All Rain Is Acid Rain

Opinion; Dr. Tim Ball

The scientific theory I like best is that the rings of Saturn are composed entirely of lost airline luggage. Mike Russell

Lack of Data Is The Fundamental Problem

My first involvement with the Acid Rain scare was indirect, but added to awareness of the limitations of data and understanding of atmospheric and ocean mechanisms. It also heightened awareness of the political nature of environmental science. I knew the extents because of membership in the Canadian Committee on Climate Fluctuation and Man (CCCFM). It was part of the National Museum of Natural Sciences Project on Climate Change in Canada During the Past 20,000 years. The committee was funded jointly by the National Museum of Natural Sciences and Environment Canada. It met yearly for several years, bringing together a wide range of specialists to focus on a region, time period, or area of study. Papers were published in Syllogeus, edited by Dr C.R.Harington of the Paleobiology Division. A review of them underlines how much the IPCC sidelined progress in climatology.

My election to Chair of the CCCFM likely caused its demise. In my acceptance speech I urged people not to rush to judgment on the recent anthropogenic global warming (AGW) hypothesis. I was unaware at the time of the involvement of Environment Canada (EC) in the promotion of the hypothesis and the work of the IPCC. Gordon McBean, was Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM, second highest bureaucrat) at Environment Canada and Chaired the IPCC foundation meeting in Villach Austria in 1985. Within a few months of my election, EC withdrew funding and the Museum could not sustain it alone. One of the last projects was a detailed study of the global impact of the eruption of Mount Tambora, Indonesia in 1815. The conference proceedings were published in C.R.Harington (ed) The Year Without a Summer? World Climate in 1816. 1992, National Museum of Natural Sciences, Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa. Environment Canada’s actions were part of the suppression of people and data that continues to this day.

Dangers of Bureaucrats Doing Research

At the one annual conference under my chair, an Environment Canada researcher approached me to talk about a problem with the issue of Acid Rain. His dilemma underscored my argument that bureaucratic researchers are almost automatically compromised.

He was so nervous that he wouldn’t talk about it at the museum; instead, we met at the airport coffee shop. He was directed to prove US coal burning plants were causing the Acid Rain causing demise of the Quebec Maple Syrup industry. Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was already, publicly saying they were to blame.

The problem was his research showed the decline in Maple Syrup production was not caused by Acid Rain, but two natural cyclical events. The major one was a drought. The other, was due to a period of Meridional flow (the dreaded “polar vortex”) resulting in a very early spring warming that caused the tree to start leafing, followed by leaf destroying “black” frosts. Both events cause “dieback”, that is a loss of leaves. Trees, like all vegetation, have recovery and catch-up mechanisms that drive them to seed production. They will grow new leaves and go through a shortened and reduced production cycle. This includes the amount of sap flowing.

His dilemma was how to tell his bosses at Environment Canada that evidence didn’t support the Prime Ministers accusations. He even talked of publishing under an assumed name. I pointed out that he might then be fired because he hadn’t done anything for two years, although that is no guarantee in a bureaucracy.

The solution was obvious; he had to retain his scientific integrity and present his evidence. It was not his job to determine what happened to the results. His job was to do thorough, well-documented, research. He was not paid to make political decisions. The report would go up the bureaucratic ladder until somebody, holding a job for political reasons, would put it on a shelf. Later, a joint investigation by three US and three Canadian investigators, confirmed that Acid Rain was not the cause of the decline in Maple Syrup. After climate conditions changed again, yields exceeded previous records.

There is no question that Acid Rain occurred in concentrations sufficient to destroy plants. I lived in Sudbury Ontario for a year, with its smoke stack, identified as the source of 10 percent of North American Acid Rain, and saw the effects. Town leaders were proud of the fact NASA chose the region as most like the moon for astronaut training. At that time, the philosophy was ‘the solution to pollution is dilution’, so they built the smokestacks higher to disperse the sulfur further downwind. Ironically, after scrubbers were put on the stacks, reports appeared of reduced tree growth downwind because small amounts of sulfur were a fertilizer enhancing growth. This appears to support Paracelsus’ 16th century observation that the toxicity is in the dosage.

