Waste heat could warm the earth? Perhaps it has already started.

Excerpt of an article from the New Scientist, 01 December 2008 by Mark Buchanan (h/t to Richard Hegarty)

EVEN if we turn to clean energy to reduce carbon emissions, the planet might carry on warming anyway due to the heat released into the environment by our ever-increasing consumption of energy.

National Pictures)

This picture, taken with a thermal imaging camera, reveals how much heat is being emitted by City Hall in London (Image: National Pictures)

That’s the contentious possibility raised by Nick Cowern and Chihak Ahn of the School of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering at Newcastle University, UK. They argue that human energy consumption could begin to contribute significantly to global warming a century from now.

Cowern and Ahn considered an emissions scenario proposed by James Hansen of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, and others. Under this scenario, which envisages greenhouse gases being cut significantly through phasing out coal over the next 40 years, Cowern and Ahn calculate that the greenhouse effect will start to diminish by 2050, stabilising the climate.

Read more here


Consider then UHI, and my recent measurement of a temperature transect from Reno, NV

Here is the result of my South to North transect driving Virgina Street overlaid on a Google Earth image oriented to match the timeline of the transect:

Click for larger image

It seems clear that waste heat is already having an effect, because the UHI bubble from Reno has been shown by NOAA to affect the USHCN weather station there, which caused them to move the station once. They even include this in their own training manual.

What was amazing is that they’d already determined that there were significant problems with this USHCN station placement that contributed a significant warming bias to the record.

In fact, the National Weather Service includes the UHI factor in one of it’s training course ( NOAA Professional Competency Unit 6 ) using Reno, NV and Baltimore, MD as examples. The Reno station had to be moved because it was producing an erroneous record, and the Baltimore station has so much bias (because it existed on a rooftop of a downtown building) that they simply closed it in 1999.

From that manual:

Reno’s busy urban airport has seen the growth of an urban heat bubble on its north end.

The corresponding graph of mean annual minimum temperature (average of 365 nighttime

minimums each year) has as a consequence been steadily rising. When the new

ASOS sensor was installed, the site was moved to the much cooler south end of the

runway. Nearby records indicate that the two cool post-ASOS years should have been

warmer rather than cooler. When air traffic controllers asked for a location not so close

to nearby trees (for better wind readings), the station was moved back. The first move

was documented, the second was not. The climate record shows both the steady warming

of the site, as well as the big difference in overnight temperature between one end of this

flat and seemingly homogeneous setting, an observation borne out by automobile

traverses around the airport at night.

They were also kind enough to provide a photo essay of their own as well as a graph. You can click the aerial photo to get a Google Earth interactive view of the area.

reno-nv-asos-relocation.jpg

This is NOAA’s graph showing the changes to the official climate record when they made station moves:

reno-nv-asos-station-moves-plot.png

Source for 24a and 24b: NOAA PCU6 Internal Training manual, 2004-2007
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89 thoughts on “Waste heat could warm the earth? Perhaps it has already started.

  1. Cowern and Ahn calculate that the greenhouse effect will start to diminish by 2050, stabilising the climate.
    When you say something that includes the phrase “stabilising the climate” you lose all creditability with me.

  2. I always enjoy deconstructing statements that NewLeftist prints. For example:

    Being aware of this potential problem should inform what types of clean energy we adopt, say the pair. Nuclear power has the most harmful effect in that it releases energy that is otherwise locked up.

    The energy in coal and oil isn’t locked up?
    This is one more in the endless series of “what if…” arguments. No doubt, Hansen’s two cronies will now apply for taxpayer grant money to ‘study’ this non-problem.

  3. Anthony,
    Is there some evidence that the “heat bubble” is created by waste heat rather than simple trapping of the air between structures reducing flow and allowing solar heating to take effect?
    That’s what I had always assumed was happening. The release of air from city hall picture is interesting but had imagined a much stronger impact from air trapping.

  4. I’ve probably missed the discussion somewhere, but FWIW:
    How many of these automated surface observation systems (ASOS) are on airport tarmac?
    The ASOS program is a “joint effort” of the National Weather Service (NWS), Department of Defense (DOD) and the FAA, but they seem primarily designed to provide airport runway conditions:

    The primary concern of the aviation community is safety, and weather conditions often threaten that safety. A basic strength of ASOS is that critical aviation weather parameters are measured where they are needed most: airport runway touchdown zone(s).

    As a network, they would surely be biased, as far as temps. That bias might be illustrated by the record of any stations situated on the border between a field and a runway.

    ASOS detects significant changes, disseminating hourly and special observations via the networks. Additionally, ASOS routinely and automatically provides computer-generated voice observations directly to aircraft…

    Since each station continually monitors and reports ambient temp as well as wind direction, speed and character (gusts, squalls), the record should show any contrast in temperatures created by the tarmac vs. the open field.

  5. Most of the dissipating waste heat is concentrated in a very small percent of the world’s surface area (ie, the cities). Much of it should radiate into space within a relatively short time and distance downwind. Regionally, I can see some potential for this having an effect (not necessarily detrimental in the frost zones of the northern hemisphere, btw), but globally? With increasing costs of energy production, we’re likely to be continuing the trend of more efficiency as well, so the anticipated increase of waste heat might be over-estimated. Show me all the numbers before I believe another report of the sky falling…

  6. A recent ad I read (might have been last night in the Wall Street Journal) proclaimed that the sun deposits more energy on planet earth in one hour than the entire planet consumes over one year. That’s a tad under 9000 times the rate we use energy.
    Now what was that again about our waste energy heating the planet; that’s also about 1/9th the peak to peak change in the solar constant over a sunspot cycle.
    Bah ! humbug. the picture sure is pretty though, and of course they show the waste heat in red to make it more ominous.
    Well LED lamps are slowly getting more efficient and the best results have more than 50% external quantum efficiency. If a lot of that light escapes to space, rather than being eventually converted to heat, then that will help the situation.
    But if you do want to contemplate a true horror situation; you just wait till the day we knock over free abundant thermonuclear energy. At that point this planet truly will be doomed.

  7. I’ve always been told that the UHI is primarily caused by lots of concrete and ashphalt.
    I rather doubt that waste heat is a major component of UHI.

