Our man in Hawaii, on gas, drought and snow.

Posted: January 4, 2013 by tchannon in climate, Travel, volcanos, weather


Kilauea image courtesy milazinkova via wikipedia, click image for details

Doug Protor writes: –

“I’m on the Big Island, Hawaii right now. There is a “drought” here: at the Volcano Winery just outside the Kilauea crater, they are only getting 110 inches of rain a year, instead of 180 inches of rain. Been going on for 7 years. The vineyards need irrigating and the grasslands are yellow and dry, in an extreme hazard for fire.

But still 110 inches of rain. The term “drought” as used by McKibben, clearly has a use aspect, not just a technical term of quantity. If your vineyards need water, it is a drought. If your cactus farm is drowning, it’s a record flood. If you are doing nothing with it, it is dry, which it sometimes does, and the resultant fires put nutrients into the lava fields.

Go figure.

I was up at the Mauna Loa observatory yesterday, 6 miles from the summit, at just over 11,000′ above sea-level. During the last ice age, there were glaciers on Mauna Loa and Mauna Lea. From the summit to sea level, the temperature rose from 55*F to 81*F. Normal adiabatic temperature profile, I suppose, 2.4F/1000′. Higher than I thought from my university days, but physics these days is special, according to Al Gore and David Suzuki, so what relevance does my observation have to anything of current importance.

But this rate did make me wonder about the snow on the summits of these volcanoes. If 26K difference is not weird, to get to freezing temperatures of 32F (0C) at 11,000′, you’d probably have to have 60F on the coast. Cold for sure, but understandable at time. However, as an average, this would be the temperature of a “temperate”, not tropical, climate. And Hawaii has not been in a temperature climate for geological ages.

It does get cool at times, but that is the point, at times. Even back in the day of continental glaciers, the term would be “at times”.

It strikes me that despite the global cooling during the ice age, there would be no reason for temperatures to be consistently below freezing at either summit. Then how do you account for glaciers in Hawaii?

Glaciers develop because more snowfall happens during the cold times than melts during the warm times. This is the fundamental law of glacial development and must be kept in the forefront of any discussion of glacial expansion or shrinkage. It is separate, though related to ice advance: after 125m or so of ice has developed, ice changes from a rigid solid to a plastic solid. Ice flows, and a glacier now exists (until then it is not a glacier, but a “stagnant” block of ice, which is what most of our Rocky Mountain “glaciers” are these days).

Glaciers masses develop because more snow falls than melts, and glaciers move because thick ice becomes plastic under pressure. Neither of these is temperature dependent in itself, except that the heat balance must allow a retention of subzero temperatures in a portion – only a portion – of an ice mass.

Next part of the thought sequence:

So I connect the “drought” with the loss of glaciers in Hawaii. We’re in the middle of the warm, pacific ocean, and I suggest that there is not a dearth of moisture potential. But there clearly is a dearth of actual moisture near the dew point relative to the recent past, i.e. when the winds rise up the volcano flanks, there is less rain or (at the top) snow. So however moist air arrives here, it comes with a lower relative humidity today than it did 10 years ago. And probably relative to what it did 50,000 years ago.

Global warming is blamed for every drought. Out here, global warming should create higher moisture levels in the air at the water surface, a higher absolute and relative humidity. Going up the mountain should mean more rainfall, not less. And during the last ice age, the only way that glaciers could exist here is if there was more moisture in the air arriving than today.

Which brings us back to regional effects, not necessarily global. Winds and ocean currents, principally winds. A significant heat redistribution issue, not necessarily a significant heat rise or fall issue. Winds that START OUT moist moving across the Pacific bring a lot of rainfall to Hawaii, not just winds that move across the Pacific and pick up moisture. If the winds are drier, the vineyards fail and glaciers disappear.

That is not global warming, not at points of a degree. It might even be – horrors! – longer-term weather variations, i.e. climatic variability.

