Al Be Doh!

Terrible pun. About what you ask? Al Gore and the Climate Menace. It is my way of saying - Al is not too smart, but saying it in a way that segues into the topic at hand. Which is: what is the maximum possible temperature of the earth and are we near it? Which is all tied up with Maxwellian thermal distributions, the Stephan-Boltzman Law, Planck's Law, and albedo (get it? al be do). Which will all be explained shortly.

My friend Eric sent me this interesting piece that asks an important question. What is the maximum temperature of the earth? Which is why the above science comes into play.

Black bodies

A black body absorbs all of the light that reaches it. It has an absorptivity of 1. Thermodynamics states that objects at thermodynamic equilibrium radiate as much energy as they receive. The Stefan-Boltzmann equation describes the energy flux as it relates to temperature for a body in thermodynamic equilibrium:

S= σ T4

Simplified the energy radiated by a perfect radiating body goes up as the fourth power of the temperature of the body. An interesting and important point is that a perfect radiator is also a perfect absorber. An absorbtivity of 1 is equal to an albedo of 0. Conversely an absorbtivity of 0 is equal to an albedo of 1. (1 - absorbtivity = albedo)

Which brings us to the next point:

Postulate 1: The average temperature of a body in thermodynamic equilibrium with an external energy source can never exceed the temperature of a black body in the same environment.
This is true for a number of reasons. One of which is the conservation of energy. If you have two black bodies in the same environment and one was hotter than the other you could get energy out of such a system by absorbing heat at the higher temperature and rejecting it at the lower temperature. Now if you took that energy and re-injected it into the black body you should be able to make the temperature of the black body rise thus getting even more energy out of the system. Perpetual motion. i.e. it can't happen. So a black body in thermal equilibrium with a source is going to have a temperature defined by the source and its distance from the black body.
Postulate 2: The maximum temperature of a body in thermodynamic equilibrium with an external energy source can never exceed the temperature of black body in the same environment.
So neither the average nor the maximum can exceed the black body temperature. Other wise you could get perpetual motion from black bodies. So you think a perfect reflector would help? Nope. Perfect reflectors do not radiate energy. You can't pump energy into a perfect reflector in thermal equilibrium. Because if such a thing was possible the temperature would rise without limit. Then you could extract thermal energy from it by rejecting the heat to a black body. You could take the energy extracted and use it to raise the temperature of the white body making even more energy available. i.e. perpetual motion. Not going to happen.

One other important point. A perfect white body couldn't absorb ANY heat because its temperature would become infinite if you continued to pump heat into it. Another little stumbling block.

Postulate 3: The greenhouse effect can never produce a temperature that is higher than the temperature of a black body in the same environment
If it could it would violate thermodynamics principles and we could in theory have a perpetual motion machine. Not going to happen.

So there is a maximum temperature that the earth can reach no matter how many zillions of tons of green house gasses are pumped into the atmosphere.

So the question is what is that temperature?

It should now be clear that the maximum temperature of Earth can be no higher than the maximum temperature of an equivalent black body. We will now try to evaluate what that maximum is. For simplicity, all values and graphs have been obtained from Wikipedia unless otherwise stated.

The moon is quite close to a black body. It is estimated to have an absorptivity of 0.88. Conveniently the moon is nearly in the same environment in space as the Earth. The maximum temperature found on the moon is approximately 390° K. Using the Stefan-Boltzmann equation described earlier the maximum flux on the moon is

αS = σ T4

which for our values gives a flux of 1491 w/m2. Already we have a problem. The flux on Earth from the sun as measured by satellites is widely reported to be around 1366 w/m2, or significantly lower. Why the discrepancy? It is interesting to note that even with only these three elements, moon data, sun data, and the Stefan-Boltzmann equation, we end up with slightly inconsistent results, which may give us some insight into the level of uncertainty in the data that still remains in this area. Since we are interested in the maximum temperature we will take the maximum value of 1491 w/m2.

The earth is approximately spherical and receives light from the sun on a cross-sectional area of a circle, but radiates thermal energy from the area of a sphere. The ratio of the spherical area to the circular area is 4. Dividing the incoming energy flux by 4 gives the Earth an approximate maximum temperature of 285° K. Again we have another inconsistency as this maximum temperature is below the widely reported global average temperature of 288° K. Also the earth has an uneven distribution of temperatures and therefore an uneven distribution of flux, the end result of which would be to lower the average temperature even more. Still the result is quite close and it suggests that the Earth is behaving very closely to a black body and is operating very close to its maximum possible temperature.

Which leads to a restatement of the last bit as a postulate:
Postulate 4: The earth is operating very close to its maximum possible temperature.

Again, this will cause many to pause as it goes against the conventional wisdom. However we will attempt to provide two pieces of evidence to support this case:

- ice ages and the runaway greenhouse effect

- climate variability/stability

So let us look at the ice age data. Specifically the interglacial periods (like now) when the earth warms up after an ice age. What is postulated is that when an ice age ends the earth's temperature rises rapidly to a maximum (due to positive feed backs) and stays there with very little fluctuation in termperature while during the ice age phases the fluctuations are significant. Which would mean that the earth's albedo (reflectivity) varies a lot during ice ages, and not very much during warm periods.
The most likely cause of the ice ages is due to fluctuations in the intensity and the distribution of solar radiation caused by changes in the tilt in the Earth's axis. This theory was first described by the Serbian scientist, Milutin Milankovitch, in 1938. There are three major cyclical components of the Earth's orbit about the sun that contribute to these fluctuations: the procession (tilt of the Earth's axis), as well as Earth's orbital eccentricity and orbital tilt. The exact cause and effect relationship between orbital forcing and ice ages is still a matter of great debate, however the match of glacial/interglacial frequencies to the Milankovitch orbital forcing periods is so close that orbital forcing is generally accepted. Other theories include greenhouse gas forcing, changes in the Earth's plate tectonics, changes in solar variation, and changes in absorptivity due to dust and gases spewed by volcanoes.

The exact cause of the ice ages is not critical to our discussion other than to note that the Earth appears to have two metastable states: an ice age period and a warm period.

I refer to the metastable states as "strange attractors" from chaos theory. What that says is that you have a local maximum or minimum in an unstable system and once you are far enough from the "strange attractor" the system will tend to rapidly switch states. When a system oscillates between two such states it is said to be bifructed. Which is just a fancy way of saying two stable states. In electronics we have a circuit that does that. It has positive feedback in both directions once you are far enough from a stable input. The circuit is called a Schmidt trigger. Once the input gets out of the stable region it switches rapidly to the alternate stable state. Positive feedback all the way.
Postulate 5: The transition from Ice Age to warm period and back to Ice Age is achieved through a runaway greenhouse effect and its opposite

Another remarkable feature is the relative stability of the climate at the peak of the warming cycle. The variability of temperatures during an ice age is relatively high compared to periods of warming. However this makes perfect sense if one considers the climate as being "pinned" to the upper limit during the warm periods and therefore remaining stable due to strong positive feedback. At the upper limit, the major driver of upper temperatures becomes solar input as this is the only thing remaining that can effectively increase temperatures.

Once your effective albedo is close to zero the temperature is only determined by black body considerations. No amount of additional radiation capture within the body is going to change the temperature. There is no kind of heat trap we can devise which will increase the temperature above the black body limit. In fact we can only raise the temperature locally on such a black body by concentrating the energy from a given area on a smaller area. However that will increase the radiation from the hotter area and the average temperature of the body will in fact decline, because radiation goes up as the fourth power of temperature. You can't beat mother nature. In fact here is a good point to give the three laws of thermodynamics in laymans terms:

1. You can't win - there is no way to beat the system, energy is conserved
2. You can't break even - there will always be losses
3. You can't get out of the game - the rules always apply

When it comes to thermal systems there can never be any such thing as perpetual motion. There is always a maximum of work that can be extracted from two bodies at different temperatures. Saidi Carnot figured that one out. The work out can only be equal to the heat energy in if the cold body that the heat is rejected to is at absolute zero. Otherwise there will be a certain amount of heat that must flow into the cold body. That heat is unavailable for work.

Postulate 6: The runaway greenhouse effect ends when the Earth has achieved a effective absorptivity as close to unity as it can get after which the earth becomes insensitive to further positive feedback changes.

Can there be a tipping point or a runaway greenhouse effect from a sudden injection of CO2/methane or the melting of ice?

No there can not. The Earth has already experienced a runaway greenhouse effect thousands of times during its lifetime. Each time it is run to the maximum possible level that it can, bringing us the much more habitable climate that we have today. It is not possible for there to be a tipping point to spiral us into a third metastable climate state that has not been shown to exist during the entire history of Earth. Barring a sudden change in input from the sun, changes in climate upwards can only occur in a smooth, slow and limited fashion. A tipping point is possible, however, towards another ice age as has happened thousands of times before.

So there you have it. The green house gasses (mainly water vapor) have done their job in changing the albedo of the earth to close to zero. The albedo can never go below zero no matter how much CO2 is pumped into the atmosphere.

Ian Schumacher, the author of the bits quoted above, follows a little different argument than I do on the matter of thermodynamics. The results are the same. Which means you should compare what I said to what Ian has written. In other words - read the whole thing.

H/T Eric of Classical Values

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon on 05.20.07 at 04:46 PM










Comments

Then you can throw the Snowball Earth into that mix to look at the effects of not having much in the way of greenhouse gases at all. When Earth gets close to that black body radiation level, due to lack of any atmospheric gases to reflect infrared back to the surface, the temperature drops and drastically.

It is getting energy into the system to get the various parts of it closer to their black body radiation limit that is a key to things: water has a phase change that takes a lot of energy, so when there is insufficient energy to shift it over from ice/water and water/vapor, you end up at the lower energy form. Excess energy will shift ice into water form or water into vapor and the final vapor form then is what is left for energy absorbtion and it loses heat rapidly but sits stubbornly at the phase change until the system starts losing energy to take that out of the system.

That phase change energy amount is huge compared to regular temperature at the stable states. That is where energy accumulation happens: via phase change due to the steep gradients involved.

When I keep on going on about continental drift speed, it is the resultant sea depth that is critical: putting relatively shallow oceans over the continents then allows for more heat to be kept in the water circulation there and the resultant water vapor amounts to increase. What happens is a stable point because the system-wide black body radiation is reached for the crustal surface, atmosphere and water cycle. The atmosphere has trapped as much is it can to increase the water vapor to a maximum level and the water to a high heat retention due to its shallow condition. Remove the shallow condition and the entire mass of water necessary to keep the planet 14 degrees above its current average is lost because the new black body system point is lower than it was previously.

On the other side Venus, getting more solar radiation in, has not only changed all of its water into vapor, but that water has formed chemical bonds with sulfur to form sulfuric acid vapor. Remaining water vapor has reached its system point where a good amount of it has actually disassociated into hydrogen and oxygen, with all sorts of lovely compounds like the sulfuric acid and others now floating there. The amount of infrared reflected downwards increases the entire system energy level due to that re-reflection but the entire system can now get no hotter due to it. The system balance has been reached. Earth, by contrast, has lost a lot of its atmosphere to space but has the saving grace of plate tectonics and the core breaking down materials and slowly off-gassing. Mars, smaller and further out, does not have that benefit and it is in a vapor/ice system, with very little water vapor to reflect infrared back into the system.

For Rock 3 from the Star Sol you end up with a maximum energy amount for the entire system and from what we have seen from historical climates and carbonates, there is a maximum temperature that greenhouse gases can give the planet and that is 14 degrees higher than now, and then the entire water system stabilizes things out *if* you have shallow oceans to act as large heat buffers and have no continents sitting at the poles to act as heat sinks. Ice only gets you so far at the poles, but put a crustal surface under it and you now have a place where lots of heat can be lost easily. Which is why we have a chilly spell going on: all that crustal material sending that lovely heat back into space instead of nice shallow oceans to trap and circulate it.

That is why looking at *one* part of the system does not cover what the *entire* system does. And all of this depends on relatively steady output from good old Sol.

ajacksonian   ·  May 20, 2007 5:25 PM

I had a good laugh over the sophomoric attempt at thermodynamics in this piece. This is truly a great example of knowing "just enough to be dangerous". The author does a pretty good job in the first few paragraphs, although the references to perpetual motion machines are a little odd; it's much easier to use the Second Law of Thermodynamics, although I could understand it if the author hasn't got a solid grip on the concept of entropy; it takes at least an undergraduate degree in physics to really understand the concept.

The author starts to run off the rails, though, when he starts talking about the maximum temperature as opposed to the average temperature. The very concept is nonsensical if you're talking about a body in thermal equilibrium, because a body at thermal equilibrium is at the same temperature throughout, hence the maximum temperature is the same as the minimum temperature. He should have noticed this problem when he got a discrepancy between the flux at the moon and the flux at the earth -- but instead, he already knew the answer he wanted, so he didn't let little things like numerical inconsistencies deter him.

His big mistake, though, lies in his failure to understand the nature of albedo (or its inverse, absorptivity). That's what makes this post especially ironic: it is supposedly about albedo but in fact completely screws up its handling of the concept. For the earth to be a perfectly blackbody it must have an albedo of 0.0. Now, what's significant here is that the albedo for absorption is NOT the same as the albedo for emission. Let me explain it in simple terms:

Albedo is the reflectivity of a surface. A perfectly white body that reflects away all light has an albedo of 1.0; a perfectly black body that reflects away zero light has an albedo of 0.0. However, albedo depends upon the frequency of the light striking the body. Our atmosphere is transparent to most of the light coming from the sun, so most of that light hits the earth, where much of it is absorbed, leading to a low albedo for the earth. However, when the earth radiates light away, the greenhouse gases capture some of that light and re-radiate it; half goes out to space and half goes back to the earth. Thus, the earth as a system absorbs visible light more efficiently than it radiates infrared light. However, most of the light coming in from the sun is visible light, while most of the light that the earth is emitting is infrared. This forces the earth to get hotter.