  8. hotlink:

    Isn’t this essentialy the uban heat island effect?

    Yes, and this is the new spin they’ve come up with to frame the local UHI problem to be in line with the UN/IPCC’s global disaster scenario.
    When they can show evidence of global warming as a result of this extremely tiny forcing, I’ll listen. But so far, it isn’t even a computer model, it’s simply idle speculation intended to be turned into grant money.

  9. In any case the waste heat is a step function that only increases as more heat is wasted, no tipping points, no long term effect.
    It’s a blip on the radar that doesn’t effect climate in any measurable quantity and is reversable.
    Zero panic factor.

  10. Aaannnddd….
    Thermography is a tricky devil. You can make anything look hot. The sky is nearly black during the day and that building isn’t much warmer than the clouds above it in the infrared spectrum.

  11. Gary:
    Show me all the numbers before I believe another report of the sky falling…
    That might be a nice little reason-based meme for anyone so inclined to simply purposefully memorize and have at the ready as an effective “one-liner” rebuttal to many of the wild claims being made – in many spheres, and especially where a more “social” interaction is involved, i.e., family, friends, parties, etc.. I even use them when interacting with employees at stores: recently, I simply said to a Home Depot employee who was straightening up shelves next to me, after some banter, “sounds like a government job”, and we ended up talking politics for a half-hour while he worked, a little.

  12. As long as “global” average surface temperatures are compiled largely from urban stations, and politicos buy the AGW story, all the marginal descriptive sciences–in which linear regression is “higher” mathematics–and climate modelers with unproven assumptions and parametrizations will continue to bask in the warmth of unprecedented federal funding.
    The UHI factor is particularly acute near the take-off and landing zones of runways, where engine exhausts play havoc with min-max readings, upon which the daily “average” is constructed. Small wonder that GISS has winnowed its station list to where airports now provide the bulk of readings world-wide.

  13. Thank you for another very interesting thread. Just as an aside – I couldn’t help but chuckle from the irony that your surface temp transect chart from driving down Virginia Street resembled…well, the State of Virginia. Doggone it, you should have chosen Colorado or Oklahoma Street.

  14. The temperature in England is currently 4 degrees C lower than ‘normal’ according to the CET. Usually, these statistics are skewed towards warming at the start of any December, as the days get progressively colder, so this is even more unusual. A cold early December looks probable, which will keep the CET down. If it continues it’s going to mean an annual minus figure for the first time since 1996, as the year anomaly is only 0.63 at present. Of course, a warm spell in December could turn it around, but the forecast for up to mid-month is “colder than usual”. Glasgow just had its coldest November day for 23 years.

  15. I remember catching the weather on TV when I was living in Atlanta as they showed how thunderstorms would die out as they approached Atlanta’s UHI. That was an example, I suppose, of a microclimate effect. Of course the New Scientist piece seems to just be looking at all the heat that would be generated by energy production in the future. Seems that no matter what we do it’ll be wrong.

  16. There is a HUGE difference between a temperature station sited next to an AC unit that raises the temperature in the surrounding 20 feet, and thinking that the waste heat from the AC unit is heating the planet.

  17. Pictures like the one of City Hall makes me both laugh and cry. There dramatic color pictures are always used for good effect, but what do they tell us? Very little. What is the temperature scale on the picture? Was the picture taken at night or during daylight, e.g. where does the temperature difference comes from, solar illumination or energy waste?
    The use of these pictures is worse than useless, it is a subversion of Reason and of non-contradictory thought; it aims to disinform and confuse.
    On a hilarious note: Instead of posting that comment on WUWT site, I mistakenly posted it on the New Scientist’s website. We’ll see if they publish it… 🙂

  18. Anthony,
    I do dearly love those who say a picture is worth a thousand words. Heat emitted from London City Hall huh? When was it taken? What were the weather conditions at the time? From what angle? What temps to the colors signify? If taken at midnight when the air was cool, then maybe, just maybe there is a fragment of truth in the “emitted” statement. If taken on a summer’s afternoon with the sun blazing on it and the photo angle is to the east, then what part is “emitted” and what part is “reflected”?
    This is similar to those scenic mountain pictures of ANWR with the caption claim this is where the oil drilling will take place – not a lie really but certainly far from the truth.
    With these people mankind has to be bad, and purged from the face of the earth for good. The posters are right, another money pit to pour taxpayer’s into. These two should go to work for Home Depot – at least they’d have to do some real work…
    Mike

  19. I’ve always suspected that one of the main motivators for many of the people pushing AGW, is a desire to deindustrialize mankind. The fact that some of them are trying to make hay from this nonsense re-inforces that belief.

  20. I did read once that a solar power station the size of Nevada (less than 1/1000th of the globe), even with all the inefficiences of solar power, could in theory generate all the power needs of the human race. While this statement was made to support solar power, my take on it was that the human race must be a pretty small player in the global energy budget for that to be true.
    Measurably heat the whole planet by energy consumption? Give me a break!

  21. We are in the bizarre situation where the logical absurdities regarding climate fear mongering are not yet see for what they are.
    Studies like this will hopefully hurry the day when people see just how ridiculous AGW is.

  22. From the article about Cowern and Ahn:
    In the meantime, the cleanest energy options are wind and tidal power, say the researchers, as these tap into energy flows already present on Earth without significantly affecting them.
    I would like to see a study supporting that statement. It seems to me that if we supply the world’s future energy demand from wind and tides, there will be an effect.
    No way should we assume that interference with airflow and ocean currents on a scale sufficient for world class power production will be without consequences.

  23. Hmmm, maybe there is something to this … considering that about two thirds of the _energy_ extracted from coal or nuclear fuels is dumped as heat straight into rivers or oceans, or via cooling towers direct into the atmosphere, before it even leaves the power station as electricity [http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf03.html], has this effect ever been seriously considered?
    And comments by John S. (11:13:01) about jet exhausts has got me thinking … heat being the main by-product of combustion; over 60% of the world oil production is used for transport (from page 35 Key Energy Statistics, 2008, International Energy Agency), and most of this goes straight out the exhaust pipe as heat.
    So actually, we might be adding quite a bit of heat directly to the atmosphere or oceans. We can see the con-trails, but planes cruising at altitude can hardly be considered part of the “Urban Heat Island”.
    I wonder how relevant all this extra heat would be, if we compared it to the effect of greenhouse gases?