Now here is another thought from the trip up Mauna Loa, CO2:

Mauna Loa is the center of Global Warming because of its CO2 record. Perhaps we need to look closely at its precipitation, temperature, sunshine, oceanic pH as well as CO2 record to see if the “centre” has more to say about the reality of “global” changes than we have thought:

The CO2 profile you see is very much massaged and “corrected”. Not only is the air there modified by seasonal variations in degassing of CO2 from the surrounding ocean, but longer term variations in CO2 degassing must occur: I have read of studies of the English Channel and the near-Antarctic waters that found significant changes over the years, but never did I wonder about the near-Mauna Loa waters. Have they changed over the long term? Has the Mauna Loa record been seeing long-term, not just seasonal, oceanic degassing changes? Beyond those, what of the Kilauea volcano out-gassings.

The Kilauea volcano alternates between summit and flank eruptions. I haven’t the map in front of me, but eruptions happened In the 1950s, the early 70s, and early 80s, the last, which almost took out the coastal city of Hilo. Starting 2008 the summit has been active again, so much that only the upwind half of the crater rim drive is open to the public (a bit of the nervous-nelly precautionary principle here, I think). Sometimes the winds blow one way and sometimes the other: the CO2 measurements of Mauna Loa have to take this local outgassing and wind variation into account. Which must be difficult, because when you look at the lava you can see that there are significant chemical changes in the rock in terms of iron content, temperature and gas (bubble density and size). CO2 output must change along with the easily recognized sulphur content.

This is not to say that the Mauna Loa CO2 profile is wrong, but that what we might naively think of as a simple picture of what is in the air from day-to-day, is clearly an “adjusted” representation. All the things that are considered to be not representing the “global” or planetary air have been removed. And since Mann and Hansen have taught us to be wary of adjustments which fit a narrative, perhaps we should check out the raw data for CO2. (Which I haven’t done, though I’m sure it is easily available.)

CAGW has made us suspicious not just of industry and politicians, which we already discounted, but of the men in the white coats that H.G. Wells and Bernard Shaw thought should guide us into a golden age of the philosopher kings dedicated to reason. That’s a shame, but it’s a fact that we do not experience facts but interpretations. Even our own eyes deceive us, because what we think we see is what our brains TELL us we see.

Now I want to see the raw data of Mauna Loa. And I want to see some other raw data, maybe from central Antarctica where at least I won’t have vegetation (including phytoplancton) screwing up the record. And even then I won’t be happy because I’m worried that oceanic outgassing is more significant than I have been told.

Caveat emptor, I suppose. For everything.

P.S. In a couple of hours I am getting on a helicopter out of Hilo for a volcano tour. Will see the Kilauea crater and the place where current fissures leak lava into the ocean, outside Kalapana. If I knew how you guys paste images/graphs onto your blog post, I’d put in photos of the Observatory. You aren’t allowed onto the observatory grounds, but you can look up at them. The Observatory is 6 miles/10 km from the summit, in large lava fields that erupted in 1984.”

Many thanks Doug, copied from Suggestions

  1. Doug P here is a paper you should read http://www.biokurs.de/treibhaus/180CO2/08_Beck-2.pdf
    “50 yrs of continuous measurement of CO2 on Mauna Loa”

    This paper http://www.biomind.de/nogreenhouse/daten/EE%2018-2_Beck.pdf and this http://www.biomind.de/treibhaus/180CO2/author_reply9-2.pdf may add a bit more to the context.

    Agree with you about the view of drought in relative terms. I have monthly rainfall records in my area going back for 120 years. I have found that the standard deviation of the rainfall for each month is close to the average of that month which is indicative of a Poisson distribution. Note that one can not have less than zero rain. For the last six months (July to Dec) the rainfall was 260 mm which is about 40% of the average and the driest since 1951. Plants are wilting, people in rural areas are buying water, there is concern about bush fires etc. Only two years ago there were floods and the December rainfall alone (about 660mm) was 4 times average for that month.
    The worst drought in Australia (based on measured records) was the Federation drought 1900 to 1909. In this period my records show that there were several years with the second half rainfall similar to the that of the last six months and the average of this period for these 9 years was 70% of the average of the second half for all years including 1902 which had over the year 29% of the average of all years (1806mm). During that drought many inland areas which have less rain and are hotter had no rain at all.