Types of Acid Rain And Chemical Variations

Water vapor condenses on to particles called condensation nuclei (CN), most of them are clay or salt particles. The CN influences the chemical nature of the liquid water drop created. For example, salt particles change the freezing temperature so the droplet becomes super-cooled and remain liquid below the freezing point. If it is a sulfur particle, the water droplet becomes a mild sulfuric acid droplet and that became the Acid Rain of environmental focus.

Most people don’t know that all rain is acid rain, but not because of the CN. Water, whether in the form of water droplets that take an estimated 1 million to form a medium-sized raindrop, absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. Droplets have a very high ratio of surface area to volume and absorb CO2 at a known rate. The chemical formula is CO2 + H2O clip_image002 H2CO3, which results in a weak, approximately 10 percent, carbonic acid in chemical equilibrium.

How much water is there in the atmosphere and how much does it vary regionally and over time? Two comments give an idea of the lack of accurate information.

One estimate of the volume of water in the atmosphere at any one time is about 3,100 cubic miles (mi3) or 12,900 cubic kilometers (km3).

At any moment, the atmosphere contains an astounding 37.5 million billion gallons of water, in the invisible vapor phase. This is enough water to cover the entire surface of the Earth (land and ocean) with one inch of rain.

Combine these with the extremely poor precipitation data for the entire globe and you have another example of climate science being a modern equivalent of the number of angels on the head of a pin. One-person claims

…the approximate rate of washout of carbon dioxide from the Earth’s atmosphere via rainwater can be determined from the known ocean evaporation rate and from the known solubility of CO2 in distilled water as a function of temperature and CO2 partial pressure.

Fine, but what is the figure? I understand estimates of evaporation are very crude, if not essentially meaningless. In the early atmosphere/ocean computer models they simply assumed a “swamp” approach of 100 percent evaporation. The 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report says,

The spatial resolution of the coupled ocean-atmosphere models used in the IPCC assessment is generally not high enough to resolve tropical cyclones, and especially to simulate their intensity.

 

Carol Anne Clayson of Woods Hole explains the difficulties.

The air-sea interface “is typically the most turbulent part of the ocean,” Clayson said. A dizzying mix of interrelated factors—waves, winds, water temperature and salinity, bubbles and spray, solar radiation, and others—each adds a layer of complexity that occurs over wide ranges of time (seconds to seasons) and space (millimeters to miles). [See illustration above.]

“Getting observations of what’s going on at the air-sea interface is not trivial, especially in extreme conditions such as high winds,” Clayson said. “It’s also difficult to simulate the air-sea interactions, especially in extreme conditions, in laboratory experiments in a wave tank. Current computers don’t have enough computational capacity to incorporate all the processes occurring, on all the spatial and temporal scales involved, to produce realistic simulations.”

So we don’t know and can’t do anything with it. IPCC know the limits, but also know few read or understand the science reports.

 

Unfortunately, the total surface heat and water fluxes (see Supplementary Material, Figure S8.14) are not well observed.

For models to simulate accurately the seasonally varying pattern of precipitation, they must correctly simulate a number of processes (e.g., evapotranspiration, condensation, transport) that are difficult to evaluate at a global scale.

How much CO2 is absorbed in the atmosphere by moisture? How much does it vary spatially with changing temperature of the water droplets and raindrops? How much does it vary with changing air temperature and saturation vapor pressure? How much does it vary with wind speed? How do the quantities relate to human additions of CO2? All we can do is ask questions to help the public realize the inadequacy of the data and lack of understanding of the mechanisms behind IPCC claims.

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Jimbo

Nice coincidence. I saw this very recent post on NTZ.
“2008 Paper Demolished “Forest Die-Off” Scare: “None Of The Apocalyptic Prophecies Of That Time Fulfilled””
http://notrickszone.com/2014/08/15/2008-paper-demolished-forest-die-off-scare-none-of-the-apocalyptic-prophecies-of-that-time-fulfilled/

It is easy to vilify that which you hate. It is harder to prove that it is the real villain. Thanks for the history lesson.

