Monthly Archives: October 2013

Change can be a good thing.

I  must warn everyone that this post is going to be a bit odd.    Today’s subject is horse manure.

I have been thinking about how much the world changed with the introduction of the automobile or more precisely the replacement of the horse.   As the 20th century began, the world was still a horse and buggy place.  And it was also a time when big cities were growing rapidly.

The cities of the Gay (I’ll bet that word meant something else then) 90’s were filthy smelly places.

Imagine the Chicago of 1900.  Over a million people ….and over 600,000 tons of horse manure deposited on the city streets every year.  The average horse drops 20 to 30 pounds of the stuff every day.  Imagine….just imagine…trying to keep city streets clean.  Manure here, there, everywhere.  No wonder everyone wore boots.

I bet there were lots of patronage jobs cleaning up the stuff.  And along came the automobile and all those jobs went away.   I’m sure there was no Shit Shoveler’s Union to complain about all those lost jobs….but the jobs were lost.

And we’re talking lots of jobs.  In 1900 there were an estimated 3.5 million horses living in cities.  That’s about 75 million pounds of manure a day.     That’s a lot of shoveling.  And some 18,000 horses  dropped dead in New York City in a single year (1880).   Removing the dead animals kept a few New Yorkers working …and working hard.

The automobile changed all that.  Technology has been changing jobs since Man began farming some 10,000 years ago.  I have no idea what the future will bring, but I do draw some comfort from the past.  Should I need some horse manure for my garden, I simply hop into my GMC pickup, and run down to WalMart and pick up some.  I like that change.  I’m glad we don’t live in a world awash in manure.

Change can be a good thing…and it frequently is.

Nuclear Power — One Fine Politial Mess

Nuclear Power politics has long fascinated me.   Whenever I meet a global warming gloom and doom  believer, I ask them if they support Nuclear Power.  Invariably they either oppose the issue or are confused by the question.  I have yet to meet one that interconnects the two issues.   This puzzles me.

Nowhere is this more puzzling than in Europe.  Britain has just decided to build two new Nuclear power plants.   The first new plant built since the Fukashima disaster of 2011.  It’s big news and the Chinese are big backers.   People all over the EU are up in arms.

Europeans are trying very hard to reduce man caused carbon dioxide in their lives.  And they are trying to avoid the political third rail that  is Nuclear Power.  Germany has walked away from Nuclear Power, France has pledged to cut production by 40% and Italy has delayed new Nuclear plants.

Japan has pledged to be Nuclear free.   China is building 20 new Nuclear plants.

Suppose, just suppose, that the global warming fear mongers are right.  If they are right, we must seriously change the way we make electricity.  Invariably the green community solution is renewable energy.   For most of the world that means wind or solar.   Hydro and geothermal can work when the environment is right, but most places where people live have neither.

The electrical utility business is an on demand business.   At any given time there must be enough power generation to meet that demand.   Demand varies throughout the day as this chart of New England demand prepared by the EIA demonstrates:

graph of electric load curve: New England, 10/22/2010, electric power demand (gigawatts), as described in the article text

Electrical energy demand peaks at about sunset in October.  Solar works best in the middle of the day.  Wind usually decreases as the Sun sets.   At 7 in the evening, the reality of the power utility business runs directly into the fantasy world of clean energy.   Clean energy become less available when it is needed most.   What are  we to do?

How do we, as a society, meet the evening peak?

No fair counting on technology that does not yet exist.   When a new way of storing electricity is developed, then we can plan on an electrical utility world that is not demand based.  Until then the power that is needed at 7:00 PM on a Monday night must be produced at 7:00 PM on that same Monday night.

Society has but three rational options.

  • Coal fired plants
  • Natural Gas fired plants
  • Nuclear energy fired plants

There are no other choices that will work ….right now.   Thus my confusion.  Only one of these options works well in a carbon doom and gloom society…Nuclear Energy.   So how is France going to reduce Nuclear Power use by 40% without impacting their carbon footprint?   And Japan?   And Germany?

The Chinese solution to the problem is Nuclear power plants….and the British have figured this one out too.  I wonder when the powers that be in the EU will decide.

So far, European politicians appear to be trying to have it both ways.  Clean energy and no Nuclear power.   What magical power source is widely available, carbon free and not Nuclear?  I don’t know of one.   If the IPCC is right, we have no choice.  We must produce less carbon dioxide.