Let's do the calculation properly:

Start with the flux at the earth's distance of 1366 W/m**2. Apply that to the earth's collecting area to get the total power collected by the earth. However, we have to take into account the albedo of the earth; let's say that the albedo for incoming radiation is 0.7.

TP = flux x pi x albedo x r**2 (r = radius of earth)
= 1.366E03 W/m**2 x 3.14 x 0.7 x (6.36E6m)**2
= 4.29E03 W/m**2 x 0.7 x 4.04E13 m**2
= 1.21E17 W

Now we use the simplifying assumption that the earth is a blackbody at thermal equilibrium. It will emit thermal radiation at the rate of 1.73E17 W. BUT let's say that it's albedo for infrared radiation is only 0.1. What equilibrium temperature will result? First we determine the power emitted per square meter of the earth's surface:

flux = TP / surface area
= 1.73E17 W / (pi x d**2) (d is the diameter of the earth)
= 1.73E17 W / (3.14 x (1.27E7 **2))
= 1.73E17 W / 5.06E14 m**2
= 3.42E02 W/m**2

Now all we have to do is invert the Stefan-Boltzmann equation to solve for T:

T = (flux / (sigma x albedo) ** 0.25
= (3.42E02 W/m**2 / 5.67E-09 W/m**2K) **0.25
= (6.03E10)**0.25
= 496 K

which is about 434 degrees Fahrenheit. Hot enough for you?

Now, I realize that you global warming deniers will play amateur physicist and try to argue against this calculation. There are plenty of good criticisms of it, but I very much doubt that any of you know enough about physics to figure out the refinements that could be made to this calculation. It's a decent second-order calculation, but there are plenty of improvements to be made. Still, it blows out of the water the silly calculation offered above.

Froblyx   ·  May 20, 2007 6:30 PM

Ian Schumacher [ian.schumacher@gmail.com] has a degree in Engineering Physics and has done a master's program in physics and mathematical modeling. He used to work as a contract research scientist for the Canadian military, but has long since moved on and is now a programmer/software architect living in Vancouver, Canada)

M. Simon   ·  May 20, 2007 9:09 PM

Frob,

I admit you have made some good points.

Provided your magic mirror doesn't heat up.

M. Simon   ·  May 20, 2007 9:12 PM

I see also that you have found Maxwell's Demon.

You work that Demon right and there should be no limit to the achievable temperature.

Once you get the absorbtion to 1.0 and the emission to 0.0 you should be able to get a temperature as hot as you like.

A Nobel awaits.

M. Simon   ·  May 20, 2007 9:24 PM

M. Simon,

There are two important problems with the original argument you posted above:

- You talk about a body (blackbody or otherwise) being in "thermal equilibrium" with an "external energy source". This makes me feel nervous, because if two objects are in thermal equilibrium (which generally means that they have exactly the same temperature, except when you need to take general relativistic considerations into account), one doesn't talk about a "source" of energy, because when two objects are in thermal equilibrium, they are both giving and receiving energy from each other. Conversely, if one object is the source of energy for another, they are NOT in thermal equilibrium with each other. This is an important point, because when you stick these two incompatible notions together, your reasoning will be inevitably be incorrect. And for that reason, the "postulates" you proposed cannot be trusted; and in fact, do not have a coherent meaning.

- As a result of your line of discussion, what you have done is to argue yourself out of the normal greenhouse effect: the one that is NOT due to the additional C-O2 of fossil fuels, but which is due to all the pre-industrial C-O2, water vapor, etc. There is a well-known 21-degree difference between the "naked Earth" temperature and the actually measured temperature, which is due to the normal greenhouse effect; and this same effect applies to Mercury, Venus and Mars (planets for which we have good access both to the atmosphere and to the ground level) and the resulting temperature differences are very much in line with the calculations based on measured gas concentrations.

So your attempt to prove that the enhanced greenhouse effect (due to additional C-O2) can't exist, if true, would prove that the normal greenhouse effect didn't exist - and this is just false.

(Froblyx's discussion above overlaps considerably with my 2nd point; I just haven't bothered to do the arithmetic specifically.)

Neal J. King   ·  May 20, 2007 10:07 PM

Gaaaaa! You phycicists and mathematicians, you always crow over us Biology trained boffins! Just because you know calculus you get all the supermodels and air stewardesses. Well, you can take your 100-step calculations and shove them up a black hole! We're perfectly happy with coal-miners named Rotunda or Grizelda, thank you very much!

First relativity, then quantum theory and the double-slit experiment where a photon exists in two places at once until you attempt to detect it whereupon it can go back thru time and change the result, and now this black body radiation application in global warming!

One day, when the aliens or mutants arrive and we kill them and slice open their freaky biology, then you'll see... Oh, you'll see!

Tirade against pure science aside, after more thinking than my brain found comfortable I do get the justification and conclusion of the argument. Now excuse me while I get an aspirin for my pounding head...

*BLAM!*

Scott   ·  May 21, 2007 5:10 AM

Science translates into politics about as well as religion. (Both are fine, but neither has any inherent right to tell me what to do.)

Eric Scheie   ·  May 21, 2007 8:24 AM

Eric,

The most important point is that you definitely shouldn't let the politics "dictate" what the science is interpreted to be. No matter what your political persuasion is, your actions need to be defined by an objective evaluation of the current situation, as best it is understood.

Given that the scientific societies are united behind the GW picture (and the scientific societies consist of the nerds who thought it was more fun to do science than to get rich doing mergers & acquisitions), whereas the GW-denying picture is promoted largely by free-market thinktanks like the American Enterprise Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, I think that you could get a hint as to the relative influence of ideology vs. empirical science going into these points of view.

What one DECIDES to do, after being appraised of the best information on the situation, can certainly be influenced by all sorts of non-scientific issues: politics, ideology, economic considerations, etc. But let's keep the two issues separate: WHAT IS TO BE DONE is distinct from WHAT IS GOING ON.

Neal J. King   ·  May 21, 2007 9:16 AM

Neal has already said it beautifully, but the point is so important that I'd like to chime in.

"(Both are fine, but neither has any inherent right to tell me what to do.)"

Absolutely, positively, 100% true. Science itself has no values (although scientists as human beings have values). Science never addresses normative questions: "What should we do?" Science only answers mechanistic questions: "How does it work?" Science can tell you that A causes B. It can never tell you whether A or B is good or bad. Science provides the facts and causal relationships on which citizens base their political decisions.

On this particular matter, science has clearly established two basic conclusions:

1. Human releases of CO2 and methane are adding to the greenhouse effect.

2. The consequences of this enhanced greenhouse effect will be very expensive.

What we do with these conclusions is our own decision to make.

Which is really nothing more than Neal said.

Froblyx   ·  May 21, 2007 10:37 AM

Froblyx -

Your comment is interesting. I think you may have made a leap of logic that even high school debate team could have walked right through.

1. Yes, science can tell us that since CO2 is being added to the environment and CO2 does, in some way, change amount of greenhouse gas that is naturally in our current atmosphere. Therefore, humans are adding to the greenhouse gas effect - but by how much? Is it linear? That really is the question that must be answered and, currently, science is really struggling giving a good number for this challenge.

2. So based on my re-wording of your number one, your number 2 may or may not be accurate. You have taken too many steps of logic from your initial 1 to the subsequent 2. That doesn't mean that you are wrong with number 2 it only means that the logic doesn't show a causality relationship.

I bring up the "high school debate team" reference due to the very rude comment you made earlier implying that the author did not hold a degree in physics. I do hold a degree in mechanical engineering and am totally chagrined when someone else is so condescending. I have no idea of the author's educational background but once again, educational background does not mean that the answer was wrong. Your education does not mean that your answer is correct either.

A comment on the original article. Discussions on black body thermodynamics on a global level are important but they overly simplify the model. Average temperature is not really the issue even if it is easier to discuss in popular press. Thermo does become quite important when discussing the heat absorption of the different phases of water, land, and other trace gases however without using other sciences (such as fluid behavior, chemistry, energy wave analysis, etc.) it is an over simplification that turns the entire conversation into a waste of time.

I run a site that tries to show both sides of this issue. http://www.globalwarming-factorfiction.com. It is perplexing to me when so many "scientists" on both sides of this issue turn into "politicians" and jump over huge chasms of logic to make their point. The more I read and understand, the more I am convinced that the extremists on both sides are just trying to achieve their own hidden agendas (and please don't think that it is just the agenda of running for President or selling more oil).

P.S. I do not mean to imply that you have a hidden agenda - I do not know you nor do I know your beliefs on this subject. My comment on extremism above was intended to be a generalization and not directed specifically at you. Please do not be offended if you are not an extremist. I currently only think that you are slightly rude and condescending.

Sean O   ·  May 21, 2007 12:25 PM

Sean, you misunderstood my sentence:

"On this particular matter, science has clearly established two basic conclusions:"

My meaning was that science has established those two conclusions. I did not mean that the second conclusion was a natural or obvious conclusion from the first. I meant that science has established two independent conclusions. Thus, the "high-school debate" crack is way off the mark.

Regarding the rudeness of my comments, I will confess that I was right at the edge. I did not explicitly say that the author lacked a degree; I said that he didn't apply 2nd Thermo, but that takes a physics BS to understand. My statement left open the possibility that he does understand 2nd Thermo but chose (for some odd reason) not to apply it. I also referred to the argument as a "sophomoric attempt", which is perilously close to referring to the author himself as sophomoric -- but not quite.

Besides, I was not arguing that his argument was wrong because he has no degree -- I never made any such insinuation. Instead, I attacked the case itself.

In any event, I think you'll agree that the case presented by the author is truly idiotic. I later realized an even more devastating rebuttal to it: if you apply his Postulate 1 to Venus, you must conclude that Venus' temperature should be less than Mercury's, when in fact it is much higher. Let's be honest: ignoring the example of Venus in a discussion of radiative equilibrium of planets is a pretty glaring blooper, don't you think?

I agree that a blackbody treatment of the problem is overly simple. It is the first approximation to the answer, the starting point for the calculations. The results it gives are way too coarse to be useful -- other than to establish the basic principles at work. But our problem here is that we have people denying the basic physics. They are implicitly denying blackbody physics and explicitly denying the greenhouse effect. This is such a gross assault on truth that I find it necessary to assert those basic principles. Yes, it would be good if this discussion focused on some of the real issues, such as particulates and the tricky couplings we see. But we can't even get to Square One with these people.

Yes, there are plenty of people with hidden agendas. That's why we have to be scrupulously objective and concentrate on the scientific issues. I don't think that there's any substantial objection to the two basic conclusions I offered above. What we do about those conclusions is a political decision.

I'll meander over to your site and have a gander.

Froblyx   ·  May 21, 2007 1:13 PM

Froblyx -

If you didn't mean that one begets two then I did misunderstand. I hope there are no hard feelings.

I disagree that science has 'proven' either statement to the degree that most people say. It is quite a stretch to go from "humans have increased CO2 so the climate is doomed" (the statement that many have made similar to your number 1). There is a causality problem with much of the scientific proof and reputable scientists across the globe are challenging it. Unfortunately, IMO the sky is falling stories sell more newspapers/mags/web ads than "OOPS - no big deal"

Without better evidence of 1, number 2 is inconsequential. I also don't think science has yet proven 2 or even tried even though many politicians, book writers, speech givers, and bloggers have stated it as fact.

Sean O   ·  May 21, 2007 2:07 PM

"I hope there are no hard feelings."

Absolutely not. I love good, strong discussion; I get exasperated only when it turns into argument.

I agree, science has not proven global warming. I can hide behind the statement that science proves nothing; it can only demonstrate various hypotheses with varying degrees of confidence. In this case, the statements from the IPCC and the NAS all indicate high confidence in the conclusions being drawn. Not absolute certainty, mind you, but high confidence.

Yes, there is a problem with the people who exaggerate the problem. That's largely because they don't really understand the science behind it. That's one more reason to rely on the scientists, not the journalists. If we confine ourselves to a discussion of the actual science, rather than the Reader's Digest version of it, I think we can make headway.

Yes, there are lots of good scientists who disagree with various aspects of the general consensus. They fall into three groups: 1. those who reject the overall conclusion because they think that the fundamentals are wrong; 2. those who strongly disagree with details but accept the overall conclusion; and 3. those who accept the overall conclusions but have doubts about the confidence level being expressed in the reports.

My impression is that the third group is the largest of the doubters. The second group is also pretty significant. The first group is insignificantly small. Yes, they're out there, and there are some damn good scientists in that group, but in the overall scheme of things they don't add up to a hill of beans.

Indeed, I don't think that there's anybody who accepts the IPCC reports unquestioningly. I too find some of the stuff a bit too much to swallow. But my problems with it are in areas that do not affect the overall conclusions.

"Without better evidence of 1, number 2 is inconsequential."

This is a judgement call on your part, to which you are quite entitled. But do you really think that your judgement on this is more reliable than the judgement of all those scientists?

Lastly, there have been a number of studies on likely costs of various scenarios of global warming. They're all preliminary, but the numbers they come up with run into the trillions of dollars.

Froblyx   ·  May 21, 2007 2:28 PM

Sean O.,

I must take issue with your statement:
"1. Yes, science can tell us that since CO2 is being added to the environment and CO2 does, in some way, change amount of greenhouse gas that is naturally in our current atmosphere. Therefore, humans are adding to the greenhouse gas effect - but by how much? Is it linear? That really is the question that must be answered and, currently, science is really struggling giving a good number for this challenge."

- The amount of C-O2 that has been added to the atmosphere in the last 100 years is measured as over 33%, based on trapped-gas samples from Antarctic ice cores. Since C-O2 is known to be very well-mixed in the atmosphere, the south pole is as good a place as any to sample it.

- Based on measurements of the isotope ratios of C-14/C-13, it's possible to tell that this is C-O2 from carbon that hasn't been exposed to the atmosphere for millenia. That means either volcanic in origin or from fossil fuels. But according to the USGS, the flux of C-O2 from volcanoes worldwide is 1/150 of the flux from fossil-fuel combustion. So basically all of this 33% increase is due to us.

