The Climate Show #3: Cancun and cooling

Climate talks heat up in Mexico, snow blankets Britain and much of Europe, and The Climate Show is at the heart of the action. Glenn and Gareth set the scene for COP16 in Cancun and then interview Oxfam NZ’s Barry Coates at the conference to find out how things are shaping up. Gareth explores the link between Arctic climate change and cold winter weather in Western Europe, John Cook debunks that favourite sceptic myth — that the world’s cooling — and we look at the potential for nuclear power to provide part of the solution to decarbonising the power economy.

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Show notes below the fold.

Drought in the Amazon: see Bryan Walker’s recent post I wish it would rain, and a good Reuters feature here.

Snow in Britain and Europe: pictures and news at the BBC.

NOAA’s Arctic Report Card on WACCy weather here.

UK Met Office statement, Nov 30.

Temperature anomaly


(plotted at NOAA’s ESRL Daily Mean Composites page)

Normal NH atmospheric circulation at this time of year (850mb geopotential height climatology)


Current atmospheric circulation


(plotted at NOAA’s ESRL NCEP reanalysis page)

Cancun starts – expectations low: Can Cancun’s COP deliver?

Copenhagen Accord sets the world on a path to 3C: (2) Degrees of existence.

…or perhaps 4C: RS Journal special issue – Four degrees and beyond: the potential for a global temperature increase of four degrees and its implications, and Guardian report.

UNFCCC iPhone app, Negotiator.

Barry Coates at Oxfam NZ: blog, new report, Now More Than Ever: Climate talks that work for those who need them most.

Give a goat for Christmas.

Debunking the skeptic with John Cook from Skeptical Science. This week: Global Cooling.

The Many Parts Solution

Going nuclear: new power station in Finland – “many of the engineers and building experts working here are in their late 50s and early 60s; some are in their 30s, but few are in between. There’s a hole in the nuclear workforce, not just in Finland but across the Western world.” — Reuters special report.

Nuclear is certainly part of the solution, for good coverage of a key technology – “fourth generation” integral fast reactors – see Prof Barry Brook’s excellent Aussie blog Brave New Climate.

Smaller scale: LED lightbulbs approaching mass market — 60 watt replacement due soon.

Thanks to our media partners: and KiwiFM.

Theme music: A Drop In The Ocean by The Bads.

15 thoughts on “The Climate Show #3: Cancun and cooling”

  1. Great show. I’ve already borrowed a few quick quotes on justice from Oxfam for a comment on an article on Cancun at DotEarth, Andy Revkin’s blog (New York Times “Opinion”).

    I also greatly appreciated the explanation with graphics on the North Pole and recent cold weather in Europe and North America (just like last year, as you said) which was very clear and supplemented my growing realization of how these patterns are evolving. I had thought it logical that a kind of breathing earth would send cold southward as it warmed the pole, but was not sure my instinctive reaction to weather maps was real or imaginary.

    Unfortunately, the denialist canon is received wisdom for many in public blogs; for example it’s even worse at the Guardian and the BBC. It only takes a dedicated cadre of 5 or so people supported by a little crowd of about 20 hangers-on to dominate uncensored conversations. I know that many people don’t follow comments, thankfully, but it is discouraging that the situation is worse while the weather outside becomes more frightful.

    Thanks for your work; hope to visit this site more often.

  2. “Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past” – The Independent

    What the alarmists said in 2000:

    “Britain’s winter ends tomorrow with further indications of a striking environmental change: snow is starting to disappear from our lives.

    Sledges, snowmen, snowballs and the excitement of waking to find that the stuff has settled outside are all a rapidly diminishing part of Britain’s culture, as warmer winters – which scientists are attributing to global climate change – produce not only fewer white Christmases, but fewer white Januaries and Februaries…”

    Tui billboard anyone?

    1. But this from the same article:

      “Heavy snow will return occasionally, says Dr Viner, but when it does we will be unprepared. “We’re really going to get caught out. Snow will probably cause chaos in 20 years time,” he said.”

      Pretty much describes the current situation.

  3. Glenn Williams: “Heavy snow will return occasionally”

    Yeah that was their get-out-of-jail-free card. Allowing for any eventuality because in reality they haven’t got a clue. They HOPE there’ll be no more snow so that their alarmist predictions are proved correct, but just in case it turns out to be crap, they throw in a disclaimer… “We believe snow will be a thing of the past, but don’t be surprised if you still get some!”

    Besides which, allowing for snow to occur “occasionally” is a lot different to getting massive dumps four years in a row!

  4. My documentary:Climate Change? No Thanks ! is just under 30 mins long and was shot entirely in India in temperatures of 100f+.
    >It features tourists (UK, Germany. Australia, Canada), farmers, local women and activists talking about holidays, drought and climate change. Controversial and thought-provoking, it has been described as ‘a very important film’ and has attracted press coverage in the Indian media.
    >Here is a clip.

  5. Your climate show is fantastic Gareth. Just thought to let you know how much I appreciate your great effort to get this ball rolling and make good use of today’s technology. Great job!

