Sunday, January 25, 2015

Hanoi beats Jakarta on climate (plus some random Indonesia notes)

My last two overseas trips were to Vietnam two years ago and Indonesia last month, so it makes sense in my mind at least to compare them.

Summary is that Hanoi has the opportunity to avoid the mistakes of American city development while Jakarta has already made them. Hanoi could focus on bicycle and electric bike-oriented transportation, and we saw a good number of electric bikes when we were there. Good luck seeing more than a handful of bicycles in Jakarta though (the city is trying a tiny bit, we did see a bike lane). Motorcycles are common but the electric motorcycle industry seems years behind the electric bicycle industry. Jakarta will likely have to follow the American future of electric cars plus some public transit combined with renewable energy.

On the good side, Jakarta has a pretty successful Bus Rapid Transit system, with dedicated bus lanes and the feeling of light rail without the infrastructure cost. We saw it and wished we had used it instead of making the mistake of walking through three miles of motorcycle exhaust. We’re trying to get BRT here in the South San Francisco Bay, although my home of Mountain View is dragging its feet.

Hanoi and northern Vietnam had a reasonable number of solar thermal water heaters and a tiny amount of photovoltaics. We saw no solar thermal in Jakarta (to be fair, hot water seems less necessary there). Seemed like there was less PV in Indonesia too, although on a boat trip in Borneo we noticed many of the boats had a couple of PV panels, so that’s something.

Random Indonesia notes:

From our limited exposure to much smaller Indonesian cities, they seemed much less car-dependent, so they’ve got a chance to avoid Jakarta’s mistakes.

Indonesia’s new, reformist president took advantage of low oil prices to remove most fuel subsidies. They function mostly as price ceilings so it was easy to do. We’ll see how it goes when prices rise again.

President Jokowi is the first national leader not from the elite family dynasties, so it’s a good sign for their democracy. The people I talked to seemed pretty enthusiastic about him, although the old parties still control a majority in the legislature.

We did orangutan boat tours in Borneo/central Kalimantan. I’ve got a thing for great apes and have seen all but bonobos in the wild – if I had to choose one to see it would be the orangutans. Something about their faces and their eyes really make it seem like there’s a person looking back at you.

Palm oil is everywhere in Indonesia. The Europeans really made a mess of this issue. In addition to cutting down the original forests, in Borneo they drain peat soils before planting, making the carbon emissions much worse.

I’ve got no doubt that eco-tourism is good for protecting jungle habitat in Borneo (and the coral we saw diving in Sulawesi). Whether it makes up for our carbon emissions in getting there would likely depend on some heroic assumptions. Carbon isn’t everything, though.

One welcome sight was Indonesian tourists visiting Indonesian national parks, something I haven’t seen in other, admittedly poorer, developing countries. They do have a problem with leaving plastic trash everywhere, especially visible when you’re diving.

Man, the Indonesians are friendly. Highly recommended if you have a free day in Jakarta is the Hidden Jakarta tour to get taken into the slums of Jakarta, where people welcome you with open arms.

By jarring contrast to that friendliness, there are still unoccupied buildings in Jakarta from the anti-Chinese race riots in 1998. As tourists, we can only have a superficial sense of what’s going on in the country.

Recommendations for tourists:

*Orangutan Voyage to see orangutans in Central Kalimantan – they went the extra mile for us. If you’re there for a while like us (8 days) you need to add different things to do. I’d skip the sea turtle hatchery and maybe do an overnight/multiple day trek instead. It is hot hot hot though.

*At Bunaken National Park in Sulawesi we stayed at Living Colours dive resort – a very nice, Finnish-owned place with half the guests from Finland, so we got a little taste of Finnish culture in an unexpected place. I loved the diving, lots of big sea turtles and fantastic coral walls, although visibility in during monsoon season is variable.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Twitter Is Not A Communications Medium

Last week, NOAA admitted that the 0-2000 m ocean heat content went off the chart.  Literally

so they rescaled

The sharp eyed will notice that not only does the ordinate (the y axis to the unmathed) but also the abscissa (the x axis) has changed.  The latter, because the graph since it's inception in 2012 only extended to 2015.  The former, well, the former because the ocean heat content has increased an awful lot and it went off scale, well above what was anticipated when it was first introduced in February of 2012.  The interesting question is whether the ordinate was increased enough, or this graph is going to break in ~2018 or so if the current trend continues or even speeds up.

