • So we use these things to catch credit card fraud, but they’re not yet in use for climate research?

          To my knowledge those programs began use for those purposes back in the mid 90s. I would have thought there would be cross pollen action by now.

      • mikkel

         /  February 7, 2014

        Maybe, I have been out of the loop on climate stuff for a while. I am only making assumptions because of how the data is presented on all the major sites.

        One reason I’m fairly confident in my assertion is that the Bayesian stuff probably isn’t super useful for the mainstream long term climate models. Instead, it would be useful for exploring chances of extreme tail scenarios. You speak of Hansen on this site like he is the mainstream, which in some ways of course he is, but his view is extreme compared to IPCC. I think it happens to be right and you are doing a service by treating it as the most probable scenario on our current emissions path.

        A few months ago I found myself on a blog that seemed to have quite a few climate professionals and prodded them about not focusing on feedback effects. After some back and forth, one told me that he admitted the models they used were inadequate but they didn’t have the data to incorporate the feedback dynamics into the model and so they “couldn’t.” The qualitative approach of Hansen that you are providing real time confirmation of is therefore much more useful…although this approach could be formalized with the Bayesian stuff.

        In any case, it needs to be somehow. It’s been how many years since permafrost melt has been identified as a potentially huge contributor and yet it’s still not included in the models! They are starting to play around with “carbon release” from the Arctic but that is still not adequate because methane is so much stronger. My guess is they are having a hard time balancing the dynamics whenever they incorporate methane, so can’t get a model that makes sense. Unfortunately, that’s because the reality won’t make sense.

        • Well, the problem is that these models are being treated like future reality without looking at the feedbacks, if what you say is true.

          I don’t think that’s the case with all models, just some. Based on the data I’ve seen it appears models like NCAR do take at least some feedbacks into account. In general, I rely more on the paleoclimate data and less on the models if I’m looking at feedbacks. If I’m looking at overall trends but not necessarily time series, the models are helpful, as are the regional models.

          I could see where methane might through the traditional models through a loop. But it’s kind of a big deal — both the permafrost methane and the subsea methane for various reasons.

      • mikkel

         /  February 7, 2014

        Right, which is why I read the site!

        Not sure about NCAR, but IPCC is very clear about what the models are built on.

        Key points that jump out at me:

        “Climate sensitivity is a metric used to characterise the response of the global climate system to a given forcing. It is broadly defined as the equilibrium global mean surface temperature change following a doubling of atmospheric CO2 concentration….To assess the reliability of model estimates of climate sensitivity, the ability of climate models to reproduce different climate changes induced by specific forcings may be evaluated. These include the Last Glacial Maximum and the evolution of climate over the last millennium and the 20th century” [i.e. the “stable” period with low CO2 amounts]

        “In addition, climate sensitivity only considers the surface mean temperature and gives no indication of the occurrence of abrupt changes or extreme events. ”

        “The traditional approach in assessing model sensitivity has been to consider water vapour, lapse rate, surface albedo and cloud feedbacks separately. ” [Notice no mention of methane, land changes, ocean releases, etc.]

        That said, the next section talks about the potential for abrupt climate change and lists mechanisms. It states: “The most common way to identify thresholds and abrupt changes is by linearly de-trending the input time series and looking for large deviations from the trend line. More statistically rigorous methods are usually based on Bayesian statistics.”

        So perhaps the isolated abrupt change models are doing what I am suggesting. However, the link between these specific abrupt models and the overall mean response models is not really present. Specifically it states that outside of the specific models, “Unfortunately, the probability of such an event is difficult to estimate as it requires a very long experiment and is certainly dependent on the mean state simulated by the model. Furthermore, comparison with observations is nearly impossible since it would require a very long period with constant forcing which does not exist in nature. Nevertheless, if an event such as the one of those mentioned above were to occur in the future, it would make the detection and attribution of climate changes very difficult.”

      • mikkel

         /  February 7, 2014

        I guess they are using some Bayesian techniques. Specifically, this is talking about creating regional models from the global model and therefore getting around boundary limitations that dominated the regional models when I was working with modellers.

        It also looks like they have switched to those techniques for doing parameter estimation.

        Overall I guess I should have just read the report, since it looks like the cutting edge models have had major changes in the last 10 years.