“All we can do is ask questions to help the public realize the inadequacy of the data and lack of understanding of the mechanisms behind IPCC claims.”
What is the point of asking questions without trying to find out the answers?

Sun Spot

@Nick Stokes says: , August 15, 2014 at 1:21 pm
“What is the point of asking questions without trying to find out the answers?”
Nick, you dummy, haven’t you ever heard of a thing called curiosity?

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

“What is the point of asking questions without trying to find out the answers?”
It’s a step up from stating the answers and then trying to find the questions.

Unmentionable

So, let me get this straight, we don’t know the details of the most fundamental processes occurring above oceans, and, nor do we know what’s going on at the bottom, for 99.999999% of the area of ocean floor. But fortunately oceans are completely irrelevant to the understanding of climatic variability?
When the politicians waffle about the ‘precautionary principle’ they don’t mean it, or we’d be taking the basic precaution of having some sort of clue before we claimed “the science is settled”.
The truth is ‘the science’ has nor been done, we’ve barely scratched the surface of determining what it is we need to find out.
Lucid article, thanks.

Greg

“At the one annual conference under my chair”
Big chair or small conference?
English made so much more sense in the good old non-PC, sexist days when a man ( a two legged animal ) who headed a group was allowed to be called a chairman and did not have to pretend to be a chair ( a four legged object ).
His tenure used to be referred to as his chairmanship.

Jimbo

Nick Stokes says:
August 15, 2014 at 1:21 pm

“All we can do is ask questions to help the public realize the inadequacy of the data and lack of understanding of the mechanisms behind IPCC claims.”

What is the point of asking questions without trying to find out the answers?

“…..to help the public realize the inadequacy of the data and lack of understanding of the mechanisms behind IPCC claims.”

milodonharlani

Greg says:
August 15, 2014 at 1:39 pm
Grammatically, the suffix “-man” (usually pronounced “mun”) is neuter in gender, which grammatical term of course doesn’t necessarily imply natural sex anyway, although it has been hijacked by “gender studies” programs, so can refer to a person of any sex. See “woman” for a comparable construction.

Sun Spot says: August 15, 2014 at 1:31 pm
“Nick, you dummy, haven’t you ever heard of a thing called curiosity?”

Curious people actually look up the answers. Take the question “Fine, but what is the figure? “. That cites this link, which is actually full of figures. I couldn’t see where it calculates the amount of washout, but it tells you how to do it, gives the solubility tables and there are plenty of rainfall estimates there. A curious person could work it out.

Nick Stokes says:
August 15, 2014 at 1:21 pm
What is the point of asking questions without trying to find out the answers?
————————————————————————————————
You ask the quesions of the experts (because no-one else is qualified / enitled to voice an opinion) in the hope tha they’ll slip up on the script and answer truthfully. thus demonsrating that they really don’t know squat.
Don’t forget – just because someone knows more than you or I about somehing doesn’t mean they have a clue what’s really going on 😉

Nick Stokes;
What is the point of asking questions without trying to find out the answers?
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Because I am rather sick and tired of pointing out facts and getting responses like:
Well you’re not a climate scientist….
That’s not peer reviewed….
97% of scientists agree….
So (depending on the audience of course) I have taken, in social settings to asking stupid questions:
Why is ice increasing in the antarctic and on a global scale?
Why does the IPCC say its models are probably over estimating warming?
Why hasn’t the temperature changed over the last 15 years?
Why has sea level rise slowed down?
Why are the Maldives building new airports and luxury hotels on the land that they insist is going to be swamped by the oceans? And how do they con the investors in those projects to invest if it is?
Wasn’t the arctic supposed to be ice free by now?
I thought our children weren’t going to know what snow was?
etc, etc, etc

Curious George

Nick – a nice try. When someone asks an inconvenient question, don’t answer it. Drown her/him in data. (I guess that indicates you did not know the answer in the first place).