  2. Roger Andrews says:

    Temperature records from the top of Mauna Loa show an average of 38F over the last eleven years. Subtract maybe 10 degrees for Ice Age conditions and the average drops to 28F, which is cold enough to support ice.

    Average temperature at Hilo on the coast over the same period has been about 74F. This works out to a lapse rate of 2.63F/1000ft.

    However, while Hilo has received an average of about 110 inches of rain a year over the last 11 years Mauna Loa has received an annual average of only 7.4 inches. I had to do a double take on that, but that’s what the records show:


    In short, the top of Mauna Loa is a desert. Nowhere near enough precip to grow an ice sheet. But then again, maybe there would be in an Ice Age.

  3. oldbrew says:

    ‘Has the Mauna Loa record been seeing long-term, not just seasonal, oceanic degassing changes?’

    Good question. The Hawaiian islands are created by a mantle plume, and they move gradually due to plate tectonics in relation to the fixed position of the plume. See here:


    It’s a long document, but there are some points re. Mauna Loa specifically:

    10. So the question about the CO2 record for the last century asks for an explanation of an implicit exaggeration of an exaggeration. The measured record is actually only 50 years old, and it may show a high rate of CO2 growth. The elements of a model to fit the record should accommodate all the following.

    11. The CO2 growth rate at Mauna Loa is unprecedented because no comparable measurements exist.

    12. The CO2 level at Mauna Loa is substantially higher than the calculations from Vostok ice cores. Because Mauna Loa sits in the plume of the massive CO2 outgassing from the Eastern Equatorial Pacific, and because Vostok sits inside one of the great polar CO2 sinks, Mauna Loa should be higher than Vostok records for the same average, global CO2 concentration. How much higher is for further study by climatologists. The origin of the CO2 at Mauna Loa is dominated by Eastern Equatorial Pacific outgassing.

    13. As shown in The Acquittal of Carbon Dioxide , the CO2 concentration lags global warming and is shaped like the complement of the solubility curve. The current epoch of global warming is just one more such epoch shown several times in the Vostok data, and the increase in CO2 concentration is similar to the paleo record, within the resolution of that record.

    The Consensus had no explanation for the increase in CO2 it alleged caused the historical ice epoch recoveries. Once the Consensus accepts those new results from The Acquittal of Carbon Dioxide , it will have an explanation for the CO2 but no satisfactory explanation for the global warming at any time.

    14. Also, small changes in ocean or atmospheric currents could have an additional profound effect on the CO2 measured at Mauna Loa. The center of the CO2 plume may now be moving toward Hawaii, causing an increase in CO2 concentration there. This could also account for the seasonal effects evident in the Keeling curve.

    15. The CO2 rich atmosphere rises near the equator and splits into north and south plumes. As it rises in each hemisphere, it enters a Hadley Cell, carrying it first poleward, and then down into and to feed the westerly trade winds. The trade winds carry the CO2-rich atmosphere across Hawaii. However, the trade winds are also seasonal, varying cyclically in direction and magnitude. The seasonal fluctuations Keeling attributed to the biosphere growing seasons might be better correlated with the trade wind vector at Hawaii.

    16. Anthropogenic CO2 may be an additional component of the 3.3 PgC/yr seen at Mauna Loa. It is at most 7.8 parts in 90, or less than 9%. The 3.3 PgC/yr is not unabsorbed ACO2.

    17. To the extent that the record at Mauna Loa is influenced by the venting of CO2 from the Thermohaline Circulation, the changes in plume intensity may be due to events a millennium old.

