# On certainty: Truth is the Daughter of Time

This comment from Dr. Robert Brown at Duke University is elevated from a comment to a full post for further discussion. Since we have a new paper (Shepherd et al) that is being touted in the media as “certain” using noisy data with no stable baseline, this discussion seems relevant.

rgbatduke says:

So wait, you are saying that fossil fuels do not cause warming, but that if we shift away from them to clean energies, there is a risk of the earth cooling? Uh, could you just think that through and try agan?

No, that’s just some people on the list who are “certain” — with no more grounds than those of the warmists — that the Earth is about to cool. In the long run, of course, they are correct — the current interglacial (the Holocene) is bound to end at some point soon in geological time, but that could be anytime from “starting right now” to “in a thousand years” or even longer. Some are silly enough to fit a sine function to some fragment of data and believe that that has predictive value.

The problem is that nobody knows why the Eocene ended and the Pleistocene (the current ice age) started, and nobody knows exactly where and why the Pliestocene is a modulated series of glaciations followed by brief stretches of interglacial.

There are theories — see e.g. the Milankovitch cycle — but they have no quantitative predictive value and the actual causal mechanism is far from clear. So we do not know what the temperature outside “should” be, with and/or without CO_2. We do know historically that the Little Ice Age that ended around 200 years ago was tied for the coldest century long stretch of the entire Holocene — that is, the coldest for the last 11,000 or so years (where it might surprise you to learn that the Holocene Optimum was between 1.5 and 2 C warmer than it is today, without CO_2).

So the fact of the matter is that there is a risk of the Earth cooling — in fact, there is a risk of a return to open glaciation, the start of the next 90,000 year glacial era — but it is not a particularly high risk and we have no way to meaningfully do much better than to say “sometime in the next few centuries”. CO_2 might, actually, help prevent the next glacial era (or at least, might delay it) but even that is not clear — the Ordovician-Silurian ice age began with CO_2 levels of 7000 ppm. That is around 17 times the current level, almost 1% of the atmosphere CO_2 — and persisted for millions of years with CO_2 levels consistently in the ballpark of 4000 ppm. If the Earth’s climate system (which we do not understand, in my opinion, well enough to predict even a single decade out let alone a century) decides it is time for glaciation, I suspect that nothing we can do will have any meaningful effect on the process, just as I don’t think that we have had any profound warming influence on the Earth so far.

The fundamental issue is this. We have some thirty three years of halfway decent climate data — perhaps twice that if you are very generous — which is the blink of an eye in the chaotic climate system that is the Earth. There has been roughly 0.3 C warming over that thirty-three year stretch, or roughly 0.1 C/decade. It is almost certain that some fraction of that warming was completely natural, not due to human causes and we do not know that fraction — a reasonable guess would be to extrapolate the warming rate from the entire post LIA era, which is already close to 0.1 C/decade. It is probably reasonable to assign roughly 0.3 C total warming to Anthropogenic CO_2 — that is everything, not just the last thirty years but from the beginning of time. It might be as much as 0.5C, it might be as little as 0.1C (or even be negative), but the physics suggests a warming on the order of 1.2 C upon a complete doubling of CO_2 if we don’t pretend to more knowledge than we have concerning the nature and signs of the feedbacks.

At the moment there is little reason to think that we are headed towards catastrophe. When the combined membership of the AMA and AGU were surveyed — this is surveying climate scientists in general, not the public or the particular climate scientists that are most vocal on the issue — 15% were not convinced of anthropogenic global warming at all, and over half of them doubted that the warming anthropogenic or not would be catastrophic. It’s the George Mason survey — feel free to look it up. The general consensus was, and remains, that there has definitely and unsurprisingly been warming post LIA, that humans have caused some part of this (how much open to considerable debate as the science is not settled or particularly clear), that there is some chance of it being “catastrophic” warming in the future, a much larger chance that it will not be, and some chance that it will not warm further at all or even cool.

The rational thing to do is to continue to pursue the science, especially the accumulation of a few more decades of halfway decent data, until that science becomes a bit clearer, without betting our prosperity and the prosperity of our children and the calamitous and catastrophic perpetuation of global poverty and untold misery in the present on the relatively small chance of the warming being catastrophic and there being something we can do about it to prevent it from becoming so.

So far, if catastrophe is in the cards, the measures proposed won’t prevent it even according to those that predict it! In fact, it won’t have any effect on the catastrophe at all according to the worst case doom and gloomers. We could stop burning carbon worldwide tomorrow and if the carbon cycle model currently in favor with the CAGW crowd is correct (which I doubt) it would take centuries for the Earth’s CO_2 level to go back to “normal” — whatever that means, given that it varies by almost a factor of 2 completely naturally from glacial era to interglacial. In fact, according to that model the CO_2 levels will continue to go up as long as we contribute any CO_2 at all, because they’ve stuck an absurdly long relaxation time into their basic system of equations (one with very little empirical foundation, again IMO).

Again, I suggest that you reread the top article carefully. I actually do not think it is the best example of Monckton’s writing — a few people have noted that its tone is not terribly elevating, and I have to agree — but I sense and sympathize with his frustration, given the content of the article. There is a stench of hypocrisy that stretches from Al Gore’s globe-hopping by jet and his huge house and large car all the way to a collection of people with nothing better to do who have jetted to Doha to have a big party and figure out how to continue their quest for World Domination, hypocrisy with king-sized blinders that seem quite incapable of permitting the slightest bit of doubt to enter, even when bold predictions like those openly made in the 2008 report come back to bite them in the ass.

I myself am not a believer in CAGW. Nor am I a disbeliever. The only thing that I “believe” in regarding the subject is our own ignorance, combined with a fairly firm belief that there is little reason to panic visible in the climate record, and that is before various thumbs were laid firmly on the scales. Remove those thumbs and there is even less reason to panic.

My own prediction for the climate is this. We will probably continue to experience mild warming for another ten to twenty years — warming on the order of 0.1C per decade. It will probably occur in bursts — the climate record shows clear signs of punctuated equilibrium, a Hurst-Kolmogorov process — most likely associated with strong El Ninos (if we get back to where strong El Ninos occur — the last couple have fizzled out altogether, hence the lack of warming). In the meantime, we will without much additional effort beyond existing research and the obvious profit incentives drop the cost of solar power by a factor of four, and it will become at least competitive with the cheapest ways of generating electrical power. We will also have at least one major breakthrough in energy storage technology. The two together will cause solar to become more profitable than coal independent of subsidy, for much but not all of the world. Without anybody being inconvenienced or “doing” anything beyond pursuing the most profitable course, global consumption of carbon will then drop like a rock no matter what we do in the meantime.

Beyond twenty years I don’t think anybody has a clue as to what the temperature will do. I don’t even have a lot of confidence in my own prediction. It wouldn’t surprise me if it got cooler, especially if the Sun enters a true Maunder-style minimum. Nor would it surprise me if it got warmer than my modest prediction. But either way, I think roughly 500 ppm is likely to be the peak level of CO_2 before it comes down, and it may well fail to make it to 500 ppm, and even the catastrophists would have a hard time making a catastrophe out of that given 0.3 C of warming in association with the bump from 300 to 400.

We could make it more likely to cut off before 500 ppm — invest massively in nuclear power. Nuclear power is actually relatively cheap, so this is a cost-benefit win, if we regulate them carefully for safety and avoid nuclear proliferation (both risks, but less catastrophic than the inflated predictions of the catastrophists). But I don’t think we will, and in the end I don’t think it will matter.

## 191 thoughts on “On certainty: Truth is the Daughter of Time”

1. Joseph Bastardi says:

will be hard to warm in a cold pdo which is not a nino friendly. In addition warm AMO is about to run its course ( within 10 yrs) would suggest reading Dr Bill Gray ideas on the thermohaline circulation and where we are about to go. He correctly forecasted the flip in the PDO and by 2020, the AMO should turn too. I am forecasting cooling and have been since 06 , back to levels as measured by satellites, of the 70s by 2030. I am in complete agreement with the idea that the more you study the majesty of the planet, you realize how little we are, or have to do with it

What we *really* know, empirically, is that we have (1) a tad over 30 years of spotty data, much from less than reliable sources, (2) a handful of computer models that everyone knows have oversimplifications built in at almost every line of code, and (3) indications in the fossil records of rocks, ice, and plants that the climate is variable and has been warmer at some times, and cooler at other times.
What we *really* know, theoretically, is that (1) there are scores of variables that could affect the climate, (2) many of them have interactions with each other that have not yet been characterized, and (3) some are known to be non-linear and even ambivalent depending on their interactions with other variables.
What we *really* know, from experience, is that extrapolations are for fools. Just because variable A went up (or down) X points yesterday does not mean it will do so again today.

3. Joe – yes; all this farrago regarding CAGW simply demonstrates the extraordinary hubris of the warmes, to think that we really affect this globe that much.

4. MikeB says:

For those true believers who always reinforce their arguments by resorting to an ‘appeal to authority’, you should be aware that the full quotation, from Francis Bacon circa 1600, is
“Truth is the Daughter of Time, not of Authority”

5. Jean Parisot says:

Dr Brown needs to provide a link to where at Duke I should send money for enlightening me repeatedly. Just the spin off reads of his references teach me things.

6. son of mulder says:

The word “chaotic” is used once and once is enough to support the rest of the article.

7. Julian Flood says:

Dr Brown writes:

quote
I suspect that nothing we can do will have any meaningful effect on the process, just as I don’t think that we have had any profound warming influence on the Earth so far.
unquote

With all due respect to your greater knowledge, I suspect we could, can and may be so doing. We are spreading enough light oil onto the ocean surface each year to cover it completely approximately every fortnight. I have seen oil smooths snaking out to the horizon from Tenerife, seen a smooth covering tens of thousands of square miles off Portugal, seen the Med covered from end to end. Oil smooths warm the sea surface by reducing albedo, lowering emissivity, reducing mechanical mixing, starving plankton to lower DMS production, reduce aerosol production by breaking waves, lower turbulence and thereby reduce stratocumulus formation and reduce evaporation.

Google Tom Wigley and ‘why the blip?’. Google Benjamin Franklin and Clapham pond.

The north Siberian coast has enough light oil coming down its rivers to equal an Exxon Valdez every five weeks — add in the North Slope and I’ll bet that means the Arctic seas are covered completely. Perhaps that’s why their warming is anomalously high.

Anyway… All you need to do carry on polluting the ocean surface. That’ll do.

JF

8. beesaman says:

And that folks is what a real scientist sounds like.
Hansen, Mann et al you might want to take note!

9. TomRude says:

@Joe, cooling? Isn’t that always because of global warming? ;-)

10. mpainter says:

Dr Brown:
“My own prediction for the climate is this. We will probably continue to experience mild warming for another ten to twenty years-”

For the last fifteen years there has been no warming- absolutely none. So why do you say “continue”?

11. John Blake says:

Climatologists may not know “why the Pleistocene started” but geophysicists most certainly do. The short answer is plate tectonics, which deployed North and South American landmasses some 2.6-million years ago to wall off Eastern from Western hemispheres, thereby disrupting global atmospheric/ocean circulation patterns.

Since the Cretaceous/Tertiary (K/T) Boundary some 65-milion years ago, Planet Earth has experience five major geological eras lasting 12 – 16+ million years apiece. On this basis, our current Pleistocene Era should persist another 12 – 14 million years, until North and South American continents once more drift apart. During this time, the Earth’s micro-minuscule atmospheric film –say 4 miles on a planetary radius of 4,000 miles– will continue subject to Milankovich cycles, oceanic oscillations, total solar irradiation (TSI), volcanism and so forth, but “climate” is inevitably due for periodic “cold shock” fluctuations for another 14-million years or so.

In its self-induced astro-geological ignorance, “climate science” for all its high-tech gobbley-gook is akin to Blondlot’s N-rays, J.B. Rhine, Immanuel Velikovsky, Trofim Lysenko, and others of that ilk. Entering a 70-year “dead sun” Grand Minimum similar to that of 1645 – 1715, the Green Gang of AGW Catastrophists
is purposefully, willfully, putting all humanity at risk.

12. Joe Prins says:

Just finished reading John Kehr’s “the inconvenient skeptic”. I like it because:
1) It takes the very long view, that is, not decades but centuries:
2) It deals with the earth as a chaotic system;
3) It deals with the insolation reaching the earth esp. the Northern Hemisphere and
4) It posits that there is an energy gap of about 14 W/m2 and there has been for about 3000 yrs;
In other words, looking at the energy received by the earth and where makes a lot more sense to me than any Co2 theory. Trying to fit the Co2 theory to the facts is a fools game. Instead use facts to formulate a theory.

13. And there you have it.
Bravo!

14. James Evans says:

I’m printing that out and handing it to some friends.

15. John West says:

@Julian Flood

Ever hear of bacteria? Oil is biodegradable.

That’s why the Gulf of Mexico didn’t end up the catastrophe that some predicted. Yes, a lot of oil goes into the oceans both naturally and from human activities; but a lot of oil is consumed by bacteria as well.

16. Miket says:

Excellent commentary. I just wish one could persuade the likes of Obama and Cameron to take the time to read such a balanced view of the subject.

17. John West says:

And this is what the alarmists never seem to get:

“The fundamental issue is this. We have some thirty three years of halfway decent climate data — perhaps twice that if you are very generous — which is the blink of an eye in the chaotic climate system that is the Earth.” —- RGB@Duke

“There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.” —- Mark Twain

18. Alex says:

In an October 2011 paper published in the International Journal of Public Opinion Research, researchers from George Mason University analyzed the results of a survey of 489 scientists working in academia, government, and industry. The scientists polled were members of the American Geophysical Union or the American Meteorological Society and listed in the 23rd edition of American Men and Women of Science, a biographical reference work on leading American scientists. Of those surveyed, 97% agreed that that global temperatures have risen over the past century. Moreover, 84% agreed that “human-induced greenhouse warming” is now occurring. Only 5% disagreed with the idea that human activity is a significant cause of global warming.[18][19]
^
from wikipedia is it me or is this something completly different then the Dr is saying about the survey? Perhaps it’s just another case of wikipedia bull we have seen before regarding climate articles.

19. Gary says:

Just a couple of corrections are needed in this post:
1. It’s pretty well established that the closing of the Central American isthmus initiated the Pleistocene glaciation cycles by diverting oceanic circulation patterns.
2. The Milankovich theory is quiet well-proven and is quantitatively predictive. Various other influences may affect the timing a bit — such as the lag effect of ice on the continents having to melt away before temperatures increase — but the orbital parameters that control insolation are dominant.

20. theduke says:

Dr. Brown is a born teacher and I envy his students.

21. George Lawso9n says:

Julian Flood.
What an exagerating alarmist you are. Yes we have all seen oil smooths in the sea from time to time, but I doubt whether anyone would support your stupid statement that you’ve seen oil smooths completely cover the whole of the Mediteranean. I suspect that is part of the warmists scaremongering again. Just look at the sites of major oil spills around the world and see how they have very quickly returned to their natural state within a very short space of time. Even the area of last years BP drilling accident in the Gulf of Mexico, which we know was devaststing to the local fishing industry, has surprised officials at the speed of its recovery to its natural ecology. Yes, the earth is capable of taking in its stride anything which we humans throw at it. It might be major in the warmists eyes, but it is very insignificant as far as mother earth is concerned

22. Doug Huffman says:

Here is a graph, a graphic, of the current, as of 3 Dec, monthly Smoothed Sunspot Numbers and of their 2009 consensus predicted numbers.

23. Duster says:

Julian Flood says:
December 3, 2012 at 11:32 am

Julian, you need to pay less attention to doom-prophesying “authorities” and more to basic science, in this case geology. The volume of oil seeping from natural sources sources is far greater than human linked “catastrophes.” Studies in the Gulf have imaged steady minor seeps over square miles. The Exxon Valdiz in Alaska and more recent events in the Gulf of Mexico are geographically focused – point locations – that magnify the apparent seriousness of the events. In reality, a small fraction of the oil you would pick up walking on a beach in the Gulf, the beaches of Central Africa, the Arctic, or California, or any of a dozen other places is the result of human activity. Just like water, oil seeps to the surface – la Brea in L.A. for instance, or the asphalt “volcanoes” in the channel off southern California. The asphaltum used prehistorically by the Egyptians, the Chinese, the indians of the southern California deserts, and in many other parts of the world was from natural seeps as well. Tanker spills and plumes from failing wells are are dramatic and can be very hard on wild life, but even there you want to look at the fossil count from la Brea before assuming to much about the influence of humanity on the environment.

Pollution is a serious problem, but we really need to know the magnitude of our own outputs, before we can do something useful about them. It is a profound mistake to simply conclude that nature would be benign if only people were tidier. It is simply not true and makes a secular “original sin” assumption that is logically and empirically unsupported.

24. BobG says:

In pointing out that there is no scientific certainty about several things, you then write what I think is a non-scientific opinion, “there is a risk of a return to open glaciation, the start of the next 90,000 year glacial era — but it is not a particularly high risk …”.

I have not seen any paper about this and don’t really think the risk of another ice age is quantified in any scientific way. It is possible that all that is needed is another Little Ice Age of a sufficient magnitude that we hit a “tipping point” after which the earth gradually slide decade after decade inexorably towards an increasingly cold and glaciated earth. Given the current very quiet sun, perhaps such a little ice age is pending. My non-scientific guess is like yours that we probably have a few hundred more years. But it is an opinion and not based on anything quantifiable.

25. rgbatduke says:

With all due respect to your greater knowledge, I suspect we could, can and may be so doing. We are spreading enough light oil onto the ocean surface each year to cover it completely approximately every fortnight.

Let’s look at this closely, shall we? And let’s use arithmetic in the form of a “Fermi Estimate”, not words. The surface area of the ocean is $3.6 \times 10^{14}$ square meters (four hundred trillion square meters). In order to cover with oil at a depth of 1 millimeter one time would require roughly 360 billion metric tons of oil. The complete annual production of oil worldwide is currently around 30 billion barrels of oil, and it takes roughly seven barrels of oil to produce a metric ton. That is, the complete annual production of oil is around 4 billion metric tons. This would make a layer approximately ten microns thick, if you could get it all into the ocean at once.

Of course, we don’t do any such thing. Oil on the ocean is wasted oil, and we want to use it. I would cheerfully estimate that we don’t lose one hundredth of one percent of all the oil mined into the ocean in a year. In that case it would make a layer one nanometer — two or three molecules — thick. Once. Out of a whole year’s oil production, assuming what is in all frankness probably an egregiously high estimate of waste.

On a fortnightly basis divide by 26. We spread a layer one whole molecule thick roughly once ever ten fortnights, call it four months.

This still doesn’t do your assertion full justice. “Oil” is a heterogeneous mixture of hydrocarbons. Some of them are volatile and almost immediately evaporate. Others are dense and sink. All of them are quite tasty to a number of things that live in the ocean. While I am quite certain that there are places where oil slicks both natural and manmade can be seen on the ocean, there is no possible way that those slicks would ever actually cover the ocean because they would be eaten, oxidized, evaporated, and sink faster than they could ever spread. At no time could they cover even a significant fraction of the ocean’s surface area. That, as noted above, is enormous.

So I must regretfully state that unless I have made an egregious error in my arithmetic above — always possible — your statement is an absurd number of orders of magnitude away from being anything like truth. I spend my summers in boats, fishing off of the North Carolina coast outside of its busiest harbor. I have yet to see one oil slick, or even a single extended patch of oil on the surface, even in the harbors. I have also read papers that suggest that the oil dumped into the Gulf in its disaster was eaten at many times the rate anticipated beforehand, so that nature actually cleaned it up at an astounding rate, and that really was a well dumping enormous amounts of oil directly into the ocean (but tiny amounts compared to its surface area for all of that).

I suggest that you change your primary sources away from ones that not only lie to you, but lie to you in a way that insults your intelligence and ability to do arithmetic. I also humbly suggest that if you have posted this misinformation elsewhere, you consider the damage this sort of nonsense does to everybody’s ability to hold a rational conversation on the subject. I would expect the “coverage of the ocean with oil” to be an utterly negligible effect compared to the direct greenhouse effect of the volatiles and natural gas released when oil is pumped plus the greenhouse effect of the burned oil in the form of CO_2. Those positive warming effects might well be partially balanced by particulates that could have either warming or cooling effects and aerosols that are mostly cooling. In other words, there is literally no point even mentioning it, which is why nobody ever does and they are completely ignored in all global climate models.

Try again.

rgb

rgb

26. DavidG says:

Wonderful comment at precisely the right time! There is so much unscientific noise masquerading as fact, no wonder most people give up trying to decode it.

27. rgbatduke says:

For the last fifteen years there has been no warming- absolutely none. So why do you say “continue”?

Because looking at any fifteen year interval as representative of a trend in climate science is so utterly absurd as to beggar description. On both sides. Frankly, 33 years is little better. I’m extrapolating the rise out of the LIA to have at least a century or three in my baseline, and of course that is arguably not terribly meaningful as well. I’m also hedging my bet with the belief that the GHE actually exists and is unlikely to have actively negative feedback; with CO_2 based GHE only one expects roughly 0.1 C/decade of warming, assuming CO_2 levels continue to rise.

This latter is actually the null hypothesis of the entire discussion! Given ignorance about net feedback, the assumption of zero feedback is the best one can do. Climate scientists believe in their positive feedback models enough to bump this to 0.2 to 0.3 C/decade; I do not. That doesn’t mean that I believe the data suggests negative feedback (reliably) either!

rgb

28. @mpainter: I don’t want to put words into Dr. Brown’s mouth, but I believe that what he was talking about is rise averaged over a long period – a century or more. The Earth’s temperature doesn’t, and never has (to my knowledge) exhibit monotonic rises (or falls) of temperature unless you look at a long term average.

Looking at the practically instantaneous snapshot that we have of processes which take millenia to run their course is meaningless.

29. kwik says:

Dr Brown:
“My own prediction for the climate is this. We will probably continue to experience mild warming for another ten to twenty years-”

mpainter says:
December 3, 2012 at 11:46 am;
For the last fifteen years there has been no warming- absolutely none. So why do you say “continue”?

Yes, why?

30. I fully agree with Dr Robert Brown about the limits of our present knowledge. To overstate what we know is to create a blind religious belief. Having said that, and as a cycles researcher, I must take issue with the statement “Some are silly enough to fit a sine function to some fragment of data and believe that that has predictive value”. Sometimes the fragments of data are quite long in the form of proxies. But yes, we must take care in interpreting these.

The fact is that people using cyclical methods have the best success at predicting solar changes. The 208 year cycle present in several solar proxies and in the instrumental SSN records clearly indicated that we were due for several weak solar cycles starting with the current one. The climate record also shows this same cycle period so we can expect some cooler period for a while. However that must be superimposed on other longer and shorter cycles. There is a 2300 year climate cycle which is still warming. There is a cycle of 53 to 60 years which also peaked out at then end of the last century.

For these reasons I would expect a slight cooling for then next decade or two before another 30 year warming period. A different guess to Dr Brown.

31. Walt The Physicist says:

@ Julian Flood:
The main statement of the post is a humble admission that, very little known about physics of the Earth climate and therefore any reliable prediction is impossible. Unfortunately very few educated people and even fewer scientists admit (or realize) that “science” isn’t omnipotent. Not surprising, since increasingly the “tabloid science” dominates the scene for the reasons of ease of obtaining funding and higher entertainment value. And thus, the “tabloid scientists” entertain/scary public and overwhelm funding sources by showing that their peer-reviewed “science” publications undoubtedly show that “oil smooths warm the sea surface by reducing albedo, lowering emissivity, reducing mechanical mixing… lower turbulence and thereby reduce stratocumulus formation and reduce evaporation.” In the midst of all this confusion neither public nor program managers notice that “reducing albedo” is opposite to “lowering emissivity”… In midst of this confusion examining and questioning the accuracy of these research becomes next to impossible, especially after energized and vocal consumers of “tabloid science” weigh in. Please stop drinking kool-aid, go start business, do something usefull.

32. DavidG says:

Not surprising that someone named Flood is prone to exaggeration, given the last month.;]
I do agree that if no warming has occurred, then Dr. Brown needs to reconsider what he wrote about continued warming.including also the facts of a cold PDO and eventually a cold AMO, coming by 2020 as Joe predicts. If it does cool, we will be revisiting the incredibly high cost of carbon mitigation for no scientific reason.

33. rgbatduke says:

Just a couple of corrections are needed in this post:
1. It’s pretty well established that the closing of the Central American isthmus initiated the Pleistocene glaciation cycles by diverting oceanic circulation patterns.
2. The Milankovich theory is quiet well-proven and is quantitatively predictive. Various other influences may affect the timing a bit — such as the lag effect of ice on the continents having to melt away before temperatures increase — but the orbital parameters that control insolation are dominant.