D. Cohen

Unmentionable says:
August 15, 2014 at 1:36 pm
So, let me get this straight, we don’t know the details of the most fundamental processes occurring above oceans, and, nor do we know what’s going on at the bottom, for 99.999999% of the area of ocean floor. But fortunately oceans are completely irrelevant to the understanding of climatic variability?
When the politicians waffle about the ‘precautionary principle’ they don’t mean it, or we’d be taking the basic precaution of having some sort of clue before we claimed “the science is settled”.
______________
This is why Al Gore and all the rest are happy to ride private jets to and fro all over the globe, increasing their “carbon footprint”, without feeling the least bit of guilt. They know the whole AGW thing is politicized science fiction, good enough perhaps for a Hollywood SciFi potboiler but nothing else.
Not willing to be quite this cynical? Well then, consider what would happen if some country offered to solve global warming by orbiting enough satellites to reflect back into space several percent of the sunshine that would otherwise reach the earth’s surface — and everyone else believed it had the resources actually to do this. All the world’s governments would stand up and scream that interfering with their sunshine would be an act of war, because they would ***know*** that loss of sunshine could have a strong and unknown effect on them. Politicians, with their finally tuned noses for BS of all types, love AGW because they realize at once that anything that their taxpayers pay to have done with respect to CO2 will most likely have no effect whatsoever (besides lining the pockets of well-connected cronies) and that this fact will not become known for several decades, by which time they will have most likely retired from office.

johnofenfield

At last! I’ve found out where my luggage got to. Will I be able to check the snazzy luggage strap through my telescope?

Curious George says:August 15, 2014 at 2:15 pm
“Nick – a nice try. When someone asks an inconvenient question, don’t answer it. Drown her/him in data.”

So it’s “We want answers, but don’t bother us with data”?
In fact, I see that “Fine, but what is the figure? ” is answered at the site cited. The “fgigure” is washout. They have a para headed in bold: “FIND THE RATE OF ABSORPTION OF CO2 FROM THE ATMOSPHERE BY RAIN WATER:”
Answer: 0.1264 X 10^10 tonne CO2 / year
It seems the logic here is – so many questions. And if we don’t know, no-one knows. And looking it up is sooo hard.

“And looking it up is sooo hard.”
Even Racehorses tire out eventually.
Andrew

Nick Stokes:
At August 15, 2014 at 2:29 pm you say

In fact, I see that “Fine, but what is the figure? ” is answered at the site cited. The “fgigure” is washout. They have a para headed in bold: “FIND THE RATE OF ABSORPTION OF CO2 FROM THE ATMOSPHERE BY RAIN WATER:”
Answer: 0.1264 X 10^10 tonne CO2 / year

No, you have not provided a link to the answer.
You have provided a link to an estimate with no quantified error estimate that is based on assumptions.
Indeed, the number you cite seems to be plucked out of the air.
Furthermore, the paper says of its precipitation estimate

This value compares with typical annual rainfall measurements of about 1 m / year on dry land. However, rainfall measurements on dry land do not take into consideration dew and low altitude condensation that occurs over the oceans.

Nick Stokes, if that information is the best you can provide then you would do better to admit you don’t know an answer to the question instead of trying to baffle brains with bull sh*it’.
Richard

richardscourtney says: August 15, 2014 at 3:06 pm
“Nick Stokes, if that information is the best you can provide”

No, it’s not the best I can provide. I didn’t introduce the site concerned – that was Tim Ball. It’s actually a site of an apparently retired engineer – no authority, but genuinely curious. He’s trying to work it out.
My point is though, that Tim Ball took it just to the stage of saying “Fine, but what is the figure? “. One of his many questions. And in the enthusiasm of going on to the next “question”, he didn’t notice that a figure was there.

MarkW

Nick Stokes says:
August 15, 2014 at 1:21 pm
——
Nick, Nick, Nick. There you go with the strawmen again. Nobody said anything about not trying to find answers. The point is to not do anything with the answers until you have them in the first place.

Nick Stokes:
At August 15, 2014 at 3:13 pm you say

My point is though, that Tim Ball took it just to the stage of saying “Fine, but what is the figure? “. One of his many questions. And in the enthusiasm of going on to the next “question”, he didn’t notice that a figure was there.