    18. The Consensus assumes anthropogenic changes act in a state of climate equilibrium. It assumes that both the CO2 and the global temperature are in equilibrium but for man. Instead, climate change forecasts must operate in the state of Earth’s on-going, triple recovery from the last ice age, the last glacial epoch, and the Little Ice Age, whatever the causes might be. Any valid forecast must first account for that natural warming.

  4. tallbloke says:

    great post, thanks Doug.
    “Global warming is blamed for every drought”

    And the floods too…

    “perhaps we should check out the raw data for CO2. (Which I haven’t done, though I’m sure it is easily available.)”

    Heh, Tim Channon can tell us something about that. 🙂

  5. Doug Proctor says:

    Roger Andrews says:
    January 5, 2013 at 2:45 am

    Thanks for the comments! The problem with blogs is that they are one-sided conversations and interesting comments that would improve the thoughts come later.

    The current average of 38F on Mauna Loa would maintain glaciation today if the periods of sub-freezing temperatures produced more snow than melted during the above-freezing temperature periods. Every Canadian and northern-State American knows that serious cold during the winter is enough for snow and ice but not enough to counter the warmth of the summer, so it is clearly the relative volume of snow and melt that counts. In the Rocky Mountains I have experience of summers that could not melt all the snow that had fallen the previous winter even at low elevations (though shade was needed); Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea still need the ratio of snowfall and melt more than an average lower than zero (you only have to consider the current weather of the Arctic Islands to recognize this: nasty and cold and dark as it is, you still don’t have glaciation happening).

    What I found out yesterday has to do with both glaciation here and why Mauna Loa is a good observatory position. The skys are clear at Mauna Loa, and I thought that it was due to a pristine oceanic air and low light pollution. Turns out that there is an upper limit of clouds at about 9000′, above which the skys are clear. Mauna Loa observatory is at 11000′ (enough to get nauseated if you drive up there in one hour or less), while Mauna Kea summit is at about 13400′: without clouds at those elevations it is naturally clear (and presumably clouds below 9000′ block out lights from the towns around, though the observatory is on the flank away from all towns anyway).

    The only times there are clouds up there is when big storms come through. I was told that this hasn’t happened so far this winter. So to get glaciation on the volcano tops you need to either increase the limit of regular clouds or increase the number of large storms. It is the larger storms that count in this case.

    When you travel, there are things you learn that make you scratch your head about all the other things you thought you knew. The significant dryness of the Big Island, its probable dryness relative to the last glaciation, while in the same, large expanse of warm ocean, is one of my head-scratching things. For CAGW to be doing stuff at a planetary level, I’d like to know how you account for these Hawaiian island situations. Other than saying large-scale regional redistribution of moisture (overall, energy) is not a “normal” event in our planet and a consideration when looking at the Arctic warming, the Antarctic cooling, and floods and droughts shifting about the globe.

    BTW: we saw tendrils of lava coming into the sea yesterday, deep red, pencil thin lines on the sea-cliffs. During the night there was a 4.4 Richter earthquake (here, near Hilo, like a super-heavy truck going by the house). I am told there is much, much more lava flowing into the sea today (the lava has been going into the sea since 1984).

    Also: cold deserts can create glaciation due to the ratio problem. The Columbia icefields between Banff and Jasper are really dry but they have the remmants of the Athabasca glacier and others. In the winter, though it is cold, it is surprisingly free of snow. The Beringia “ice-free” corridor going to the Mackenzie delta is a bit of a misnomer, as I have been there and easily saw glacial evidence, but what I saw supported THIN ice even though deeply within the general major glaciation area (same “problem” with parts of Alaska). The key in both these area, glacial development or not, is in the ratio of snowfall and melt.