        In justifying using simpler models, they talk about how more complex ones are still intractable computationally. It is possible that between a combination of the updating parameter estimation based on new information, as well as getting the horsepower to link in more feedbacks, the models could be very close to giving us a good idea about probability and timing of abrupt climate change.

  21. Gerald Spezio

     /  February 6, 2014

    The second law of thermo is “jazz?”

    But; “You can’t reject the idea that the universe is evolving en masse towards some form of self recognition and high consciousness a la Brahma waking from its sleep.”

    Does you know jazz from jizz?

    Can you tell the difference between Louie Armstrong & Lawrence Welk?

  22. Gerald Spezio

     /  February 6, 2014

    Jean Harris; Grazi, grazi, Signorina.

    I was chagrined big time to learn that Schneider & Kay don’t even mention Georgescu-Rogen’s Rosetta Stone from 1971, THE ENTROPY LAW & THE ECONOMIC PROCESS.

  23. Michael Hornick

     /  February 6, 2014

    Hi Robert, I and some friends I know really appreciate your blogs. Is there any chance we could have a chat with you over the phone or Skype? If so, could you email me?

    • What about, Michael?

      • Michael Hornick

         /  February 6, 2014

        Well, I am planning a change in life based on what is happening around us. I have three children – boys aged from 17 to 24. I am thinking that I want to start to learn to “live off the land”, and teach my kids to be able to potentially survive the craziness that may be coming over the next years. I am finding that as I think this way, some of my friends who – for some reason – seem to respect my way of thinking are also wanting to join in to create a sort of small community. I have pondered where to move – basically to a coast near high mountains – and was curious to ask you your thoughts on this and other optional approach’s to surviving, and your thoughts on the potential locations that I think might be good. Also – do you think this is a crazy idea? I am thinking that it may be possible in the future for my kids to survive if they can go “up” in elevation, and can learn to survive in elevated but cooler environments. I live in Canada. I would love to move to the southern hemisphere, but that is probably not possible for me. I was also curious on your thoughts of timing over the next couple of decades. To me, I’ve always looked at our society as a house of cards, and it seems as though everything is becoming more logarithmic in terms of climate change effects – to me, it seems society may crumble faster than most think possible. Curious on your thoughts.

        • The reason I focus on a civilization-wide, rather than individual, response is this:

          With rapid reduction in greenhouse gas emissions it may, if the Earth System isn’t too sensitive, be possible to preserve some ‘safe’ regions, develop a number of effective adaptation practices, and create ‘arks’ for living creatures that can then be re-introduced when, over the long term, environments re-stabilize. Such an integrated, response focused community could, possibly, get through the tough times ahead in the event of a current rapid and coordinated mitigation.

          Under BAU, where we ignore the fading possibility that is now presented, the situation is likely to be far more extreme and the civilizations fractured and competitive — focused on short term survival behaviors that are entirely too chaotic and destructive.

          Now the reasons why I have hesitated in giving advice as to where to go and what to do is that option 2 isn’t really very survivable. A handful of people may make it through such an event, perhaps. But will their world be one worth living in?

          Systemic change and driving that change is the best hope for all of us. Changes in economies, changes in beliefs, and changes in how we see one another. And this requires cooperation and sacrifice that we aren’t currently used to.

          Collapse probably won’t happen tomorrow. Probably not for at least another 10-20 years. But the insults coming will continue to throw larger and larger rocks in the road. The food shocks, when they do emerge, will be rebalanced, in part, by market forces that drive create production. This, at first, will be possible with changes in how we use land, ration water and with a focus on making urban/suburban environments higher level producers. But, beyond a certain point, these adaptations become very difficult and even the high price demand likely starts to break down as worldwide biodiversity goes into a rather steep nosedive. In other words, there’s only so many different kinds of plants and animals that can adapt to the current new reality of ongoing change and remain prolific enough to support human populations outside of a controlled environment. Humans will certainly try to create these controlled environments and, in some places, they will succeed. But the energy, time, and labor going into such efforts, if still fossil fuel based, will only add to the growing problem.

          So what we are seeing is both a destruction of wealth and of life support on a massive scale and the only way to reduce the scope of that harm coming our way is to rapidly mitigate now. If the impact is such that systems break down, the system is so large and so full of people, that survival will be extraordinarily difficult. Not only will survivalists have to manage in their chosen place, but they will also have to fend off a tide of humanity desperately seeking means to survive as well. Probably about 8-9 billion souls, many of which who will have no choice but to loot, fight, steal and worse or perish.

