Harvesting Fog: The No-Regrets Option

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

I’ve written before about the “no-regrets” option when one is faced with uncertainty. It relates to one of my favorite rules of thumb. I often live my life by my “rules of thumb”, general guidelines for when things aren’t clear. One that I’ve used for decades goes like this:

“Do what you know, and let the rest go.” 

I use it when say I’m stuck on a building project, maybe I’m not sure how to install a particular window. It’s easy to get paralyzed by the decision, or to force the decision, or to make the wrong decision. But what I do instead is, I know there’s always things I can do that I know will move the project forwards. So I do what I know will be of use, what I know the project needs, and I let the unknowns take care of themselves for a while. More things are always revealed in the fullness of time, and meanwhile, the workshop still needs sweeping and a hundred important tasks await. I do what I know, and I let the rest go.

These days this same concept is called the “no-regrets option”, a much clearer term but not a rule of thumb. Applied to the vexing CO2 madness, a “no-regrets option” is an action we won’t regret, whether or not CO2 is the secret knob controlling global temperature. I’m convinced CO2 is not, but others disagree. A no-regrets option is one that is of value no matter which side is right.

So I was pleased to see the following in Science Magazine (paywalled here  )

thirsty cactus collect fogI live in the redwood forest. The redwood trees harvest the ocean fog very efficiently. Often in the morning the open ground will be bone dry, while the ground under the redwoods is quite wet, with a slow, steady rain falling underneath the majestic trees. Having watched that for decades, it was no surprise that people have started utilizing the same phenomenon … we’re just not that good at it yet, but that’s changing. I wrote about harvesting fog using nets in my piece called Climate, Caution, and Precaution. Water shortages (along with floods, curiously) are supposed to be one of the Seven Horsemen of Thermal Apocalypse, all the alarmists agree. But we already face this problem today, so how about we attack the problem and not the CO2, duh? That way more people have more water, no matter what CO2 does or doesn’t do.

So I was fascinated to see the possibility of using biomimicry to improve fog harvesting techniques. Since Nature Communications is also paywalled, I did an end run and found the paper from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, available here.

In that paper they elucidate the secrets of the ancients. Here’s how the cactus fog harvesting system works:

thirsty cactus collect fog chinese

How sweet is that? It illustrates a principle I call “NWA”, for “Nature Wins Again”, life always comes up with some ingenious solution.

So what are my conclusions from all of this?

1. Any problems that might result from a few degrees of temperature rise are ongoing problems today, and have been for millennia. Humans have always and ever been plagued by droughts and floods and heat waves and rising sea levels and cold spells and storms and the like.

2. Attacking the problems is the no-regrets solution, duh. Since all of these problems exist today, if we work to alleviate them, we’re better off no matter if it warms or not, or whether CO2 is the culprit or not.

3. Nature itself, that first and best of scientists, has run literally millions and millions of experiments in how to most effectively harvest water from the air. We’d be fools not to learn from and build on that previous scientific work, in this and all aspects of science, and in fact biomimicry is being used in more and more arenas.

4. “Imagination is free,” as my beloved father used to say. Seeing this kind of work reminds me that the only limits to, say, how much water we have are the limits of our imagination.

So what I’m doing is throwing open this thread to a discussion of actual examples of viable no-regrets solutions, whether they involve biomimicry or not. The requirements are that they have to solve problems caused by the weather, and they have to be dirt-cheap for widespread adoption. Here’s one:

Bargain Technology Allows Chile To Harvest Fog For Thirsty Village

July 18, 1993|By Gary Marx, Tribune Staff Writer.

CHUNGUNGO, Chile — The landscape around this poor fishing village is rocky and bone dry. But Daisy Sasmayo’s garden is in full bloom, with flowers, vegetables and a young apple tree.

This once-parched community now has its first fresh water in decades, thanks to an ingenious system of plastic nets fixed on a nearby mountain to capture fog as it rolls in from the ocean.

“When the water first started flowing last year, we went crazy,” Sasmayo said as she gently watered her garden. “We had a huge party and were dousing each other with water. It has changed our lives 100 percent.”

Regards to everyone,

w.

[UPDATE] Secret source WS sends me the paper, my thanks to him, from which I extract this:

horizontal barb collection cactus water

 

Astounding. The barbs act as a one way valve for the coalescing of the drops, pumping the water horizontally without one single moving part … as a man with a portion of a patent for a kind of pump, I can only dip my head in awe.

… what an astounding force life is, exploring and constantly perfecting survival in the harshest conditions.

w.

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106 Responses to Harvesting Fog: The No-Regrets Option

  1. Joe Public says:

    And there’s that Engineer’s Saying: “If it ain’t bust, don’t fix it.”

  2. Very good Willis,thank you.
    Alfred

  3. Chris Beal @NJSnowFan says:

    Reminds me of how Velcro was invented..
    The hook-and-loop fastener was conceived in 1941 by Swiss engineer, Georges de Mestral[2][8][9] who lived in Commugny, Switzerland
    The idea came to him one day after returning from a hunting trip with his dog in the Alps. He took a close look at the burrs (seeds) of burdock that kept sticking to his clothes and his dog’s fur. He examined them under a microscope, and noted their hundreds of “hooks” that caught on anything with a loop, such as clothing, animal fur, or hair.[5] He saw the possibility of binding two materials reversibly in a simple fashion if he could figure out how to duplicate the hooks and loops.[2][9] This inspiration from nature or the copying of nature’s mechanisms (called bionics or biomimesis) is viewed by some like Steven Vogel[10] or Werner Nachtigall[11] as a key example.

    Ref http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Velcro

  4. Myron Mesecke says:

    Any blocking, capturing, harvesting of something could have results we didn’t anticipate. Covering the ground with houses, shopping centers, roads and parking lots has prevented the soil from soaking up rain water. This has left man and the land we live on dealing with flash floods from more runoff.
    Before we capture fog we better make sure of all the ways nature uses it.
    Kilimanjaro receives less snow after man cut down the trees around it. Less water vapor, less snow. Not letting the fog evaporate off the mountains might effect the weather downwind.

    Don’t need to cause a new problem by solving an old one.
    We want to make sure that your number 2 truly is a no regrets solution.

  5. Where I live at 32 degrees south, the summer sun will burn and wilt most vegetables that people from temperate zones are used to. Even plants you would think of as heat tolerant like pepper plants.
    So, this year, I decided I would buy or make some shade frames to go over vegetables. If you are familiar with a cold frame, then the same thing except shade cloth instead of polythene, and around 30cm high.

    All that is required to make them is some heavy gauge wire and shade cloth. My local hardware store sells both, except the wire comes in 100+ meter rolls. I only need half dozen shade frames, so I decide better to buy them pre-assembled.

    To my great surprise, after diligently searching online and asking at a few garden centres, nobody sells pre-assembled wire shade frames in Australia.

    I don’t know whether shade frames suitable for gardens are available elsewhere in the world, but their availability would allow growing a wider range of vegetables in hotter climates, and higher value vegetables that could be sold. They would be simple and cheap to make.

  6. Jimbo says:

    I only add this because the IPCC talks of water pollution caused by weather climate.
    ————–
    In short, plastic bottled water, shake then put on roof exposing it to the sun. Six hours later UV kills bugs.

    Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/05/15/sodis-roolz/

  7. Doug Huffman says:

    A bricoleur might say, “Fix until broke.” Note the clear double entendre.

    N. N.Taleb makes much of flaneurs and bricoleurs, being antifragile.

  8. One other point about wire shade frames is that with the right wire they could be shipped flat and bent to the required shape. The ends of the wire are then pushed into the ground at the required location.

  9. Laurie Bowen says:

    Just curious as you say you live in the redwood forest, ” . . . . “the trees may live 2000 years (compared to 3000 for the sequoia), a more typical life span for the giants is 500-700 years.”

    When these trees get [too] old to live . . . do we harvest them or do ‘we’ let them just go back to nature or do we rail that the ‘deaths’ are man made?

    And being from “not the redwood forest area” wouldn’t trying to plant a redwood forest of my own be considered introducing and a non-native species as there are none here now.

    Do you reckon that the ones that planted the redwood forest regret it? They never got to harvest one tree.

    Until we can ascertain realities, see “historically”, and circumspect there is no such a critter as The No-Regrets Option.

  10. Curt says:

    While I agree with you in general, I do believe that you still need to be careful about “no regrets” policies. One example that sticks out to me:

    Many lists of the cost-benefit analyses of energy saving actions put better building insulation at the top of the list, with straight savings in energy use over the years easily covering the initial cost. So it seems to be a good idea regardless of any effect on climate — a classic “no regrets” issue, it would seem.

    Based on this logic, the Australian government started providing significant monetary incentives for people to increase the insulation in their homes. This caused a rush of inexperienced contractors to enter the field, lured by these incentives. These contractors badly botched many of the installations. In dozens of homes, they did not take sufficient care to ensure that the metal foil layer* of the insulation was kept properly isolated from electrical wires, causing shorts that burned down the houses. I think there were some regrets there…

    *Note to skydragon slayers: The metal foil layer in home insulation acts as a radiative barrier to heat transfer. (The spun fiberglass acts as a conductive/convective barrier.) In winter, even though this foil is colder than the inside of the house, it helps “keep the house warm”. In reality, of course, it’s the furnace that heats the house, and the foil helps reduce radiative heat loss by reflection and absorption/re-radiation.

  11. JFD says:

    In the 1920s to the 1960s, farmers and ranchers in remote areas used cisterns to store rainwater trapped and transported by roof gutters. This is still done in dry islands such as Bermuda. Today, Master Gardners are teaching and encouraging the concept of “water harvesting”, which in principle is the same as cisterns but the rainwater is stored in aboveground galvanized tanks and used for plants.

    Several groups are also encouraging use of plants with low water requirements. Purdue has discovered a gene that allows plants to use less water without loss of biomass. Israel pioneered use of drip watering for orchards 50 years ago. There are many ways to save water including a pitcher and wash bowl/basin. Some are painless and some are not.

  12. PRD says:

    Here is an observation for thought. The temperature was in the lower 40’s(F) for 72 hours over moist soil. Today it has warmed 30 degrees and the humidity is maxed. There are trickles of water in low spots from the moisture condensing from the air onto the soil. The soil was previously saturated so it is just running off.

    Cool huh?

  13. u.k.(us) says:

    I’ve always liked this quote:

    “There Is No Such Thing As Bad Weather, Only Inappropriate Clothing.”

  14. mosomoso says:

    “Covering the ground with houses, shopping centers, roads and parking lots has prevented the soil from soaking up rain water.”

    And in return we got houses, shopping centers, roads…well, you know the rest.