  24. Hotlink
    “Isn’t this essentialy the uban heat island effect? Can’t say I’m suprised in the least.”
    No, waste heat is not the same as the UHI, urbanization, or land use changes in general.
    Waste heat, specifically, is the heat generated from industrial processes, whereas the UHI is heat retained by our concrete jungles.
    15e12/(4*1.3e14) = ~0.029 W/m² of forcing from waste heat currently, but could approach 1 W/m² in a couple hundred years.

  25. “Their calculations show that if global energy use increases at about 1 per cent per year – slower than in the recent past – then by 2100, the heat dissipated could become significant enough to cancel out the benefits of cuts in emissions”
    By jove, they may be right! Cutting emissions will do practically nothing in terms of reducing warming, since our C02 emissions have little warming effect anyway. So, yes, the miniscule global warming effect of heat dissipations could, in fact, offset the miniscule effect of cutting C02 emissions. The question is, of course, is that a wise way to spend trillions of dollars?

  26. According to de Laat and Maurellis
    http://www.greatglobalwarmingswindle.co.uk/pdf/deLaat.pdf
    there’s a strong correlation between measured warming and industrialization. If they’re correct, as long as we have an industrialzied society, we’ll have measurable warming around cities, even if we go 1005 to wind, nuclear, solar, etc. The measured warming is just a proxy for industrial output- A. McIntire

  27. Anthony
    I think your 24 minute drive through Reno and the graphic is compelling to illustrate the UHI to the layman. It would make a convincing argument if covered a variety of urban areas. I am constantly fried by the argument that UHI is “insignificant”. I bet you could mobilize an army of volunteers to do “drive by’s” to generate data. Just develop some standards and put them out there to see what happens.

  28. Assuming complete combustion of coal and natural gas, around 10^15 BTU/year. Oil (at 60%) adds far more, 10^17 btu. Total energy by combustion of fossil fuels (with a wild assumption that all of it goes into the air) is around 10^20 J/yr. With an atmospheric mass of 5*10^21 grams, 0.02 degree C rise per year. Which could explain everything. Or not.
    Back of the envelope calculations, late at night.
    This probably isn’t the biggest thing we have to worry about.

  29. I don’t have access to the paper, but the hypothesis seems to be that waste heat is retained by structures and land surfaces. This waste heat will be slowly liberated into the environment over periods longer than a year.
    This hypothesis requires us to believe that the effect is greater than the seasonal effect of heating and cooling, February compared with August. Unless I have missed something, this does not seem possible. Can the hypothesis be tested? Is it worth testing?

  30. Off topic.
    Anthony,
    I have an idea for a temperature website – can I email you the idea directly?
    I would greatly value your opinion.
    Thanks.

  31. Fred Colbourne:
    Nonsense.
    A building, once power is lost, cools to ambient in 36-72 hours, if no doors or windows are opened. If opened, and circulation can flow? Even less.
    A street, bridge, or parking lot cools to ambient overnight – if traffic is stopped.
    Every erg, every BTU of energy that we produce is turned (eventually) into heat: even cars. Trains. Busses. Trucks. What does not leave the exhaust as chemical energy (higher pressure, higher temperature gasses at lower chemical energy) get turned into heat in the brakes, into wind energy as air friction, into rolling friction in bearing and tires, etc. Power plants turn chemical (nuclear) energy into rejected heat in the cooling towers and cooling water, air resistance of the induced draft fans and smokestack exhaust fans, rolling resistance in bearings and high oil temperature, electric energy in the generators, electric resistance in the transmission wires and light bulbs, air resistance in the fans and blowers and compressors of every AC unit, useful heat in the heaters and induction furnaces, etc.
    The urban heat island is real. You see it every weatehr report when the “downtown” temperature is 10 degrees HOTTER than the “suburbs” or “surrounding cities” temperatures.
    Above, we were told that the sun puts out 9000 times the ENTIRE human energy production every day. So, the human contribution is real, but only 1/10 of one percent of the solar input. And over a very, very limited area of the whole world.
    Well, that’s not good enough for the enviro-extremists.
    The question is: Yes, the urban heat island effect is real. BUT, is HANSEN correcting for the actual urban heat island effect in his complex, unknown, unaudited temperature records, or is he (deliberately) covering up the urban heat island effect? Is he USING theurban heatisland effect to CREATE a false impression of global warming using skewed data and false “corrections” to old temperature records?
    If thetotal AGW premise is based on 27 years when temperatrues increased by 0.50 degree, is Hansen creating that effect by “only” subtracting 2.45 degrees of a heat island temperature that rose 2.95 degrees in 100 years?

  32. If Hansen and ipcc and the rest would put the thermal waste in their theories I would be happy to hear them out! But they do not include any other data.
    Why?

  33. LOL. As a percentage of the total surface area of the planet, dense human populations amount to precious little. If your really think about it, the planet is almost uninhabited.
    But darn those kids, leaving the doors open and heating the outdoors.

  34. Once, a long time ago, there was an alarmist article I read, I think in the Scientific American, that the world would go out because of the increase in entropy, for which there is nothing one can do.
    Fortunately there was no audience for that.
    Extra heat from humans might destroy habitats but there is no reason to think that the heat sinks check at labels. It might come in handy in case of a LIA.

