Friday, April 24, 2015

More from Andy Lacis

Andy Lacis comments on Judith Curry's visit to the hall of mirrors at And Then There is Physics, but in the spirit of the think, allow Eli to repost.

Let me toss on here what I posted on ClimateEtc in regard to the recent (April 15, 2015) Science, Space, and Technology Committee Congressional Hearing:

As was to be expected, Congressional hearings are more about political posturing rather than being a directed effort of objective information gathering. Naturally, there was the perfunctory public posturing of pretending to appear “fair and balanced”. But the unmistakable overall flavor was really one of there-we-g0-again legalistic tribunes where selected legal briefs are presented on behalf of well-known staked-out positions by convenient plaintiffs who get to argue the virtues of their special points of view on their favorite issues regarding global warming and global climate change.

What went missing in this Congressional climate forum was any kind of real balancing testimony from experts in the field who have spent decades to analyze this important topic of global climate change. Regrettably, there was no real discussion as to what we actually do know about the global warming problem, and why we know it.

But, looking on the brighter side, perhaps there may have been a small modicum of progress having been made in that the likes of Senator James Inhofe (R, Oklahoma) and Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R, California) were not out there lambasting global warming and climate change as being the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on humanity. It appears that perhaps at this point in time, making such blatant denials of reality could be perceived as being unnecessarily clueless and ignorant.

But then there is also the contrary example of courageous conviction, and understanding of the global warming reality, exhibited by former Congressman Bob Inglis (R, South Carolina), who paid the price for being politically incorrect. One can only hope that at some point, pragmatic sanity will eventually prevail.

Even some of the staunchest of the global warming doubters have now grudgingly come around to acknowledge that CO2 does indeed absorb thermal radiation (but they want to claim that the absorption is small, that CO2 is saturated, and that water vapor actually absorbs more strongly); that while there might have been some increase in global temperature (it all has been mostly due to natural variability, and as such, it has been beneficial); and that while humans might have contributed to the rise in atmospheric CO2 (it has not been significant, and besides, the plants have benefitted from more CO2).

While there was nothing that was specifically erroneous in these Congressional Hearing presentations, it was the usual problem of half-truths, misdirection, and non-sequiturs being used to paint a picture that is not an accurate description of where we stand in our understanding of the current climate situation.

Part of the problem may also be attributable to the flexible nature of some basic definitions. What exactly is meant by this common term “global warming”? Literally, the term “global warming” would signify that the global-mean temperature is rising, and if the global-mean temperature were to be decreasing, the situation would then become “global cooling”. But this frequently used term has also acquired a more technical meaning as it is being used in climate science. As the key cause and principal component of global warming, it is the rise in atmospheric CO2 and other greenhouse gases that act to increase the strength of the terrestrial greenhouse effect, and induce more water vapor in the atmosphere as a feedback effect. This inevitably leads to an increase in global surface temperature. This is really what the term “global warming” represents.

But there are other factors that also affect the global temperature. These can be caused by changes in solar irradiance, volcanic aerosols, and the natural variability of the ocean. Changes in solar irradiance and volcanic aerosols are typically known accurately enough. It is the variability of the ocean that is the principal source of uncertainly, such as a strong negative branch of the PDO cycle that can keep the global temperature from rising while atmospheric CO2 continues to increase unabated.

It is important to remember that the present-day changes affecting the global climate consist of two basic components: (1) the ongoing global warming component fueled by increasing atmospheric CO2, and (2) the natural variability of the climate system that consists of random-looking fluctuations about a slowly evolving zero reference point of the climate system.

It would be a misdirection to suggest that global warming has just somehow stalled simply because there has been only a little rise in global surface temperature since the prominent peak in 1998. There was no comparable “pause” in the rate of atmospheric CO2 increase during this time period. Instead, the global energy imbalance of the Earth increased as the heat energy that would have been warming the ground surface was being diverted toward heating the ocean. This puts more unrealized global warming into the “pipeline”, from which it will be emerging as the PDO cycle shifts toward its positive phase.