I won’t argue with either of these — although I think that I could. Not so much with the hypotheses, but with the degree to which the evidence “proves” them, especially without controlling for other possible factors. For example, I’ve read theories suggesting that the upthrust of the Himalayas exposing large amounts of rock that subsequently weathered and absorbed CO_2 was also a factor, or responsible, depending on whether or not you want CO_2 to be the sole meaningful driver of going in and out of ice ages on a geological time scale. I don’t think that is “proven” either. I think it is really pretty difficult to prove what happened between 50 and 3.5 million years ago to gradually drop temperatures to where orbital variations seemed rather “suddenly” capable of modulating glacial/interglacial cycles. I also think — and several of my climate scientist friends seem to think — that it is difficult to quantitatively predict or understand why the cycles went from 20-26 thousand years (axial precession) to 40 thousand to 100 thousand years, and why the last half million years have been 90 thousand (or so) of glaciation followed by 10 thousand (or so) of interglacial.

Milankovich works qualitatively well, or even semi-quantitatively well in that it gives us a nice heuristic explanation for the primary fourier components in the pliestocene thermal record as determined by proxy, but it is completely useless as a predictive tool capable of telling us what the temperature outside “should” be right now with or without CO_2. It cannot explain the particular date the Wisconsin glaciation started to end. It cannot explain the Younger Dryas. It cannot explain the several deep dips in global temperature visible in the proxy based thermal record of the Holocene (although it may give us some insight into the Holocene Optimum and general slow reduction of temperature that followed ignoring the fluctuations). It cannot explain the MWP or the LIA. It does not explain why the world warmed again after the LIA or was warming on its own at least up to where CO_2 entered the picture as a possible factor.

Without a quantitatively precise theory for the baseline temperature that the Earth should have ignoring human influences, the task of extracting the human “signal” from the unknown multiple-timescale “natural” variation of the climate due to the Milankovich agencies and many other things is, IMO, a bit of a chore if not an actual joke. We haven’t the foggiest idea of what the temperature in the latter half of the 20th century would have done if humans had not existed on the Earth at all, let alone what fraction of the temperature we imperfectly observed with large error bars was due to human affairs.

If you disagree (and have quantitatively precise references that predict the day and the year of the next ice age) please let me know as I’d love to see them. In the meantime I’ll have to assert that the theory is at least as reliable as the Mayan Calendar for predicting the end of the world. Might be even more reliable, dunno. But either way I’d want to see the direct, contemporary evidence and not yet another argument on the basis of numerical correspondence.

rgb

34. Kev-in-Uk says:

John Blake says:
December 3, 2012 at 11:47 am

My thoughts exactly, +1

I do think rgb has done a great job of enlightening many folk – and he has obviously managed to grab some geological understanding (i.e. re timescales) along the way – it is truly a shame that climate science does not embrace the same understanding. Geological timescales are logically the only real ‘baseline references’ for climate analysis (any analysis of climate on anything less than a few millenia of data is unable to see the ‘real’ natural climatic variation, cycles, etc) – and even then, they can still change every few million years!

35. rgbatduke says:

Of those surveyed, 97% agreed that that global temperatures have risen over the past century. Moreover, 84% agreed that “human-induced greenhouse warming” is now occurring. Only 5% disagreed with the idea that human activity is a significant cause of global warming.[18][19]

The 97% is bullshit — it is a direct read of the thermometric data. The 3% that disagreed must really be mavericks…;-)

If only 84% agree that anthropogenic greenhouse warming is now occurring, 16% disagree, is it not so? That is slightly more than the 15% I asserted. Additionally, IIRC some 53% thought that there was anthropogenic warming, but that it would not be “catastrophic” by the end of the century (although I’m remembering the numbers without looking them up again). Added up, over 2/3 of them disagreed with CAGW., while some 80 to 85% of them believed in some measure of human induced GHE warming.

The 5% can also be ignored, because most of them no doubt know of things like the Sahara desert and desertification due to land use changes. But those things are unlikely to be a major factor in future catastrophic warming. Or maybe not, dunno.

It is still far from the homogeneous 96% of all scientists agree in global warming. Possibly true, but who cares! That’s just reading a thermometer, not assigning causes. The following, however, is a true statements:

According to the George Mason Survey, over 15% of the climate scientists surveyed did not agree with human induced greenhouse warming as a hypothesis.

Not really surprising. In physics, you can’t get everybody to believe in any controversial proposition at the 96% level. Why would it be different in the most difficult physics problem in the world, the solution of the most fiendishly complex set of nonlinear differential equations I can even imagine?

rgb

36. rgbatduke says:

The fact is that people using cyclical methods have the best success at predicting solar changes. The 208 year cycle present in several solar proxies and in the instrumental SSN records clearly indicated that we were due for several weak solar cycles starting with the current one. The climate record also shows this same cycle period so we can expect some cooler period for a while. However that must be superimposed on other longer and shorter cycles. There is a 2300 year climate cycle which is still warming. There is a cycle of 53 to 60 years which also peaked out at then end of the last century.

And I believe that people who were born in the sign of Aries are maximally compatible with Libras. And that the length of skirts is a definite predictor for the market. Or (fill in your own favorite example of post hoc ergo propter hoc). I don’t actually completely disagree with you; I just don’t agree that the predictions of a Fourier Transform of a given data set are particularly robust outside of the interval where it is fit. Do I need to go through the reasoning for my doubt?

The discovery of patterns in data is an important first step in understanding the underlying causes of that data. However, humans find fluffy sheep in the clouds because that is the way we are wired, and it is a cruel fact of functional analysis that fitting an arbitrary function with any basis you like can often be done as closely you like in some finite interval and yet the fit have absolutely no extrapolative value whatsoever. Without a physical model to explain why “208 years” is an important number, you might as well be doing astrology. It’s the year of the dragon, that’s always hot. Why not?

rgb

37. Stephen Richards says:

BobG says: and everyone else

December 3, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Dr Brown is correct in everything his says. He may not be as precise as he would have wished but he was writing this as a comment and not a post. Although you may have read that the movement of the techtonics plates started the current ice age cycling, and that is not an unreasonable assumption, it has never been proven conclusively. Also, no-one has ever been able to quantify how the Milan. cycles produce an ice age. Up to now, the only quatifying attempt has merely shown that it is likely that another trigger, along with the Milan. cycles, would have been necessary. Lastly, we have in the past on various sceptic blogs, had some lengthy discussions on what could cause the ice age cycling within the general ice age of the past few million years. No-one that I have read has yet found the trigger, definitively. Why did we cycle down to the little ice age? It might has been the MM and maybe we will have some conclusive proof in the next 20 years or so but at this moment there is none. You might say the sun, PDO/AMO, thermalhaline anything you wish but show the proof, please.

38. Stephen Richards says:

rgbatduke says:

December 3, 2012 at 1:32 pm

Witness Mannian maths.

39. Stephen Richards says:

sorry, I wrote the 2 posts above before Dr Brown’s 2 posts had appeared

40. mikerossander says:

Alex, the two descriptions of the George Mason study are consistent. “84% agreed that human-induced greenhouse warming is now occurring” is (within rounding) semantically identical to “15% were NOT convinced of anthropogenic global warming”.

Regarding your second snippet about human activity being a “significant cause” – start with your quote that “97% agreed that that global temperatures have risen over the past century” (regardless of cause). Your quote that “Only 5% disagreed with the idea that human activity is a significant cause of global warming” only means that 95% (all but 9 of the respondents who said that temperatures have risen at all) agree that human activity has contributed to warming enough that the null hypothesis of 0.000000…degrees impact can be rejected. Since the concept of urban heat islands is universally accepted, the conclusion is unsurprising. Heat islands may only add a tiny fraction of a degree to the global temperature but they clearly do exist. No conclusions can be drawn from that statistic about the believed magnitude of the human contribution, however.

41. Stephen Richards says:

Unfortunately very few educated people and even fewer scientists admit (or realize) that “science” isn’t omnipotent

That is something of a cruel statement. There are many, many scientist that read and comment here and very well educated ones at that. I was once but have been retired for too long to remember how well.

42. Very good, Robert.

I describe science as ‘the exploration of uncertainty’. Until you have honesty about what you are uncertain about, there can be no science.

43. rgbatduke says:

Why did we cycle down to the little ice age? It might has been the MM and maybe we will have some conclusive proof in the next 20 years or so but at this moment there is none. You might say the sun, PDO/AMO, thermalhaline anything you wish but show the proof, please.

Yes, precisely. Even listening in on the arguments of experts in the field like Lief, I come away unconvinced on almost every topic that is individually debated. There is a proliferation of hypotheses, all of them at least somewhat plausible, none of them either proven or refuted by our absolutely miserable half-century max of instrumental data that didn’t rely on hot electron tubes with their notorious drift to collect and assess, let along our 33 years of mostly-reliable satellite data. The oceans alone — 70% of the Earth’ surface, a huge VOLUME of its thermal reservoir — we have good data on for maybe half of that. And then there is the sun.

If one applies an honest Bayesian analysis to the entire multilple hypotheses descriptions and models of the climate, one concludes what mere common sense (Bayesian analysis as produced by our intuitive brains) already tells you — we haven’t a clue about what drives the climate, not really. Or rather, we have too many clues, not enough data, and cannot home in on what is probably true to the exclusion of what is probably false yet, in nearly any particular. We cannot even reliably account for large century-scale movements that are empirically many times larger than all of the supposed AGW that has occurred to date, let alone for variations on a scale of thousands or tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands or millions of years.

One cannot show the proof in this — it isn’t yet possible to prove anything. In fifty years, maybe. In twenty years, perhaps but don’t hold your breath, In a century, probably. To put it bluntly, temperatures could go back down for twenty years and the CAGW hypothesis could still be correct — we have no idea what kinds of natural drivers might override it in the short run, or what “the short run” even is.

rgb

44. rgbatduke says:

No conclusions can be drawn from that statistic about the believed magnitude of the human contribution, however.

No, but the working group reports in the AR process probably give one some idea. Not the politicized summaries — the climate guys I know indirectly from interactions on this and other lists don’t like them any more than ardent “skeptics” do as they are political crap, not summaries of the actual science (which is always far more cautious and full of doubt than the summaries for politicians the lay public ever end up). I truly do think that it is a fair statement that the majority of climate scientists believe in one variant or another of “there is some degree of anthropogenic global warming caused by increases in CO_2, and that the likely warming produced by the end of the century will probably be damaging, but not catastrophic”.

Individually you’ll have a wide range on both sides of this statement — 15% plus who remain uncertain even about the “proven reality” of GHG AGW in the first place, 25% or so who think it will be catastrophic, and people smeared out in between. The latest “consensus” of maybe 2.5C of total warming reflects that range, probably biased somewhat to the warmer side of things, but again, come back in five years with temperatures still stable and ask again and you’ll get a very different answer.

The public doesn’t ever get a measured presentation of this sort of reality — that scientists really do Not Agree on complicated and uncertain science supported by sketchy and incomplete data and somewhat corrupted by a natural desire to “save the world” (only possible if the world is in danger!). It is reduced to sound bites and out and out lies — such as the lie that we cover the ocean with oil ever fortnight (right up their with the arithmetic supporting Noah’s Ark, preserving several million species for most of a year in a floating wooden boat the size of WalMart ventilated through less than a square meter). Or the lie that Sandy was “caused by human produced climate change”.

Horseshit.

And now I really must go, at least for a while.

rgb

45. xham says:

Since the article quotes George Mason survey that is not freely available can anyone provide a link to corroborate of the 50+ % who don’t believe in catastrophic AGW? Thanks.

46. David Schofield says:

“rgbatduke says:
December 3, 2012 at 12:53 pm
For the last fifteen years there has been no warming- absolutely none. So why do you say “continue”?

Because looking at any fifteen year interval as representative of a trend in climate science is so utterly absurd as to beggar description………….”

Agree with that but when does the agw theory become falsifiable?

47. Red Baker says:

Summary articles like this should be done once or twice a year to bring us up to date. This puts the state of knowledge in perspective.

Most folks have no idea that 90%+ of the time of the last million years were ice ages; that the average temperature for the past 12,000 years (since the end of the last ice age) was about 2 degrees warmer than today; much higher CO2 existed even as ice ages were starting; and temperatures have been flat for the last 16 years while CO2 keeps rising.

48. Oops–ignore the link I provided above. It refers to a mere public opinion survey. The real link is below.

Here’s how Wikipedia, at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surveys_of_scientists'_views_on_climate_change, spun the AMA/AGU survey by Mason:

STATS, 2007
In 2007, Harris Interactive surveyed 489 randomly selected members of either the American Meteorological Society or the American Geophysical Union for the Statistical Assessment Service (STATS) at George Mason University. The survey found 97% agreed that global temperatures have increased during the past 100 years; 84% say they personally believe human-induced warming is occurring, and 74% agree that “currently available scientific evidence” substantiates its occurrence. Only 5% believe that that human activity does not contribute to greenhouse warming; and 84% believe global climate change poses a moderate to very great danger.[8] [9]

8 Lavelle, Marianne (2008-04-23). “Survey Tracks Scientists’ Growing Climate Concern”. U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved 2010-01-20.

9 Lichter, S. Robert (2008-04-24). “Climate Scientists Agree on Warming, Disagree on Dangers, and Don’t Trust the Media’s Coverage of Climate Change”. Statistical Assessment Service, George Mason University. Retrieved 2010-01-20.
At http://stats.org/stories/2008/global_warming_survey_apr23_08.html

Here’s the heart of the report, taken from the link above:

Major Findings
Scientists agree that humans cause global warming
Ninety-seven percent of the climate scientists surveyed believe “global average temperatures have increased” during the past century.

Eighty-four percent say they personally believe human-induced warming is occurring, and 74% agree that “currently available scientific evidence” substantiates its occurrence. Only 5% believe that that human activity does not contribute to greenhouse warming; the rest are unsure.
Scientists still debate the dangers A slight majority (54%) believe the warming measured over the last 100 years is not “within the range of natural temperature fluctuation.”

A slight majority (56%) see at least a 50-50 chance that global temperatures will rise two degrees Celsius or more during the next 50 to 100 years. (The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change cites this increase as the point beyond which additional warming would produce major environmental disruptions.)

Based on current trends, 41% of scientists believe global climate change will pose a very great danger to the earth in the next 50 to 100 years, compared to 13% who see relatively little danger. Another 44% rate climate change as moderately dangerous.

Seventy percent see climate change as very difficult to manage over the next 50 to 100 years, compared to only 5% who see it as not very difficult to manage. Another 23% see moderate difficulty in managing these changes.

A need to know more Overall, only 5% describe the study of global climate change as a “fully mature” science, but 51% describe it as “fairly mature,” while 40% see it as still an “emerging” science. However, over two out of three (69%) believe there is at least a 50-50 chance that the debate over the role of human activity in global warming will be settled in the next 10 to 20 years.

Only 29% express a “great deal of confidence” that scientists understand the size and extent of anthropogenic [human] sources of greenhouse gases,” and only 32% are confident about our understanding of the archeological climate evidence.

Climate scientists are skeptical of the media Only 1% of climate scientists rate either broadcast or cable television news about climate change as “very reliable.” Another 31% say broadcast news is “somewhat reliable,” compared to 25% for cable news. (The remainder rate TV news as “not very” or “not at all” reliable.) Local newspapers are rated as very reliable by 3% and somewhat reliable by 33% of scientists. Even the national press (New York Times, Wall St. Journal etc) is rated as very reliable by only 11%, although another 56% say it is at least somewhat reliable.

Former Vice President Al Gore’s documentary film “An Inconvenient Truth” rates better than any traditional news source, with 26% finding it “very reliable” and 38% as somewhat reliable. Other non-traditional information sources fare poorly: No more than 1% of climate experts rate the doomsday movie “The Day After Tomorrow” or Michael Crichton’s novel “State of Fear” as very reliable.

Are climate scientists being pressured to deny or advance global warming? Five percent of climate scientists say they have been pressured by public officials or government agencies to “deny, minimize or discount evidence of human-induced global warming,” Three percent say they have been pressured by funders, and two percent perceived pressure from supervisors at work.

Three percent report that they were pressured by public officials or government agencies to “embellish, play up or overstate” evidence of global warming: Two percent report such pressure from funders, and two percent from supervisors.

Changing scientific opinion In 1991 the Gallup organization conducted a telephone survey on global climate change among 400 scientists drawn from membership lists of the American Meteorological Association and the American Geophysical Union.

We repeated several of their questions verbatim, in order to measure changes in scientific opinion over time. On a variety of questions, opinion has consistently shifted toward increased belief in and concern about global warming. Among the changes:

In 1991 only 60% of climate scientists believed that average global temperatures were up, compared to 97% today.

In 1991 only a minority (41%) of climate scientists agreed that then-current scientific evidence “substantiates the occurrence of human-induced warming,” compared to three out of four (74%) today.

The proportion of those who see at least a 50-50 chance that global temperatures will rise two degrees Celsius has increased from 47% to 56% since 1991.

The proportion of scientists who have a great deal of confidence in our understanding of the human-induced sources of global climate change rose from 22% in 1991 to 29% in 2007. Similarly, the proportion voicing confidence in our understanding of the archeological climate evidence rose from 20% to 32%.

Despite these expressions of uncertainty, however, the proportion which rating the chances at 50-50 or better that the role of human behavior will be settled in the near future rose from 47% in 1991 to 69% in 2007.

It’s time for another round of that survey—six years have passed.

49. beng says:

****
Doug Huffman says:
December 3, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Here is a graph, a graphic, of the current, as of 3 Dec, monthly Smoothed Sunspot Numbers and of their 2009 consensus predicted numbers.
****

Doug, I’ll bet forty quatloos that there will be a second peak in the sunspot number or an extended, several yr plateau.

OK, fifty quatloos.

50. Earth did not go directly from the Eocene (56-34 mya) to the Pleistocene Epoch. The Oligocene (34-23 mya), Miocene (23-5.3 mya) & Pliocene (5.3-2.6 mya) intervened.

51. Steve C says:

I applauded Dr. Brown’s original comment when it appeared, but did not comment on it at the time. Further, I agree with every comment that 30 years’ data is never going to give us an adequate picture of what is happening: indeed, given that we know that there is a powerful (approximtely) 60-year cycle in most if not all of Earth’s climatic data, the very choice of a 30-year period as indicative of anything at all seems an egregious cherry-pick designed to induce worry: by definition, it will give us around 30 years worrying about increasing temperatures followed by around 30 years worrying about cooling.

Whether the temperature in 2100 has increased or decreased from that in 2000 depends entirely on whether the (approximately) 1000 year cycle has peaked, or still has a little way to go. If the former, then we should find that temperatures a century from now will be firmly descending, maybe, though not necessarily, into the next inevitable glaciation; if the latter, then my estimate would be that they should be around the same or a (very) little warmer. In (what I regard as) the unlikely event that it is significantly warmer, we may by then be able to discern whether the excess temperature is due to human activity or to some as yet unknown natural cause – my money would be on nature every time, since I don’t share the warmist belief that we are a defining influence on climate.

As a rank, though not entirely uninformed, amateur, I expect something between stasis and cooling for the next 20 years or so. The 30 years’ ‘warming’ after that (assuming the sun doesn’t decide to give us a Maunder minimum) should reveal from its magnitude whether the longer cycle has peaked or not, to be confirmed by the following 30 years’ cooling. Sadly, since I am already on the unfashionable side of 60, I doubt that I shall ever get much closer to the truth of the matter than I am now: the one thing I do not expect to see is any degree of warming over the rest of my life.

With the statement that “The only thing that I ‘believe’ in regarding the subject is our own ignorance, combined with a fairly firm belief that there is little reason to panic visible in the climate record”, I wholly concur. The climate worry-warts would do well to heed Socrates’ observation that “all that I know is that I know nothing”: the older I get, the more I know, the more truly that statement rings.

52. mpainter says:

The global climate models stand refuted by the temperature record of the past fifteen years, in my view. A resumption of warming is the hope and prayer of the modelers, but there is no basis for such an expectation now that the principles of radiation physics are shown to be erroneously applied to our atmosphere. In short, the verdict is in on the GCM’s. What now is the reason for forecasting a resumption of warming?

53. B. Baak says:

There are too many subjects in one article. Dr. Brown is not showing evidence why he doesn’t believe in the predictive value of cycles. I do think that with the coincide of 2 cycles global cooling until 2040 or further is a plausible prospect.

54. Gerald Machnee says:

Re Alex and the George Mason study. He says 97 percent and 85 percent “agreed” about the human cause. However, I bet none of those scientists could prove it or produce a detailed study proving it. So we wait for a measurement.

55. rgbatduke says:

A good summary is here:

http://stats.org/stories/2008/global_warming_survey_apr23_08.html

They present the results summarized many different ways, some of them internally inconsistent, but they nevertheless make it very, very clear that the “consensus” on CAGW is at best a very thin one. A majority, for example, believe in “moderate” AGW that will do damage, but yet when you add in the 16% that don’t even believe in AGW due to GHGs at all, it doesn’t leave the right remainder for those that they also claim believe in “catastrophe”.

Note well the mistrust of the media! Climate scientists are neither generally dishonest nor fools, but neither are they immune to the constant hammering and disproportionate reporting of every negative event magnified to the falling sky, every positive event completely ignored.

Of course this survey isn’t the only survey and I mistrust them all given the money on the table. Witness the “surveys” conducted by the media in the last election. Only University sites and one or two private individuals got it all unequivocally right (notably U of Illinois, using Bayesian methods to process all of the surveys put together, that was damn near perfectly on the money, slightly underestimating Obama’s eventual margin). We sadly live in a time when not one of the major news services can be trusted to be objective on political or social issues, and most are so yellow in their journalism that it is openly revolting. Or so think I. Walter Cronkite and Huntley and Brinkley are all turning in their graves.

Nothing like the “over 90%” usually portrayed in the media, not even among climate scientists. Of course not. They know better. And note well, this surveys their beliefs in spite of the “support” everybody imagines that they are getting. I have a lot of faith in the overall honesty of most scientists. They live on Earth the same as everybody else, and science as a profession demands far more than the usual modicum of ethical behavior because time will make a fool of you if you make a mistake, and a bad mistake can be and often is a career-ender. I think there are a lot of climate scientists that are a bit out on a limb at the moment, sorry that they let the media and religious zealots among their colleagues frame what they all frankly think is a very uncertain discussion.

rgb

56. HorshamBren says:

Try this link for the George Mason survey …

I accept Dr Brown’s observation that the IPCC’s Working Group reports are more nuanced than the Summaries for Policymakers

However, climate science would be better served if Dr Brown himself were to write the Summary for Policymakers for the forthcoming AR5 !

57. Bob in Castlemaine says:

As someone once said something that I think sums up the science of climate modeling rather well:

Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.

A very thoughtful essay Anthony, and undoubtedly your guess is as good as anyone’s, probably better. But from what I can understand, no-one can model in any meaningful way a complex system without having even the most rudimentary understanding of many of variables involved.

58. rgbatduke says:

Agree with that but when does the agw theory become falsifiable?

Who knows? The George Mason survey indicates that a majority of climate scientists think maybe in 20+ years from now. I personally think this is a lower bound. Note well that there are climate events that could alter this — if the climate pops 0.5 C back onto the catastrophic track in a single year that would certainly influence a lot of people, and if it drops 0.3 C back to pre-1980 levels over the next five years as the solar cycle winds down that will also influence a lot of people. But falsify? That requires a theory and a basis for the statistical analysis to obtain a meaningful p-value on the null hypothesis. I don’t see that happening anytime soon, probably not in my lifetime. I don’t even think we’ll resolve the solar issue in less than one, maybe two more solar cycles, and then there is waiting for the various decadal oscillations to work through their phases and finally there is the great unknown, what the temperature really ends up doing.

I mean this quite seriously. When I say we don’t know what global temperature will do, not at the 30% confidence level let along the 95% confidence level, I mean it, quite literally. I think the assignments of confidence at all in the matter are completely bullshit, utterly meaningless. I truly believe that it is quite possible for the temperature to go back up — and maybe even probable, over time — in spite of the last stretch of basically near-neutral fluctuations. Is there anyone on this list that seriously thinks, within anything like certainty, that we are about to trend up or trend down? I think it is damn near a coin flip, but probably a biased-up coin flip because CO_2 levels are continuing to rise, and unless the GHE from them is actively canceled, something not even sane skeptics would generally assert, we can expect 0.1 to 0.2 C per decade from that alone.

That’s the null hypothesis, right there. Not “no warming”, not “excessive warming with high climate sensitivity” — just pure CO_2 driven warming, at the computed rate of roughly 1.2 C per doubling of CO_2 mixed with whatever natural variation mother nature produces. Resolving that predicted signal from the natural noise is basically impossible on the 33 years of data we have. At fifty years maybe. At seventy five years probably. But it might well take a full century of satellite observation to really work out a fully functional climate model, to get enough data on all the permutations of the global oscillations, enough measurements of the state of the ocean, enough knowledge of what the sun is doing and so on to work it out.

