Saturday, April 30, 2016

You Load 16 tons, and What Do You Get

In the US coal accounts for about 20% of all railroad freight.  Coal is going away and that is going to hit the bottom line of many railroads, some of them a lot harder than others.  No more sixteen tons to load.

So . . . . what else is there to say

Friday, April 29, 2016

No more new natural gas plants in developed countries

I'm sure there's a fact-laden and long version of this post, but the title almost suffices.

Whatever the merit of the argument for natural gas as a bridge fuel may be (never quite decided myself), that bridge is a lot more frayed now than when people started making the argument a decade or so ago. Newly-constructed plants will have a lifetime of 20-50 years. It's unlikely that the developed world would need the additional capacity of new gas plants in 20 years, regardless of whether currently-existing, gas-fired plants will be useful to the grid. We shouldn't need any gas or other fossil fuel plants, new or existing, in much less than 50 years from now. Power variability from renewables could be addressed through storage, hydro, larger power networks, existing nuclear baseload, and lastly through existing natural gas plants. We don't need the new ones, and having the not-fully amortized plants around would tempt people to keep running them when they shouldn't.

I suppose there's always an exception like islands where the need argument might be stronger. New natural gas might run coal out of some regions slightly faster than otherwise, but overall renewables would deploy faster with a near-universal rule of no new natural gas plants.

Obviously there should also be no new other fossil fuel plants, and coal and bunker oil should be shut down in a decade or so.

The case against new natural gas in developing countries is weaker. New coal plants are being built there, so if gas truly is better than coal despite fugitive emissions, then new gas has additional value. The power needs in their near-future will also be far greater than today, so today's existing natural gas infrastructure won't do as much to address power variability as it does in developed countries (and developing countries generally have little or no existing nuclear baseload power to help out). The developed world would have to help financially to make new gas unnecessary compared to more-environmental options.

And yes, an adequate price for carbon/methane would make this command-and-control idea unnecessary.

UPDATE:  edited for clarity.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The tragedy of the climate technocrats

Interesting piece by Steve Waldman critiquing my two favorite econbloggers, DeLong and Krugthulu, for technocratic approaches in a moralizing political context. I've altered it below to make it about climate instead of economics, and removed references to the two (UPDATE - from the comments, I'm not sure this experiment of mine is very clear, so I've altered it some more):

[The technocrat] laments that we have been “mugged by the moralizers” and admonishes us that “climate policy analysis is not a morality play“.

But the thing is, human affairs are a morality play, and climate policy, if it is to be useful at all, must be an account of human affairs. I have my share of disagreements with climate technocrats, but on balance I view them as smart, well-meaning people who would do more good than harm if they had greater influence over policy. But they won’t, and they can’t, and they shouldn’t, if they exempt themselves from the moral fray.... climate technocrats in general engage in [unrealistic assumptions] when they ignore moral concerns and the constraints “legitimacy” places on feasible policy.

It should be no surprise that human collectives choose bad climate policies when they deem those policies to be alternatives to policies that are wrong or unjust. Individual human beings act against their material interests all the time, providing full employment for economists who endlessly study the “ultimatum game“. Political choice combines diffuse personal costs with powerful moral signifiers. We should expect politics, including the politics that determines climate policy, to be dripping with moralism. And sure enough, it is! This doesn’t mean that policy outcomes are actually moral. (There’s a hypothesis we can falsify quickly.) But exhortations to policy that cannot survive in terms of moral framing are nullities. They are no less absurd than proposals to “whip inflation” by demanding increased production while simultaneously imposing price ceilings.... 
On the core climate questions of the moment, the climate technocrat explicitly cedes recognizable morality to the other side - the March of Progress, the American/Western World exceptionalism - and in doing so, he cedes the argument. To be fair, moralizing technocratic positions might not be easy.... 
But even in a challenging landscape it is better to fight than to preemptively surrender. There are ways to address, in explicitly moralistic terms, the arguments of the other side.... Rather than eschewing moralism, the technocrat could turn the table on “energy poverty moralizers” and talk about the responsibilities of fossil fuel companies and their political allies... Ordinary people get this stuff....The lament of the technocrats is self-defeating, counterproductive, and ultimately poor social science. Policy ideas that cannot survive in equilibrium with achievable social mores are useless. This needn’t rule out good policy....Ex post, the “good” in good policy will be a double entendre. Policy will be both effective and right. Ex ante, both policy and morality are contested and undetermined. The policymaker’s challenge is to negotiate a space where morality and policy are mutually reinforcing, and where the results of that coherence are in fact good.
(Again, altered from the original.)

The denialist moral subtext is America Is Right/The Western World Is Right, and climate change is just another guilt trip by the Left against people who shouldn't feel guilty. The technocratic viewpoint ignores this viewpoint and doesn't try to engage or defeat it with a different moral framework.