The natural variability of the climate system also makes it difficult to infer climate sensitivity to the radiative forcing by atmospheric CO2. Reliable estimates of the equilibrium climate sensitivity (equivalent to about 3 K for doubled CO2) are obtained from the geological record and from climate model calculations. The transient climate sensitivity is by definition a moving target since it depends on the rate of change of heat transport into the ocean (which itself is a changing factor), and estimating the transient climate sensitivity from observational data is particularly difficult (and uncertain), because it is necessary to know all contributing forcings in order to disentangle the feedback contributions from the total climate system response. While the CO2 forcing may be known accurately, it is big uncertainty as to the “virtual” forcings due to the natural variability of the ocean that are the most difficult to determine. Thus, estimates of the transient climate sensitivity (whether high, or low), will continue to remain highly uncertain.

In view of the above, the suggestion that climate models are running “too hot” compared to observations is disingenuous. Climate models may well run “cold” while simulating El Nino events, and run “hot” while simulating the global temperature during a strong negative PDO. Both climate models and the real world exhibit a form of unforced natural variability. And in both cases, this natural variability is quasi-chaotic, with no real way to coordinate the phasing of this variability. Any short-term comparisons between climate model results and observations need to keep this in mind. To sidestep this problem, the time period for comparisons must be long enough for the natural variability contributions to average out.

Granted, the definition of “dangerous” climate change is ambiguous. And there is probably no real way to quantify just what “dangerous” actually represents. Perhaps the example of the Titanic may help.
At what point did the situation on the Titanic become dangerous? There was no perceived danger when the Titanic left Southampton for New York. Most of the passengers were still dry and alive some two hours after hitting the iceberg. Did the danger begin when the iceberg was spotted, but there was not enough time to avoid the collision? Or was the danger already brewing when Captain Smith ignored reports of icebergs and continued full steam ahead? There might be some relevant parallels to draw.

Global-mean winds, global-mean temperatures, and global-mean precipitation, compared between a doubled CO2 climate and the current climate would not appear to be consequentially different. But it is the extreme weather events that cause the damage. Whether humans get blamed, or not blamed, neither adds nor detracts from the problem. Global warming puts more heat, water vapor, and latent energy into the atmosphere. And that is the fuel that makes the extreme weather events more extreme. So, there actually is a real relationship to be had between global warming (human induced) and a growing danger of more severe weather extremes. A better studied quantification of this relationship would certainly be very useful.

It would seem more appropriate to assign “wickedness” to problems that are more specifically related to witches. The climate problem, while clearly complex and complicated, is not incomprehensible. Current climate models do a very credible job in simulating current climate variability and seasonal changes. Present-day weather models make credible weather forecasts – and there is a close relationship. Most of the cutting edge current climate modeling research is aimed at understanding the physics of ocean circulation and the natural variability of the climate system that this generates. While this may be the principal source of uncertainty in predicting regional climate change and weather extreme events, this uncertainty in modeling the climate system’s natural variability is clearly separate and unrelated to the radiative energy balance physics that characterize the global warming problem. The appropriate uncertainty that exists in one area of climate modeling doe not automatically translate to all other components of the climate system.

Besides, the persistent uncertainties regarding the natural variability of the climate system are not the real problem that we face. The real problem is the continued increase in atmospheric CO2 that is causing the ongoing global warming. And, the basic facts and physics for understanding this aspect of global warming are all well established and well understood.

There always seem to be temptations to minimize the consequences of the global warming problem, or the cost-effectiveness of proposed efforts taken or suggested to counteract the global warming problem. That is just what Steven Koonin attempted to do in a previous post, nor does it appear to be different in this Congressional hearing.

Typically, the economic costs of taking action to address the global warming problem are always cited as being unnecessarily excessive. This was true of the proposed expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade the levees and shoreline in New Orleans prior to Katrina, and in New York prior to Sandy. Had this money actually been spent to make New York and New Orleans more hurricane-proof, we might never have known that hundreds of billions worth of hurricane damage might have been averted.