But these numbers are partly dependent on how much we spend, as one might imagine. Revive NASA, start spending serious money on space research once again, visit the planets and establish permanent observatories on their moons and probe their atmospheres with permanent floating probes, disincentivize bullshit and politicized results, get serious about studying the sun (not that they aren’t serious now) — maybe they CAN work it out in 20 years. But that so very much depends on what the climate actually does no matter what we spend.

rgb

59. rgbatduke said @ December 3, 2012 at 1:15 pm

We haven’t the foggiest idea of what the temperature in the latter half of the 20th century would have done if humans had not existed on the Earth at all, let alone what fraction of the temperature we imperfectly observed with large error bars was due to human affairs.

Presumably, by “temperature” you mean here “the temperature of Earth”. Since Earth is not in thermodynamic equilibrium (yet, thank the Deity du jour), I don’t see how it can have “a temperature”. Sure I can average the temperatures measured for a litre of air from the Atacama Desert and Cairns in far north Queensland, but this does not address what drives climate which is energy. Even if those two air samples are exactly the same temperature, they differ in energy content and mass. Ditto for a litre of seawater from the Maldives compared with a litre from the Atlantic just off the West coast of South America. Averaging temperatures of what are different substances seems to me more akin to numerology than physics, especially when there are so many different averages from which one can choose.

So, I can say with some confidence that, in the absence of humans, the temperature of Earth would be non-existent in the absence of any human to imagine such a quantity.

Nice piece BTW.

60. Sean says:

I’ll tell you what will come to an end soon, and by soon I do not mean on a geological scale. And some things will be getting hot for some, while some things will be getting cold for many more.

The ability of near bankrupt western nations to borrow money to pay their irresponsible rate of borrowing, and the ability of their citizens to service their nation’s debt though tax increases only.

Between the irresponsible approach to fiscal management taken by government, and their insane desire to drive companies offshore with high energy costs and other green snafus, the end is of life as we know it is indeed nearing – that is the end of affluence, progress and every thing else the western nations know and value.

61. Thank you Dr. Brown for a most refreshing and interesting read, both in this post and your subsequent comments. Your intellectual honesty shines out, illustrated by your use of the word dunno. I dunno why it, or its equivalent, is so seldom expressed or even hinted at by so many scientists these days. Or perhaps we all do?

62. Theo Goodwin says:

Took the words right out of my mouth. Hats off to you Dr. Brown. WUWT is so sane and rational. WUWT is so attuned to scientific method and the empirical realm.

Ever consider managing a political campaign, Anthony?

63. rgbatduke says:

The global climate models stand refuted by the temperature record of the past fifteen years, in my view. A resumption of warming is the hope and prayer of the modelers, but there is no basis for such an expectation now that the principles of radiation physics are shown to be erroneously applied to our atmosphere. In short, the verdict is in on the GCM’s. What now is the reason for forecasting a resumption of warming?

I have no idea what this even means. What “principles of radiation physics” are being erroneously applied to our atmosphere? Please separate the predictive value of the GCMs from whether or not there is a greenhouse effect or AGW, as they are not the same thing. The GCMs could be wrong but AGW might still be true. The GCMs could accidentally predict the right answer sometimes with errors, so that AGW could be false. What is certain is that the GHE exists, and warms the Earth compared to a reasonably well established baseline. The warming predicted due to the increase in CO_2 alone is 1.2 C per doubling, give or take a bit. That warming can be increased or decreased by feedback, but the null hypothesis (since we don’t have any compelling evidence for either one) is to assume that it is the only average, anthropogenic change, although honestly with human based aerosols and particulates and so on in place even this is probably false too.

Many people on the list are certain that temperatures will drop with the solar cycle. I am not. I think it plausible, even somewhat likely that they will given the data, but there are huge uncertainties in the data and many arguments over its meaning. All one can really be certain of at this point is that atmospheric CO_2 will almost certainly continue to increase, at least until some form of cooling overwhelms any CO_2 driven warming and the ocean becomes more receptive of CO_2.

If we are too ignorant to build a good climate model that can reliably predict CAGW, we are certainly too ignorant to build a good climate model that can reliably refute it as well. To do either one requires more data, more time, and more knowledge. Which we will get. In part by waiting and seeing if in fact warming does resume at a good clip, or the temperature does remain basically flat, or the temperature does in fact plummet.

That’s why they call it “research”, because we don’t know the answer yet and have to find out. Otherwise we call it “engineering”.

rgb

64. Red Baker said @ December 3, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Summary articles like this should be done once or twice a year to bring us up to date. This puts the state of knowledge in perspective.

Stick around long enough and you will find that they do…

Most folks have no idea that 90%+ of the time of the last million years were ice ages; that the average temperature for the past 12,000 years (since the end of the last ice age) was about 2 degrees warmer than today; much higher CO2 existed even as ice ages were starting; and temperatures have been flat for the last 16 years while CO2 keeps rising.

The current ice age began ~2.5 million years ago and has not ended. We are currently enjoying an interstadial between glacial episodes.

65. Lots of luck on the 4 x fall in solar costs, likewise the energy storage breakthrough, both of which are required to make solar somewhat useful. For 40 years, ever since the first “oil crisis”, there has been much expensive research on energy storage and the end result is lithium rechargeable batteries which are better than lead acid chemistry but only by a factor of 3 and none at all in terms of watt-hours/ kilogram per dollar (I’m talking about what you can actually buy and use safely, not lab curiosities or the incendiary grenades used by the RC model airplane people). Other technologies unlikely ever to make prime time include fuel cells which despite well over 100 years of knowledge and development and much money spent 50 years ago aren’t in everyday widespread use at low cost

66. mpainter said @ December 3, 2012 at 3:23 pm

A resumption of warming is the hope and prayer of the modelers,

It strikes me as odd that those who fear a warmer climate also hope and pray for such to occur. Especially them that live in the higher latitudes.

67. rgbatduke says:

Earth did not go directly from the Eocene (56-34 mya) to the Pleistocene Epoch. The Oligocene (34-23 mya), Miocene (23-5.3 mya) & Pliocene (5.3-2.6 mya) intervened.

But if I recall correctly — and feel free to correct me if I’m wrong because I’m trying to know things in at least a half a dozen distinct fields here and at some point things get diluted — the temperature over that 50 million year period went from very warm — the 4-5 C warmer that warmists consider “catastrophic” — to much cooler by the start of the Pliocene (2-3 C warmer), then cooled more or less to where we are now, where we cycle between this “critical” temperature in the interglacials to 5 to 10 C cooler during the glacials (gradually decreasing with time — the earlier shorter cycles weren’t as cold at their peak coldness).

Let’s see, I know I’ve got a link somewhere… oh yes, here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geologic_temperature_record

Well, OK, there is some structure in there too. Structure that once again I doubt is understood.

rgb

68. On: Truth is the Daughter of Time
Data indeed points to the near future cooling in the North West Europe.
North West Europe, with the longest and the most accurate records, temperatures rise or fall is determined by a chain of events:
North Atlantic currents regime in the subpolar gyre (the engine of heat transport in the N. Atlantic) controls warm waters down-welling in the winter time, releasing several hundred W/msq of energy, which in turn moves the Icelandic Low and diverts the polar jet stream. In the summer months the Icelandic Low follows the ice retreat with the rise in the insolation to the north of Iceland, outside the subpolar gyre’s region, hence its summer effect is still cyclical but less dominant.
Result of this is:
350 years of no summer warming
350 years of slow steady winters’ temperature rise.
http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/MidSummer-MidWinter.htm
Why would the North Atlantic currents regime change?
All indications are that the North Atlantic currents regime is under influence of tectonically highly active mid-Atlantic Ridge, which exibits some correlation with the solar activity:
http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/FP.htm
be aware, it may be pseudo or crank ‘science’, regardless what the data show!

69. LKMiller says:

That’s it Dr. Brown, now you’ve gone and done it! You clearly have way too much common sense for Duke. Please move your office to NC State.

Go Wolfpack!

70. Theo Goodwin says:

People who are interested in surveys of climate scientists are not demonstrating an interest in climate science or any science. If you talk to a scientist, he/she will tell you about data, methods, new hypotheses confirmed along the way, hypotheses disconfirmed along the way, and similar matters because that is what makes up the science. To ask a scientist, even a climate scientist, what he thinks of the AGW hypothesis is something like asking a professional coach what he thinks of the score in the game just played. The first thing that will pop into the coach’s mind is that you have no interest in the game or how he/she coaches it and he/she will answer with some platitude.

If a stranger asks me what I think of the AGW hypothesis, I reply that there seems to be a little warming. If pressed, I say that there could be more than a little warming. I do this to avoid a boring discussion with someone who thinks that he can hold forth on the topic of climate change. And I do it to be popular at dinner.

71. john robertson says:

Thanks Dr Brown , your comments often are posts in their own right and always enlightening.

72. Greg House says:

rgbatduke says December 2, 2012 at 6:21 pm: “but the physics suggests a warming on the order of 1.2 C upon a complete doubling of CO_2”
=======================================================

No, not THE physics, some people suggest that.

73. Greg House says:

rgbatduke says December 2, 2012 at 6:21 pm: “The general consensus was, and remains, that there has definitely and unsurprisingly been warming post LIA, that humans have caused some part of this”
====================================================

I see, consensus, why am I not surprised?

Well, it is not true what you are saying about “general consensus”. It is rather the opposite what is true.

If we look at this study (http://tigger.uic.edu/~pdoran/012009_Doran_final.pdf) carefully, we can see that 70% of the more than 10,000 scientists from relevant fields polled confirmed neither “global warming”, nor “caused by humans”. I would not call 30% a “general consensus”.

74. David Borth says:

Note that the italicized intro to this thread was actual Dr Brown quoting the rather ill- informed Pat Ravasio.

His answer to her is the NON-italicized portion. Her original post was in the comments to the Lord Moncton thread “OOPS”

Pat Ravasio on December 2, 2012 at 12:02 pm
So wait, you are saying that fossil fuels do not cause warming, but that if we shift away from them to clean energies, there is a risk of the earth cooling? Uh, could you just think that through and try agan?

I hope Pat has learned something new by hanging out around here.

75. leftinbrooklyn says:

Ah, if only the money was in Reason, and not in Sensationalism.

76. mpainter says:

rgbatduke says:

December 3, 2012 at 4:12 pm

The global climate models stand refuted by the temperature record of the past fifteen years, in my view. A resumption of warming is the hope and prayer of the modelers, but there is no basis for such an expectation now that the principles of radiation physics are shown to be erroneously applied to our atmosphere. In short, the verdict is in on the GCM’s. What now is the reason for forecasting a resumption of warming?

I have no idea what this even means.

What I meant was that the models,which have applied the principles of the physics of radiation to model the response of our atmosphere to increasing CO2 in order to achieve their forecasts, have only achieved invalid results. So where is the problem? It must be an error in the application of the physics, because a fundamental error in the physical principles seems too unlikely. In other words, they goofed up.

77. FrankK says:

Robert Brown says:
“it is almost certain that some fraction of that warming was completely natural, not due to human causes and we do not know that fraction — a reasonable guess would be to extrapolate the warming rate from the entire post LIA era, which is already close to 0.1 C/decade. ”
—————————————————————————————————————-
You are being quite liberal in your estimate of warming Robert. If you take the Central England Temperature record (the longest available) from 1659 to 2010 and insert a linear trend then the overall rate is not 0.1 C deg per decade but 0.25 C deg per 100 years or 0.025 C Deg per decade post LIA. And the human caused effect? – We’re back to bee digit magnitudes.
Cheers.

78. I disagree that we need to understand the climate sufficiently to model it, in order to predict climate changes.

I think we will at some point be able to predict climate change over timescales from a few weeks to a few decades from a small number of measurable factors.

The Indian government gave up on the global circulation models, because of their complete inability to predict monsoon conditions, and are now developing models that use measurable factors. Early indications are these models are showing promise.

There is huge economic value in being able to predict weather months to years in advance and this is where progress will be made in climate prediction, because of the economic imperative.

79. davidmhoffer says:

rgbatduke;
Another great thread Robert, you are a great writer and fantastic teacher.

I was wondering if you could expand on the CO2 doubling = +1 degree estimate a bit? As you know from past conversations, there’s no doubt in my mind that the GHE exists. But I do question the general estimate from two perspectives:

1. The temperature increase cannot be evenly distributed for three reasons:
a) SB Law requires that a given forcing (say 3.7 w/m2) will result in far less than 1 degree in the tropics and far more in the arctic regions…BUT:
b) The forcing itself cannot be evenly distributed since there is less upward LW in the cold regions of the planet, we cannot expect the same net forcing as in the warm regions due to a given change in CO2… AND:
c) Any additional energy that is retained by the planet will be redistributed from areas of high concentration to low, so even if we can resolve a) and b) above to we have any “known physics” that would be a useful predictor of how the temperature distribution would ultimately change from tropics to arctic regions.

2. The concept of forcing is (my understanding here, please correct me if I’ve gone astray) defined by calculating the “extra” downward travelling photons that would not have existed if CO2 had not doubled and subtracting from them the “extra” downward photons that would not otherwise exist (that’s roughly the IPCC explanation). The net equates to roughly 3.7 w/m2 which I am good with. Here’s the part I’m not so certain of:

If the sun’s radiance were to increase by 4 w/m2 at TOA, we could measure exactly that amount at TOA. We could calculate exactly via SB Law what the change to the earth’s effective black body temperature would be. But where do we “measure” the w/m2 from CO2 doubling? It doesn’t matter if the number is 1, 3, 5 or 15, it doesn’t exist at any single altitude in the atmosphere. It is a value comprised of infinitely small values spread across the atmospheric column. If this is the case, is SB Law even a valid calculation?

3. (I said 2, but I’m in sales, I can’t be counted upon for numerical accuracy) Further, how do these downward photons get to the surface to warm it? We often discuss the fact that CO2’s effects at sea level are overwhelmed by water vapour, and so are more pronounced at higher elevations where lower temperature squeeze the water vapour from the air and CO2 becomes proportionally more significant. But wait…if water vapour makes CO2’s effects insignificant on the way up… aren’t the same CO2 effects coming down running into a wall of water vapour that absorbs and re-radiates it? Does some get through to the surface to warm it? Sure. But all of it? Surely not? Most of it? Some of it? I’ve asked this question in the past, and gotten long explanations about warming at elevation plus lapse rate = warming at surface, but I haven’t found them all that compelling. At day’s end, if some of those downward photons don’t make it to surface in some quantity, there’s no warming (at surface) and I’m not understanding how this can happen with all that water vapour resisting LW (in both directions).

TIA!

80. davidmhoffer says:

by calculating the “extra” downward travelling photons that would not have existed if CO2 had not doubled and subtracting from them the “extra” downward photons
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

I meant downward subtract upward of course. fingers disengaged from brain….
Its all a belief system of course. I believe I will have another beer….
(some belief systems are easily verified)

81. D Böehm says:

Correctomundo, FrankK. There is no discernable human signal in any temperature record. None whatever. If there were, we would get beat over the head with it by the alarmist contingent 24/7/365. The rise in global temperature since the LIA has been the same, whether CO2 was low or high. Global warming has not accelerated. If anything, it has stopped, at least since the 1990’s.

This is the central fact that constantly gets glossed over and ignored. There is NO verifiable anthropogenic signal in any temperature record. The null hypothesis remains un-falsified.

So let’s pretend we’re all Captain Obvious, and think about what that means. There’s a conclusion there, hiding right in plain sight.

82. John Blake,

While RGB may decline to argue with you (although he proceeded to), I will. Look at the configuration of continents during the Permian, Ordovician, and most recent Proterozoic (before that the polar wander paths go over the edge) glaciations. Snow cone earths happened in many configurations.

83. DeNihilist says:

Thanx Anthony for making this a post. Thanx Dr. Brown for taking the time to reply.

84. dabbio says:

Very good essay by Dr. Brown. As close as anyone has gotten to my layman’s conclusions about the subject.

You know what I would love to see? Some good computer artist here develop a 1,000 x 1,000 cell grid, i.e., 1 million cells, and then, down in a lower corner, shade in the 280 and 391 cells representing respectively early and current atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Or maybe just shade in part of the bottom row. I’d just like to SEE what those proportions look like. If one could see them. The whole thing just seems like such a fantasy to me.

85. Robert A. Taylor says:

Blast you Dr. Brown. You can read, comprehend, and give long pertinent responses to comments faster than I can read them. I can’t even type and make sense as fast.

Thanks for the sanity, intellectual honesty, and scientific skepticism. I’ve very rarely seen these to this degree from anyone on any side.

One comment. If climate scientists are privately doubtful of the IPCC’s Summary for Policymakers, and the catastrophism in the MSM, let them say so publicly. Intellectual honesty demands it.

86. rgbatduke says:

I think we will at some point be able to predict climate change over timescales from a few weeks to a few decades from a small number of measurable factors.

That’s very optimistic, since “climate”, as opposed to “weather”, hardly changes over that short a timescale, except when it does, sometimes abruptly and with no warning, as a chaotic fluctuation from one climate state to another. Or to put the issue another way, exactly what is “climate”?

This is not an irrelevant question — a large part of the bait and switch game of talking about “climate change” instead of “global warming” (once the globe stopped warming as predicted) is due to the lack of any sort of meaningful (objectively definable) difference between climate change and the normal variability of weather on any sort of short time scale. By confounding the two one can make any “extreme” weather event into “evidence of climate change” into “evidence of climate change due to Anthropogenic Global Warming leading to eventual catastrophe” when it is nothing of the sort.

Predicting actual climate changes — how could one even tell? Climate isn’t regional. Or is it? What is signal — real “changes in the climate” and what is noise — “irrelevant fluctuations in the weather due to random, unpredictable factors”? How can you even measure the difference when the signal is an order of magnitude less than the noise (as it is on timescales less than a decade in any given region)?

According to that good old standard of meaning, the dictionary, climate is weather in some location “averaged over some long period of time”. This means that climate change is by definition confounded with statistical noise in the weather over shorter periods of time. You can only tell if any given change is a climate change instead of a normal statistical fluctuation long after the fact, by virtue of the change being persistent.

Then there is the difficulty of the problem. Let’s ignore the full range of the multivariate complexity and stick with just one thing. There are well-known correlations between e.g. El Nino and La Nina conditions and probable annual weather variations relative to the floating “norm” (whatever it might mean) ranging from number of Atlantic hurricanes to expected rainfall or snowfall and temperature in the US Southeast. I live in North Carolina, and it seems like a relevant predictor for the state of affairs outdoors (whatever one calls it) in North Carolina.

Is that correlation weather or climate, more particularly, is that weather or climate change given that the very existence of the rule suggests that it is not a change, it is a normal expression of how the weather works?

Given that AFAIK, it is not possible to predict either the timing or the strength of the ENSO a decade out, given that weather/climate appears to depend on the particular present and recent past state of the oscillation over much of the globe, how accurate do you think the predictions of “climate change” could be? To make the question concrete, given your choice of the various temperature estimates for the period from 1979 to 2012 — RSS, GISS, HADCRUT, whatever — how would any simple “almanac” level model have predicted either the volcanic eruptions or the superstrong ENSO that is almost certainly responsible for the sharp bump in SSTs and global temperatures that occurred in the general vicinity of 1997-1998? Without this bump, the decadal predictions are horribly wrong, but I see no possible way that anyone could have predicted Mount Pinatubo or the 1998 ENSO effect in 1988, let alone 1978. Do you?

Just curious.

rgb

87. davidmhoffer says:

dabbio
I’d just like to SEE what those proportions look like. If one could see them. The whole thing just seems like such a fantasy to me.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

I’ll be very interested to see rgb’s answer to this one, but I run into this question a lot, so here’s mine:

It isn’t simply proportions that count. It is scale. CO2 molecules don’t get “used up” and neither do the photons. A CO2 molecule can absorb and re-radiate an infinite number of times, it doesn’t wear out, and that is key to the rest of the explanation.

Instead of imagining it as a grid, imagine it as a round jar. Make the jar’s bottom 100 square millimeters and make the jar 100 mm high. The jar has a volume of 10,000 mm cubed. Imagine filling the jar with 9,996 yellow bb’s and 4 blue bb’s. Since this is a make believe jar and make believe bb’s, they exactly fill the jar. The chances of you seeing a blue bb through the sides of the jar are tiny.

OK, so make the yellow bb’s invisible. Now you can see the 4 bb’s suspended in the jar. I know what you are thinking. So what? Doesn’t that just prove the point? Four specs of blue in the entire jar?

This is where the atmospheric scale comes in. Imagine 100,000 jars stacked up in a single column 10 kilometers high. Yes, from the side, all you would see is a spec of blue here and there. But there’s now 400,000 blue bb’s stacked up in that column. Assuming they are evenly distributed, a photon going straight up from bottom to top would hit a CO2 molecule 4,000 times.

Well, assuming it was absorbed and re-radiated straight up it would be 4,000 times. If you assume that instead sometimes get re-radiated up and sometimes re-radiated down, a lot more than 4,000 times.

88. Greg House says:

rgbatduke says, December 3, 2012 at 7:51 pm: “According to that good old standard of meaning, the dictionary, climate is weather in some location “averaged over some long period of time”.”
========================================================

This definition is not old, it is relatively new and warmists like it understandably, because they can just call any deviation from this “average” a “climate change”.

In reality, if we look up in the Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913 + 1828) (http://machaut.uchicago.edu/?resource=Webster%27s&word=climate&use1913=on&use1828=on), we will find this definition there: “Climate 2. The condition of a place in relation to various phenomena of the atmosphere, as temperature, moisture, etc., especially as they affect animal or vegetable life.”

No mention of “average” there. Because back then and probably all the years before people were sane enough to NOT put temperatures and other weather phenomena at different locations together and calculate a “global average”. The idea of a “global average temperature” representing “global climate” is absolutely crazy according to the definition I quoted. “Global climate” is nonsense as well, sorry, dear climate scientists. The idea of a “warmer year”, because for a few days the temperature was a little bit higher is crazy, too.

Imagine, if the medical science defined health as an average of different body parameters. Like average heart beat frequency for 30 days. Or average defecation.

Go ahead, dear climate scientists, fool us all the time.

89. FrankK says:

D Böehm says:
December 3, 2012 at 6:26 pm

Correctomundo, FrankK. There is no discernable human signal in any temperature record. None whatever. If there were, we would get beat over the head with it by the alarmist contingent 24/7/365. The rise in global temperature since the LIA has been the same, whether CO2 was low or high. Global warming has not accelerated. If anything, it has stopped, at least since the 1990′s.

———————————————————————————————————–

Mr Boehm no correction necessary, I agree the trend over that long period is natural at 0.25 C deg per 100 years since the LIA – precisely what I said. The human contribution is as I described above – a bees willie – indiscernible if its there at all..

If you want to talk about individual ups and downs in the temp graph then I always point to my warming friends how come the same Central England temp record shows a rise of over 2 C deg over 40 years from the end of the 17th Century to the start 18th when industrialisation was virtually nil with no rise in CO2 level. And yes CO2 has gone up over the last 16 years and temperature has flat-lined. The AGW theory is well and truly busted.

90. rgbatduke says:

At day’s end, if some of those downward photons don’t make it to surface in some quantity, there’s no warming (at surface) and I’m not understanding how this can happen with all that water vapour resisting LW (in both directions).

There is no “warming” at the surface due to the photons per se. The warming is due almost entirely to insolation or (a bit) the other actual source(s) of heat. What the CO_2 (or other GHGs) does is act almost exactly like a space blanket and reflect part of the outgoing radiant blackbody energy back, slowing the cooling. The surface thus spends more time warmer than it would without the back radiation, resulting in an elevation of the mean temperature.

Back when I was doing a thread on John Nielsen-Gammon’s blog site in response to part of his and my discussion, as well as a long annoying discussion I was having with Mr. Sky Dragon (Olson), I undertook to write a very simple pure blackbody model that shows how putting any sort of perfect absorber/perfect radiator interpolated layer between a surface being heated at a given more or less fixed state and “space” — a zero-temperature perfect absorber surrounding blackbody — raises the temperature of the surface in a fairly predictable and understandable way.

The model works like this. The central perfect black body — let’s assume a sphere of radius $R$ — is heated from the inside at a constant rate. In a vacuum surrounded by the perfect absorber (or in actual space surrounded by a near-perfect absorber in the form of a 3K vacuum), it thus reaches a temperature that is completely determined by Stefan-Boltzmann, such that the rate of its outward radiation precisely balances the rate of internal heat production. Interestingly, this temperature doesn’t even depend on what the sphere is made of — its actual enthalpy is more or less irrelevant. Call the temperature of this sphere $T_0$.

Now we prepare a second sphere identical to the first one, only we surround it by a thin shell that is a perfect conductor of heat and also a perfect blackbody. To avoid conduction from the inner sphere to the shell, we will leave a small vacuum gap on the inside between the shells, and we will make the outer radius of the outer shell whatever you like that is larger than the inner sphere.

