Tag Archives: environment

Volcanoes and Antarctic Ice Cores

My last post argued that Antarctic Ice Cores are poor proxies for world climate.  They do not show short term changes.  Changes take centuries to develop in ice cores.  Sudden changes that last for a few years or even hundreds of years can be completely missed by ice cores.   Things like…say…a sudden spike in carbon dioxide levels following a volcanic eruption.

Ice cores provide general information about the world of the past…but it is just that…general information. This post will use one single event, the Toba super volcano eruption to accentuate the point.


Lake Toba is a large lake in Indonesia.  The lake is 100 kilometers long and 30 kilometers wide.  About 74,000 years ago it was the center of a super volcano eruption.  The caldera of this much studied volcanic event encompassed the entire lake and surrounding territory…

This eruption was a really big deal.  It almost wiped out mankind.   This eruption was such an extraordinary event, it is difficult for me to comprehend exactly how big it was.

Scientists measure volcanic eruptions using the Volcanic Explosivity Index or VEI.   The total volume of material expectorated by the volcano is estimated.  Small volcanic eruptions are VEI1, super volcanoes are VEI8.  The following chart helps me get a sense of the size of the various events. I like this chart because it includes the 3 most recent events I like to use to get perspective, Mt. St. Helens, Pinatubo and Tambora.   The St. Helens explosive eruption of 1980 was a relatively small event.  Yep a small event.  Pinatubo was about 10 times larger and it was big enough to change temperatures worldwide for 2 years. Tambora is the most recent VEI7 event and was some 10 times larger than Pinatubo.  Tambora began erupting on April 5, 1815.  The eruption could be heard over a 1000 miles away.   1816 was nicknamed the year without a summer.

Tambora was a big deal.  The biggest in recent history. Toba was a VEI8 event some 28 times bigger than Tambora.

Imagine if you can what that must have been like.  It was so cold and so dark that that man almost didn’t survive the event. NOW let’s take a peek at the Vostok Antarctic Ice Core.   I have selected a graph that blows up the period from 50,000 years ago  to 100,000 years ago. I see a very small dip some 74,000 years ago.  A dip of perhaps half a  degree C with virtually no change in carbon dioxide levels.  Carbon dioxide levels spiked during the eruption, particulate matter would have stayed in the atmosphere for centuries.  Temperatures all over the world would have dropped dramatically.  Temperatures are supposed to have dropped 3 to 5 degrees C and the event is supposed to have changed global climate for 1000 years.

The chart is full of bigger moves.  Bigger than a VEI8 event?  What natural event could that be?  About 4000 years before the event there is a sudden fall of about 3 degrees C in a very short period of time.  I wonder what caused that?

When I look at ice cores and think about super volcanic events I feel better about the world.   If the world can survive a Toba event and recover…maybe the gloom and doom being spouted at UN climate meetings is a bit overdone?

Electric Car Stupidity in Hawaii

Anyone who has followed this blog for a while will not be surprised to learn that Electric Car stupidity is alive and well in Honolulu.

The Hawaii State Energy Office discusses its Electric Vehicle policies on its website.  The subject is introduced as follows:

To reduce Hawaii’s consumption of petroleum within the transportation sector, the State Energy Office is looking at plug-in electric vehicles (EV) as well as other alternative transportation solutions to address the challenges of modernizing our energy system and building a clean transportation future. Hawaii’s leaders and stakeholders view the adoption and widespread deployment of EVs as a key approach towards the reduction of our fossil fuel dependency

Hawaii’s government officials have put on their rose colored green energy glasses.   The rosy view sees a warm sunny climate that has excellent solar properties, and short driving distances.  Hawaii has been anointed by local government officials as a paradise perfectly set up for Electric Vehicles.

Hawaii has an elaborate subsidy system to encourage energy conservation and to encourage renewable energy.  Very nearly all green energy in Hawaii is solar based, either in the form of solar water heaters or solar electric panels on the roofs of houses.  There is a bit of wind and lots of other things are being tried, but most electricity in Hawaii is produced by burning oil based fuels.

Remove the rosy hue and reality must one day set in.

Absent a dramatic change in battery technology, all intermittent green energy options will continue to be of limited use.  A better battery is an absolute necessity. Today’s crop of batteries are not up to the task.  Hawaii’s politicians appear to be wishing for a world that does not yet exist.  And wishing it were so is usually bad public policy.