The economic cost of combating global warming is likely to be many hundreds of billions of dollars. But has anybody tried to calculate how many trillions of dollars it would cost to relocate Miami, New York, Washington DC, and New Orleans to higher ground? Surely, there are bound to be many other economic costs to tally up, brought on by the inaction to counteract the impending consequences that global warming is sure to bring.

Clearly, decisions will need to be made, and they will need to be made sooner rather than later. Is there anybody in Congress who is capable of making the hard decisions? It is actually important to first fully understand the problem before deciding to act, or in justifying the decision not to act.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

March gave us the warmest 12 months in a row. And the warmest 13 months, 14 months...20 months...40 months...59 months...

...but not the warmest 60 months in a row, so climate change is a hoax. The warmest 60 months in a row happened in ancient history, from March 2010 through February 2015. OTOH, the warmest 61 months in a row did just happen in March, as well 62 months, 63 months, 70 months, and on for quite a while.

The point is that as you look at longer periods, it becomes even more obvious that we're still warming. Denialists made a lot of hay out of the fact that 2014 was the warmest calendar year based on probability, with a lesser-but-still real possibility that another year was actually warmer. They die by the probabilistic sword though if you look at longer periods. There's virtually no chance that any period in the instrumental record longer than 18 months happened before 2014.

Anyway, I thought this is another way to communicate the idea (that temps are warming).

In other news, my careful reading of Tamino's recent blogging frenzy pulled out these two gems from Ted Cruz. In January, Tamino quotes Cruz saying (presumably in 2014):

The last 15 years, there has been no recorded warming. Contrary to all the theories that — that they are expounding, there should have been warming over the last 15 years. It hasn’t happened.

In March, Tamino says Cruz says:

Many of the alarmists on global warming, they’ve got a problem because the science doesn’t back them up. In particular, satellite data demonstrate for the last 17 years, there’s been zero warming.”

Goalpost much? Someone should ask Ted why he's changed his tune, other than fine-tuning his cherrypicking to the only dataset he can still use.

One disadvantage for him in being a presidential candidate is that it becomes a little harder to duck questions.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Eli and the Merry Elves

Some time ago, Eli and his merry elves  put together a lengthy comment on an even more lengthy paper (aka piece of trash) by Gerhard Gerlich and Ralf Tscheuschner, that being a paper so bad that it really was not worth the work, except the work the merry elves did was a piece of play.

Now the Rabett is quite happy with the project. It was maybe the first published blog generated reply to such nonsense (thus the grandfather of the 97% paper), and even happier about those who took part, some of whom blog, some of whom tweet and blog to this day, Chris Ho-Stuart, Chris Colose, Joel Shore, Arthur Smith and Joerg Zimmerman.

A major part of the comment was showing that absorbing layer models of the atmosphere lead to a warmer surface, in perfect agreement with the second law of thermodynamics.  What happens, of course, is that each absorbing layer re-emits IR radiation, a part of which is absorbed by the layer below.  This slows the rate at which the lower level cools by radiation.  If the lowest level is heated by an outside source (such as the sun) and an equilibrium is established so that the energy into the system matches that of radiation from the system, then the temperature of the lowest level at equilibrium is higher than it would be in the absence of absorbing layers.

Of course, this did not meet with understanding amongst the lard heads, and Eli ran into it again recently on Bishop Hill.  Curiously Chris Colose has been thinking about the problem too and has a couple of recent  posts on the subject.

Eli's introduction to thermal radiation shielding was building very high temperature ovens (> 1200K) with multiple levels of radiation shielding during his graduate research, so, on an experimental level the answer was clear, but today while searching the net he came across a book on radiative transfer by Robert Siegel which considers the problem in detail starting with parallel piles of heat shielding layers which emit diffusely (e.g. the same in all directions)

in really complete detail.  The model includes different emissivities for the inside and outside walls of each shielding level.  Eli is not going to go full SoD on the bunnies, but those interested can find a detailed derivation of the heat flow per unit area between two parallel plates in just about any book on thermal transfer, or you can corner John Abraham at the next AGU.  When a steady state is established the amount of heat flowing per unit area through each level q must be the same


Following Siegel, if we add these equations up, the right hand side is σ(T14-T24).  Dividing by the co-factor of q on the left hand side yields


Heat transfer books usually stop there, because the MEs are interested in how to design shielding for thermal or cryogenic applications.