Now radiation from the inner sphere is perfectly absorbed by the shell. The shell warms. As it warms it reradiates energy according to Stefan-Boltzmann both back in towards the sphere and outward. If its radius is only a bit larger than that of the sphere, it will have to warm pretty much to the temperature that the inner sphere had without it in order to balance the net heat production inside of it.

However, when it is radiating this amount of power outward it is also radiating almost exactly this amount back in at the original sphere.

The inner sphere needs to lose the same power it did before. However, now it has just about exactly that much power radiating back down on it from the shell (when the shell is in net power equilibrium with the only actual source inside of its outer surface). It therefore has to radiate twice as much power to remain in equilibrium. It will do this when its temperature is $(2^{1/4}T_0} = 1.19 T_0$.

Voila! We have the greenhouse effect! Or rather, an upper bound estimate of it, as the Earth is not a uniformly heated perfect blackbody, neither is the interposed shell of blackbody gases, which are in thermal contact with the Earth’s surface, and which are not perfect conductors. But the idea is now clear, and the simple model suffices to demonstrate that it is quite impossible to interpose an absorber/isotropic reradiator layer between the Earth’s surface and infinity and not raise the temperature of the Earth’s surface, on average, to where it can lose both the straight up insolation and the reflected backradiation in each diurnal cycle.

Note also that I make no claims that this is an accurate description of the full, far more complicated, way that the Earth actually absorbs and loses heat, only that it is (if you meditate upon it for a day or so) a process that is verified to actually exist by direct TOA and BOA IR spectroscopy, in a spectral pattern that positively proves the interpolant layer to be greenhouse gases (primarily water, ozone, and CO_2 but you can identify a few other bands as well corresponding to e.g. ordinary oxygen and/or nitrogen) and that cannot possibly fail to produce average warming of the surface compared to what would result in the absence of that layer.

Note well that one cannot do better than optically opaque, and CO_2 is indeed an optically opaque layer many times over. One therefore expects the warming to be almost completely insensitive to CO_2 concentration — the additional warming is not a direct effect, it is an indirect, second order effect resulting from changes (broadenings, IIRC) in the absorption spectrum. This also says nothing whatsoever about nonlinear complexity, water vapor feedback (either way), the complications introduced by geometry, surface albedo, axial tilt, and the ocean. It is a toy model that demonstrates that the GHG-moderated GHE, as verified by actual IR spectroscopy, does indeed warm the Earth’s surface relative to the similarly insolated moon and provides some insight into how it works without violating any of the laws of Thermodynamics (a common, silly assertion of those that wish to claim that the GHE doesn’t exist at all).

Regarding the 1.2 C — sorry, I can’t really help you there. It’s a number that surfaces a lot in discussions of the CO_2 linked GHE, and I assume that it arises from an explicit computation of the spectral broadening of the CO_2 lines with partial pressure, plus a certain amount of English that is, yeah, often linked to the DALR and radiation from the layer in depth where the atmosphere starts to become less than opaque to the radiation in the relevant band. But have I myself computed it, or even verified the computation? I have not. I’m so ashamed, but — remember, this is a hobby for me as well, and I have a full time day job, a family, and a baby company in case I actually have any time left over. I’ve spent way too much time on my hobby today as it is…;-)

OTOH, I did talk about your smaller log-scale estimates with John N-G (as they seemed pretty reasonable to me) — his reply was that the current climate models do indeed balance mostly cancelling numbers that are much larger than the final result. That is, there are much larger gains from the GHE (so that the base variation of the log scale is much larger in the first place), but they are balanced by negative/cooling effects (e.g. aerosols, albedo variation) that are almost as large, so that the net warming is much smaller. At least, that’s the way I recall it. So the differential warming anomaly would NOT follow a moderate log scale, it might be much larger. That is (for example) we might be looking at 2.5C of anthropogenic cooling and 2.8 C of anthropogenic warming to produce 0.3C of net temperature anomaly, so that a ten percent change in the warming might double the anomaly. As he put it, the Earth might actually be cooling now if it were NOT for CO_2, so the CO_2 linked effect might be much greater than “just” the observed anomaly.

Do I buy this? Not entirely. For one thing, modeling any small effect that results from cancellation of two larger numbers is numerically a dicey proposition, because the result can easily leave you deep in the error bars of the large numbers. Just as true evaluating spherical bessel functions with forward recursion, actually. Statistically, one is stating that there is a lot of covariance between heating and cooling components of the models (so no wonder they are not too stable or too accurate). Or maybe this is an oversimplification, I don’t really know.

I’d love to find out, eventually, but to go any farther in this at this time would require me to work through all of the details, and the only thing that would justify this would be if it were part of my job, not a hobby. Just thinking up clever little arguments like the one above takes a fair bit of time, but nothing like the time required to understand a numerical effort to solve the world’s most difficult computational problem well enough to comment on its details. Maybe if my baby company grows to become a great big grown up company and makes me a pile of money I’ll come back to it.

Sorry,

rgb

91. Bart says:

Duster says:
December 3, 2012 at 12:35 pm

“It is simply not true and makes a secular “original sin” assumption that is logically and empirically unsupported.”

A necessary ingredient for any religion.

Mike Borgelt says:
December 3, 2012 at 4:22 pm

“Lots of luck on the 4 x fall in solar costs…”

So true. When you’ve spent 50+ years waiting for “the big breakthrough” hyped continuously beyond rational thought, you tend to become a little jaded. We’re just not going to get there pounding our heads against the same stone wall. Some radical new insight is going to be required, and who can predict when such an epiphany will occur, if ever? Same goes for fusion power. It’s all pie in the sky for now and any foreseeable future.

92. rgbatduke says:

I’d just like to SEE what those proportions look like. If one could see them. The whole thing just seems like such a fantasy to me.

David’s reply is pretty good. The point is that (quite seriously) the atmosphere is optically opaque in the CO_2 and water vapor bands in the relevant IR part of the spectrum many times over. Basically NONE of the photons emitted from the surface in these bands make it through to space, not without being scattered many, many times. What one ends up with is basically a diffusive process (from the point of view of the photons) that redirects a large fraction of the outgoing radiation in these bands back to the surface and significantly slows the rate of heat loss by the surface compared to what it would be if the photons just went straight out to infinity the very first time they were emitted. I gave a much simpler (non-photon) explanation involving optically opaque unit emissivity pure blackbodies up above that is actually even simpler if not as faithful. And even the pure scattering description is not terribly accurate because the molecules cool more the higher one is in the gas column because of adiabatic lapse, so that the assumption of the interpolant layer being a perfect conductor at a uniform temperature isn’t even close to being correct. It absorbs or otherwise picks up heat at the bottom at one temperature, and loses it at the top and an entirely different one, with a variety of mechanisms establishing and maintaining the variation in between. Well, it doesn’t even “lose it at the top” as if the top is a surface. It loses it out of a volume with depth where the atmosphere stops being completely opaque. This top layer, however, more or less defines the top of the troposphere.

It’s all really pretty complicated, but not too complicated to understand, at least enough to see that it isn’t bogus.

rgb

93. rgbatduke says:

The non-parsing formula was the fourth root of two times T_0 = 1.19 T_0, sorry. Grumble grumble no edit/preview feature in wordpress grumble.

rgb

94. rgbatduke says:

That’s it Dr. Brown, now you’ve gone and done it! You clearly have way too much common sense for Duke. Please move your office to NC State.

Go Wolfpack!

Sorry, although I’ve a nephew who graduated from NC state in engineering, I’m a double Duke alum faculty person, not likely to change before I’m dead. I actually spent the weekend at Marshallberg and Harker’s Island with friends who are Woofers. We had a great time together — but I still wouldn’t drink my beer out of their Wolfpack Tervis Tumblers, sorry…;-) We did, however, enjoy mutually disrespecting the Tar Heels — it’s easy for Devils and Wolfs or Pirates (down in ECU country) to find common ground as long as UNC remains as obnoxious as it clearly is…:-)

So sure, Go Woolfs, as long as they aren’t playing Duke!

rgb

95. JimF says:

We do know some things; for example, below about 160 ppm CO2 in the atmosphere, life as we know it begins to end. We geologists know that the earth has been extraordinarily efficient at extracting CO2 from our atmosphere and oceans, in the amount of trillions of tons, from day dot. The ice cores from Antarctica and Greenland, although perhaps arguably dispositive, indicate we got near the termination point for long periods of time. As a result, I don’t fear CO2 “zooming” up to levels like 1000 ppm; life has prospered at levels far above that. I dread the opposite. A return to LIA conditions, along with cessation of manmade CO2 emissions, could be a very bad thing (for more than one reason).

On another point, I agree that a few years of temperature stasis means nothing (the historical picture we have of temperature trends is something that maintains over periods of a few hundred years, e.g. the Dark Ages, the Medieval Warm Period, the Little Ice Age, etc. However, as I understand the models the warmists depend on, every single additional molecule of CO2 adds a fraction of a degree to the earth’s temperature. Therefor, it is impossible that the earth’s temperature can exhibit a standstill of five years, much less 15, given the nearly exponential increase in CO2 we have experienced over the last 15 years. Therefor, their models don’t work, and those who continue to push their results are shown as charlatans, and should be defrocked and at least, have any service with the US Government terminated with prejudice.

96. Julian Flood says:

John West says: December 3, 2012 at 12:03 pm

quote
Ever hear of bacteria? Oil is biodegradable.
unquote

Yes, of course. How quickly? And how quickly was it biodegraded in the past — not just in oil seep areas but generally? Has the added oil spill from fossil-fuelled civilisation increased the ability of the ocean biota to process oil? It seems logical that it will have, so the problem should be reduced as time goes on.

The models seem to ignore biological responses: if you enjoy seeing oceanic albedo change on a large scale, Google Emiliania huxleyi and check images. I wonder how _that_ turns up in a model.

JF

97. Julian Flood says:

George Lawso9n says: December 3, 2012 at 12:22 pm
quote
I doubt whether anyone would support your stupid statement that you’ve seen oil smooths completely cover the whole of the Mediteranean.
unquote

My apologies, I meant that I had seen smooths from end to end, not that one smooth extended from end to end. I have flown over the Med frequently over the years — smooths, large smooths off Cyprus are very common now, and the Western end has huge rivers of smooth flowing out from all the towns and villages. I appreciate that it’s not a nice thing to contemplate, but it’s there and calling me stupid wil not get rid of the facts.

quote
I suspect that is part of the warmists scaremongering again. Just look at the sites of major oil spills around the world and see how they have very quickly returned to their natural state within a very short space of time.
unquote

Why I am assumed to be a warmist is puzzling. Perhaps you have not thought through the reasoning behind the CO2 scare: ‘it’s warming and it’s CO2.’ My argument would be ‘it’s warming and some of it is CO2, some is black carbon, some of it is agricultural albedo change, some may be oil spill mediated changes in the ocean surface.’ Now follow the logic. If it is warming (oops, was warming until recently) because of more than one cause then the CO2 portion of the warming is reduced. CO2 sensitivity is low and there is no need to close down civilisation. Dr Hansen has flirted with this fact in a paper called IIRC Global Warming In the 21st Century.

As an exercise you also might try looking at the HADCRUT graphs and the Climate Audit posts about the Folland and Parker bucket correction. Then look at ‘why the blip’ as I suggested earlier. The sea temperature blip in the 1940-45 period is real and unexplained. Try to think of a reason other than the entirely possible ‘it was natural’.

JF

98. Julian Flood says:

Duster says: December 3, 2012 at 12:35 pm

quote
The volume of oil seeping from natural sources sources is far greater than human linked “catastrophes.” Studies in the Gulf have imaged steady minor seeps over square miles. The Exxon Valdiz in Alaska and more recent events in the Gulf of Mexico are geographically focused – point locations – that magnify the apparent seriousness of the events.
unquote

One of the ironies of the scare stories of the Gulf leak was that one can easily find images of seeps in the same area. The press didn’t bother with that basic research. However, please look at
http://seawifs.gsfc.nasa.gov/OCEAN_PLANET/HTML/peril_oil_pollution.html
and you will find that your assertion re amounts is incorrect unless you confine your statement strictly to oil-spill accidents — that is ship sinking, oil well blow-outs etc..

NASA’s figures: Big spills, 37, routine maintenance 137, down the drain 363, up in smoke 92, offshore drilling 15, natural seeps 62. That’s millions of gallons (US) and was the state of things in 1994. Since then all the figures except seeps* will have increased enormously as the industrialisation of the globe continues — I bet there is a larger proportion of oil coming down Indian and Chinese rivers by a factor of ten.. Seeps are a small proportion of what’s going on.

quote
Pollution is a serious problem, but we really need to know the magnitude of our own outputs, before we can do something useful about them. It is a profound mistake to simply conclude that nature would be benign if only people were tidier. It is simply not true and makes a secular “original sin” assumption that is logically and empirically unsupported.
unquote

It is also a mistake not to do a little research before forming an opinion. Civilisation is making a difference to the world whether we like it or not, and oil pollution is one of those differences. NASA, again, claims that the oily run-off from the roads of a city with 5 million inhabitants is equivalent to a major tanker disaster. Drop by drop is the problem, may be the problem, but it passes us by. HTH.

JF
*By drilling near seeps the oil industry is reducing their output.

99. Julian Flood says:

Walt The Physicist says:
December 3, 2012 at 1:08 pm
quote
And thus, the “tabloid scientists” entertain/scary public and overwhelm funding sources by showing that their peer-reviewed “science” publications undoubtedly show that “oil smooths warm the sea surface by reducing albedo, lowering emissivity, reducing mechanical mixing… lower turbulence and thereby reduce stratocumulus formation and reduce evaporation.” In the midst of all this confusion neither public nor program managers notice that “reducing albedo” is opposite to “lowering emissivity”… In midst of this confusion examining and questioning the accuracy of these research becomes next to impossible, especially after energized and vocal consumers of “tabloid science” weigh in. Please stop drinking kool-aid, go start business, do something useful.
unquote

Please look at PJ Minnett’s pdf modis.gsfc.nasa.gov/sci_team/meetings/200503/…/minnett1.pdf
and explain the emisssivity wind speed graphs. They’re not the ones I initially used to check the idea — those were much simpler — and it would be nice if an expert like yourself would interpret them. My naive view is that they show emissivity falling as wind speed decreases, even though Masuda’s theoretical study (also shown on the graph) assumed the opposite.

I do not understand why reducing albedo and lowering emissivity are contradictory but that may well be a failing of my education. Lower wind speed will allow a smoother surface. Smooth ocean albedo is lower than ruffled. Minnett’s graphs show lower emissivity as wind drops. I must be making an obvious error here and I’d be grateful if you could explain it.

I did start a business: it paid the mortgage, paid the school fees and financed the children through university, though what that has to do with a discussion on ocean warming is puzzling me.

100. Greg House says:

rgbatduke says, December 3, 2012 at 9:06 pm: “What the CO_2 (or other GHGs) does is act almost exactly like a space blanket and reflect part of the outgoing radiant blackbody energy back, slowing the cooling.
=========================================================

This is a well known warmists’ key narrative. This is not a scientific fact, because there is apparently not a single experiment confirming that.

The outgoing radiation can be reflected back to the source, of course, but there is apparently no experimental proof this back radiation has any effect on the temperature of the source. Given the fact, that warmists do not present any experiment, it is reasonable to assume, that the effect is either zero or negligible.

On this occasion I think it would be appropriate, if I shared some thoughts about good/effective propaganda. Of course, just telling people they should believe certain bull***t does not work well with many people. There is a better procedure:

1. Tell people a lot of right things repeatedly in extensive postings for a long time, thus establishing trust.

That’s it, so simple. Once the trust has been established, much more people will swallow the bull***t without even noticing it.

101. Julian Flood says:

Dr Brown wrote

{}{

I enjoyed your calculation of the oil required to coat the oceans — it reminded me of Willis’s calculation re Salter’s cloud ships where he proved that they would have to shoot water into the air so fast they would drive themselves underwater. I doubt anyone now sees Miss Pockel’s experiment where one gets an estimate of a molecule’s dimensions. Look it up, it’s fun physics. It also shows that oil does spread out into layers a few molecules thick. Anyway, be that as it may, perhaps you could check your — and my — numbers with the NASA Wifis numbers for light oil spill. Benjamin Franklin’s experiment shows that a teaspoon of oil smooths a hectare. Ish, ballpark handwaving figures, but it gives us somewhere to start. Like you I’m always dubious of my calculations, especially with the varying measurement systems — at one stage I was working in gallons US per fortnight per hectare.

quote
This still doesn’t do your assertion full justice. “Oil” is a heterogeneous mixture of hydrocarbons. Some of them are volatile and almost immediately evaporate. Others are dense and sink. All of them are quite tasty to a number of things that live in the ocean. While I am quite certain that there are places where oil slicks both natural and manmade can be seen on the ocean, there is no possible way that those slicks would ever actually cover the ocean because they would be eaten, oxidized, evaporated, and sink faster than they could ever spread. At no time could they cover even a significant fraction of the ocean’s surface area. That, as noted above, is enormous.
unquote

Yes, I’ve seen the sea. You seem to be thinking in spill and slick terms which is why you are going off at half cock. Think of the oil coming down a river, it has little or no volatile fractions, no thick lumps, it has already been sorted to be the right consistency to spread on water — that’s how it gets to the sea. In 1994 that was 363 million gallons per year and now it will be much more. Don’t think slick, think smooth, a layer a few molecules thick that alters the properties of the oceanic boundary layer. Follow the example of your illustrious compatriot and trickle a few mls of olive oil onto a lake and watch the result. I haven’t done that actual experiment, but I’ve seen the oil from sun tan lotion smooth a bay in Ibiza. The Med is really filthy and I find myself reluctant to swim in it: if oil spill really does warm then enclosed areas like the Med should show it.

Now, science, numbers, measurements etc; can you tell me how fast an oil spill oxidises in the open ocean? In the Arctic seas? How much oil is in the oceanic boundary layer in an area like the Gulf? The sea of Okhotsk? Where are the measurements? Remember I have seen a smooth covering tens of thousands of square miles in an area that is far from land. The Azores high had been parked there for weeks so the stuff was at least several weeks old and, checking the way the wind and currents flow in the North Atlantic, I can’t see an easy way for it to come from the nearest coasts. The only oxidation experiment I’ve managed to track was with droplets, not the same thing of course, but maybe someone has done the work. Yes, bacteria will eat oil, but how fast?
You’re a scientist, I assume. Have a look at the references I suggested, Wigley and Franklin.

quote
So I must regretfully state that unless I have made an egregious error in my arithmetic above [][] I spend my summers in boats, fishing off of the North Carolina coast outside of its busiest harbor. I have yet to see one oil slick, or even a single extended patch of oil on the surface, even in the harbors.
unquote

One quiet evening next summer when the sun is going down and there’s a nice breeze ruffling the surface, cruise off the harbour and look up sun. You will see areas ruffled by the wind and large smooth areas — no, they are not all caused by variations in the wind because you will see a cat’s paw tickle the ruffled areas while leaving the smooth areas untouched. Something is altering the surface properties. That’s the effect I’m talking about. If you want some idea about what to look for then just Google a few pictures of boats — many of them show a smooth. The best are the ones with a polar bear, I find it amusing to see the threatened and a possible cause of the threat in one image. But I digress.

quote
I suggest that you change your primary sources away from ones that not only lie to you, but lie to you in a way that insults your intelligence and ability to do arithmetic. I also humbly suggest that if you have posted this misinformation elsewhere, you consider the damage this sort of nonsense does to everybody’s ability to hold a rational conversation on the subject. I would expect the “coverage of the ocean with oil” to be an utterly negligible effect compared to the direct greenhouse effect of the volatiles and natural gas released when oil is pumped plus the greenhouse effect of the burned oil in the form of CO_2. Those positive warming effects might well be partially balanced by particulates that could have either warming or cooling effects and aerosols that are mostly cooling. In other words, there is literally no point even mentioning it, which is why nobody ever does and they are completely ignored in all global climate models.
unquote

An oil smoothed surface will produce many fewer aerosols: one aerosol scientist tried to get them sampled over the Gulf spill to see if that actually happened there, so the idea is not too far from feasibility. Fewer aerosols means lower albedo of the 30% of the ocean which is covered with stratocumulus cloud and I expect this to be the greatest effect. Israeli scientists have tried reducing reservoir evaporation by doping the surface with oil. I have heard that rice paddies are warmed by the same process but I’ve not been able to find any references on-line.

Perhaps I may be permitted to follow your example and give some advice: the CO2 based models are failing, but the world has warmed a bit, the Arctic has warmed enormously, the blip in SSTs from 1939 – 45 was so pronounced that the proponents of CO2-only warming were forced to make an ad hoc ‘correction’ to reality (see ‘why the blip’ in the Climategate emails). My advice to you is to be more open to new ideas which suggest an explanation (any explanation, all explanations, that’s how you get new ideas; I exclude the dragons) for those facts, because it’s the anomalies which will show what is actually happening. More particularly, don’t blunder off doing calculations that spring from ludicrous preconceptions. Millimetres of oil spill over the entire ocean? Man, you’re out to lunch! I want you to have an open mind, but not that open.

quote
Try again.
unquote

Open your eyes and look around. Happy sailing.

JF

102. Tsk Tsk says:

In the meantime, we will without much additional effort beyond existing research and the obvious profit incentives drop the cost of solar power by a factor of four, and it will become at least competitive with the cheapest ways of generating electrical power. We will also have at least one major breakthrough in energy storage technology. The two together will cause solar to become more profitable than coal independent of subsidy, for much but not all of the world.

That’s an article of pure faith. We’ve seen batteries improve at a glacial pace for a century and there isn’t enough pumped storage available to handle green energy at scale. I remain highly skeptical of the efficiency claims for compressed air. Flow batteries? Meh. Hydrogen? Blech. Ammonia? Meh. That means that any green energy is going to have to be backed up with a significant amount of gas turbines which are the cheapest option and the most responsive but still add to the cost of the system.

Solar still requires massive subsidies today even after the low-hanging fruit has been harvested and China continues to massively subsidize domestic production leading to artificially low panel prices.

http://spectrum.ieee.org/energy/renewables/a-skeptic-looks-at-alternative-energy/1

103. rgbatduke says:

….impossible that the earth’s temperature can exhibit a standstill of five years, much less 15, given the nearly exponential increase in CO2 we have experienced over the last 15 years.

Not quite. Suppose that the temperature over the last fifteen years would have gone down, all things being equal, if it were not for the addition of the CO_2. The point is that the range of natural variation is large enough to explain the recent rise without CO_2, or to explain the recent flat spot with it. However, the probability of such a sustained (canceled) downturn is not so great, hence the addition of p-values indicating that improbability. The longer without an actual rise, the less probable, perhaps, that the upper bounds of CO_2 forced high feedback climate sensitivity are correct.

So it certainly isn’t impossible. It is just increasingly improbable. Eventually it will become too improbable to believe — or the temperature will start going up again. Some would say that we’ve already reached the former state; I disagree. The IPCC 2008 report assigns the probability at 5%, which is not all that close to zero. This is, I suspect, a bullshit statistics number pulled out of somebody’s ass, not a real computed probability estimate with some grounding, but it still it indicates correctly that the over the last hundred and fifty plus years of thermometric records, downturns or flattenings of 15 years or so are not unknown. I’d actually say the empirical odds WITHOUT CO_2 of such an downturn episode are no worse than 1 in 10 across the post-LIA warming (one is clearly visible in the climate record) but with presumed AGW it should be smaller so 5% is probably not crazy, bullshit or not.

Of course, speaking of probability at all is de facto evidence that climate science is far from certain, as we use probability in this context to describe our essential uncertainty in the actual climate dynamics. This is the more interesting consequence of the flat stretch — no matter what, it increases that uncertainty (out to where the probability of the observed event is not too small) OR we’re awesomely (un)lucky to see a very unlikely extreme in the first 33 years of accurate records when only one such episode has occurred in the previous stretch from the Dalton minimum to the present.

As I said, at the moment this hardly strengthens the CAGW argument, without disproving it. In four or five years, it will weaken that argument to the point where the “C” part is pretty unbelievable even to people that formerly believed it quite firmly. But to actually disprove the argument we have to have a better understanding than we have now of the climate, not just a moderate stretch of apparently contradictory data.

rgb

104. rgbatduke says:

That’s an article of pure faith.

Well, not really. Solar PV has been following a Moore’s Law-like curve, and if you follow the literature, they really do continue to make discoveries and improvements that affect cost per watt downstream. Batteries are indeed a longer shot, I agree, but I think we’re due for a breakthrough, perhaps in zinc-oxide, perhaps in nanoscale-driven stuff.