    For purposes of simple math, let ten inches of snow equal 1 inch of ice, and 330 feet or 3600 inches of ice equal the amount needed to flow. One inch of ice that doesn’t melt each year means you only need 3600 years to create a glacial flow. And it can happen in the shadows easier than in the sunny areas, but doesn’t matter.

    But it all comes back to regional changes in precipitation more than serious changes in temperature. You don`t need subzero averages, but it helps. Subzero temperatures are also not enough.

  6. Roger Andrews says:

    Doug Proctor:

    There’s little question that the controlling influence on ice is precipitation. An example is Kilimanjaro, where the ice cap is shrinking because of sublimation (temperatures at the summit apparently never rise above freezing) and because of a decrease in snowfall that seems to have begun about 150 years ago around the end of the LIA. In fact I suspect that the end of the LIA may have had a lot more to do with a decrease in precipitation than an increase in temperature.

    An even better example of the ice-precipitation linkage comes from the Alps, where over the last 100 years there’s been a clear relationship between glacier retreat and the AMO, which controls precipitation on either side of the North Atlantic. This is discussed in Huss et al:


    Although I think my representation, which predates Huss et al. by a year or two, defines the relationship a little more closely: 🙂

  7. Doug Proctor says:


    In particular:

    “…Looking at smaller regions (adjusted for the long-term global variation), a possible increase in total cloud cover is observed in the central Pacific, while possible declines are seen in stratiform cloud cover in regions of persistent MSC. The decline in MSC is accompanied by an increase
    in SST between 1954 and 2008….”

    I did a quick check of northern Canadian weather sites. Inuvik, Yellowknife, Churchill all had negative (less than freezing) average temperatures and 7 out of 12 months with below freezing temperatures. None are in glacial conditions and I have sweated enough in each place in July to know that 30C in each is not peculiar.

    Glacial conditions require more than low average temperatures. Precipitation vs melt ratios are obviously key ultimately. Too much snow will win out. But you don’t just need air temps to be above zero to get a lot of melting.

    A comment I made about finding remnant winter snow and ice in shady portions of the Rockies near Calgary, in alpine areas but clearly non-current glacial conditions made me realize the importance of SI, i.e. radiative energy. Humans are more sensitive to radiant energy than air temp, as all architects know It is more important that your walls are warm than the air, and why you can work outside in -15C temperatures in a t-shirt if the sun is shining (a Canadian feat of manliness, perhaps). Simple SI will lead, through sublimation, to a loss of snow in very cold weather also (though relative humidity also has importance). And the snow melts off your windshield on a cold day that is sunny, but not on one that is cloudy, though the temps are the same. Out skiing, you sweat on a sunny day in the middle of winter; I’ve done some great suntanning by the side of the Saskatchewan Glacier in January, for example, down to nothing and trying to dry everything.

    What controls SI is, of course, considered to be, by the IPCC, mainly through direct solar variation. More Watts coming down. But obviously cloud cover, i.e. direct sunshine, is important. Is Greenland losing more mass to more sunshine, or to more melting? As far as I can see, the mass loss of Greenland has been determined on a gross basis, and evidence for actual melting increases of any significance, small. Glacial calving is certainly not aggressive these days, there are no Titanic warnings. So where is all this ice going?

    I wonder if cloudiness is a key to initiation of a glacial period. If Churchill or Mauna Loa is close to freezing on average, perhaps what then counts, beside precipitation, is cloudiness. After all, right now what makes Mauna Loa/Mauna Kea special for night sky observing is the lack of cloudiness, not precipitation (though there is obviously linkage). Would a small increase in cloudiness create glacial conditions in northern Canada or the volcano tops next to me tonight? Has a small decrease in cloudiness caused a lot of the Greenland ice loss?

    There are a lot of articles being written about cloud cover, but I’ve noted that the authors pull their punches.The above articles show that cloud cover variations are real but not well enough known for for definitive statements. They do say, though, the type and location of cloud cover has more variability than the global average. Again, does regional beat global?