  15. The coast of Namibia is a desert, the Namib Desert. It is very, very dry and stretches over 1,000 miles along the coast. Along the coast it has received about 0.2mm of rainfall a year for the last 50-80 million years but it gets dense fog for 180-200 days a year, it’s thickest around dawn.
    Go out on the vast beaches and, with the aid of a pair of binoculars, look at the ridges of the dunes towering inland. There’s a thin line of black on every dune crest.
    The next day, go up on the lee side of the dune crest and sit and watch. From nowhere at dawn millions of beetles appear. They line the dune crest and promptly stand on their heads with their legs out-stretched. The fog droplets condense on their legs and on their carapace, run down to the beetle’s mouth-parts where they are sucked in. Spiders, too, assemble in their billions on the ridges. They spin mini-webs and hold them up into the fog with their hind legs, drinking the water which the web collects. It is known that the spiders don’t put blobs of web-sticky on their water-collecting webs, and it is thought, though not yet proven, that they somehow coat the web-strands with a ‘water-friendly- substance.
    All I know is that in one of the driest deserts known insect life is abundant due solely to these amazing moisture capturing behaviours.

  16. Truthseeker says:

    Chris Beal @NJSnowFan says:
    February 21, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Reminds me of how Velcro was invented..
    The hook-and-loop fastener was conceived in 1941 by Swiss engineer, Georges de Mestral[2][8][9] who lived in Commugny, Switzerland
    ———————————————————————————————————
    Damn! I always thought that velcro was something we got from the aliens that crash landed at Roswell. The timing seems very co-incidental …

  17. Doug Huffman says:

    Building and zoning codes here limit the impermeable fraction, that includes the structure roof.

    About redwoods, sequoias, I believe that all Sequoiadendron giganteum are protected and that Sequoia sempervirens is cropped and in great demand. I believe that most is sold in Japan.

    I planted a scion, in 1957, from the same parent S. sempervirens that populated California State Normal School (later San Jose State College, now San Jose State University) at 1548 W. Hedding Street. It is clearly visible on G00gle Earth (N37°20’06.12″ W121°55’47.05″)

  18. u.k.(us) says:

    There is weather, any way you might want it, everywhere.
    Transportation of said weather, seems to be the crux of the problem.

  19. Stuart says:

    There used to be a “Rain Farm” here in north Queensland that used to do a similar thing; harvest fog/mist from the rainforest. Was some of the best ‘bottled’water around until a cyclone messed thing up and I guess the business never recovered.

  20. Snake Oil Baron says:

    If water is condensed where it would not usually be, part of it will evaporate and be transpired by new growth. Part of it will escape downward into the water table. If one wants to avoid that downward loss they can put something to hold the water in place, lining gardens with clay or “hydrophobic sand” bags. This might be a bit much in cost and effort for non-profit greenbelts unless they protect farms from sand and wind. Some desert land doesn’t have much problem with downward loss and suffers more from flash flood runoff which green belts help mitigate and can be further helped with simple holes full of rocks covered with mulch.

    As a recent post on this site said, it really seems that rain falls where plants grow rather than just plants growing where rains fall.

  21. Tom Harley says:

    Just like in all of Australia’s deserts, Acacia aneura, of which there are 9 sub species have microscopic grooves down the twigs and stems to funnel scarce water resources to the roots. This is the most common species of shrub in Australia and grows from one side of the country to the other. It’s common name is Mulga, and has a number of uses for the indigenous population, it is highly prized as a food source for livestock as well as native fauna.

  22. Steve Jones says:

    Pliny talked about an island where it never rained but the inhabitants obtained ALL their water needs by catching (in pitchers) the water which cascaded down their trunks in the dawn. These trees were likely the Foetid Laurel a small grove of which yet persists on Chaco, Madeira. The greatest rivers on Earth are in the sky. It is this bounty we may harvest by the judicious planting of the right trees, transforming what WAS harsh desert into gardens which will provide shade and sustenance to man and beasts alike. LOVE your posts, byt the way…http://www.finnsheep.com/Steve%27s%20Blog.htm

  23. rogerknights says:

    Here’s a thread on Judy’s blog on No-Regrets measures:

    http://judithcurry.com/2011/07/31/climate-pragmatism/

    etudiant says:
    September 7, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/09/07/penn-states-greenhouse-gas-solution-cow-beano/#comment-477666

    It is unfortunate that a sensible bit of research into feed supplements that improve the biologic productivity of cattle has been tarred by the AGW silliness.

    The idea that some inexpensive additive could yield significant food conversion efficiency gains is well worth pursuing.

    Agreed. In addition, if this finding gives warmists “an outlet” to expend their pent-up energies on implementing, it’s all to the good. It should be part of a “no-regrets” suite of mitigation measures.

    Brian H says:
    August 18, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    For a different take on recycling, check out plascoenergygroup.com . Plasma torch reduces waste to syngas, and a small lump of slag for use as aggregate per ton. Plus electricity to sell to the utilities.

    That’s the way to go. Videos here:

    http://www.plascoenergygroup.com/?Media_Centre

    Very impressive.

    See also the Book Prescription for the Planet at http://www.amazon.com/Prescription-Planet-Painless-Remedy-Environmental/dp/1419655825/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1236568501&sr=1-1

    1. Serious encouragement of natural gas for heating and truck fuel.

    2. Serious encouragement of insulation upgrades and in building codes. (E.g., the unemployed could be trained to install insulation, for which the gov’t. would pay upfront, taking compensation by getting an option on a share of the profit on the house when it is sold.)

    2a. Similar encouragement for heat pumps for heating/cooling in regions with “continental” weather patterns (wide winter/summer swings).

    3. Serious encouragement of innovative-technology (e.g., pebble bed) nuclear plants.

    4. Serious encouragement of “deep geothermal” in rural areas.

    5. Coal liquefaction as a fuel for trains and vehicles.

    6. Encouragement of videoconferencing for business meetings. (The gov’t. could take the lead here.)

    7. Encouragement of research on longshots with breakthrough potential like cold fusion and other fringe stuff.

    8. A higher gasoline tax, rather than more stringent mileage requirements for vehicles.

    9. Diesel cars (like Europe’s),

    10. Incentives for battery assisted bicycles (like China’s),

    11. Increased use of hydro-power

    What I have in mind as incentives for homeowners are low-interest loans and maybe (if needed) mild tax breaks. I wouldn’t offer these for investments that wouldn’t have a good and quick payoff, like solar or wind (for most uses). They could be phased in gradually or regionally, to avoid going all-in all-at-once on something unproven. The “break” offered could be modest.

    Here are four investments that paid off quickly for me about 15 years ago (I did the installation):

    * Large (20 by 16 and 16 by 16) retractable summer awnings on the two sunny sides of the house. These cost about $1600 from Sunsetter.
    * Attic fan and thermostatically controlled on/off switch–cost about $200.
    * Blown-in wall insulation. Cost maybe $350.
    * Plywood sheathing all around the upper half of my basement wall (the cripple wall). Cost maybe $250. Helpfully reduced shaking in subsequent earthquakes–may save my house if the Big One hits. Also provides a little insulation effect.

    These cut my heating bills and enabled me to avoid installing air conditioning. These would be good investments for others in a similar situation to mine. I didn’t need subsidies, because I have foresight. But most people don’t, and they suffer from inertia. A little nudge would get them moving.

  24. Curt says:

    On the Kona coast of the big island of Hawaii, there is a “renewable energy” lab near the Kona airport. The original idea for the lab was to exploit the temperature difference between the hot ocean surface and the cold lower ocean for electricity production (it’s called “ocean thermal energy conversion”). That never proved remotely feasible, but they do have the capability to pump up water from the deep ocean to the surface.

    The last time I checked, all they were doing with this capability was to pump the colder water through a special network of pipes above the land to condense water from the humid tropical air and collect this fresh water. I have no idea how cost effective this is compared to other methods, but I’m not optimistic.

  25. oMan says:

    Willis: Your throwing open this discussion to our collective ingenuity and experience is like the cactus and the redwood harvesting fog. It is also like your rule of thumb, “do what you know, let the rest go,” because while you do what you know, other knowledge coheres and adheres from further experience and observation, more discussion and reflection, sleeping on it and serendipity, all like dew from the air. Fortune favors the prepared mind; and, boy, is your mind prepared. Thanks!

  26. Mike Hebb says:

    Fog is a highly effective atmospheric cleansing agent when it comes to CO2 and N2O – and much better at it than rain. This is where acid fog comes from. H2O +CO2 give H2CO3 which is carbonic acid. The cactus are dealing with these acids as the atmosphere is cleaned. I wouldn’t call it fresh distilled water . Maybe it should go through a limestone filter first. Down wind of a big city would be the last place to collect this “water”.

  27. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Laurie Bowen says:
    February 21, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    Just curious as you say you live in the redwood forest, ” . . . . “the trees may live 2000 years (compared to 3000 for the sequoia), a more typical life span for the giants is 500-700 years.”

    When these trees get [too] old to live . . . do we harvest them or do ‘we’ let them just go back to nature or do we rail that the ‘deaths’ are man made?

    Depends. Where I live there’s lots of houses, and it’s pretty much quiche-eaters wall to wall, so it takes an act of Parliament to cut down a redwood tree here. Which is crazy, because in addition to the fire danger you can’t get rid of them easily because they sprout from the stumps when you cut them … a habit that makes any claim that they are “X” years old very suspect. All that means is that the old tree from whose stump this one sprouted died X years ago. But the stump never died at all, so that living organism may in fact have been alive for thens of thousands of years.

    And being from “not the redwood forest area” wouldn’t trying to plant a redwood forest of my own be considered introducing and a non-native species as there are none here now.

    Probably.

    Do you reckon that the ones that planted the redwood forest regret it? They never got to harvest one tree.

    All the redwood forests I know of are natural. They don’t grow well from seed, although it can be done.

    However, people plant redwoods around their houses … and the ones that do almost invariably regret it. The limbs fall off of them in windstorms, and each limb can weigh a couple hundred pounds (100kg) or more … not good for the cars, the house, or the neighbors. And when a 200′ tree falls …

    Until we can ascertain realities, see “historically”, and circumspect there is no such a critter as The No-Regrets Option.

    Gosh, it’s too tough, so your advice is to throw up your hands?

    We have no such “God’s-eye view” to “ascertain realities”, but you are foolish if you let that stop you … because I know that if, say, farmers in Africa are re-introduced to their ancient water-saving techniques and use them to be more insulated from drought, there’s no way I’m gonna regret that.

    Am I sure of that, is it “reality”, am I “seeing historically”?

    No, one is never sure of anything. All we can do is the best we can, pick what today looks like a no-regrets option. What we don’t want to do, though, is to follow your myopic advice and declare the no-regrets option an imaginary being. It’s not, it’s very real.

    w.

  28. Gene Selkov says:

    Something tells me this kind of adaptation is not unique among plants. This cactus is probably just the best studied of those.