Nuclear Power and carbon dioxide production are linked.  People all over the world appear to be pretending not to make a choice.  But that non choice is a choice.   Either people really don’t believe the IPCC rhetoric or they like living in a fantasy world.  And this puzzles me and has puzzled me for a really long time.

Each of us really does have to choose. Which is worse for the world, carbon dioxide or Nuclear power plants?

Temperature Data — Can it be trusted?

Climate Science is full of strange and special temperature related climate moments.  Everything from the Mann Hockey Stick Graph to ClimateGate to simple silly mistakes at NASA’s own National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

NASA has a storied history of messing up temperature data.

  • In 2007, a skeptical blogger noticed a Y2K conversion error in NASA’s data set.  Many USA based weather stations were using raw rather than corrected data.  This mistake should have been easy to catch, but NASA missed it for years and years.  O000ps.
  • The gap in individual sites immediately after the Y2K conversion should have been a red flag for NASA as this station data point demonstrates:
  • When the error was found, 1934 was crowned the warmest year ever, replacing 1998.  In the years that followed,  1934 cooled down again…presto….it’s magic.
  • In 2008 NASA used September data in October for all of Siberia and incorrectly claimed that October of 2008 was the warmest on record.  A short while later it was corrected.
  • A satellite malfunction in 2009 caused NASA to miscalculate the summer Arctic Ice melt. Literally a California sized error.  They overstated the melt by a surface area the size of California.

For years I have been using East Anglia University in the UK as my source for temperature data.   Their data was more stable and matched Satellite data more consistently than did NOAA data.

Then last year I noticed something…

The East Anglia Data was changing too.   I’m not sure exactly when it changed…but it changed.   First lets look at some data published by East Anglia University in 2009:

and compare that to current data:

The charts look virtually identical until about 1940 and then things begin to get….well…odd.   The entire data set from 1940 to 1979 appears to have been shifted by perhaps 0.1 degree C.  Satellite data began in 1979.  All the data from 1979 to 2009 looks the same except for 1998 and 2005.   1998 suddenly got cooler and 2005 got warmer.  Why was the data changed in 2012?  What new information caused the change?

Most climate experts now claim that 2010 was the warmest year in history.   Maybe it wasn’t? And by history, they really mean the last 150 years.  Satellite data still shows a peak in 1998.

In 1977 the conventional wisdom was that a new ice age was coming.  Time Magazine ran a cover story discussing it

I wonder what the world will be saying 35 years from now?

Local weather extrapolation — A common Climate mistake

We all have a tendency to extrapolate local conditions.   The weather we see at home today has nothing whatsoever to do with climate science.  If it is warmer today than in years gone by it does not mean the world is warmer.   But we think it does.  The Weather Channel lives it’s own special world of extrapolation.    And so do Al Gore and his buddies at the UN .

I make this mistake too often.

Case in point Summer 2013 …Anchorage, Alaska.  We have had a wonderful warm summer with many many days over 70 degrees.   We set a record for the most consecutive days where the daily high temperature was above 70 degrees.  15 days in a row.  And we were close to setting a record for the most days above 70 for an entire season.   Our warm wonderful summer….it’s been  the talk of the town.

And then we almost set a record for the most consecutive days of rain in September.  More rain in Anchorage is supposedly something to expect as the world warms.

Global warming seemed to be all around.

I expected record melting in the Arctic.  2012 had been a record year for Arctic ice  melt, followed by a relatively normal winter.  As the melt season began, the Arctic had extraordinary amounts of first year sea ice.  First year ice is saltier than older ice, which makes it melt at lower temperatures than older sea ice.  A very warm South Central Alaska, quick melting ice; the Arctic was sure to have a record melt year.

I was expecting the regional climate I was experiencing to have wider implications…and I was wrong….as this chart from the National Snow and Ice Data Center demonstrates:

The Arctic had a cool summer and a change in the prevailing winds.   The result was a slow melting year.   And Greenland had a slow melting year too.

But is the world warmer than in the recent past?  Uh….no.   Hot off the presses… the September 2013 world satellite surface temperature data courtesy of the University of Alabama at Huntsville (UAH).

2013 has been and continues to be boringly similar to every year since 2002.

I thought 2013 would be one for the record books in the Arctic.  Mother nature constantly reminds us not to draw simple conclusions when evaluating climate.

When Science skips Theory Confirmation

Just about every hawkish global warming discussion reported in the press  begins with the assertion that increases in carbon dioxide will cause a corresponding increase in warming of the Earth’s ecosystem.  Man is impacting climate.  The proof – carbon dioxide has been changing relatively rapidly since the industrial revolution.