  35. I wonder if any research has been done to quantify how much UHI is caused by the physical structures and how much is due to energy consumption. Even heat from sewerage heats the surface a little. Also we produce a lot of water vapor which might have a local effect. Perhaps if a survey were done on the abandoned urban areas around Chernobyl we could see a UHI without energy use.
    OT Here is a discussion from the BBC which is so far outside my way of thinking that it makes my head spin.
    “How responsible is it to have children in a world whose environmental health is already under stress?”
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7759845.stm
    David B. (16:21:52) :”We can see the con-trails, but planes cruising at altitude can hardly be considered part of the “Urban Heat Island”.
    I wonder how relevant all this extra heat would be, if we compared it to the effect of greenhouse gases?”
    Reply: here is an interesting article on the subject:
    “NASA scientists have found that cirrus clouds, formed by contrails from aircraft engine exhaust, are capable of increasing average surface temperatures enough to account for a warming trend in the United States that occurred between 1975 and 1994.”
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/04/040428061056.htm
    and
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/08/020808075457.htm

  36. “ScienceDaily (Dec. 3, 2008) — The sun’s magnetic field may have a significant impact on weather and climatic parameters in Australia and other countries in the northern and southern hemispheres. According to a study in Geographical Research, the droughts are related to the solar magnetic phases and not the greenhouse effect.”
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081202081449.htm

  37. I knew this one was coming. We had to find some way to keep nuclear down and with the obvious failings of the carbon dioxide models we needed another weapon against fossil fuels. Nice going! We can now add this to our arsenal against humanity.
    I’d love to have my own personal heat sequestration unit to tap into on this colder than normal December morning. I’ll take a 20 million btu unit, please

  38. Richard Hegarty (03:01:16) : “ScienceDaily (Dec. 3, 2008) — The sun’s magnetic field may…
    This is the story I posted yesterday in WUWT? in the hope Leif would pick it up and comment.

  39. Anthony, I suspect if you mesured humidity during your transect, you would get a graph which is the inverse temperature. UHI results primarily from low urban humidity relative to surrounding rural/suburban areas and not waste heat.
    Which Leon Brozyna (11:33:41) post gives an example of.
    I remember catching the weather on TV when I was living in Atlanta as they showed how thunderstorms would die out as they approached Atlanta’s UHI.
    Increased heat, all things being equal, should feed a thunderstorm. The thunderstorms die out due to reduced humidity over the city.

  40. OK. I got a plan! We pump all the waste heat into a space shuttles, sent them into space and open the doors and we could waste trillion of $ doing it. LOL

  41. Richard Hegarty (00:23:38) :

    OT Here is a discussion from the BBC which is so far outside my way of thinking that it makes my head spin.
    “How responsible is it to have children in a world whose environmental health is already under stress?”
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7759845.stm

    I like to annoy people by commenting that “Having children is the most
    polluting thing you can do.” Long after I’m gone, my daughters will
    maintaining the carbon footprint I’ve continued from my parents’ time.
    You’d think Greenpeace or some such group would invade maternity wards
    and spray “Shame on you” on the nursery window or “Gordon Bin It” to
    trigger more discussion.
    In the 1960s there was some discussion on whether it was moral to bring
    children into a world on the brink of nuclear war. I doubt that discussion
    had any measurable impact on the birthrate.

  42. How dense is human population?
    Many years ago, I heard Tim Ball say that if all the world’s population was placed in Texas, each person would have over a 1000 square feet to live on.
    Texas 261,791 square miles, 640 acres per sq mile, 43560 sq ft /acre at 6billon people calculates out to over 1,200 sq ft per person. He acknowledged that the calculation doesn’t allow for roads, industry etc, but does illustrate how packed in we live.

  43. Bruce Cobb hit the nail on the head:
    “Cutting emissions will do practically nothing in terms of reducing warming, since our C02 emissions have little warming effect anyway. So, yes, the miniscule global warming effect of heat dissipations could, in fact, offset the miniscule effect of cutting C02 emissions. The question is, of course, is that a wise way to spend trillions of dollars?”
    The Kyoto treaty, please recall, would have done nothing to cool the planet, even by the words of Kyoto promoters.
    The efforts to lower CO2 will do nothing to change the climate, just as waste heat from human activities will do the same.
    No wonder the AGW promotion machine is so desperate to ratchet up the fear and concerns about a climate apocalypse.

  44. Here’s an ironic story I read today (not sure if it has been adressed or not).
    “The amount of U.S. greenhouse gases flowing into the atmosphere, mainly carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels, increased last year by 1.4 percent after a decline in 2006, the Energy Department reported Wednesday.
    The report said carbon dioxide, the leading pollution linked to global warming, rose by 1.3 percent in 2007 as people used more coal, oil and natural gas because of a colder winter…”
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081203/ap_on_go_ot/carbon_increase;_ylt=AiI8vwvm1ehxPFV_mZMktZus0NUE

  45. Thanks to Richard Hegarty: “Contrails form high in the atmosphere when the mixture of water vapor in the aircraft exhaust and the air condenses and freezes. Persisting contrails can spread into extensive cirrus clouds that tend to warm the Earth, because they reflect less sunlight ***than the amount of heat they trap***. The balance between Earth’s incoming sunlight and outgoing heat drives climate change.” from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/04/040428061056.htm
    These high-level cirrus cloud cover may be caused in part by the added water vapor which is the by-product of combustion, and perhaps also because the jet exhaust provides turbulence to the air mass, in addition to the particulate by-products of combustion. The particulate matter could act as condensation nuclei which, with the turbulence (you can see this in spreading con-trails), may promote the formation of ice crystals.
    But before these cirrus clouds start to form &/or trap heat, the passing of the aircraft has also _added_ to the atmosphere the heat that is also a by-product of combustion.
    The two phenomena are not mutually exclusive, but could be complimentary.

  46. I was in London last Tuesday most of the day in meetings. It was a bright sunny day, but jolly cold I thought & so did many others I can assure you. There didn’t seem to be an awful lot of heat coming off the buildings whilst there!
    Mind you, when up there during the summer (what we had of it) it felt jolly warm with lots of the sun’s heat being radiated off the masonry walls! How strange?
    The same can be said of my home city of Exeter!

  47. Somebody did a study into the weather on the days right after 9/11 when all aircraft in the US were grounded. It didn’t produce any radical results that I can remember. Probably less cloud cover, but did it affect temps?

  48. My solution to global warming is for everybody to take out their air conditioners and put them in backwards. Set the thermostat and watch it get cold out.

  49. When we entered the high tech age at the end of the 1970s, energy flux at and near the earth’s surface went through the roof. In addition to all the dissipation from devices and their power supply networks, there are additional more subtle fluxes. For example, inductive coupling from AC transmission networks, increasing microwave and other short wavelength EM energy, etc. All of it acts upon matter at and near the earth’s surface and imparts additional vibrational energy.