    Also, I remember reading about a microscopic study of water transport on the surface of some (Australian?) desert frog’s skin. Or maybe it was a lizard, I can’t recall. I couldn’t google it up without a lot of effort; it could have been a poster I saw on a wall at one of the places where I worked. All I recall is that the mechanism described was very similar to how these cactus spines work. The claim was that those animals’ skin can conduct water up form the moist sand to where they can consume it. If somebody here knows what it is about, I’ll appreciate a refresher.

    All I could find was this report about green tree frogs using the temperature gradient to fog up:

    http://www.livescience.com/16325-desert-frogs-collect-water.html

    And then there is water-holding frog, also in Australia. Literally, a leaping cactus. But not quite the thing I remember reading about. It was not about storing water when it is available, but rather condensing and transporting whatever little water there was on the ground.

  29. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Curt says:
    February 21, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    While I agree with you in general, I do believe that you still need to be careful about “no regrets” policies. One example that sticks out to me:

    Many lists of the cost-benefit analyses of energy saving actions put better building insulation at the top of the list, with straight savings in energy use over the years easily covering the initial cost. So it seems to be a good idea regardless of any effect on climate — a classic “no regrets” issue, it would seem.

    Based on this logic, the Australian government started providing significant monetary incentives for people to increase the insulation in their homes. This caused a rush of inexperienced contractors to enter the field, lured by these incentives. These contractors badly botched many of the installations. In dozens of homes, they did not take sufficient care to ensure that the metal foil layer* of the insulation was kept properly isolated from electrical wires, causing shorts that burned down the houses. I think there were some regrets there…

    You are correct, Curt, and the devil is always in the details … do them right on a “no-regrets” project and you’ll have no regrets, but if you get the details wrong on any project you’ll likely regret it …

    w.

    … Been There, Regretted That …

  30. Crispin in Waterloo says:

    There is a technology from Japan used in Namibia that takes water out of the air by a refrigeration cycle.

    The Giant Redwoods were recognised to have a local microclimate created by their own numbers in the 1920’s. Dr St Barbe Baker, founder of Men of the Trees, made it his personal mission to have the US gov’t protect a large enough area to preserve the ability of the trees to harvest the water. They do this harvesting not by condensation only as described above, but by each tree pushing into the local air about 500 gallons of water early in the daylight hours. This creates a fog in the grove that would otherwise not exist and which is absent when there are not enough trees close together.

    The super-saturated air then condenses on the tree branches and trunks with the net effect of harvesting moisture from the incoming sea air. The air on its own would not condense nearly as much. Once disturbed (by cutting or thinning) the effect is lost permanently.

    He told me he originally tried to get 9000 acres set aside and was successful, then it was successfully increased to 20,000 acres. I do not know the current protected area but is is large enough so that the fog-enhancing effect can still be seen today.

  31. PaddikJ says:

    Another fascinating post, Willis – thanks!

    Regarding unforseen consequences, there would almost certainly be some. I can’t think of a single human innovation for the increase of human comfort & convenience which hasn’t. We deal with them as the arise; the alternative is to live as nature intended – copy your genes to another container, nurture and protect that container until it’s viable, and then roll over and die. In 2.5 words, brutish & short. For humans, at least, it’s been a net-positive; you only have to look at a chart of average life expectancy for the last several hundred years to confirm that.

    A good example is one raised somewhere above. Human building and development does create large, sometimes vast, impermeable surfaces, which inevitably increases runoff, and we have mostly dealt with it. Only the poorest and remotest American villages now lack building and zoning codes which require detention ponds, controlled outflow, etc, as well as setting minima for permiable surfaces.

    My big idea: The fine ciliae of those cacti seem to act as nucleation points to form droplets. How about nano-technology, such as carbon nano-tubes? Great mats of the stuff strategically placed. Might San Francisco meet all its water needs with a few square kilometers?

  32. Willis Eschenbach says:

    JFD says:
    February 21, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    In the 1920s to the 1960s, farmers and ranchers in remote areas used cisterns to store rainwater trapped and transported by roof gutters. This is still done in dry islands such as Bermuda. Today, Master Gardners are teaching and encouraging the concept of “water harvesting”, which in principle is the same as cisterns but the rainwater is stored in aboveground galvanized tanks and used for plants.

    Curiously, in parts of Oregon (I think it is) it’s illegal to take rainwater off your own roof for your own use … it’s considered a public resource, so you can’t personally claim it. Or so I’m told … Oregonians, what say ye?

    Several groups are also encouraging use of plants with low water requirements. Purdue has discovered a gene that allows plants to use less water without loss of biomass. Israel pioneered use of drip watering for orchards 50 years ago. There are many ways to save water including a pitcher and wash bowl/basin. Some are painless and some are not.

    Indeed, good examples all.

    The best news about our global water resource is that most of it goes to agriculture, and most agriculture is horrifically wasteful of water … which means that we have a large resource that we can (and no doubt eventually will) divert from agriculture for other purposes with no loss of production, because it’s just being wasted at present.

    w.

  33. Willis Eschenbach says:

    JFD reminded me of global water. I’ve read that something like 40% of the water used in Israel is desalinated, because prices are below a buck per cubic meter (less than half a US cent per gallon).

    However, cheaper is always better, so I’d say pursuing desalination technology is certainly a no-regrets option.

    w.

  34. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Stephen Brown says:
    February 21, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    The coast of Namibia is a desert, the Namib Desert. It is very, very dry and stretches over 1,000 miles along the coast. Along the coast it has received about 0.2mm of rainfall a year for the last 50-80 million years but it gets dense fog for 180-200 days a year, it’s thickest around dawn.
    Go out on the vast beaches and, with the aid of a pair of binoculars, look at the ridges of the dunes towering inland. There’s a thin line of black on every dune crest.
    The next day, go up on the lee side of the dune crest and sit and watch. From nowhere at dawn millions of beetles appear. They line the dune crest and promptly stand on their heads with their legs out-stretched. The fog droplets condense on their legs and on their carapace, run down to the beetle’s mouth-parts where they are sucked in. Spiders, too, assemble in their billions on the ridges. They spin mini-webs and hold them up into the fog with their hind legs, drinking the water which the web collects. It is known that the spiders don’t put blobs of web-sticky on their water-collecting webs, and it is thought, though not yet proven, that they somehow coat the web-strands with a ‘water-friendly- substance.
    All I know is that in one of the driest deserts known insect life is abundant due solely to these amazing moisture capturing behaviours.

    Amazing, interesting, and very well written. There’s so much we have to learn …

    Nice.

    w.

  35. Willis Eschenbach says:

    clipe says:
    February 21, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    Does this qualify?

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-11137903

    Terraforming arid or otherwise inhospitable environments? Qualifies for me …

    Thanks,

    w.

  36. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Snake Oil Baron says:
    February 21, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    … As a recent post on this site said, it really seems that rain falls where plants grow rather than just plants growing where rains fall.

    I have long described that as “If you cut down the trees, you cut down the clouds”. The harvesting, storage, and transpiration of water by forests form a huge part of both the water and weather cycles in forested areas.

    There are instances (no cites to hand, sorry) where the clearcutting of a forest caused the springs to dry up. Makes perfect sense to me …

    w.

  37. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Curt says:
    February 21, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    On the Kona coast of the big island of Hawaii, there is a “renewable energy” lab near the Kona airport. The original idea for the lab was to exploit the temperature difference between the hot ocean surface and the cold lower ocean for electricity production (it’s called “ocean thermal energy conversion”). That never proved remotely feasible, but they do have the capability to pump up water from the deep ocean to the surface.

    The last time I checked, all they were doing with this capability was to pump the colder water through a special network of pipes above the land to condense water from the humid tropical air and collect this fresh water. I have no idea how cost effective this is compared to other methods, but I’m not optimistic.

    I lived for a year or so just up the hill from there, in Waimea, and have visited there. They did the first project in “OTEC”, ocean thermal energy conversion. The idea is seductive—use the temperature difference between the hot surface water and the cold deepwater to generate power. And you can do it … but the various losses make it just marginally productive. You’d have to go huge to get city-scale power.

    Where this same temperature differential is being used, however, is in tropical resorts to cool the rooms. Plastic pipe, fans, a few pumps, circulate the cold water past the fan, cool the room. Other places have used plastic pipe in the concrete slab, downside is you can’t do that as a retrofit …

    Since air conditioning is a huge cost for a tropical resort, this represents a no-regrets option. Note that it still is driven by fossil fuels … it’s just much more efficient at converting carbon to coolth …

    Note, by the way, that this is what we usually call “technology”, which means getting more for less.

    w.

    … dang, sometimes my wordsmithing even surprises me … converting carbon to coolth, indeed.

  38. JFD says:
    February 21, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    In the 1920s to the 1960s, farmers and ranchers in remote areas used cisterns to store rainwater trapped and transported by roof gutters. This is still done in dry islands such as Bermuda. Today, Master Gardners are teaching and encouraging the concept of “water harvesting”, which in principle is the same as cisterns but the rainwater is stored in aboveground galvanized tanks and used for plants.

    This is actively encourage and subsidized here in Perth. Someone calculated the payback on the cost of the tank compared to scheme water is in excess of 500 years. I.e. it’s a ludicrous waste of money and resources when water from dams is available.

  39. Willis Eschenbach says:

    I’ve added an update with comments to the head post, along with this graphic.

    w.

  40. Gail Combs says:

    Philip Bradley says:
    February 21, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    One other point about wire shade frames is that with the right wire they could be shipped flat and bent to the required shape…..
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Philip, you might do what I am doing. I have goats and sheep and live in North Carolina where it gets hot in the summer. I am using 16 ft cattle panels to make a ‘Green house’ I am using cement blocks (3 stacked) to lift the “roof’ panels off the ground and give me raised beds and a higher head height. A friend used T-posts and one panel as sides and another panel as a hooped roof to give a very nice big ‘building’ link 1 and another idea link 2

    The panels will allow a sun screen fabric in the summer and clear plastic in the winter and hopefully keep out the goats, sheep and my neighbor’s llama who now seems to be living with us.

  41. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Mike Hebb says:
    February 21, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    Fog is a highly effective atmospheric cleansing agent when it comes to CO2 and N2O – and much better at it than rain.

    Mmmm … not sure I’m buying that, at least without citations. I think what’s meant is that fog has greater surface area than rain, and thus absorbs more things out of the air. I can believe that. It also tends to form closer to the ground than clouds, where atmospheric aerosols natural and man-made are most prevalent.

    Part B of the story, however, is that rain falls to the ground, along with its nucleus (the particle it originally formed around) plus whatever it contains, while fog often just dissipates and evaporates back into the air, along with the nucleating particle plus what it contains. Unless it’s collected by cactus of course … I’m sure you can see the difficulty with describing fog as an “atmospheric cleansing agent”. Things are flushed from the atmosphere by rain, it is a cleansing agent, but they are often just stored in the fog and returned to the atmosphere, with no cleansing.

