Monday, June 8, 2015

How to Decarbonize the World in Only 85 Years

                                            A Major Heat Wave is Now Hitting Europe

The leaders of the G7 industrialized nations are holding a group meeting in Germany, just as western Europe is sweltering in an anomalously early heat wave.  Temperatures are as much as 25° above normal for this time of year.   Perhaps in response to this heat wave, the G7 leaders pledged today to decarbonize the world economy in 85 years to stop global warming.  There was no word on how this "decarbonization"  was to be accomplished other than a vague pledge that it would only take place many decades after all the current leaders of the G7 are out of office. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin was  disinvited to this G7 meeting, but if he had been there he might have pointed out that 85 years is equivalent to 17 consecutive old style USSR "five year plans".  In fact 85 years is longer then the USSR itself even existed.   Theres no way around it ----  85 years is a very very long time.  

Its great news that several leaders of major industrialized countries have all agreed that climate change is a real problem, and that they need to take action to mitigate global warming.  However, its a little disappointing that the best they can come up with is a vague promise that everything will be OK in 85 years.   What are people supposed to do for the next 85 years until the decarbonization occurs? 

Homes and apartments in France and Germany typically aren't equipped with air conditioning, and past heat  waves in Europe have already killed tens of thousands of victims.  In 85 years this death toll is likely to grow.  In 85 years sea level will have risen by 1-3 m.  In 85 years crops will be failing due to drought and heat.  In 85 years Arctic Sea Ice will be gone and Greenland Ice will be rapidly melting and the world will be well on its way to climate disaster. 

I'm disappointed that the G7 leaders didn't come up with a more concrete proposal that could be completed in a shorter period of time.   Let face facts----the G7 pledge to act in 85 years means they intend to take no significant action to stop climate change now. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

NOAA Says the Global Warming Hiatus Was All a Big Histake

                Never mind----NOAA now says there never really was a hiatus in global warming!

NOAA has added more data points and "adjusted" some earlier temperature data from the first part of the 21st century, and the newly configured global temperature data set is now interpreted to show no hiatus or slow down in global warming occurred during the first part of the 21st century. This is in conflict with dozens of earlier reports from NOAA that consistently reported that following a record warm El Nino year in 1998, the Earth failed to set a new temperature record for the next 15 years. The period of time from 1998 to 2013 with no apparent global warming had come to be known as the "hiatus."

The earlier reports by NOAA of a hiatus in global warming caused both scientific and political controversy. Some politicians and political commentators opposed to the idea of global warm seized on the hiatus as evidence that the whole scientific idea of global warming warming was flawed, and predictions of the magnitude of future global warming were therefore unreliable. In the scientific community research was done and numerous papers published about the hiatus, with a wide range of scientific theories being offered to explain the hiatus. Possible reasons for the hiatus ranged from the effects of volcanoes, to heat being hidden in the ocean, problems with data quality, to simple random variations in the amount of global warming going on. But there was little doubt that the hiatus posed a problem for the scientific community. Prof. William Collins of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and lead author of the modeling Chapter 9 of the IPCC AR5 said of the hiatus: "

... to be honest with you, if the hiatus is still going on as of the sixth IPCC report, that report is going to have a large burden on its shoulders walking in the door, because recent literature has shown that the chances of having a hiatus of 20 years are vanishingly small."

Now NOAA is claiming that the hiatus never even happened, and that there was no slow down in global warming during the first part of 21st century.  If one accepts NOAA's new statements, they  have done away with the hiatus controversy entirely by getting rid of the hiatus itself. Apparently all the earlier NOAA reports showing a hiatus, and all the scientific research done on the hiatus, and all the scientific papers published about the hiatus, and all the theories explaining the hiatus were just a big mistake. Its like NOAA made some kind of planetary "boo-boo" and now they want a "do-over."

But if the hiatus controversy is over, a new controversy now exists----this time about the quality of the NOAA global temperature data. Now that NOAA has completely reversed themselves to say there never was a hiatus or slow down in global warming, that means many years of NOAA data were wrong. And if the prior data was wrong, is the current data right?

On Track for Record Low Sea Ice in the Arctic

This year is on track to set a variety of records for record warmth, record droughts, warmest January, February, March, etc. etc.   In a new compilation of satellite data put together by German scientists at the University of Bremen, its apparent that Arctic Sea Ice is shrinking at a rate never seen before.

If this pattern continues, by September 2015 we will see a new all-time low for Arctic Sea Ice.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

NATURE Magazine Warns Scientists Over UN Climate Change Treaty threat to Scientific Integrity

                                                        You can't fool Mother Nature

The UN Climate Change Treaty (also known as the Kyoto Protocols) had a a very simple premise-----if all the countries on earth would sign a UN treaty to reduce their CO2 emissions, then future global warming could be ameliorated. The UN climate change treaty process was set up in a clever way---first would come a "practice" treaty, where countries would accept voluntary, non-binding targets for CO2 reduction and then, after they'd gained experience in reducing CO2 would come a binding treaty where countries would be required to reduce their CO2 emissions and be subject severe penalties if they failed to keep their treaty obligation.

The UN Treaty signed in Kyoto was the "practice" treaty, while the binding treaty was supposed to be signed at the UN meeting in Copenhagen in 2010. But after President Obama feuded with the Chinese delegation in Copenhagen and the new treaty was shelved, a decision was made to shift the UN treaty process in an entirely new direction. Rather than targeting CO2 emissions, any new UN treaty would instead set as its target a limit of 2° on the amount that the Earth would be allowed to warm and further stipulate that there would be no penalties or binding agreements on emissions. As NATURE puts it:

The negotiations' goal has become what is politically possible, not what is environmentally desirable. Gone is a focus on establishing a global, 'top down' target for stabilizing emissions or a carbon budget that is legally binding. The Paris meeting will focus on voluntary, 'bottom up' commitments by individual states to reduce emissions.