  50. I did the calculation once, on waste heat. Using total global energy usage, and perfectly converting that to heat, I calculated (IIRC), that the total heat generated was 2 orders of magnitude less than observed warming, in watts/m2.
    And this was using some pretty generous assumptions.

  51. A.Syme (09:02:28) :
    Somebody did a study into the weather on the days right after 9/11 when all aircraft in the US were grounded. It didn’t produce any radical results that I can remember. Probably less cloud cover, but did it affect temps?

    Yes, it had a statistically significant effect on temperatures, by grounding all flights.
    http://www.cbc.ca/story/science/national/2006/06/14/contrails.html
    http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99992642
    http://www.newscientist.com/hottopics/climate/climate.jsp?id=ns99992926

  52. From braddles (14:19:14) :
    I did read once that a solar power station the size of Nevada (less than 1/1000th of the globe), even with all the inefficiences of solar power, could in theory generate all the power needs of the human race. While this statement was made to support solar power, my take on it was that the human race must be a pretty small player in the global energy budget for that to be true.
    -end quote
    Absolutely! I’ve also seen a reference that said that using existing technology we could power all of the U.S.A. with a solar plant covering a 100 x 100 mile square in the middle of the desert southwest.
    Realize that at least 70% of the sunlight on the square wasted.
    Our energy consumption is absolutely irrelevant to the planet.
    Another ‘thought experiment’: My room heater is a roughly 1200w heat source. So the solar energy represents a room heater sitting on every square meter of the planet surface… That would be a dozen of them in a 3 meter x 4 meter room. Rather a lot more than my 1 heater. And my heater does not have a 50% duty cycle 24 x 365 … (Globe 1/2 in sun all the time. Yeah, I know, ought to adjust for curvature, but not worth the time. The sun is still way over the top on heat input compared to anything people do).
    Another data point? A 1 mile x 100 mile wave farm would power all of California. That’s 10% of the U.S. population (roughly). 1 mile x 1000 miles farm would run the whole U.S.A. That’s roughly the length of the west coast. And this is just the ‘left overs’ from the sunshine via the wind moving the water… Oh, and again a very small part of the wave energy in that space is actually captured. Now look at the size of the whole ocean…
    Final point? A typical home uses about 1 KW / 1000 square feet. (Personal observation over many years). Call it 1 kW/100 sq.M. That’s about 1/100 th the solar energy density. Even adjusting for the dark times, you have about a 1/25 ratio. Now consider all the earth surface that is NOT covered with structures…
    Basically, the color of my roof is far more important than the energy I consume inside the structure, and the color of the road is far more important that the fuel my car uses.

  53. Hanson uses station pairs to compare and extract the UHI effect from the urban temperature data, could someone explain why a study has not been undertaken whereby station pairs are monitored separately, surely the rural sites are the pristine sites or certainly more pristine than their urban neighbours.
    This surely would prove or disprove Hanson`s algorithm.

  54. That will teach me to test the links first. None of the links I gave on contrails are currently valid.
    My apologies.

  55. From Richard Hegarty (00:23:38) :
    In the 1960s there was some discussion on whether it was moral to bring
    children into a world on the brink of nuclear war. I doubt that discussion
    had any measurable impact on the birthrate.
    -end quote
    I’d speculate that it may reduce the percentage of the births from people prone to believing that kind of stuff and increases the percentage from skeptics… 😉 “The world needs more people like us and fewer like them!”