- It's a pretty well established calculation that the radiative greenhouse-effect driving from additional C-O2 is logarithmic. That works out to an additional 3.8 Watts/sq.m. of radiative driving for every doubling of the C-O2 concentration. I've never heard of any climatolgist questioning that calculation, even if they're skeptical overall.

- There are factors that messy up the picture: primarily clouds. These affect the degree of feedback, and introduce uncertainty. However, this uncertainty can be bracketed, and when it is, you get the results that are described in the IPCC reports. Uncertainty is not a reason to throw up your hands in despair: dealing with uncertainty is a normal part of science. Probably the largest source of real uncertainty in projecting the future is the question of what human beings decide to do about C-O2 emissions: Reduce them, or just go about "business as usual"? It makes a great deal of difference in the projections.

Finally, keep in mind that uncertainties in prediction cut both ways. They do the calculations in such a way that there is the same probability that things could be "worse" (larger change) as "better" (smaller change). So there is no refuge to be found in uncertainties.

You are still left with the Clint Eastwood question: "You have to ask yourself, kid: Do I feel lucky?"

Neal J. King   ·  May 21, 2007 2:41 PM

you definitely shouldn't let the politics "dictate" what the science is interpreted to be

tell the UN

Anonymous   ·  May 21, 2007 2:52 PM

Anonymous,

The IPCC has had thousands of climate scientists commenting on their report, and has had to address every comment. I trust their judgement AND accountability a lot more than I do that of the free-market thinktanks, who dream up talking points instead of scientific arguments.

(How do you tell the difference between a scientfific argument and a talking point? When someone challenges a scientific argument, you can go back and forth quite a few times with finer degrees of clarification. When someone challenges a talking point, the proponent fades away, because he has no suitable back-up argument.)

Neal J. King   ·  May 21, 2007 5:00 PM

As an exercise, I've crosschecked Schumacher's and Froblyx's calculations, and I'm afraid neither one got the right answer. Herewith my work:

The total power received by the Earth from the Sun equals the Earth's cross section, times the solar flux at the Earth's orbit, times the Earth's absorptivity with respect to the solar spectrum: TP = (πrE2)(fS)(eE-S) (Froblyx goes wrong here; albedo measures reflectivity, and we need the power absorbed, not the power reflected.)

Conservation of energy means that the power emitted by the Earth equals the total power it receives; therefore the flux from Earth is the power received, divided by the Earth's surface area: fE = TP/(4πrE2) = fSeE-S/4. (Note the Earth's radius has dropped out of the equation -- when we work with fluxes it doesn't matter how big the Earth is.)

So the temperature of Earth, as measured from nearby space, will be (fSeE-S/4σ)1/4. Substituting numbers for symbols, I get (1366 * (1-0.367) / (4 * 5.67e-8))1/4 = 248, which is -25 degrees Celsius. I repeat that this is as measured from space -- if you put a satellite in Earth's shadow and had it check the temperature, this is what it would report.

And this is where Schumacher errs; this temperature is not a maximum for Earth's surface temperature, it's a minimum. The temperature of the Earth's surface is related not to the total flux from Earth as a whole, but to the flux from Earth's surface, divided by the absorptivity of its atmosphere with respect to the thermal spectrum: TE = (fSeE-S/4σeA-E)1/4. If eA-E were 0, which would mean the atmosphere was perfectly reflective, the Earth's surface temperature would be infinite (which proves the impossibility of perfect reflectors!)

The 40 degrees Celsius difference between the emissions of Earth to space, and the temperature at its surface, is due to the ratio eE-S/eA-E; that is, to the different absorptivites of our atmosphere at different wavelengths. Up to this point we are dealing with established science. What is not established is exactly how the composition of the atmosphere affects this ratio; that's the question the IPCC was chartered to answer with their models and simulations.

Michael Brazier   ·  May 21, 2007 9:50 PM

Darn it, subscripts and superscripts don't work right here ...

Neal King, if all the climate scientists who sent comments to the IPCC believed in statistical modeling, then my objection hasn't been addressed at all. I know how easy it is to program a simulation that fits all the historical data, without knowing anything about the underlying causes. It's a clever bit of statistical manipulation, and occasionally it leads to insights; but it isn't evidence of anything outside the mind of the programmer. The IPCC treats computer models as evidence, so I doubt everything they say. Not reject -- they might be right after all, but they certainly haven't proven anything.

Michael Brazier   ·  May 21, 2007 10:11 PM

Neal J. King, the IPCC may have thousands of climate scientists commenting on their report.

But what is a climate scientist, really? Where are they trained? What course do they take? What Science are they Bachelor of? Who signs their Degree?

What experiments have they conducted that have been repeated and verified? What is the justification for the computer models that they rely on to predict the change of global climate? Where are all the fossils of transitional life forms? (Whoops, anti-evolution argument got in there by mistake. How'd that happen? http://scottthong.wordpress.com/2007/03/21/why-i-feel-about-global-warming-the-same-way-i-feel-about-evolution/ )

And most importantly, who signs their paychecks? Would 'climate scientists' be out of a job if there were no imminent climate change threat to combat, or if everyone sudenly remembered that weather predictions are generally hit or miss?

As our good host says in his latest post, the environmental lobby can have as much monetary influence as any big oil conglomerate. Another understanding of the influence 'green' (as in greenbacks) movement.

Convince me with hard evidence and some actual recorded data (no assumptions about the world 10000 years ago please). I will humble myself and openly admit my error, and turn my blog around into a strongly stop-global-warming propoganda machine.

PS. Anyone notice how strange the word green is? It's like the name of some Gollum-type goblin creature. Green the Skulker. English is madness.

Scott   ·  May 21, 2007 10:14 PM

Michael, thanks for catching my error. I went back and re-calculated and my final result should be 469K, not the 496K that I reported. So while the numbers changed, the basic point I made -- that the greenhouse effect can really heat up a planet -- remains sound. Your calculation is difficult to follow because you don't define some of your terms, and your notation is difficult to read, but I believe that you use the albedo (0.367?) for calculating power absorbed but I don't see the corresponding term for power emitted. This would make your results too low. But I can't follow your calculation so please confirm or deny my belief about your asymmetric usage of albedo.

As to your wariness about simulations, yes, simulations can be misused. A simulation is just a mathematical computation, and GIGO applies just as readily here. However, you seem to think that the various simulations referenced by the IPCC reports just blindly fit formulae to historical values and try to extrapolate, without any real application of the physics at work. That is not at all the case; the stuff I have read about these simulations clearly shows that they are sweating the particular physical phenomena. As Neal pointed out, the toughest problem is cloud formation, and there are many more nasty problems, but this isn't at all the same as the kind of mindless curve-fitting that some stock market analyses do.

Computer models are not in and of themselves evidence, but they are representations of evidence. A computer model that incorporates mountains of data about heat transport in the atmosphere, evaporation from the ocean surface, cloud formation due to particulate densities, and so forth, is a digested form of evidence. What's wrong with that? EVERYTHING we call evidence is in fact pre-digested in some fashion. You say that stripe on the road is 2.43 meters long because you measured it? No, you didn't. What you did was lay a measuring tape along that stripe, setting the end of the measuring tape at the end of the stripe, and noting the reading on the measuring tape that was closest to the end of the stripe. THAT was what you actually observed. You crunched that data in your head and reduced it to the simpler statement, "The stripe is 2.43 meters long." There's no fundamental difference between what you do in this case and what the modellers do. There is, of course, a huge difference in the number of assumptions made and the approximations made in the two cases. But at root they're the same.

Scott informs us that he doesn't believe in the IPCC reports, and also informs us that he doesn't believe in evolution either. That makes sense to me; in both cases, what we have are people preferring blind faith over reason, people obstinately denying the facts and attempting to warp reality to suit their prejudices. Scott at least is consistent in his rejection of rational thought. How many of the other global warming deniers present are also evolution deniers? How many are flat-earthers? How many believe that the earth is the center of the universe?

Froblyx   ·  May 22, 2007 12:22 AM

Simon,
Your post contradicts itself internally. Supposedly, the Earth average temperature is near maximum black body temperature. However, the average is around 15 degrees Celsius, and the peak is well, well above this, at something like fifty degrees Celsius. You state, correctly, that it is impossible for the temperature to go beyond the blackbody maximum. Contradiction.

As pointed out, this is the equation you'd use to find the temperature of, say, a black body sphere in space/with no atmosphere. Considering that the temperature of Venus can reach into the hundreds of degrees Celsius, atmosphere obviously has more impact than, say, none at all, as your equation would seem to show.

Jon Thompson   ·  May 22, 2007 1:54 AM

Edit: Not just a blackbody, because there is some reflection from the atmosphere.

Jon Thompson   ·  May 22, 2007 1:59 AM

wrt the IPCC:

From what I have read, drafts of the IPCC report are made available through the governments of the member states of the UN, to their scientific agencies and academies.

I have never heard of someone claiming that they were unable to file a comment against the reports in progress. So I believe that anyone working in climate science has some way of getting a copy and commenting.

The most hands-on folks are listed on the front pages of the individual chapters. You can look at: http://ipcc-wg1.ucar.edu/.

The argument that scientists will lie about their science in order to keep their grants going is contradicted by two aspects of the situation:
- The Bush administration has discouraged scientific staff from publicizing global warming issues, in some cases effectively. There was a recent story about the Smithsonian Museum having softened and down-sized their GW exhibit to ward off hostile attention from the funding folks.
- Any decent physical scientist can double his income by dropping out of science and becoming an ordinary computer programmer. They stick with it because of interest in the subject and the hope of making a big contribution and getting famous. Neither of these goals can be served by echoing the main opinion thoughtlessly.

Neal J. King   ·  May 22, 2007 4:23 AM

wrt the IPCC:

From what I have read, drafts of the IPCC report are made available through the governments of the member states of the UN, to their scientific agencies and academies.

I have never heard of someone claiming that they were unable to file a comment against the reports in progress. So I believe that anyone working in climate science has some way of getting a copy and commenting.

The most hands-on folks are listed on the front pages of the individual chapters. You can look at: http://ipcc-wg1.ucar.edu/.

The argument that scientists will lie about their science in order to keep their grants going is contradicted by two aspects of the situation:
- The Bush administration has discouraged scientific staff from publicizing global warming issues, in some cases effectively. There was a recent story about the Smithsonian Museum having softened and down-sized their GW exhibit to ward off hostile attention from the funding folks.
- Any decent physical scientist can double his income by dropping out of science and becoming an ordinary computer programmer. They stick with it because of interest in the subject and the hope of making a big contribution and getting famous. Neither of these goals can be served by echoing the main opinion thoughtlessly.

Scott, the questions you are asking cannot be answered in a posting. They require that you spend time reading some textbooks on the relevant science, textbooks that aim to provide a full picture and not just a few talking points. I suggest:
- Global Warming: The Complete Briefing, by John Houghton. Houghton provides a very good introduction to all the science concerning the evidence and tools of paleoclimatology.
- A textbook in-progress: http://geosci.uchicago.edu/~rtp1/ClimateBook/ClimateBook.html
This covers some of the hardcore calculations for the actual temperature increase due to additional C-O2. It has one of the best short explanations I've seen for this, in section 3.3.

Michael, EVERYONE in the physical sciences uses computer simulations: It's the only way to get anything complicated calculated. But the theories are all based on straightforward fundamental physics and chemistry, and have developed over 100 years of discussion. It is not a matter of fiddling with parameters until something fits.

By the way, the IPCC models are not comprised of a single effort. In fact, they don't belong to the IPCC: The IPCC has just pulled together the results from 13 different models, each the result of a bunch of collaborators. These models were created independently and competitively, with different but overlapping scope. The differences among their results is what gives the major input into measures of uncertainty in the IPCC report's results.

Neal J. King   ·  May 22, 2007 4:37 AM

wrt the IPCC:

From what I have read, drafts of the IPCC report are made available through the governments of the member states of the UN, to their scientific agencies and academies.

I have never heard of someone claiming that they were unable to file a comment against the reports in progress. So I believe that anyone working in climate science has some way of getting a copy and commenting.

The most hands-on folks are listed on the front pages of the individual chapters. You can look at: http://ipcc-wg1.ucar.edu/.

The argument that scientists will lie about their science in order to keep their grants going is contradicted by two aspects of the situation:
- The Bush administration has discouraged scientific staff from publicizing global warming issues, in some cases effectively. There was a recent story about the Smithsonian Museum having softened and down-sized their GW exhibit to ward off hostile attention from the funding folks.
- Any decent physical scientist can double his income by dropping out of science and becoming an ordinary computer programmer. They stick with it because of interest in the subject and the hope of making a big contribution and getting famous. Neither of these goals can be served by echoing the main opinion thoughtlessly.

Scott, the questions you are asking cannot be answered in a posting. They require that you spend time reading some textbooks on the relevant science, textbooks that aim to provide a full picture and not just a few talking points. I suggest:
- Global Warming: The Complete Briefing, by John Houghton. Houghton provides a very good introduction to all the science concerning the evidence and tools of paleoclimatology.
- A textbook in-progress: http://geosci.uchicago.edu/~rtp1/ClimateBook/ClimateBook.html
This covers some of the hardcore calculations for the actual temperature increase due to additional C-O2. It has one of the best short explanations I've seen for this, in section 3.3.

Michael, EVERYONE in the physical sciences uses computer simulations: It's the only way to get anything complicated calculated. But the theories are all based on straightforward fundamental physics and chemistry, and have developed over 100 years of discussion. It is not a matter of fiddling with parameters until something fits.

By the way, the IPCC models are not comprised of a single effort. In fact, they don't belong to the IPCC: The IPCC has just pulled together the results from 13 different models, each the result of a bunch of collaborators. These models were created independently and competitively, with different but overlapping scope. The differences among their results is what gives the major input into measures of uncertainty in the IPCC report's results.

Neal J. King   ·  May 22, 2007 4:37 AM

In my case, I am less convinced of evolution than I am of anthropogenic global warming. Or to put it the other way round, I am closer to being convinced of anthropogenic global warming AS A FACT than I am to being convinced of evolution AS A FACT.