In addition to warning that the new UN treaty negotiation are on the verge of failing, NATURE is expressing concern that scientists and their integrity are coming under assault in defining the new 2° C warming target. The problem is that while the goals of the old Kyoto style treaty were clear and simple to define ---- reduce CO2 emissions----the new target of keeping the world below a 2°C warming target is putting unanticipated pressure on scientists and government scientific advisors. Nature says:

There is another casualty: scientific advice. Climate scientists and economists who counsel policy-makers are being pressured to extend their models and options for delivering mitigation later. This has introduced dubious concepts, such as repaying 'carbon debt' through 'negative emissions' to offset delayed mitigation — in theory.

Scientific advisers must resist pressures that undermine the integrity of climate science. Instead of spreading false optimism, they must stand firm and defend their intellectual independence, findings and recommendations — no matter how politically unpalatable.

Climate researchers who advise policy-makers feel that they have two options: be pragmatic or be ignored. They either distance themselves from the policy process by declaring that it is no longer possible to stay within a 2 °C-compatible carbon budget, or they suggest practical ways to dodge carbon-budget constraints.

In other words, politicians are demanding that scientists and govermental scientific advisors lie. The politicians want scientists to affirm that what is likely to be weak, ineffective climate change treaty will stop global warming, even though the scientists know this isn't the case.

Of course, this kind of thing is exactly why the world will eventually need planetary geoengineering to stop global warming. It might be possible for politicians to fool the public and the news media about the effectiveness of a sham climate treaty, and it might even be possible to find scientists who will join in fooling the public, but a sham climate deal won't stop global warming. You can't fool Mother Nature.

Monday, June 1, 2015

An Inconvenient Truth Revisited----Fact Checking Al Gore's Climate Predictions 10 Years Later

                                        "I'm so hot!!!  I'm on fire!!!"
I found a copy of the 2006 movie "An Inconvenient Truth" at a rummage sale for $0.25. I'd seen the film when it first came out and I remember mainly being irritated by it. It seemed to me that the film spent a bit too much time on Al Gore's personal life, including his bitterness about losing the 2000 Presidential election, at the expense of time that could have been better spent discussing global warming. Also, as a scientist working on global climate change, I thought Al Gore came precariously close to presenting the work of scientists as his own without giving credit to the people who were actually doing the work.

I was curious how the movie would stand up after 10 years, so I gave the lady at the rummage sale a quarter and took the DVD home and spun it up.

With 10 years of hindsight, Al Gore comes off a little bit differently then he did in 2006. While the film portrays Al Gore as a kind of  solitary ecological saint who travels alone from city to city to give his powerpoint show warning about climate change, one can't help remembering Al Gore's arrest for sexually assaulting a masseuse in a hotel in Portland in 2010.  The masseuse claimed Al Gore attacked her "like a crazed sex poodle."  Two other masseuses later said Al Gore had sexually assaulted them as well. And then there's Al Gore's more recent arrest for indecent exposure in Miami after he took off all his clothes" when the Will Smith song "Getting Jiggy With It" was played at a nightclub called "Heat Wave."

Witnesses said that when the song came on, Mr. Gore just went wild and kept yelling, ‘I’m so hot! I’m on fire!’, at which point security guards at the popular downtown nightclub, called Heat Wave, escorted Mr. Gore to the parking lot, and made him put his pants back on.

The scientific parts of the movie hasvestood the test of time better then the reputation of Al Gore himself. The story of Prof. Roger Revelle and the famous Keeling curve of atmospheric CO2 is done well, and the prediction of global warming in the movie remain valid. Probably the most controversial part of the film when it came out was the idea that sea level might go up as much as 20 feet, submerging parts of the coast in Florida, Bangladesh, India, China, etc.  But here we are in 2015, and Greenland is melting, Antarctica is starting to melt, and the rate of sea level rise has grown to over 3 mm per year and is still increasing, so the prospect of even an eventual 20 foot rise in sea level can't be ruled be out.

So its still a good movie, but it the goal was to inspire a mass political movement that would demand new laws and treaties to reduce global CO2 emissions then it didn't succeed.  So why didn't Al Gore convince the general public to take action to stop global warming? Again, with 10 years of hindsight, I suspect the problem was that the powerpoint lecture that Al Gore was giving in the movie was boring, and people lost interest.  I remember at the showing I went to in 2008 (a free event at the University of Alaska) that people were walking out early.  

Its just too bad they didn't use the song "Getting Jiggy With It" as the soundtrick for "An Inconvenient Truth" because then the film would have ended with the credits running and the song playing and Al Gore taking off all his clothes and going wild and screaming "I'm so hot! I'm on Fire" and even though the film would've had an "X" rating at least people would've stuck around to see the the film all the way through to see how it all came out.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Global Warming kills 1500+ people in Indian Heat Wave

                                             Global Warming is making India Hot Hot Hot

Global climate models (GCMs) predict that increases in the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere will result in increases in global temperature, and a direct manifestation of the global warming will be unusually long and intense heat waves.   Many countries around the world have experienced unusually intense heat waves in the last several decades, including India which experienced unprecedented heat waves in 2007 and 2010, the latter heat wave resulting in over 3000 deaths.  Now, eight years later,  global warming has produced an even more severe heat wave in India, resulting the death of over 1500 people so far.    Some people think the death toll associated with the current heat wave in India may actually have caused many more deaths then reported, because heat waves tend to disproportionately kill elderly people whose cause of death is usually attributed to their age rather then the heat wave.  By comparison, an unprecedented heat wave in Europe in 2003 is thought to have caused the deaths of up to 70,000 people, the vast majority of them being elderly.