OTOH, Rabett and friends were looking at the case of a planet where the amount of incoming energy from the Sun or the star of your choice is q.  The emissivity of the surface is going to be something like 0.95, that of the atmosphere at different levels, well that depends on the pressure, concentration and spectra of greenhouse gases, and, of course the specific humidity and where the clouds are.  For CO2 the contribution is going to be between 0.19 and 0.12.  For water vapor higher, as high as water vapor goes before condensing out

However, we can gain insight by setting ε1 equal to 1 and letting all of the other levels have the same emissivity, both inside and outside each shielding level.  In that case


At a steady state, the same amount of energy has to be radiated to space.  If there are no shielding levels, the amount of heat radiated per unit time is σT1o4.  Consider the case where there is only the outermost heat shield (N=0) then


Canceling σ, multiplying both sides by 1/ε2 and bringing T1o4 to left hand side we get


All terms on the left hand side are positive, ε2 is less than or equal to 1, therefore T1, the temperature where there is one heat shielding level is greater than T1o, the temperature of the surface if there is no blocking.

If there are N equivalent heat shielding layers between the innermost and outmost layers, then similarly


The added term on the left hand side is again positive (if εs =1 then it is simply equal to N.  If εs  < 1 then (2/εs -1) > 1.  In either case, especially the latter, T>  T1o . The same can be done for  spherical geometries, but one has to consider geometric factors, the ratios of the areas of the various shells to each other.

Siegel and other heat transfer books do the derivation.

How important are the geometric factors?  They scale as An/Ao where A=4πR2 so at the risk of offending the punctilious the ratio is (Rn/Ro)2 The radius of the earth is 6371 km.  Using a 10 km high atmosphere basically the troposphere, or at least the effective level which radiates to space in the CO2 bands,  (Rn/Ro)2 = (6381/6371)2 = 1.003, so there will be a .3% difference from treating the system as a nest of sphere's or a series of parallel plates.  Close enough.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Veep candidates bring a 0-5% increase in party vote in their home state

Got into a conversation about this yesterday:  how much help does a vice-presidential candidate provide in winning that candidate's home state? I vaguely recall that poli science says not much. I went and noodled around wiki and can now draw my own dramatic conclusion:  not much.

Wiki has all presidential results by state and year (e.g., here's Texas 1988) so it's simple to compare results before and after a state resident ran for vice president. In the last 30 years, not much happened, although 1992 and 1996 are hard to use because of a strong third party showing.  I'd say everyone brought in much less than a 5% bump, with only Bentsen and (sadly) Palin coming in at or slightly above that level.

This small of a bump suggests that veep candidates shouldn't be chosen based on the help they provide in their home state.

OTOH, there's Florida - that's a very big swing state, and a 2% bump could be useful. I've thought a joint ticket of Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio could make winning Florida very difficult for Democrats. I believe Jeb isn't particularly popular in Florida and Rubio is only moderately popular, but people do tend to root for the home team.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Under what circumstance does McConnell's message to foreigners to do less on climate change help America rhetorical question?

Slate has a good article on Republican politicians siding with America's foreign rivals when Democrats run the executive branch, multiple times throughout the years.

The latest version of this is Mitch McConnell's advice to foreign countries that "Considering that two-thirds of the U.S. federal government hasn’t even signed off on the Clean Power Plan and 13 states have already pledged to fight it, our international partners should proceed with caution before entering into a binding, unattainable deal." Ignore for the moment that these international commitments are voluntary, not binding. There is no circumstance under which this statement serves an American interest.

The Republican mantra has been the US shouldn't move forward without the cooperation of other countries:

Now McConnell is trying to stop that cooperation.

What's even screwier is that even if you think the American interest isn't in cooperating, but rather that the US should take a free rider position and let other countries do most of the work of combating climate emissions, then McConnell's statement to foreigners is still a bad idea. Trying to get them not to do the work just makes things worse for us.