In any event, I freely admit that my claims here are pure punditry. You pays your money, you takes your choice. I’m just telling you what my best-guess crystal ball gazing reveals, you are entirely welcome to think differently and we’ll let the future decide.

rgb

105. Given that AFAIK, it is not possible to predict either the timing or the strength of the ENSO a decade out, given that weather/climate appears to depend on the particular present and recent past state of the oscillation over much of the globe, how accurate do you think the predictions of “climate change” could be? To make the question concrete, given your choice of the various temperature estimates for the period from 1979 to 2012 — RSS, GISS, HADCRUT, whatever — how would any simple “almanac” level model have predicted either the volcanic eruptions or the superstrong ENSO that is almost certainly responsible for the sharp bump in SSTs and global temperatures that occurred in the general vicinity of 1997-1998? Without this bump, the decadal predictions are horribly wrong, but I see no possible way that anyone could have predicted Mount Pinatubo or the 1998 ENSO effect in 1988, let alone 1978. Do you?

Generally, my point was that the GCM’s have never produced any predictions that have utility (economic value). And there are large economic costs to not correctly predicting the weather, a few weeks to a few decades in advance. Consequently, those who need to know what the future weather will be, are investing in models that predict based on measurable indicators and on a regional basis. We already know some indicators that are useful for predicting months in advance, notably ENSO. I expect more to be found and our ability to predict over these timescales to improve.

Once we can predict, we then in a position to theorize/investigate why we can predict.

As to whether there is ‘climate’ and variability around ‘climate’ that produces weather. I’m not sure this is even an important question. I see climate as no more or less than average weather. Therefore the only difference between predicting weather and predicting climate is timescale.

Of course, these indicators won’t predict volcanic eruptions. I don’t know whether they could have predicted the super El Nino, but I wouldn’t discount the possibility.

I don’t see the GCM climate modellers getting out of their mire of GHGs drive the ‘global climate’ any time soon, so significant advances will come from elsewhere. Science has many examples of a seeming complex phenomena being controlled by simple principles, Gregor Mendel comes to mind. Science also has many examples of economic need driving science forward in particular areas.

106. rgbatduke says:

More particularly, don’t blunder off doing calculations that spring from ludicrous preconceptions. Millimetres of oil spill over the entire ocean? Man, you’re out to lunch! I want you to have an open mind, but not that open.

What part of the arithmetic did you not like? I thought it was very clear. Basically, it proved that your assertion that the Earth’s oceans are covered by the equivalent of a layer of oil a fortnight — even one a single molecule thick — are false. A better estimate might be a single such layer in a year, at least from human sources, but even this is probably an overestimate (possibly an egregious one). As many others have pointed out, natural sources of oil probably exceed human ones, and direct empirical studies of the Gulf oil spill revealed that bacteria eat (and hence clean up) both methane and oil far, far faster than people had previously thought, see e.g. http://www.redorbit.com/news/science/1112692737/oil-eating-bacteria-clean-up-oil-spill-091212/. The thin surface layers you describe would have a half life of next to nothing — hours, days at most, between volatiles and bacteria.

Don’t get me wrong — I think oil pollution of the ocean is a bad thing. But attributing global warming to it is a far, far reach, one not well served by alleging a coverage that is a signficant fraction of all of the oil pumped in a year (recall that ALL the oil makes a layer only ten MICRONS — a few hundred molecules — thick). It would take all of the oil ever pumped out of the ground, times a factor of four or five, to cover the ocean to the depth of a millimeter.

rgb

107. Khwarizmi says:

Julian Flood,
1) “Twice an Exxon Valdez spill worth of oil seeps into the Gulf of Mexico every year, according to a new study that will be presented January 27 at the Ocean Sciences Meeting in San Antonio, Texas. ”
http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Newsroom/view.php?id=20863
2) Satellite images of the phenomena:
http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=36873
3) Petroleum is a source of both carbon and energy for primary producers at the base of marine ecosystems. Petroleum is a life-enriching food: not something to hate, but to celebrate:
http://living-petrol.blogspot.com/ncr

108. rgbatduke said @ December 3, 2012 at 7:51 pm

Or to put the issue another way, exactly what is “climate”?

Climate is defined by the statistics of temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, precipitation, atmospheric particle count and other meteorological elemental measurements in a particular locality over long periods. Arbitrarily, the minimum period of time to consider these statistics to encompass the term climate is thirty years. Climate is contrasted with weather defined as the current state of these elements.

The most obvious characteristic of climate is that it determines the vegetation type growing at a locality. The Köppen system is the most widely used climate classification system. It was introduced by Russian/German climatologist Wladimir Köppen in 1884. Köppen modified his system several times and the German climatologist Rudolf Geiger collaborated with Köppen on later changes to the system so it is often referred to as Köppen–Geiger.

The system is based on the concept that native vegetation is the best expression of climate. Thus, Köppen climate zone boundaries have been determined by vegetation distribution. The Köppen system combines average annual and monthly temperatures and precipitation, and the seasonality of precipitation.

There’s a map of the current Köppen climate zones here:

The boundaries between zones are determined by isotherms and they vary considerably from year to year (weather noise). There’s a map showing the movements of the Köppen climate boundary in the eastern US during the 20thC here:

Hope that helps. Essentially, the term “global climate” is incoherent in climatology since something cannot be simultaneously local and global. I also note the almost complete lack of knowledge of climatological terminology among the warmists. So it goes…

109. rgbatduke says:

The outgoing radiation can be reflected back to the source, of course, but there is apparently no experimental proof this back radiation has any effect on the temperature of the source. Given the fact, that warmists do not present any experiment, it is reasonable to assume, that the effect is either zero or negligible.

Point a) I’m not a “warmist”. Neither am I a “denier”. I’m a physicist.

Point b) I offered a very, very simple physical argument. The only ways it can be wrong are if the Stefan-Boltzmann equation itself is egregiously wrong (it is not) or the laws of thermodynamics are wrong (they’re not wrong either). Or, of course, if I made an actual mistake in my reasoning. If you find an actual mistake, let me know.

Point c) Get a large piece of aluminum foil. Place it in front of your face a few centimeters away. You can feel the reflected heat radiated from your face, warming your face. Experimental proof that reflected “back radiation” can have a clearly perceptible effect on the temperature of the source, right there in your own kitchen!

Point d) hazy nights do not cool as rapidly as clear nights. The diurnal temperature variation of the dry desert is much greater than that of a humid coastal area at the same latitude. Water vapor is a greenhouse gas too — direct evidence that back radiation has an effect on the temperature of the source in the context of climate. CO_2 is a much weaker greenhouse gas, but the principle is the same.

Use your reason, my friend. Ignoring the empirically founded laws of physics because you find them inconveniently opposed to a favored belief serves no one, and it certainly doesn’t make it “reasonable” to reject the correctly derived conclusions that follow from those laws. If you wish to discuss that derivation, I would be happy to accommodate you and explain further until you understand it. If all you want to do is sound clever while salting your dialogue with enough stuff to give somebody a winning sheet if they are playing logical fallacy bingo, then no one can prevent you from doing so, but there is little point to it.

rgb

110. rgbatduke says:

NASA’s figures: Big spills, 37, routine maintenance 137, down the drain 363, up in smoke 92, offshore drilling 15, natural seeps 62. That’s millions of gallons (US) and was the state of things in 1994.

111. Bart says:

Greg House says:
December 3, 2012 at 9:51 pm

I really do not think there is any question that, all things being equal, a single IR absorber blanket will tend to trap heat. Dr. Brown’s reference to a “space blanket” is a case in point. Satellites are routinely wrapped in IR reflecting MLI blankets for thermal control. Some 50 odd years into the Space Age, the properties and effects of these blankets are very well understood and confirmed many times over.

But, are all things equal? Clearly not. There are many mechanisms, e.g., evaporation of water and photosynthesis, which can oppose the extra heating from any small change in emissivity. And, do the equations hold for complex atmospheres with many absorbers/emitters? I suspect they may not, though thermal dynamics is not my specialty. I believe however, based on some vague scratches I have made on paper, that I could construct an experimental system, at least, with two absorbers/emitters which would be governed approximately by an equation of the form:

dT/dt = k1*(T1 – T) + k2*(T2 – T)

where T is temperature, dT/dt is its derivative with respect to time, and k1, k2, T1 and T2 are constants related to gases #1 and #2 and their heat capacities/concentrations. T1 and T2 would represent a “warming potential”, i.e., the temperatures each gas would drive the system to in the absence of the other. k1 and k2 would be most directly impacted by concentration.

In steady state, T would approach

T = (k1*T1 + k2*T2) / (k1 + k2)

The partial derivative of T with respect to k1 would then be

dT/dk1 = k2*(T1 – T2) / (k1 + k2)^2

If T1 is less than T2, i.e., the warming potential of gas #2 is greater than gas #1, then the effect of increasing the concentration of gas #1 and thus k1 would be to lower the temperature.

I suspect that, with the interaction of water vapor, CO2, and CH4 particularly in our atmosphere, we might as easily decrease equilibrium temperature as increase it by adding more CO2. It is all very complex, and I do not have faith that those concerned with the dynamics have entirely worked it all out. I am quite certain that there is no significant terrestrial warming signal induced by increasing CO2, as the temperature/CO2 relationship is clearly dominated by causal relationship running from temperature to CO2. Whether the lack of a warming signal is due to feedback or oversimplification of the relationship or both, I do not know. But, I do know that things are not working out according to the script.

rgbatduke says:
December 3, 2012 at 10:41 pm

“Solar PV has been following a Moore’s Law-like curve, and if you follow the literature, they really do continue to make discoveries and improvements that affect cost per watt downstream.”

Moore’s Law is, of course, not a law but an empirical observation. And, those costs are entirely based on currently low demand. If truly large scale demand for solar infrastructure significant enough to make a real dent in our energy appetite were to emerge, you would see the costs skyrocket. Some, for example, have computed that we could satisfy our electricity demand by carpeting a 100 X 100 mile swath of Arizona desert with solar panels. Never minding the horrendous environmental impact of such an expanse, try calculating, sometime, how much material it would take to cover a 10,000 square mile area with these things, and current production levels of key elements. You will find that, at current production levels, it would require centuries to complete the project.

112. rgbatduke says:

Oops, mouse pad misbehaving. Call all of this a billion gallons, or 8 billion pounds, or 4 billion kilograms. Sounds like a lot!

Now divide it by the roughly 400 trillion square meters of surface area. Now it is down to hmm, $10^{-5}$ kilograms per square meter. That is one hundredth of a gram, or one hundredth of a milliliter, in a year, take your pick. In a day, call it — generously — one ten thousand of a milliliter, or a tenth of a microgram of oil per square meter, although of course it isn’t anywhere near uniformly applied. Biological sources of oil from living creatures in seawater probably contribute amounts competitive with that.

We could now go over the surface chemistry and rate that a microgram of oil spread across a square meter of area — where we are down to less than a billionth of a gram of oil per square centimeter — will oxidize and vaporize in sunlight and be eaten by bacteria to compute its half life — if there were any point. There isn’t. This is many orders of magnitude away from being a plausible cause of global anything, but especially not global warming. Or cooling. It is at most a high local and occasional mess.

That’s assuming NASA’s figures are correct. But with 30 billion barrels of oil per year, and each barrel containing 42 gallons of oil, that’s 1.3 trillion gallons of oil pumped each year. A billion gallons of loss, all into the ocean, is 0.1% of that. To me that seems absurdly high. So as much as a microgram per square meter per day is probably an upper bound estimate, at least IMO.

rgb

113. Storing a movement (electricity) increases the risk exponentially for catastrophic failure, as exemplified by the many burned down cars/houses caused by shorted batteries.

Any form of electricity storage is by definition always actively safe, you need to 100% exact have monitoring if you want to store gWatts since if such a device blows up it releases all that energy at once.

As such the idea that a ‘major breakthrough’ that could safely store the vast quantities of energy needed to compensate for day/night cycles is absurd.

Already for a tiny amount such as used by a car it will hard to invent something small, light weight and safe enough to fit in a car that can hold the equivalent of a tank of gas, is an undertaking that will stump science for decades to come.

114. eco-geek says:

I disagree. GHGs cause cooling of the stratosphere according to the IPCC and common sense. Therefore by the Lapse Rate law they cause cooling of the entire atmosphere. Increasing CO2 levels cause global cooling. I am happy to concede that the cooling may not be much although the record over the past million years shows repeated episodes in which CO2 levels increase following increases in temperature followed by a collapse in temperature associated with a long slow decline in CO2 levels which remain high as the planet cools.

Further there is a huge amount of evidence linking solar cycles to global temperatures with very high correlation coefficients. Solar cycles are increasingly falling to predictability and the underpinning physics is becoming clearer. Serious scientists rather than the IPCC data fiddlers have been saying for years (decades in some instances) that we are moving into a colder world and elevated CO2 levels may make that world just a little cooler.

The price we will have to pay will be much amplified via the positive feedbacks of the warmist scam.

Stay cool!

115. Julian Flood says:

Dr Brown says he has seen no slicks or spills in North Carolina. I thought I’d look at some images. If you Google ‘north carolina harbour’ and click on images, in the first hit you’ll see the near surface smoothed with a clean area further out. That’s
http://www.oyster-harbour-holden-beach.com/holden-beach-aerial-photos.html
There’s a click on link that says ‘Also view the Holden Beach Proximity Aerial Photos’ Look above the labels and out to sea: see the smoothness of parts of the surface with darker ruffled areas? That’s a typical result of sewage oil and surfactant coating the surface.

Silver Lake Harbour Ocracok, same thing (it’s the fifth image).

WYNDHAM FAIRFIELD HARBOUR GOLF LAKE NORTH CAROLINA TIMESHARE VACATION RENTAL shows the effect very neatly.

Cypress in harbour, Edenton, North Carolina

Lake Hickory…

etc. Just browse through the series, then try looking at images of e.g. the Barents and Kara seas, Okhotsk.

You get the idea. These are not slicks, they are smooths, molecule-thick layers of oil and surfactant that alter the physics of the surface. Yes, I know, you’ll claim that it’s just a trick of the light, or variation in wind speeds etc. No, it isn’t. Watch the behaviour of these anomalous areas in real time and study their behaviour. You will find that they react differently to the same stimulus that is affecting the ruffled areas.

It would make a nice little science project to sample smooths and adjacent unsmoothed areas to see what’s going on. How you could do the experiment is another matter — the amounts of pollution will be tiny.

Khwarizmi, yes, slicks have been known in the area for as long as humans have been there. As I remarked above, it’s typical of modern journalism that the press has mentioned it hardly at all. The shrimp picture is interesting; my brother, a long-time sea drill oil man (surveys, not the actual process) tells me there is a superstition that lots of shrimp on the sea bed is a good indicator of oil below.

JF

116. Jimbo says:

So far, if catastrophe is in the cards, the measures proposed won’t prevent it even according to those that predict it! In fact, it won’t have any effect on the catastrophe at all according to the worst case doom and gloomers. We could stop burning carbon worldwide tomorrow and if the carbon cycle model currently in favor with the CAGW crowd is correct (which I doubt) it would take centuries for the Earth’s CO_2 level to go back to “normal” — whatever that means,…..

And this is the point. Yet realistically we won’t stop our co2 levels going up no matter how hard we try. India and China will continue their upward spurt which will easily cancel out any Western reductions.

And right on cue we now have this:

Global CO2 emissions have increased by 58 per cent since 1990, rising 3 per cent in 2011, and 2.6 per cent in 2012. The most recent figure is estimated from a 3.3 per cent growth in global gross domestic product and a 0.7 per cent improvement in the carbon intensity of the economy.

CSIRO – December 3, 2012
Dr Canadell said the latest carbon dioxide emissions continue to track at the high end of a range of emission scenarios, expanding the gap between current trends and the course of mitigation needed to keep global warming below 2°C
………..
http://csironewsblog.com/2012/12/03/the-widening-gap-between-present-emissions-and-the-two-degree-target/

Yet they avert their eyes at the IPCC temperature / co2 scenarios graph which also shows an expanding gap between this high end co2 output and flat global mean temperature. What part of ooops! don’t they understand? Sometimes I feel like calling them the ‘deniers’ but I will hold off.

Actually, it’s not about reducing future ‘global warming’, it’s about the green agenda, money and power. See Gore, Greenpeace, IPCC and other opportunists.

117. Dr. Brown
Nice to see you use some of the information I e-mailed to you some months ago.

118. If (as I suspect) renewable energy is a pipe dream, at least for many decades, someone on our side needs to take on, in detail, Amory Lovins’ book, published a year ago, Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era, on Amazon here:

It has only two negative reviews (out of 21)–and they were only directed at the poor formatting of the Kindle editions. It has lots of testimonial quotes from bigshots. It received a starry-eyed review here: http://seekingalpha.com/article/293982-book-review-reinventing-fire

But, according to Hansen, it’s totally crazy–only nuclear will do the job. WUWT should start a thread on the book and author, perhaps after soliciting for an initial comment, or perhaps just crowdsourcing feedback. Some food for thought can be found in the comment below:

MangoChutney says:
December 3, 2012 at 4:58 am
https://wattsupwiththat.com/tips-and-notes/#comment-1162944

“A new report suggests that small-scale renewable technologies on commercial developments might cost more than they’re worth.”

119. rgbatduke says:

But, are all things equal? Clearly not. There are many mechanisms, e.g., evaporation of water and photosynthesis, which can oppose the extra heating from any small change in emissivity.

Actually (and rather interestingly) there are not as many as you might think. Most of those models involve taking the aforementioned shell and adding additional channels to help transport the heat from the inner absorptive surface to the outer emissive surface. But in my model, I already made the entire shell a thermal superconductor — adding a finite conductivity merely maintains the inner surface of a (now thick) shell at a warmer temperature than the outer one and is net warming, not cooling.

Of course if you placed the inner shell of a high-conductivity shell in physical contact with the outer surface that would indeed do it — that would reduce the temperature difference between the surface of the sphere and the surface of the shell directly. Direct contact and convection would accomplish the same sort of thing by providing a parallel channel that forces the temperature of the inner sphere and outer shell closer together. However, again, the effect is not as profound as you might expect, especially when the conductivity and/or thermal transport is poor and slow, respectively. Given outward directed heat flow that is rate-limited at the top by the S-B equation only, it is really difficult to avoid differential warming inside a differential shell, which is why the Earth, Sun, etc get hotter as you descend into them. The outer surface is SB limited in temperature, and all heat transport mechanisms combined have to move heat at that rate from the inner source to the outer radiative surface. All heat transport mechanisms require a thermal gradient to function. Q.E.D — all that is left is determining the magnitude of that gradient given multiple channels of indifferent conductivity.

In the case of fluids, they tend to self-organize into convective rolls or (for fluids on rotating differentially heated height varying surfaces including one over a mostly liquid surfaced ocean) more complex structures like Hadley cells and decadal oscillations and the like, and some of this modulates the heat gain by affecting albedo, other parts modulate heat transport (a big storm can often uplift a lot of heat into the stratosphere where it is relatively easily lost). And finally, the “shell” in the toy model isn’t opaque — it for all practical purposes is “full of holes” through which direct radiative cooling occurs and this is a perfect short circuit, but one of a diffusive nature because only a fairly moderate fraction of emitted BB photons are in the holes so that the shell still slows down radiative loss.

Radiation is actually a rather important cooling channel. It is the most important channel through which the human body thermoregulates — we lose more heat through radiation than through convection, conduction and evaporation, although we supplement and fine tune our cooling using mixes of the other three (or make one dominant by e.g. jumping in a lake). Air is too damn good an insulator otherwise. It is the only net loss channel for the planetary system itself — evaporative outgassing of the atmosphere exists but is absolutely negligible in comparison and partially confounded by infalling matter.

So don’t be too sure that you can come close to eliminating the GHE with a parallel transport model constrained to lose all of the heat to the cold reservoir through radiation, however it moves around in between, not with physically plausible parameters.

Good reply, BTW. If only Greg would take notice and reply in this way, the quality of the discussion would be much improved.

rgb

120. rgbatduke says:

I disagree. GHGs cause cooling of the stratosphere according to the IPCC and common sense.

Look, I provided a very, very simple physical model of the GHE. Instead of just asserting that you disagree — very useful information that this might be — and adding nonsense like “according to the IPCC” that is obviously false — why not either address the model or explain in some detail how and why, ideally with equations or with some sort of complete discussion?

Otherwise what can I say? You’re wrong, categorically. Now you can say you’re right, I can say you’re wrong, and we can have a kindergarten level discussion instead.

rgb

121. Jeff Norman says:

Dr. Brown,

Thank you for the contributions you have made here. They make the visits worth while.

Personally, I believe you have gone way out on a limb forecasting gentle warming for the next twenty years. I would like to agree with you because the alternative would be terrible.

I believe that the global climate for the next twenty years will be exactly the same as it has been for the last 5k years.

Jeff

122. Julian Flood says:

Dr Brown,

Inspired by your calculations I’ve had another shot at working out oil smooth coverage: you will be pleased with the result. I’ve saved it as ‘humble pie calculation’.

All figures are rounded. We make the assumption that the numbers at the NASA seawifs site are outdated and the real numbers have increased since 1994, which seems reasonable. Call the ‘down the drain’ figure 500 *10^6 gallons US.

That’s 500 *10^6 * 4 = 2000 *10^6 litres ‘down the drain’ = 2*10^9 litres per year

Area of world ocean = 3.5*10^8 sq km (70% of 500*10^6 ) = 3.5*10^10 ha.
5ml of oil will smooth on e hectare (Franklin).
number of 5 ml doses per year per ha = (20*2*10^9)/(3.5*10^10) = 1

Allowing for all the other oil spills/seeps/up in smoke etc we can just about stretch that to 2. So my statement was out by a factor of at least twenty and the egregious calculation error is mine, not yours. Even if I bring surfactant pollution into play that will only bring it up to about 4, and that really is handwaving as I’ve seen no research on surfactant smoothing at all. I think I may have been confusing the number of smoothing doses over the entire ocean for those I calculated for Lake Tanganyika. Sorry about that, I had no intention to mislead.

It now becomes a matter of how quickly a smooth will degrade: at one ‘event’ per year there is only a slim chance that the effect will be widespread. Four doses a year will be significant if the lifetime of a smooth is more than a few weeks. You will have noticed that the Gulf spill biological degradation figures are for deep layer, treated spill with a lot of heavy stuff. I’ve not seen figures for oxidation and degradation in thin films, but it should be fairly rapid where the temperature is at a reasonable level, and very much slower in the Arctic.

The smooth of 20 thousand + square miles which I saw on the way to Madeira was on a line from Santiago de Compostela to Funchal, from approximately abeam Lisbon for forty minutes, G/S about 500kts, height 40k ft. The pollutant cannot have come from the Med as the surface current runs in, not out — unless it gets entrained in the deep water and gets out that way, but I can’t see a mechanism for that. The high had been in place for some weeks, so the pollutant had been exposed for that time and was still suppressing the effects of a breeze of around Force 4, with the smoothed area like glass and whitecaps showing in the area outside. Presumably the pollutant was generated elsewhere — if not, buy shares in anyone who wants to drill off Madeira — and would have taken a while to move into place, so a lifetime of several weeks does not seem too unlikely.

You will have seen the recent paper about uncertainties in aerosols and clouds. If, as I contend, smooths alter low level cloud albedo by reducing aerosol production from e.g breaking waves, then they introduce another uncertainty into the mix.

Thank you for the lesson. It was fun.

JF

123. Gail Combs says:

John West says:
December 3, 2012 at 12:03 pm

@Julian Flood

Ever hear of bacteria? Oil is biodegradable.

That’s why the Gulf of Mexico didn’t end up the catastrophe that some predicted. Yes, a lot of oil goes into the oceans both naturally and from human activities; but a lot of oil is consumed by bacteria as well.
_________________________
Yes
Mankind is returning all that lovely ‘carbon’ to the biosphere as hydrocarbons (bacteria food) and as CO2 (plant food)

If I was not an Agnostic, I would say God placed man on earth to help release all the bound up carbon and return it to the carbon cycle and thereby save the ecosystem: Carbon starvation in glacial trees recovered from the La Brea tar pits, southern California

Activists keep forgetting life on earth is carbon based (carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen)

124. RGB, re. Cenozoic temperatures.

The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (c. 55 mya) was the warmest spell of the Cenozoic Era (past 65 ma). From there, global temperature steadily fell, then crashed about 30 mya, in the early Oligocene, when Antarctic glaciation occurred (at ~49 mya occurred the Azolla Event, when CO2 atmospheric concentration dropped from ~350 parts per 100,000 of dry air to 65). Climate fluctuated in a fairly narrow range through most of that epoch, then suddenly warmed up again, with Antarctic thawing, in the latest Oligocene & early Miocene. This event, about 25 mya, (maybe oddly) coincided with Antarctica’s final separation from South America, creating the circumpolar Southern Ocean.

Somewhat larger temperature fluctuation occurred during the rest of the first half of the long Miocene, until the secular cooling trend of our era resumed, with renewed Antarctic glaciation. This mid-Miocene iciness happened roughly around 15 mya. Grasslands spread, leading to evolution of many new animal forms, including our African ape ancestors.