I think like the technocrat (I think), so this is worth keeping in mind on climate, as well as for reading in its original context about economics.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


I spent most of the last two weeks in Guatemala on a kind-of service vacation. My wife has a better claim for service, she's on the board of a nonprofit that does microcredit and business education for women entrepreneurs there. We went for a board meeting and I stayed for my Rotary Club visit that was checking out projects it has funded over the years, including her nonprofit. Above is one of the stove projects we funded. Stove costs $125 for the deluxe model, owners pay $50, Rotary paid the rest. About 70% reduction in wood use, we tried to get an idea of how quickly they got their $50 back and it wasn't clear, several months I think (when my wife left I became Best Spanish Speaker, so the fault's mine). The project's new so we can't say yet about retention, but prior ones ranged from 50-70%, better than I expected. These prices aren't cheap - they work in certain parts of the country where wood is no longer free and people area a little richer than elsewhere.

We also visited my wife's Peace Corps village from 24 years ago, she said it was unrecognizable and much better off. The women she worked with also had a different type of eco-stove they got 10 years ago and were very popular - one woman used hers in preference to a gas stove she also had. They got their stoves free from a German nonprofit but can't afford to buy more on their own.

Both projects seemed much more successful than I'd expected for eco-stoves. If the stove cooks tortillas well, then apparently you've got a good shot at success.

Other aspects: I liked Guatemala City much more than usual for large Third World cities (I was a church mouse at night though).

Bus Rapid Transit in Guatemala City - standard dedicated lane and ticketing station, and as usual for BRT it seems very successful. Add Guatemala City to Jakarta as places I've seen BRT work, and meanwhile my local towns of Palo Alto and Mountain View in Silicon Valley say they can't make it work and it's too expensive.

Traffic-isolated, dedicated bike lane. Right next to some famous church our guide for the day was showing us. And on Sundays, the main avenue outside my fancy hotel is closed to vehicles and had families everywhere walking their children down the road.

We spent a lot of time in the famous Lake Atitlan region (Villa Sumaya hotel highly recommended, peaceful and beautiful). Probably wrong time to be there, very smoky at the end of the dry season as they burn in preparation for planting. We were informed the lake is in big ecological trouble, primarily from graywater dumping (I was surprised too, I'd have guessed erosion). Anyway it appears that banana trees love the nitrogen and phosphates in graywater, so one project is to get people to construct bioswales with papyrus at the bottom and ringed with bananas partway up. Pic obviously isn't a bioswale but it is a stream outwash hitting the lake. I'm not sure what they do with the papyrus, if anything. Ornamental bananas will grow here in California, so I wonder if we can borrow the idea.

I finally saw shade-grown coffee - didn't look that biodiverse to me, but that's what the experts say. Certainly beats industrial agriculture. I also saw surprising amounts of drip irrigation for seasonal produce, which I take to be a good sign, at least during the dry season.

No time for Tikal or for wildlife areas, unfortunately. Did visit a wildlife rescue project, very worthwhile if also sad. The Mayan archaeology museum in Guatemala City is excellent though, and probably a great backgrounder for people who are smart enough to go to Tikal.

Got quite sick for 2 days. Learn from my foolishness and don't resist taking Cipro, it provides huge relief. Who needs intestinal microflora, anyway.

Last note: I'd like to see less dependence on foreign expats at the top of every organization. There is some value to them as neutrals in local politics. It might also be us foreign funders who are part of the problem. Still, that could use improvement.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Peter Ward Tries It On

Peter Ward asks

1.  What physically is a photon? The standard answer is a photon is an elementary particle, the quantum of light and all other forms of electromagnetic radiation. This is more a concept than a description of what a photon is physically. Is it simply a massless oscillation in space?
Eli goes to the Google:  A photon is the vector boson which carries the electromagnetic force.  It is a massless particle of spin one and zero charge.  Single photons are labelled by energy, momentum and polarization where energy, E = hν and momentum k = 2π/λ

Eli might ask what is an electron?  A sufficient answer is that it is a particle of spin 1/2, unit charge and a mass of 9.10938291 x 10-31 kg.

Quantum electrodynamics provides rules for calculating the probability of photons interacting in various ways with charged particles including electrons.  As with any quantum anything, QED provides an instruction sheet on what to do, but the epistemology oft is lacking.  As John Bell once wrote there is both speakable and unspeakable in quantum mechanics and venturing into the latter is brain threatening.  Ce la vie.

It is worth mentioning that in QED charged particles do not interact directly with each other but do so by exchange of photons.  Using QED one can calculate at least in principle the probability of an electron scattering off an electron, changing the motion (or quantum state) of the electron or charged nucleus in space and time, etc.

Quantum behavior is difficult, but tractable.  Playing the game of why in the quantum realm is not recommended unless you shrink down a bit and acquire some practice.   Assembling the machinery on the blackboard scale takes some time, and anybunny who wants to see the bottom line first might go to minute 37 in the video below where Feynman calculates the interaction of two electrons and then go back and view the entire lecture.

So no, photons do not beat their kids, and asking when they stopped is not going to lead to a fruitful discussion.  They simply will not allow themselves to be forced into your theory of knowledge of choice, but humans can figure out how they will and do behave.
4. Do the photons interact with each other in space? If not, why not? If yes, how?
See the lecture.  Since photons can decay into electron-positron pairs (or other beast pairs at super high energies) and the other photons can interact with the charged particles before they recombine, yes in principle, in practice not damn much in labs with budgets under the price of unicorns.  Without virtual pair production uncharged massless particles like photons do not interact.  No gravitational attraction either, they are massless.

