Sunday, November 27, 2016

Basic Geo-Engineering or Cosmic Rays Bite the Particulates

A month ago, before Eli and Ms Rabett fell into deep depression, an interesting and important paper appeared in Science.  While the conclusions are in the paper, the exhaustive supplementary material is where the at is at.

The paper "Global atmospheric particle formation from CERN CLOUD measurements" covers a huge range of experiments done in the CERN CLOUD chamber to try and tease out the source of atmospheric particle formation (that is the title), and the conclusion is about what any rational bunny who has been following the CERN experiments and other work and work from long ago would have expected,

Fundamental questions remain about the origin of newly formed atmospheric aerosol particles because data from laboratory measurements have been insufficient to build global models. In contrast, gas-phase chemistry models have been based on laboratory kinetics measurements for decades. Here we build a global model of aerosol formation using extensive laboratory-measured nucleation rates involving sulfuric acid, ammonia, ions and organic compounds. The simulations and a comparison with atmospheric observations show that nearly all nucleation throughout the present-day atmosphere involves ammonia or biogenic organic compounds in addition to sulfuric acid. A significant fraction of nucleation involves ions, but the relatively weak dependence on ion concentrations indicates that for the processes studied variations in cosmic ray intensity do not significantly affect climate via nucleation in the present-day atmosphere.

In other words, the conclusion from well before the evil danes stirred up the denialists with their cosmic ray fantasy holds.  Cosmic rays do not play a significant, if any role in formation of the aerosols, there are always enough of them around that they are not limiting and the slight increase from cosmic rays plays no role.

What this paper and the supplementary material do is to assemble a large and complete set of laboratory data from which a kinetic model can be built and compared both with experiment and observation.  That is science.

The interesting part, which this work reinforces, but to Eli was first pointed out by a bunch of Finns who instrumented the North Woods, and who are part of the team publishing the current work, is that amines, particularly ammonia turn out to be the limiting factor in the atmosphere for formation of particulates which grow into clouds.  The lab data clearly show the enhancing effect of adding ammonia or amines in small concentration to the chamber, but more interesting perhaps is the model prediction for the effect of the solar cycle (aka cosmic rays) and the increase of ammonia concentration since preindustrial times.
The increase in ammonia concentration comes, in large part from animal wastes, to an extent from ammonia synthesis leakages.

So, given the current dire situation, what does this imply about geo-engineering.  Perhaps something useful.  Instead of pouring SOx into the upper troposphere to raise the albedo, while at the same time increasing the acidification of the oceans, perhaps one could throw some ammonia up there.  The ammonia would actually compensate somewhat for acid rain (although not fully, read the paper) and on a molecule for molecule basis be more efficent.

Yes, Eli could be wittier, but he is one depressed bunny.

Two steps further than I expected, three more to go

As climate chaos marches gleefully towards January 20th, Slate calls for a potential savior, a lawsuit by children saying the federal government has an obligation to protect them against the worst effects from climate. The lawsuit does not rely on the usual tactic of pushing a new interpretation of major environmental legislation, but rather the Constitutional principle of due process lawsuits and the even more exotic public trust concept of environmental resources being held by the government in trust for future generations. 

I studied both principles in law school nearly 20 years ago, and have basically never used them in my environmental career. After some initial excitement about public trust, I eventually agreed with my professor that the concept had played a moderately beneficial role in some states, had become incorporated in the legislative and administrative process, and was unlikely to do more.

But that was 20 years ago. This new litigation has survived initial magistrate review and the initial judicial analysis (magistrates are administratively appointed judges without all the authority of traditional judges). The judicial analysis at this stage looks to see whether there's any way that plaintiffs can possibly win, without having to examine disputes about the evidence. The judge said, yes, maybe, I have to look at the evidence.

I read the actual opinion (website down right now, will look later to see if it's fixed), and there are many barriers for plaintiffs, not least of which is the argument that this is a political question not subject to judicial resolution. This judge has to carefully examine the evidence and rule in favor of plaintiff children, her decision has to be supported by the Ninth Circuit appellate court, and (hardest of all) that decision supported by a Trump-appointed Supreme Court. And this is a case that the Supreme Court would take.

I'm not actually sure what will happen next. There may be an attempt for immediate, interlocutory appeal to cut the case short, or maybe the judge might examine the evidence around certain questions like whether the government has any legally-enforceable obligations before considering what the remedy would be, allowing that decision to go to appeal.