Killer heat waves are one of the most obvious manifestations of global warming.  The instrumental data clearly shows that extreme heat waves are occurring more often and with greater intensity then seen in the past, consistent with global warming predictions.  

The global weather data collected so far this shows that 2015 is on track to be the hottest year seen on earth since instrumental records began to be recorded.  As more and more CO2 accumualtes in the atmosphere the earth will inevitably become even warmer, and with the hotter temperatures will come thousands and tens of thousands more deaths in India and other countries caused by global warming inducing more and more heat waves in the decades to come

And there's only way to stop it----  planetary geoengineering is the only possible way to counteract global warming.   

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Can the Coast Guard stop Global Warming?

                                          All hands on deck!  Prepare to engage global warming!

Recently President Obama gave a speech at the Coast Guard Academy in which he told the young Coast Guard cadets that global climate change was a national security threat to the United States and exhorted them to use their time in the Coast Guard to fight global warming.    While I appreciate the President's zeal in giving speeches about global warming, I have to question his judgement on this occasion.

What exactly is it that President Obama expect the Coast Guard to do about global warming?

Does he want the Coast Guard to sail their ships on patrols along the coastline of the United States and then to intercept global warming before it can come ashore?  Does he want the Coast Guard to keep watch from their ships for global warming and radio warnings back to Washington DC when they encounter it?   What in heck can they do?

The fact of the matter is that the US Department of Defense, of which the Coast Guard is part, is one of the largest CAUSES of global warming on the planet.  Every time an Air Force plane takes off, or an Army tank rolls by, or a Coast Guard ship cruises out to sea, they are burning fossil fuels and releasing CO2 and CAUSING global warming.

The only way for the Coast Guard to fight global warming is for it to greatly reduce its activities or even stop being the Coast Guard altogether and never go to sea again.   And thats not going to happen.  

Lets face facts.... Even if the Coast Guard shut down, and the US Air Force mothballed all its planes, and every American turned off his car and pledged to bike to work for the rest of his life---even if the entire USA simply disappeared in a big magic POOF!, it wouldn't be enough to stop global warming.  CO2 emissions in China are growing so rapidly that they would entirely replace the missing US emissions in just seven years.    And now India is starting to grow even more rapidly then China.

Thats why it is so important to develop effective methods of climate geoengineering that will remove CO2 from the atmosphere.   ----We're going to need it.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Problems in Geoengineering Atmospheric Methane Levels

                                       Recent variations in atmospheric methane concentrations.

Over the last 10 years atmospheric methane levels have increased from about 1790 to about 1860 parts per billion (shown as nmol/mol in the plot above)---an increase of about 3%.  In comparison atmospheric CO2 has increased from about 380 to 401 ppm over the last decade---an increase of about 5.5%.  Since CO2 is about 200 times more abundant then CH4 and is accumulating more rapidly in the atmosphere, it might seem that theres not too much to worry about from the build-up of CH4 in the atmosphere.    However, while methane is present in much lower concentrations in the atmosphere then CO2, it is a much more effective greenhouse gas ---- a molecule of CH4 captures about 20 times more heat then a molecule of CO2.

Much more attention has been focused on methods of Geoengineering CO2 removal from the atmosphere then CH4 removal for the simple reason that CO2 is responsible for most of the global warming occurring on the earth today.  Also slowing down the development of ideas for geoengineering methane is the fact that there is no natural or "green" way to reduce methane concentrations in the atmosphere.   To the best of my knowledge there is no major geologic or biologic processes that involves methane so its not possible to pump down CH4 by enhancing a natural  process.   I've discussed earlier in this blog that most of the geoengineering ideas for pumping down CO2 are based on idea to enhance natural processes ----this approach just won't work for methane.

Nonetheless, when Geoengineering of earth's climate eventually starts, it would be great if we could pump down CH4 at the same that CO2 is being removed from the atmosphere.  Methane makes a significant contribution to global warming, and current CH4 levels are about 40% higher then pre-industrial CH4 concentrations in the atmosphere.   

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Green Geoengineering is a False Faustian Bargain

                                        The Faustian Bargain of Green Geoengineering

Some scientists have held out hope that green geoengineering would be able to help reduce the effects of CO2 buildup in the Earth's atmosphere.  The basic idea was that increasing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere would stimulate  the growth of trees and other plants, pumping down some of the CO2 in the atmosphere.  

The flaw in this idea is obvious----any storage of CO2 in the biosphere must inevitably be temporary---when trees and plants die all the CO2 returns stored in the plant will return to the atmosphere.  Over the last few decades numerous studies have confirmed that trees and plants in the Amazon Rain Forest areas were indeed undergoing accelerated growth due to higher CO2 and excitement was growing over the potential of green engineering to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.  Now new studies are showing that all the accelerated growth of trees has done is to create a larger-then-usual pool of carbon in the biosphere and solum that is now being released back to atmosphere as the trees and plants die.  Projections show that in short order so much of this excess CO2 will be released to the atmosphere at the Earth's biosphere is going to change from a carbon sink into a major carbon source.  

It turns out that "green geoengineering" has turned out to be a Faustian bargain, i.e. a foolish deal made for present without regard for future costs or consequences.    The claim that planting trees and other forms of green geoengineering would reduce atmospheric CO2 and mitigate global warming has had a very short shelf life.    Current estimates are that the biosphere will become a large net carbon source by the year 2100.