Oh dear! That is a desperate excuse! The facts are
1.
Tim Ball said there is no real answer to the question and cited a paper which includes an apparent answer.
2.
You made a big deal about that reference including an available answer.
3.
I point out that the apparent answer is not a real answer.
4.
You reply with the statement I have quoted above in this post.
5.
Your reply is a strange choice of words to say that Tim Ball was right and you were wrong.
Furthermore, you say to me

No, it’s not the best I can provide. I didn’t introduce the site concerned – that was Tim Ball. It’s actually a site of an apparently retired engineer – no authority, but genuinely curious. He’s trying to work it out.

So, you claim you could have provided better information but you have not. Yes, Nick, of course you could.
Richard

Today, that bureaucrat researcher would have no problem connecting US coal plant pollution to the demise of the Quebec maple syrup trees. As we all know now, coal plants are responsible for climate change, and climate change causes droughts and polar vortexes. QED. Of course, climate change also causes earthquakes, hurricanes, cold Winters, warm Winters, lack of huricanes, rail disasters, and the rings of Saturn. You can’t deny science.

angelartiste1

Today, that bureaucrat researcher would have no problem connecting US coal plant pollution to the demise of the Quebec maple syrup trees. As we all know now, coal plants are responsible for climate change, and climate change causes droughts and polar vortexes. QED. Of course, climate change also causes earthquakes, hurricanes, cold Winters, warm Winters, lack of huricanes, rail disasters, and the rings of Saturn. You can’t deny science.

richardscourtney says: August 15, 2014 at 3:25 pm
“So, you claim you could have provided better information but you have not.”

No, I feel no obligation to provide better information. It is Tim Ball’s question. Specifically, “what is the figure?”. Well, it’s right there on the page. I’m sure it can be criticised, but if you really want to know, then the answer provided is at least worth looking up and discussing.

Oh look, another successful diversion by stokes.

Gunga Din

Nick Stokes says:
August 15, 2014 at 1:48 pm

Sun Spot says: August 15, 2014 at 1:31 pm
“Nick, you dummy, haven’t you ever heard of a thing called curiosity?”

Curious people actually look up the answers.

======================================================================
I don’t think you’re a dummy.
That said, curious people don’t just “look up the answers”. They check those answers to the best of their ability. Some, such as our host and Curry and McIntyre and Spencer and Tisdale and etc, have much ability in their field. When they “looked up the answers” in what they had thought were trusted “peer reviewed” sources, they noticed reality didn’t match the answers.
I checked the record highs and lows for my area and saw they’d been tampered with. (Adjusted if you prefer.)
There’s nothing wrong with the environment or taking measures to “stop dumping stuff in the crick”. But environmental issues such as acid rain and CO2 have become a political tool and the science has been left behind or swept under the rug.
(In the case of some like Mann the “rug” takes the form of lawsuits.)

Nick Stokes:
At August 15, 2014 at 3:38 pm

No, I feel no obligation to provide better information. It is Tim Ball’s question. Specifically, “what is the figure?”. Well, it’s right there on the page. I’m sure it can be criticised, but if you really want to know, then the answer provided is at least worth looking up and discussing.

So, you claim to have better information but “feel no obligation to provide” it. Yes, Nick, I’m sure everybody is convinced by that.
Also, I did “look it up” and in my reply to you at August 15, 2014 at 3:06 pm I explained why it is not credible. Tim Ball rightly did not cite it.
So, are you going to admit you were wrong?
Richard

Greg

Congratulation Nick. You’ve stirred more response with a one liner than Tim Ball got with his article.
Not surprising, since the article did not make it’s point ( which is a good one ) very well, and ended in whimper.
It would have helped put events in context it he had said what year it was he had a conference under this chair.

richardscourtney says: August 15, 2014 at 3:46 pm
“So, you claim to have better information…”