Hawaii is executing policy based upon a technology that doesn’t yet exist.   The current crop of batteries are both expensive to manufacture and pollute the world when spent.  Solar panels only work for about 5 hours per day and wind averages about 8 hours a day.  Both are predictably unreliable.  That unpredictable nature will persist until battery technology improves.

Electric vehicles (EV) are exempt from parking fees.  Generous tax credits provide purchase assistance and businesses are given subsidies to compensate for mandatory installation of electric fuel fuel stations at parking facilities where 100 or more vehicles are parked.  Hawaiian Electric offers discounted electric rates for EV.  And Taxi’s have been given generous incentives too.

Solar power does reduce the need for oil power when it is sunny.  People install more solar than they need.  The excess is dumped onto the power grid.  Hawaiian Electric is forced to take it. The excess power is then retrieved from the grid during the evening peak.  This activity destabilizes the grid, making the entire system less reliable and it also shifts costs from those that have solar to those that don’t as everybody else has to pay more for peak energy.

A well healed homeowner can install solar power panels and buy an electric car.  Hawaii pays him to install the solar, then pays him again to buy the car and allows a discount on the electrical power used while allowing free parking where ever he goes.  What a deal….if you own a home and can afford a new car.

Most car charging is done at home at night.  The Hawaiian Electric power grid peaks shortly after sunset.   Both wind and solar are most effective during the day.  Hawaiian Electric is required to provide power 24/7.  Very nearly all power generation after sunset in Hawaii is done via oil fired power plants.  EV’s in Hawaii use one form of oil (electricity) instead of another form of oil (gasoline).

Oil is a very dirty and very expensive way to produce power.  Hawaii is the only state in the USA to use oil widely in power generation.    Modern gasoline cars pollute less than not so modern oil fired power plants.  EV’s in Hawaii produce twice the air pollution and twice the carbon dioxide as an equivalent gasoline vehicle, particularly newer gasoline vehicles that get significantly better gas mileage.

Hawaii’s government has provided  subsidies for all sort of non oil based products.  Biodiesel and ethanol are being encouraged with generous subsidies.  Hawaii’s ability to produce either is extremely limited.

Both ethanol and biodiesel require large tracts of agricultural land.  Land is something in short supply in Hawaii.  Hawaii has to import most food items because they don’t have enough farm land.  Sugar cane, a primary ethanol feedstock, is going away as houses fill up available land.   When I was a small boy, sugarcane was everywhere in rural Oahu.  Not anymore.

Hawaii’s approach is to try a bit of everything and hope that something will work.  The result is lots of subsidies to encourage less electrical usage.  People get government assistance to put LED lighting in their homes, to use more efficient appliances, to install solar water heaters,  and tax credits for solar powered electricity.   And one subsidy that encourages more electrical use…Electric Vehicle tax credits and deals.

And who pays for it, everybody that doesn’t drive an EV and have solar electric panels on their house.   Hawaiian Electric customers pay three times the national average for their electricity, which makes conservation an obvious choice.  It also makes Electric Vehicles more expensive to drive.

Hawaii’s air is dirtier and its electricity costs more because of a misplaced love affair with Electric Vehicles.  If and when a better battery becomes available, the state can force solar power generators to store their own power and use it during the evening peak.  If battery technology improves and if the State adopts reasonable solar panel policies many of my objections will disappear….but until then….



Mt. Tambora – A Mann Hockey Stick Problem

Whenever I look at the Mann Hockey Stick reconstruction of past climate I am ever awestruck by the small amount of temperature change depicted during the first 900 years of the chart.  It just doesn’t seem possible.  Very nearly no climate variation for hundreds of years, and then presto, lots of variation.

I often wonder what the powers that be at the UN must have been thinking in 2002 when they made the Mann Hockey Stick Graph the new climate standard.  A new, untested theory with multiple indications of probable sloppy mathematics; science is not supposed to work that way.  It is still around, and still defended vigorously by many in the climate community.