What about interference?  Well from the QED point of view this is a function of the interaction of photons with the charged particles at the detector, that is the interference does not exist until it is mediated by the interaction at the detector.  That also answers the question of where the photon is, it is where the detector detects it.  Some, not Eli to be sure, may not like that but that's the engineering level report.
7. We talk of an electromagnetic field that can be mapped out in three dimensions and time with a suitable sensor. What is the physical relationship of such a field to photons?
In the interest of getting to bed and the comforts of Ms. Rabett, Eli will hand this one off to Lubos and return to the other questions tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Science and Engineering

As the summer approaches Eli is polishing up his ethics lecture for the REU program  Since there is nothing new under the sun, the lecture is not original, but some parts are worthwhile thinking about. Ours is a joint engineering/science program and the lecture starts by discussing the difference between the two fields.

  • Engineering is a profession
  • Engineers provide paid services to third parties
  • Engineering work is the property of the people who pay for the service
  • Engineering is a commodity economy

On the other hand

  • Science is a gift economy
  • In science those who contribute the most are the most highly valued
  • Science is characterized by mutual exchange and trust
Yes, these are idealizations and most of these should include the word should, but worth thinking about as goals and ideals.

The Uncertainty Monster Stalks Exxon

With a cabal of attorneys general gathering information about Exxon and its withholding of information that it had about the risks of climate change, some, not Eli to be sure, but some who the bunnies would not be surprised to have identified, are seeking to frame the matter as an issue of free speech.

It ain't.

It's a matter of securities law.

Publicly traded companies are required to report known risks to their business

Exxon clearly knew early on that the consequences of greenhouse gas emissions were a threat to their business, and therefore, as soon as they knew this they were required to report it.

Emphasis on as soon as, because they have put some boiler plate into their disclosures recently or at least since the SEC noticed in 2010 that there are climate risks.

Even if Exxon were uncertain, they knew there was a significant risk and they had a duty to report it.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Quantum Computing

A reporter tried to trap Justin Trudeau (the dreamy PM of Canada according to Ms. Rabett) by asking if he could explain quantum computing and Trudeau provided a serviceable answer

Eli would like to riff off this in a slightly different way.

Generally speaking there are two types of problem solvers, the sequentialists who grind things out one step and a time.  A normal computer is like that.  

The other style is to build a complex mental model of the problem that allows for a one step solution.  That is quantum computing.

In the world of quantum electrodynamics, Julian Schwinger was the grinder and Richard Feynman the visionary.

Grantsmanship and Reviews

Go read John Snow's Grant application and the NIH reviews. 
 Project Title: An Investigation into the Mode of Communication of Cholera 
DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant):The cholera has wreaked intermittent misfortune and death upon large swaths of civilization. While its reach extends ever farther, engulfing new port cities and populations, we have come no closer to fathoming the mode of its communication nor to stopping this awful malady. The disease affects the alimentary tract first and foremost, which implies strongly that one should look to contaminated water or food to explain its transmission. Its epidemic spread is along the pathways of human commerce, but it spreads no faster than people travel. As it usually appears first at seaports, it would appear to be spread by mariners, but it only affects mariners sailing from cholera-affected ports. There are numerous examples of the cholera apparently being transmitted by consumption of water polluted by excreta. Nonetheless, the hypothesis that cholera travels through humans and especially through contaminated water has not been put to crucial scientific examination. Herein, the PI proposes to conduct that crucial study.
The Panel was having none of it
We believe that the proposal would have been stronger if the PI had forged some institutional ties, or had proposed to collaborate with the local sanitarian community and to integrate this project into a broader effort to study and control cholera. His lack of experience doing this type of research, his self-employment as a general practitioner of medicine with a practice largely devoted to administering anesthesia, his coolness for collaborating with the broader London medical community, and his single-minded attitude toward other currently debated scientific theories, all underscore our concern about the research environment and the likelihood that the PI can successfully conduct this work as proposed.
Moar, much moar at the link, but if a bunny is hopping about London looking at the sites a visit to the pump handle is worthwhile if only to say you were there and the pub opposite is not bad

Bill Gray has passed. An appreciation and depreciation of style in science

William Gray, a person who had the most deep down understanding of  hurricanes than any other, passed yesterday. His former student, protege and collaborator, Phil Klotzbach, has written an appreciation of Gray

With rare exception Rabett Run's policy is to speak no evil of the dead, or even the retired (Eli will soon join the tribe), still Gray reminded Eli of a number of senior guys he knew who did their training when theory was a weak reed and worthy only of derision, but by careful observation developed a set of ad hoc models, which turned out to be way wrong but extremely useful for prediction. 

Joel Achenbach had the ultimate read on Gray back in 2006 when he was already retired.  Read it if you have not

As Eli noted at the time, Gray was not one to go quietly into the night, but he also was not one to consider that he was ever mistaken.  Owning an area of knowledge, if only for a minute tends to do that to people.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Pay the Tax

It's, April 15, tax day here in the US, and Eli and Brian have been thinking about how to save the world.

Everybunny knows that a carbon tax is the best way to  minimize the damage from climate change that is coming, and we all know that the chance of a real carbon tax anywhere depends on changing the political climate.