Clearly when Tim Boyer at NOAA started to display the 0-2000 m data he made the decision not to dynamically rescale but to use the same limits which is a better when people compare what is happening from month to month, year to year, If a bunny extends the trend at 2012, there is plenty of room at the top when 2015 comes

But time moves on and more importantly growth of the 0-2000 m ocean heat content in the last three years has accelerated

John Abraham had heard about this and he wrote on it in the Guardian under the headline

The oceans are warming so fast, they keep breaking scientists' charts 

NOAA once again has to rescale its ocean heat chart to capture 2014 ocean warming 

OK, headlines are headlines, and John explained it in the text

And just recently, perhaps the most important bit of information came out about 2014 – how much the Earth actually warmed. What we find is that the warming is so great, NOAA literally has to remake its graphs. Let me explain this a bit.
But some only read headlines and promptly don the harumphing regalia
This touched off the usual low level grousing, including comments on how dynamic rescaling is trivial, well, until Michael Tobis challenged the pecksniffian Betts

and Richard Betts drew his gown up about his knees to stomp off

where upon Dana Nuccitelli showed up and questioned the now wound up Richard Bett's expertise in climate communications

At this point the entire thread was lost as the aforementioned Richard Betts and the now mentioned Doug McNeil decided that the herementioned Dana Nuccitelli was responsible for it all, whatever that was

As this went on everybunny seemed confused, that the article was written by John Abraham and who knows who wrote the headline and NOAA had not changed the limits of the graph until this month and why.
Eli found the entire exercise rather looking glass.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Editolial Discretion

One of the bunnies points to an interesting post at Naked Capitalism, indicating the travails of a paper submitted to an editor in chief, one of Ethons favorite bites, the good Professor Richard Tol.  Now some, not Eli to be sure might have some doubts about the net of implausible deniability of the editors (there are a few, Dr. Richard Tol, Dr. B. W. Ang and Dr. U. Soyta) in chief and Ms. Donna de Weerd-Wilson, Executive Publisher at Elsevier, but suffice it to say that the paper was slow walked, till it was rejected because, and Eli kids you not
The reason your paper is never reviewed is because the Energy Economics’ Editors-in-Chief tried their best, for over seven months, to find suitable reviewers, but none could be found.
Well, it was only from March to November, and of course, Richard's advice when asked about the paper by the author, Eric Prentis, was
and, after the stonewall, the Editors In Chief put on full huffing regalia and wrote to Eric P on November 9
The author lacks confidence in the editorial team of Energy Economics and is thus best advised to take the paper elsewhere.
Which reminds Eli, he owes someone a review

UPDATE:  Yeah, Prentis is a bit over the top, but OTOH, Eli knows Dick.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Today's king tides, tomorrow's normal high tide

Literally today's king tides - they're happening this week and people are encouraged to go out and document what sea level will be bringing us at some future point, so off I went on my bicycle this morning to snap some blurry pictures on my phone.

This picture has San Francisco Bay at my back, looking towards land in the South Bay (Mountain View). That slough-looking thing on the right would be Stevens Creek under normal conditions. Background buildings are part of the Googleplex on the right and NASA Ames/Moffet Airfield on the left.

Levee freeboard here is about two feet, so even a modest flood at this inconvenient time would be enough to overtop into the saltponds on the left (and other ponds you can't see on the right). That's not great but OTOH they're just ponds. Not a big deal so long as the overtopping doesn't destroy the levee.

My attempted artsy photo of the creek mouth, taken where the razor-wire fence ends the trail on the levee.  Normally the mouth is further down (this was my running route before my ankle gave up running). Reaching through the razor wire to take the picture wasn't easy.

Further upstream here, closer to Google campus and NASA Ames. The creek surface is significantly higher than the land surface, but the freeboard here is more like 6 to 8 feet. That would take a bigger flood, and I also happen to know that the creek has another breakout point a mile or two upstream that would relieve the flooding (onto somebody else).

Someday the Water District will fix that breakout though, so the increased maintenance cost and increased risk from elevated water levels will be permanent.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Playoff Bracket

Andrew Gelman, over at Statistical Modeling, Casual Inference and Social Science has been organizing aplayoff bracket to choose the ultimate seminar speaker.  Eli noted that Drew and his ilk have philosophers, artists, comedians and religious, but no scientists.