Don't mistake me for a willing blindo (blindo is to blindness, as wino is to wine). I may not be a hotshot physicist, but I am scientifically educated and trained in debating, both of which foreclude acceptance of baseless claims.

Prove it to me enough - not perfectly or completely, just beyond reasonable doubt. Apply the double-blind, repeatable experiment method. Make predictions that will prove or disprove the hypothesis. I may be a skeptic, but that is a far cry from refusal to believe the facts.

Why was Einstein's general relativity explanation of gravity accepted as fact, even though Newton's gravity as a force was an equal contender and far simpler to understand? It was because of verifiable experiments such as Eddington's observation of the deflection of light by the Sun's gravity - it fit Einstein's calculations rather than Newton's. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tests_of_general_relativity

Now, you name me some clear-cut evidence like the above, for anthropogenic global warming or evolution. Even the IPCC does not state that global warming IS caused by human activity, only HIGHLY LIKELY.

And where are the transitional fossils, if there are supposedly millions of intermediate forms and fossils of complete forms as soft and fragile as jellyfish? What mechanism has been demonstrated that can combine molecules into viable DNA to begin life on Earth?

I boldly state that if either anthropogenic global warming or evolution present such proof, I will swallow my pride and admit in BOLDED CAPS on my blog that I was wrong. And if one is proven but the other is not, well, it's not ME who lumps them in the same category, if you bothered to read my post.

So go ahead: Call me a mental-opium addicted faith-head who refuses to budge from his dogmatic beliefs. I accuse the majority of 'objective, science-minded, rational-thinkers' who refuse to budge from their Gore & Darwin of the same.

I was once a firm proponent of evolution, until I took a seriously close at the basis and evidence for evolution. My Biology education, particularly in Genetics, sealed by my understanding of biological mechanisms. It was back then that I was the blindo, not now.

And for the record, I don't subscribe to Flat Earth theory - various observations and predictions rule out a flat, disc-shaped Earth in favour of a spherical Earth, including the roundness of Earth when viewed from all angle in outer space.

Scott   ·  May 22, 2007 5:28 AM

Froblyx: the comment script stripped out the subscript tags I originally wrote; my equations would have been much clearer if it hadn't done that. Hopefully this will be clearer. If:

σ = the Stefan-Boltzmann constant;
P = power received by Earth from Sol = power radiated by Earth (surface and atmosphere both) into space;
fS = flux from Sol (power per m^2);
eES = absorptivity of Earth (surface and atmosphere) with respect to Sol's radiation, ~ 1 - Earth's albedo;
eAE = absorptivity of Earth's atmosphere with respect to radiation from Earth's surface;
TA = temperature at the top of Earth's atmosphere; and
TE = temperature at Earth's surface:

Then TA = [(fS * eES) / (4 * σ)]^(1/4)
And TE = [(fS * eES) / (4 * eAE * σ)]^(1/4)

The greenhouse effect is expressed in the ratio (eES/eAE)^(1/4). eAE is somewhere between 0 and 1; it would be 1 for a perfectly absorptive (or nonexistent) atmosphere, and 0 for a perfectly reflective one, which is thermodynamically impossible. And if eAE = eES (which would be the "symmetric" use of the albedo number) then, using the same figures I did before, TE = 279 degrees Kelvin = +6 degrees Celsius -- 9 degrees below the observed value.

"However, you seem to think that the various simulations referenced by the IPCC reports just blindly fit formulae to historical values and try to extrapolate, without any real application of the physics at work."

Oh, I'm sure they're not fitting blindly. But I can't believe the simulators actually do know all the physics at work. They didn't know about, for example, how cosmic rays seed cloud formation. And, because the weather is a chaotic system (the paradigm case of one), leaving one term out of the dynamic equation on which a simulation is based ensures the simulation will diverge from reality. There are no negligible causes.

We don't, in short, know enough about the relevant physics to simulate the climate accurately. The IPCC's confidence in its simulations is not justified by all the effects they think they've accounted for; it could only be justified by knowing there are no effects they missed.

Michael Brazier   ·  May 22, 2007 5:52 AM

Neal King: "EVERYONE in the physical sciences uses computer simulations: It's the only way to get anything complicated calculated."

Scientific researchers use simulations only to test their speculations, not to recommend drastic changes in public policy. You won't find a competent engineer using a computer simulation to justify a project, unless he knows not only that all the relevant forces were included, but also that any errors in the relevant measurements are strictly bounded and can't grow without limit, corrupting the simulation's state beyond recovery. For the IPCC's simulations such knowledge does not exist. With the best will in the world, I cannot rate them higher than "informed speculation" -- and that's not enough to erect a building on, much less a policy.

Michael Brazier   ·  May 22, 2007 6:13 AM

By the way, since suggestions of venality have been floated: consider that if the Kyoto Protocol or anything like it were enacted, the IPCC or a successor institution would be handed effective veto power over every industrial process performed anywhere in the world. If you don't see how this power could be abused to enrich transnational bureaucrats at the expense of, well, everybody else, you have lived a sheltered life. And if you think the people who give out research grants for climate simulations aren't planning on abusing this power in just that way, you are a fantastic optimist. It isn't the scientists' honesty that's in question, but their sponsors' ...

Michael Brazier   ·  May 22, 2007 6:36 AM

Michael writes:
"consider that if the Kyoto Protocol or anything like it were enacted, the IPCC or a successor institution would be handed effective veto power over every industrial process performed anywhere in the world."

I don't believe you. Show me the clause in the Kyoto Protocol that would give such power to the IPCC.

Thanks for clarifying your computations. I think we are now consistent with each other.

"We don't, in short, know enough about the relevant physics to simulate the climate accurately."

How accurate is "accurately"? Are the simulations good enough to predict global temperatures 10 years out? 50 years out? With how much error? 0.2K? 1.0K? We don't need to be accurate to 0.001K a thousand years in the future -- so the question is, are the models accurate enough for the policy questions we're asking? Please specify your requirements and explain why you don't think that the models meet these requirements.

"You won't find a competent engineer using a computer simulation to justify a project, unless he knows not only that all the relevant forces were included, but also that any errors in the relevant measurements are strictly bounded and can't grow without limit, corrupting the simulation's state beyond recovery. "

Right now at Lawrence Livermore Lab there are lots of people, both scientists and engineers, who have been running simulations of nuclear explosions. Our entire nuclear weapons program hinges on these simulations, and billions of dollars (as well as the security of the country) are at stake. No, our knowledge of the behavior of nuclear explosions is not perfect; there are all sorts of unknowns regarding the interaction between the intense magnetic fields created and the plasma at the core. Magnetohydrodynamics is one of the hairiest fields in physical science, but they keep trying.

Another good example is fusion energy research. There are a number of proposals for schemes that might work, and all of those proposals are founded on simulations of plasma behavior. These proposals directly contradict your claim.

I trust that the global warming deniers are properly embarrassed by Scott's arguments. There really is a strong similarity between the arguments against global warming and the arguments against evolution:

1. There's no "proof".
2. You can't trust those evil scientists.
3. Here's my counterargument (based on a failure to understand the science).
4. Here's an expert who says it's wrong.

It's the same basic thinking: I don't like the policy implications of the science, so I'm going to concoct silly arguments to counter the science. The fundamental mistake in both cases is refusing to be objective, imposing one's personal prejudices upon Truth. "When a man lies, he murders a part of the world."

Froblyx   ·  May 22, 2007 10:57 AM

re: Fusion,

That happens to be an area I'm studying.

ITER could be a total waste. It may not ever work.

However, at a billion or so a year it is chump change.

The "climate change will ruin us" folks are talking about trillions!

Different orders of magnitude. Being a science guy and all I'm sure you get the concept of orders of magnitude i.e. in the noise vs significant.

If the plasma physics guys numbers are way off it is not going to cost much.

If the climate change folks get control of the world's economy by controlling energy supplies (the engine of our wealth) they could utterly ruin us.

We see already the effect on the poor in Mexico of tring to force a change in our liquid fuel system before the technology is ready.

BTW you never did explain how in the Cretaceous period global temperature was 22C and steady (except for the begining of the period) while CO2 declined from about 2,200 ppm to about 800 ppm.

Or the transition from the Jurrasic to the Cretaceous where there was a 7 deg C dip in temperature while CO2 went from about 2,500 ppm to 2,200 ppm. With the dip and rise taking around 40 million years.

BTW you explained why the input of solar energy makes little difference if the models are correct. However, the models were developed assuming that CO2 was the driver of climate. So I would expect that solar input wouldn't have much effect in the models since it was mostly factored out.

A different model that assumed solar input was the driver would have different results.

GIGO

M. Simon   ·  May 22, 2007 3:38 PM

If the science guys were real scientists we would have at least two competing models.

One assuming solar forcing and one assuming CO2 forcing.

However, IPCC will never fund a solar based model because it would give the sponsors no economic leverage if the solar model turned out to explain what is happening better than the CO2 model.

What we have is not science. It is politics disguised as science.

BTW Frob, I notice you haven't chimed in on the "ice core problem" post. I look forward to your debunking.

M. Simon   ·  May 22, 2007 3:57 PM

BTW Frob, I notice you haven't chimed in on the "ice core problem" post. I look forward to your debunking.

There's no point in responding; you ignore scientific explanations whose implications you don't like.

Froblyx   ·  May 22, 2007 4:06 PM

You shouldn't do it for me.

Do it for those I'm misleading.

M. Simon   ·  May 22, 2007 5:10 PM

Frob,

As long as you are not responding how about not responding to my bit on CO2 and temperatures in geologic time.

I notice that every time I bring up inconvenient facts you respond with something off topic i.e. I mention CO2 over millions of years and you give me suspect ice core data from the last 650,000 or you fail to respond altogether.

M. Simon   ·  May 22, 2007 5:25 PM

Scott,

Einstein's theory of relativity is NOT accepted as a fact. It is a theory.

In fact, there have been several theories of gravity proposed since Einstein's - and since Eddington's measurement of the deflection of light around the Sun. Einstein's is still considered the best. But there are a whole array of parameterized post-Newtonian (PPN) theories that can fit the experiments done to a degree that fits with the experimental tests.

What is clear is that Newton's theory is "wrong" (limited in its range of application), and it is conceptually very far from Einstein's. But there is in fact no proof that Einstein's is right: Just that it fits the experimental data as well as anything else proposed so far, and has a certain conceptual cleanness that appeals to most theoretical physicists who have spent the time to study it.

So you shouldn't place general relativity on some high pedestal of being "Truth", while denigrating global warming as merely "theory". Actually, most parts of the theory of GW are far more firmly based (because more directly measurable) than general relativity.

Neal J. King   ·  May 22, 2007 5:55 PM

Froblyx: "Show me the clause in the Kyoto Protocol that would give such power to the IPCC. "

I said "the IPCC or a successor institution"; surely you don't imagine the Kyoto Protocol would be self-enforcing?

"Another good example is fusion energy research. There are a number of proposals for schemes that might work, and all of those proposals are founded on simulations of plasma behavior. These proposals directly contradict your claim."

Fusion energy research isn't engineering yet. You're not doing engineering when all you have is schemes that might work. Engineering starts when you have a scheme that does work.

"How accurate is 'accurately'? Are the simulations good enough to predict global temperatures 10 years out? 50 years out? With how much error? 0.2K? 1.0K? "

Here's the nubbin of it: nobody can answer this question -- neither I, nor you, nor the IPCC.

See, we can look at a system of partial differential equations and, if it's not too complicated, get an estimate that if the initial state of a process they describe and our knowledge of that state differ by no more than δ, then after allowing the process to run for a time T, we can use the equations to simulate the process and get a description of the final state, which differs from the actual state by no more than ε. The difficulty lies in establishing that a given system of partial differential equations really does describe the process we want to simulate. I can write a simulation of masses governed by Newton's law of gravity, but if I expect the real world to behave according to that simulation I will eventually be surprised.

The IPCC can be sure that changing the inputs to their simulations by δ won't alter the outputs by more than ε -- but that's a purely mathematical operation; all it really proves is that the algorithms they used are numerically stable and computationally tractable. It does not prove that the algorithms correctly describe physical reality! That is what has to be shown before we act on the IPCC's suggestions.

Michael Brazier   ·  May 22, 2007 6:04 PM

Michael B.,

wrt your posting of:
Michael Brazier·May 22, 2007 05:52 AM
- I'm not sure if this refers to an earlier posting not of this thread. But my reading of it is that you're trying to model the atmosphere as a greybody. This is not going to be particularly helpful in a situation in which spectral lines play such a vital role.
- The seeding of clouds by cosmic rays is interesting, but the lack of correlation between the cosmic-ray trends in the last couple of decades and any GW trends suggest that it has nothing much to do with GW.
- Calculation of climate is similar to calculating statistical odds in a casino, vs. predicting the career of an individual bettor at the casino. The chaos averages out, because one is interested in the trend of the average over time, not the trajectory of a specific starting point. Just as it's possible to predict that June will generally be warmer than January (in the northern hemisphere), it's possible to predict a trend of global warming.

wrt your posting of:
Michael Brazier·May 22, 2007 06:13 AM
All the physical scientists I know of use computer simulations whenever they have to deal with any complex: It's only textbook examples that can be solved in closed form. This applies to astrophysicists studying stellar & galactic structure, mechanical engineers & mathematicians studying combustion, oceanographers, electrical engineers calculating the thickness of electrical "padding" for chips, etc., etc. (Froblyx mentioned plasma physicists: Yep.) Anybody who has to deal with a complex system has to use simulations. It's the only hope for dealing with all the relationships.
- If you don't want to make a decision based upon the best information we have, then keep in mind that not acting is also based on a decision. And has implications.

wrt to your posting of:
Michael Brazier·May 22, 2007 06:36 AM
The IPCC is only an advisory group of the U.N. Any actions have to be taken by the individual member states. The likelihood of the IPCC being able to veto any real action is slightly less than the likelihood of the famous "black UN helicopters" landing in NYC and taking over.