The elevator version is that it is fairly simple to calculate one's own emissions, just electricity, heating and fuel (yes, there are other things, but that is not a bad estimate and fudge factors can always be added). With those three number and the amount of CO2 generated for each (easy to find on the net) one can pick a price of carbon of one's liking and calculate the tax on your cell phone (Millenials), spreadsheed (GenX) or the back of an envelope (folks as old as Eli)

Eli will even provide a Google Sheet to calculate the tax.  The example covers what we used in the hutch in March.

Since this sheet is live, Eli is going to paste the initial values at the bottom of this post so that anybunny can check if somebunny messes about with it, but the structure it should be trivial to reproduce.

With the spreadsheet you can calculate your own personal carbon tax. Donate that amount to people who will change the political climate and to support mitigation in the underdeveloped world. Split it as you like, but let the people and organizations you donate to know WHY you are donating.

Using Eli Rabett's handy dandy Carbon Tax Calculator, bunnies can calculate their own carbon tax. What to do with it.

Eli suggests donating to those supporting a carbon tax, such as, and he will be happy to add names here for USAans, donations from others are a nono, but they have their own politics

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) - running this year
who have introduced the American Opportunity Carbon Free Act

and also support those running against types like Lamar Smith, Chair of the House Science Committee who has swallowed the complete ball of denial.  Even in cases where a win may not be possible, putting down a marker can concentrate minds.  Smith is opposed by
Tom Wakely in TX-21

YMMV, and Eli looks forward to a lively discussion, but excuse him for a moment there is a check to mail.  Suggestions welcome also for donations to support mitigation in the developing world

This has been a short version of Eli Rabett's (and Brian's) Simple Plan To Save The World, or at least help get rid of the Lamar Smiths.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Peter Ward Brings New Thermodynamics

Yes, Eli's new favorite toy pinata, Peter L. Ward (As Hank points out below not to be confused with Peter D. Ward, an entirely reasonable fellow) just continues to amaze.  Now some, not Eli to be sure, might consider Eli's behavior in this matter to be a tad evil, but there is good science to be learned fisking Ward apart.  Why just in his next paragraph from the one Eli started with he continues to misunderstand pretty much all of thermodynamics and a whole bunch of other stuff.

The concept of flux as presently calculated is incorrect because it assumes that thermal energy is the same at every frequency.We observe that when ozone is depleted, more UV-B reaches Earth. We measure the changes in UV-B at earth’s surface. UV-B is the hottest solar radiation to reach Earth. If enough UV-B reached Earth, it could warm Earth to be 48 times hotter than Earth is. Luckily the amounts are low, the dosage is low. One can make the case that the mean surface temperature of Earth is directly proportional to the mean optical thickness of the ozone layer modified primarily by volcanic aerosols in the lower stratosphere that reflect/scatter solar radiation worldwide.
Note the bolded phrase "thermal energy is the same at every frequency" because is it is a keeper.

To explain why, Eli would remind the bunnies that that the frequency distribution of light emitted from a body at a temperature T is described by the black body curve that our old friend Planck showed how to calculate and there are lots of apps like this one from PheT to show the spectrum

To understand where Peter Ward goes wrong, one only has to push or access the setup function on your monitor.  There usually is a reference to something called color temperature (artists and art directors of ad agencies are very aware of this).  What it means is that when white is displayed on the screen the spectrum matches the blackbody spectrum of emission from a, guess what, black body of that temperature.  In general one should only discuss the temperature of radiation fields emitted from (near) black bodies.

Assigning a color temperature to solar radiation at the top of the atmosphere, makes a bunch of sense, it's about 5800 K.  Assigning a temperature at the surface is a useful approximation (Rabett's First Law All approximations are wrong, some are useful.  Rabett's Second Law:  All surveys are really wrong, some are decent approximations).  Talking about the thermal energy of anything requires that the anything has a measurable temperature.  In the case of sunlight that is as Eli said, about 5800K (Bunnies can dial it in on the app).  At 5800 K the amount of energy in the field of the electromagnetic radiation below 300 nm is about 3.6%.  Notice that this does not require talking about photons with respect to the light but only classical electromagnetism.

So where is the good Peter L. Ward coming from when he says:
If enough UV-B reached Earth, it could warm Earth to be 48 times hotter than Earth is.
(Eli hides his ears in shame for missing this.  Rrrussel notes beow that 48 x 280K = 13,440K a reasonable temperature for the interior of a white dwarf star)

To see why one should start with a description of a black body in physics speak.  Black bodies are collections of oscillators which can jiggle at any frequency.  When the oscillator jiggles it can emit electromagnetic radiation at the frequency it jiggles at.  If that were the only issue, then Ward would be a lot closer to reality, but it is not.  Before Planck this was how physicists tried to calculate the black body curve by assuming the oscillator could emit any amount of energy at the jiggle frequency..  When Rayleigh and Jeans tried it they found the "ultraviolet catastrophe", where the amount of thermal energy in the UV went to infinity in the calculation (but of course not in reality).  However, the probability of exciting a high frequency (e.g. high energy) jiggle is not the same as exciting a low frequency one.  This is what Planck showed, that the probability of exciting an oscillator with frequency ν is (exp[hν/kBT]-1)-1 and thus the average energy of an oscillator at frequency ν is just


where the energy of the oscillator is hν. The probability of exciting a high frequency oscillation goes rapidly to zero, limiting the amount of energy in the UV emitted by the Sun (to 3.6% of the total energy in the radiation field below 300 nm).  When exchanging with Peter Ward, Eli would strongly recommend reminding him about how the black body radiation curve is calculated (and how the calculation matches measurements).