  56. I don’t want to hijack this thread while folks have more to add; but I wanted to post a couple of Playstation 2 climate model simulations for people to think on.
    Maybe someone who has one of the fancier video game players the GCM folks use, might actually try running these.
    You need one of the models that has the feature of letting you turn off the laws of Physics. Like some Brit modellers doubled the atmospheric CO2 while holding the surface temperature constant, and found that some clouds evaporated; so they reported that as a positive feedback effect. Well that only works if the Physics switch is turned off.
    So the first experiment is to eliminate that pesky greenhouse gas; water, to see what happens; I call it the “Birdseye” experiment since you have to do a flash freeze of the earth.
    Now I should explain that if you really turn off the laws of physics, well the whole darn place is likely to go haywire. So this switch works in a special way. If you flip the switch to OFF, absolutely nothing happens; everything goes on as before. But now you can manually change anything you like without anything else being affected. For example in the off position you can grab a hold of the moon, and pull it off course so it now goes over both poles in a polar orbit; you can even spin it so we get to see both sides.
    Then when you turn the switch on, the system reacts to whatever changes you made, according to all the laws of Physics.
    So to experiment (a) to get rid of water in the atmosphere. Turn Physics OFF, and also turn Sun to Off, which helps with the Birdseye quick freeze. Then we turn on the freeze machine and quickly bring the entire earth surface and atmosphere down to zero deg C. Now we only cool the top mm or so of the surface, and any part of the globe that is already colder than zero is left as is. Lots of moisture condenses out of the atmosphere, and we let it fall wherever, and become either water, or snow, and ice depending on where it was. Now manually (using tweezers) remove the last remaining water molecules from the atmosphere, so there is zero left. We don’t disturb any other GHG like CO2 for example.
    For the dark side of the earth it is not too differeent from normal just a deep winter all over.
    So now we turn on both Sun and Physics and watch what happens. The dark side may start to cool down with no water in the atmosphere, but remember only the top mm is freezing, so heat from below starts to try and warm the surface up. The water vapor pressure is still not zero at zero C so some of the dark side ocean starts to evaporate, and start a positive feedback GW effect.
    On the sunlit side, we have zero clouds and water vapor, so suddenly the ground level insolation has gone from around 1000 W/m^2, to maybe 1250 or more, so the sunlit surface starts to warm much faster than normal, and water startrs to evaporate from the sunlit oceans, enhancing the H2O greenhouse effect,
    Things should get underway warming big time, so more water vapor comes off the oceans, and the planet is warming up under a stronger sun, and positive feedback water vapor GW.
    Eventualy we get enough water vapor that convects into the higher altititudes, and clouds start to form, which further blocks the sun, and slows the warming rate.
    It looks like it will eventually level off with about 50% cloud coverage, and about 1% average water vapor, and it might start looking pretty much like it is now; we don’t know what it will really be like. If it warms further we get more clouds and precipitation, and more sunlight is blocked so it cools down again. If it cools too much, clouds precipitate and disappear, and more suinlight comes in to warm it up; so eventually it reaches some stable state.
    So now we want to do the reverse of this experiment.
    (b)
    We turn off Physics, and crank up Sun, and we heat the entire earth surface to say 40 deg C (104 F), and we do this quickly so we don’t melt too much ice. The we turn on our maxi fogger machine, and we fill the entire atmosphere from pole to pole with clouds from ground level to say 10 or 20 Km high, a real sauna all over.
    So now reset Sun to normal and turn on Physics, and let’s watch what happens. Well with all that cloud, there is virtually zero sunlight reaching the ground, and lots of that ground is actually ice and snow underneath our 40 C layer, so parts of the surface start to cool down, and pretty soon it starts raining for 40 days, and 40 nights, to get rid of all that excess humidity. With no sunlight penetrating it has to cool at the surface, even with all that cloud trapping of IR from the heated surface; but eventually some of that cloud starts breaking up as it loses all its excess water, and slowly some sunlight starts leaking through, and the rate of cooling slows down, but it goes on raining and snowing etc, as the atmosphere unburdens itself from all that excess moisture. Eventually you might end up with around 50% cloud cover and the rest clear skies, so plenty of sunshine is hitting the ground, and it has stopped cooling any further. If it cools too much, clouds precipitate and disappear, and more sunlight reaches the ground, to warm it up again. If it gets too warm, more evaporation froms more clouds and blocks more sunlight to stop the warming. So again the system settles down to some state with partial cloud and partial clear skies.
    Now the first question we might ask ourselves, is: did we end up at exactly the same end state in both experiments? Or maybe, the Birdseye experiment settled out at some low temperature, while the Sauna experiment settled out at some higher temperature.
    Either way, at both of those end conditions the state is regulated by negative feedback due to cloud cover variation.
    If those two states are in fact different, then at some place in between those two states, we should see a positive feedback effect, that will either drive the temperature up to the Sauna state, or else drive it down to the Birdseye State.
    What if there are in fact two such states? Which one are we at now, and what does it take to trigger us up or down to the other state.
    Now it is possible that there could be more than two stable states; there might be a whole flock of them, and we should expect them to separate regions of positive feedback alternating with regions of negative feedback; and it should be possible to hop from state to state, if we can force our way past the middle of the positive feedback regions, which will flip us to the next state.
    Well that is the task; to set up your Playstation two video-game just like the climate modellers do, and try these experiments to see what happens.
    Based on the glorious and varied past history of planet earth; I have a biased opinion that in fact, the Birdseye State, and the Sauna State are identical, and there is only one stable state in the ocean/atmosphere climate model. There doesn’t seem to be any historical evidence of periodic switching between different states.
    Now in considering that, one must allow for the fact that we do get periodic wild changes in the planet’s orbit; and in that case all bets are off. In this exercise I am assuming a relatively stable orbital and solar behavior condition.
    Well maybe Anthony can move this to a neutral corner, for any thoughts and comments, and this thread can go on with the waste heat discussion.
    George

  57. Wish we could add error bars around 0 so that 0 becomes a band of normal when using this kind of graph instead of a line. What is significantly above/below normal?

  58. From above about solar panels – covering the good state (?) of AZ to power everything else ..
    With Tony’s permission, I’ll address the real calc’s for solar power “areas” separately, but this “economic” analysis illustrates the assumptions and false economies that AGW-extremists blindly use. I’m in north GA, and had a 125.00/month electric bill in October. (175.00 or so in summer with the AC running.)
    Plugged the numbers into a typical solar panel on-line calculator: It printed out this.

    100 % of your bill is being supplied by your solar panel system.
    This could be supplied by a 8.1 kw solar panel system.
    The average price for a 8.1 system is $64800
    Rebates
    In Georgia you could save appoximately $3000 off the price of your solar system.
    Your new solar system price is $61800
    Step Four: Final Analysis
    Your savings per month are $118
    Your old power bill is $125.
    Your new power bill is $7
    You would approximately save $1420 per year.
    This equals an increase in your property of approximately $21301
    It will take approximately 17 years to make profit.
    This takes into account federal rebates, property value increase and inflation of electricity prices at 5.4% anually.
    Due to inflation, by the end of the solar panel payback time, your yearly savings would be $3472
    Similarly, the value added to your property by year 17 would be $52083
    Georgia has many other local rebates available that you may be eligible for.These could further reduce the price of your solar panel system.
    Your solar contribution is equal to saving 23370 pounds of CO2 every year.
    This is 117 tons in ten years. It is equivalent to planting 487 trees.
    … End of screen.
    Notice that a “real” electric bill of 1400.00 per year requires almost 70,000.00 in solar panel installation to replace.
    The calculator is “assuming” that my house suddenly becomes “more valuable” with the solar panel (and lead-acid batteries in the basement ?) than without those extra appliances and death-traps.
    Further this “value-added” becomes 52,000 over time (what time frame is NOT said!) but no depriciation of the solar equipment and panels over time is described. Does your car become more valuable and require less maintenance over time as it is used every day?
    The calculator does NOT require the replacement of sealed or lead-acid batteries (2,000.00 to 3,000.00 every two years) as they chemically degrade with recharging.
    Electric power rates AND rebates are assumed to inflation continuously at 5+% per year.
    If I am to “make a profit” after 17 years, I hope the panel lifetime is substantially more than 15 years.

    And all of this assumes that I cut down my neighbor’s trees to get the sunlight in the first place.

