Archive for the ‘Global Warming’ category

Afraid Of Global Warming? Don’t Be.

September 3, 2009

Be Afraid of the Sun. Be Very Afraid

150 years ago this week something very interesting happened, up there, in the sky. Except for telegraph operators on the east coast, most people in the US did not know, or care, until the sky lit up in the evening.  It was very pretty.

On Sept. 2, 1859, at the telegraph office at No. 31 State Street in Boston at 9:30 a.m., the operators’ lines were overflowing with current, so they unplugged the batteries connected to their machines, and kept working using just the electricity coursing through the air.

In the wee hours of that night, the most brilliant auroras ever recorded had broken out across the skies of the Earth. People in Havana and Florida reported seeing them. The New York Times ran a 3,000 word feature recording the colorful event in purple prose.

“With this a beautiful tint of pink finally mingled. The clouds of this color were most abundant to the northeast and northwest of the zenith,” the Times wrote. “There they shot across one another, intermingling and deepening until the sky was painfully lurid. There was no figure the imagination could not find portrayed by these instantaneous flashes.”

It must have been cool.

If it happened today, most all of the world’s – all certainly this country’s – communications would shut down. The vast majority of the hardware we use to run civilizations today would be fried. Permanently. You may expect your TV, PC and even phone to not work. But your stove, if it is less that say, 10 years old, has a chip in it. Fried. Your car, if it’s not an antique, has one also.  Several of them, in fact.  So don’t expect it to start.  And your alarm system at work?  As Tony Soprano would say, fugeddaboudit.  That’s okay.  Tony’s much more interested in the bank.  Oh yes, the back-up battery there will work, but not the alarm that’s wired to the communications grid.

Civilization would come back alright, should such an event occur tomorrow.  None of this is stuff that we can’t rebuild or replace (or do without, mind you).  But the effort would be slow, costly and probably uncomfortable. Some who otherwise might live, will die.

Late last year, the National Academies of Science put out a report on severe space weather events. If a storm even approaching 1859 levels were to happen again, they concluded the damage could range upwards of a $1 trillion, largely because of disruptions to the electrical grid.

What’s interesting to contemplate is that the solar storm that triggered the events of Sept 2, 1859 was not a singular event.  Solar storms – solar flares that strike the earth – happen several times a year.  Only the magnitude of this particular storm was unusual, and that’s only because mankind has not known how to – or even to – look for such things for very long.  Solar storms are not conjecture based on models and derived hypotheses based on scant data.  Indeed, they are a fact of nature.

Waxman-Markey

June 25, 2009

Cap and Trade

Al Gore

Al Gore

If you Google Waxman-Markey, the ‘Climate Change Bill’ coming up in Congress this week, you’ll see that opinions on it are all over the map. Waxman-Markey Will Mandate Greener Building, Drive Green Renovation, Waxman’s Economy Killer, Waxman-Markey bill to address indirect land use change, Global warming bill still contains some smoke and mirrors, – no two giving the same opinion.

It’s a difficult topic, because it touches on economics, science and yes, politics. From an economic point of view, Megan McCardle notes that the bill seems to be low-cost.

But the real question, I think, is whether the low cost is a feature or a bug. The only way a bill is going to have an impact is if it causes real financial pain to American households–enough to get them to change their behavior. Waxman-Markey obviously is not going to do that. And indeed, the projections of its effect on global warming are entirely negligible.

Why should that be? Does this economist have the science to back up that statement?  No, and she doesn’t need it.  She explains that the reason is political, not scientific.  The reason is  – China.

China is not going to let its citizens languish in subsistence farming because 30 years from now, some computer models say there will be some not-well-specified bad effects from high temperatures. Nor is India. Global warming isn’t even high on the list of environmental concerns they’ll want to attack as they get rich; local air pollution is far more pressing. Thinking that we’re somehow going to lead them by example is like thinking that poor rural teens are going to buy electric cars because Ed Begley jr. has one.

In other words, if you believe that climate change is anthropological in nature, you must believe that nothing is going to change until and unless China and India come on-board.

Well, what about the rest of the world? From RealClearPolitics, Robert Tracinski and Tom Minchin point out that it’s not happening in other countries either.

As the US Congress considers the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill, the Australian Senate is on the verge of rejecting its own version of cap-and-trade. The story of this legislation’s collapse offers advance notice for what might happen to similar legislation in the US—and to the whole global warming hysteria.