At the end of the Pliocene about three mya, the cooling accelerated after tropical oceanic circulation was interrupted by the connection of North & South America at Panama. This initiated the present (Pleistocene & Holocene) glacial epochs, with longer phases when vast ice sheets cover the northern continents & montane glaciers extend down to lower elevations, alternating with shorter interglacial phases, such as for the past ~10,000 years.

Few times in the past 600 million years have been as cold as now, with CO2 concentrations so low (39 parts per 100,000 of dry air). Plants starve at about 15 pp 100K. During Pleistocene glacial phases, it got down to 19. Yet when the Paleozoic Era’s Ordovician glaciation began (447 mya, associated with a mass extinction event), CO2 levels were probably still at 700 pp 100K, as during the preceding Cambrian Period. Afterwards, concentration fell to around 440 pp 100K.

If there be any correlation at all between CO2 concentration & temperature, it’s that carbon dioxide lags, going up in response to warming climate, as more of this trace gas essential to life comes out of solution in the oceans.

125. Gail Combs says:

Alex says:
December 3, 2012 at 12:15 pm
… Of those surveyed, 97% agreed that that global temperatures have risen over the past century. Moreover, 84% agreed that “human-induced greenhouse warming” is now occurring. Only 5% disagreed with the idea that human activity is a significant cause of global warming.[18][19]
^
from wikipedia is it me or is this something completly different then the Dr is saying about the survey? Perhaps it’s just another case of wikipedia bull we have seen before regarding climate articles.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
It is a very good example of how to lie using a poll. The devil is in the details as Lawrence Solomon showed on December 30, 2010 Deceitful claim: 97% of climate scientists think humans contribute to global warming

WUWT analysis:

Skeptical Science conspiracy theorist John Cook runs another survey trying to prove that false “97% of climate scientists believe in global warming” meme

What else did the ’97% of scientists’ say?

GMU on climate scientists: we are the 97%

126. David L. Hagen says:

Rgbatduke aka Dr. Brown
Re: “The discovery of patterns in data is an important first step in understanding the underlying causes of that data. . . .fitting an arbitrary function with any basis you like can often be done as closely you like in some finite interval and yet the fit have absolutely no extrapolative value whatsoever. ”

Loehle and Singer evaluated nine temperature reconstructions and found a climate cycle about 1500 years (or 1200) long that may correspond to the Pleistocene Dansgaard-Oeschger (DO) oscillations. See: “Craig Loehle and S. Fred Singer, Holocene temperature records show millennial-scale periodicity. Canadian Journal Earth Science Vol. 47 pp 1327-1336 (2010).”

This could be part of the long term major temperature fluctuation which would underly a natural “accelerating” temperature from the Little Ice Age that would be part of the “null hypothesis”.

Do you have any thoughts on the validity of that evaluation and the possible physics relative to its potential predictive value?

127. Gail Combs says:

BobG says:
December 3, 2012 at 12:39 pm

In pointing out that there is no scientific certainty about several things, you then write what I think is a non-scientific opinion, “there is a risk of a return to open glaciation, the start of the next 90,000 year glacial era — but it is not a particularly high risk …”.

I have not seen any paper about this and don’t really think the risk of another ice age is quantified in any scientific way…..
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Want a paper? It is from Warmists too.

Because the intensities of the 397 ka BP and present insolation minima are very similar, we conclude that under natural boundary conditions the present insolation minimum holds the potential to terminate the Holocene interglacial. Our findings support the Ruddiman hypothesis [Ruddiman, W., 2003. The Anthropogenic Greenhouse Era began thousands of years ago. Climate Change 61, 261–293], which proposes that early anthropogenic greenhouse gas emission prevented the inception of a glacial that would otherwise already have started….

Hre is another opinion:

Woods Hole Observatory: Abrupt Climate Change: Should We Be Worried?

Fossil evidence clearly demonstrates that Earth vs climate can shift gears within a decade, establishing new and different patterns that can persist for decades to centuries. In addition, these climate shifts do not necessarily have universal, global effects. They can generate a counterintuitive scenario: Even as the earth as a whole continues to warm gradually, large regions may experience a precipitous and disruptive shift into colder climates.

This new paradigm of abrupt climate change has been well established over the last decade by research of ocean, earth and atmosphere scientists at many institutions worldwide. But the concept remains little known and scarcely appreciated in the wider community of scientists, economists, policy makers, and world political and business leaders. Thus, world leaders may be planning for climate scenarios of global warming that are opposite to what might actually occur.

This maybe bad news for us, it seems Sunspots DO correlate with climate…. Unless volcanic action interferes according to this study of dust in Greenland ice cores, sunspots, and volcanoes.

The research, published in a paper in the May 15 [2002] issue of Geophysical Research Letters, provides striking evidence that sunspots — blemishes on the sun’s surface indicating strong solar activity — do influence global climate change, but that explosive volcanic eruptions on Earth can completely reverse those influences.

It is the first time that volcanic eruptions have been identified as the atmospheric event responsible for the sudden and baffling reversals that scientists have seen in correlations between sunspots and climate…

“By carefully studying the timing of other volcanic eruptions, we found that they coincided with all of the correlation reversals between sunspots and climate,” said Ram.

A chart in the paper shows how six major volcanic eruptions between 1800 and 1962 occurred during precisely the same years when there were reversals in the correlation between sunspot activity and climate….

According to Donarummo, it long has been known that volcanoes add more dust and more sulfates to the atmosphere.

Just keep in mind there are at least two dozen opinions whenever you get a dozen scientists together in private without their bosses nearby.

128. David L. Hagen says:

Rgbatduke aka Dr. Brown – that should read “appear as a natural ‘accelerating warming’ of global temperature” from the Little Ice Age to now” (as a small portion of the sinusoid).

129. davidmhoffer says:

rgbatduke says:
December 3, 2012 at 9:06 pm
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Thanks for your reply. I’ve used the two shell model as an explanation myself. It doesn’t, however, answer the question I was trying to ask. This may be one of those things that requires a white board and an hour of drawing diagrams and discussing them just to frame the issue correctly in the first place. I’ll take another crack at it though.

First let’s make certain terms of reference. There’s the earth as a system which includes the atmosphere. Then there’s the surface of the earth which does not. When I ask how the photons get to earth surface to warm it, while I agree with the two shell model, I’m not sure it is completely valid to simply consider the atmosphere as the other shell.

The atmosphere would be many shells. But the problem is many fold. First, there would be a lot more shells in the tropics than in the arctic zones because the atmosphere is thicker at the tropics. Then you’ve got density of the shells changing with altitude, and with latitude. Then you have composition changing with altitude and latitude as well. (I’d like to see the model that can simulate all of those factors at once!)

So, when I start thinking about temperature of the earth SURFACE, I think there absolutely needs to be a physical mechanism by which extra photons are absorbed by that surface in order to raise the temperature of the surface. SB Law demands it. But, I come back to the same issue. Of the putative net downward flux of 3.7 w.m2 from doubling of CO2, how much can actually get to earth surface? Most of it is generated at higher altitudes at low latitudes. To get back down to surface, it has to pass through that “last leg” which happens to be 40,000 ppm of water vapour. Just as that water vapour suppresses upward LW by absorbing and re-radiating, requiring that some of the photons reach the surface and elevate the temperatures at surface, so must that same water vapour absorb and re-radiate downward LW, sending much of it back upward before it reaches the surface, substantially diminishing the warming that 3.7 w/m2 would otherwise have caused at surface.

130. Gail Combs says:

mpainter says:
December 3, 2012 at 3:23 pm

The global climate models stand refuted by the temperature record of the past fifteen years, in my view. A resumption of warming is the hope and prayer of the modelers, but there is no basis for such an expectation….
________________________________________
Never underestimate the creativity of the desperate. We have already seen it: link

131. rgbatduke says:

Thank you for the lesson. It was fun.

And you, sir, are a gentleman, as so few people on list take to being corrected well:-)

I’m perfectly happy to believe that there are large slicks from both natural and manmade causes, as long as one puts that in the proper perspective. The ocean is huge (compared to the volume of oil produced).

The two other factors to consider (now that we seem to agree about the basic numbers) is the half life of a monomolecular layer and its probable effect on heating or cooling. Those two obviously go together, because any heating or cooling effect can be for little longer than the half life (although the volatiles that make it into the air may well be GHGs or aerosols in their own right and hence the effect of the spillage may persist through atmospheric chemistry and radiative effects, where they might be net positive or net negative I dunno).

Now I will say that a monomolecular layer is literally the limit of the surface to volume scaling with maximum surface per unit volume (it’s all surface). The evaporative rates will therefore all be their theoretical maximum values for the various volatile fractions, given the temperature of the underlying sea and assuming that the surface air is far from saturated. Furthermore, the molecules are all directly exposed to sunlight. Naturally, somebody (probably many somebodies) have studied this: http://www.iopan.gda.pl/oceanologia/48Skrol.pdf for example. Their findings suggest that the absorption cross section is not trivial even when the oil is in a droplet form, and (because by chance I once studied this very sort of thing) I can assure you that the molecules adsorbed onto the seawater surface can “borrow” bandwidth from the underlying substrate (energy bands) to broaden the natural molecular levels still further. As I consequence, I think that the rate of resonant induced evaporation would be quite high (where a molecule directly absorbs a photon and gets kicked off of the surface by the recoil). Then there is chemical removal because of the formation of lipid complexes (there is a lot of “stuff” in seawater that might bind to oil — sodium ions and hydroxy radicals (always present) for example can saponify it. Again, all surface, no volume, maximum rates. There is biological degradation as things sequester and eat the oil (very high energy content and hence food value). Maximum surface for the bacteria to attack.

I did a bit of web searching, and it looks like the bateriological half-life for oil DROPLETS is around a week to ten days. Another site I found here: http://oil.skytruth.org/site-23051/site-23051-cumulative-spill-report
suggests that the half life for a surface layer 1 micron thick from all sources of degradation — note well many, many times thicker than the monomolecular layer we are discussing — is again a week or less (consistent with droplets in the micron range). Dividing this out by a thousand, a monomolecular layer would have a half life of five to ten minutes and would be completely gone in a couple of hours.

This seems as though it would be pretty much irrelevant to global warming under any and all circumstances. But wait, there’s more.

A thin layer of oil, as no doubt you have observed, not only slicks the water, it makes the top of the water shine (often with rainbow colors). This is a phenomenon called thin film interference, and is discussed and explained in my online physics textbook if you care to understand it further. Because the index of refraction of oil is smaller than that of water, and there is a phase shift of $\pi$ at the both surfaces, when the thickness of the oil is less than a wavelength of light you get constructive interference between the waves reflected from both surfaces and the surface becomes highly reflective. This is the mirror-like “sheen” associated with oil, and it is much higher in albedo than water.

Light has wavelengths of around 0.4 to 0.7 of a micron. Micron plus thicknesses produce the swirly colors from a mix of destructive and constructive interference in particular wavelengths, but thicknesses of 0.1 micron or less will by quite shiny. This complicates the effect of a layer of oil — it interferes with evaporative cooling at the surface (although it itself is evaporating and hence cooling somewhat less efficiently) but it also reflects (at a guess) 30% or more of the visible light energy that would otherwise be entering the surface layer of the water. Note that IR has a much longer wavelength and the surface would have a high albedo in the IR range out to microns and beyond.

How all of this works out is anybody’s guess, but it is clear that the effects of an oil slick aren’t going to be consistently warming-only or cooling-only, but probably a partially canceling mix of the two. Again, this isn’t to encourage the dumping of oil into the ocean, especially in massive amounts — but a drop here, a drop there is well within the ocean’s ability to “digest” with little harm, and in particular the discussion above makes it nearly certain that oil arriving in the ocean by all means in a given year makes an entirely negligible contribution to climate, where even the sign of that contribution remains uncertain. I’d have to solve a boundary value problem with the known indices of refraction to compute the overall reflection coefficient, but at a guess based on the constructive interference “brightness” I’ve observed on oil slicks at least 30%, perhaps more, of incident IR through visible radiation is probably reflected from micron thicknesses on down.

As you say, an enjoyable discussion. Hopefully this puts this particular issue to rest. Oceanic oil pollution can be bad, and it can be locally dangerous or undesirable in various ways, but it is all but irrelevant to the climate.

rgb

132. richardscourtney says:

davidmhoffer:

At December 4, 2012 at 8:13 am you assert

So, when I start thinking about temperature of the earth SURFACE, I think there absolutely needs to be a physical mechanism by which extra photons are absorbed by that surface in order to raise the temperature of the surface. SB Law demands it.

With respect, that is not correct.

If the result is some warming of the lower atmosphere (by molecules discharging to ground state collisionally) then heat loss from the surface will be inhibited by reduced heat loss from conduction and evapouration.

The magnitude of the reduced efficiency of surface heat loss may be small but it will not be zero. And it will result in some increase to surface temperature.

Richard

133. davidmhoffer says:

richardscourtney;
The magnitude of the reduced efficiency of surface heat loss may be small but it will not be zero. And it will result in some increase to surface temperature.
>>>>>>>>>>>>

I mis-worded as of course conduction plays a part, obviously. Nor do I contend that increase to surface temperature would be zero, in fact my position is the opposite.

What I do contend is that the 3.7w/m2 doesn’t exist in the normal sense that we use that term for. It is a “value” that is computed across the atmospheric column as a whole, it doesn’t exist in any one place. Does SB Law apply? I don’t know, I’m asking the question. My gut says…. maybe.

And if it does… we still have the issue I raised earlier, which is that the bulk of the 3.7 w/m2 is generated above the altitude at which water vapour is dominant (compared to CO2). While I think it would be insane to suggest that this results in zero warming, I think it makes sense to suggest that of that 3.7 w/m2, some lower amount (a bit, or a lot, I really don’t know) winds up at surface via all mechanisms. We simply cannot take that 3.7w/m2 and convert it to a temperature rise via SB Law. imho

134. rgbatduke says:

Of the putative net downward flux of 3.7 w.m2 from doubling of CO2, how much can actually get to earth surface? Most of it is generated at higher altitudes at low latitudes.

I think you are misunderstanding the nature of diffusion. Let’s play photon pinball. Imagine the gas as being a bunch of perfectly elastic pinball bumpers, and the IR photons in question being a bunch of BBs that are grabbed by the bumpers and elastically fired out in a new direction. We can ignore the recoil, etc of the molecules as we’re not interested in thermalization process (I don’t think) in your question, you’re just wondering how a 3.7 w/m^2 flux downward flux can be maintained at the bottom. The bumpers are (as you have already ably explained to others) separated by some distance (a distance that increases with height until there are eventually no more bumpers) but there are so many of them that the chance that any BB fired up from the surface will go straight through the bumpers to “escape” without hitting a single one is enormously remote.

Now imagine the surface as being covered by an array of BB guns that fire a steady stream of BBs (each) into the bumper maze in random (but always upward) directions, really machine-gunning them into it. Some BBs will be scattered straight back down (50% of those absorbed by the first layer of bumpers). Some will be thrown up further into the maze. Some of those will be reflected down, some thrown further up still. To get the total integrated downward flux one has to consider all of the permutations of going up or going down by all possible paths from entrance until the BB either re-encounters the surface (and is absorbed with at least some probability, “cancelling” one of the outgoing BBs) or finally makes it to the top of the maze and is fired off into the Universe never to return.

If you increase the density of the bumpers uniformly, you effectively extend the height at which the BBs can escape. This increases the fractional number of permutations of the pathways that return, and decreases the fractional number of permutations of pathways that succeed in escaping (it’s fairly easy to see that the sign of the change is monotonic by starting with comparatively thin layers. Effectively, you have to load the entire layer with enough BBs so that the number exiting at the top exactly equals the net number entering at the bottom, and since some of those BB paths return to the bottom where they must be fired again the rate that the guns must fire has to be strictly greater than the rate that they leave the top. Firing rate is proportional to T^4, the only way to fire faster is to be hotter.

So you’re visualizing the problem backwards. Instead of thinking “I’ve added a few more CO_2 molecules at the top, but those molecules can’t possibly eject photons that can make it back to the bottom”, think “I’ve made the stack of molecules thicker and a bit denser — it is now harder to push photons in at the bottom against its backwards resistance in order to maintain the same rate of loss at the top because more bounce back at the bottom before they REACH the top”.

Note well that this is absolutely only a random walk model of the diffusion process, and details will differ as you make it more precise or introduce e.g. an actual differential cross section and so on. But I think it captures enough of the essential physics to help you see the answer to your question. Doubling the CO_2 raises the troposphere (the top of the maze) by a trifle, requiring a bit more pressure at the bottom to maintain the same outward flow at the top.

This really is where the simple shell model breaks down, of course — it doesn’t explain the logarithmic dependence on concentration, because the assumed superconducting shell has erased that kind of detail. A random walk diffusive model restores some of the dependence, but probably doesn’t produce the right functional form for that dependence. A random walk with a mean free path that varies with height (relative to a base separation at the bottom) is where it probably STARTS being close to right, and to get it right I’m guessing one has to actually use the DALR and pressure broadening (variation in cross section) in some self-consistent way.

And as you can guess, I (like you) am far from certain about the strict log dependence on concentration. I’m unwilling to state that this is incorrect because it is So Damn Complicated, and I’m sure that there is a simple model like this where this turns out to be the dependence. But is this is still very much an important question, even before hitting the feedbacks.

rgb

135. TRM says:

” John West says: December 3, 2012 at 12:03 pm
@Julian Flood
Ever hear of bacteria? Oil is biodegradable.
That’s why the Gulf of Mexico didn’t end up the catastrophe that some predicted. Yes, a lot of oil goes into the oceans both naturally and from human activities; but a lot of oil is consumed by bacteria as well. ”

True but that was warm water. Do those same bacteria live in cold water like NE Russia? Do they take longer to break down the oil in cold water compared to warm? Both of you raise interesting points but I for one would love to see some more serious science on the oil slick on the oceans and how long it lasts and what effect it has on things including climate. Just a SWAG on my part but maybe the oil going into the Arctic ocean has something to do with the continuing low levels of ice? In the end I’m sure nature will overwhelm it but until we measure it we don’t know what if any effect it is having.

Thanks

136. davidmhoffer says:

rgbatduke;
So you’re visualizing the problem backwards. Instead of thinking “I’ve added a few more CO_2 molecules at the top, but those molecules can’t possibly eject photons that can make it back to the bottom”, think “I’ve made the stack of molecules thicker and a bit denser — it is now harder to push photons in at the bottom against its backwards resistance in order to maintain the same rate of loss at the top because more bounce back at the bottom before they REACH the top”
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Strangely, I’ve used the pinball analogy before as well. Again, I don’t dispute anything you said. So let’s expand your analogy.

We start with pinball guns shooting pinballs upward from surface. Good so far. But instead of considering a uniform layer of CO2 bumpers from surface to TOA, let’s consider two layers of bumpers.

The lower layer is 40,000 H2O bumpers per unit whatever, + 400 CO2 bumpers. Ignoring for the moment that their absorption spectra are not an exact match, if we round off to three significant digits, that’s still 40,000.

The upper layer is 400 CO2 bumpers per unit whatever. There’s H2O bumpers too, but we’re not going to change their concentration in the next step, so let’s ignore them.

General Stefan-Boltzmann shouts “fire at will! but do it in a fashion proportional to the 4th power of T!” The pinball guns start hammering away until equilibrium is reached.

If we double the CO2 bumpers across both layers at this point, the lower layer, rounded to three significant digits, is now 40,100, an increase of .25%. The upper layer though is now 800 bumpers, an increase of 100%.

If I understand you correctly, what I’m suggesting is that the “extra” downward pinballs generated by the 800 CO2 bumpers is going to run into a wall of 40,100 H2O bumpers and not many of them are going to get to surface. Most of their energy will be absorbed and re-radiated at the upper portion of the H2O layer, with diminishing observable effects as you go lower. What you are trying to explain to me is that some of the upward pinballs from the lower H20 layer are not going to escape to the upper layer in the first place as they normally would have because of the downward pressure of the extra pinballs from the upper layer? (I think the analogy starts to break down here, hopefully I’m conveying my question correctly)

137. Gail Combs says:

“In the meantime, we will without much additional effort beyond existing research and the obvious profit incentives drop the cost of solar power by a factor of four, and it will become at least competitive with the cheapest ways of generating electrical power. We will also have at least one major breakthrough in energy storage technology. The two together will cause solar to become more profitable than coal independent of subsidy, for much but not all of the world….. “ ~ Dr. Robert Brown
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Tsk Tsk says:
December 3, 2012 at 10:03 pm
That’s an article of pure faith. We’ve seen batteries improve at a glacial pace for a century and there isn’t enough pumped storage available to handle green energy at scale…..
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

I am afraid I have to agree with Tsk Tsk. First solar and wind power are OLD technology.
1767: The First Solar Collector by Horace-Benedict de Saussure
1839: Photovolataic Effect Defined by Edmond Becquerel
1893: the First Solar Cell introduced
1947: Solar Power Equipment became popular in the US
1958: Solar Energy is Used In Space
1977: the US government embraced the use of solar energy by launching the Solar Energy Research Institute.
Info stolen fromHistory of Solar Energy

Both solar and wind are showing the earmarks of aproaching mature technology status.

…. novel technologies will often display a sigmoid growth curve, starting with a gradual development, suddenly experiencing an exponential increase in complexity, sophistication, and efficacy, followed by a long plateau of little or no development after that technology has achieved maturity….

or if you want from WIKI

A mature technology is a technology that has been in use for long enough that most of its initial faults and inherent problems have been removed or reduced by further development…. Another indicator is a reduction in the rate of new breakthrough advances related to it—whereas inventions related to a (popular) immature technology are usually rapid and diverse, and may change the whole use paradigm—advances to a mature technology are usually incremental improvements only.

People point out “Moore’s law” but the export of the solar industry to the sweat shops in China plus the horrible pollution caused by China’s rare earth mining is not represented in the curves I have seen. I doubt the curves includes inflation and all the subsidy programs or permitting, hook-up and inspection fees since they are ‘advertisements’ for the industry.

I am also surprised that Dr. Brown does not consider the Shockley–Queisser limit for a pn junction only 33.7% of the sunlight can be turned into electricity. we are at 22% with reflection from the surface playing a large part in limiting further gains without going to multilayers.

The last point is all the bankruptcies. It reminds me of the shake-out in the computer industry in the 1990’s when Prime, Digital, Wang and others went belly-up as the initial market explosion died off.

Of course the real problem with wind and solar is power storage. Without a reasonable and efficient means of storing power it can be nothing more than a niche market or political boondoggle.

The east and west coasts of the USA with mountains could use water and elevation for power storage but the NIMBYs and Activists would scream. (Wild Rivers Protection Act of 1973)

138. aaron says:

Sorry Anthony, but you just knocked down a big fluffy strawman.

All of what I read is right (skimmed a bit), but it misses the commenters point. If one assumes that GHGs have little or no affect on global temperature, then restricting them will not result in significantly more cooling or bring about the negative consequences of cooling significantly sooner. Conversely, releasing GHG will not prevent or significantly delay cooling.

What the commenter misses is that restricting GHG emissions constrains our ability to deal with the consequence of any kind of climate change.

139. Julian Flood says:
ecember 3, 2012 at 11:32 am
…..
We are spreading enough light oil onto the ocean surface each year to cover it completely approximately every fortnight. I have seen oil smooths snaking out to the horizon from Tenerife, seen a smooth covering tens of thousands of square miles off Portugal, seen the Med covered from end to end.

Wow, those are some pretty extreme claims you’re making. Being ex-Navy and having circumnavigated the globe, I’ve never seen what you describe. Cover the entire world’s oceans every fortnight? Oil slicks to the horizon? Tens of thousands of square miles? The entire Mediterranean from end to end? Seriously?

The north Siberian coast has enough light oil coming down its rivers to equal an Exxon Valdez every five weeks….

An Exxon Valdez every 5 weeks? And this isn’t “front page” news? Sorry, you’re going to have to back-up these claims with something better than that Zeitgeist blip thingy.

140. Gail Combs says:

The Pompous Git says:
December 3, 2012 at 11:15 pm

….The most obvious characteristic of climate is that it determines the vegetation type growing at a locality…..
_________________________________
Best and most logical definition that I have seen so far. Thanks for the links.

141. richardscourtney says:

Gail Combs:

In your post at December 4, 2012 at 11:10 am you say

Of course the real problem with wind and solar is power storage. Without a reasonable and efficient means of storing power it can be nothing more than a niche market or political boondoggle.

True.
But the real advantage of the needed power storage has nothing to do with windpower.

The power storage would be used to store excess power when available and to supply that power at times of high demand. This would reduce the need for power stations by about a third.

Reducing power stations by a third would be an immense reduction to electricity costs.

Incidentally, few countries aim to have more than a third of their electricity from ‘renewables’ so the power storage would completely remove the excuses for windfarms.

Sadly, there is no indication of such a power storage system being possible in the foreseeable future.