Here is a copy of an image of the 1000 year Mann graph I pulled from a Skeptical Science web  post defending  Mann’s work:

Climate variation shown before 1950 is, according to the IPCC, mostly natural climate variation. The increase in variation started at about the same time direct measurement replaced indirect measurement.   This chart begins using direct measurement in 1902.  Interesting….and odd too.

The UK’s East Anglia Climate Research Unit (CRU) has direct measurement data that begins in 1860.  NOAA data dates back to 1880. Why start in 1902?   And when does the data begin to look like a hockey stick?  Hmmm…1900…enough said.

Zoom in on 1815 if you can.  A very small decrease in temperature that had been trending downward since about 1775, stops in about 1830.   The net change for the entire period was only a bit over -0.1 degree C.  Something is wrong.  This should be a time of spectacular natural change.  The very small, nearly no change shown makes no sense. Why?  Mt. Tambora.

Mt. Tambora is a 9354 ft. mountain in Indonesia.    It used to be over 14,000 feet tall.  One day in April of 1815, the top 5000 feet went away.  Imagine if you can, an eruption 150 times larger than the Mount St. Helens eruption of May 18,1980.  Tambora is  the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history.   The eruption has been estimated to be 10 times the size of the Mt. Pinatubo eruption of 1991.  Mt. Pinatubo has been credited with cooling  the world’s weather by about 0.5 degree C for 2 years.

Tambora was and still is a big deal.   1815 has been called the year without a summer because the air pollution from the eruption made the world a darker and colder place. Five degrees F. colder or so says a USA Today article. The winter of 1815-16 was a spectacularly cold one all over the world.

An eruption that big should have caused a significant temporary change in the world climate that would have lasted for several years, perhaps longer.   Look at the Mann Chart.  Nothing.   Where did the Mt. Tambora impact go?

Skeptical Science provided the following temperature reconstruction as a defense of the Mann work on their web site.  The two studies supposedly confirm each other.  The new study has an advantage over the Mann work in that it covers a shorter period of time making it easier to read:

Where is the -3 degree C blip in 1815?   Nothing, Nada, Zip?  Whaaaaat? A smaller but significant eruption in 1883, Krakatoa, is not visible either.   Another significant eruption, at Huaynaputina, in 1600 fails to make the chart.   Too small to be detected I suppose.  Changes in the 20th century are here, there and everywhere.  This inconsistency  has never made sense to me.

The Mann reconstruction is a Northern Hemisphere reconstruction of a 1000 year period.   At it’s beginning settlers in Greenland grew hay and their diet was 80% farm animal based including cattle.  Yep cattle in Greenland.   400 years later, most settlers were gone.  The survivors ate primarily whatever they could harvest from the sea.  And all the while the world only cooled 0.1 degree C?  I don’t think so.

20th century warming  7 or 8 times that much?

Most warming before 1950, and some warming since 1950 is presumed to be natural climate variation. No natural climate variation for centuries and then magically lots!?  AND it coincided with a change in the data source.  Come on guys.  Get REAL.

I don’t doubt that the world has warmed, but I do believe that all the data before 1902 in the Mann reconstruction is a guess….a wild ass guess.   Mann has claimed the entire Medieval Warming Period was a regional event or so he is cited in a Scientific American article published in 2005.   I don’t buy it.    Greenland was warm for hundreds of years.   Records all over Northern Europe support the notion that the warmer weather was widespread and lasted for hundreds of years.

Before the Mann study it was widely believed that the Medieval Warming Period was warmer than Mann claims.   Simple charts were included in UN studies as  this one that was featured in the first study published by the IPCC in 1992..


The Third Assessment of Climate (TAR), published by the IPCC in 2002 featured a new world order, the Mann chart.  Magically, the Medieval Warming Period disappeared.

Now consider this.

The scale for measuring volcanoes is called the Volcanic Explosivity Index.  It goes up to 8.  Mt. St. Helen’s was a 5, Mt. Pinatubo, Huaynaputina and Krakatoa were in category 6.  Mt. Tambora was a 7.  The average 7 is 100 times larger than the average 5.

Some 26,500 years ago a big chunk of New Zealand went away in the world’s most recent category 8 eruption at Taupo Volcano.  A category 8 eruption is on average 10 times larger than a category 7.  Imagine what that must have done to the ecosystem.  Now there’s a tipping point, Nature’s tipping point.

This happened during an ice age cold spell.  Wow.