No, I have not claimed anywhere to have better information. I just rejected your proposition that I am providing information at all. I referred to what TB’s cited page was saying.
I admire curiosity, but my own fund of it is not unlimited, and does not extend to the actual amount of CO2 washout. Tim Ball’s quoted site says it is about 1 Gton CO2 per year, or about 0.3 Gton C. That is part of what are generally counted as natural sources/sinks (which are actually just transfers). For the ocean, that’s quoted as about 90 Gton C a year overall. So yes, the precision of our knowledge of that 0.3 Gtons is not greatly important to me.
And it’s just one of the things that might have been mentioned in this list of questions.

starzmom

All you have to do is look up the pH data for the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in New Hampshire to realize that after 40 years and massive reductions in SO2 emissions in North America, there has been no substantial reduction in the acidity of rainfall in the downwind Northeast. Similarly, the lakes in the region are still acidic. They are also oligotrophic and surrounded by pine forests and poorly buffered, acidic soils. While the air is surely cleaner, the rain is still acidic and so are the lakes.

BioBob

There are areas and periods when CO2 washout & ‘acid rain’ estimates were reasonable & based on long-term observation with rigorous sampling /instrumentation. But the areas were small and the period too short. As usual, the results demonstrate some localized effects which hardly warranted the hype that preceded it.
It is important to emphasize that too much of that science funding diverted into AGW was wasted, political, and garbage science. The opportunity costs of the corruption of science via AGW represents an expensive loss of opportunity that will never be recovered. We need to redirect any future funding back into basic science untainted by political considerations, but I doubt there will be all that much after the current crowd has demonstrated such consistent politically directed behavior.

davideisenstadt

Nick Stokes says:
August 15, 2014 at 1:21 pm
““All we can do is ask questions to help the public realize the inadequacy of the data and lack of understanding of the mechanisms behind IPCC claims.”
What is the point of asking questions without trying to find out the answers?”
and yet you post the question above , and do not try to answer it yourself….

BioBob

starzmom says: August 15, 2014 at 5:15 pm
“surrounded by pine forests”
=====================
actually, the forests at Hubbard Brook are predominantly hardwood deciduous beech, birch, etc. forests with pin cherry early succession. The problem with granite bedrock areas is that the soils have poor buffering capacity.
Sulfur emissions from individual power plants may well have been reduced but there are plenty of other acid forming pollutants like nitric acid forming automobile exhaust that have increased in total volume since the 70s. I haven’t seen recent data from the area but it does not take all that much acid forming compounds to change pH of distilled water. In any case, we are talking about total mass transfer effects here and we would need to examine TOTAL acid forming compounds, not those of individual plants.

Robert B

For Nick:
The IQ of Nick stokes has been measured to be 76.384, 78.298 and 81.753 which gives an average of 77.253. The standard deviations are 44.378, 39.297 and 52.934, respectively so we are 95% confident that his IQ is 22.278 less than the mean IQ of the population.
I wonder if he will check the data now.

u.k.(us)

Can anyone point me towards a settled science ?

For BioBob.
Nitric oxide from lightning is the major source of nitric acid in rain away from urban centres. It has been a very important source of nitrogen for plants well before humans were a twinkle in Gaia’s eye.

“The problem was his research showed the decline in Maple Syrup production was not caused by Acid Rain… His dilemma was how to tell his bosses…”
I read a study a few years back on the health risks of global warming, where the researchers solved this conundrum rather neatly. The study was commissioned not to examine the pro’s and con’s but to discuss only the con’s. The problem was there was no evidence of the con’s but fairly easily retrievable evidence of the pro’s. (Such as hospital death rates, which were always higher in colder months.) So what did they do? Well, they created a model, of course.

BioBob

vicgallus says: August 15, 2014 at 5:49 pm
I am not surprised. It is certain that there are plenty of natural sources of chemicals that acidify precipitation like forest fires, bacterial decay, sulfur emissions from vulcanism and so on.

after scrubbers were put on the stacks, reports appeared of reduced tree growth downwind because small amounts of sulfur were a fertilizer enhancing growth.
=================
typo? reports appeared of increased tree growth

Nick Stokes says:
August 15, 2014 at 1:21 pm
What is the point of asking questions without trying to find out the answers?
=============
In that case, why are you asking a question?