We can now declare that green geoengineering is essentially useless.  Any relief from higher atmospheric CO2 levels and global warming provided by green geoengineering will only be temporary--after only a few decades any excess CO2 stored in trees plants and soils will be returned to the atmosphere.   

But don't despair because green geoengineering has turned out to be a sham and a fraud.  There are still a variety of  other geoengineering proposals, including my own CO2 Antarctic Pumpdown Geoengineering proposal, that hold out promise of being ways to pump down and sequester CO2 over time periods that will actually help ameliorate global warming.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Let There be Blobs

                                                 Now there are three warm blobs in the Northeastern Pacific Ocean

How does a blob reproduce?  Does it extrude little blob seeds that float away and grow into new blobs or does it split itself in two like a giant amoeba?  Well, however it did it the area of very warm water off California known to scientists as the "Blob" now has two other Blobs to keep it company (see pic above).  A new Blob has formed in the Gulf of Alaska and another Blob covers all of Alaska's Bering Sea.  Both of the Alaska Blobs are bigger then original Blob off California.

Each of the three Blobs is a huge area of warm water with temperatures up to 5°C above normal.  The water in the Blobs is warm enough to contain species of fish that aren't normally seen in these areas, and to not contain the kinds of fish that are normally seen.   The California Blob has been implicated in the record warm temperatures and the drought affecting California and the western US, and no doubt the new Alaska Blobs will also have significant climatic effects on Alaska and nearby areas on the North American continent.

These Blobs are exactly the kind of thing one would expect to see after years of global warming.  Scientists have known for years that much of the excess heat trapped by Greenhouse gases has been going into the oceans, so it really shouldn't be surprising that huge areas of the ocean are warming and Blobs of warm water are appearing.   Nonetheless, there seems to be an odd reluctance to see the Blobs for what they are----a product of global warming.

                                       Record warm global temperatures in March 2015

The Blobs show up nicely in the new NOAA global temperature compilation.  The record warm temperatures produced by the three Blobs appear as a red band along the northwest coast of North America extending from Mexico to Alaska, marking one of the warmest anomalies on the entire planet, which also reached new record warm temperatures in March 2015.  

Personally, I expect still more Blobs to appear elsewhere in the Pacific as well as in other oceans in coming years as global warming becomes more and more intense.    In fact, I feel so strongly about this that I've written a poem on the subject.  Here it is:

There once was a Blob off California
Then two more Blobs formed off Alaska
I see it clear
In future years 
in oceans far and near
more Blobs will appear
So don't say I didn't warn ya



Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Mystery of the Haboobs

                                        Recent haboob in Phoenix, Az.

Yet another scientific mystery is unfolding around the globe. Meteorologists are baffled as to the cause of giant sand and dust storms (haboobs) that are sweeping across arid regions and deserts....and still more haboobs that are now appearing outside of deserts. A recent newspaper article about the haboobs was headlined:

"Mystery of the dust storms sweeping the world: Experts baffled by spate of 'haboobs' which have brought travel chaos and turned day into night in cities thousands of miles from deserts

The newspaper went on to report:
"This year has seen a rash of massive dust storms around the world that have led to travel chaos and blocked out sunlight - but experts cannot pinpoint the reason...."

Take a deep breath, count to ten, and repeat after me: global warming is responsible for producing more haboobs. In fact, these giant dust storms should be seen as a form of proxy climate data. Larger and more frequent dust storms are exactly the sort of thing that one would expect to see more of if the world was undergoing global warming, and if drought and aridification was occurring over larger and larger regions. If water tables were falling and areas of bare ground were growing, if rain was falling less often and temperatures were growing warming, then you might expect more dust storms.  And that is exactly what is happening.

So why oh why are meteorologists puzzled by the abundance of large dust storms just now? It turns out to be very difficult to quantify something like global warming just using weather records because weather itself is so extremely variable. Most attempts to quantify the amount of global warming going on now are just based on instrumental readings of temperatures, and this kind of data shows the earth has warmed about 1 to 1.5°C over the last 150 years. However, if you only consider temperature, then you don't capture variations in cloud cover, wind and rainfall intensity, changes in seasons, humidity, and other weather phenomena that are also responding to global climate change.

That where proxy climate records come in handy. Natural features like glacier extents and river discharge grow or shrink in response to a whole suite of climate data ---- not just changes in temperature. Things like changes in glacier extents and river discharge provide an alternative proxy measure that integrates all the various aspects of climate changes currently affecting them.

Haboobs are another natural phenomena that will change in frequency and intensity in response to global warming. Its very difficult to quantify exactly how much more haboob activity is occurring now then in the past, because these events are not being consistently tracked on a global basis. To make it even more difficult, haboobs are called by a variety of names including dust storms in some areas of the world and sand storms in other areas. But there should be little doubt that ongoing global warming is responsible for the increasing frequency of haboobs we are currently seeing, and one would have to be a boob not to associate the haboobs with global warming.

                                             Recent haboob in Lubbock, Texas

                                                                        Recent haboob in eastern Washington State
                                                                                  Recent haboob in Dubai

                                                                       Recent haboob in Australia

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Happy Earth Day!

                                         The first Earth Day (1970)

Just 45 years ago in 1970 the very first Earth Day was held. Earth Day events were held in two thousand colleges and universities, roughly ten thousand primary and secondary schools, and hundreds of communities across the United States. And at least 20 million Americans peacefully gathered together in mass demonstrations held in cities and towns across the United States to express support for protecting the environment.