So what do the scientists say? Dr. James Hansen, the director of the Goddard Institute of Space Science (GISS) said this, as he was being arrested:

I am not a politician; I am a scientist and a citizen. Politicians may have to advocate for halfway measures if they choose. But it is our responsibility to make sure our representatives feel the full force of citizens who speak for what is right, not what is politically expedient. Mountaintop removal, providing only a small fraction of our energy, should be abolished.

I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but I think he’s saying that the science doesn’t matter; it’s what people feel is right that matters. That sort of works, because the science is apparently being ignored. But contra Hansen, it’s being ignored for the politics. The scientists are playing politics.

A source inside the Environmental Protection Agency confirmed many of the claims made by analyst Alan Carlin, the economist/physicist who yesterday went public with accusations that science was being ignored in evaluating the danger of CO2.

The source, who chooses not to be identified for fear of retaliation, said that Carlin was rebuffed in his attempt to introduce scientific evidence that does not accord with the EPA’s view of global warming, which largely relies on IPCC reports.

Kevin Mooney at the Washington Examiner publishes on the story:

Scientific findings at odds with the Obama Administration’s views on carbon dioxide and climate change are being suppressed as a result of political pressure, officials at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) charge.
“This suppression of valid science for political reasons is beyond belief,” said CEI General Counsel Sam Kazman. “EPA’s conduct is even more outlandish because it flies in the face of the president’s widely-touted claim that ‘the days of science taking a back seat to ideology are over.’”

If this story was about anthrax, possible political manipulation in Congress and scientific intrigue, the story would not sell.  It is a mess, too convoluted, too unbelievable.  And there it is.  We buy it, we believe it’s plausible – why exactly?

What’s Up On Jupiter?

March 14, 2009

It’s Big, And It’s Climate Is Changing

090309-mm-jupiterspot-01Jupiter’s Great Red Spot has been there a long time.  Galileo first spotted it in 1610, and it’s been watched ever since.  But it’s not constant and unchanging.  We’ve known and observed small changes in in it’s size and color, and assumed that these changes reflect changes in it’s chemical composition.  But for the first time, The Great Red Spot seems to be shrinking, and other storms on Jupiter are merging to rival – or at least threaten – its status as the largest storm in the Solar System.  Earlier this week, Space.com gave us this:

On Earth, hurricanes form and dissipate in a matter of days. On Jupiter, storms can rage for years or even centuries. The Great Red Spot, a colossal storm twice the diameter of our planet, has lasted at least 300 years.

But now that mother of all storms is shrinking just as other spots emerge to challenge its status.

Observations of cloud cover over the past decade or so have suggested the huge, oval tempest was getting smaller as Jupiter’s climate changes.

Climate change?  Most assuredly.  Climates do that.  Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is not going to disappear tomorrow, but it is changing.  And change on a planetary scale is always “interesting”.  This may have something to do with the merging of 3 white “ovals” on Jupiter a few years ago.  Philip Marcus, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley is an expert in fluid and atmospheric dynamics, and decided that he has a good way to understand Jupiter’s changes.

“We think that upheavals might be related to the way that vortices move heat around the planet — when there are many vortices, they are very efficient at moving heat all the way from the equator to the poles,” Asay-Davis explained. “But when there are fewer, they are likely to be much less efficient.”

Back in 1998 to 2000, three large storms, all white ovals, merged. That might have had a big impact on the entire planet’s climate.

You Win Some…

February 24, 2009

And Sometimes The Bear Eats You!

A NASA climatological satellite failed shortly after launch last night.  “Initial indications are the vehicle did not have enough [force] to reach orbit and landed just short of Antarctica in the ocean.”

Several news sources say the satellite fairing (the clamshell-like housing containing the satellite during launch) failed to open and separate after it was launched from Vandenburg AFB, in California.

The $273 million satellite, called the Orbiting Carbon Observatory, would have collected global measurements of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the Earth’s atmosphere to help better forecast changes in carbon-dioxide levels and their effect on the Earth’s climate.

The OCO also would have provided information about CO2 “sinks” — areas, like oceans or landfills, that absorb and store carbon dioxide. NASA officials said all measurements would be combined with the findings of ground observation stations, providing a more complete account of the human and natural sources of CO2.

Orbital Sciences, based in Dulles, VA, built the vehicle.

There’s Data And There’s Bad Data

February 19, 2009

And Then There’s Lies

The National Snow and Ice Data Center has been at the forefront of research that predicts climatic catastrophy as the polar ice cap melts.  In 2008 they predicted that the artic would be ice free.