Neal J. King   ·  May 22, 2007 6:23 PM

M. Simon:

wrt your posting of:
M. Simon�May 22, 2007 03:38 PM
- Some estimates of the cost of not fixing the GW problem could run as high as 5 - 20 % of annual income trying to fix the results. (http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2003694499_warming05.html)
- Whereas some estimates for the cost of avoiding some of the worst results could be as low as 0.1% of annual income (http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2003715537_warmingcosts21.html).
- No climatologist has ever said that C-O2 is the only driver of climate change. Indeed, until the last 100 years or so, it's been merely a feedback loop. Until fossil-fuel combustion became an issue, the changes in C-O2 concentration have been responsive to the temperature, not directly driving it (although an increase in C-O2 would feedback positively in that way). Until recently, the overall rhythm for climate has been set by the Milankovitch cycles - orbital forcing.
- Solar energy has most certainly not been factored out of the global circulation models. It's just that the variation has been extremely small: Certainly, since 1988 the variation has been within a narrow range of width 0.1%. Indeed, the IPCC TAR report graphs the results from the models assuming: a) only solar variation and volcanic activity; b) only greenhouse gases and sulfate aerosols (from unscrubbed burning of coal); and c) both together. As you can see, the match of c) with the actual observations is much better than that of a) or b):
http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/figspm-4.htm . So the IPCC hasn't left out the Sun at all. Input from the Sun is certainly accounted for.

wrt your posting of:
M. Simon�May 22, 2007 03:57 PM
As indicated immediately above, the IPCC don't need two models, because all models take both C-O2 and the Sun into account. And they don't need "two" models, because the results are actually taken from the published literature, where they represent the calculations from 13 independent and competitive models of the climate.

wrt your postings of
M. Simon�May 22, 2007 03:57 PM
On the ice-core problem: I don't see it in this thread, so I can't comment on it either. Froblyx, go ahead and comment on it. Most of the point is in fact to reach people other than your interlocutor. But give context.

wrt your posting of
M. Simon�May 22, 2007 05:25 PM
Again, it's not clear to me what you're referring to. Would you include the URL?



Neal J. King   ·  May 22, 2007 6:57 PM

Jon T.,

I think you may have a point.

M. Simon   ·  May 22, 2007 6:58 PM

Neat T.,

The IPCC report was done in an unusual way.

First the "executive summary" was released. Then three months later the actual science.

Why the delay? Well the IPCC explains that it was to give time for the IPCC to make sure the science conformed to the "executive summary".

Science or politics?

Nir Shaviv did a post on that. I'll see if I can dig it up.

M. Simon   ·  May 22, 2007 7:04 PM

M Simon,

IPCC Report & Summary:
As I understood it, they wanted to make sure that the terminology and issues were aligned between the technical report and the Summary for Policymakers (SPM).

The problem being that, from previous experience, they had found that the way of thinking & understanding of policymakers doesn't always match well with the way scientists tend to think about things. Since the intent of the SPM was to be comprehensible to policymakers, they adjusted the text (but not the meaning) to what the policymakers could understand.

At the powwow in Paris, the policymakers gave feedback on what they were getting out of the SPM, and when there seemed to be a disconnect between what the scientists meant and what the policymakers were getting, the scientists discussed how they could clarify the wording so that this disconnect would be cleared up.

After that was settled, they wanted to make sure that there would not be a discontinuity between the terminology and issues in the technical report and the SPM. So they planned the time to smooth that out.

Is that a perfect solution? Maybe not: some of the scientists also felt that the whole thing should have gone out at one time. But I see this problem in the high-tech world all the time: there are the engineering folk who know how the products work in detail, and the marketing folks who know what issues matter to the customers. There have been a lot of good products that someone wasn't able to explain well to the customer that died on the vine.

Neal J. King   ·  May 22, 2007 7:29 PM

The difficulty lies in establishing that a given system of partial differential equations really does describe the process we want to simulate.

The way to establish that the system of equations really does describe reality is to compare its results with reality. The better the match, the more confidence we have in the results. The different models all match reality better or worse in different dimensions, but they all do a pretty good job of matching reality, and the fact that so many different simulations using so many different approaches yield similar results on the important points gives us a lot more confidence in those results.

I can write a simulation of masses governed by Newton's law of gravity, but if I expect the real world to behave according to that simulation I will eventually be surprised.

Indeed so; yet you can use that simulation to land a man on the moon and return him home safely. It may miss the target by a few centimeters, but who cares? We're not out to achieve perfection; our goal is to build the simulation well enough to make useful predictions with it. And we appear to have done so, in the judgement of most scientists.

Froblyx   ·  May 22, 2007 7:37 PM

Neal,

Admitted that the relativity is not cold hard fact (but then, what is in post-Newtonian physics?) and is superceded in some respects by quantum definitions. If they could agree, then we'd have the Theory of Everything.

And agreed that many parts of GW theory are directly measurable, however it is the correlation between the different values that is the sticking point. CO2 levels may be rising, along with global temperature. But is CO2 the causative agent of temperature rise?

For me, the currently low levels of CO2 (0.0383% of the atmosphere) strike me as too low to have as drastic an effect on temperature as is predicted. It just doesn't make sense.

However, I have yet to wrap my comprehension around thinking of space-time as being curved by gravity, but I accept it as a valid explanation due to the experiemntal (circumstantial?) evidence (and not due to the consensus of a majority of physicists).

So if it is conclusively shown that a miniscule rise in atmospheric CO2 at Earth levels causes a relatively large temperature swing, then I will accept it even if I can't understand why it would be so. (I say Earth levels because Earth's 0.0383% CO2 is nowehere near the 96.5% CO2 atmosphere and resultant high temperatures that Venus has).

Scott   ·  May 22, 2007 8:21 PM

Scott,

- Relativity and Quantum Theory are more complementary than contradictory. They generally address separate issues. There is some overlap when people talk about quantum effects near black holes, but this stuff is pretty sketchy. In some high-falutin theories, like Loop Quantum Gravity and String Theory, they get combined.

- Low levels of C-O2: This really isn't an issue, because the point is that there is a band of the infrared spectrum that is ONLY absorbed by C-O2, at around 15 microns. This band is completely unaffected by any amount of water vapor, N2, O2, etc., etc. So when the C-O2 concentration goes up by a significan percentage, the absorption in that band goes way up, and you get an enhancement to the greenhouse effect. The generally accepted result is that there is a logarithmic dependence of the radiative driving due to the 15 micron band on C-O2 concentration, such that a doubling of C-O2 leads to a driving of 3.8 Watts/sq.m. I've never seen anyone question this.

Analogy: If a girl is waiting for her boyfriend to return from war on a ship, he may be only 0.1% of a 1000-person crew. But that 0.1% is all she cares about. And if another old boyfriend shows up at the same time, it's only an additional 0.1% (bringing it up to 0.2%); but from her point of view, it's a factor of 2 - and causes lots of trouble.

- If you accept gravity as due to spacetime curvature due to experimental evidence, but not based upon the opinion of the scientists, you are actually putting the cart before the horse. First, there are several theories of gravity which are compatible with current measurements of gravitational force. Based only on the evidence, you couldn't decide among them. Secondly, as Einstein once said, "It's the theory that determines what it is that you can measure."

- As far as an explanation of how C-O2 adds to the greenhouse effect, the simplest explanation that is reasonably close to being accurate that I have seen can be found here:
http://ca.geocities.com/marie.mitchell@rogers.com/GreenhouseEffect.html
(There are more authoritative presentations, but they are also significantly more complex mathematically. This is a good compromise between conceptual accuracy and over-simplification.)

Neal J. King   ·  May 22, 2007 8:52 PM

Michael Brazier,

To reinforce Froblyx's point: If you decide not to act because you don't feel the model is good enough, that is also an action, and has consequences.

Even if there were "absence of evidence" (and the vast majority of climate scientists would not agree to that), this does not constitute "evidence of absence".

It boils down the the old, "Well, kid, the question you got ask yourself is, Do I feel lucky today?"

Neal J. King   ·  May 22, 2007 9:06 PM

Neal King:

If you don't have enough information to act on, the rational response is not to assume the worst, but to go looking for information if there's time; and if there isn't, to conserve your resources and keep an open mind. And yes, that applies when you're under a gun that might, or might not, be loaded.

On CO2's absorptivity spectrum, that 15μ band is no doubt significant, but it's only one band -- how much power does Earth radiate on that exact wavelength, as compared to wavelengths absorbed by the other gases in the atmosphere? I've just read an article saying that the absorption spectrum of water vapor is horrendously complicated due to the molecule's shape, and unusually difficult to study due to its habit of condensing at the relevant temperatures and pressures. Water vapor is responsible for nearly all of the total greenhouse effect, so this means we don't actually know, to the necessary detail, a key set of parameters for an accurate simulation ...

Further, your statement that "a doubling of C-O2 leads to a driving of 3.8 Watts/sq.m." leads me to wonder if that's a significant effect. My calculations earlier involved fluxes of hundreds of W/sq.m.

"As I understood it, they wanted to make sure that the terminology and issues were aligned between the technical report and the Summary for Policymakers."

But keeping the terminology consistent wouldn't entail releasing the Summary first and waiting three months for the technical report -- I would expect the technical report, in that case, to get out of sync with the Summary. Keeping terms consistent would be best done by simultaneous releases. And the wish to make the technical report comprehensible to laymen would be ideally met by publishing the technical report first, and releasing the Summary after a round of public commentary.

I can't think of any honest reason for releasing the Summary first, as the IPCC did. A dishonest reason does come to mind: the IPCC wanted to impress policymakers with a "consensus of scientists", so they withheld the technical report, which dissenting scientists could use to challenge the IPCC's conclusions; and then pointed to the absence of challenges as "proof" that all scientists agreed with the Summary. Perhaps I am too cynical, but NGOs aren't above the sleights of marketing when they have a thesis to defend ...

Michael Brazier   ·  May 23, 2007 12:59 AM

Neal,

If action is so important then why aren't the AGW folks hot on the trail of nuclear power or my favorite:

Easy Low Cost No Radiation Fusion

I have more to say on that in the comments to the "It Is Uncertain" post.

=============

Assuming all you say is true and that CO2 accounts for 100% of the observed rise how will you get the third world nations such as China and India to slow the growth of their economies to at least slow the rate of rise of CO2? Well, at least for China you won't. Political stability in China depends on economic growth.

China has already surpassed the USA's CO2 output. Why is that? Well China has to input 6X as much energy as the USA for each dollar of added GDP.

The rational thing to do is to have the USA and other first world economies do all the energy intensive production processes. Instead CO2 caps will force such production to the least efficient economies if they are also not capped.

In other words the interactions of "doing something" are at least as complicated as the climate.

================

Let me add that the third world has no interest in CO2 caps.

Now what?

===============

The only way out is to develop an energy production method that costs less than coal. Then nothing has to be crammed down any one's throat. The change will happen as the natural result of economics.

Wind is a pretty good bet - except for the lack of either storage or loads (of sufficient magnitude) that can be added or taken off line according to current production capabilities.

Again, I do not see any ground swell for such an approach.

Note that the Germans are already running into political opposition to the modest Kyoto reforms.

===

If the solar guys are right we should be pumping more CO2 into the atmosphere in order to keep temperatures from falling by "little ice age" proportions.

===

It may be that doing nothing is better than doing the wrong thing.

M. Simon   ·  May 23, 2007 1:20 AM

Let me add that I just checked the IPCC site and the technical paper will not be available for public comment until November.

I may do a post on that.

M. Simon   ·  May 23, 2007 1:28 AM

If you don't have enough information to act on, the rational response is not to assume the worst, but to go looking for information if there's time; and if there isn't, to conserve your resources and keep an open mind. And yes, that applies when you're under a gun that might, or might not, be loaded.

But there is information to act on -- plenty of information. Your complaint has been that the information isn't good enough to meet your standards. OK; do you have better information? Shouldn't we base our decisions on the best available information?

how much power does Earth radiate on that exact wavelength, as compared to wavelengths absorbed by the other gases in the atmosphere?

Peak power transmission for a blackbody at 300K should come at 10 microns. The power emission at 15 microns is about 2/3 the level of that at 10 microns (using the Wien Displacement Law). Hence, the CO2 absorption band is close to the peak of the emission spectrum -- that's what gives it such a big impact.

I can't think of any honest reason for releasing the Summary first, as the IPCC did.

Idle speculation. Perhaps you are really a shill for the oil industry. Perhaps I am a child molester with a secret plan to molest thousands of children by scaring their parents about global warming. Perhaps. What say we follow the rule "Just the facts, ma'am"?

Froblyx   ·  May 23, 2007 1:33 AM

--- there is a band of the infrared spectrum that is ONLY absorbed by C-O2, at around 15 microns. This band is completely unaffected by any amount of water vapor, N2, O2, etc., etc. So when the C-O2 concentration goes up by a significan percentage, the absorption in that band goes way up, and you get an enhancement to the greenhouse effect. The generally accepted result is that there is a logarithmic dependence of the radiative driving due to the 15 micron band on C-O2 concentration, such that a doubling of C-O2 leads to a driving of 3.8 Watts/sq.m. ---

Ah, see, now THERE is some useful information. This is what I need in order to sway my opinion, not more doomsday predictions. If only hard-science had the publicity Al Gore can spin. And football players complained about the obscenely high salaries teachers are paid.

Scott   ·  May 23, 2007 3:29 AM

"But there is information to act on -- plenty of information. Your complaint has been that the information isn't good enough to meet your standards. "

We have scads of information about stock market prices -- far more than we have about Earth's climate. Can we use that information to predict the Dow index five years from now? No, because the information we have isn't the kind we can act on. We don't understand the stock market; and we don't understand the Earth's climate.

"I can't think of any honest reason for releasing the Summary first, as the IPCC did.

Idle speculation. Perhaps you are really a shill for the oil industry."

So you couldn't think of an honest reason either, eh? Let me know if you ever do.

"how much power does Earth radiate on that exact wavelength, as compared to wavelengths absorbed by the other gases in the atmosphere?