It is certain that there are plenty of natural sources of chemicals that acidify precipitation
===================
Formic acid is a naturally occurring component of the atmosphere due primarily to forest emissions.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Formic_acid

Dave Wendt

http://www.chemistry.wustl.edu/~edudev/LabTutorials/Water/FreshWater/acidrain.html
“Natural Acidity of Rainwater
Pure water has a pH of 7.0 (neutral); however, natural, unpolluted rainwater actually has a pH of about 5.6 (acidic).[Recall from Experiment 1 that pH is a measure of the hydrogen ion (H+) concentration.] The acidity of rainwater comes from the natural presence of three substances (CO2, NO, and SO2) found in the troposphere (the lowest layer of the atmosphere). As is seen in Table I, carbon dioxide (CO2) is present in the greatest concentration and therefore contributes the most to the natural acidity of rainwater.”

Duster

Nick Stokes says:
August 15, 2014 at 2:29 pm
Curious George says:August 15, 2014 at 2:15 pm
“Nick – a nice try. When someone asks an inconvenient question, don’t answer it. Drown her/him in data.”
So it’s “We want answers, but don’t bother us with data”?
In fact, I see that “Fine, but what is the figure? ” is answered at the site cited. …

Nick, you either are not reading, or deliberately are using the quote and question out of context of with the rest of the post merely to distract the discussion. The source of your “answer” to where to find the figure says that figure is calculated from “… the known ocean evaporation rate…”, which was Ball’s point. There is no “known” evaporation rate for the world’s oceans. At best there are a range of (barely) educated guesses or, more kindly, estimates.
What follows is a reductio ad absurdum.
The very same page also says that water vapour condenses “high in the atmosphere” releasing LWIR, which implicitly suggests that H2O vapour must provide a net cooling effect. “Back radiation” or what ever you want to name it, is emitted in random directions “high in the atmosphere” or anywhere else. Because of the random direction of emission, the radiation will be more likely to remain at altitude or continue outward, rather than track inward due to planetary geometry alone. Less than half the potential directions reduce the altitude at which the next absorption would occur. Take into account the atmospheric pressure gradient, meaning that more molecules are below the emission event than above it, and the possible inward paths are also significantly shorter in length than outward tracks. Those greenhouses gases will then be prone to trap energy emitted high above the surface until re-emission, which again is randomly directed and again has a less than 50% chance of heading back along a line that would intercept the planet’s surface. Statistically then, statements made by the author of “the figure” also imply that water vapour will more likely cool than warm the planet.
So, one might conclude that the “author,” who asserts how simple it is to estimate global evaporation from the oceans and provide a figure for the return of CO2 to earth, apparently doesn’t believe that global warming is really a problem, regardless of what he writes?
Remember, you imply that Ball is asking a stupid or lazy question, regardless of what HE wrote, even though the question about the figure is plainly rhetorical, and he supplied the link to the source of the quote and thus to “the figure” as well. If you want to dispute what Ball implies, then do that. Drive-bys are always less efficient than a carefully aimed shot.

bushbunny

If you are in a wood burning area, or have a wood burner in one’s home, then when the rain rushes down, it becomes slightly acid collecting from the roof where smoke has settled. I have an rain water tank as well as tap or mains, for my bonsai mainly. The mains water is obviously chlorinated which is a health necessity. This disipates very quickly. (Can’t spell today)
Then we have tested the mains and it is alkaline, sometimes over 8.4 p.H. But my rain water tank not being in a large wood burning area of town, is neutral. Anyway the water they use to wash coal is one of the best carbon based fertilizers out. But expensive.

Duster says: August 15, 2014 at 7:50 pm
“Nick, you either are not reading, or deliberately are using the quote and question out of context of with the rest of the post merely to distract the discussion. The source of your “answer” to where to find the figure says that figure is calculated from “… the known ocean evaporation rate…”, which was Ball’s point.”