          My opinion, and there are those who disagree with me, is that this is avoidable if we’re responsible and active now. If we make the decisions we should have made 30 years ago and do our best to arm ourselves against the tough time.

          In metaphor, the Persians are readying a fleet and an army of nearly a million men. We, the disparate tribes of Greece can either consign ourselves to fate, become nomads and run to the hills, or work together to confront the rising catastrophe, raise our own fleets and armies and fight the beast — not on its terms, but on ours.

          It is not a perfect metaphor, but it gives you a scope and an understanding of why it is so important that we do not take this thing on alone and that we do our best, our absolute best, to turn current systems away from the current path.

          Now I understand every parent wishes to do their best for their children. And I feel this drive and understand it deeply. But the best thing we could do for our children is to teach them to work together to preserve life and to help each other. If we just seek competitive advantage in a world that may well be on the verge then we will fail.

          Now, knowing all this, I would be happy to chat with you at some point and answer your questions. But it is worth noting that a survivalist’s chances of winning the lottery now are probably about the same as making it through a collapse induced by catastrophic climate change. The odds are as thin as thin can be. In my opinion, the odds of surviving a full nuclear exchange are higher long-term. The issue with climate change is that it just keeps getting worse, the dangers are multiple, and the time horizons are immense.

          So if our children are fortunate and make it, then what about their children? And if a lucky few of them make it, then what of the children of our grandchildren?

          So, our most effective response for our children and their children and all the ones to follow would be to work together, on as large a scale as possible, to reduce the intensity of the crisis now.

        • Michael Hornick

           /  February 6, 2014

          Thank you for your thoughtful reply Robert. I agree with everything you have said. However, the answer to societies issues I think, requires us – as you mentioned – to eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels. I sort of look at an escape to a secluded area where we live in a commune style community as the only answer to that issue. To get off of fossil fuels, we need to get off of buying needless stuff, we need to stop competing for more things, we need to learn to build housing without gas powered or A/C electric tools (perhaps we can use battery tools recharged by solar panels – although they took fossil fuels to create too), we need to not travel for holidays, we need to try to require less heating, no air conditioning, to start eating local foods, we need to stop being, well, so much of a consumer.

          To me, this all means, really, escaping our society. I cannot imagine doing all of those things and still being able to live and work in a major metropolitan region as I do now. The work I do is just not compatible with how I think we all need to start living. So, although I agree chances of future survival longer term are small, I would prefer to re-locate outside of large populations now, and teach my kids to live minimally and to enjoy life in that new paradigm. I think it is a compatible solution to your argument and every potential solution that I seem to read. And I think creating this type of environment, while still staying in touch with others in the mainstream may help others to realize it is possible to live in this way – ultimately helping to slowly change our society even if it is just one person at a time.

          Anyway, those are my thoughts – I really cannot think of what else I can do. In making the move, I just want to go somewhere where life might last a little longer than other places – higher ground certainly, a place where others cannot get to too easily, a moderated (and cooler) climate – but where? Along the north west coast of North America? New Zealand? A Caribbean Island? I’m not exactly sure where to set up base.

          Thanks again, and please carry on the terrific work you are doing!

        • Somewhere not too close to the ocean. Somewhere above at least 1,000 feet. Somewhere that won’t be too heavily deprived of moisture. In North American, the best region is probably British Columbia (although watch those glacial outbursts from the nearby mountains, and watch out for the potential for stoked volcanism in these ranges as crusts rebound — medium and low risk, respectively).

          New Zealand Highlands would be a good zone as well, if you could get to it. You might be able to link up with Mikkel, who has a similar community based planning mindset and various action plans for establishing such communities.

          As for everything made from fossil fuels, that’s a bit of a misnomer. The fossil fuel intensity varies with products and sources. And there are numerous practices that can further reduce intensity. In any case, this is a separate problem of production. But it is worth mentioning.

          If you want to contact me for a chat, my email is Probably will be available at some point next week.

      • A very well-stated synopsis of what needs to be done by Robert. Someone here used the motto “United We stand, Divided We Fall.” This is exactly right. The multiple crises we face are planet-wide and civilization-destroying, leaving only large scale responses as effective tools. Our current system of capitalism has so atomized society that mustering such a cooperative response will take herculean effort, but it is our only option if we want any sort of civilized and habitable world for our descendants.