  59. Ed MacAulay asks, “How dense is the human population?”
    Pretty dense if they still believe in AGW 😉

  60. Les Johnson (11:48:49) : “I did the calculation once, on waste heat. Using total global energy usage, … “. What happens if you calculate the equivalent thermal energy that is IN the various fuel sources? (instead of the energy that is used)
    48,680 tonnes Global Annual World Production U3O8 2007 [source: WNA Market Report data
    3,939Mt Crude Oil Production 2006 [http://www.iea.org/textbase/nppdf/free/2007/key_stats_2007.pdf]
    2,977Bcm Natural Gas Production 2006 [http://www.iea.org/textbase/nppdf/free/2007/key_stats_2007.pdf]
    5,370Mt Hard Coal Production 2006 [http://www.iea.org/textbase/nppdf/free/2007/key_stats_2007.pdf]

  61. John Galt (09:24:35) :
    My solution to global warming is for everybody to take out their air conditioners and put them in backwards. Set the thermostat and watch it get cold out.
    John,
    Will you pick up the tab on my electric bill? We are currently (pun) paying $0.18/kwh. I’m sure I could run up a months tab exceeding $500 just for the “cooling.” I don’t know if there is enough garbage for our local bio-mass plant to provide that much juice on a large scale although it could be cost effective in the winter!
    Might try it!

  62. Anthony,
    I’m sure that the Reno annual temp chart is probably representative of the actual change that occurred with relocation of the ASOS. However, without having a nearby station to compare with, it proves nothing. A similar drop happened in 1948-49 and the drop in conjunction with the relocation is of similar magnitude and well within the range of the temperature record. I think a compilation of several other stations overlaid on the chart would have helped “prove” the dramatic change.
    REPLY: there is a nearby station, and comparison was done. check the link to Russ Steel’s website in the story above. – Anthony

  63. “” Robert A Cook PE (19:44:12) :
    From above about solar panels – covering the good state (?) of AZ to power everything else .. “”
    Some nice number crunching there Robert.
    I think you need to crunch a couple more numbers though. There’s that “you could save $3000 ….” due to the Georgia subsidy !
    Now where does that come from? I suspect that the State of Georgia collects that money from somebody else in the form of taxes; likely a business paying taxes of some kind to the State. In order to have paid that tax, that business must have made a taxable profit, so using Georgia’s business tax rates you could figure out how much profit that was. Then taking the typical pretax profitability of Georgia businesses, you can determine just how much total business eneterprise that company had to perform to get that $3000 subsidy for your PE installation.
    It’s a fairly good bet that most of that business enterprise would have come about through the consumption of existing fossil fuels; so just how much fossil fuel consumption and carbon footprint, went into subsidizing your “Clean green” PE renewable power system ?
    So long as “alternative energy ” systems are taxpayer subsidized; the real costs and economics of those things will be masked.
    The Jan 2008 issue of Scientific American magazine, hasa serious article about a large PE solar farm to be situated in waste desert lands of the American South West. The main PE farm is only 30,000 square miles of solar cells, and a smaller solar furnace steam plant is just another 16,000 square miles.
    Now 30,000 square miles is 19.2 million acres, which is the exact size of a public wasteland park in Alaska called ANWR, where oil companies would like to drill on 2400 acres; about the size of the average California shopping mall (and parking lot)
    Of course, in the desert southwest, every single square foot of that 19.2 million acres would be used for the PE farm, and the entire area would have to be cleared of human habitation, and visitation, because the whole place would be too vulnerable to vandalism/terrorism, so it would need to be fenced and guarded 24/7.
    And a lot of environmental groups, plus California Senators and Congresspersons, went to a lot of trouble to protect those useless South west desert wastelands as sensitive desert habitat for endagered species, such as the desert tortois which is California’s “polar bear”.
    No I’m not saying, let’s not do PE solar. but I don’t think it is as cheap and as green as it is cracked up to be.
    Humans started out with nothing but renewable green solar energy (clean). We spent every waking minute clambering around in fig trees gather ing figs. It wasn’t very effecttive, and our numbers didn’t increase much until we discovered fire and stored chemical energy, which grew our popultation and sustains it now.
    Green clean solar energy is certainly renewable, but it isn’t sustainable because it just gets here from the sun too slowly to replace our stored chemical energy. After all it took 4.5 billion years for the sun to store up all that fossil fuel energy that we have consumend in about 150 years or so; and we hope to prosper on solar at its replacement rate ?? I don’t think so.

  64. retired engineer
    i have done same calcs. throw in charcoal and wood. all the supposed global warming can be explained that simply.
    moreover it is never considered in the IPCC formulation

  65. peerr
    “i have done same calcs. throw in charcoal and wood. all the supposed global warming can be explained that simply.”
    I would love to see those “calcs”. Sounds like a load of crap to me.

  66. I tried to calculate this. I have a number, but I am not sure of the correctness of it.
    Radius of Earth = 6,378.1 kilometers
    Solar Constant = 1350 w/km^2 (low figure)
    Area of earth disk = pi*r^2 = 128,800,490,577,636 m^2
    Area *solar constant = 5.4e+24 J/a
    US annual energy consumption = 100 Quads (Quad = 10^15 BTU or 10^18 J/a)
    also = 10^20 J/a (which all turns into heat eventually h/t Robert A Cook PE above)
    US annual energy consumption is 4 orders of magnitude less than the annual insolation.
    Now US energy consumption = 25% of world energy consumption, but
    US population = 6% of world population. but total world at US level would still be more than 3 om less than insolation.
    If another ice age approaches we might have to turn up the heat.