  6. Just watched your video for the first time; & it was very good; you are presenting solid & sound arguments explaining climate change. As it happens; it also helps define some of the science behind some comments I have just posted on Paul Hudson’s weather blog for the BBC; giving me more insight. I thought I would also copy it to you; just simply to add a little bit more; perhaps add extra percpective on the topic of climate change in the Arctic & its effect on the Global climate; that may help in some way. It also relates to the current disturbances in the Northern Hemisphere climate which gave Britain; (where I live) its coldest November & heaviest earliest snowfall in 17 years.




    Commentary emphasising the outstanding current global warmth; to Paul Hudson’s blog;
    CC: Roy Spencer’s climate change blog;
    CC: Green Party headquarters Brighton.

    The fires in Russia this summer; & the floods in Pakistan around the same time; along with our heat waves this summer; along with both last winter’s freeze in the Northern Hemisphere; & the UK’s current icy spell; also the current very warm conditions around Greenland & Nova Scotia; & for a while in parts of Russia & Siberia are all caused by the same on-going phenomenon; the unusually flaccid waves & kinks & patterns of the Northern Hemisphere Jetstream. I’ve not observed it like this before. The current situation is really quite astonishing.

    First; here are some quotes from an anti-Global-warming website by Dr Roy Spencer that I follow; as it has useful satellite global temperature data.

    “2010 is now in a dead heat with 1998 for warmest year, with the following averages through November:
    1998 +0.538
    2010 +0.526
    December will determine the outcome, but remember that the difference between the two years is not statistically significant.”

    Here is a quote from someone making comments on his website;

    Given the trend line it would be shocking to me if 2010 topped 1998. But if a drastic turn takes place and 2010 tops 1998 by even 0.001 degrees, the media blitz about ‘warmest year on record’ would surely be headache inducing.

    Aside… Yeah mate; headache inducing if you’ve already made up your mind & you’re not open to the blatant evidence you yourselves examine. But I’m not here to argue about Global warming…

    The following comments I’m making are hinted at in Paul Hudson’s current blog as bullet points. I speak generally about the climate for those who have an overall picture of the topic; because I understand the science behind what I am saying – & so will many others. So I don’t intend to post loads of links to back up what I am saying; as those who understand the science will know where I get the information from; as well as knowing it for themselves anyway. I study global climate intensely; & write on an amateur basis; but with an in depth knowledge of the topic. But much of the information I give can be cross-referenced; & is available through the fantastic Weather Underground website; & the blogs; particularly Dr Jeff Masters. I also follow the global climate on various websites; as well as monitoring the Jetstream (on “wunderground”) & the world’s climate on a week to week basis; on the Met Office & others; as well as the El Nino & La Nina phenomenon; & I have posted comments here before; with similar points to those echoed in Paul’s current blog on this website; regarding the current record warmth globally in 2010; despite the current La Nina; & the strength of the El Nino which caused 1998’s record warmth. So these comments are to emphasise that the current global climate situation is extraordinary.

    The current situation in the global climate fascinates me. As I said; many of the world’s extreme meteorological events this year are all clearly linked; & were all associated with the pattern that has developed in the Jetstream. The unusually wide; & not very strong; but very winding path of the Jetstream has caused massive kinks & shifts unusually far to the north & south over many parts of the temperate globe for much of this year. This has also been recognised on many weather & climate blogs. It seems to be caused by the fact that the poles are currently very warm compared to average; we see that warmth tends to accumulate in the North Pole during warmer years; hence the near record sea-ice minimums this year; & periods of record warmth. But the Continent has often experienced extreme heat & cold build up in the relevant seasons; which has also caused heat waves & cold spells to spill over to our UK shores at times; when the wind has come from the continent. The result has been that we have been more influenced by the continental climate; with hot dry spells in summer; & severe bitter spells in the winter.

    On the other-hand; Equatorial regions have been comparatively cooler; partly because the spin of the earth can spread anomalous warmth North; but mostly due to the supposedly “moderate” La Nina***(I say supposedly; as it was the coldest August – October three month running mean temperature recorded; the coldest La Nina area sea-temperature recorded in Aug-Oct in the La Nina (3:4) region since 1988; and there were only 3 slightly cooler such three month August – October periods prior to that since 1950; when the globe was cooler anyway; so this is a very strong La Nina & early building one as far as I can see) & this is all due to the resulting La Nina cooling that has developed; so that the difference between the Equator & the poles is less than usual; & the Jetstream has basically spread out; & then snaked erratically around the northern hemisphere; due to the fact that the conflict between polar & tropical air is just that bit less intense.

    This pattern creates strong blocking high pressure systems; causing prolonged drier periods; bitterly cold periods in the winter; & stiflingly hot periods in the summer. So during this summer; periods of anomalous warmth were caused in many areas as the Jetstream snaked far to the north; causing us some significant heat waves & dry spells at times (especially here in the south-east). This caused punishing heat in Eastern Europe; and the terrible forest fires. But in its passage further east from Russia; it then had a southward kink that lunged it down far south of usual causing the rain & depressions pushed along it to hit the Himalayas; displacing tens of millions of people by the floods that ran down the rivers from the mountains in Pakistan.