So the bunnies see that Peter L. Ward needs a course in thermodynamics, but perhaps not, given the dangers of thermal science.  Carnot, died at 36 in an insane asylum, Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford, was attacked by a mob and driven into exile, Ludwig Boltzmann committed suicide as did Paul Ehrenfest.  Ignorance of thermal science may be a good thing.

Eli, . . . . .    Eli is an old bunny.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Hansen et al. affect communication more than policy

(His alternate career, if it hadn't been for Venus.)

My non-scientist thoughts on Hansen's latest:

* We're not doing enough about climate change now, and the appropriate policy option is to do more. Hansen provides more reason to do more, but that doesn't change the right policy option from what we should already be pushing for. So it's another thing to communicate about as to why climate change requires us to get going.

Some exceptions to the above where Hansen makes a policy difference: some things that may have a relatively minor climate benefit might be worth the societal cost if Hansen is right and not if not. Also it might change the priority that climate has among people who acknowledge reality but are not primarily climate activists.

* My expectation is that in 2-5 years, there will be a much better idea than there is now as to what extent Hansen is correct. I'd only expect that to be too short if testing Hansen requires obtaining new data from Greenland and Antarctica. Curious whether scientists agree.

As a non-scientist, my conclusion from above is that I don't need to spend time, for now, really trying to understand Hansen. Smart people will tell me soon if I need to.

* To the extent non-scientists do want to understand his perspective (some of it), Hansen's 15-minute Youtube was very helpful, the second time I watched it. Unfortunate that it's only had 60k views, I naively expected much more.

* I'm a non-scientist but do know something about responding to sea level rise. Adapting to one meter in 50 years is unfortunate and very expensive, but doable in priority economic areas of developed countries, with exceptions like Miami. Two meters in 60 years as Hansen speculates, OTOH, that's a different kettle of fish. There will be urban sacrifice zones. And poor countries are just screwed.

Having said that, 50 years is about how far you usually look ahead in construction, so I'm not sure what changes now in terms of responding to SLR if Hansen's right.

* Hansen does seem to change the priority in determining just how feasible it is to get substantial negative emissions. If negative emissions are too difficult to do, then we need to drop to zero much sooner.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Peter Ward Plays Pinata

It may be unfair, but when somebunny volunteers as a pinata, who is Eli not to go to Bad Bunny. Peter L. Ward has been spreading nonsense like fertilizer, most recently at Walter Hannah's blog, and neither Ankh nor AT were kind enough to clue Eli in on the fun, so the Rabett will have to simply cut and snip.  To say that Ward is a few drops short of a clue, would be generous.  OTOH, Eli is rather better prepared to deal with the nonsense than most because he has studied and worked in the areas of atomic and molecular physics, physical chemistry, chemical physics, spectroscopy and kinetics so he can recognize climate baff on sight.

It is such a rich display, that were it a buffet the Bunny would have to check in for lap band surgery.  The choice is difficult, but one must start with something Ward gets wrong (and there is little he gets right), perhaps here

Heating of the stratosphere is done primarily by O2 absorbing UV-C and being dissociated. Many other gas molecules are dissociated in the stratosphere including CO2, but their concentrations are very low. We have observed for a long time that the top of the stratosphere averages about 70oC warmer than the tropopause. These facts are not included in typical energy balance efforts by Trenberth and others. Why not?
Let Eli start at the top
Heating of the stratosphere is done primarily by O2 absorbing UV-C and being dissociated. 
Well, as a matter of fact not.  Heating of the stratosphere is initiated by dissociation of O2 (Step 1) but the heating is done primarily by absorption of light and dissociation of ozone (Step 2) followed by regeneration of the ozone (Step 3).  The chain is terminated in Step 4.  The name for this is the Chapman cycle
(1)  O+ hv (< 200 nm) --> O + O
(2)  O + O2 + M  --> O+ M 
(3)  O+ hv (306 < λ < 200 nm)                                       -- >  O + O 
 (4) O + O-> O+ O 

The figure is from Chapter 5 of the Stratospheric Ozone Textbook linked at the top of the sidebar and a good place to look for details.  The key to the good Dr. Ward's confusion is both spectroscopic and kinetic as well as involving the structure of the atmosphere and the solar flux.  The dissociation of oxygen requires light below 200 nm (technically below 243, but the absorption there is very low in the so called Herzberg Band, and does not really pick up until 195 nm or so where the Schumann Runge band kicks in).

Ozone, OTOP, has a bell shaped absorption
between 306 and 200 nm. One also has to understand that a) there are orders of magnitude more oxygen (O2) than ozone (O3) at all levels of the stratosphere, and orders of magnitude more ozone than oxygen atoms.