Climate theory disagrees.

Climate theory predicts that carbon dioxide will have only a small direct impact on climate.  The amount of direct warming is not generally in dispute.   Carbon dioxide is a small molecule and relatively inefficient as a green house gas.

Climate science as practiced by the IPCC predicts that changes in carbon dioxide will cause other pieces of the climate ecosystem to react in very specific ways.   That reaction is predicted to be significant.  It is widely believed (the conventional wisdom of today) that increased carbon dioxide will cause increased water vapor which will cause the world to suddenly warm much more rapidly until a new equilibrium temperature is reached.

This positive feedback assumes the climate system is highly sensitive to changes in  carbon dioxide.  The only confirmation of this assumption is the output of computer models.  There is no experimental evidence.  It’s difficult to predict how the ecosystem will respond with no spare Earth floating around to experiment on.

Climate scientists use complex computer models to predict climate.  The IPCC has high confidence in these models.

I do not share their confidence.  Computer models have problems.   One can only model the known.  Unknowns are a problem for computer models, particularly important unknowns… the Sun.  The IPCC says they have a Low Level of Scientific Understanding about the Sun in the 2007 Report.

Models begin about 150 years ago which means they all encompass only a period of steadily warming temperatures.  The last long cooling cycle (The Little Ice Age) ended about 250 years ago.

The period from 1976 to 1998 was one of relatively rapid warming.  When the IPCC assumed a high positive feedback from carbon dioxide in their models the models worked better.  Carbon dioxide was going up rapidly and so was temperature.  One must cause the other?  They could not find any other explanation.

Perhaps they didn’t look for one.  Or maybe it was something they didn’t know about….like soot.  A study in 2008 predicted that as much as 18% of observed global warming might be due to soot.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been writing Reports on Climate since 1990.  Carbon dioxide has been the culprit in every report.

The latest published report is the Fourth Assessment, nicknamed AR4.  The IPCC used climate modeling scenarios to predict climate in the year 2100.  All Scenarios (B1, A1T,B2, A1B, A2, A1F1)  discussed in the IPCC 2007 Summary Report made assumptions relating to carbon dioxide produced by man.  The scenarios are not quantified in any other way.  No other possible reasons are discussed. Carbon dioxide is the only variable discussed.

Here is a graph from the 2007 IPCC report that describes the various Scenarios considered:

Those scenarios were then used to generate climate predictions using computer models:   Here is the graph presented that showed those predictions:

The bars on the far right indicate the variability of each model at the year 2100. The shading in the graph does not strictly match the bars.  I suspect that is so the chart will be easier to read the more likely guesses (oops I mean predictions!).  The charts were prepared in 2005.   The color stripe in the bar is the best estimate number generated by the IPCC for that scenario.  The IPCC Synopses made no predictions about the Scenarios. Which Scenarios were likely?  Which were silly?  The IPCC preferred not to offer an opinion.

When I look at this data, I don’t see computer models that agree with each other. I see  scattered data.  Scenario A1F1 could produce a 2 degree C change or a 6 degree C change just 95 years after the chart was prepared.  One is a change of about twice the rate of the last 100 years, the other predicts six times the current rate of change.   The press frequently uses the biggest numbers when reporting.  Text associated with the chart stated that the chart only considered 90% of the model runs.  10% were either higher or lower than this chart shows.

There are so many things to consider when trying to model the climate ecosystem… and so many things we don’t know.  I am not surprised the models don’t agree.  Climate modeling is a very difficult task.

We are just beginning to understand the oceans and the sun.  Cloud formations are still a mystery.  Aerosols might be important too.   And soot.   And air pollution.   We have a long way to go.

The IPCC admits to all these shortcomings….and then assumes there is a 90% probability that they are right.  If recent press reports can be believed the certainty level  has risen to 95% in the new soon to be released AR5 Assessment of climate.

I must respectfully disagree.   If computer models could accurately predict ice ages, or at least the Holocene, I’d be more impressed.  The Medieval Warming Period and the Little Ice Age are too difficult for the modelers right now.  So far at least, temperature has failed to live up to the theory presented.  The 21st century has been much cooler than predicted by the IPCC.

Carbon dioxide impacts climate.   The notion of the strong positive feedback between carbon dioxide and the rest of the climate ecosystem is an interesting theory….but it’s just that ….a theory.  It might be right…but recent data indicates that it is wild high.   The world will be warmer than it otherwise would be.  But how much warmer…..and from what baseline….that’s a difficult question.

And the IPCC is guessing!