Maybe one could take the position that climate change is a hoax, therefore there's no need to do anything at all, but McConnell has apparently used the "I'm not a scientist" incantation, and doesn't claim it's all a hoax:

If you don't know it's a hoax, then you should take feasible opportunities to help, or at least do nothing to interfere with other countries' efforts.

That second clip is partly revealing though when McConnell says a Kentucky senator's job is to fight for coal jobs in his state. What he really means is to fight for coal industry profits - if he were fighting for jobs, he'd have used his power to slow down the mechanization of the industry responsible for the vast majority of the lost coal jobs.

So what he's saying is his job is to fight for coal industry profits and not for the American interest in the world. That's what he's doing with his advice to foreign countries.

UPDATE:  credit where due, Jeb Bush surpasses the low bar set by his party and acknowledges reality of climate change (while not saying what he'd do as President).

Monday, April 13, 2015

A Train Wreck Avoided

As has been reported, the American Physical Society has requested comments on its Draft Statement on Earths Changing Climate. There was some amusement value in how the draft was presented.
“We have taken great care throughout this process, including focusing on consensus building that has resulted in a solid, science-based statement,” said William Barletta, POPA chair. “We now look forward to hearing from the Society’s membership.”
Those bunnies who have not been following what only a rabett of good will could describe as the rope-a-dope stylings of the APS Panel on Public Affairs, may need to do some reviewing, but the clatter of falling teeth filled the arena as Barletta described the workshop that Steven Koonin put together to educate the drafting panel he had carefully packed.
As part of the process, the Review Subcommittee convened a workshop on Jan. 8, 2014, with six climate experts. “We used this meeting to delve deeply into aspects of the IPCC consensus view of the physical basis of climate science,” said Barletta. “The Review Subcommittee’s goal was to illuminate for itself, for the APS membership, and for the broader public both the certainties and boundaries of the current climate science understanding.”
Anyhow, after wiser heads got in front of the moving train, the following statement emerged
On Climate Change: Earth’s changing climate is a critical issue that poses the risk of significant disruption around the globe. While natural sources of climate variability are significant, multiple lines of evidence indicate that human influences have had an increasingly dominant effect on the climate warming observed since the mid-twentieth century. Although the magnitudes of future effects are uncertain, human influences on the climate are growing. The potential consequences of climate change are great and the policies of the next few decades will determine human influences on the climate for centuries.

On Climate Science: As summarized in the 2013 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), there continues to be significant progress in climate science. In particular, the connection between rising concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases and the increased warming of the global climate system is more certain than ever. Nevertheless, as recognized by Working Group 1 of the IPCC, scientific challenges remain to our abilities to observe, interpret, and project climate changes. To better inform societal choices, the APS urges sustained research in climate science. 
On Climate Action: The APS reiterates its 2007 call to support actions that will reduce the emissions, and ultimately the concentration, of greenhouse gases, as well as increase the resilience of society to a changing climate. Because physics and its techniques are fundamental elements of climate science, the APS further urges physicists to collaborate with colleagues across disciplines in climate research and to contribute to the public dialogue.
Eli, not being at all shy, although frequently ignored (Cassandra was too, and that had a cost), submitted the following

My criticism of the draft statement is the lack of urgency.  Given that damage to the climate through emission of greenhouse gases accumulates and remains, this is a serious omission and I would strongly recommend inserting the second paragraph of the previous statement at the end of the current draft
The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring. If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth’s physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.
The evidence that the damage will persist for centuries is inherent in every model of the carbon cycle from the simplest to the most complex, and dealt with by the IPCC WG1 reports.  The reason why urgency is needed at every point is explained by Stephen Gardiner in a Perfect Moral Storm
the presence of the problem of moral corruption reveals another sense in which climate change may be a perfect moral storm. This is that its complexity may turn out to be perfectly convenient for us, the current generation, and indeed for each successor generation as it comes to occupy our position. For one thing, it provides each generation with the cover under which it can seem to be taking the issue seriously – by negotiating weak and largely substanceless global accords, for example, and then heralding them as great achievements – when really it is simply exploiting its temporal position. For another, all of this can occur without the exploitative generation actually having to acknowledge that this is what it is doing. By avoiding overtly selfish behaviour, earlier generations can take advantage of the future without the unpleasantness of admitting it – either to others, or, perhaps more importantly, to itself.
In addition, I have comments on the process.  When APS schedules a policy statement it should ensure that the membership of POPA for that year includes several that have expertise and are respected in that area.  What happened in the case of the Earth's Changing Climate statement was seriously embarrassing to the Society and totally avoidable.