 Further, the flux of solar radiation falls off rapidly at 200 nm.  Because there is so much O2 in the atmosphere the UV radiation below 200 nm falls to zero quickly at the top of the stratosphere.  A spectrum of the UV actinic flux above the atmosphere can be found at Penn State. The UV between 200 and 300 nm is absorbed by the ozone, which is more concentrated between 25 and 35 km as can be seen in the figure to the right by comparing the fall off with the ozone spectrum above.

Putting this all together, the rate at which O atoms are produced in the photolysis of Step 1, is slow, and primarily occurs at the top of the atmosphere, where all of the radiation that can dissociate O2 is absorbed.  The O atoms rapidly react with O2 (a matter of seconds) to form ozone, O3.  If there was no third body (M standing for nitrogen or another oxygen molecule) then the O3 would have energy above the dissociation limit and simply fall apart again.  However even in the upper stratosphere there are enough oxygen or nitrogen molecules to make this possible.  The chain steps 2 and 3 result in a heating of the stratosphere.  Step 4, the termination, is really slow, but there are additional reactions involving Cl, Br and water that deplete the ozone to an observed level.  Still odd oxygen, O and O3 persists long enough to move down through the stratosphere to 30 km or so, the ozone layer.  A detailed discussion of the kinetics can be found at Harvard and discussion of the solar spectrum at various layers in the atmosphere, aka the actinic flux at Penn State.

The reason why ozone absorption rather than oxygen molecule absorption is responsible for most of the stratospheric heating is simple

Step 1, the photodissociation of oxygen molecules is very slow because the amount of UV radiation below 200 nm is low.  Thus the number of oxygen molecules photodissociated per second is low and the number of O atoms produced per second is low.

Steps 2 and 3 in the Chapman cycle, absorption of a UV photon by ozone followed by dissociation and the cyclical regeneration of the ozone molecule by reaction with oxygen molecules and a third body are repeated myriad times before termination.

Oxygen molecular photodissociation occurs only once

Oh yeah
Many other gas molecules are dissociated in the stratosphere including CO2
Nope, CO2 won't be dissociated in the stratosphere, because it doesn't start absorbing until 180 nm or so.  Absorption by oxygen higher up will stop any of the < 180 nm light from reaching CO2 in the stratosphere.

And finally from Peter L. Ward we have
We have observed for a long time that the top of the stratosphere averages about 70oC warmer than the tropopause. These facts are not included in typical energy balance efforts by Trenberth and others. Why not?
And from Kevin Trenberth

Maybe because they were.  Trenberth's energy balance is referenced to the top of the atmosphere which is ABOVE the stratosphere and based on satellite measurements such as ERBE.  Buns can not understand the numbers without dealing with the vertical structure of ozone, water vapor and temperature.  For the hard of hinting, the energy absorbed by the atmosphere from the solar radiation includes energy absorbed by O2 and O3

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Right policy is defensive aggression for the Much Less Bad

Two interesting and warring perspectives on Libya and foreign intervention - I agree with main points of both.

The first by Shadi Hamid at Vox argues the intervention was a success - obviously not as compared to democratic Tunisia, but as compared to the most likely alternative scenario, Syria's, with two orders of magnitude more deaths. What I'd add to Hamid is that another alternative, complete victory for Qaddafi, would also have caused thousands of deaths, many more imprisoned and tortured, and active military intervention throughout Saharan Africa today by Qaddafi. Libya is obviously in bad shape, a 1980s Lebanon, but that's better than the alternative.

The second by Micah Zenko in Foreign Policy argues, accurately, that the seven-month military investigation quickly went beyond protecting civilians to regime change. I agree with the slippery slope between what was said and what was done (and quite possibly intended from the beginning). What Zenko doesn't do is analyze whether and where things were done right or wrong during the intervention, focusing solely on the issue of what Western leaders said they were doing. And the many predictions of a Western ground war intervention against Qaddafi, made by people who now proclaim how right they were to oppose any military action while ignoring Syria's outcome, were simply wrong.

Hamid says the solution to the problem identified by Zenko is defining aims broadly, maybe including regime change, but I disagree - the problem is moving from the original stated strategy. The foreign military intervention started too late and then intervened too much, doing too much of the fighting for the rebels. I don't know if doing less intervention may have led to more cooperation between rebel groups, or even negotiations with pro-Qaddafi tribes, but maybe Libya could've been better off.

The point is that there's a coherent policy that was almost followed in Libya and could be followed in Syria for military intervention - do it defensively in support of forces that are Much Less Bad than the dictator. Air strikes are appropriate to keep dictator armies from overrunning rebel-held cities, as was the case in Libya. Keeping it limited forces the rebels to win, hopefully through obtaining support, in new areas. Military support short of direct intervention, through weapons and training, but not the classic boots on the ground, could help them expand without taking too much of the leading role away from them.

You also don't need to have 100% confidence that the rebels are perfect Madisonian democrats, if they're clearly Much Less Bad than the people they're fighting, because you get a much better outcome, a Libya instead of a Syria. I'd say that the people we support at least need to give cursory support for democratic government though - otherwise there's little evidence that they're really better..