    I do take your point, however, that fog water will be chemically different than rainwater.

    This is where acid fog comes from. H2O +CO2 give H2CO3 which is carbonic acid. The cactus are dealing with these acids as the atmosphere is cleaned. I wouldn’t call it fresh distilled water . Maybe it should go through a limestone filter first. Down wind of a big city would be the last place to collect this “water”.

    Neither rainwater nor cactuswater is remotely like distilled water. Both are slightly acidic, carbonic acid from dissolved CO2. Both formed around a nucleus, which could be a dust particle, a crystal of sea salt, or one of a host of tiny life-forms. Limestone or indeed any kind of filtering is always a plus.

    Downwind of a city? Depends on the city, but it doesn’t sound like the greatest of plans … hard to say. It may be a difference that makes no difference.

    If you live in say San Francisco you breathe the full concentration of whatever air pollution is in the air, soot, smog, unburned hydrocarbons goes in your lungs right there on the spot, 24/7 …

    I’m not entirely convinced that if I catch my drinking water as fogwater each day somewhere outside the city, it will have more pollution than living in the city …

    Finally, I’ve been in that area around Peru and Chile, it’ll be sea fog there, coming off the ocean.

    Interesting points,

    w.

  42. Curt says:

    Philip Bradley says:
    February 21, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    “Someone calculated the payback on the cost of the tank compared to scheme water is in excess of 500 years. I.e. it’s a ludicrous waste of money and resources when water from dams is available.”

    I live in a hilly section of Los Angeles. My house and yard have a well-engineered system of underground drainage pipes to take excess rainwater straight to the street, in order to minimize the chance of the hillisides giving way in a giant mudslide when the ground gets saturated.

    When I bought the house, I thought that since I was already halfway there with this piping system, it would be easy to install a large cistern at the low end of my property to collect this water for later use in the dry season. Even with my “head start”, a few back-of-the-envelope calculations led me to payback times similar to what you quote. There are incredible economies of scale in water storage. There is no way individual water storage makes sense when there is any kind of decent central water system.

  43. Gail, that’s the kind of thing I want, but scaled down to 30 cm high. I considered trying to use chicken wire, but decided it was too malleable and you can’t push it into the ground the way you can a fairly rigid wire, and I needed something that would keep a hoop shape.

    One other thought occured to me, is that lengths of wire of the type they make coat hangers out of would be ideal, but where to get them?

  44. michael hart says:

    Beautiful picture. Makes me think of the sundew, dewing it’s thing:

  45. mosomoso says:

    “Applied to the vexing CO2 madness, a “no-regrets option” is an action we won’t regret, whether or not CO2 is the secret knob controlling global temperature.”

    I sometimes promote the carbon gobbling of moso bamboo, even though I don’t give a bugger. (I’m told it’s some kind of world champ at that.) But talk about a no-regrets option… and one that’s edible!

    The right bamboo is one of the best insulators, because you can cut down on wind, parching and chill without turbulence, air stagnation, branch breakage etc. (This is where I bore everyone about my moso.) My home twenty years ago was a wreck after every big southerly gale. Now, with a forest of moso protecting to the south, I have to check the tops of gum trees in the distance to know if there is a gale. I can’t wait to lead the grove round the other side of the house to reduce those nagging westerlies to pleasant zephyrs.

    I enjoy reading Willis because he reminds me that the only commodity in short supply is ideas. Today I ran low on something, we’re flooding so I can’t get more of it from town, so I’ve been forced to try something else. I think it’s going to work better than the thing I ran out of…the thing that “peaked”, as it were.

    Ideas!

  46. Gary Pearse says:

    When I took up farming to help raise my six children plus two nieces that sorely needed raising, I found it took about 3 years to become a reasonably knowledgeable mixed farmer – planting crops, raising sheep, ducks, geeese, chickens, dairy cow and a horse. Mastering administering a long hypodermic to a holstein with mastitis was my PhD.

    But along the way you learn some things by being a careful observer. I remember trying to keep my large truck garden alive in during a drought by digging a well in a ravine grown over with ash and rigging up a pump. Starting just before sunrise, I went out to start digging and I noticed that the outside leaves of the cabbage had fallen almost to the ground and each bowl made by the leaves had gathered a tiny pond of water in it by capturing the dew. To my surprise as the sun rose, the leaves lifted up back up to the cabbage head and the water ran down to the roots. Each cabbage head sported a dark ring of wet soil around the roots. These clever plants already new about climate’s changeability.

    A man-made water collector of elegant simplicity can be made by stretching plastic over a hole dug down a foot or two into which a cup has been placed at the bottom of the hole. A small stone is placed in the middle of the plastic creating a shallow inverted cone. At night, the water evaporating from the soil in and below the bottom of the hole condenses on the plastic, runs to the apex of the cone and drips into the cup. I’m told this works even in fairly dry regions.

  47. Crispin in Waterloo says:

    Next we will be hearing about acid fog created by CO2 + H2O. Good grief.

    About 0.2-1% of CO2 absorbed into fresh water is turned into carbonic acid. The rest is just absorbed. The rate of absorbtion is somewhat limited by the surface to volume ratio but for fog and rain water is the same: 1.28 g per kg of H2O. The tiny carbonic acid portion explains why rainwater has a lower pH than water which has reacted with the ground (like, in a lake).

    +++++++
    Any water-soluble gas becomes more soluble as the temperature decreases, due to the thermodynamics of the reaction: GAS (l)  GAS (g). The entropy change, S, of this reaction is positive because the gas molecules are less constrained than the gas molecules in solution. The change in Free energy of reaction with an increase in temperature is -S. This effect is particularly large for gases like CO2 that undergo specific reactions with water.

    Equilibrium is established between the dissolved CO2 and H2CO3, carbonic acid.

    (2) CO2 (l) + H2O (l)  H2CO3 (l)

    This reaction is kinetically slow. At equilibrium, only a small fraction (ca. 0.2 – 1%) of the dissolved CO2 is actually converted to H2CO3. Most of the CO2 remains as solvated molecular CO2

    http://www.thuisexperimenteren.nl/infopages/Carbondioxide%20in%20water%20equilibrium.doc

    ++++++++

    So let’s not get all excited about living downwind from a city and collecting ‘acid rainwater’.

    Experiments dealing with CO2 in water are easy to perform:
    Collect come rainwater – taste it.
    Boil it and let it cool. Taste it again (No CO2)
    Let it stand overnight in an open glass. Taste it again (CO2 absorbs, changing the flavour)
    Freeze it (loses CO2)
    Melt it again in a covered glass and taste it (water without CO2)
    Let it stand overnight in an open glass. Taste it again (Co2 absorbs again)
    Carbonic acid will not leave so easily so the tests are not identical, but you will soon get the message: Water absorbs CO2, and always did. There is no CO2 in ice or boiled water.

    ++++++++
    Carbonic acid is a weak acid that dissociates in two steps[2].
    (3) H2CO3 + H2O  H3O+ + HCO3- pKa1 (25 °C) = 6.37
    (4) HCO3- + H2O  H3O+ + CO32- pKa2 (25 °C) = 10.25
    – ibid
    ++++++++

    Fog is a highly effective atmospheric cleansing agent when it comes to CO2 and N2O – and much better at it than rain.

    Only if it forms in the local area from water vapour. As it achieves a liquid droplet state, it immediately absorbs CO2. CO2 is constantly entering and leaving the hydrosphere because water has three states only one of which (liquid) absorbs CO2.

    +++++++++
    …the pKa most reported for carbonic acid (pKa1 = 6.37) is not really the true pKa of carbonic acid. Rather, it is the pKa of the equilibrium mixture of CO2 (l) and carbonic acid. Carbonic acid is actually a much stronger acid than this, with a true pKa1 value of 3.58. However these values are also temperature dependent.
    – ibid

  48. OssQss says:

    Great read Willis!

    How might his thing impact fog?

    Interesting rate of development and construction.

    http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sdo/news/fastgrowing-sunspot.html

  49. KevinK says:

    Curt wrote;

    “*Note to skydragon slayers: The metal foil layer in home insulation acts as a radiative barrier to heat transfer. (The spun fiberglass acts as a conductive/convective barrier.) In winter, even though this foil is colder than the inside of the house, it helps “keep the house warm”. In reality, of course, it’s the furnace that heats the house, and the foil helps reduce radiative heat loss by reflection and absorption/re-radiation.”

    Thanks for the gratuitous poke, although it seems unrelated to the topic at hand. I for one fully understand the difference between a radiative barrier and a conductive/convective barrier. Please note that the foil does NOT reduce heat loss, it merely SLOWS the velocity at which heat flows through the system. Talk of “reducing heat loss” is SILLY and shows only a superficial knowledge about how thermal systems work.

    Cheers, Kevin.

  50. KevinK says:

    Curt, as a follow up you might want to consider two houses;

    1) Walls filled with fiberglass and wrapped with vinyl siding

    2) Walls filled with fiberglass and wrapped with aluminum siding (a reflective barrier to heat loss)

    What is the appreciable difference between the energy efficiency between these two houses (assuming everything else is equal, wall thickness, window area, exposure, local climate, etc.) ?

    You might be surprised to learn that the difference is zero. Since the velocity of heat through the fiberglass is MUCH slower than the velocity of heat through either the vinyl or aluminum IT (the fiberglass) becomes the rate limiting step and the aluminum or vinyl is just along for the ride and doesn’t become a barrier to heat flow when considered within a total system.

    Back at ya, Kevin.

  51. michael hart says:

    The reverse property, termed the “Lotus-leaf effect, is the principle for novel designs of super-hydrophobic and “self cleaning” functional-materials.

    Named, strangely enough, after the Lotus-leaf, this is more subtle than just the molecular chemical composition of the material. In this case, the ‘nano-structure” really is an appropriate use of the much abused “nano” word.

    Some reviews:

    http://www.fisica.unige.it/~boragno/CorsoNano/Lezione%208/Marmur2004.pdf

    http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/ar040224c (paywalled)

    And a CGI simulation followed by the real thing:

  52. NoFixedAddress says:

    Willis,

    My ‘rule of thumb’ is “Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow”.

    My ‘logic’ is that if it doesn’t need to be done today then maybe you don’t need to do it at all!

    Anyways, your readers may be interested in this article,

    http://www.smh.com.au/technology/sci-tech/water-from-thin-air-aussie-eds-airdrop-an-international-hit-20111110-1n8ks.html

  53. markx says:

    A very nice paper. There is likely some interesting chemistry involved in this as well, in the types of coatings/waxes and the molecular makeup of those spines.

  54. michael hart says:

    If you take inspiration from a flock of starlings or a swarm of bees then:

  55. Duster says:

    Laurie Bowen says:
    February 21, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    Just curious as you say you live in the redwood forest, ” . . . . “the trees may live 2000 years (compared to 3000 for the sequoia), a more typical life span for the giants is 500-700 years.”