Now consider this.

Taupo was a boringly average category 8.   75,000 years ago, plus or minus 5000 years, the Indonesian area blessed us with Toba, the largest category 8 known to man.  This beast was the equivalent of 3 Taupo’s and is suspected of starting a 1,000 year cooling period.

I’ll bet you right now that science will discover more significant volcanic activity.  Some of that activity will have global climate implications.   Who knows how many more will be discovered that have the ability to impact climate as we look back in time?

Antarctic Ice Updates Available

I don’t tend to tell people I meet about my skeptical attitude toward global climate science as practiced by the UN.   When the subject does come up,  I usually have a rather unpleasant conversation.

All too often I get told about all the horrible things happening in Antarctica.  Yep Antarctica.   I then tell them Antarctica hasn’t been melting.   I tell them that most warming experienced in the last 200 years has been experienced on land in the Northern Hemisphere.   I am presumed to be less bright than I was at the start of the conversation.

I think Al Gore is probably to blame.  His 2005 film features lots of Antarctic boogie men.   I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised so many people believe Al’s propaganda.  Antarctica isn’t talked about much.  Al’s misinformation fills the void.  I just wish more people would at least listen to an opposing position.

My approach is about to change.  Reliable data is here and readily available.  I can point to a recognized expert.  One that has been in the forefront of Arctic melting, the National Snow and Ice Data Center.  This University of Colorado site has lots of neat stuff about the Arctic.  I’ve been following their Arctic Ice data for years.

And now they have Antarctic stuff too.   Yep, the world has been warming, the Arctic is melting, but the Antarctic Ice sheet is growing.    There are pictures…

And charts too…

Go Antarctica.   Antarctic Sea Ice has grown by about 10% in the last 30 years.  Not exactly what Al predicted in his film.

I know that the UN’s IPCC actually predicted Antarctic Ice could grow in their global warming models as area snowfall increased.   But they didn’t tell you it had been going on for years before they started their studies in the 1990’s. Who knows how long, this type of data has only been available since 1979.

Antarctica has not warmed yet, and the world has warmed.  The world is about a degree C warmer that it was about 200 years ago.   I wonder what Al Gore was thinking when he used only Antarctic Ice Core data as his proof of impending doom.

Individual ice cores are a poor proxy for the climate of the entire world because they provide information about a single location in a very cold place.   I see guessing.  It must be difficult to draw conclusions about North America or Europe or Asia from Antarctic data.   The ice core Al used in the film showed wild increases in carbon dioxide and no real 20th century warming, (which Al failed to point out in his film) which is typical of Antarctic Ice Cores.  Here’s a typical one

Notice how temperature went down 130,00 years ago while carbon dioxide remained stable.  The current temperature stability (the last 10,000 years) appears to be happening while carbon dioxide is skyrocketing.

It’ll be nice to have a respected source (National Snow and Ice Data Center)  to point global warming fear mongers to. Antarctic Ice melting really isn’t the immediate problem too many ill informed citizens believe it to be.

Global climate change is a very difficult science problem.   Doubt is a reasonable response.  I’d be the first to admit I don’t know what the answer is.  Too many advocates of IPCC positions insist they know the answer.   Come on guys.  You are guessing.

Maybe this Antarctic data will help spread a bit of doubt.  And doubt is a good thing.

Kyoto Protocol Extended to 2020 by UN

Yesterday (Saturday December 8,2012), the BBC’s lead story on my browser feed was Climate talks: UN forum extends Kyoto Protocol to 2020.  Wow, I can hardly contain my excitement.   An agreement that doesn’t work has just been extended.

The Kyoto Protocol has always been a bureaucratic solution to the perceived science problem of man caused global warming.   The UN has put itself in charge of both the politics and the science. How convenient for them.

The Kyoto Protocol divides the world into two main categories, the developed world and the developing world.  Countries in the developed world must limit their carbon emissions, the developing countries have no such limitations.  The three biggest contributors in the world are China (28%), the USA (16%) and India (7%).  China and India are considered developing countries and the USA has not ratified the treaty.

The three biggest contributors in the world with 51% of the total are not required to do anything under the treaty.  Sounds like a recipe for failure to me.  The USA as the only developed country that did not ratify the treaty is frequently blamed for the failure of the treaty.  In this article the BBC keeps up that proud tradition.