Now, some, not Eli to be sure, might consider this a problem.  Eli thinks it is an opportunity, but a great one for the bunnies to organize a  climate science debate, not an imaginary one, but one, where, through the magic of the internet, we can have scientists and denialists going at each other in YouTube/Vimeo, whatever brackets

As a matter of history, the Rabett will point to the Dessler vs Lindzen disputation featured oh so many years ago at Rabett Run.

but that was oh so many years ago, and Eli knows there are great lectures out there to be compared.  So, dear readers, who should debate in the climate seminar playoff bracket.

Try to argue with this, warmists

Shorter Bob Tisdale:  remove the part of the 2014 dataset that warmed the most, and then 2014 isn't as warm anymore.

Who knew?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Alexander Graham Bell, Father of Measuring Carbon Dioxide Accurately

There is, quite naturally, a confusion about how modern (post Eisenhower) measurements of CO2 have been made (there are changes underway).  Even, for example, Spencer Weart, in his Discovery of Global Warming, gets it wrong

Keeling wanted to buy a new type of gas detector (namely, infrared spectrophotometers) that penned a precise and continuous record on a strip chart. 
Eli was reminded of this issue in a comment by one Izen over at Confused* Judy's place.  (What, you doubt that Judy is Confused, Judith Curry, former chair and professor of atmospheric sciences over at Georgia Tech.  Well, go read what Brian wrote last night first, and then what Confused Judy wrote yesterday about 2014 being the hottest year on record.)  Izen:
I have no doubt that chemical and physical methods used in the past could be refined to a high accuracy. The technology of laser spectroscopic measurement was a more recent development than atom splitting. That provided Keeling with a better method.But the importance of maintaining that accuracy and maintaining control over the conditions, time position, that the measurements were made is Keeling’s contribution to the science.
Now anybunny familiar with the spectrophotometers of the time, IR, Vis, UV (Beckman DU folks) would have some doubts about what kind of accuracy even one so obsessed as Charles Keeling could achieve.

To understand what and why start with a working definition that spectrometer disperses (or shuffle in the case of FT spectrometer) light of different frequencies so that the response of the sample can be measured as a function of  frequency.  As to the measurement, there are in principle two types of measurements that can be made.  The most common one is absorption, where the intensity of the light at different frequencies/wavelengths, with and without the sample are measured.  The second is excitation, where the response of the sample to the light is measured, typically by fluorescence or ionization, but also by the noise it makes when excited.  Bunnies knew all about this from the year dot, but the photo-acoustic effect was first described by Alexander Graham Bell.

The advantage of an absorption measurement is that it is absolute.  You only need to measure the relative amount of light with and without the sample and use the Beer Lambert law

 A = -\ln  \left( \frac{I}{I_0} \right).

where A is the absorbance and I and Io the intensities with and without the sample.  The absorbance has a simple relationship with the cross-section σ, the length of the sample l through which the light passes (use your ruler) and the concentration of the interesting stuff N (and sometimes interferences in the sample)
A = σ l N

The difficulty of using absorbance for accurate and precise measurements of small concentrations is that if the difference between  I and Io is small the absorbance is small and you would need to measure the light intensity to a precision and accuracy much higher than the electronics of yesteryear would allow and even today would be tough.**

Excitation spectroscopies are more sensitive, because in the absence of whatever absorbs the light the baseline is zero.  There is a cost.  Of course there is a cost, what do you think that there is free lunch at the hutch?  The cost is that you need a calibrated sample whose concentration is accurately known so you can compare with.  Although David Keeling had developed chemical methods and skill to measure CO2 in atmospheric samples accurately, each measurement was painstaking and for the kind of measurements that were needed in the pilot Mauna Loa program something better was needed.

Which is where Alexander Graham Bell, and a new instrument developed by V.N. Smith for IR measurements of various gases comes in.  Jones realized that if what you want is to measure the effect of a gas on the intensity of light passing through a sample, you did not have to disperse the light and measure the effect at a single frequency, but rather you could compare the intensity passing through cells with and without the absorbing molecule
In general, however, I is a very small fraction of Io, so that a detector which is responsive to all wavelengths will be irradiated by a large amount of energy Io in the absence of X in the absorption cell, and by only a slightly smaller amount of energy I in the presence of X therein. 
This difficulty can be overcome by irradiating two detectors, one through an absorption cell. containing X, and the other through an empty cell, or a cell containing a non-absorbing gas. The difference in the amount of energy received by the two detectors will be I, and a more sensitive indicating or recording instrument can be applied to the output from the two detecting elements. Although the calibration in this case will vary with the total energy Io, since the absorbed energy ex is a fraction thereof, this additional difficulty can be in turn overcome by using the null principle, that is, by stopping down the energy passing through the empty cell until the energy difference in the two detectors is zero, and then calibrating the action of the optical wedge used for this purpose in terms of concentration of the component X.
This is called the Non-Dispersive IR method, often written as NDIR and is the basis of a whole raft of modern NDIR meters for monitoring CO2 and other gases in  many application including medical agriculture and such.  The characteristic of such meters is that they use a thin film filter to restrict the wavelength range of the light that reached the detector or they are used in a situation where there is only a single absorber.