    When these trees get [too] old to live . . . do we harvest them or do ‘we’ let them just go back to nature or do we rail that the ‘deaths’ are man made?

    And being from “not the redwood forest area” wouldn’t trying to plant a redwood forest of my own be considered introducing and a non-native species as there are none here now.

    Do you reckon that the ones that planted the redwood forest regret it? They never got to harvest one tree.

    Until we can ascertain realities, see “historically”, and circumspect there is no such a critter as The No-Regrets Option.

    Redwoods are Sequoia – contra Willis. The botanical designation is Sequoia sempervirens. It’s also called the coastal redwood and grows from the central California coast north into southernmost coastal Oregon. The “Big Trees” of the Sierra Nevada are related – both fall in the Taxodium family – but they are not Sequoia and their botanical designation is Sequoiadendron gigantuem. Though they are often referred to as “Giant Sequoia,” they aren’t, and their leaves look very little like a redwood’s, rather more like an incense cedar’s in fact. Loggers tried harvesting Big Trees and ended referring to them as “grape stake trees.” They are prone to shatter when they fall and the wood is very brittle. They were also so big that a crew would fall one and then realize, “uh, that’s really big! How are we going to move it?” It never became economically viable to harvest the trees. The redwood and big tree are respectively that tallest and most massive trees on the planet.

    Sempervirens in contrast is a tree with very useful wood (old growth wood) and was harvested madly in the later 19th and 20th centuries. More fortunes were made harvesting redwood than mining gold in California.

    The redwood being harvested now is mostly second, third and probably fourth and even fifth growth trees – they grow pretty (very) rapidly in open conditions. What makes “old growth” wood valuable isn’t the species so much but the fact it grew under dense forest cover, very slowly. Annual rings are narrow. The timber is also very straight and stable. The same is true for Douglas fir and is why so much available lumber these days is crap. You need slow-grown trees for the best wood. There are very few stands of old growth redwood left, but some is still harvested. The best redwood and d.f are generally exported and the second and third quality material goes to Home Depot and Loewes. The best wood is so expensive that only the likes of Bill Gates can afford it. I worked for the forest service long ago and even then a single “over mature” tree could pay for much of the preparation for a timber sale.

    Both redwoods and big trees trees are pretty resistant to fire and in fact need [fire] to reproduce efficiently.

  56. tokyoboy says:

    Willis, you are a fascinating science-based naturalist, if I can call you so. In my limited experience I can compare you only to Helmut Tributch, professor emeritus at Freie Universitaet Berlin and one of my good friends. Many years ago he had publishied this book:

    which I translated into Japanese a few years thereafter.

  57. davidq says:

    Low energy tidal pump to pull up cold ocean water.
    The upfront is a bit expensive, but done once should be low on maintenance. Enclose a small bay (a couple of hundred yards across or smaller). trench and bury one or several large pipes (2-3′ diameter) that reach down into the deep ocean. Let them enter the enclosed bay at the bottom. The next step I leave up to you to solve. Put one-way valves on the pipes, so that when the tide goes out, water doesn’t push down into the deep ocean. Do the same at the bay entrance, but in the opposite. Open outwards when the tide goes out. Now you have a tide based pump that brings in cold water when the tide is rising, and discards warm water when the tide is on the way out.
    Now you will have ice-cold deep ocean water pulled up every day into the bay. Use as you see fit.

  58. Nylo says:

    A similar thing is done by some trees in Gran Canaria’s mountains, in the Canary Islands, Spain. We call what they do “ordeñar las nubes”, which translates as “to milk the clouds”,

  59. Hoser says:

    Myron Mesecke says:
    February 21, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    A problem for one is an advantage for another. So don’t worry about it. The way life works is you do what’s best for you and help those who help you.

    In civilization, we recognize indirect help. Hence, we help people we don’t know, including those who don’t directly do anything for us. Some in this civilized world now take advantage of that principle. Consequently, we now have a giant parasite pretending to help us.

    The answer is, don’t forget you must take care of yourself FIRST. Only then can you help others. That means you have to be able to set limits. Tell the parasite no.

    Oops, the parasite has guns, and it turns out to be a predator. The good news is, all I have to do is run faster than you.

  60. indegar says:

    Sometimes a “No Regrets” option is so big, mundane and obvious that it gets overlooked. Here’s the one I have been working on for a few decades (in the Pacific NW):

    Geo-engineering with Trees in the Fog Belt

    Sample Location: Coastal Marin/Sonoma County CA
    Primary Objective: Mitigate effects of floods and drought
    Goals:
    Maximize landscape’s water retention capacity.
    Maximize biological carbon above, on and below the ground.
    Minimize wildfire risk and severity.
    Increase height and lateral spread of live tree vegetation.
    Actions and Results:
    1: Thin existing forests, variable by species, density and site; assume 50% reduction of live stems overall.
    Harvest of accessible logs produces income to offset expenses.
    Inaccessible logs and dead snags are left for forest/soil health and wildlife.
    Trees freed of competition increase in height and width, capture more sunshine.
    Above: Increased biomass (live crown) harvests more fog, buffers more rain above ground.
    On: Forest floor biomass shields the ground, absorbs and retains water, slows evaporation.
    Below: Increased biomass and voids (live & dead roots) absorb more water, mitigate runoff.
    Higher trees and wider crowns project fog drip outside the forest footprint.
    2: Expand forest footprint by transplanting young trees into grassy, open spaces.
    The naturally regenerated seedlings at forest edge/fog drip line are thinned for maximum vigor.
    The best culled seedlings are transplanted densely just outside the fog drip line.
    New trees are thinned over time to maintain canopy closure, shielding the soil.
    Iterative planting/thinning cycle continuously expands forest surface area and biomass volume.
    Conclusion:
    By assisting the largest plant species on the planet with their natural tendency to bind carbon and water in the widest possible band above and below ground, we achieve an exceptionally high benefit to cost ratio.
    Flood and drought mitigation, water quality, timber volume and quality, biological and structural diversity, wildlife habitat and aesthetic value of forests can be simultaneously optimized with occasional, surgical human intervention with common, inexpensive technology. Cultivate the ever-expanding and lingering pocket of vapor, mist and clouds in and around the trees, and visions of the Pacific Northwest rainforest begin to emerge. Long-forgotten springs re-appear and streams run longer into the dry season.
    Achieving a persistent and self-replicating hydrological and carbon sequestering mechanism on the largest possible scale in arid climates is arguably the lowest hanging climate change mitigation fruit available. In this case we are intentionally changing the local micro-climate to moderate the effects of inevitable extreme weather. Our tree friends want nothing more than to harvest atmospheric CO2 to erect carbon towers for their solar panels/fog collectors, while their roots carve out massive underground water storage tanks, holding back some of the winter floods so they can take long sips during the summer drought. We ought to help them out wherever and whenever we can. They do more than 99.99% of the work, anyways.

  61. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    Plastic netting to gather fog? So who woke up and looked at a spider’s web?

    I’m giving up on cat litter. With 7 cats, every week or so I’m buying a large plastic jug of “scoopable, clumping” clay-ish litter. It says it’s “septic safe”, can be flushed, presumably that means it dissolves away until it will harmlessly leave the septic tank to be dissipated in the leach field.

    After being used, it’s collected into a bucket, gets dumped outdoors, adding to a large growing clay-ish mound that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, no matter how much precipitation falls.

    This last time, I re-noticed there are a few pots of dirt on the porch with remains of former houseplants, doing nothing… And the cats are now happily using the old potting soil.

    Offhand, I think I can get plain (non-fertilizing) soil by the large bag cheaper than “premium” cat litter. Disposal’s easy enough.

    And strangely enough, cats don’t have any problem with doing their business on dirt. Truly amazing.

    I wonder if I can keep the used stuff in a bin or something, maybe turn it over every so often, perhaps use it for growing some plants some day…

    Meanwhile, I have 50+ identical rectangular plastic jugs, that are demonstrated to be UV resistant and can survive the great outdoors, with a few oddball others. Not quite enough to glue together for a uniquely recycled garden tool shed. But they could be filled with water and used for a greenhouse passive heating back wall. If I would build a small greenhouse. It’ll take awhile to gather enough pre-fertilized potting soil. But, still sounds like a worthwhile project.

  62. Al Gore says:

    I agree, harvesting fog one place deprives moisture another place?

  63. James Bull says:

    Willis the thing that I like that was “discovered” in nature was hollow fibre which is a copy of “soft and cuddly” polar bear fur, as we all know there are so few polar bears left that they cannot be hunted. Man can still have nice warm clothes when he goes to have a cuddle with the few that are left. HA HA.
    Philip Bradley says:
    February 21, 2013 at 5:13 pm
    What my dad and I do in the UK to make large tunnel cloche is use plastic water/gas main pipe 20 mm OD you cut it into lengths (depending on how big you want the tunnel) and into the ends insert a short ( 300-400 mm) length of metal pipe by about 100 mm, flatten the exposed end and drill a 2-3 mm hole through the twin pipe section into this hole push a nail. The ends of the pipe are then pushed into the ground at 2-3 m spacings plastic sheet, shading or netting is then pulled over and anchored at both ends and tied onto the hoops with string on the nails. The ones we made have lasted 10-20 years so far with only the odd nail needing replacing.
    James Bull

  64. johnmarshall says:

    I cannot believe this fog collection is ”new science”.
    I am sure the Victorian men of science noticed this natural phenomena.
    And you are correct, CO2 has no effect on climate though there is a correlation between ice ages and high atmospheric CO2 content but correlation does not prove causation.

  65. johanna says:

    The trouble with so-called “no regrets” options is that they are usually subsidised or legislated interventions – i.e. they have costs. In economics, these are known an “opportunity costs”. What that means is that if you use resources for one thing, it is at the expense of an alternative use.

    I am not having a go at Willis here, as he was careful to say in his head post that such options should be very cheap or free. But “no regrets” policies are usually either statements of the bleeding obvious (e.g. proper water management to cope with droughts and floods) or thinly veiled Trojan Horses for people to get the government (and taxpayers) to support their pet projects.

    Things like mandated/subsidised water tanks (useless in drought) and subsidised or mandated home insulation come into this category. With regard to water, as someone pointed out above, the reason we have dams and public water pipes is that the economics, and reliability, of individual water collection suck for most people. If it works for you, by all means put in a water tank. But public policy and dollars (apart from not preventing you) should have nothing to do with it. The same goes for insulation. If it pays its way, people will do it anyway. If it doesn’t, please get your hand out of my wallet and your laws off my house.