I am concerned that Clinton is oversupportive of military intervention, although she's miles better than anything on the GOP side. I hope she could support a limited and coherent doctrine for when intervention should and should not occur.

One last thought that I haven't seen elsewhere: people on the left who blame the current bad outcomes in Libya, Iraq, and Egypt primarily on Western actions are denying agency to the people and forces within those countries. Check your assumptions and possibly your biases. That's not to say Western and US leadership didn't screw up - they did - but the outside world is just a vector among other forces and not the all-responsible controller of what happens in other countries.

Accepting a limited role that may help to a limited extent is a much more realistic and better foreign policy, especially in what should be the very rare case of military intervention.

Friday, April 08, 2016

Electric on the water

Kind of along the lines of Eli’s Lighter-Than-Air musings, I wondered the other day about why tugboats couldn’t be electric. It’s not as if they need to go hundreds of miles. And it turns out the very initial steps are being taken on that, with prototype tugboat hybrids and an electric boat on the Erie Canal.

This isn’t the grand solution to marine traffic, but imagine at each port one set of tugboats took a massive boat 11 miles out, another set took it another 9, and then other boats did the same on the receiving end. That’s four percent fewer emissions from a 1000 mile journey. Not a huge reduction, but might as well take it. It also has some significant environmental justice and urban quality of life benefits by reducing pollution at urban ports where many poor and working-class people live and work.

Some ports have made initial steps to electrify marine transport, requiring cargo boats to turn off their polluting diesel engines when they’re docked, running their onboard machinery through a connection to shore power instead. Some similar steps have also happened at airports where planes are driven to and from gates by efficient land vehicles instead of using aircraft engines. So there’s precedent for piecemeal electrification.

More on the fantasy side, I wonder if there couldn’t be a category of shipping material that absolutely positively does not have to get there overnight, or very fast at all. Maybe drone cargo ships powered by solar, maybe with floating pontoon panels to add some extra oomf, could slowly get the material to wherever it needs to go. Maybe combine that with a SkySail.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

99.9% of Nations Accept that Human Influence on Climate Is Today Dominant

Well, the 97% wars have never stopped, but Joe Romm gives it a try
The overwhelming majority of climate scientists — over 97 percent — understand that humans are the primary cause of climate change. This is one of the central facts about human-caused climate change that any climate communicator needs to keep repeating, for several reasons. 
First, it’s true, as Politifact detailed on Monday. The scientific literature is clear on this.
but Joe gets something completely wrong a couple of times in the post
The thing is, by 2013, the IPCC’s summary of the science — which are notoriously conservative in part because they require line-by-line approval by every major country in the world — concluded. “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”
 That should read
The thing is, by 2013, the IPCC’s summary of the science — which are notoriously conservative in part because they require line-by-line approval by every major country in the world — concluded. “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”
Somebunny want to list any countries that did not approve that statement?  And, of course the unanimous approval of the text in the Paris COP21 meeting of 191 countries is a small hint

Monday, April 04, 2016

California off-shore wind dreaming

I've been sitting on this for a long time, but California received its first offshore windfarm application last fall that sounds pretty interesting to me. Whether it's truly a good idea or not comes down to details, but I am concerned that some people may say they're open to offshore wind in theory and then oppose every proposal in practice.

The truth is that we need answers to variability in renewable power, and offshore wind is less variable. It's also more expensive, but maybe that's the price of reliability.

My one contribution is that I read they're situating it outside of marine conservation sanctuaries, which can't be fished commercially, and that commercial fishers have concerns with fishing around the wind towers. Seems like the logical place to put them is in the marine conservation sanctuaries - maybe they'll be a bit of a deterrent to people fishing where they shouldn't. Sierra Club seems open to the idea of the proposal being situated within a proposed sanctuary.

So again, it comes down to details as to whether it's a good idea. We Californians are very ready to proclaim ourselves first in a lot of things, though, and we're very far behind when it comes to offshore wind. I hope we catch up.

More information on the application here and here.

What they told me in law school about battery

The lawprofs said it was an offensive contact with another person, as a reasonable person defines offensive. The "reasonable person" found everywhere in legal theory implicitly consents to some level of physical contact in this world, the question is how much. It's a civil violation if done negligently, and eligible for criminal prosecution if done intentionally.

Florida law sounds a little different, just touch without consent, but implicit consent presumably raises its head again. I consulted my sister the Florida criminal defense lawyer, and she confirmed that battery can be all kinds of unusual contact - an unwanted kiss, a bite - and physical injury isn't required.

So consider a hand lightly touching someone's arm, like when Fields' hand brushed up against the garment of The Donald:

The reasonable person says that's not offensive and you can't press charges against Fields, even though Trump is asking if he can. Incidentally, I wonder if that touch is what set Lewandowski off, seeing someone treat Trump like you'd treat a normal human. And among Trump's mental instabilities is that he's a known germaphobe who might react strongly to any touch, but it's the Reasonable Person standard, not Coddled Billionaire/Germaphobe standard.

Going beyond what Fields did, I'd say briefly putting your hand around someone's arm also isn't offensive.