Peak power transmission for a blackbody at 300K should come at 10 microns. The power emission at 15 microns is about 2/3 the level of that at 10 microns (using the Wien Displacement Law)."

That doesn't answer my question. Of course, actually answering my question would involve several numerical integrations. You'd have to multiply the percentage of power transmitted at each wavelength by the absorptivity of each gas at that wavelength, then integrate over all wavelengths -- and that only gets you the gas' absorptivity for a blackbody at a given temperature ...

Do you realize why any uncertainty in the emission spectrum of water vapor, or nitrogen, or oxygen, leads to uncertainty on the effect of CO2 on the climate? The absorptivity of all the other constituents of Earth's atmosphere is the baseline against which you want to compare CO2's absorptivity. If you don't know where the baseline is, you can't separate out CO2's effect.

Michael Brazier   ·  May 23, 2007 3:34 AM

Neal,

There are two competing theories of global warming.

One says the sun is the driver. The other says CO2 is the driver.

Neither theory is as well accepted as Einstein.

In fact, although I prefer the solar theory at this time, it may well be that both theories are at least some what correct and that the weight given to either ranges around 80 - 20.

To state it more clearly. The sun may be responsible for 80% of the global warming. Or man made and natural CO2 may be responsible for 80%.

It could be 50 - 50.

Sadly we have no way of knowing with any confidence at this point in time.

If, as frob says, solar output is declining (as predicted by the solar scientists) we may need to change the public focus from global warming to global cooling. As usual there are lags.

I recently read a piece (might have been Nir Shaviv who does science in the field) that G type stars are in fact variable and they show long term variations in the range of .6%. Our sun's 300 year cycle means 150 years of warming followd by 150 years of cooling. The .6% would match what we have seen from about 1860 to the present.

Me? I'm just an engineer. My job is to take scientific theories and turn them into practical applications. At this point I stick with the quantuum stuff because it works well enough (out to 10 or 15 decimal places). I do keep an eye on the other stuff, there may be practical applications if we get proof.

M. Simon   ·  May 23, 2007 4:17 AM

Neal says:

Re; IPCC's Fourth Assesment.

Maybe not: some of the scientists also felt that the whole thing should have gone out at one time. But I see this problem in the high-tech world all the time: there are the engineering folk who know how the products work in detail, and the marketing folks who know what issues matter to the customers. There have been a lot of good products that someone wasn't able to explain well to the customer that died on the vine.

Ah, so you agree with me. It is a case of policy first and science second.

Because now, any valid scientific criticism will not reach the policy makers until the Fifth Assessment due a few years hence.

If this was real science it should be science first, policy second.

M. Simon   ·  May 23, 2007 4:33 AM

I repeat.

The IPCCs stated goal is not to find the cause of global warming. It is to find a man made cause of global warming.

Conclusion first followed by all the science that will fit.

It would be interesting to find out what papers the IPCC considered and which of those they rejected. The one's that they have left out all together are fairly obvious.

Nothing wrong with starting out with a hypothesis. What is wrong is leaving out facts that counter the hypothesis.

It is fairly obvious that the IPCC has left out the competing solar hypothesis and the data that supports it.

And yes, policy makers do not deal well with on the one hand this on the other hand that. However, that is the nature of unsettled science. It is hard to make good policy based on unsettled science.

Yet we are told that the science is settled and the policy must be forced (as opposed to market driven) CO2 reductions.

If you believe that CO2 output must be reduced then the way to do it without consigning humanity to poverty is to develop an energy source that does not emit CO2 and is cheaper than current sources.

Wind is a good candidate given the rate of decline of the learning curve. However, the best wind resources in the world are in the USA Great Plains region. Most other places on earth are impoverished relative to wind energy and their demand for energy.

So that leaves Fission or Fusion. Despite my nuclear training I'm not a big fission fan. Plutonium is my sticking point. Aneutronic fusion is the answer. Which is hardly being looked at, let alone invested in.

If we spent 1/10th the money looking for a good way out as we have on IPCC style climate science we might be much farther along in developing an alternative to CO2 producers.

M. Simon   ·  May 23, 2007 4:54 AM

Neal asks:

On the ice-core problem: I don't see it in this thread, so I can't comment on it either.

Eric did a post on that:

http://www.classicalvalues.com/archives/2007/05/post_347.html

Re: solar diving climate.

As far as I am aware none of the currently used climate models include type G star's .6% variability or the fact that solar scientists are predicting a solar decline of about that range over the next 150 years (since we are currently at the peak of the cycle and may have already entered the decline phase). I find it difficult to understand how we can predict the climate 100 years hence without including the 300 year solar cycle.

Since the colud/cosmic ray/solar magnetism effect was just recently discovered that is not included. Such an effect would decrease the current assumed sensitivity to CO2.

M. Simon   ·  May 23, 2007 5:18 AM

I'm joining the ice corps, but I need to learn how to skate.

Tonya Harding   ·  May 23, 2007 8:13 AM

So you couldn't think of an honest reason either, eh? Let me know if you ever do.

Neal provided an excellent reason that makes a lot more sense than the tin-foil hat stuff offered here. However, it's all speculation, so there's no basis for preferring any of these theories other than Occam's Razor.

We don't understand the stock market; and we don't understand the Earth's climate.

Actually, we understand both quite well. The stock market has been studied extensively and is very well understood. The key point is that the stock market is driven by active intelligent agents who behave in anticipation of each other's actions. This makes the market unpredictable. It doesn't make it incomprehensible. The weather system is far simpler than the stock market, because it lacks anticipating intelligent agents. It can be predicted and in fact if you consult your newspaper you'll see examples of such predictions every day.

That doesn't answer my question.

Sorry. The question itself was phrased in such a way as to admit no reasonable answer. The amount of power emitted at any exact frequency is infinitesimal. I gave a rough answer addressing the general thrust of your question.

Do you realize why any uncertainty in the emission spectrum of water vapor, or nitrogen, or oxygen, leads to uncertainty on the effect of CO2 on the climate?

Yes, uncertainty exists in all the physical sciences; only in mathematics can we carry out cogitations unbedeviled by uncertainty. Indeed, the Uncertainty Principle insures that every prediction we make in physical science is uncertain. The trick, of course, is to make reasoned judgements on the magnitude of the uncertainty and express that uncertainty in our conclusions -- which in fact is done in the IPCC reports and the NAS reports.

Froblyx   ·  May 23, 2007 10:31 AM

frob says,

The way to establish that the system of equations really does describe reality is to compare its results with reality. The better the match, the more confidence we have in the results.

That is a valid point if we KNOW and include all the parameters involved and include them all.

Then you test it by introducing peturbations and see if the results follow the model.

Since we can't disturb just one element and follow the results we have to assign values to the various sensitivities and see if the what happens in the future is correct. Yet we are not sure of our models because of ALL the interactions involved. We may have assigned incorrect values to the interactions let alone the things we think we know well.

We currently have models that do not include the solar variation of about .5% over 300 years and the cloud/solar magnetism/cosmic ray effect. We know apriori that the values assigned to various
interactions that simulate past behavior are
WRONG since they do not include these effects.

In addition the latest better models (much better than 10 years ago we are told) have not been around long, so we can't be sure that they model the future well because we do not have much future to test them against.

So to be sure the models are correct we should wait a while.

BTW frob, global temperatures have been declining since 1998. Do the models tell us why? Do they expain the anamolous year of 2004 when temperatures spiked?

To get the models to run in a reasonable amount of time we have portioned the earth's surface into segments 150 miles on a side. Is this good enough to get the required accuracy?

An excellent model of an engineered servo system where all the inputs and outputs can be measured to within .1% can come within +/- 1% of real world behavior. Can the climate modelers with their much more complex system come within that range of error? They claim an error band of .25% from a measurement series where at best (at least until recently) the error band of the data is probably around .5%. The models were developed using data 70% of which has an error band of at least .2% and possibly worse since I have seen no reports on instrument calibrations over the last 100 years.

Even in the best case of .2% data error that hardly gives much confidence in the .25% model error band. Normally you want data that is 3X as good as the signal you are looking for and the preference for reliable results is 10X the signal to make sure you are not measuring noise.

GIGO

M. Simon   ·  May 23, 2007 11:27 AM

Michael Brazier,

wrt your posting of
Michael Brazier·May 23, 2007 12:59 AM

- The IPCC report is NOT the worst case, it brackets what is expected. Keeping an open mind is good. But, as Richard Feynman once said, "An open mind is not the same as an empty mind." In other words, think about the physics. And the atmospheric physics is not looking too cool...

- The 3.8 Watts/sq.m. compares with about 240 Watts/sq.m. of non-reflected incoming radiation. That's 1.6% of imbalance.What would happen to your house if 1.6% more heat per unit time were coming into it than were leaving it? The rest of your question is just the details of the calculation - and that's why climate scientists have labs and computers.

- The Summary for Policymakers: As I already said, this was the 4th report. They might have felt that the policymakers had not been understanding the implications of what had been said (I haven't been involved, so I can only guess from reports), and wanted to experiment with changing the language for additional clarity. In my experience, it is sometimes difficult for scientists to re-orient themselves to the way people who are not absorbed in their specialty think.

A problem with your scenario about
withholding the technical report: Although it has been held back from publication, it can hardly be called secret, since it has been exposed to comment during the last 4 years. Any climate scientist, dissenting or not, could get a copy of it, and a lot of other people as well. In fact, the Fraser Institute put published a critique of the draft a few months ago: a pretty poor effort in my opinion, because when it came down to it, they could only quibble around the edges.

So I think you're being too cynical.

Neal J. King   ·  May 23, 2007 8:38 PM

M. Simon,

wrt your posting of
M. Simon·May 23, 2007 01:20 AM

- Fusion: AGW people are climatologists. With all the best will in the world, what do climatologists know about nuclear fusion?

- China: Last I heard, China is not expected to overtake the U.S. on C-O2 until 2009. But making progress on world C-O2 is a political (and difficult) problem: Let's not get confused about the distinction between a technical problem and a cure that requires political machinations. Even if the political problem were insoluble (and I don't think it is) that doesn't mean that the technical problem is diagnosed incorrectly.

- Cheaper than coal: True, the solution has to be cheaper than coal. But you need to include in the cost of coal the cost of using coal. And if the world truly comes to the conclusion that burning coal for the next 500 years is going to bring the planet to a "roast", we'll have to find a way to internalize that cost, to avoid the famous "tragedy of the commons".

- "If the solar guys are right": You're talking about a handful of people: Shaviv, Abussamadov (?), Svensmark. Their evidence doesn't hang together. I'll bet against them - at least until they come up with real evidence.

Neal J. King   ·  May 23, 2007 8:50 PM

M. Simon,

wrt your posting of
M. Simon·May 23, 2007 04:17 AM

As discussed at length in these various threads, the variation in solar luminosity at least since 1988 has been 0.1%. That doesn't go nearly far enough to explain what's been observed in the way of global warming in that time frame.

The foundations of the greenhouse effect, including what is required to understand the 3.8 Watts/sq.m., are probably understood by more people than understand Einstein's general relativity. I'm a fan of GR: but think that only a minority of physicists understand it well.

Shaviv's work I have found a bit questionable - in logic. He makes claims that don't make sense to me. Could it be that he is right and I am wrong? Yes. However, mostly when I read scientific papers that don't involve new techniques, etc., I'm able to get some sense of what he's basing his conclusions on. I wasn't able to do so in this case.

Neal J. King   ·  May 23, 2007 9:01 PM

M. Simon,

wrt your posting of
M. Simon·May 23, 2007 04:33 AM

"Policy first, science seconc"

No, I don't agree, because the technical report has been available and accessible to climate scientists during the entire period. When 1500 scientists are involved, all over the world, writing comments, how could you imagine that this would be "secret"?

Indeed, when the Summary for Policymakers was published in February, the Fraser Institute (another thinktank) sponsored a critique of the current draft of the technical report that went out in the same timeframe. It was pretty much of a damp squib, since what they were able to pick at were some pretty slender threads.

And when the technical report is published (actually, what am I saying - It is published, you can find it here at http://ipcc-wg1.ucar.edu/ ), people with differences can start publishing them right away. Why do you think it will take years for other people to hear about it? Did you think that the policymakers will live underground until the next IPCC report? I don't think so.

Neal J. King   ·  May 23, 2007 9:09 PM

M. Simon,

wrt your posting of
M. Simon·May 23, 2007 04:54 AM

The IPCC has to look at all the literature published in peer-reviewed journals, and has to conscientiously deal with any comments from climate scientists. These comments are logged in spreadsheets, and responded to, formally. Accordingly, if the points are accepted, they affect the draft.

A well-known critic of aspects of the IPCC process, with somewhat different view of hurricanes than the majority of the IPCC, was definitely included among the papers considered and discussed in the hurricane section: Chris Landsea.

We have discussed the "solar hypothesis" at length. I haven't looked for this in the report (feel free to look, I gave you the link), but I would bet money that they discuss the idea and explain why the evidence is against it. I think that's sufficient: No one insists on incorporating the implications of the flat-earth model into predictions of solar eclipses.

Neal J. King   ·  May 23, 2007 9:16 PM

M. Simon,
wrt your posting of
M. Simon·May 23, 2007 05:18 AM

- Ice core: Eric's argument seems to rely heavily on Jawarowski. I read some of his websites about a year ago. It struck me as typically crank science, and I speak as someone who used to run into debunkers of relativity in coffee shops and physics libraries. He also claimed to have given testimony to the U.S. Congress on climate issues - strangely enough, there's no record of this anywhere. Sorry, but I would be more inclined to disbelieve than believe anything I saw from Jawarowski. I spent too much time trying to be nice to those guys at the coffee shops...

- The cosmic-ray/cloud issue is not generally well-supported by the data. In particular, there seems to have been no trend in the last couple of decades wrt cosmic rays, so it's hard to see how this is supposed to explain recent global warming. You can't ask the IPCC to include things that are not accepted science.