    We also need to be very wary of double-whammy social engineering dressed up as “no regrets”. A typical example, which we see all over the Western world, is artificially increasing energy costs to make things like insulation or windmills seem cheaper. They are not cheaper, of course; we are just paying through the nose twice, with a concomitant loss of wealth and competitive advantage for everyone.

    Sorry for the economics lecture, but I think it’s important to distinguish between genuine advances, which make people better off (such as public water and drainage systems) and eco-loon driven mandates (such as compulsory water tanks and insulation) which do not.

    Harvesting fog water certainly has possibilities in dry places, and is well worth investigating. But before so much as a dime of taxpayer money goes towards installing something like that, the alternatives (such a pipelines, desalination or just accepting that there is no cost-effective way of making the place wetter) need to be thoroughly evaluated.

  66. Jakehig says:

    On the theme of water recovery, a group of big companies and various university departments have been working on the capture of water from combustion exhausts using membranes. The project – CapWa – has demonstrated recoveries of about 40% in pilot trials on power plants in Europe. The last I heard they were starting large-scale trials on a plant in the mid-East.
    The implications are obvious and very attractive, especially for arid regions. Not only could natural gas supply power, it could provide significant amounts of water – 0.8 tons for each ton of gas burnt (at 40% recovery).

  67. Jason Calley says:

    Getting water from the air is a very interesting subject — and one that goes a long way back into history! Here is a link to quite a bit of info on the subject: http://www.rexresearch.com/airwells/airwells.htm

  68. Mike McMillan says:

    Some of the heat pipes in computer cooling use internal microgrooves to return condensed water vapor to the heated section of the pipe. Probably where nature got the idea.

  69. John Ratcliffe says:

    Sandy Bay, Gibralta was one of the largest water harvesting systems on the planet, before the Government built a Desalination plant that now takes care of all the colony’s water needs. Built cheaply with corrugated galvanised sheets on an existing slope with collection channels built in to guide the water to storage tanks. This kept the colony viable through many years of conflict with thew Spanish. The original construction work, I think , started about 1898, and when finished covered about 10 acres. It was extended several time since then, and finished off at 34 acres.
    The Rock on most days has a cloud cap, alone in an otherwise completely blue sky.

    http://www.google.co.uk/imgres?imgurl=http://farm5.staticflickr.co/4016/4356861008_b2de68afba_z.jpg%3Fzz%3D1&imgrefurl=http://www.flickr.com/photos/brighton

    /4356861008/&h=423&w=640&sz=137&tbnid=dshkrpFTWXHbRM:&tbnh=91&tbnw=137&zoom=1&usg=__L8cIl8ckEnoBJ-mpOt_70sZ9TA4=&docid=kZ7VDEWNewl7FM&sa=X&ei=y1wnUc-iOeSp0AWUm4DgBw&ved=0CIEBEPUBMAk&dur=7056

  70. AFPhy6 says:

    From the chinese link: “It also offers a new avenue to relieve the global water crisis and benefits to the development of the global agriculture, industry as well as military.”

    How many times have I read tripe from alarmists like “We realize that this study taken by itself may be taken to dispute the existence of CAGW, but we need more money for more research to show that is not the case because CAGW is clearly so dangerous.”

    I guess in China, it is more important to show that your work has application to the military in order to get money.

  71. Scott says:

    Frost will form on surfaces due to radiative cooling with air temperatures well above 32F. Apparently some ancient people used crude ways to collect this frost and store it in buildings, but this skill has been lost with the advent of modern refrigeration. This natural ice-making has some appeal to me as we have no electricity at our cabin and have to haul ice in on weekends. I’ve seen large amounts radiative ice form on Lake Superior on very clear nights well into May, I could collect a boatload at times if I wanted to. Seem like we could come up with ways to collect a few cubic feet of frost-ice per home to reduce refrigeration costs. Scraping frost off big white metal plates exposed to the night sky and protected from convective effects might be one way to do it.

    http://www.sol-ice.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Potentials-of-NSRC-in-NM-1.pdf

  72. Old woman of the north says:

    House cooling technology in Central Australia – the Alice Springs Hospital built in the 1920s had a basement with tunnels in it that were made with rocks that were kept damp. The building was constructed with a raised central roof turret with vents in the centre of the building’s floors so that as the hot air inside the building rose through the central corridor to the roof it drew cooled air in from the tunnels where the damp rocks were from the outside..
    Since the Alice area in central Australia also has freezing nights in winter, I am not sure how they kept it warm.
    All windows were shaded by steeply slanted shades – again to keep the heat out.
    Maybe the hospital used solid shutters to close off the roof turret and the windows in winter.
    I have seen the building but am not sure how well it worked for year round occupation.

  73. _Jim says:

    PaddikJ says February 21, 2013 at 3:39 pm
    Another fascinating post, Willis – thanks! [Agreed! _Jim]

    A good example is one raised somewhere above. Human building and development does create large, sometimes vast, impermeable surfaces, which inevitably increases runoff, and we have mostly dealt with it.

    You know, some of us (well, collectively, here in my state) have made use of this ‘runoff’ by collecting it in reservoirs; As Texas has only one naturally existing lake, all the lakes you may see mention of are (nearly all) Corps or Engineers “lakes” and from which we draw water and subsequently route through filtering / processing plants and onward to domestic and industrial consumption.

    Any ‘creeks’ in my area (north central TX) look like miniatures of the Grand Canyon owing to the “gully washers” we have experienced (since the ocean’s retreat) from violent Thunderstorms delivering enough water in a such short period of time that it runs off anyway, and in the process creates those deep, deep recesses into our ‘earth’ until it finally reaches the underlying limestone ‘bed’ which seems to lie anywhere from 5 to 30 feet down (the clay, BTW, which goes for soil in these parts, after wetting becomes as impermeable as any ‘soil’ can get!)

    .

  74. Fred2 says:

    My sister lives in a redwood forest south of SF, up on that ridge of hills south of Half Moon Bay. The locals trim all the big branches off that are near homes and what not, and they have very few problems with living with the trees other than the avalanche of tree duff that comes off them and fills the gutters.

    That being said it is striking how the micro-climate of the (2nd growth) redwood forest is different from similar places just a mile or two away on the ridge, never mind down in Redwood City, or San Mateo down in the bay. There are days when it’s literally 20-30+ degrees cooler and “raining” while the bay is sunny and warm. Part of that is the trees , some of that rain is tree condensate, and part is that chain of hills holding back the cool pacific air.

    The interesting thing about this forest is it was, for all intends, clear cut circa 1900 and regrew on the stumps and the trees are easily range 2-6+ feet in diameter, and hundred++ feet tall. The small shoots in peoples yards/clearings can easily grow 2-3 feet taller in a season.

  75. Matthew R Marler says:

    Cute. Plus many interesting comments.

    Spider webs, Namib beetles have long been known. What’s new here is the detailed analysis of how one of the plants works. The Imperial Valley is gradually changing over from spray irrigation to drip irrigation, financed in part by San Diegan purchases of water, because the drip irrigation wastes less water, making more available for drinking. In my yard I replaced all the sprayers with a drip system. My wife and I have experimented with collecting rain water, but it is very expensive; we collect grey water, but it makes a tiny contribution.

  76. wsbriggs says:

    One weekend I went mountain biking in Idylewild (SoCal above Palm Springs) with a friend. We came whipping around a turn and ran into a grove of Sequoia. It’s on Forestry Service land, so I suspect that only FS knows they exist, well maybe some other mountain bikers and the occasional hiker. The astonishing part was that I’d been told by a supposedly knowledgeable individual that tall Sequoias could only live in NoCal. Life is way more adaptable than we think.

  77. The use of fog collectors has been encouraged in Nepal where: “The Large Fog Collectors (LFC) are constructed using 4 x 8 meter sheets of polypropylene mesh, which when suspended on a ridgeline resembles a large volleyball net. Warm air from the Bay of Bengal moves inland during the monsoon, where it intercepts the varied topology of the Himalayan foothills. As the air moves up into valleys at higher altitudes, it mixes with cooler air and condenses, forming fog. As fog passes through the fog collectors, water droplets cling to the weave of the mesh, and filter down into a discharge system that stores the water in 20,000 liter ferro-cement tanks. Water quality testing found that all parameters meet WHO guidelines. . . . . . . . Here six large fog collectors produce an average of 1700 liters of water per day for the villages 75 inhabitants.”

    I wrote about this back in 2009 ( at Bit Tooth Energy ) but a quick check shows that the references that I used have since been taken down or moved.

  78. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    Portland chopping down giant sequoia


    The tree at the center of the controversy is a giant sequoia that stands about 120 feet tall and measures 18 feet around. It’s one of a couple dozen giant sequoias in Pier Park, but the only one on the chopping block.

    The city is building a ten-mile long pedestrian and bike trail called the North Portland Greenway. Once completed, the trail will connect North Portland to downtown. Plans call for a bridge to be built over a set of railroad tracks, and according to the city, that sequoia tree is in the way.

    The city said it looked at several alternatives and decided that removing this one tree was the best option.

    But don’t weep for the impressive representative of Nature that will be destroyed so people can enjoy Nature when outdoors as well as when watching PBS, for a temporary monument to Nature shall be built from the carcass:

    The 12-story sequoia tree that has become the center of a controversy over a city trail project will be “re-purposed” and turned into a nature playground after it is cut down, according to Mark Ross with Portland Parks & Recreation.

    “It will help kids connect with nature, and provide a sustainable, natural playground in the first such endeavor across our system,” Ross said, in a post on PP&R’s Facebook page. “We will mitigate the loss of the sequoia by planting seven giant sequoias in neighboring Chimney Park, where there are much fewer trees.”

    Much like how the federal government mitigates the permanent loss of a full-time private sector career with several little no-benefit part time jobs. It all adds up the same, right?

    How high does a bridge over a railroad have to be? Why is it a “bridge” and not just called an elevated walkway, like so many already built over roads and highways?

    Heck, why do they have to go over the tracks? Have the engineers forgotten how to make underpasses? Of course, an underpass might attract unwanted animals seeking shelter from the elements, wild savage creatures like bears and homeless people.

  79. Laurie Bowen says:

    Hoser says:
    February 21, 2013 at 10:46 pm
    “”The answer is, don’t forget you must take care of yourself FIRST. Only then can you help others. That means you have to be able to set limits. Tell the parasite no.

    Oops, the parasite has guns, and it turns out to be a predator. The good news is, all I have to do is run faster than you.””

    Now, let’s assume you are an anarobic life form. How would this perspective go? . . . all this air is killing me . . . .

  80. Laurie Bowen says:

    A very interesting contribution, indeed~!

  81. Curt says:

    johanna says:
    February 22, 2013 at 2:34 am

    “The trouble with so-called ‘no regrets’ options is that they are usually subsidised or legislated interventions – i.e. they have costs.”