A poll taken in1971 on the first anniversary of Earth Day found that 63 percent of respondents said that it was "very important" to work to restore and enhance the national environment, with 25 percent saying it was "fairly important" and only 8 percent saying it was "not too important." But when the same questions were asked in a US poll conducted in 2013, only 39 percent of respondents said it was very important, while 41 percent said it was fairly important and 16 percent said it was not too important.

How curious that 45 years after the first Earth Day was held in 1970, in a world where talk of global warming, superstorms, ice sheet melt, sea level rise, and massive droughts has become commonplace, public support for protecting the environment has fallen so dramatically.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Too Much Heat, Not Enough Light

                                                              Too much heat....not enough light

For years debate has raged over the reality of global warming.  On one side are most scientists (and a lot of politicians) who make predictions that global warming will cause the earth's mean annual temperature to rise by 2-3° C and sea level to rise by about a meter in response to rising levels of CO2 in the earth's atmosphere.  These predictions are based on principles of physics and atmospheric chemistry.  On the other side are a minority of scientists (and a lot of politicians) who question global warming science and doubt the  predictions that the earth will warm by 2-3° C and sea level will rise by a meter over the next 80 years.

But there is a third side to this argument that is rarely heard but brings an important perspective to the debate.  There are a small number of scientists who not only support the idea of global warming, but believe that the earth will become far hotter then is generally believed.   How much hotter??---some scientists predict the mean annual temperature of the  earth will be as much as 16°C (29° F) hotter then present by the year 2100.  

Since the earth has already warmed by about 1° C since 1850 in response to CO2 emissions, lets just stipulate that global warming is happening and go on to the next logical step which is to review the widely varying predictions of how much global warming we will be seeing because of CO2 emissions.   Why do some scientists believe global warming in the 21st century will be about 10 times greater then the conventional estimates of 2-3°C?

There are two ways to make predictions in Earth Science.  One way is to develop extremely complex numerical models that try to capture all of the relevant chemical and physical processes involved, and then use the numerical model to evaluate what happens as various parameters are changed.  For global warming, computer models designed to predict the weather patterns of the Earth are tweaked and run to simulate the earth's climate with higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.  These very complex models typically predict warming of 2-3°C.    Unfortuntely, the earth's climate system is so complex that even the largest computer model must make innumerable assumptions and simplifications so no computer model actually captures all the details of how earth's climate actually works.

The other way to make predictions in the earth sciences is by using numerical regressions.  This kind of modeling involves making repeat measurements of a process and the result and then extrapolating to predict what will happen if the process becomes more intense.  For instance, if you measure wind speed and ocean wave heights over a range of wind speeds you can develop a regression equation that will predict the wave height for any wind speed, even including greater windspeeds then you have actually observed.   Using paleoclimate data, regression curves have been developed that show how hot the earth was in the past at varying levels of atmospheric CO2.   The last time the earth had CO2 levels of ca. 1000 ppm comparable to those we will attain by the year 2100 was 30-100 million years ago, when tropical conditions reached all the way to the poles and the earth was about 16° C (29°F warmer then now).  

Both the numerical models and the regression climate models have obvious flaws.  The numerical models can never accurately model every aspects of the earth's climate system decades into the future, while regression models are so oversimplified that they don't include factors other then CO2 levels that may've amplified prehistoric temperatures to much higher levels then we may actually see by the year 2100.  But both kinds of models have some kind of inherent validity, and the extreme discordance between the these two kinds of modeling should be ringing alarm bells that global warming may turn out to be significantly more intense then most scientists now believe.

So far there has been too much heat and not enough light from the debate over the global climate problem.   In the future there will be too much heat....period.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Terraform Earth Using Synthetic Life to Stop Climate Change

                                                                            Its alive!  Its alive!  
                                            Igor---release the artifical life so it can begin capturing CO2!

Don't like the idea of geoengineering the climate?  How about  bioengineering synthetic life forms in the lab, and then seeding them around the planet so they can geoengineer terraform the Earth's climate instead? Bioengineers are proposing to do just that---they say then can create  new synthetic life that will go forth and terraform the Earth in order to stop global warming.

There are advantages to using synthetic life to terraform the Earth.  Life grows and reproduces naturally so after being released from the lab a new synthetic life form could easily grow and multiply and spread across the globe until it was capable of pumping down huge amounts of CO2.  Very little expense would be involved once the synthetic lifeform was released as it would feed on the same kinds of food as natural organisms.  If at went as planned, the synthetic organisms could go on to terraform the earth with absolutely no human supervision once they were released.  

Of course the very same things that are advantageous about creating synthetic life forms that will gobble up CO2 from the atmosphere could lead to problems.  What if the synthetic life form does better then expected and pumps down too much CO2 and starts an ice age?  What if it thrives to the point that it begins crowding out other natural organisms and altering ecosystem?  What if it triggers a chain of events that accelerates global warming?  One can imagine all sorts of Frankenstein-like scenarios, but the bioengineers say not to worry---they are testing various ways to ensure that the synthetic life they create will behave itself when released into the wild.   

Perhaps the greatest concern is what kind of changes will occur in the synethetic life forms after they are released from the lab and start to spread around the world.  Life
 is extremely tenacious and organisms typically evolve to compete with other organisms to fill all the available ecological niches---artificial life should behave no differently.   While various safeguards will be built into the genetics of any artificial lifeform released from the lab, the creatures will be subject to natural mutations and will start evolving as soon as they are are released into the wild.  One can imagine artificial lifeforms undergoing mutations that allow them to compete with existing organisms for the available ecological niches. 