Still, this got further than I anticipated, and if nothing else can turn up the heat on governmental inaction.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Hello Freedom House: a 40% failure rate rates America as "Partly Free"

Just mentioning this right now as an idea, but I'm thinking of setting up one of those online petitions, this one directed at Freedom House and its rating of countries' freedom. In two of the last five American presidential elections, the candidate who won the most votes was not declared the winner of the election. In what other countries that Freedom House rates as "Free" does that happen?

Parliamentary systems with a minority-party leader as PM are not a counterexample, because that PM has to get support of the parliamentary majority. The state-level, winner-takes-all Electoral College system has no counterpart abroad because it's such a stupid system that no one in their right mind has ever contemplating imitating it. Even Britain's troubling 2015 election that gave a parliamentary majority to one party winning 37% of the vote, at least handed control of the country to the side that won the most votes.

I'm not saying it's impossible for this non-democratic outcome to happen elsewhere but rather I'm not sure that it has, certainly not with a 40% failure rate, and if somehow it did then that country should also be shamed accordingly.

While I'd love to see the Electoral College support the actual winner as others are petitioning, I don't see any real chance of that happening. The real end goal is the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, a legal work-around to solve the problem. Getting Freedom House to call out what's happening would be a nice step in the right direction.

Will Freedom House do it? I don't know. Their discussion of the 2000 US election is embarrassing, but maybe they'll do better the second time around. Getting them to cast any shade at all would be an improvement.

Thursday, November 24, 2016


A couple of good things.

First, Steve Easterbrook on the sand in the wheels, why it is so hard to get anything done

The second, a commentary in Nature Climate Change by Kevin Trenberth, Melinda Marquis and Stephan Zebiak, setting forth the need for better systems to convey climate information to the public and policy makers.  They also start by pointing out the physical inertia in the system makes it difficult to deal with for the public and policy makers
A major concern of scientists,
not adequately appreciated by the public
and politicians, is that evidence of dangers
warranting policy responses may be delayed
or muted by the tremendous inertia in the
climate system, so that by the time problems
are abundantly clear it may be too late to do
anything about them
A major concern of scientists not adequately appreciated by the public and politicians is that evidence of dangers warranting policy responses may be delayed or muted by the tremendous inertia in the climate system so that by the time problems are abundantly clear it may be too late to do anything about them.
They advocate establishment of a Climate Information System as a "near real time version of IPCC Assessment Reports" to inform the public and policy makers and help guide adaptation and mitigation efforts.  Worth reading for how the links they describe between data and action would function in the best of all possible worlds.

Unfortunately, as recent events have shown, for acceptance of science at all levels, not only climate science, this is not the best of all possible worlds.  IEHO this is very much a physical  scientists' answer.  It does not really affect the bottom half of Easterbrook's oval, not that it is a bad thing, not that real time organization of climate information is a bad thing, but that it would run headlong into the same political barriers that action currently faces.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

Eli sometimes gets ahead of himself, this time by a decade when before the 2006 US Election the bunny wrote (more or less with some updating):

After the US election the dour bunny is of the opinion that at a minimum Columbia University is about to receive a gift of GISS. Whether it would be silly enough to accept the donation is another story. Goddard, Langley, JPL,Ames and Glenn are in deep trouble too, as is the entire agency. In one scenario aeronautics would go to the FAA leaving a rump Confederate Space Agency centered around Johnson, Kennedy, Marshall and Stennis. Kennedy would be renamed Strom Thurmond Space Center.

Eli is not a happy camper.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

If you thought that was scary

Sea ice extent measures the area of the sea where there is at least some minimum concentration of sea ice, typically 15% coverage.  Sea ice area is a measure of the actual area covered by the sea ice.  Because extent counts grid cells which only have partial coverage, extent will always be larger than area, but when things are in the deep freeze and there is little breakage at the edges and even in the interior of the ice pack, they will approach each other.  Thus the difference/ratio of the two is a measure of compactness

Everybunny who owns the keys to a blog has been showing Winipus' scary global sea ice extent graph, which if anything as iconic of the mess that we are in of our own doing as any hockey stick.

The dive at the end indicates the continuing breakup of the Antarctic ice pack while growth of the ice in the Arctic is historically low.  However Winipus has now produced a sea ice area graph which is beyond scary

In previous years the November peak is well above the June one.  Not this year.