  67. re Fat Man (2008/12-05 22:16:34)
    The energy associated with annual solar insolation is about 5.5E+24 Joules.
    The conclusion of IPCC (AR4) – when annualising the 1.6W/M-2 – is that current net effect globally of human activities is 204TW.
    Put another way, this means that the energy contribution of human activity, as attributed by IPCC, is 204TW (or in the order of 10^14 watts). The energy delivered by sunlight is in the order of 10^17 watts. That’s a factor of 10^3, or roughly 1,000 times greater.
    ======================
    Global Energy consumption is defined as marketable energy.
    In producing electricity, two-thirds of the heat value of the nuclear or coal fuel is released to the environment [http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf03.html].
    The amount of electricity produced globally from nuclear fuels in 2005 was 2,768TWh [source: Key World Energy Statistics 2007, International Energy Agency]. This equates to 9.96E+18 joules of the energy.
    In generating this electricity, twice this amount of energy is released direct to the environment for cooling, either into the atmosphere or into water . This equates to 1.99E+19 joules, which is the value of the energy transferred as heat direct to the biosphere globally as a result of generating electricity from nuclear fuel sources in 2005.
    Calculating the energy-cost of extracting the fuel source from the ground and getting it to the power station can get quite complicated – so to get a better idea of what is the possible amount of heat being released to the environment, it may be useful to look at the heat energy contained in the coal, gas and oil we are extracting.
    These following production figures for petrochemicals come from http://www.iea.org/textbase/nppdf/free/2007/key_stats_2007.pdf.
    >> Crude Oil: 3,939Mt extracted 2006, equates to 1.64E+20 joules energy
    >> Natural Gas: 2,977Bcm extracted in 2006, equates to 1.14E+20 joules energy
    >> Hard Coal: 5,370Mt extracted in 2006, equates to 1.26E+14 joules energy
    Total energy in petrochemicals extracted in 2006 was 2.78E+20 Joules.
    The annual “order of magnitude” for the total possible heat from extracted fuels (including nuclear, but ignoring the 2005/2006 timing difference) comes to about 3E+20 joules energy potentially being added to the biosphere annually. This is a trivial amount compared to the energy of the total annual insolation (at 5.51E+24 Joules) … only about one 10,000th.
    However, to determine the relative significance of this amount of added heat, perhaps we need to look at it in terms of how human activities are influencing the environment more generally. IPCC gives us this figure, which is a warming effect of 1.6 Watts per square meter [ar4-wg1-spm.pdf, page 3].
    Converting the IPCC figure of 1.6 W/m-2 into Watts results in an annual figure of 204TW, or 6.45E+21 Joules net energy being added to the global thermo-dynamic system annually.
    In reaching this conclusion, the IPCC has considered the effects of greenhouse gases, ozone, stratospheric water vapour, surface albedo, aerosols and linear contrails. It has not however considered the effect of heat being released directly into the environment.
    Using these figures highlights that the contribution of direct heat could be an additional 5% – which now seems to be a little more significant , especially when compared to one 10,000th , which we previously thought was a relevant basis for comparision, and dismissing the effect of direct heat add.
    Not all of the energy extracted from Coal, Gas Oil, Nuclear and Geothermal sources ends up in the biosphere as heat. However, more than half of the energy of the extracted energy source is “lost” to the environment at some point due to process efficiencies; and it all ends up in the environment eventually, in some form or other. This extra added heat has either to be radiated to space, or the temperature of the climate system will rise.
    Developing better knowledge about the amount of heat energy being added directly to the environment will help us get a better understanding of what is actually going on in our climate system. A better understanding in this area will help us make smarter decisions about where to focus our precious time and effort in combating the warming that we generally believe is taking place.

  68. I did a waste heat calculation here based on carbon dioxide emissions rather than hydrocarbon usage and got 0.025 W/m^2 for the magnitude of waste heat for zero efficiency. Assuming 40% efficiency the magnitude would be 0.015 W/m^2. Solar forcing is 342 W/m^2.

  69. You do need to be careful with a thermograph. If the surface you are imaging has low IR emissivity, you don’t get a true measure of surface temperature. Glass windows reflect the sky and surrounding temperatures, and you don’t get the temperature of the window itself. If you get the city hall lightly painted with black paint, you’ll get a more accurate result.

  70. I once calculated the fraction of sun insolation necessary to melt the icecap of the late maximum glacial times to the actual situation, what took approximately 5000 years : I found 1/1000, that means 10 times more that the energy used by humans actually, which is 1/1 000 as given by David or others; that is exactly the same ratio of the sea level rise between deglaciation times (120 000 mm in 5000 years , ie 24 mm per year) and the actual sea level rise which is something around 2mm per year
    Funny , no?

  71. Sorry there was a bug , I wrote:
    more that the energy used by humans actually, which is 1/1 000 as given by David or others
    It is of course 1/10 000, I hope every one made the correction

  72. In the early ’90s I worked in Switzerland for a couple of years. We had a late night TV channel that showed non-stop satellite time lapse images of Europe for the last 8 hours.
    Particularly in winter, when all the houses are being warmed by central heating, and all the nuclear power stations are pumping out maximum heat through their massive cooling towers, I noticed that the incoming weather from the Atlantic would stall or be diverted when it hit the massive heat island that is continental Europe. In Switzerland, France, Holland, Belgium and Germany, towns are often just a couple of kilometres apart.
    I became convinced that waste heat in Europe had an immediate and direct effect on climate.
    For a long time I’ve been looking for some quantitative estimates of the heating effect, but there has been none that I can find and all the diagrams of major atmospheric energy flows never show it. IPCC ignores it as a forcing factor. I think it is real and underestimated.

  73. From E.M.Smith
    A lot of figures are bandied about purporting to prove how incredibly dense is the amount of solar energy impinging upon the Earth–and yet?
    Maybe while these figures are true they also omit some truth. For instance if 1200 watts as you say is, or even just 300 watts per square meter is so easily available why then are all these silly countries of the world still using energy dense fossil fuels to heat houses? Why are you? Tell that to the residents of the upper latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere.
    If there is such a preponderance of solar energy beaming down ,then why has not nature found a way to capture this energy through the long cold northern winters, instead of going into a state of dormancy as it does?
    Seriously the amount of solar energy beamed at the Earth is awesome. But it all is not usable to the Earth. Some of it is color that that allows us to see the beauty of the world we live in. Some reflects away so that the beauty of the Earth may be seen from afar. In other words all aspects of the electromagnetic spectrum are just not available for humankinds disposal for various reasons.
    Here in Pa. we have wind farms that are approaching 10 by 30 miles but no one in authority even pretends that they will supplant fossil fuel but merely adjunct to it.
    Here is a mental exercise–Work out the energy output of a large coal generating plant and see how many square miles is needed to get the same output summer and winter -day and night,,from a solar photo-cell system.
    Next compute all the cars and trucks operating day and night and figure out how many square miles needed to output the same energy by solar photocell
    Now multiply 100,000 btus per hour during a 10 degree F day by millions of houses for average houses,,but also add businesses and factories.

  74. Here in the USA we could cut down and burn every tree and all our crops and it still would not equal the energy we get from fossil , hydroelectric , and nuclear energy

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