Spring has arrived in the Arctic. After peaking at 15.21 million square kilometers (5.87 million square miles) in the second week of March, Arctic sea ice extent has declined through the month of April. April extent has not fallen below the lowest April extent on record, but it is still below the long-term average.
Taken together, an assessment of the available evidence, detailed below, points to another extreme September sea ice minimum. Could the North Pole be ice free this melt season? Given that this region is currently covered with first-year ice, that seems quite possible.

It didn’t quite work out that way, and there was a reason for that – bad data.

As some of our readers have already noticed, there was a significant problem with the daily sea ice data images on February 16. The problem arose from a malfunction of the satellite sensor we use for our daily sea ice products. Upon further investigation, we discovered that starting around early January, an error known as sensor drift caused a slowly growing underestimation of Arctic sea ice extent. The underestimation reached approximately 500,000 square kilometers (193,000 square miles) by mid-February. Sensor drift, although infrequent, does occasionally occur and it is one of the things that we account for during quality control measures prior to archiving the data. See below for more details.
We have removed the most recent data and are investigating alternative data sources that will provide correct results. It is not clear when we will have data back online, but we are working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.

Climate research seems unusually prone to these kinds of scientific hicups.

You’ll be seeing more of this today, I’m sure.

I Blame George Bush, Myself

January 28, 2009

No I Don’t. But I Question The Timing

Your (not so) humble blogger got up early this morning, expressly to work out before work.  Bless me (whomever) – It’s been weeks since my last workout.  Almost.  I was suffering from a very bad, very lingering cold that kept me off the treadmill for most of these last three weeks, but I was able to get in a light workout just last Monday, two days ago.  It felt good.  I was really, really looking forward to doing it again today.

Then it snowed.  Then it rained.  And then it froze.

By 5 AM there was more than an inch of ice over everything (as I’m sure you’re aware, since this happened from Arkansas to Vermont), except on my car, which had the ice left over from the last glacial period on it.  <voice type=”Seinfeld Soup-Nazi”>No Workout For You!</voice>

Well, it only took me an hour to clean the windshield and get out of the parking lot and up the hill to the road exiting my townhouse.  It took less time to drive the rest of the commute, some 22 miles.  I’m counting my blessings – very light traffic, roads taken care of, no fenderbenders, no powerlines down, no hits, no runs and no errors.  I’ll take it.  Why getting out of the parking lot has to be an example of X-treme driving, I don’t know.  But in the Metro-DC area, it always is.

Unless you’re the mayor.

We will, of course, not laugh at the recurring coincidences of Al Gore Speechifying on behalf of Global Warming concerns and snow storms. It’s just too easy.

So What’s Up With Sunspot Cycle 24 Anyway?

January 20, 2009

Curiouser and Curiouser

Sunspot 1011 on 01/20/2009

Sunspot 1011 on 01/20/2009

I’ve not written for months on the state of the sun, and the strange lack of sunspots.  Go ahead – click on the thumbnail to see a blow-up of the sun’s surface today. There’s one (count ’em, one) sunspot to be seen, a very week one.   It’s labelled on the image.

And it’s an oddball in that it also has the wrong magnetic polarity (albeit weakly) for this cycle.  It’s almost a throw-back to the previous sunspot cycle.

But the question remains, is this late-starting sunspot cycle all that unusual, historically?  David Archibald at Watt’s Up With That gives us some perspective.

Solar Cycle 23 had its genesis with the magnetic reversal at the Solar Cycle 22 maximum. As the graph above shows, Solar Cycle 23 is now 19 years old. Only 9% of the named solar cycles produced spots after this.

The graph also shows the position of Solar Cycle 24 relative to its month of genesis. Solar Cycle 24 is now the second latest of the 24 named solar cycles. January is 105 months after the Solar Cycle 23 maximum. Only Solar Cycle 5, the first half of the Dalton Minimum, is later.

So yes, this cycle is starting very late, but there’s at least one known to have started later.  If the pattern holds true, it will also be weak.

If Solar Cycle 24 is going to be as weak as expected, the monthly sunspot number should remain under 10 by the end of 2009.

We’ll have a chance to keep track of these numbers to see if the prediction holds.   (Space Weather has an alternate calculation of the sunspot number that is widely used).

As for sunspot 1011, a reader of Watt’s Up With That has an interesting comment.

The newest from spaceweather.com:
Yesterday’s sunspot (NOAA 1011) has rapidly faded away. The sunspot’s low latitude suggests it may have been a member of old Solar Cycle 23; the sunspot’s magnetic polarity was unusual and did not clearly identify it as a member of either Cycle 23 or Cycle 24. Credit: SOHO/MDI

So, maybe, Solar Cycle 23 has not yet run out.

Indeed.