Richard

142. rgbatduke says:

Do you have any thoughts on the validity of that evaluation and the possible physics relative to its potential predictive value?

Actually, no. I’d love to say “It’s the Sun”, or “It’s when the Moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter’s aligned with Mars”, but I have no idea. In fact, I can’t even imagine a halfway decent idea that isn’t basically science fiction (example — the Sun passes through a vast dust cloud in a 1000 year long orbit that heats the surface via infalling; a large pocket of radioactives is turning inside the Earth with a period of 1000 years; Space aliens return every 1000 years to visit and while they are here their dimension-twisting interstellar drive warps spacetime around the Earth and makes it heat up). I can’t think of any obvious way the Sun would do it, or has done it. Or planetary alignments. Or oceanic turnover. Or really, pretty much anything. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t something, only that I can’t think of what it might be.

Other than a coincidence, of course. A transient chaotic pattern that has emerged for a few cycles but is likely to disappear without warning just as unpredictably as it emerged.

rgb

Always a pleasure read RGB’s articles and the lively discusions that follow. Thanks, Anthony.

144. David L. Hagen says:

Gail Combs
Why be limited to PV? See the potential for optical rectenna:

ITN’s optical rectenna is not fundamentally limited, with conversion efficiencies greater than 85% theoretically possible. In fact, ITN has already demonstrated conversion efficiencies greater than 50%, limited only by saturation of the off-the-shelf diodes, using lower-frequency rectenna arrays with wire-bonded Schottky diodes. All aspects of the lower-frequency rectenna arrays are scaleable to the higher THz frequencies

Photovoltaic Technologies Beyond the Horizon: Optical Rectenna Solar Cell Final Report 1 August 2001–30 September 2002

145. John West says:

Julian Flood says:
‘humble pie calculation’.
LOL

Don’t feel like the lone ranger. I consider myself a pretty reasonable person that doesn’t jump to conclusions, but sometimes I do. I surf fish Holden Beach, NC regularly and go to the waterway to catch bait. Not long ago I went to the waterway and it was so turbid I had a difficult time catching bait. There was a lot of boat traffic that day causing a lot of waves along the sand/mud shoreline and I jumped to the conclusion the two were connected. The very next day there was just as much boat traffic and just as much wave action but the water was clear as a bell. Oops, I pulled a climate scientist!

146. Gail Combs said @ December 4, 2012 at 11:57 am

The Pompous Git says:
December 3, 2012 at 11:15 pm

….The most obvious characteristic of climate is that it determines the vegetation type growing at a locality…..
_________________________________
Best and most logical definition that I have seen so far. Thanks for the links.

Thanks for the kind words Gail. And your often thought-provoking comments. It seems to me that climate in the current debate (the one that’s over & we didn’t need) is a completely different creature than the one I’ve been studying for the last 30-40 years.

147. JazzyT says:

Gail Combs says:
December 4, 2012 at 11:10 am

People point out “Moore’s law” but the export of the solar industry to the sweat shops in China plus the horrible pollution caused by China’s rare earth mining is not represented in the curves I have seen..

Rare earth metals aren’t that rare; China has just cornered the market by selling them at unrealistically low prices. Some see that loosening, and you can probably expect to see them being mined in places with better environmental and labor practices.

I am also surprised that Dr. Brown does not consider the Shockley–Queisser limit for a pn junction only 33.7% of the sunlight can be turned into electricity. we are at 22% with reflection from the surface playing a large part in limiting further gains without going to multilayers…

.

Going to multilayers could eventually be part of any hypothetical breatkthrough, one supposes.

Of course the real problem with wind and solar is power storage. Without a reasonable and efficient means of storing power it can be nothing more than a niche market or political boondoggle.

For the near future, PV will be most attractive in hot places with a lot of sunlight, where people want air conditioning. I recall years ago reading that in the summer, something like 1/3 of the energy used in US cities was for AC. (Perhaps this was at peak AC usage times; I can’t easily find this figure now. It’s still a lot.) Not only would strategically placed solar cut down on fossil fuel use, but it would reduce the amount of generating capacity needed, simply by providing power at the time it’s most needed. At that point, storage isn’t an issue. In the end, you could go well beyond just the AC capacity and relegate power plants to more of standby/night/cloudy day role. For this, nuclear is not so great, because it’s tricky and time-consuming to change power levels. Pumped storage for load leveling not only eases the need for new power plants, it also helps level the load for reactors, making them easier to run.

Meanwhile, besides photovoltaic, there’s also solar-thermal, which seems to be still in a growth phase. It might be challenging to store an underground pool of water, or molten salt, large enough to give back the output of a 1 GW power station for 12 hours, but it’s not impossible.

Footnote about Moore’s Law: it held true for much longer than Gordon Moore’s prediction, bold though that was. But for microchips, the obvious improvement for incresed performnce and speed was increased circuit density. There were no real material limits to making components smaller, though we may be within sight of those now. All it took to predict a doubling of density was a predictable improvement in manufacturing techniques and circuit design. For a lot of other technologies, it’s harder to predict such things when it’s not obvious how the future improvements would work.

148. rgb says:

“A transient chaotic pattern that has emerged for a few cycles but is likely to disappear without warning just as unpredictably as it emerged.”

Mathamaticians have this concept anathama to me as a rationalist called stochastic resonance. I think it boils down to random harmonics. Bah, at some scale everything is determined and everything is finite.

149. @Gymnosperm:

It isn’t just a math concept. It’s a very real effect. It is used in some kinds of radio detectors. You inject a bit of noise, and it becomes easier to extract the signal…

(The Eye-Tripple-E is a major Electrical Engineer group…)

Abstract

A novel spectrum sensing technique in cognitive radio (CR) networks based on chaotic stochastic resonance (CSR) is proposed in this paper. By introducing the received signal into the CSR system, the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of the signal can be improved, which can lead to the decrease of the SNR wall in the traditional energy detector and reduce the sample complexity needed to reach certain detection performance. Theoretical analyses and computer simulations validate the effectiveness of the proposed CSR-based spectrum sensing approach.

I first ran into this with old tube radios many decades back (when I was building them as a hobby…) and some had a ‘noise injector’ circuit. Only later did the concept get a name upgrade to ‘stochastic resonance’.

The basic idea is that an oscillator may be just below the point where it will oscillate or a detector may be just below the threshold of detection, and if you introduce just a bit of ‘noise’ you can kick it over the threshold. Thus detecting a signal that otherwise would be missed. The ‘noise’ alone is not enough to set things in motion, nor is the signal, but both, together, do…

Think of it as a little kid trying to turn the handle on the water fountain and can’t quite get it to go, then someone bumps his arm and the water flows… until it doesn’t. During the ‘bumping’ you detect the signal of the kid. Otherwise,not.

150. Khwarizmi says:

TRM
Do those same bacteria live in cold water like NE Russia? Do they take longer to break down the oil in cold water compared to warm?
Methanotrophs infest the planet from pole to pole. They appear to be well adapted to low temperatures. thriving mainly at icy depths, some feasting on methane ice, some lying dormant in Siberian permafrost.

Both of you raise interesting points but I for one would love to see some more serious science on the oil slick on the oceans and how long it lasts…

===========
Hundreds of millions of litres of petroleum enter the environment from both natural and anthropogenic sources every year. The input from natural marine oil seeps alone would be enough to cover all of the world’s oceans in a layer of oil 20 molecules thick. That the globe is not swamped with oil is testament to the efficiency and versatility of the networks of microorganisms that degrade hydrocarbons, some of which have recently begun to reveal the secrets of when and how they exploit hydrocarbons as a source of carbon and energy.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16489346
===========
In other words, I wouldn’t worry too much. Here’s some more science on the subject – from a seriously qualified expert:
http://martinhovland.weebly.com/

151. Julian Flood says:

John West says: December 4, 2012 at 1:31 pm

quote
Julian Flood says:‘humble pie calculation’.
LOL
unquote

In my own defence I’d like to claim that it was more a lapse of memory than real stupidity — I’ve been looking at various parts of the world which are warming above the predicted rate and had done some dubious (using population of various towns as a proxy for oil run-off but that’s all the info I could get) calculations about Lake Tanganyika. To do the whole ocean calculation was comparatively easy and it was some time ago and.. the two got conflated. Waffle, excuse, etc…

The whole process that got me interested was this: Tom Wigley’s ‘why the blip’ which is about an SST blip during WWII; then the strange changes to the SST graphs and the obvious graphmanship going on with the published versions — you know what I mean, the red and blue bars with the zero line chosen to emphasise the modern warming; after that the Climate Audit posts on the bucket correction were a revelation. For all the juggling, the abrupt blip during WWII showed like a canine’s gonads. Climate science was obviously worried about the blip and was trying to explain it way rather than explain it, a reprehensible habit.

An possible cause of strange weather (apart from natural variation, but it looks a bit abrupt for that) during that time was the war at sea with its concomitant oil spill. Primary cause oil spill, which leads to reduction in aerosol production, lower turbulence, less evaporation. I still think that an oiled surface has lower albedo and lower emissivity, but people have argued about that; maybe I’m wrong with these, but I did poke around to look at various papers and I suspect people are forgetting that the big result of oil pollution is a reduction in roughness. Anyway the main effect is aerosol reduction.

Observation trumps theory of course, and I’ve seen these smooths, seen one which was over twenty thousand square miles and which because of its location must have been at the very least several weeks old. Unless it had been generated by biology, in which case all climate calculations are off and a new game is afoot, it says that something odd is going on with the ocean’s surface. The smooth I saw was resisting about 7m/s wind which agrees nicely with the experience of using radar for slick detection which are also overwhelmed by wind speeds only just above that. No breaking waves, no aerosols. I hope Salter’s cloud ship will give us a handle on the numbers here, but we already know that stratocumulus clouds, which would be modulated by the effect, are a large cooling influence.

I have been known to suggest that the only way to say for sure is to experiment, a procedure sadly lacking in climate science. It would be nice to think of Dr Brown, his youthful enthusiasm for experimental science rekindled by the conversation here*, sneaking out of harbour with a bottle of synthetic detergent and a bottle of olive oil, dribbling them onto the surface and watching in awe as Franklin’s experiment unfolds. If it works as advertised, and he manages to blag the experiment up to a huge oil tanker full of both off the coast of Fiji, I volunteer to carry the bags.

My involvement in this thread started with the idea that we couldn’t do anything about cooling. Well, not by any brute force technique, but I bet we could, if we had to, by manipulating the ocean surface to alter the stratocumulus coverage. The piece of pie, you will observe , was not all that large….

JF
*I hope he looked at the images of North Carolina harbours and saw the same things that I see. Smooths are a real phenomenon but people don’t watch the water surface, they accept its behaviour as normal without looking closely.

152. If we double the CO2 bumpers across both layers at this point, the lower layer, rounded to three significant digits, is now 40,100, an increase of .25%. The upper layer though is now 800 bumpers, an increase of 100%.

Ah, I see your point. And it is rather a good one. Once again, I’ll have to fall back on the time-honored “dunno”, but damn, that is one hell of an interesting observation/argument.

A big question is to what extent the bands overlap. If they were sharp and mutually exclusive, your argument would be false, because the phenomena would be orthogonal/independent. OTOH, to the extent that the CO_2 emission band(s) signficantly overlaps with the H_2O absorption band(s), then increasing CO_2 concentration by any factor you like negligibly perturbs the total down low, and even if it affects things up high the very water that provides the bulk of the GHE anyway effectively buffers the effect to neutralize it precisely at the TOA where it has no real effect down low. The distribution of heat that is absorbed in atoms that can radiate all the way to space across the thermocline (in depth) changes a bit, but the lower boundary of the thermocline does not.

To put it another way, the process may not be decomposable at all into the separate sum of “the water GHE” and “the CO_2 GHE” and “the Ozone GHE” and “the Methane GHE” all the way down at the quantum level, so that instead of computing a CO_2 (independent) warming and using it to argue that warming feedback itself affects/increases H2O warming, it could be that tweaking CO_2 simply causes a nonlinear rearrangement in the distribution of the process with almost no effect.

This is not to argue that this does or does not happen, but it does sound like a possibility and I do not know enough about the details of the overall process to know whether or not that has been taken into account. Grant Perry probably does. You might ask him.

rgb

153. rgbatduke says:

Smooths are a real phenomenon but people don’t watch the water surface, they accept its behaviour as normal without looking closely.

Smooths, as you put it, may have more than one cause, too.

As for albedo variation, see previous post and thin film constructive interference. You can see that at any time by putting a drop of gasoline or oil into a puddle on the pavement. It doesn’t darken the water; it brightens it. A lot. As in you can see the pavement beneath before, but often you cannot afterwards because the water surface becomes mirror-like at all angles.

I also have to say that this same drop of gasoline doesn’t seem to cover a hectare of rain-slick pavement, nor does the occasional drop of oil or gasoline that drips from my boat’s motor into the ocean seem to cover, or smooth, anything like a hectare of ocean. If it did, the entire Beaufort inlet (or any inlet to a harbor) would be one big slick, and they’re not. Even a clean and well maintained motor blows some unburned gasoline out in its exhaust, and in any given harbor with thousands of boats, there are at least tens of boats with egregious leaks of gasoline and/or oil.

rgb

154. rgbatduke says:

Mathamaticians have this concept anathama to me as a rationalist called stochastic resonance. I think it boils down to random harmonics. Bah, at some scale everything is determined and everything is finite.

There is, quite literally, nothing more rational than a mathematician. Formally rational at that. It is never too late to learn some utterly rational, practical mathematics associated with dynamical systems of multiple, nonlinear, coupled, differential equations (which are, in general, what describe the time evolution of nearly anything, so that most of these ideas are relevant and realized in actual physical phenomena.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limit_cycle

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hopf_bifurcation

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Period-doubling_bifurcation

Most of these links describe the simplest, almost trivial examples where the Poincare cycles are essentially two dimensional, so that the attractors are points in a plane, but of course they also exist in N dimensional systems with far more complex structure — where “the climate” is certain to be such a system. The really interesting thing about this isn’t its rarity — it is how easy it is for a simple linear system to become just a bit nonlinear, or nonlinear in just the right way, and for chaos to emerge from it.

The math here is difficult, no doubt, and of course linearizing and separating a nonlinear coupled problem will sometimes make chaos disappear from the solution, but all that means is that your simple linearized solution, however intuitive and attractive it is, is just wrong, and will only work for an undetermined period of time and then fail without warning when a Hopf bifurcation occurs and your trajectory kicks you out of your local attractor and into orbit around a new attractor. Or worse.

rgb

155. rgbatduke says:

To reply to all at once on the solar power issue — again, I’m being a pundit and using the pundit’s privilege to pull a future prediction out of my ass and throw it out there. If it fails, downgrade me as a pundit by all means. The basis for my punditry — not that I have to or should explain, because doing so reduces the “magic” when it all comes true and people go “how did he know, he must be a pundit” — is that following numerous threads on slashdot and gizmag and sometimes attending the odd seminar (I do work in a physics department, remember:-) I think that there are at least three, maybe as many as five or six, significantly different general approaches to solar power any one of which is capable of “breakthrough” at a level that might knock a chunk off of the overall price/performance ratio. People are working with completely different kinds of materials, with crystalline versus amorphous designs, with different dopings, with nanoscale structures in carbon and other materials (e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_nanotubes_in_photovoltaics). Then there are non-PV approaches including old fashioned focused light used to heat a boiler and variants thereof, and exotica like solar updraft towers that can generate substantial power and at the same time mobilize a lot of surface heat upwards, essentially facilitating a teensy bit of “global cooling” by warming the upper atmosphere. Any and all of these have some issues, sure, but they are different issues, and some of them represent whole spectra of testable possibilities any one of which could turn out to be “it”.

So my bet isn’t on silicon-based solar PV as a single horse in the race — I’m betting that one one of an entire field of horses being cared for and fed by highly motivated trainers who will make a ton of money if their horse wins will turn out to be a winner (indeed, that many of them will, gradually but incrementally improving, hence the prediction of gradual continued reductions in price). And to be honest, I think that plain old boring solar silicon PV has a factor of two to four of pure fat in its price as well and that it will continue to get cheaper per watt for the next decade or two regardless of what happens in the more interesting science, largely due to improvements in manufacturing process, economy of scale (a big one!), scale of demand, and so on.

Could I be wrong, Gail? Sure. Pundits are often wrong. It’s a horse-race, and all of the horses could turn out to be nags, fit for nothing but the glue factory. But I don’t think they will — too much money in it, and the theoretical bases for the various designs are all plausible or you wouldn’t have anybody even trying. But in many locations, for many purposes, solar PV is already break even to win a bit unsubsidized, even using stone age storage technology (or better yet, dumping surplus back into the grid to avoid having to store it at all). So it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to predict that solar will advance to where it is a net win over a substantially larger space than it is now. Personally, I could amortize the cost of a 5 kW system for my house today over thirteen to fifteen years. That’s too long, but by 2020 I rather expect that the amortization will be down to 8 to 10 years and literally all new construction will have built in solar rooftops with the cost rolled into the house and mortgage.

Storage advances are a bigger risk, but the stakes are huge. Two technologies that might break out (or might not, see “bigger risk” include Zinc Oxide batteries, that have a lot of the right stuff, and some very wrong stuff indeed. But the wrong stuff seems (to me) to be vulnerable to some really clever engineering, perhaps driven by advances again in nanoscale technology. Also, again there are interesting possibilities associated with carbon nanotubes quite independent of any particular battery design — it seems likely that they can take any existing design and make it more efficient and robust. Billions of dollars in payoff to the first to a really killer patent.

So here’s the secret of my punditry. Sometimes a problem is physically intractable — blocked by inadequate understanding of some very difficult physics. Controlled thermonuclear fusion is a great example. Sometimes a problem is blocked less by physics, more by politics or a lack of will. Liquid Salt Thorium reactors are a case in point. Sometimes a problem is entirely tractable as far as the physics or basic chemistry is concerned, but there are substantial problems with details of the engineering that keep them from working — yet.

The first sort of problem is very difficult to predict. We could break through to a feasible fusion technology tomorrow (or rather, somebody could announce it tomorrow). Or next week. Or ten years from now. Or never. The latter two — my advice is trust the free market system, especially when it is partnered with substantial public investment in the underlying science and engineering.

It works.

rgb

156. davidmhoffer says:

rgbatduke;
Ah, I see your point. And it is rather a good one. Once again, I’ll have to fall back on the time-honored “dunno”, but damn, that is one hell of an interesting observation/argument.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Well thanks! I figured it was either an issue worth considering, or that I was so far out to lunch that was in the “not even wrong” category.

Bottom line, I am increasingly questioning the accuracy of the CO2 doubling = 3.7 w/m2 = 1.2 degrees estimate, Not from the perspective that the back radiation exists, but that the calculated magnitude may not translate into surface temperatures in anything resembling a straight forward manner.

Just calculating an “average” temperature for the earth surface is a monstrous chunk of math. The darn thing is round (ish), the idiotic power source doesn’t have the decency to be either “on” or “off”, no, it has to oscillate during the on phase just to make the math more fun. Plus the on phase has two oscillations, one daily and one annual. So how the heck do we calculate the effects of CO2 doubling based on LW that varies with the 4th power of T that we can barely compute in the first place? ‘Cuz in my opinion, the math just gets worser and worser….

Whatever CO2 does, it has 400 to 500 w/m2 to work with in the tropics. In the arctic zones and winter in the temperate zones, it has more like 200 to 300 w/m2 to work with. How do we average that? Should we take say 1% of each? I don’t think we can. The atmospheric column in the tropics is (iirc) twice the depth that it is at the arctic zones, so I would expect a higher proportion of the upward LW in the tropics to be returned back downward than in the arctic zones and temperate zones in the winter. 2% in the tropics and 1% in the arctic? What?

So suppose we figure out a way to solve that problem, we STILL can’t average it in any meaningful way. Suppose for example we concluded the tropics get an extra 6.3 w/m2 at an average temperature of +30 and the arctic zones got 2.9 w/m2 at an average temperature of -40. They’d both go up by the same amount, one degree, based on SB Law. Even if those numbers were right, averaging them would be useless because the number wouldn’t be applicable to an average temperature and would result in a temperature change calculation other than one degree and it would be WRONG! Did I say the math was getting worser and worser? Now it gets ugly ignorant.

In the arctic and winter/temperate zones, there’s not much in the way of water vapour, too cold. So I’d expect any extra downward LW to arrive for the most part at surface, and have some affect on temperature that at least tracks SB Law in some way. But I cannot see where that same relationship could possibly hold at the same order of magnitude in the tropics when 98% of the air column is a few hundred ppm of CO2 and water vapour each, and the bottom 2% is 40,000 ppm water vapour.

So while I have accepted the CO2 doubling = 3.7 w/m2 = +1.2 degrees for a very long time, I am increasingly beginning to question it. It isn’t that we don’t have the compute resources to do the calculations, itz that we don’t have the math equations to put into the computer in the first place. Unless someone can show me a way to resolve all this issues with any degree of accuracy, I submit that the estimate of CO2 doubling = +1.2 degrees is a WAG on a good day, and probably a DAG at best (D=dumb). I’m not sure who originally came up with this value, or how, but I am increasingly suspicious that they can justify it in light of the issues above.

157. davidmhoffer says:

ps ~ no idea who Grant Perry is.

158. davidmhoffer says:

pps

richardscourtney has several times in this forum posted links to studies that attempt to arrive at a sensitivity to CO2 increases via data analysis rather than calculation. (What a novel approach, take measurements and calculate from them! Duh!)

In any event, iirc they come up with sensitivity estimates in the range of under 1/2 degree. In the past, I always assumed that the difference from 1.2 degrees was from feedbacks. Now I’m starting to wonder…. maybe the 1.2 degrees itself is bogus.

159. rgbatduke says:

no idea who Grant Perry is.

A double typo — damn ‘t’ key next to ‘r’ key. Try Grant Petty.

God, I hope I haven’t been mistyping that for the last day or so. In any event, I’ve communicated a teeny bit with him, and I think he is viewed as being both knowledgeable and objective in this. Most of the graphs you see posted e.g. here:

https://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/03/10/visualizing-the-greenhouse-effect-emission-spectra

or on wikipedia seem to come out of his book (well, out of NASA by way of his book). I don’t own it, but it isn’t too expensive and I’m seriously thinking of getting a copy. But he’d almost certainly be the man to ask — after you read his book and see whether or not or how this is all taken into account already. Otherwise it is certainly not safe to assume that it is not. People are usually pretty careful.

rgb

rgb

160. richardscourtney says:

rgbatduke:

Your post at December 5, 2012 at 12:22 pm concerns the need for a method to store large amounts of generated power to facilitate intermittent energy supplies (e.g. wind and solar).

Actually, the benefit of such a storage method is much greater than merely enabling adoption of wind and solar. It could be used to assist the matching of electricity supply to a grid with the varying demand from the grid. This would reduce the need for power stations by about a third.

So here’s the secret of my punditry. Sometimes a problem is physically intractable — blocked by inadequate understanding of some very difficult physics. Controlled thermonuclear fusion is a great example. Sometimes a problem is blocked less by physics, more by politics or a lack of will. Liquid Salt Thorium reactors are a case in point. Sometimes a problem is entirely tractable as far as the physics or basic chemistry is concerned, but there are substantial problems with details of the engineering that keep them from working — yet.

True, but there is also another limitation and that is materials science.

In general, technology is enabled by knowledge and limited by available materials.

So, for example, the physics and engineering ‘know how’ to construct a Space Elevator exist, but there is no available material with sufficient tensile strength to construct it.

Also, the known risks of a technology may make it non-viable (please note that this is NOT an application of the ludicrous Precautionary Principle). This limitation is demonstrated by the problem of large-scale energy storage which is the subject of your post.

Fuels are stores of energy. For example, fossil fuels are stores of solar energy collected by photosynthesis. And, importantly, they are very stable stores. Burning a kilo of coal releases more energy than burning a kilo of TNT. Ignited TNT releases the energy too fast for it to be adopted as a ‘safe’ fuel although it could be used for that purpose. Very importantly, TNT degrades if not adequately protected from warm temperatures, and the degraded TNT may self-ignite if exposed to vibration or shock.

A ‘safe’ energy store for large energy storage needs the attributes of a fuel; i.e. it needs to store much energy in small volume, and to only release the stored energy at a controllable rate when required. This is a difficult requirement.

Electrolysis of water to obtain hydrogen has been suggested but hydrogen storage would be problematic.
Large flywheels have been investigated but bearing wear would pose a severe threat of unintended release of the energy (with similar effect to unintended ignition of TNT).
Pumped storage is used but its expansion to provide additional benefit is limited.
Some battery developments are suggested but there are no foreseeable solutions to existing materials constraints. However, breakthroughs are not foreseeable so continuing research is much warranted.
Similarly, large electrical capacitor banks are also being studied but they also need a materials breakthrough.

