I made time this morning to watch some of the talks at the AGU Fall Meeting. There was a particularly interesting segment on abrupt climate change.
Sea level rise with Richard Alley in Greenland and Antarctica
It started with a talk by Richard Alley who manages to be forceful about the need to take note of the science in a very engaging way. (He's also recognised as the only climate scientist who can use the Comic Sans font and get away with it.)
Richard Alley spoke about the potential for abrupt sea level rise, particularly if the ice in Western Antarctica breaks down. He pointed out that with the pace of change we're forcing, we're in unknown territory. It reminded me of the Hansen et al paper in PLOS that was published earlier this month.
Richard Alley impresses with his message, like when he spoke of Hurricane Sandy and said in his slow understated way: "So when it comes fast, it's a bad thing." And then said how the sea level rise has not been fast - yet. Later on he put up these sea level projections - with some estimates a bit higher than in the IPCC report:
Richard Alley took a shot at economists who underplay the problems, too. I'm sure they know who they are. Then he got to the big question: What will the ice sheets do?
Thermal expansion alone will result in about 0.4 m (a foot) per degree Celsius. But that, he said, is a "thousand year problem" because it takes a long time to warm the ocean. It's the ice sheets that are the biggest problem in the near term. As Richard Alley said, the uncertainty is "lopsided on the bad side". In short, the Pine Island and Thwaites Glaciers in Antarctica are flowing quickly but they've got to get through a narrow neck. If that neck gets unblocked then we're in unknown territory. The ice there represents around 3.3 metres or 10 feet of sea level rise. It's "jammed up behind a narrow mouth". Richard said if it retreats "we get into physics that we don't really know what to do with yet". Ice exhibits tipping behaviour. Nothing happens for a while then all of a sudden....
Megadroughts and food shortages
There were some other excellent talks in the session on abrupt climate change, including a session on megadroughts - which can occur with or without AGW which is a big worry. It's like we're daring nature to do her worst. And a talk about food security and the sort of perils we are likely to have to deal with on that score this century, including the fact that we're soon going to be calling for genetic modification because conventional plant breeding just won't produce the results we need in a changing climate quickly enough.
All up a very informative day and all from the comfort of my home.
How did Anthony Watts fare?
Well, after Day Three there is still no evidence that Anthony Watts has seen anything he's capable of reporting on at the AGU Fall Meeting. He did manage to muscle a handshake with a real scientist and passed another one he recognised in the corridor. And he got to ask James Hansen a question, but we don't know the answer.
I get the feeling that Anthony Watts wants to be acknowledged in some way by "famous climate scientists". It might even be the reason he went to AGU13. On the other hand he has to keep up his image with the denialati and maintain his rage at climate science and his mocking stance towards those same "famous climate scientists" - like his tweet about a slide from Richard Alley's talk this morning.
Given Anthony hasn't been able to produce any actual reporting or commentary like he promised, and he's had no luck getting any attention from anyone who's at AGU for the science, I wonder if this is the last time he'll venture into the lions' den or was it a den of thieves?
Of course he might surprise us and, using the video camera he has in a box, provide some polished in-depth interviews with some of the world's leading scientists who attended AGU13. I won't hold my breath.
(I just watched Sharknado which, as everyone knows, was caused by climate change. It was at least as credible as most of the comments at WUWT!)