- One thing that they didn't include: The most recent fast melting in the glaciers of Greenland. This was discovered in July 2006, but their cut-off date for consideration of articles was June 2006. So they didn't include that in the report - even though there seems to be lots of evidence for that. So, it isn't a matter of just cutting out the anti-GW stuff.

Neal J. King   ·  May 23, 2007 9:28 PM

M.Simon,

wrt your posting of
M. Simon·May 23, 2007 11:27 AM

- Given the status of our discussions on the variation of solar luminosity, my understanding is that, to the extent that the solar variations are known, they have been included in the models (as an external driver: no one is going to stick a model of the Sun into a climate model). The cloud/solar magentism/cosmic-ray stuff is speculative and should not be included until there is some actual evidence supporting it.

- The model that Hansen used to predict climate change from 1988 is still in use. And it did a pretty good job of prediction at that time. See: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/05/hansens-1988-projections/

- Sorry if the models don't conform to your idea of an engineered servo system. The world isn't a system that we built. It's just a system that we're responsible for (because there's nobody else).

Neal J. King   ·  May 23, 2007 9:37 PM

Neal,

The Sun/Cosmic ray stuff is not specualtive.

It is one of the few things in climate science experimentally proved.

First as a physics experiment - see Wilson Cloud Chambers. Second as a macro experiment. The data being released last summer (2006) and I believe CERN is about to repeat the experiment for verification.

The solar magnetism/cosmic ray connection is well established.

But OK by me what ever IPCC wants to do with it - including ignore it. With evey piece of the puzzle they ignore their credibility goes down.

I don't care that the world is not a serevo system. What I care about is claims made about accuracy that are not credible given what I know about modeling completely known systems.

Of course if the IPCC can model systems based on unknowns, and actual knowns that they leave out and claim great accuracy I'm going to laugh at them and make sure I laugh on a roof top so one or two people can hear.

And if want to support such models fine by me. If you want to claim great accuracy and predictive power for such models you are welcome.

In fact I encourage it. Take it as far as it will carry you.

However I think the first IPCC assesment got it right. Could be signal. Could be noise. Flip a coin.

M. Simon   ·  May 24, 2007 4:21 AM

M. Simon,

The reason that I've dismissed the cosmic-ray/cloud connection is that, when these ideas became popular about a year ago, I looked into the papers and the commentaries on these papers by climate researchers other than the proponents.

There's no doubt that charged particles can initiate clouding under the right conditions; as you said, cloud chambers have been around for a long time. The problem with the theory has been:
- It hasn't been at all clear that those conditions apply to the real world of the atmosphere; and
- The correlations that one would expect to find between cosmic-ray trends and GW just don't seem to be present for the last few decades.

So the general reception from the climate science community seems to have been: Not a crazy idea, but there just doesn't seem to be any empirical support for it.

Tell you what, if you can dig up a specific article that describes the theory you seem to have such confidence in, I'll read it and explain in what way I think it has some problems. (As I said, it's been about a year, so I don't have these articles ready to hand anymore.)

Neal J. King   ·  May 24, 2007 5:00 AM

M. Simon,

The reason that I've dismissed the cosmic-ray/cloud connection is that, when these ideas became popular about a year ago, I looked into the papers and the commentaries on these papers by climate researchers other than the proponents.

There's no doubt that charged particles can initiate clouding under the right conditions; as you said, cloud chambers have been around for a long time. The problem with the theory has been:
- It hasn't been at all clear that those conditions apply to the real world of the atmosphere; and
- The correlations that one would expect to find between cosmic-ray trends and GW just don't seem to be present for the last few decades.

So the general reception from the climate science community seems to have been: Not a crazy idea, but there just doesn't seem to be any empirical support for it.

Tell you what, if you can dig up a specific article that describes the theory you seem to have such confidence in, I'll read it and explain in what way I think it has some problems. (As I said, it's been about a year, so I don't have these articles ready to hand anymore.)

And with respect to claims of accuracy by the IPCC: One of the useful things the report does is to bracket the expectations with estimates of the uncertainty. Unfortunately, for some of the scenarios (specifically the "business as usual" scenario), the implications are still pretty big, even taking that into account.

Neal J. King   ·  May 24, 2007 5:02 AM

Neal has a few things to say:

Ice core: Eric's argument seems to rely heavily on Jawarowski. I read some of his websites about a year ago. It struck me as typically crank science, and I speak as someone who used to run into debunkers of relativity in coffee shops and physics libraries. He also claimed to have given testimony to the U.S. Congress on climate issues - strangely enough, there's no record of this anywhere. Sorry, but I would be more inclined to disbelieve than believe anything I saw from Jawarowski. I spent too much time trying to be nice to those guys at the coffee shops...

Why Neal you should know better than argument based on authority or lack there of.

Please explain where he is incorrect. Being a crank is evidence of nothing. What are the differential diffusion rates of the various gasses? Is Jawarowski right or wrong? How about differential chemical activity of the various gasses in ice? Right or wrong? I won't go into the rest of his arguments. I leave that for you.

In the mean time I'll continue to hold the opinion that ice cores are not very good evidence and they are worse the farther back you go.

M. Simon   ·  May 24, 2007 5:54 AM

Neal says,

As discussed at length in these various threads, the variation in solar luminosity at least since 1988 has been 0.1%. That doesn't go nearly far enough to explain what's been observed in the way of global warming in that time frame.

Well if the luminosity has been rising at that rate for 150 years a lot of scientists think it is probably significant.

If the cloud stuff is confirmed that adds to the effect. Which means the CO2 contribution is less than thought.

In addition there are various oscillations on earth that may be confounding those numbers (el Nino, la Nina for two examples).

I have a post coming up which discusses that.

Or you can look at:

http://home.earthlink.net/~ponderthemaunder/index.html

Which discusses the oscillations.

In other words the recent rise (as well as the decline since 1998) may just be "noise".

Hopefully for your sake it is not. I'd hate to see you disappointed.

M. Simon   ·  May 24, 2007 7:11 AM

Neal says:

No, I don't agree, because the technical report has been available and accessible to climate scientists during the entire period. When 1500 scientists are involved, all over the world, writing comments, how could you imagine that this would be "secret"?

Well you are right . It is not secret. Nir Shaviv has a post on that and a link to a preliminary version that was leaked.

Why isn't it officially available to solar scientists for instance? They might have something to contribute that the official IPCC panel of scientists is missing. Heck, well educated laymen might find errors or missing pieces of the puzzle.

However, his opinion (and that of the leakers) is that it is not the proper way to do science or public policy.

I agree.

BTW what about Nir's positions is incomprehensible? I'm a little weak in partial differentials, but most of the rest I can explain. i.e. it makes sense to me.

M. Simon   ·  May 24, 2007 7:20 AM

Neal says:

The IPCC has to look at all the literature published in peer-reviewed journals, and has to conscientiously deal with any comments from climate scientists. These comments are logged in spreadsheets, and responded to, formally. Accordingly, if the points are accepted, they affect the draft.

Shouldn't solar scientists (and not just climate scientists) be in the mix?

Shouldn't they be in on designing the models? I mean, why not ask the experts?

How about chemists? How about heat transfer and fluid flow guys? Experts in chaos theory. statisticians, experts in numerical simulation, etc.

The range of expertise (climate scientists) is rather narrow.

Heck when I was simulating servo systems I had my own mathematician (I did catch a mistake or two she made - we went round and round for a couple of days until I convinced her. She had one of her partial differential terms wrong - still she was the expert in designing simulations - something that is not my main line. I just use them and compare the simulated results to reality and adjust my designs accordingly. But I do get the basics so I can comment intelligently. Plus I have the knack Feynman had of just being able to "feel" where something is wrong. A good knack to have. )

M. Simon   ·  May 24, 2007 7:35 AM

Neal Says:

There's no doubt that charged particles can initiate clouding under the right conditions; as you said, cloud chambers have been around for a long time. The problem with the theory has been: - It hasn't been at all clear that those conditions apply to the real world of the atmosphere; and - The correlations that one would expect to find between cosmic-ray trends and GW just don't seem to be present for the last few decades. So the general reception from the climate science community seems to have been: Not a crazy idea, but there just doesn't seem to be any empirical support for it.

Actually Neal it has been proven experimentally in a large chamber and CERN is in the process of replicating the experiment.

BTW do you know why it is called a Wilson Cloud Chamber? Wilson was studying clouds. Can you beat that?

M. Simon   ·  May 24, 2007 8:55 PM

M. Simon:

on Jawarowski
The problem with debunking Jawarowski is that he makes a lot of claims but doesn't pull them together into a coherent framework. He cites a lot of studies from all sorts of different fields, basically saying "This contradicts that." It's very difficult to deal with people like this.

As I've said, I've dealt with people like that in coffee shops, or hanging out in university physics libraries (always very careful to make sure that I wasn't copying down the titles of the books they were looking up - they wanted to make sure that I wasn't going to scoop them on their grand synthesis). They can be quite knowledgeable in a way, and know all sorts of interesting historical facts. But their interpretations and perspectives can be quite distorted. And it's really hard to sort them out.

***************************************
I'll give an example: At one cafe, I saw someone doing some calculations. He wasn't hiding them, and I was curious, so I looked at them:

x**2 + (ct)**2 = 0

x**2 = - (ct)**2

So x = i*ct


Eventually, we started talking, and he was telling me that:
a) He believed that Einstein was right about General Relativity, but
b) Special Relativity was hogwash.

I pointed out the conventional wisdom: GR is built on SR, so how can you consider SR garbage if GR is good?

So he turned to the calculation above, and said: "See, here I'm reproducing a special relativistic calculation for the distance traveled by a photon, and the distance turns out to be imaginary. How can you trust a theory like that? It's nonsense."

Being a physics student, and thus being highly familiar with SR arguments, I gently pointed out that his real problem was the first equation, which should have been:

x**2 - (ct)**2 = 0

With this change, no imaginary distances would occur.

There was an embarassed silence.

He started talking about something else.

***************************************

OK, in the case above, I was intimately familiar with the topic he was flogging, and it was trivial for me to see where he was going off. But when Jawarowski goes off about Dr. X scandalously ignoring the results of Team Y about what happened 9600 years ago, I have no intimate knowledge about what is going on, and it would be difficult to find the time. What I do know is that I get the same feeling that I had in that cafe: This guy's been reading a lot, but he's a little bit lost.

So, I'm not really excited about exploring J.'s opinions: I have a pretty definite idea about where they go. But I'll make you an offer: If you really think there's something there, I'll read every paper you read. I'll follow up every reference you follow up. And we can discuss the logic and the examples and see if indeed, he has insights that have escaped the IPCC.

Please lead the way.

Neal J. King   ·  May 24, 2007 10:03 PM

M. Simon:

Solar Luminosity: Indeed, the issue is that I don't know of anyone who thinks that the luminosity has been increasing at 0.1%/decade for the last 150 years. Since 1988, the luminosity has cycled in a range of 0.1%, with ups & downs.

I know you want to mention the "solar activity as far back as 1868" statement from Willson. That comes from another thread, so I'll deal with it there. For right here & now, I'll just state that there doesn't seem to be much information available that can substantiate that report into anything like a dependable increase over that period of time. I'm more inclined to believe it's a statement by an over-eager journalist. That article is remarkably different than the brief report by NASA on the same research: much more speculative. Did the journalist misunderstand and generate an improper emphasis? Or did Willson "cut loose", let his hair down and speak his mind?

Neal J. King   ·  May 24, 2007 10:25 PM

M. Simon:

On Clouds and Cosmic Rays
I don't know why you're repeating to me things I've already stated in this very thread.

The fact that charged particles can cause cloud formation in some conditions does not automatically imply that they have been significant in causing cloud formation to a sufficient degree to affect the climate.

The issue has been correlation between cosmic-ray counts and climate - and the problem is that the correlations aren't there. Experiments at CERN can't change that.

You can quote Shaviv's name, but you never cite his work. Again, I'll make you a deal: You cite a specific paper on this work that you believe makes your point, and I'll read it and see if I agree with it, or, conversely, find holes in it.

Your move.

Neal J. King   ·  May 24, 2007 10:34 PM

M. Simon,

IPCC report
- "Why can't solar scientists look at it?"
I'm sure that there is consultation with solar scientists. For sure, someone has crossed the hallway and asked, "How do you estimate solar luminosity over the next 400 years?" And, officially or not, I'm sure that any solar scientist could get a softcopy of the report or of the draft at any time, with a couple of phone calls. Don't be so paranoid.

- "Why don't they include solar scientists in the mix?" I'm sure they do, at least on a consultative basis. But remember: They're not trying to model the Sun, they're trying to model the Earth's climate, for which the Sun is a driver. So all they really need is the answer to the question I posed above. So I don't think heavy involvement by solar scientists would be necessary, in practice. (OK, if you want to check/validate past models, you ask them what happened over the past 650,000 years. But that's actually not much more effort than the previous question.)

- Richard Feynman's knack: I talked with Feynman once a week for an academic year at CalTech. In my opinion, he would have bristled at your suggestion that he operated by pure intuition. He made it pretty plain to us that he was always thinking about multiple ways to approach problems. He spent a lot of effort to make his performance sparkle - and if you bought into the idea that it was "magic", the more fool you!

Neal J. King   ·  May 24, 2007 10:49 PM

I talked with Feynman once a week for an academic year at CalTech.

Wow!

Froblyx   ·  May 25, 2007 12:46 AM

Neal says:

What I do know is that I get the same feeling that I had in that cafe: This guy's been reading a lot, but he's a little bit lost.

Hey. I get feelings like that too (as I have stated on one of these threads).

The deal is: they don't count until you can provide evidence.

So lacking evidence from you (or any one else) I'm going with Dr. J's points on chemical activity and smearing in the ice core "record".

M. Simon   ·  May 25, 2007 7:06 AM

I don't operate on pure intuition. I only use it for guidance. Some times something just "feels wrong". That doesn't count. Then you have to find out why.

As Frob says about your experience with Feynman "wow".

Well Neal re: Clouds. What with answering all your queries (and Frob's) it takes me more time than usual to pull a piece together. However, if you look I think I have done a fair job.