Adding synthetic life into biosphere will very interesting at best--- at worst we might wind up having to geoegineer the earth twice---once to stop global warming and once to counteract the effects of terraforming done by out-of-control synthetic life forms.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Global Warming Causes Global Warming

                                                          Small amounts of global warming are amplified 
                                                        by positive feedback from the earth's climate system

A new paper shows that over the last 400,000 years, small amounts of global warming produced by variations in the earth's orbit around the sun have triggered much greater amounts of global warming due to various positive feedback effects in the earth's climate system.  In the past the earth has quickly shifted from cold ice ages to warm interglacial ages following very small shifts in the amount of solar radiation reaching the earth.  

This research suggests the earth's climate is extremely sensitive ---- when something happens that gives the earth a push either toward warming or cooling, other things like cloud cover, humidity, snow cover, glacier extent, desert extent, ecosystem changes, etc. quickly respond to the initial climate forcing, and then combine to push the climate even farther in that direction.

The climate feedback effects don't happen instantaneously.   In the paleoclimate record there is a lag of decades to centuries  between the initial nudge to the climate and the much larger response from the climate system.  

The implications of this pattern of nudges to the earth's ciimate followed by much larger feedback effects that push the climate farther in the same direction have obvious implications for modern human-caused global climate change.  Humans have nudged the climate system by adding more greenhouse gases like CO2 to the atmosphere over the last 150 years, increasing atmospheric CO2 from ca. 280 to 400 ppm.  We've already seen global warming of about 1°C for the planet---but feedback effects are just beginning to kick in and act to increase the magnitude of global warming.   And continued use of fossil fuels is inexorably raising the level of CO2 in the atmosphere towards levels of ca. 1000 ppm by the year 2100.  

We know increasing CO2 causes global warming.  We know global warming causes more global warming.  I'm very curious to see exactly how much additional warming will be created over the next few decades by the various climate feedback processes operating on the earth.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Blob that Ate California's Rainfall

                                                    The Blob That Ate California's Rainfall

A huge area of warm water in the northeast Pacific Ocean is having dramatic effects on the climate of California and the rest of the United States. In one of my very first blog posts early last winter I discussed NOAA data showing the presence of a huge area of anomalously warm water off the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington, and I linked the warm waters to the very warm conditions prevailing on the western coast of North America.

Now this region of warm water has a name---Nick Bond, the Climatologist for the state of Washington decided to call the patch of warm water the "Blob." The Blob covers a huge area---its about 1,000 miles across and 300 feet deep and as much as 1 to 4 degrees Celsius (2 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer then normal. The warm waters of the Blob are clearly contributing to the warm and dry conditions seen in California, Oregon and Washington over the last couple of years and may once again help produce another usually warm and dry summer.  It is clear the Blob is at least partly responsible for the extreme drought conditions in California that are threatening the agriculture business in California and causing dramatic restrictions in the amount of water available for business activities and home use by California's 30 million residents.

Nothing like the warm ocean conditions of the Blob has ever been seen in this region before.  Is the Blob being caused by global warming? Nick Bond doesn't think so, saying

"This is a taste of what the ocean will be like in future decades. It wasn't caused by global warming, but it's producing conditions that we think are going to be more common with global warming."

Personally I find Bond's statement at best a little bit confusing and at worst completely wrong. How can Bond maintain the Blob has nothing to do with global warming when the Earth is now reaching record warm temperatures due to global warming and the Blob is producing exactly the conditions that are predicted to be caused by global warming? How can anomalously warm conditions in the ocean be unrelated to the anomalous warming of the oceans caused by global warming? Isn't a more likely hypothesis that the Blob, which is behaving just like a manifestation of global warming, actually is a manifestation of global warming?

Fortunately, scientists have a generally accepted way to evaluate these kinds of conflicting hypotheses. Occam's razor (Latin lex parsimoniae or 'law of parsimony'), is a problem-solving principle put forth by William of Ockham (c. 1287–1347). The principle states that among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. Modern scientists use Occam's razor as a heuristic tool to evaluate different hypotheses.  For any physical process one could conjure up an infinite variety of complex but ultimately unlikely ways to explain what is observed in nature. According to Occam's Razor as applied to the scientific method simpler scientific theories are more testable and therefore are always preferable.

Lets examine how Occam's Razor applies to the question of whether of not the Blob has formed due to global warming. Dr. Bond believes that some unknown, unnamed, previously undescribed and no doubt complex set of events and processes is somehow creating the Blob and causing it to act in such a way that it mimics the effects of global warming.   Dr. Bond does not offer a logical explanation for the origins of the Blog, but simply asserts it is not due to global warming.  With all due respect, I hereby challenge Dr. Bond to actually describe the mysterious and unknown processes that he believes are creating the Blob and so effectively mimicing the effects of global warming without invoking global warming.  

In contrast, I suggest that the Blob, which in all regards is what one would expect from global warming, actually is a product of global warming.   My model for the cause of the Blob and the effects of the Blob is extremely simple and direct---the cause of the warming is global warming, and the observed effects are exactly what is to be expected from global warming.

I suspect William of Ockham would endorse my hypothesis linking the the warm waters of the Blob to a manifestation of global warming over Dr. Bonds' more complex hypothesis linking the Blob to dark and mysterious but still unknown forces about which nothing is known except Dr. Bond's contention that they are only mimicking the effects of global warming.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Carbon Sequestration using Coca-Cola

                                              Would you like a slice of lemon with your carbon sequestration?