Let's take it two more levels up:  strongly grabbing someone's arm, enough to cause mild bruising, and holding the person back to halt forward movement. I'd say both of those, alone or together, cross the line into offensive touching and meet the technical definition of the crime. I'd also say that if I were a prosecutor, that barring unusual circumstances I'd use my discretion to not prosecute, telling the victim to go to civil court if they want to bring charges.

Lewandowski grabbed Fields hard enough to leave bruising, and more than stopping her forward movement, threw her backwards:

If I were the prosecutor and the victim wanted to press charges, I'd go ahead. That doesn't deny the fact that battery could be much worse than this (and all Fields originally wanted was an apology), but think of the implication of saying Lewandowski should escape prosecution. That's saying that this type of behavior is permissible.

There's a gender/size/aggressiveness bias to that argument:  if you're bigger/stronger and inclined to throw people mildly around, you get to do it. If you're smaller, be prepared to be thrown around without recourse.

I'd say that letting the victim decide whether charges go ahead, and victims don't always get to decide those things, is a good way to even the balance.

Two more comments: first, Lewandowski denied the incident a day after the news broke, three days after it happened:

He said this when some unclear video was available but not the security camera we now see above that removed all doubt. In other words, Corey Lewandowski isn't just a liar but a sneaky little weasel liar who waited on his lie until he thought he could get away with it.

Second, I saw someone point out that the presidential pardon power is especially troubling in Trump's hands. He could get someone to do something illegal and then pardon the person. The only control is impeachment, and that's not an easy thing to do. Someone should ask Trump whether he would pardon Lewandowski if he's convicted, and his answer might be stupid enough to use against him.

Sunday, April 03, 2016


Eli and Jim Hunt (Great White Con) as mentioned here and there are engaged in a fun thing with the hard heads over at Bishop Hill.  OTOH Willard Tony protects his tiny flock by censoring Eli and many others,

Now there is all sorts of fanciful at both dens of denial, unicorns and such, but it occurred to Eli that there must at least be proxy records way back into the past for Arctic Sea Ice extent, and, indeed there is, from Reconstructed changes in Arctic sea ice over thepast 1,450 years by Christophe Kinnard, Christian M. Zdanowicz, David A. Fisher, Elisabeth Isaksson, Anne de Vernal  and Lonnie G. Thompson, Nature 479 (2011) 510.  It's open source so anybunny and their favorite hares can read it.

The top of the figure shows the multiproxy reconstruction of the sea ice extent going back a millenium and a half.  The blade pointing down (Willard Willard will explain that), is the decrease observed to 1995, As with all things this is not perfect.  For comparison, since the figure ends in 1995, the minimum sea ice extent in 2015 was 4.4  million sq km.
Our proxy-based reconstructed history of late-summer Arctic sea ice extent over the period AD 561–1995 is presented in Fig. 3a along with the observed sea ice record. The reconstruction and observational record were smoothed with a 40-year lowpass filter to highlight the best-resolved frequencies (Fig. 2b). The uncertainty range around the reconstruction widens notably before about AD 1600 as a result of reduced proxy availability and consequent decrease in reconstruction skill. Within this uncertainty range, this reconstruction suggests that the pronounced decline in summer Arctic sea ice cover that began in the late twentieth century is unprecedented in both magnitude and duration when compared with the range of variability of the previous roughly 1,450 years. The most prominent feature is the extremely low ice extent observed since the mid-1990s (T1 in Fig. 3), which is well below the range of natural variability inferred by the reconstruction. Before the industrial period, periods of extensive sea ice cover occurred between AD 1200 and 1450 and between AD 1800 and 1920. Intervals of sustained low extent of sea ice cover occurred before AD 1200, and may be coincident with the so-called Medieval Warm Optimum (roughly AD 800–1300) attested in numerous Northern Hemisphere proxy records18, but the pre-industrial minimum occurred before, at about AD 640 (T3 in Fig. 3). Two episodes of markedly reduced sea ice cover also occurred in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries (T2 in Fig. 3). However, by the mid-1990s the observed decrease in sea ice cover had exceeded the lower 95% confidence limit of these prehistorical minima.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

It's the Number Density Not the Mixing Ratio

If Eli had a unit in any devalued paper currency for each time some fool uttered

even when they get it right,
he would be swimming in carrots.

However, this being Rabett Run, Eli would like to show the bunnies a way of dealing with this.

There is a cute little number called Loschmidt, the number of molecules in a cubic meter of air at 1 atm and 0 oC, 2.686 7774(47) x 1025 molecules/m3

CO2 is now at 400 ppm, so the number of CO2 molecule in a cubic meter of air is 1.07 x 1022 CO2 molecules/mat the surface.

The average volume occupied by each CO2 molecule is just the inverse or ~9.30  x 10-23 m

The spacing between CO2 molecules will be of the order of the cube root  ~4.5 x 10-8 m or 0.045 microns.  Anybunny who wants can model this as a sphere rather than a cube.  4/3 π: to you

The wavelength of a photon that is absorbed by a CO2 molecule in the bending vibrational band is 15 microns,

Comparing the two the wavelength of the photon is about 330 times larger than the average spacing between CO2 molecules in air.

Not every CO2 molecule is going to absorb that photon, but there are an awful lot of CO2 molecules that can.

On average a 15 micron photon at the surface will travel a couple of meters before it is absorbed,