Sea ice is crashing.  The clause is probably human driven climate change imposed on natural variability, but the reticence of scientists can dangerously go the more study is needed route too easily.  Mark Serreze from the National Snow and Ice Data Center has gone the full Al Gore is an alarmist route
The combined number, while easy to derive from our online posted data, is not useful as an analysis tool or indicator of climate trends. Looking at each region's ice extent trends and its processes separately provides more insight into how and why ice extent is changing. Sea ice in the Arctic is governed by somewhat different processes than the sea ice around Antarctica, and the very different geography of the two poles plays a large role. Sea ice in the Arctic exists in a small ocean surrounded by land masses, with greater input of dust, aerosols, and soot than in the Southern Hemisphere. Sea ice in the Southern Hemisphere fringes an ice-covered continent, Antarctica, surrounded by open oceans. While both regions are affected by air, wind, and ocean, the systems and their patterns are inherently very different. Moreover, at any point in time, the two poles are in opposite seasons, and so a combined number would conflate summer and winter trends, or spring and autumn trends, for the two regions.
The detailed mechanisms may differ, but the cause is the same.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

And Then They Came for Richard Tol

As somebunnies may have noticed, Richard Tol is not Eli's favorite economist or much of anything else.  For one thing, well there are a lot of things, but most annoying to Eli is his worship of formalism which blinds him to his own bullshit.  Eli's favorite was this one, but of course, there are lots of gremlin watchers out there.  However, Tolitarians, that is observers of Tol, know that Richard will only be dragged kicking and screaming to admit a mistake, and that he does make a bunch.

Richard  is a very hard worker, a grinder in the language of physicists and if you disagree with him, well it will annoy him exceedingly, but his approach to anybunny who questions him is Donald Trump's approach, nuclear war.  As a result he has managed to shout down a lot of folks, marginalize others and has a raft of people who would rather not be in the same postal code as him.

Which brings us to Brexit, a policy favored by, in general, the leaders of the British Global Warming Denial Foundation (ok change Denial to Policy but Denial is Policy to them).  Tol, of course, because of his luckwarmer model calculations, guided by a judicious choice of data and use of the +/- key on his calculator, is an academic advisor to them.

Which has now put him in a bit of a bind, as he and his wife are not Brits, but are stealing jobs from Brits, which has lead to an interesting interchange between Dickie and the local Sussex MP
Dear Ms Caulfield,  
Yesterday you voted against a motion that would guarantee the right of EU citizens already in the UK to continue to live and work here.  
 I am one of a family of four of such EU citizens. My wife builds sewage treatments plants, a vital if often underappreciated service, for Southern Water. I teach economics at the University of Sussex, probably one of the largest exporters in the area. Our alumni quickly find well-paid and secure jobs. Our children attend the local primary school. We pay our taxes. My wife volunteers in the local PTA. I regularly volunteer my expertise in energy and environment to the Houses of Parliament. We spend most of our income in the local economy. Frequent visits by friends and family from abroad support the local tourist industry. We love Sussex and its people. To the dismay of their grandmother, our children speak English in a Southeastern accent. 
I can interpret yesterday’s vote in one of two ways. Either you think it is acceptable to play politics with other people’s lives, or you would like to see us leave this country. Could you kindly explain why you voted as you did? 

And, what did you expect, she blows him off by saying it wasn't a real vote, he tries to bludgeon her and they agree to disagree.

Which raises the question of what Richard thought he was throwing in with.  The GWPF folk were always coming for him.

Friday, November 18, 2016

When Does Weather Become Climate

By way of the Verge, Eli was lead to a tweet by Zack Labe, one of the folk who hang out at the Arctic Sea Ice Blog, of a figure made by Wipneus of same

So, on the one paw, as far as weather it's pretty clear that you could not get two places much further away from each other than the Arctic and Antarctic, still what that graph is says is that there is a significant Earthball climate driven albedo decrease and a real positive feedback.

For a long time the line has been why worry, be happy, sea ice in the Antarctic is increasing.  Of course, the two poles are like guy and gal.  Antarctic sea ice surrounds a frozen continent, Arctic sea ice fills an enclosed ocean, but ice reflects sunlight, thus energy.

Antarctic sea ice is a consequence of increased snow down there as the oceans warm and absolute humidity increases.  Eli wrote about that in Curry vs. Curry, a wonderful example of how Antarctic sea ice extent encourages cognitive dissonance and cherry picking, but of course increasing Antarctic sea ice is a prime tree that the denialists swing on.  Of course also, it was also obvious to Manabe in the 1990s that as warming increased the snow would turn to rain, sea ice would start to melt and Antarctic sea ice would decrease.  Even Curry signed on to that.  It has, the Arctic sea ice is growing in more slowly and the Earth is warming.

Weather has become climate to our ill fortune.