Advocates of carbon capture (CC) and carbon sequestration (CS) have demonstrated that it is possible to capture carbon from the smokestacks of fossil fuel power plants. A more intractable problem is figuring out to store or sequester the CO
2 so that it doesn't reach the atmosphere and contribute to global warming. The ongoing work on CC and CS is of great interest to folks interested in geoengineering the planet to mitigate global warming, as techniques that can successfully remove CO2 from power plant exhausts and store it might also be applicable to the larger problem of removing excess CO2 from the earth's atmosphere in order to geoengineer earth's climate.

Thus it was with some interest that I read about a new proposal to divert CO
2 captured from power plant exhaust stacks into normal industrial uses, including the carbonation of fizzy drinks like coca cola, pepsi, ginger ale, soda water, beer, Moscato, etc. So far Australia is taking the lead on this particular problem:

'Australia has worked closely with other countries which rely heavily on fossil fuels to investigate opportunities to utilise CO2 in products such as carbonated drinks and plastics.....’

I can understand how you might "sequester" captured CO
2 in plastics, because plastics are inert and almost indestructible if they aren't burned, but I'm not sure the people thinking of storing CO2 in plastics have actually thought through just how much .....plastic.....they would have to make and sequester to really make a dent in the amount of CO2 released by fossil fuel use. The combustion of fossil fuels currently releases about 40 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year, and if you could capture it all then after 25 years you'd have something over a trillion tons (1,000,000,000 tons) of CO2 to store in plastic.  For comparison, the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt weighs something like 6.5 million tons, so after 25 years of CC and CS by converting CO2 into plastic you'd have created something like 153,846 full size plastic replicas of the Great Pyramid of Giza, which you'd have to guard forever to prevent them from catching fire and returning all that CO2 to the atmosphere.

And trying to sequester CO
2 by adding it to Coca Cola and other fizzy drinks is even more problematical. When people drink Coca-Cola much of the CO2 that makes the drink fizzy is quickly released back to the atmosphere through various kinds of human gaseous emissions. Even worse, some of it is converted into methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more powerful then CO2.  I suppose someone could devise additional carbon capture systems that you could strap on to various human orifices to absorb the CO2 and methane emitted from people who drink Coca-Cola, but if that CO2 is in turn going to be sequestered by reintroducing it into Coca Cola again, as the Australians are suggesting, then there is hardly any point to the entire carbon capture and carbon sequestration process.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

A Non-partisan Review of Global Warming

Liberals believe in Global Warming, conservatives don't---thats the stereotype.

But Global Warming isn't a religion that people either believe in or don't---its a collection of scientific data organized into a scientific hypothesis. The acceptance or rejection of the ideas that human activities are causing climate change and Global Warming shouldn't be a matter or belief or faith---it should depend 100% on the data.   It should be non-partisan.

Recently Ronald Bailey, the science correspondent for a "conservative" magazine named "Reason" recently wrote a very interesting review of the data that he believes provides incontrovertible evidence for Global Warming:

1. Atmospheric CO
2 has increased from 280 parts per million in the late 18th century to around 400 ppm today.

2. All of the global temperature datasets from both weather stations and satellites show the Earth has warmed.  Just since the 1950s  instrumental records suggest that surface temperatures have increased by about +0.9 C° (1.6 F°). Satellite data shows that over the past 35 years global temperatures have increased by about 0.5° C (0.9°F).

3. Global Climate Models (GCMs) predict man-made warming due to increasing CO
2 in the atmosphere will reduce differences between daytime and nighttime temperatures. The data show this is happening in the United States, China, Spain, and other regions.

4. GCMs predict global warming will result in more heatwaves, and indeed heat waves have become more common since the 1950s.

5. GCMs predict the warm temperatures of spring will arrive sooner and the cool temperatures of fall will begin later, and the data shows that spring in Europe arrives about 3 days earlier and average date for the entire Northern Hemisphere is about 4 days earlier. The fall is also starting later, resulting in a longer growing season.

6. Over the last 40 years there has been a 7 - 11% decrease in spring snow cover, consistent with with climate model predictions.

7. GCMs predict that Global Warming will be greater in Arctic regions then at lower latitudes, and Arctic summer melt season has lengthened at a rate of 5 days per decade over the last 35 years. Arctic temperatures are rising at 0.6° C per decade, about 4 times the global average.

8. Warming Arctic temperatures are predicted to cause massive glacier melt, and the Greenland ice sheet has been losing mass at a rate of 34 gigatons per year over the last 35 years, with the rate of ice loss jumping up sevenfold since 2002 to an estimated 215 gigatons per year.

9. GCM models predicted that Arctic sea ice and would thin and the extent of sea ice would decrease, and since 1980 Arctic sea ice extent has been decreasing at rate of ca. 3.8 percent per decade, a value significantly in excess of the worst case prediction scenario.

10. A warming atmosphere should be characterized by higher average humidity, and satellite studies from 2005 and 2014 found this is occurring. However, this factor does not preclude Global Warming producing intense droughts in some localities, like those currently hitting California, Taiwan and Argentina.

11. GCM models predict the Earth's oceans will warm, and numerous studies show significant warming of the oceans, with as much as 90 percent of the heat trapped by atmospheric Greenhouse gases currently being stored there.

Finally, after showing that the warming of the Earth seen over the last 100 years is fully consistent with predictions of global warming due to CO
2 releases from fossil fuel combustion, Ronald Bailey notes recent predictions that the rate of warming of the Earth will soon rise to 0.25°C per decade ----- a remarkable and ultimately rather unpleasant rate of warming to contemplate.