      • mikkel

         /  February 7, 2014

        Michael, if you email me (get it from Robert) then I’ll get you everything you need to know.

  24. Greg Smith

     /  February 6, 2014

    What a wonderful group of thoughtful souls that surround this exceptional, tireless, and heartfelt man Robert Scribbler. Your humanity, intelligence and commitment to truth radiate in these comments. It gives me comfort and refuge from the rest of the blogosphere. It is a place to earnestly ponder the future with dignity and soulfulness. Thank you.

  25. Gerald Spezio

     /  February 6, 2014

    Ahem, finding a place to survive?

    Grow your own food?

    A kind of bomb shelter, as in the cold war & the Commie terror.

    Gold & silver coins plus automatic weapons?

    Loving community?

    Stock up on toilet paper & Doritos?

    Ask a Mormon for some saltines?

    Finding a place to confront the implosion of civilization & the horror that it will bring might soon be a pipe dream.

    Those of us who will be able to choose the manner & time of our deaths will be the fortunate ones.

  26. Gerald Spezio

     /  February 6, 2014

    The Palestinians in the Gaza Concentration Camp could teach us a thing or three about surviving without food, water, electricity, or toilets, but nobody is asking THEM!

    They be real experienced & then some.

    Ditto for the 20 million human beings left in the Iraq rubble heap after the gallant Merican milititary machine flew home in jumbo jets.

  27. Phil

     /  February 7, 2014

    The other issue with positive feedback effects is that these are nonlinear. There are a number of issues related to this. Mathematical theory is most advanced in the linear world – allowing one to derive and prove very general propositions. This breaks down in a truly nonlinear world which is why numerical simulations have to be typically used to ‘solve’ such models. In general, the solutions are no longer general or generic either. For example, the results can be very sensitive to initial conditions chosen.

    The notion of equilibrium also rests within this linear world. Some mathematical theory on bifurication gets strange behaviour by perturbing things about equilibrium attractors but the analysis rests on small perturbations and is linked to magnitudes and/or sign of real and imaginary parts of eigenvalues. Of course, in a real nonlinear world, it is questionable if such things as eigenvalues exist since they are linear operators themselves.

    In terms of statistics, most of the theory is derived in a linear Gaussian world. Statistical proofs and methods often rest upon showing that higher order (non-Gaussian) terms die out asymptotically (typically based upon some mixing or finite dependence assumption) so one can approximate tests or statistics using asymptotic normality derived from some central limit theorem. Bayesians often also use the normal distribution in formulating their prior distributions. A consequence of higher order terms dying out also means that one only has to rely on correlations or covariances.

    These higher order terms often involve higher order moments or cumulants such as bi-covariances, tri-covariances, etc. In a true non-linear world, these higher order terms do not die out but actually can dominate lower order terms and can be crucial to explaining nonlinear interactions. For example, by taking products of Fourier tranform of bi-correlations and tri-correlations, we can dervive the bispectrum and trispectrum and use these to explain onset of critical behaviour associated, for example, with amplitude and phase variations across different frequencies as well as coupling effects at different frequencies. In fact, in the statistical literature, the bispectrum and trispectrum are often used to test for such things as Gaussianity, Linearity and Time Reversibility based upon decompositions of skewness and kurtosis in the underlying data. However, while they can be used to detect non-Gaussianity, non-linearity and time-irreversibility, one cannot infer from this what is the best ‘non-linear’ model to use to then model such processes. In the linear world, you generally can.

    I suppose the main point I want to make is that nonlinearity itself makes things very complicated both from the viewpoint of mathematical methods and statistical theory and analysis.

  28. james cole

     /  February 10, 2014

    I’de like to note that here on Monday morning, the Thames has burst out to flood large areas. Britain faces worse ahead in the coming days. This IS climate change, and this year I believe climate skeptics in Britain will have a much harder time spinning their lies. Nobody who lives or has been in Britain this winter can deny that weather has gone mad! I can’t imagine with all the flooded rivers and soaked ground, what the next storms will do. This story is ongoing right now.

  1. Arctic Warmth in Early February Sees 200,000 Square Kilometers of Sea Ice Lost, Greenland Melt as New Study Finds Massive Glacier Triples its Seaward Velocity | robertscribbler | Enjeux énergies

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