    I think you have hit it here. As soon as there are subsidies or similar legislative incentives, there will be distortions that impose ‘regrets’. There is widespread thinking in the field that consumers demand a shorter payback time on an investment such as added insulation or efficient lighting than is rational in a calculated-ROI world, and because of this, governmental market interventions are justified for people’s own good. Many of these people never go one step further in their thinking to figure out what the secondary effects of these interventions are.

    KevinK says:
    February 21, 2013 at 6:49 pm

    “Please note that the foil does NOT reduce heat loss, it merely SLOWS the velocity at which heat flows through the system. Talk of “reducing heat loss” is SILLY and shows only a superficial knowledge about how thermal systems work.”

    You can’t be serious! Any resistance to thermal transfer – conductive, convective, or radiative – reduces heat loss in a system where you are trying to maintain a temperature differential (such as a house in winter). One of the first equations you encounter in an engineering heat transfer textbook is:

    q = (T1^n -T2^n) / R

    where q is the heat flow in Watts, T1 is the temperature of the first body, T2 is the temperature of the second body, and R is the thermal resistance. “n” is usually taken as 1 for conductive transfer, around 1 for convective, and 4 for radiative. In any case, increasing the resistance decreases the heat flow.

    If there is no other energy input to either of the two bodies, increased resistance just means that the two bodies will equilibrate to a common intermediate temperature more slowly. However, if there is a steady energy input to one of the bodies, such as a furnace inside the house, that maintains its temperature, increased thermal resistance to the other body (the outside environment) provides an ongoing reduction in the rate of heat loss. That is the whole point of insulation, to reduce the requirement for heat input from the furnace. By your logic, insulation of any kind does nothing to reduce heating bills.

    Your example of aluminum versus vinyl siding on the outside of a house is not appropriate. Metals, while providing a good radiative barrier, are excellent thermal conductors (very low conductive thermal resistance). To use them as an effective radiative barrier, you must utilize them so they cannot provide a good thermal conductive path. That is why multiple layers of metal foil separated by non-conductive plastic sheets are effective in the vacuum barrier of high-end vacuum flasks — they provide high resistance to radiative transfer while minimizing the reduction in conductive resistance. Similarly, a thin layer of foil inside the walls surrounded by conductively insulating materials is effective, while metal siding exposed to the outside air is not.

    I would go into more detail, but I must review the design of a metal heat sink the engineers who work for me are designing to conduct heat out of our power electronics modules as effectively as possible. I do this stuff for a living.

  82. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Jakehig says:
    February 22, 2013 at 2:50 am

    On the theme of water recovery, a group of big companies and various university departments have been working on the capture of water from combustion exhausts using membranes. The project – CapWa – has demonstrated recoveries of about 40% in pilot trials on power plants in Europe. The last I heard they were starting large-scale trials on a plant in the mid-East.
    The implications are obvious and very attractive, especially for arid regions. Not only could natural gas supply power, it could provide significant amounts of water – 0.8 tons for each ton of gas burnt (at 40% recovery).

    Capture the combustion water, interesting thought. I’ll have to look it up.

    Thanks, Jake,

    w.

  83. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Scott says:
    February 22, 2013 at 5:09 am

    Frost will form on surfaces due to radiative cooling with air temperatures well above 32F. Apparently some ancient people used crude ways to collect this frost and store it in buildings, but this skill has been lost with the advent of modern refrigeration. This natural ice-making has some appeal to me as we have no electricity at our cabin and have to haul ice in on weekends. I’ve seen large amounts radiative ice form on Lake Superior on very clear nights well into May, I could collect a boatload at times if I wanted to. Seem like we could come up with ways to collect a few cubic feet of frost-ice per home to reduce refrigeration costs. Scraping frost off big white metal plates exposed to the night sky and protected from convective effects might be one way to do it.

    http://www.sol-ice.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Potentials-of-NSRC-in-NM-1.pdf

    Interesting. In the SW US, where the air is dry, they used to freeze water that way by putting it into shallow black-colored metal trays on the flat roofs of the adobe houses. They’d set them on blocks so they could cool from both sides, and in the morning they’d have ice, even though it didn’t freeze anywhere else.

    w.

  84. Gene Selkov says:

    Interesting indeed.

    My house is sitting in the fork of a railway junction and I can tell when the contact wires get frozen by the funny sounds the trains’ pantographs emit due to excessive arcing. The onset of freezing on the contact wires usually occurs when the ambient temperature is about +2C, while nothing else in the vicinity is even close to freezing. I’ve been wondering what is it about the wires that makes them lose energy faster than everything else. Surely not the fact that they are in a strong E/M field, but I can’t think of anything else.

  85. Harvey Harrison says:

    Around 2007 I became disgusted with the climate alarmists and so wrote my own tongue in cheek sci-fi epic ‘Gigadeath.’
    Instead of warming I invented a new ice age, and of course it was caused by climate meddling. Doom and panic swept the world, but no one died. As glaciers built sea levels fell and whatever was lost in the north was more than made up by new land surfacing in the tropics. With bumper crops the population doubled, then doubled again, in sixty years with still no Gigadeath event in sight.
    And then disaster (can’t have a book called Gigadeath without one) the ice age was ending! Oh noes! Doom and panic. The population was dependent upon the ice age or 40 billion people would die.
    Then, of course, the day is saved by grassroots action. The people take to the fringes of low elevation glaciers and erect lattice work sunshades woven from local vegetation. Soon corporations take notice of this and start making vast logos and slogans of shades big enough to be read on the weather satellites. These sunshades collected blowing snow and then shaded it through the summer, stabilizing the sea level, extending the ice age indefinitely.
    Then politics raises its ugly head so the UN gets into the act by mandating the sea level be kept where it is. China, naturally, has other ideas. They mobilize the Peoples Army, a billion strong, to cover all of Asia with white plastic mesh on aluminum poles with the intent of driving the sea even lower and laying claim to the last of the new land.
    War seems certain and now the Giga-death event threatens to become Terra-death. (Now there’s a term the CAGW bunch can use to frighten small children and gullible adults alike.)
    Of course the book solves all this without conflict but with a coup in China.
    Even so the sunshade idea seemed like a good one especially for low elevation snow packs. If Greenpeace is so damn interested in saving the planet why aren’t they out there weaving sticks together? If they are short handed there will be the soon to be unemployed ‘Climatologists’ from the IPCC to help them out.

  86. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    From Willis Eschenbach on February 22, 2013 at 10:42 am:

    Capture the combustion water, interesting thought. I’ll have to look it up.

    Just did that, as something was curious about the idea. The company involved, DNV KEMA (Netherlands) gave it its own site:

    http://www.watercapture.eu/

    I suppose there’s a perfectly reasonable reason why the only alternate language for this EU site by a Netherlands company highlighting technology of potentially worldwide benefit from South America to Africa to the Middle East, is Mandarin Chinese.

    The test results give the interesting tale. The temperatures are well below boiling, the water wants to condense. The “technology” is tubes of water-permeable membrane under vacuum, placed in the exhaust stream, so the condensing water is drawn into the tubes then collected.

    As people who’ve had an old coal furnace have found out after changing over to a “modern” furnace burning oil or gas, “high efficiency” heating exhaust is cooler, the water will condense out. Which will then mix with the sulfurous residue to make acid and eat out the old masonry chimney pretty quick. Which is why I had to put up a new stainless chimney on this house.

    “Combustion capture” would really take nothing more than a long enough run of exhaust pipe to allow for cooling and condensation, with a water catching setup at the bottom (drain type P-trap perhaps). Add some crushed limestone to kill the acid, and the water will have lots of uses. And it will already be cleaner than what a lot of the world considers drinking water.

  87. _Jim says:

    Gene Selkov says February 22, 2013 at 11:01 am
    Interesting indeed.

    My house is sitting in the fork of a railway junction and I can tell when the contact wires get frozen by the funny sounds the trains’ pantographs emit due to excessive arcing. The onset of freezing on the contact wires usually occurs when the ambient temperature is about +2C, while nothing else in the vicinity is even close to freezing. I’ve been wondering what is it about the wires that makes them lose energy faster than everything else. Surely not the fact that they are in a strong E/M field, but I can’t think of anything else.

    For the same reason FROST can cover an entire windscreen (make that a windshield for US readership) when the air temp is above freezing – (quite literally:) Radiative Cooling!

    The EM field (ostensibly from the current through/voltage on the wires) you are considering has nada to do with it.

    If you notice, is is more noticeable on still nights rather than those nights where the wind is blowing, as the blowing-wind ‘air’ will pick up (be in contact with) ‘warmth’ from the surrounding earth, pavement, et al and this in turn when coming in contact with the windshield (or wire) will _not_ allow the radiative cooling effect to lower the windshield’s (or wire’s) temperature as low as without the wind, and perhaps even keeping the windshield (or wire) _above_ the local dew point (termperature) such that no dew (or frost) forms.

    .

  88. James Bull says:
    February 22, 2013 at 12:48 am

    What my dad and I do in the UK to make large tunnel cloche is use plastic water/gas main pipe 20 mm OD you cut it into lengths (depending on how big you want the tunnel) and into the ends insert a short ( 300-400 mm) length of metal pipe by about 100 mm, flatten the exposed end and drill a 2-3 mm hole through the twin pipe section into this hole push a nail.

    Thanks for the advice.

    One other requirement I should mention, although I alluded to it, is that I want shade that is easy to put in place and remove. Hence the fairly rigid wires which can be pushed into the ground and pulled out again.

    Plants grow all year round here (no frosts) and the sun’s intensity is really only a problem from late November to around the end of February. I also move plants around, and where I want shade changes from year to year.

  89. Gene Selkov says:

    _Jim: my car’s is parked right next to those wires (less than ten metres away), and it occasionally gets frosted just as you describe — more where it faces open space and less or not at all on the side nearest to the house. But the rail line’s wires are always the first to become glazed with ice, and sometimes there is ice on the wires but not on my car or on nearby trees. It can be because the wires are further away from radiant sources, or they have a different emissivity, but the difference is so remarkable that I am tempted to take a piece of contact wire and reproduce in a controlled experiment.

    And even though I don’t believe the E/M field has anything to do with it, the ionisation of the surrounding air might.

  90. _Jim says:

    Gene Selkov says:
    February 22, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    And even though I don’t believe the E/M field has anything to do with it, the ionisation of the surrounding air might.

    Gene, most of the voltages used on electric train lines appear to be in the same category as those on distribution lines (DC 1.3 to 3 KV, AC 7 to 25 KV with some limited use of 50 KV) which is quite a bit below transmission line voltages (with voltages upwards of 100 KV and more nominally 200KV and above) per:

    http://www.jrtr.net/jrtr16/pdf/f48_technology.pdf

    One can hear the higher voltage Transmission lines ‘singing’ in humid air environs, but I have never heard distribution lines doing the same except for in the vicinity of bad hardware! Troubleshooting line crews typically use ultrasonic sound ‘receivers’ to detect bad pole hardware as well, where the lines themselves don’t create corona discharge (literally: breakdown current-flow into the local air).