Given the state of the art of dielectric IR filters in the 1950s, this would not be useful for the kinds of measurements that Keeling and Revelle wanted to make.

Enter Alexander Graham Bell's photo-acoustic detector.  Photo-acoustic detectors can be exceedingly sensitive.  As shown below they consist of a light source, a chopper and a microphone.

Chopping the light creates a pressure wave in the cell when the light is absorbed and it is detected by the microphone.  The chopping frequency should be matched to the microphone.  But wait, three other things are needed.

The first is a precise and accurately known calibration sample, a gas whose concentration is exactly (or as exactly as possible known).  The current state of the art is described by NOAA where Peter Tans maintains the WMO international standard.  IEHO, the lack of good calibration standards to test their results was a major failure of most of the pre-Mauna Loa CO2 measurement series.  NOAA, relatively recently took possession of the standard cylinders from the Keeling labs at Scipps (1995).  A calibration standard is a necessary bullshit test of any measurement.  Still, anyrabbit who has ever made up calibration mixtures, especially at low concentrations knows that this is not bunny play.  There are any numbers of materials issues, worrying about absorption and reaction on surfaces, issues associated with ensuring that the mixture is homogeneously mixed and don't talk about the issues with pumps.and any moving part in the system.  Maintaining a sample over long periods is a horror which requires constant rechecking and not a little bit of hard experience.

The second, not so obvious, is the flow system that brings the sample and calibration gases into the cell.  Again, materials are a major issue to build a system that samples from where you want the samples to come from, monitoring of meterorology, etc.  Since measuring between the sample and the calibration gas are alternated (see this description of the NOAA SOP) if the measurement is to be automated this has to be done with electro (mechanical) valves.  Design of the flow and sampling system is absolutely crucial

The third is REALLY obvious, you have to freeze out the water from the flowing sample gas.

* as in the George Bush sense

** as a side note trying to measure very high absorbances requires measuring a very small signal, down in the noise as it were.  On commercial instruments ( which use base 10 logs to report absorbance) unless you have paid a lot for a special  don't believe an absorbance base 10 above 2.  Cut the concentration or make the length longer.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Never-ending cooking cycle

Now that NASA and NOAA have also found 2014 to be the warmest, I thought I'd recycle a cooking recipe from 2006. Could be especially useful if 2015 shows a slight drop from 2014:

How to cook Tim Blair, Andrew Bolt, and Patrick Michaels 

1. Place Blair, Bolt, and Michaels in a large, water-filled pot equipped with a step ladder they can use to escape at any time. Set initial water temperature at average levels.

BLAIR/BOLT/MICHAELS: We're quite comfortable, thank you!!

2. Increase temperature to an unambigous, new historic high.

BLAIR/BOLT/MICHAELS: No big deal! Not going to last!

MICHAELS: Want to bet it won't be this warm again?

3. Drop temperature back down, but still far above average.

BLAIR/BOLT/MICHAELS: See!! Vindication!! There is no potboiler warming! Not a problem!

4. Gradually increase temperature to near or above the historic high.

BLAIR/BOLT/MICHAELS: We deny it's above the historic high! Deny it!

MICHAELS: And, uh, the bet offer is withdrawn.

5. Keep temperature very high, but a tiny bit below Step 4.

BLAIR/BOLT/MICHAELS: The science behind potboiler warming is bogus, and we'll stay here for as long as it takes to prove it!

BLAIR: I'm not feeling hot - crank it up, people!

BOLT: Me neither!

6. Repeat Steps 2 through 5 until done. Don't worry, they won't use the step ladder to get out. Process will be sped by the fact that their brains were already cooked.

Please, please, please, may some denialist point out to me that we haven't yet repeated Step 2 - just be prepared to put your money where your mouth is about what will happen in the near future.

(Hat tip: Deltoid.)

2006 UPDATE: From RealClimate:

Most bizarre new contrarian claim:
"Global warming stopped in 1998".
By the same logic, it also stopped in 1973, 1983, and 1990 (only it didn't)
So we have repeated steps 2 through 5, multiple times.