The US – a major polluter – has never ratified the original 1997 protocol.

Per capita carbon use in the USA peaked in 1973.   As the Huffington Post noted in a recent article, USA production will be the lowest it has been in 20 years in 2012.  Yes, the USA uses more than it’s fair share of energy, but that’s true of all developed countries and we are improving.

China, according to the Global Carbon Project, produced 28% of the total in 2011 and was growing at 9.9% in 2011.   They alone were responsible for  .28*9.9% or 2.7% of the worlds growth in 2011.  The whole world grew at 3.0% in 2011.

This blog is dedicated to the notion that global warming science is full of guesses and questionable assumptions.  That said, I believe we are impacting our ecosystem and we should try to do better.    We all can do better…and China needs to do more….lots more.

China is the big player in the carbon game.    In 2011 China had about the same per capita emissions level as the average EU country and their population has a much lower standard of living.  China expects to grow their economy rapidly for many more years as their citizens become more affluent.   China needs to become more energy efficient.

I worry more about air pollution and population growth than global climate change.  I consider much of the money being spent by the UN and others to try to control climate, a squandering of our scarce resources.   We have our priorities wrong.   India will pass the USA within 20 years and become the worlds second leading carbon producer simply by growing their population!

The world bank estimates that China has 14 of the 18 most polluted cities in the world.   India will soon become the most populous country in the world and it will have a population density about 9 times that of the USA.    World population growth and the pollution of the planet are immediate problems that need more resources right now.

Saturday the UN extended an agreement that does not work for 8 more years.   Next year the 9th International Carbon Dioxide Conference meets  in Beijing.  So goes the strange world of climate politics.

Arctic Sea Ice Grew in March

The Arctic ice cap has stopped growing and started melting.

March was a good month for ice in the Arctic.  Arctic sea ice peaked on March 18 and March added a total of 54,000 square miles during the month.  2012 had the 9th lowest March in the 34 year record.  February of 2012 was the 5th lowest  February in the record…so March really did well ….if you like Arctic Ice.  Interestingly, March is normally (if anything can be called normal with only a 34 year history) a melting month.

The following graph was prepared by the National Snow and Ice Data Center, which can be accessed through the following link


Conventional wisdom of 1975 stated that the Arctic Ice Sheet was growing rapidly.  Data that begins in 1979 does not show 30 years of ice growth from the 1940’s to the 1970’s and that must be taken into consideration when evaluating this rather small data set.

The Arctic was cold in March this year, and the Eastern USA wasn’t.   Interesting, but not surprising….we all must resist the temptation to draw worldwide conclusions from regional data.

Yes there is more ice, but the ice is thinner than in past years and much of it is first year ice…so we could see it all melt rather quickly.

Fresh water freezes before salt water.   As sea ice freezes, the initial ice has less salt than the ocean.  A salt rich liquid is formed in lenses throughout the ice.  As the ice continues to freeze, the liquid remaining becomes saltier and saltier.    When Spring comes, the salty lenses are released into the ocean and replaced with the much less salty sea water.  If the remaining ice lasts through the summer it becomes second year sea ice. Second year ice has less salt content, is stronger and it melts more slowly.

When the Arctic has a very warm summer as it did in 2007, it takes at least 2 cold years to recover that ice because of the way sea ice is created.

World climate is very complicated, and just about everybody simplifies it too much.  I don’t know what will happen next…but as a person that lives in a northern climate…I really don’t want the ice cap to get bigger.  So a rapidly expanding ice cap isn’t necessarily a source for celebration for me.

World leaders met in Copenhagen in December of 2009.  The UN wanted  to extend the Kyoto treaty that is set to expire at the end of 2012.  When those meetings failed to produce an agreement, Al Gore predicted the Arctic Ice Cap would be gone in the summer in 5 years and global carbon dioxide levels would accelerate.   So far at least, he has been wrong.

I like seeing Al Gore proven wrong…but I don’t really want a colder world…so I am of two minds.   I am confident Al Gore is a big time wild ass guesser, and I would like the world to stay nice and toasty…as long as it doesn’t warm too much.

A growing ice cap may be good for polar bears, or maybe not…but I know it’s not good for me.