    There might be some ‘fields’ that could influence ice formation in and about the insulators, but, on those sections of lines hanging free I can’t see it. I can’t recall anything in the literature about a phenom like this either …

    I think you nailed re: earlier freeze-up what with the lines being further-up and away from terrestrial ‘radiant’ sources (and possible warmer wind/convective air currents nearer the earth).

    .

  91. Gary Hladik says:

    johanna says (February 22, 2013 at 2:34 am): “The trouble with so-called “no regrets” options is that they are usually subsidised or legislated interventions”

    Bingo.

  92. markx says:

    indegar says: February 21, 2013 at 10:58 pm

    “…Sometimes a “No Regrets” option is so big, mundane and obvious that it gets overlooked. Here’s the one I have been working on for a few decades (in the Pacific NW):
    Geo-engineering with Trees in the Fog Belt…”

    indegar, I agree. This is one of the simplest things to do, and there are many good reasons to do it. There is quite a lot of tree planting going on in China (Olympics, clean air and all that) though they tend to take a mono-culture approach .. everywhere I go in the east of China, it’s wall to wall poplars along the roadsides… but there are an impressive number of them.

    People assume this is a long term approach, but it is amazing how quickly nature takes over and erase the traces of man, given the chance. In Indonesia I have been involved in projects involving clearing of jungle (Sorry!) only to find traces of old rubber plantations underfoot. Dating only back to the 1940s … vanished.

    And there are some remarkably fast growing trees out there too if you look. In my front yard is a fast growing tropical tree (name escapes me for the moment) which is only 5 years old and is half a meter across the base, ten meters high and ten meters across the crown.

  93. Some what on topic for this thread, the world’s largest manmade forests are in Nebraska and the High Veld of South Africa. Places where man has recently killed off the mega grazers. Its interesting how grasses and mega grazers co-evolved and at the same time manipulated the climate to limit the spread of trees.

    And I concur with the comment above about bamboo, the most amazing grass of all.

  94. rogerknights says:

    I suggest someone consider manufacturing an off-the-shelf version of a “rocket stove” for home heating. Rocket heaters are very efficient and produce no visible smoke. (And hence few unhealthy micro-particles.) At present, all that’s available are YouTube videos and online design plans on how to make one oneself, which requires non-trivial welding skills. (A good design plan is here: http://www.iwilltry.org/b/build-a-rocket-stove-for-home-heating/ .) Home-made stoves don’t get a UL tag and won’t be approved by inspectors or insurance companies.

    This manufacturing could have the additional benefit of diverting old water heaters, tubing, and oil drums from the trash.

    The heaters I have in mind should be distinguished from rocket stove cookers, which use a simpler design, and rocket stove mass heaters, which employ a more complicated one.

  95. dp says:

    The Kona siphons mentioned earlier work without mechanical devices – they use the thermal gradient to provide a lifting force to bring cold deep sea water to the surface. One downside is it also brings to the surface things that have no business being there and which have to be dealt with, and some of those things may be viable on the surface where they have no natural enemies. The head these siphons develop is surprising, but what to do with all that cold water and deep sea denizens? You can’t put it back easily or cheaply. It is possible but impractical to create reservoirs with this sea water and allow the temperature to come up before releasing it back into the sea by streaming through penstocks which turn electrical generating turbines. What could possibly go wrong? Then again, Hawaii has a long history of regrettable introduced species.

  96. KevinK says:

    Curt wrote;

    “I would go into more detail, but I must review the design of a metal heat sink the engineers who work for me are designing to conduct heat out of our power electronics modules as effectively as
    possible. I do this stuff for a living.”

    With all due respect, if you “do this for a living” why must you review the work of engineers who work for you first to see if they are correct? WUWT ?

    I have also done “thermal management” for a living, yes it’s a real engineering discipline.

    Please ask those engineers that work for you why they sometimes recommend a copper heat sink instead of the cheaper aluminum heat sink, or maybe they recommend the really costly heat pipe (with toxic ammonia inside).

    So again I ask if a “reflective barrier” solves all of the world’s heat management issues (ie ACGW) why don’t we just wrap our houses with “tin foil” ??????

    Cheers, Kevin.

  97. Willis Eschenbach says:

    dp says:
    February 22, 2013 at 8:33 pm

    The Kona siphons mentioned earlier work without mechanical devices – they use the thermal gradient to provide a lifting force to bring cold deep sea water to the surface.

    Not true as far as I know, that’s one of the downsides of OTEC. Cold water is denser than warm water. If you have a vertical pipe filled with cold water, it weighs more than the surrounding water. So no thermo-syphoning is possible.

    It’s one reason they never caught on. You need huge pumps to move the water, complexity plus cost plus most important energy loss, so you get little net energy out of the system.

    w.

  98. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Also, someone proposed above using tidal action to move the water. It runs into the same problem—you have to overcome the not insignificant extra weight due the greater density of the cold water. In a long deep pipe of say one square meter cross-sectional area, it adds up to thousands of kilos of extra weight on the cold side.

    w.

  99. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Oh, yeah, regarding the pumping seawater for the OTEC (Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion). I always figured they should use an airlift. You run a compressed air hose down with the pipe bringing up the water, and release the air into the pipe in a venturi down at the bottom of the pipe.

    Of course, the compression of the air is wastefully inefficient, but it wouldn’t matter. You’d just capture the heat and use it to raise the temperature of the hot side of the system. Also, if you strip the heat from the compressed air before sending it into the ocean and down to the bottom of the pipe, when it comes out it will cool as it expands and rises, and cool the uprising water. This would again recapture some of the otherwise wasted energy in the compression/expansion of the air.

    Other advantages are that the turbulence would likely cut the fouling, although the additional oxygen might reverse that … aquariums like bubblers.

    Also, you’re pumping clean air, not highly corrosive seawater, a huge plus.

    But they never asked me … must’a got lost in the mail.

    w.

  100. Man_Tran says:

    Willis,

    Like you, I enjoy discovering things myself no matter if I’m the first or not. About three years ago we finished a complete rebuild of our home atop a rocky knob overlooking the Salish Sea. We have a wonderful old Doug Fir by the entry that I built an elaborate walkway around. The lowest branchs on it are about 30 feet up. On the few days a year that we have fog, I noticed how wet it was on the walkway. All around it, the ground is dry. The effect is not at all obvious under the other trees with natural ground cover.

  101. Curt says:

    KevinK says:
    February 22, 2013 at 9:06 pm

    “With all due respect, if you “do this for a living” why must you review the work of engineers who work for you first to see if they are correct? WUWT ?”

    Once again, you can’t be serious. Are you really unfamiliar with the concept of a design review? I’ve got good people working for me, but no one is omniscient – two heads are better than one, etc.

    “I have also done “thermal management” for a living, yes it’s a real engineering discipline.”

    And in real engineering disciplines, designs are reviewed. Multiple times.

    “Please ask those engineers that work for you why they sometimes recommend a copper heat sink instead of the cheaper aluminum heat sink, or maybe they recommend the really costly heat pipe (with toxic ammonia inside).”

    I don’t see how that’s relevant here, but I am well aware of the higher thermal conductivity of copper compared to aluminum, and the effectiveness of evaporating/condensing heat pipes. I have told people on other threads to open up a modern notebook computer to see the heat pipe that removes heat from the processor – but it usually uses water, not ammonia. At any rate, in a real engineering discipline, these types of choices are typically made at the outset of a project, before the detailed design.

    “So again I ask if a “reflective barrier” solves all of the world’s heat management issues (ie ACGW) why don’t we just wrap our houses with “tin foil” ??????”

    I never said that it solves all the world’s heat management issues, but it is one tool. And many people are essentially wrapping their houses with tin foil – this was the subject of my original post. It’s just that it’s got to be inside the walls where you can’t see it in order to be useful (as I explained in my last post). Otherwise the enhanced conductive transfer counteracts the reduced radiative transfer.

    Cheers back at you.

    Curt

  102. Laurie Bowen, I’m chuckling at your note that planting a redwood tree in your neighbourhood would introduce a non-native species. Victoria BC has quite a few sequoias that were planted at least 75 years ago.
    A temperate climate, wet winters and dry summers.
    (An example of hypocrisy is the Saanich BC parks department and its consultants. They want to eliminate “invasive species” from parks. Oh! but they want to accept the Himalayan Blackberry because it provides shelter for small birds and animals. It may be the worst invasive species in the area, an aggressive spreader that is awkward to remove due to its thorns. Duh?)

    Myron Mesecke:
    A more likely theory for the reduction of the ice cap on Mount Kilmanjaro in eastern Africa is changes in Atlantic ocean conditions (being upwind, evaporation from it will precipitate somewhere to the east). Note that the ice cap is now growing.

    As for harvesting fog, I doubt the nets remove much of the moisture.

    As for “terraforming”, that’s a plot element in the space western movie “Serenity”. A good theme, but beware it is at least as bad as “Die Hard” for pain and gore.

    More realistically, before the religious revolution in Iran people were successfully planting pine trees in the desert. IIRC they started at the edge of vegetated area and kept expanding the area.

  103. rogerknights says:

    Curt says:
    February 22, 2013 at 10:27 am
    johanna says:
    February 22, 2013 at 2:34 am

    “The trouble with so-called ‘no regrets’ options is that they are usually subsidised or legislated interventions – i.e. they have costs.”

    I think you have hit it here. As soon as there are subsidies or similar legislative incentives, there will be distortions that impose ‘regrets’. There is widespread thinking in the field that consumers demand a shorter payback time on an investment such as added insulation or efficient lighting than is rational in a calculated-ROI world, and because of this, governmental market interventions are justified for people’s own good. Many of these people never go one step further in their thinking to figure out what the secondary effects of these interventions are.

    My comment also suggested that improvements could be financed in a cost-free, win/win way: by giving the gov’t. a share of future profits on the sale of the house (akin to what Rex & Co. is doing). The gov’t. could actually wind up ahead on these deals.

    There’s a reason for allowing the gov’t. to take a loss on some of these incentives in certain cases: 1) Where the gov’t. is already unfortunately insuring home-owners, explicitly or implicitly, with disaster-relief loans and whatnot. It would be more cost-effective to harden those houses against such disasters. 2) Where the cost of electricity would go up sharply if usage exceeds a certain level, because a new plant might need to be built or excess electricity would need to be bought from a distance. 3)where it makes sense to decrease dependence on foreign oil for national security reasons.

  104. GeoLurking says:

    Bill Board in Lima Peru fitted to recover water from air.

    The system is designed to generate 96 liters of water per day for the local community.

    http://phys.org/news/2013-02-lima-billboard.html

  105. Laurie Bowen says:

    cute gravitar! GeoLurking.

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