I’m not sure what his point was in quoting that particular site. It is an amateur effort, though I’m impressed by the author’s tenacity in looking for answers. I’ve bookmarked it. He has estimated the evap rate from energy supplied, which is an overshoot. He notes in the next section that average rain is about 1m/yr. He says that’s on dry land, but it’s actually a well-characterised figure globally, at a bit less than 1 m, as used in Trenberth’s calc. He should have used that – he says that he wanted to include dew etc, but in fact that doesn’t transport CO2 anywhere.
With that, and the known solubility, you can actually do quite a good calc, the main uncertainty being temperature. But as I said, it is in any case only a tiny part of the total air/sea exchange.
And that’s my real point here. These are quantitative issues, and there’s no point in just plaintively voicing questions without at least looking up some numbers. The fact that CO2 washout is small is easily established. “What is the figure?”. If he didn’t know, he should have (it’s there); if he did, he should have quoted it – it’s relevant to the question, if the question is real.

Mike Wryley

I was once told that the fly ash that used to go up the stack in a coal fired plant tended to neutralize the sulfur component of the flue gas. My home town had a small coal fired power plant (45MW) and what I know for a fact was that after they installed the gubment mandated scrubber/filters (this was many moons ago) for the allegedly nasty fly ash, acid drops would fall out of the sky on hot, humid, dead calm days. These drops of acid would eat through the paint on your car in a matter of hours, but only affected the poor folks living within a few blocks of the plant.

dudleyhorscroft

ferdberple said: August 15, 2014 at 7:11 pm
“after scrubbers were put on the stacks, reports appeared of reduced tree growth downwind because small amounts of sulfur were a fertilizer enhancing growth.
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typo? reports appeared of increased tree growth”
No typo. The scrubbers reduced the amount of sulphur (Note correct spelling of ‘sulphur’ in English and Australian”) and hence the fertilizer effect was reduced. Hence reduced tree growth.

Thank you so much, Dr. Ball. You certainly have given me a five course meal of delicious things to ponder.
I particularly relished this quote, towards the end of your essay:
“Getting observations of what’s going on at the air-sea interface is not trivial, especially in extreme conditions such as high winds,” Clayson said. “It’s also difficult to simulate the air-sea interactions, especially in extreme conditions, in laboratory experiments in a wave tank. Current computers don’t have enough computational capacity to incorporate all the processes occurring, on all the spatial and temporal scales involved, to produce realistic simulations.”
My own experience with the air-sea interface includes being on a 28-foot sailboat, leaving Newport as a rainy night descended, and having a nor’easter blow up as we passed Block Island. By the time we made it to Cape May three days later I’d had quite enough of observing the air-sea interface. For a while I was scared to death, however fortunately I became so seasick I didn’t care if I died, and that put an end to my fear. I agree it is difficult to simulate such conditions in a laboratory wave tank, and, while I know nothing about the computational capacity of current computers, I do know there are some things you can’t describe, either with a pen or with a computer, and a storm at sea is one of them.
To me it seems that too many people who have never been to sea are diddling about indoors, breathing musty air with eyes focused on computer screens, and then having the audacity to think that doing so makes them outdoors-men and sailors.
This sort of thinking leads to the idea man trumps nature. Man controls the climate. This is a harmless delusion, until you decide to shut down all the coal-powered power plants, and heat everyone’s homes with pinwheels. It is then, when the brown-out turns to a shut-down of power, and you can’t play on your computer because the batteries are dead, and the house is getting cold as January winds howl outside, and the pipes start freezing and the toilet won’t flush, that the outdoors starts coming indoors, and it starts to occur to people that man may not trump nature after all.

BioBob

starzmom says: August 15, 2014 at 5:15 pm
“there has been no substantial reduction in the acidity of rainfall in the downwind Northeast.”
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Better look at the Hubbard Brook data again. You made me curious. After a quick look, there has been what I would consider a substantial decrease in sulfur deposition of over 20%. Further, the pH of rain has gone from an average of about 4.0 to around 4.9, according to the data I just looked at.
I would consider both of those significant. It’s time to build more coal plants and do better than we have in the past !! I know we can do a better job and get that pH down to 2 or 3 !! /sarc

bushbunny

Well I read in one of my bonsai books, that rain can be slightly acid as it falls through the immediate atmosphere. Depends where you live. But it is absorbed with other gases by plants, that’s why my plants grow more on rain fall than hosing.