Your move.

BTW I see no comments yet over at PaC about the cloud question. i.e. sign and magnitude.

Fortunately in my clouds piece I have covered not only the cosmic ray bit but some research the Ozzies are doing on finding out what the sign and magnitude are. However, if they leave out the cosmic ray flux their efforts will be of small value.

BTW I'm not aware of an IPCC mechanism for outsiders to "officially" comment on the report. If there is such a mechanism let me know.

M. Simon   ·  May 25, 2007 7:21 AM

I did not ever say (point it out if I did - I was mistaken) .1% per decade.

.05% per decade is the right figure.

Per Willison.

M. Simon   ·  May 25, 2007 7:23 AM

Neal says:

The issue has been correlation between cosmic-ray counts and climate - and the problem is that the correlations aren't there. Experiments at CERN can't change that.

Actually if you look at my latest bit on clouds the correlations are there and they go back 100s of millions of years. I don't remember if I covered that in the piece but I definitely refer to articles that do.

Which is why the fact that the IPCC only deals with climate guys and not astrophysicists and geologists is such a glaring hole in their methods.

BTW the astophysics guys say an alternative explanation for the 1940 to 1970 decline is related to cosmic ray flux. Again if I did not cover that in my cosmic ray piece it is in the referenced articles.

Really Neal, you should look into astrophysics and geology. Fascinating subjects. Well, for me any way.

M. Simon   ·  May 25, 2007 7:34 AM

Neal says:

They're not trying to model the Sun, they're trying to model the Earth's climate, for which the Sun is a driver.

Jeeze Neal, you are telling me they do not have to include a model of the sun in their climate models for which you say "the Sun is a driver"?

Talk about junk science.

Solar output is at an 11,000 year peak. If we fall off that peak (which we will) it is going to have a drastic cooling effect on the climate.

There is a 300 year solar cycle which correlates with "little ice ages". And that is not important in predicting weather 100 years into the future? I dunno. You could be right. What do you think?

BTW what is your physics specialty? There are a bunch of guys (so far no ladies) working on making cheap (not ITER) fusion a reality. It would be helpful to have a physicist in the group. Why not quit arguing climate and help with a solution?

As I have said. I'm interested in fusion for other reasons: cheap energy for the poor, space travel. You might be interested from a no CO2 standpoint. Makes no difference. You will get yours and I will get mine if this can be made to work.

M. Simon   ·  May 25, 2007 7:50 AM

M. Simon & Froblyx:

On Richard Feynman: Wow

Yes, it was mind-blowing on a weekly basis. Actually, slightly more often, as part of the time I sat in on his quantum-electrodynamics class, and ran into him on campus from time to time. He invited me to lunch a few times in the cafeteria.

To be honest, he was a bit of a show-off: I estimate he spent about 30% of his energy making sure that everyone thought he was the smartest kid on the block. Maybe even 50%. However, with the remaining 50%, he was busy actually being the smartest kid on the block. So what can you say?

He liked to try to answer tough questions. He didn't always manage to solve them. But you could learn more by watching him fail to solve a problem than by watching anyone else get the answer right.

Like I said: Mind-blowing on a weekly basis.

Neal J. King   ·  May 25, 2007 7:48 PM

M. Simon:

Clouds
Thanks for putting the article on clouds together. I have been looking at it, and I have some comments to make. But let's deal with them under that posting. The basic point, however, is that there's no doubt that cosmic rays can help seed clouds; there is some question as to whether cosmic rays have actually helped seed clouds in the atmosphere; and there is serious doubt that cosmic rays have had any significant impact on seeding clouds during the time of interest for global warming: the last few decades. Because I think the real issue is, Does the research of Shaviv and others give one reason to hope that the GW in the last 100 years is not due to C-O2 emissions?. And I'm afraid that the answer is, No.

But let's deal with that in comments to that posting.

IPCC and Solar Scientists
Actually, I was downloading the IPCC AR4 and happened to look at a list of contributors. One name on the list: a physicist named Pf. Sami K. Solanki, at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research. So there's at least one. There may be others as well.

Including a solar model in the climate simulations? No.
It makes sense to include the possible variations of the Sun's luminosity in the models, and they've done that.

It does not make sense to include an actual model of the Sun in their simulations. Why? Because it's not expected that anything happening on Earth is going to affect the Sun. The effect is entirely one-sided. They are much better off asking the solar guys to tell them what the Sun is going to do over the next 400 years (with bracketing), and incorporating this information as an external driver to the system that they have to simulate: the atmosphere/ocean/land system.

An analogy: If you had to model the growth of a desert over the next 100 years, you can easily see that it could be affected by what happens with solar luminosity. Does it make sense then, in your modeling, to incorporate a model of the inner workings of the Sun? No. It only makes sense to allow for and calculate the likely range of behavior of the Sun, to see how that will affect the growth of the desert. Let the solar guys tell you what the Sun will/might do, they're the experts.

Neal J. King   ·  May 25, 2007 8:17 PM

M. Simon,

Actually, I have studied some astrophysics in the past. I considered doing a thesis in that area, but I felt discouraged about the degree of looseness in the measurements. There is a lot of astrophysics that is highly speculative.

I have also studied some solid state physics, some plasma physics, and a lot of mathematics. I am currently putting in a little bit of effort to get better grounded in general relativity, an area that I never felt solid with. However, I'm not currently working in physics, although I still have friends who are.

As I mentioned at some point, so far it looks like the fusion stuff is pretty far-off right now. I'm not against putting effort into it, but I don't see it as being a near-term solution.

However, tell me what you're up to, and I'll be happy to think about it. But I'm probably a better critic than designer.

Neal J. King   ·  May 25, 2007 8:32 PM

Neal,

Re: solar models.

I wasn't thinking of an exact model of the sun. Just things like the 300 year cycle. I am not aware that that cycle has been included in the models. In any case there seem to be longer term modulations of the cycle. For instance Solanki (sp?) says solar output is at an 11,000 year peak. So what will the next cycle 300 year cycle look like? Does any one know? Probably not. The sun is not that well modeled (probably on par with the climate). However, estimates at least as good as the cloud estimates can be made.

==========

Here are two urls

Bussard Fusion Reactor

Easy Low Cost No Radiation Fusion

The first is a short general introduction. The second is more detailed. Please. Please. Please. Watch the Bussard video in the second piece.

Drop your climate studies for it. It is way more important.

BTW a competing fusion reactor design along similar lines (an accelerator as opposed to thermal design like the ITER) has been funded to the tune of $40 million.

Then we can quit arguing about climate - since politically nothing will be done any way - and work together on something useful.

BTW From my studies on psychology "feelings" are critical for decision making. They are critical for rational thought. Surprising, no?

M. Simon   ·  May 25, 2007 10:28 PM

Re: fusion.

It depends on what you think near term is.

With a high level "crash" effort I estimate that 1000s of 100 to 1,000 MW power plants can be turned out per year in 15 years time. i.e. 5 to 7 years of engineering and testing. Another 5 to 7 years to ramp up production.

Currently world wide we use about 1.5e12 watts of generating power. That would be 1.5e4 power plants. At 1,000 such plants a year it would only take 10 years (max) to replace all coal burners.

So in 25 years we could be off the coal standard. No oil either.

Watch the video. It is all explained there.

M. Simon   ·  May 25, 2007 10:40 PM

M. Simon,

I watched the video.

Bussard seems generally knowledgeable about the history of fusion research & (non)development. Beyond that, it's not possible for me to evaluate the feasibility of his approach.

The only thing that I find a bit odd: He claims that, since his approach has achieved scientific breakthrough (energy output > energy input), that pushing through to engineering breakthrough (energy output > energy input plus whatever it takes to run the plant) is a given. The problem that I've always heard is that scientific breakthrough only requires a factor of 1; whereas engineering breakthrough may require a factor of 100. Getting that additional 99 is not going to be trivial, and may not be possible.

Neal J. King   ·  May 26, 2007 12:02 AM

M. Simon,

I watched the video.

Bussard seems generally knowledgeable about the history of fusion research & (non)development. Beyond that, it's not possible for me to evaluate the feasibility of his approach.

The only thing that I find a bit odd: He claims that, since his approach has achieved scientific breakthrough (energy output > energy input), that pushing through to engineering breakthrough (energy output > energy input plus whatever it takes to run the plant) is a given. The problem that I've always heard is that scientific breakthrough only requires a factor of 1; whereas engineering breakthrough may require a factor of 100. Getting that additional 99 is not going to be trivial, and may not be possible.

Neal J. King   ·  May 26, 2007 12:02 AM

Uh, scientific break even has not been achieved.

However, as in ITER the scaling laws have been proven and they are much more favorable than ITER.

ie. R^4*B^3

A 100MW reactor is estimated to be about 7 ft across (2 meters). A 1,000 MW job assuming constant magnetic field would be about 3.5 meters across. if you upped the magnetic field in proportion to the diameter increase it would be smaller. It is on the order of size of a nuclear fission reactor of similar power out.

The gain is there. It is just a matter of scale. Compare it to the scale of ITER.

Watch the video again. It took me 3 or 4 views to absorb all the info. Then join the group at:

http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/IEC_Fusion/

and ask questions. We have a math guy working on simulations. Maybe you could be of assistance there.

M. Simon   ·  May 26, 2007 12:22 AM

The additional 99 is trivial. You just make it bigger. Assuming break even is size x a gain of 100 is just (100)^-4. i.e about 3.5 times larger assuming no increase in the magnetic field.

Break even is estimated in a 1 m reactor (reaction space - the actual chamber is larger). So a 100 MW job with a constant B field would be 3.5 meters across.

These numbers are a little rough because of some uncertainties due to the very favorable scaling laws. A small error gets exponentiated by an exponent of 4 or 3 (depending on size [4] and field strength [3]).

It will all be ironed out with more experimental effortr.

M. Simon   ·  May 26, 2007 12:36 AM

M. Simon,

- I really don't see any reason to view the video twice. There isn't enough information for me to be able to decide whether this is going to work or not. About all I can tell is that he doesn't seem to be a total flake. But there are a lot of people, who are not total flakes, who have also not succeeded in getting nuclear fusion to work.

- Likewise, I've taken a quick glance into the URL you mentioned. I don't see any particular thread that looks interesting, with respect to getting a machine to work. Plasma physics takes tons of number-crunching. If the guy you have is any good, someone kibbutzing on the side is not going to help: He would need someone to help with the simulations, which is a full-time job. And if the guy you have isn't any good, no one kibbutzing on the side is going to make any difference either.

So unless you have a specific puzzle you can mention, I don't see any way I can contribute to this.

Neal J. King   ·  May 26, 2007 12:48 AM

The guy we have is pretty good but as you say the problems are difficult. If you are interested in helping join the fusion group (link above) and ask Indrek what he needs help with.

Here is one of his earlier efforts on the magnetic fields:

http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s307/MSimon6808/polywell_cube_bfield_log.png

Personally it is sad that a person of your obvious talents just wants to devote his spare time to complaining and criticizing.

Well there are plenty of complainers out there. You will have a lot of company.

What ever makes you happy.

I find it amusing that a sceptic like me may through personal efforts do more to reduce CO2 production than some one who "cares".

It is what it is.

M. Simon   ·  May 26, 2007 1:02 AM

M. Simon,

- I find it odd that you regard correcting provably wrong statements about the science of GW as "complaining & criticizing".

- I am not a designer. Technical skills are not fungible: that is why climatologists are no good at desiging fusion reactors, and vice versa.

- When I visited your cited site earlier, all I found was people complaining about not getting $40 Million. There were no technical issues being discussed. When I visited your URL above, all I see is a pretty picture. If there are technical problems your buddy wants to get solved, how about posting them, so that the context and the issues can be understood? Nothing very useful is going to come of bouncing back & forth on a blog.

Neal J. King   ·  May 26, 2007 2:54 PM

Neal says:

I find it odd that you regard correcting provably wrong statements about the science of GW as "complaining & criticizing".

Awaiting your comments on Clouds in Chambers.

- When I visited your cited site earlier, all I found was people complaining about not getting $40 Million. There were no technical issues being discussed. When I visited your URL above, all I see is a pretty picture.

Uh. that would be simulations of magnetic fields. It is a pretty picture isn't it? Go up thread. Lots of technical problems. Contact Indrek on the Yahoo IEC Fusion group.

If there are technical problems your buddy wants to get solved, how about posting them, so that the context and the issues can be understood? Nothing very useful is going to come of bouncing back & forth on a blog.

That is what the Yahoo group is for. Contact Indrek and ask him what he needs.

M. Simon   ·  May 26, 2007 5:42 PM

M. Simon,

- Clouds: My comments have posted.

- Magnetic fields: "Go up thread"? Doesn't mean anything to me.

- Indrek: I dropped a line.

Neal J. King   ·  May 26, 2007 6:39 PM

Solar Models and the IPCC
As soon as something becomes a generally accepted part of the solar picture, I'm sure they'll include it. Why shouldn't they? All it takes is for someone to write a peer-reviewed article explaining its relevance to climate modeling, and it'll be on their table. So far, I don't see anything on a 300-year cycle.

Comments by the public
I think they comments to be from the relevant experts. Does your car mechanic invite people to watch him when he's fixing cars? I don't think all the kibbutzing on the side helps, if the kibbutzers aren't expert in a relevant area.

In any event, the technical part of the report has been out since April, so anybody can get what they want from that.

on Jawarowski
Like I said, I get a sad feeling reading his stuff. It has the same slightly paranoid flavor as articles written by LaRouche. I don't take those seriously either.

I should be getting a book by Alley, one of the ice-core experts, called "The Two-Mile Time Machine", in about a month. I imagine he'll address issues related to uncertainties and possible errors.

Going from 1 to 100 is trivial
As I said, that attitude puzzles me. The problem has always been in fusion physics that you solve the problems you have by making a bigger machine - and then find new problems. When talking about overcoming a factor of 100, the term "trivial" is most convincingly applied AFTER the problem has been solved.

Neal J. King   ·  May 27, 2007 8:28 AM

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