    This same pattern is also causing the current meteorological situation; we are locked in a “kink”; in an area North of the Jetstream; which currently looks to stay in place; causing us a second; (perhaps more severe) continental winter; here on the polar side of the Jetstream; with occasional incursions of Atlantic air such as we are having right now; as the kink in the Jetstream passes briefly right over us. But soon; that polar pattern will block over us again; & I suspect we are in for record breaking prolonged cold spells this year; unless change causes a blast of Atlantic air; perhaps if the poles start to cool down with the recent La Nina later in the winter; & the Jetstream becomes stronger & more uniform in its passage across the Northern Hemisphere.

    These same waves & kinks have also been affecting the America’s. It is a truly global phenomenon. But despite all the polar incursions across the temperate globe; causing record cold periods; the warmth has superseded the cold; & even in this La Nina influenced year; the sea; & the poles are refusing to cool down quickly; hinting at a slow incredible build-up & release of latent warmth. 1998’s El Nino was near a degree warmer & stronger than the one that diminished at the beginning of this year; & this strong La Nina should have cooled the globe more by now; it is about 0.2 degree’s warmer than it was at the end of 1998; & we have had more than the five month lag of cooler than average temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific.

    Not being a professional meteorologist; I have the privilege of observing the climate & drawing my own conclusions; not restricted to one area of expertise; I have a general & instinctive understanding of the global climate; & it is so clear to me; as even Dr Roy Spencer’s anti-meteorology website cannot deny. Recent comments & posts; have expressed the headache global warming critics are going to feel if people get wind of the significance of this near record warmth. Yes; I have the privilege of just saying what I think – Global warming is real – I believe it. You can call it a matter of faith; but I see it as a matter of fact.

    From this liberty that my Amateur study gives me; I can make the wildest predictions; & not be held to account. From my instincts; I find it very likely that we will have a winter that rivals the winter 1962-1963; & I would be unsurprised if the Thames froze. It doesn’t strike me as very likely that this pattern will diminish for the next few months; as the sea & the poles are still very warm; but the La Nina is still very strong. So the difference will remain less between the extremes; and the Jetstream still won’t get its move on; with this lazy flaccid feel; lazily plonking ice-blocks of air where it will in the Northern Hemisphere; and creating dramatic thaws and floods in their wake when warmth finally kicks in on the tropical side; (maybe record warmth.)

    But most alarming; is that even a strong La Nina just isn’t sufficient to cool the globe enough; & heat just keeps building up; like an overactive storage heater. The poles continue to warm; & sea temperatures across the globe in general continue warm and patterns of anomalous weather will continue to move more & more forcefully across the globe. But by five months’ time; (as that is the lag period) we will be under a heavy period of global cooling; caused by the current strong La Nina; & although it has taken 8 months of La Nina conditions by then to do so; it will finally have succeeded to cool the globe as a whole to around average levels. (Yes; so far our strongest La Nina in 23 years by then; will have had to be going for eight months; just to bring the global temperature back to around average (It is still at about 0.3C above now)).

    I also instinctively see that once the globe does finally get to around average warmth; the Jetstream will likely tighten up again; (though it may not; & if it doesn’t; the current continental trend in the UK will continue) but if the Jetstream does go back to normal; it is likely that there will be very severe floods this spring in Europe along its path; & I suspect a slow increase in uniformity in the Jetstream as the globe cools slightly through the spring; hopefully to include the poles. This may not say much for the UK summer though; & that might allow for a 2007 style deluge to occur at one point if the Jetstream is stronger in the summer. So in a nut-shell – it might be European floods in spring; & a disappointing summer here; unless we are lucky and something pushes the stronger Jetstream unusually far north. (But Scotland will still get it.) I give this as the most likely scenario – there will be hot spells; but the summer will be characterised by “normal” (seemingly cooler & more unsettled) weather.

    But if this optimistic prediction doesn’t come true; (& the climate pattern is nearer what it is now); & the poles stay warm despite this La Nina; & the global waters stay warm; or if the La Nina diminishes unexpectedly; or another El Nino begins; then these anomalous outbreaks of weather will continue; & even once it does return to normal; we will still realise an increased tendency of this pattern occurring over the years to come; & a decrease the periods of so called “normal” climate. The next El Nino that occurs after that will emphasise this pattern even further; & global warming will step up another gear; contrary to the sceptic’s predictions.

    I like the fact that anti-global warming theorists will have to acknowledge the significance of this current warmth; because their own data displays it vehemently; & little more than their rhetoric displays anything else. I believe that the website I follow might have to be the first to acknowledge; from their own data; that they are now convinced by the statistical evidence they themselves are presenting; having denied it in the preceding years.

    None the less; I will also post a copy to them & their soon unhappy SUV’s. In the end; we all have to buy into something if we find it’s the truth; or else we bury our heads in the sand; hiding from the screaming evidence.

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