    Regional redistribution of planetary heat: time and place.Hawaii is in a “drought” situation not because of temperature variation but because of significant air movement changes involving both overall moisture content and proportion of strong to weak storm events. If you expand this “regional” enough, you get global as a mathematical entity without practical meaning. Regional shifts create the appearance of a global shift only because the what humans want to do is push the envelopes of natural variability.

    With regard to the cloud data noted above,I think the data suggests this:

    In the South, more cloud in summer, less in winter. The North with more cloud in winter, less in summer. Gives you a warming Arctic and a cooling Antarctic, without any change in total energy, just shifting of cloud cover positions and times. The difference in land, sea, ice and rock amplifies the temperature variation (heat capacity issues, right?).

    Hard to say, though. The authors lean towards significant regional variations without determining the overall global result.

  8. michael hart says:

    I’m interested to read of the frequently clear skies at the ML Observatory. If one had all the raw CO2 data and an accurate local temperature then would we expect to be able to observe the (theoretical) daily post-sunset radiative cooling-rate changing over the years during windless conditions?

    I’m not aware of any combined CO2/Temperature dataset with sufficient quality and favourable weather that allows to calculations to be made (sunset probably being a bit too slow at the South Pole), though I’d love to learn otherwise.

    July 2014 is still a date on my calendar, when the re-launch of an Orbiting Carbon Observatory by NASA, OCO2, is scheduled to replace the one lost before making orbit in 2009. Five years of missed CO2 data (:

  9. Roger Andrews says:

    A graphic example of the importance of precipitation in ice formation:

    (Average annual temperature measured at the AWS station on the summit of Quelccaya is -4C.)

  10. Michael Hart, there is at least 1
    Investigator: Wilhelm Kreutz, Dr., chemistry
    Director of the weather station at Giessen (Germany), Reichswetterdienst
    Location: Giessen periphery, near rural area
    Elevation: 499 masl
    Sampling time:. August 1939- January 1941, 16 samples per day, otherwise samples at 7:00, 14:00, 21:00 at 4 altitudes; (total 550 days)
    Samples:, >30 000; > 25 000 used
    soil samples: 1647, special CO2/temperature analyses: 1098 + analysis in higher air layers
    + 2176 diurnal sampling every 1,5 hours+ preexaminations at Heidelberg
    Meteorolog. Parameters: : temperature, wind, precipitation, radiation, pressure, humidity, cloud coverage, weather
    Manometric Riedel C gas analyser designed by Schuftan
    0,5 l flask sampling , Pressing air sample through KOH by turning vessel by 90 degree, reading volume change by capillary manometer
    Sampling in 4 altitudes: 0, 0,5, 2, 14 m;
    monitoring radiation, precipitation, cloud cover, wind speed, pressure, humidity. Temperature, CO2
    Analysis in temperature controlled room
    Error CO2: +-1,5 %

    Kreutz published an article here Kreutz, 1941(?); Kohlensäuregehalt der unteren Luftschichten in Abhängigkeit von Witterungsfaktoren. (aus den Agrarmeteteorologischen Forschungsstelle Gießen des Reichsamts für Wetterdienst) Angewandte Botanik, XXIII pp 89-116

    I downloaded it from Becks website http://www.biomind.de/realCO2/realCO2-1.htm
    I also found a partial English translation from a Dutch person. I will try and post it on the Cementafriend blog but I am not good at that and do not have much time.

  11. Should have added that in Kreutz’s article it is shown that measured temperature follows measured radiation and that CO2 follows temperature.

  12. tallbloke says:

    “Over the contiguous United States, total annual precipitation increased at an average rate of 6.1 percent per century since 1900, with the greatest increases within the East North Central climate region (11.6 percent per century) and the South (11.1 percent). Hawaii was the only region to show a decrease (-9.25 percent).[98]


  13. Managed to put a new post on the Cementafriend blog with a link to the pdf partial translation of Kreutz’s paper. Hope others can download it.