In the case of the Earth's Changing Climate statement, the chair of the drafting subcommittee was a serious mistake as, to be generous, his naivety about the physics of climate mislead both him and the drafting subcommittee.  Those doubting this would do well to read and exchange between Isaac Held and the committee from the experts's interview and a reply to the drafting subcommittee's chair from Andrew Lacis, a leading climate scientist

Second, it was disappointing to see that the panel selected to teach the drafting committee about Climate Change consisted of three mainstream experts and three outliers (Christy, Lindzen and Curry).  There are also those who are existentially frightened by what they see as the threat of climate change .  They were not represented, nor am I saying they should necessarily be in equal number, but I do say that the Panglossian outliers should also have not been involved.  There is a professional consensus in this area and if the drafting committee would need lessons  (which it should not) then extremists can only mislead non-experts

Eli has heard from others with slightly different takes.  It is certain that the draft statement is considerably stronger than the originally proposed one.  That is welcome.  Eli and friends had awaited a train wreck.  If one is recommending how to proceed when the need for dealing with the threats of climate change are acknowledged, the draft statement's emphasis on global warming as risk management can be rigorously defended.

However, as readers of Rabett Run know, the threat of climate change has NOT been acknowledged by a blocking minority and IEHO, a call to urgent action is still needed to get through their opposition.

It is important that the draft statement emphasizes the considerable human role in warming, the likelihood it will get worse in the future, and the serious risks involved. It also emphasizes the importance of reducing emissions.

On the other hand, the bunnies and the bunny clutchers know that there are elements of the APS membership who will fight to weaken the statement, and even a slight retreat from the strength of the statement as currently written would be an unacceptable loss.  

Given that, at a minimum it is important for the membership to get behind the statement and back it. Shoving the Overton Window in the direction of strengthening the draft statement will help offset the voices that will no doubt cry out for eviscerating it and, if loud enough, might even succeed.

Postscript:  As Hank says in the comments below:
I think in hindsight the APS will appear, well, to be physicists doing their usual thing, standing on the tracks and squinting into the light wondering why it's getting brighter faster and faster.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

EV costs at a tipping point for un-American countries

Un-American developed countries, that is. See here:

Bloomberg reprinted the above graph from a 2011 McKinsey report, and I added the green line for where we are today. Bloomberg adds the info that we weren't supposed to hit $300 until 2020 and that the market leaders are already there.

Bloomberg goes on to note the obvious fall in gas prices so that currently, all EVs are less competitive than they were in 2011. A person buying a car today might think twice though about whether gas prices are going to remain low.

What I thought missing from the discussion is the existence of developed countries not named United States of America, because of a little thing called the gas tax. In most of them, the price is over $4.50 (and also in many developed countries that don't produce oil). Forget the US - for the rest of the world, the tipping point is here.

Sadly though, I'm not aware of EV purchases in the rest of the world matching this prediction. Part of it could be that Nissan Leafs and Teslas simply aren't cheap for other reasons, and they need more development and more competition to knock down prices. The other and more depressing factor is that people aren't economically rational and may discount the future savings from not buying gas more than they should. Or just not be able to finance.

Overall though it's good news, and it should be interesting to watch overseas EV sales in the next few years.

UPDATE:  some good comments worth checking out. One point was that in countries with high gas taxes the electricity is also often expensive. I'd agree, but I doubt it come close to making up the difference.

Another point was about electric bikes - if you put them on the chart above, I think they'd win under any circumstances, and they'll do even better as batteries improve. Developing world countries are building and rebuilding their cities and towns on a much more massive rate than developed nations, and they have a real opportunity to center personal transportation around electric bikes, not cars.

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