The ‘best’ option at present is to ‘store’ energy by using it to construct synthetic hydrocarbon fuels. However, like everything else, its adoption needs to be economic. Synthesis of hydrocarbons as an electricity store is more costly than coping with the lack of such an energy store.

Hence, I see no solution to the problem but a ‘breakthrough’ may be ‘over the horizon’. If it occurs then it will change the world as we know it.

Richard

161. wayne says:

“In the past, I always assumed that the difference from 1.2 degrees was from feedbacks. Now I’m starting to wonder…. maybe the 1.2 degrees itself is bogus.”

David, I don’t think I would jump to bogus but your thought to question it is a big step forward. Read again Robert’s description of co2 radiation being better thought of as more a diffusion process due to the relative short path length compared to the vastness of our atmosphere and due to the a relative high pressure and density. He and I are parallel in that respect and I greatly appreciate him speaking of just the physics and nothing but the physics. The question is; is it accurate to assume that a measurement of the radiative properties of co2 in a small lab test are exactly the same as if that test had been on one cubic kilometer of a mixture of N2 and O2 with the proper concentration of co2? The larger test then includes the fact that at short path lengths radiation in all respects is operating more like diffusion of energy, not a one-time energy transfer.

I am starting to realize that, like Dr. Brown stated above, changes in carbon dioxide’s concentrations may have a markedly different answer in an actual atmosphere with huge distances involved and pressure, density and temperature gradients present. Possibly thoughts and assumptions started way back with Arrhenius and Plass may be flawed. Just look to the path length of individual spectrum lines to help visualize what is happening at the grand scale. Stop thinking that radiation in co2 or h2o lines can beam down directly to the surface from altitudes greater that about a tree’s height, that simply does not occur. Diffusion is a correct view.

162. wayne says:

davidmhoffer, maybe I should have said “Diffusion is a more correct view.”

163. Gail Combs says:

JazzyT says:
December 4, 2012 at 3:06 pm

Gail Combs says:
December 4, 2012 at 11:10 am

People point out “Moore’s law” but the export of the solar industry to the sweat shops in China plus the horrible pollution caused by China’s rare earth mining is not represented in the curves I have seen..

Rare earth metals aren’t that rare; China has just cornered the market by selling them at unrealistically low prices. Some see that loosening, and you can probably expect to see them being mined in places with better environmental and labor practices.
____________________________________
And that was just my point. You have to look not only at the innovation process but also the cost of manufacturing;

Buildings
Manufacturing Equipment
Electricity
Permits
Lawyers
Accountants
Safety/OSHA compliance officers
QC
Maintainence
Water
Sewer
Labor
Raw Materials

However the era of Cheap Chinese goods is almost over. American and EU manufacturing has been wiped of the board.
Manufacturers scrambling as raw material prices surge… Demand from emerging economies outside the United States also continues to push up prices. China now accounts for 45 percent of the world’s steel consumption and 10 percent of crude oil consumption

The end of cheap China: What do soaring Chinese wages mean for global manufacturing?

In 2000, Mexican manufacturing labor was more than three times as expensive as Chinese. But after of decade of stagnant wages in Mexico and a sustained rise in China, Chinese labor is no longer cheap. In fact, it costs almost the same amount to hire Mexican workers…

China is taking steps to mitigate air pollution… Its hefty subsidies to its solar industry have prompted some U.S. manufacturers to file a complaint with the International Trade Commission.

Rare-Earth Mining Rises Again in United States
…China now controls 95 percent of total rare-earth supply….

…The fight over the minerals that run the electronic world entered a new phase in March when the United States, the European Union and Japan collectively filed a case against China, accusing the rare-earth powerhouse of violating world trade rules to manipulate mineral prices.

Environmental problems also played a role. Salty, radioactive water kept leaking from waste evaporation ponds, leading to the mine’s closure in 2002. Mining for rare earths is classically a very environmentally destructive process, and China’s market domination is due in part to disregard for health, safety and environmental controls. The country has recently started cleaning up its messiest mines, adding to export controls in pushing rare-earth prices up.

…“They were cheap,” Kaiser said, “because China was willing to subsidize the price by producing things with lower environmental and health and safety controls — all the things that we over here don’t allow.”

… in California, where a company called Molycorp has reopened what until the 1980s was the world’s flagship rare-earth mine.

164. davidmhoffer says:

rgbatduke;
https://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/03/10/visualizing-the-greenhouse-effect-emission-spectra
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

If you look at Petty 8.1, the curve for Barrow Alaska shows plenty of downward LW in the 15 micron range, but it falls off the Planck curve by a healthy chunk. But tropical Nauru, it is bang on the Planck curve at that point.

Easy to conclude I think that additional CO2 would drive the Barrow curve closer to Planck. But would additional CO2 drive Nauru curve any higher? If you break GISS down by latitude, the temperature change in the tropics is minimal, most of the rise is in higher latitudes. Yes, it is way more complicated than that, but, hmmmm….

165. davidmhoffer says:

wayne says:
December 5, 2012 at 1:47 pm
davidmhoffer, maybe I should have said “Diffusion is a more correct view.”

I knew what you meant ;-)
agreed

166. Greg House says:

davidmhoffer says, December 5, 2012 at 12:36 pm: “Now I’m starting to wonder…. maybe the 1.2 degrees itself is bogus.”
==========================================================

I am pleasantly surprised, David. I thought the Earth would sooner stop spinning and the sky fall down on the Earth, than… Go ahead, start really questioning things like “blanket warming by back radiation”, “the world is warming” etc. .

I hope to enjoy watching your first steps.

167. Richard M says:

I have often mentioned what I call the cooling effect of GHGs. This seems like a good thread to either squash my thoughts or validate them. When I look at the KT diagrams they show about 160 w/m2 reaching the planet surface. In addition, they show around 78 w/m2 absorbed directly in the atmosphere from the Sun and another 97 w/m2 that enters the atmosphere through evaporation and conduction. That’s a lot of energy (about a third of what gets radiated from the surface) that enters the atmosphere through non-surface radiation. What is the effect of GHGs on this energy?

If I borrow the pinball analogy it’s like lots of those little machine guns are located throughout the atmosphere, are constantly being fueled by these non-radiative processes and are also constantly firing balls (let’s call them NR balls vs. R balls). These NR balls are then also bounced around just like the R balls from the surface.

These NR balls also eventually get radiated to space or back to the surface (although the amount gets quite low as you higher). It turns out that the little machine guns are the same exact guys (molecules) as the ones that are deflecting (absorbing and refiring) the R balls adding to the complexity of the situation.

Now, it seems to me that these little guys are doing double duty. When they are firing NR balls they are moving energy to space (eventually, since if they are reabsorbed they have essentially done nothing), especially when they are at high altitudes. The net effect of adding more of these guys would be to increase the movement of energy from the atmosphere to space, that is … cooling.

Ok, where have I gone wrong and, if I haven’t broken any laws of physics, where is this factored into climate models?

168. pochas says:

Richard M says:
December 5, 2012 at 4:43 pm

“I have often mentioned what I call the cooling effect of GHGs.”

Here in Michigan you can tell who’s paying the most to Consumers Energy by how fast the snow melts off their roof. The one with the first bare roof has the highest heating bill. The one with the deepest snow has the most insulation, the highest “R” factor in the vernacular, so its warm inside but the roof is colder since there is less heat escaping. Its the same with CO2; it adds to the R value of the atmosphere and the surface gets slightly warmer and the stratosphere cools off. Unless the guy with the snow on his roof leaves all his windows and doors open. Then the extra insulation does him no good at all.

The real purpose of a house is to control convection so the atmosphere can’t take your hard-earned heat away. Which is what it does to the “Greenhouse Effect.” Yes, greenhouse gases have an effect on radiation near the surface, and would warm the surface, except there is nothing to stop convection, which whisks the heat upward until either clouds form or the heat reaches an altitude from which it can be radiated to space. The climate alarmists have yet to realize this (or they really don’t want to know). Its kind of amusing all of the cloud research going on without the climate cabal learning anything for sure (although real progress is being made). Next time you’re sitting by a campfire ponder how much fuel you’re burning, and where the heat is going. Look upward.

169. davidmhoffer says:

Greg House;
I hope to enjoy watching your first steps.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

A clearer demonstration that you understood not a single word of the discussion could not be had.

170. rgbatduke says:

The real purpose of a house is to control convection so the atmosphere can’t take your hard-earned heat away. Which is what it does to the “Greenhouse Effect.” Yes, greenhouse gases have an effect on radiation near the surface, and would warm the surface, except there is nothing to stop convection, which whisks the heat upward until either clouds form or the heat reaches an altitude from which it can be radiated to space. The climate alarmists have yet to realize this (or they really don’t want to know). Its kind of amusing all of the cloud research going on without the climate cabal learning anything for sure (although real progress is being made). Next time you’re sitting by a campfire ponder how much fuel you’re burning, and where the heat is going. Look upward.

Ah, yet another person who has had a brilliant insight that “climate alarmists” have not, one that proves that the GHE is bogus. It’s “kind of amusing” that you could make this statement when (I would bet a substantial amount of money) you are completely clueless about the actual mathematics of convective heat transfer and whether or not it is incorporated in current climate models and theories. Of course it is — climate scientists are actually not idiots and are not ignorant and didn’t leave out one of the three primary mechanisms of heat transfer (conduction, convection, radiation).

Or perhaps you think that they include it, they just do so incorrectly. It may well be so. In that case, you should very definitely work through the math in the models and demonstrate where and how. I’ll help you get started:

You can (IIRC) get the GISS climate model code on the web. It’s open source. Note well, their code may be wrong — it’s complicated enough it would be surprising if it were not — but I’ll bet you one whole dollar that it doesn’t leave out convection.

rgb

171. richardscourtney said @ December 5, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Large flywheels have been investigated but bearing wear would pose a severe threat of unintended release of the energy (with similar effect to unintended ignition of TNT).

IIRC from several decades ago the proposal was that the bearings would be magnetic and the whole enclosed in a vacuum, so no friction. You are correct of course that more conventional bearings would be problematic.

172. rgbatduke said @ December 5, 2012 at 10:20 pm

You can (IIRC) get the GISS climate model code on the web. It’s open source. Note well, their code may be wrong — it’s complicated enough it would be surprising if it were not — but I’ll bet you one whole dollar that it doesn’t leave out convection.

As EM Smith wrote:

Well, the code NASA GISS publishes and says is what they run, is not this code that they are running.

Yes, they are not publishing the real code. In the real code running on the GISS web page to make these anomaly maps, you can change the baseline and you can change the “spread” of each cell. (Thus the web page that lets you make these “what if” anomaly maps). In the code they publish, the “reach” of that spread is hard coded at 1200 km and the baseline period is hard coded at 1951-1980.

So we don’t really know what the code is that they actually run. But I too would be surprised if they failed to include convection.

173. richardscourtney says:

The Pompous Git:

Thankyou for your comment addressed to me at December 6, 2012 at 1:08 am. It says

richardscourtney said @ December 5, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Large flywheels have been investigated but bearing wear would pose a severe threat of unintended release of the energy (with similar effect to unintended ignition of TNT).

IIRC from several decades ago the proposal was that the bearings would be magnetic and the whole enclosed in a vacuum, so no friction. You are correct of course that more conventional bearings would be problematic.

Yes, you are right, and there are several other details which could be questioned in my brief explanation of the problems of large power storage.

With respect to your specific point, failure of the electricity supply to the electromagnets would also provide the catastrophic release of the flywheel’s kinetic energy. Whatever the true risk of this, the insurance cost of such a system would make it uneconomic.

For amusement and – hopefully – to aid understanding, I mention a historical example of damage from kinetic energy. The V2 rocket was intended to not carry a warhead because its impact energy would be equivalent to two express trains colliding head-on. The German politicians and military could not understand this and they insisted that one kilo of HE be carried as a warhead in each V2. The effect of this warhead would not have made a discernible difference to the destruction caused by the missile.

Richard

174. davidmhoffer says:

richardscourtney;
For amusement and – hopefully – to aid understanding, I mention a historical example
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Many years ago I was involved in a large IT project. The CFO blew a gasket when he found out that one piece of the infrastructure was not from…. well let’s call the company HAL. He refused to trust any other vendor. The problem was that the product from HAL in that space was so bad that the project would be doomed if we used it. The grizzled old technical architect told me not to worry about it, he’d “design around it”. Sure enough, he did. Every drawing, every piece of documentation showed that product from HAL. The project was a success, the CFO wrote glowing endorsements which went on HAL’s web site, and nobody noticed until three years later that it wasn’t powered on….

175. pochas says:

rgbatduke says:
December 5, 2012 at 10:20 pm

“Ah, yet another person who has had a brilliant insight that “climate alarmists” have not, one that proves that the GHE is bogus. It’s “kind of amusing” that you could make this statement when (I would bet a substantial amount of money) you are completely clueless about the actual mathematics of convective heat transfer and whether or not it is incorporated in current climate models and theories”

At last I have found someone who is familiar with these equations and how they are applied by GISS. Could you help me out by giving me some idea whether the feedback from convection is positive or negative in these models, and if possible some numbers? If these numbers are available, then I must apologize for saying above, essentially, “They don’t know.”

176. “The math here is difficult, no doubt, and of course linearizing and separating a nonlinear coupled problem will sometimes make chaos disappear from the solution, but all that means is that your simple linearized solution, however intuitive and attractive it is, is just wrong”
==========================

Please don’t accuse me of being linear. It’s almost like “totally tubular” which is a propos here because nature loves tortured tubular helices. As you have pointed out, math founders on data. What we have is too short, and for the oceans, mostly contrived. So either you fold up your tent or continue to use pure reason and well…intuition.

177. Bart says:

richardscourtney says:
December 6, 2012 at 4:07 am

“The V2 rocket was intended to not carry a warhead because its impact energy would be equivalent to two express trains colliding head-on.”

Some friends and I wondered about the energy release from LCROSS impacting on the Moon and worked it out. I do not recall the figure, but it was quite staggering. When energy increases with the square of velocity (linear or angular), it goes up pretty fast.

I have an hypothesis that this is why there is such a huge perceptual difference between driving 60 mph and 70 mph, even though you are only going 17% faster – I think our brains innately sense the energy of motion. Unfortunately, this causes us to believe we are really getting somewhere much faster when we stomp on the gas, when we may really only be making meager gains.

178. Bart says:

Richard M says:
December 5, 2012 at 4:43 pm

My thoughts run along similar lines, but I tend to think of it as floodgates in a dam. When you reach the level at which a GHG is substantially radiating, the GHG arrests the rise which would otherwise continue until the column of air was isothermal, just as floodgates maintain the level of water behind the dam and keep it from rising to the top. Add more floodgates, and the water is even more strongly pinned to their level.

Now, consider the action of a dam with two levels of floodgates. There is too much flow for the lower level to arrest the rise, so the water continues rising until it reaches the second level, at which it stops. Now, you add more floodgates at the lower level, and the water recedes from the upper floodgates. We have such a situation in the atmosphere: H2O and CO2 form a lower level of floodgates, and CH4 the upper level. Radiation is flowing out of the higher level CH4 gates. You add more lower level gates in the form of CO2 and what happens? Cooling.

I have some maths which suggest this may very well be what happens, but the model needs work.

179. Julian Flood says:

I keep getting different answers to these calculations, not least because it’s a long time since I’ve tried cubing negative exponents. Could someone help? My first calculation was:

quote
All figures are rounded. We make the assumption that the numbers at the NASA seawifs site are outdated and the real numbers have increased since 1994, which seems reasonable. Call the ‘down the drain’ figure 500 *10^6 gallons US.

That’s 500 *10^6 * 4 = 2000 *10^6 litres ‘down the drain’ = 2*10^9 litres per year

Area of world ocean = 3.5*10^8 sq km (70% of 500*10^6 ) = approx 3.5*10^10 ha.

number of 5 ml doses per year per ha = (20*2*10^9)/(3.5*10^10) = 1
unquote

It ought to be quite simple but I keep getting lost in the zeros and, my initial result being the same as Dr Brown’s calculation, I didn’t check any further. /Nullius in verba/ and all that.

First, how big is an oil molecule? 2*10^-10 metres across is one answer I’ve found. How thick would a 5 ml dose be when spread over one hectare, in molecule diameters? Franklin’s experiment found that 5ml smoothed one hectare. Is this realistic? If not, of course, all bets are off. I’ve got a tentative answer of 3, which is OK, but I don’t trust it. If the coverage is greater than one layer then it’s worth continuing with the next bit.

The primary oil spill is 2*10^9 litres down the drain: — this number is from NASA’s down the drain portion of its seawifs calculation 1994 (363 million gallons US) and assumed to have increased to about 500 million gallons US. Approx 4 litres per gallon.

Here’s the area of the ocean:

3.5*10^10 hectares (335,258,000 km^2 * 100 (hectares per km^2) )

One ‘dose’ of oil is 5 ml. I don’t know what the ‘dose’ of surfactant is which would result in the same effect, but I make the arbitrary assumption that the surfactant load is the equivalent of the oil load.

Total number of down the drain oil doses overall is 2* 10^9* 200 (n.b. 200 doses of 5 ml makes one litre)

Question : how many ‘doses’ of ‘down the drain’ oil does each hectare of ocean receive, on average, each year? (From this we can estimate the number of doses when we add in the extra oil and surfactant.)

Could someone go through it again? I see that I’ve divided 1000 by 5 and come to 20 in the original which is possibly in error*. Also, the number of hectares for the ocean surface keeps coming out differently and I’m running out of fingers**.

I suspect there are two errors, or more, which cancel out, but, as I say, it would be a mercy if someone else would check the whole thing, including the simplest of facts. Help!

JF
*this is a joke.
** so is this.

180. Julian Flood says:

TomB says: December 4, 2012 at 11:32 am
quote
Wow, those are some pretty extreme claims you’re making. Being ex-Navy and having circumnavigated the globe, I’ve never seen what you describe. Cover the entire world’s oceans every fortnight? Oil slicks to the horizon? Tens of thousands of square miles? The entire Mediterranean from end to end? Seriously?
unquote

Well, I don’t know what ships you sailed, but my experience over the sea was almost exclusively from the air. I have seen these smooths — not slicks, these are smoothed areas of surface which react anomalously to wave and wind action — and I’ve seen them from the Arctic to the Falklands. If you read above you will see some North Carolina smooths which I pointed out for Dr Brown. If you’d like rather more topical and fun examples then Google ‘Doha’ and click on images. Look at

http://www.texasgopvote.com/issues/stop-big-government/doha-qatar-perfect-laboratory-study-climate-change-004865

(and lots of others) and you will see what I’m talking about, texture changes across the surface, smooths. They’re not difficult to see but they take some mental effort to even notice. The one from Tenerife was the run-off from Puerto de Santiago and did indeed reach the horizon. You are free not to believe me, but that’s your loss. You could always go and look for yourself and I’ll have the courtesy to take your observations at face value.

quote
The north Siberian coast has enough light oil coming down its rivers to equal an Exxon Valdez every five weeks….
unquote

SIBERIAN ARCTIC OIL SPILL 2012

Source : UN via da-voda.com

Lena 25,000 tons
Ob 125,000 tons
Yenisei 225,000 tons

(total spill is 500,000 tons, 150 million US gallons, A m^3 weighs .9 tonne so total spill from Siberian rivers is 500,000/.9. Call it 600,000 m^3 in round figures.) I can’t find the figures for the North Slope Alaska.

Exxon Valdez spill: approx 40,000 — to 120,000 m^3. Ish. Wikipedia. Let’s call it 80,000. Not far off.

Now, ‘the blip Zeitgeist thingy’. As you are interested in climate change I’ll assume you’re familiar with Climate Audit. Go and search for the bucket correction and look at the Climategate emails relating to sea temperatures, Tom Wigley and ‘why the blip?’ You will find that those who want the world to be warming are very anxious to hide the fact that during WWII there was a huge blip in temperatures which the CO2 theory of global warming could not explain. Instead of rejoicing at something new in the data, these ‘scientists’ tried to explain, obfuscate and massage it away to preserve the primacy of CO2. That’s not zeitgeist, that’s sharp practice. Perhaps you are not concerned that new and important data is not just ignored but hidden. I do not share your insouciance.

JF

181. bwdave says:

Dr. Brown,

This statement that you repeat “… but the physics suggests a warming on the order of 1.2 C upon a complete doubling of CO_2 if we don’t pretend to more knowledge than we have concerning the nature and signs of the feedbacks.” is not only without proof, it doesn’t ring true. It has no connection to measurable physical properties, and doesn’t even consider the primary modes of atmospheric heat transfer within the atmosphere, that cool Earth’s surface. This, from someone with a PhD in Physics, baffles me. What “physics” suggest 1.2 C warming?

182. Julian Flood says:

rgb wrote:

quote
As for albedo variation, see previous post and thin film constructive interference. You can see that at any time by putting a drop of gasoline or oil into a puddle on the pavement. It doesn’t darken the water; it brightens it. A lot. As in you can see the pavement beneath before, but often you cannot afterwards because the water surface becomes mirror-like at all angles.
unquote

If you blow a soap bubble you can see the interference colours. If the bubble lasts long enough then you’ll observe that tiny black areas form in the film which multiply. In an extremely long lived bubble the whole thing becomes almost invisible, not raindow coloured at all, a bubble ghost. Why is this? What depth of film is required for interference colours to form? How thick is a smooth?

I look forward to hearing the results of your experiments in Beaufort harbour. I would suggest using light oil (olive oil will probably keep any ecowarriors off your back) at first. For the surfactant trial, use a modern synthetic detergent. I have no idea what will happen in the latter case but I’d like to know. Perhaps you won’t need to actually do the oil trial: it sounds as if the harbour is like every other harbour in the world, well smoothed. Look carefully.

Another way of looking at the albedo problem is to use the graphs for albedo vs windspeed. I will be interested on which way you think that goes. It’s a large scale effect, not a surface film effect, but small in its overall contribution. My bet is the big albedo change is aerosol mediated.

JF
Any chance of a check over my calculations in my earlier post at 10.49 7 Dec.? I keep getting different answers.

183. Julian Flood says:

TomB,

Re the Exxon Valdez spill:

I’ve found a new figure for the spill.
http://www.evostc.state.ak.us/facts/qanda.cfm seems to be a reputable site. It gives the following spill details:

quote
How much oil was spilled?
Approximately 11 million gallons or 257,000 barrels or 38,800 metric tonnes. Picture the swimming pool at your school or in your community. The amount of spilled oil is roughly equivalent to 17 olympic-sized swimming pools.
unquote

Siberian river oil spill: 500,000 tons. So the number of EV size spills is 500,000/38,800 =12.8866.

52 weeks per year divided by 12.8866 = 4.0352.

Enough spilled oil comes down the rivers into the Siberian seas to equal the Exxon Valdez spill amount every four weeks, five hours and 58 minutes, so I seem to have understated the case. Sorry about that and thanks for letting me set the record straight.

JF

184. Julian Flood says:

Dr Brown,

I’ve just re-read your statement above where you mention Beaufort harbour. It certainly looks a delightful place in the pictures at

http://marinas.com/view/inlet/1668_Beaufort_Harbor_Inlet_NC_United_States

There’s an option to put the images up as backdrops. I’d say the best is the second, the one looking out to sea from above the river. I particularly enjoy the exquisite play of light and shade across the water, the ruffling of the clean water next to the mirror surfaces which reveal the currents sweeping across the inlet, the whole bay a demonstration of the power of the oceanic boundary layer to alter the physics of the surface. Could I ask you to indulge me and put that one up on your screen. Then each time you switch on your computer you can think about this statement of yours:

” I also have to say that this same drop of gasoline doesn’t seem to cover a hectare of rain-slick pavement, nor does the occasional drop of oil or gasoline that drips from my boat’s motor into the ocean seem to cover, or smooth, anything like a hectare of ocean. If it did, the entire Beaufort inlet (or any inlet to a harbor) would be one big slick, and they’re not. Even a clean and well maintained motor blows some unburned gasoline out in its exhaust, and in any given harbor with thousands of boats, there are at least tens of boats with egregious leaks of gasoline and/or oil. ”

Not gasoline, oil. Not ‘slick’, Dr Brown, ‘smooth’. Can you see them yet?

JF

185. Ulric Lyons says:

RGB said;
“My own prediction for the climate is this. We will probably continue to experience mild warming for another ten to twenty years — warming on the order of 0.1C per decade.”

I have a good handle on what was causing the coldest seasons through the LIA, and I am looking at 2015-2025 being the coldest period this century, with severe cold episodes occurring rather soon.
Such as Spring-early Summer 2016. The analogue I am using is astronomically derived and is 1837. March to May in England that year was colder than any such same period through late Maunder and Dalton: http://climexp.knmi.nl/data/tcet.dat
It led to crop failures and famines in several regions:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agra_famine_of_1837%E2%80%931838
http://www.histori.ca/peace/page.do?pageID=341
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oshio_Heihachiro
http://www.landandfreedom.org/ushistory/us8.htm