 Given the high level of success achieved by past predictions of the effects of global warming, I sincerely hope both liberals and conservatives take these new predictions quite seriously.  Since the prospect of continued rapid warming is ultimately untenable we may be approaching the time when there is no option but to try some non-partisan Planetary Geoengineering to mitigate future climate change.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Methane gas blowhole formation in Siberia proceeding ad infinitum

                                               Smaller methane craters now forming ad infinitum

Russia Today (RT) reports that smaller "baby" pits are now appearing around the margins of the large "gas blow holes" discovered last year on the Yamal Peninsula of northern Siberia.   The large central gas blowholes attracted global attention when they appeared, as they may be an indicator that Global Warming has progressed sufficiently that it is causing permafrost in Siberia to degrade and release large amounts of methane. 

The new report from RT that many smaller pits are now forming around the margins of the larger pits is consistent with the idea that the methane gas blow holes are forming as the result of large scale thermal degradation of permafrost.  Some have suggested the gas blow holes were "one-off" events connected to oil and gas drilling or some other non-climatic mechanism. but the creation of pit after pit in the months after the formation of the big central pit is more consistent with warming of permafrost as a consequence of Global Warming.  If this pattern repeats, then in coming years more large gas blow holes will form, and then more smaller gas blow blow holes and even smaller collapse pits will form around them,  until parts of the Siberian landscape begin to look like Swiss cheese.

The prospect of the creation of more and more central gas blow holes, followed by many many smaller gas blowholes and pits spreading across the Siberian landscape reminds me of Jonathan Swift's famous (1733) poem about fleas:

So nat'ralists observe, a flea 
Has smaller fleas that on him prey; 
And these have smaller fleas to bite 'em.   
And so proceeds Ad infinitum.

Here's my version

In far Siberia gas blow holes form 
When the permafrost gets too warm 
And then small blow holes do surround 
As still more methane leaves the ground 

Augustus De Morgan borrowed from Swift's idea to write a similar verse in 1872

Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite 'em, 
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.

And here is my variation on De Morgan's flea poem reset for the methane gas blowholes now beginning to spread across Siberia.

Great gas blow holes have little gas blow holes beside 'em 
And little holes have lesser holes, and so ad infinitum

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Is Global Warming Killing Your Lawn?

                                                               Truthiness from the New Yorker

The Borowitz report in the New Yorker magazine recently asked: What does it take to get Americans to think about Global Warming?  The article cites a new survey that shows that while Americans are unconcerned by predictions of rising sea levels, the destruction of Arctic sea ice and polar bear habitats, and the appearance of larger and larger cyclones and hurricanes, people in California are freaking out because the drought is turning their lawns brown.    

“We are being forced to create a front lawn out of stones and, yes, cacti.  I’m not sure that this is a world I would want to leave to my children.”  
                            --Harland Dorrinson (Sacramento).

“Right now we’re looking at a situation where we have to choose between saving our climbing hydrangeas or our roses,  We are no longer living like humans.”
                           --Tracy Klugian (San Diego).

And a  nice lady named Carol Foyler, after watching the lawn in front of her ranch house in San Mateo turn from a gorgeous green to a hideous brown during California’s drought, said she blamed scientists “for failing to warn us of the true cost of climate change.”

“They always said that polar bears would starve to death.  OK, I can accept that.  But they never told us our lawns would look like crap.”

Monday, April 6, 2015

Five Psychological Gimmicks to Deal With Global Warming That Almost All Start with D

Analyze THIS!

In a recent book entitled "What We Think About When We Try Not to Think about Global Warming" the psychologist Per Espen Stoknes identified five psychological gimmicks  that people use to avoid taking action to prevent climate change.   The five reasons that Per Stoknes comes up with are straight out of the  the kind of "touchy-feely" psychobabble that provides so much amusement in comedy movies about dysfunctional couples in relationship counseling.  


Per Stoknes called his first psychological gimmick "distance" ---inspired by the similarities between global warming and a girlfriend who might be acting "distant."  By this he means that Greenhouse Warming seems to be acting remote --- like its mind is on the Arctic maybe, so people can't emotionally connect with it.   


Per Stoknes believes that framing global warming as an oncoming vision of doom that will result in economic hardships and personal losses, and a problem without a practical solution makes people tune it all out.  Here Per Stoknes seems fundamentally misunderstand the problem.  The scientific predictions of the effects of future global warming are what they are---they can't be changed so they sound better.  


Per Stoknes complains that he suffers from cognitive dissonance, because he continues to drive his car, eat meat, fly on airplanes, and do other things that he knows contribute to climate change.  A less fancy word for the emotion Mr. Stoknes is feeling is guilt---the man feels guilty because he think he is a climate criminal who is personally responsible for melting the Arctic Ice Cap and killing off the Walrus.


Mr. Stoknes believes that many people are "in denial" about climate change.  By "denial" he means people can't emotionally connect with Global Warming, i.e. more or less the same thing as he meant when he said "distance."  As far as I can tell he added a gimmick called "denial" so he'd have five big psychological gimmicks instead of merely four.


Prof. Stoknes' fifth gimmick is what he calls "iDentity" [sic].   Note that the preceding four gimmicks all started with the letter "D" so Prof. Stoknes has intentionally misspelled the word identity as iDentity so as to have all five psychological gimmicks start with the letter "D".  Wow---that is really profound ---  all five psychological gimmicks start with "D"!!!! if you only misspell one of them!!!!!     

By iDentity Prof. Stoknes means that people who are "conservative" don't believe in global warming because people who are "liberal" do.  


 Of course the premise of Per Stoknes' book is absurd, as its already too late to prevent climate change----the real question is what can we do to stop Global Warming.  I await his next book...."What We Think About When We Try Not to Think About Geoengineering"