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Policy and solutions / Greenhouse Earth Day
« on: April 22, 2013, 07:56:42 AM »
Hi folks,

Yet another Earth Day has arrived (#44 & counting), and we're no closer to an International agreement on climate change. Joe Romm has updated his 2008 post about this outdated 1970s concept. Going forward, he thinks we should call it "Triage Day".  ???

My reply is simple, even obvious: let's call it “Greenhouse Earth Day” because that's what we're creating. Set aside 1 day each year to pause, recognize and grieve for all the lives lost and the suffering inflicted by the droughts, hurricanes, storm surges, and resource wars of the previous calendar year… then go out and piss carbon into the atmosphere like madmen the rest of the year.  >:(

“Greenhouse Earth Day”. Sponsored by the crowd that tried to kill Sesame Street. Brought to you by the letters C+O and the number 2.

So I ask you, is it finally time to rename Earth Day? If so, then what do we call it, and why?

Policy and solutions / Carbon tax
« on: April 16, 2013, 11:19:14 PM »
To start the discussion, here's an insightful article from historian and author Gwynne Dyer:

Why the Chinese government wants a carbon tax. It's short enough to reproduce here, to get the discussion going on a CARBON TAX.

Why the Chinese government wants a carbon tax.

"Last week’s announcement by China’s Ministry of Finance that the country will introduce a carbon tax, probably in the next two years, did not dominate the international headlines. It was too vague about the timetable and the rate at which the tax would be levied, and fossil-fuel lobbyists were quick to portray it as meaningless. But the Chinese are deadly serious about fighting global warming, because they are really scared.           

"A carbon tax, though deeply unpopular with the fossil-fuel industries, is the easiest way to change the behaviour of the people and firms that burn those fuels: it just makes burning them more costly. And if the tax is then returned to the consumers of energy through lower taxes, then it has no overall depressive effect on the economy.

"The Xinhua news agency did not say how big the tax in China would be, but it pointed to a three-year-old proposal by government experts that would have levied a 10-yuan ($1.60) per ton tax on carbon in 2012 and raised it to 50-yuan ($8) a ton by 2020. That is still far below the $80-per-ton tax that would really shrink China’s greenhouse-gas emissions drastically, but at least it would establish the principle that the polluters must pay.

"It’s a principle that has little appeal to U.S. president Barack Obama, who has explicitly promised not to propose a carbon tax. He probably knows that it makes sense, but he has no intention of committing political suicide, the likely result of making such a proposal in the United States. But China is not suffering from political gridlock; if the regime wants something to happen, it can usually make it happen.

"So why is China getting out in front of the parade with its planned carbon tax? No doubt it gives China some leverage in international climate-change negotiations, letting it demand that other countries make the same commitment. But why does it care so much that those negotiations succeed? Does it know something that the rest of us don’t?

"Three or four years ago, while interviewing the head of a think tank in a major country, I was told something that has shaped my interpretation of Chinese policy ever since. If it is true, it explains why the Chinese regime is so frightened of climate change.

"My informant told me that his organization had been given a contract by the World Bank to figure out how much food production his country will lose when the average global temperature has risen by 2 ° C. (On current trends, that will probably happen around 25 years from now.) Similar contracts had been given to think tanks in all the other major countries, he said, but the results have never been published.

"The main impact of climate change on human welfare in the short- and medium-term will be on the food supply. The rule of thumb the experts use is that total world food production will drop by 10 percent for every degree Celsius of warming, but the percentage losses will vary widely from one country to another.

"The director told me the amount of food his own country would lose, which was bad enough—and then mentioned that China, according to the report on that country, would lose a terrifying 38 percent of its food production at plus 2 ° C. The reports were not circulated, but a summary had apparently been posted on the Chinese think tank’s website for a few hours by a rogue researcher before being taken down.

"The World Bank has never published these reports or even admitted to their existence, but it is all too plausible that the governments in question insisted that they be kept confidential. They would not have wanted these numbers to be made public. And there are good reasons to suspect that this story is true.

"Who would have commissioned these contracts? The likeliest answer is Sir Robert Watson, a British scientist who was the director of the environment department at the World Bank at the same time that he was the chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

"George Bush’s administration had Watson ousted as chair of the IPCC in 2002, but he stayed at the World Bank, where he is now chief scientist and senior adviser on sustainable development. (He has also been chief scientific adviser to the British government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for the past six years.)

"He would have had both the motive and the opportunity to put those contracts out, but he would not have had the clout to get the reports published. When I asked him about it a few years ago, he neither confirmed nor denied their existence. But if the report on China actually said that the country will lose 38 percent of its food production when the average global temperature is 2 ° C higher, it would explain why the regime is so scared.

"No country that lost almost two-fifths of its food production could avoid huge social and political upheavals. No regime that was held responsible for such a catastrophe would survive. If the Chinese regime thinks that is what awaits it down the road, no wonder it is thinking of bringing in a carbon tax."

Author credit: Gwynne Dyer, March 2013

Arctic sea ice / Sep 1963 SIE from Nimbus I satellite data
« on: April 15, 2013, 08:58:07 PM »
An important new paper is out in "The Cryosphere Discuss" online Journal showing Arctic sea ice minimum extent in September 1964 was similar to extent measured in the 1979-2000 satellite period.

Meier, W. N., D. Gallaher, and G. G. Campbell. "New estimates of Arctic and Antarctic sea ice extent during September 1964 from recovered Nimbus I satellite imagery." The Cryosphere Discuss 7 (2013): 35-53.

The PDF version of the paper is freely available.

Satellite imagery from the 1964 Nimbus I satellite has been recovered, digitized, and processed to estimate Arctic and Antarctic sea ice extent for September 1964. September is the month when the Arctic reaches its minimum annual extent and the Antarctic reaches its maximum. Images were manually analyzed over a three-week period to estimate the location of the ice edge and then composited to obtain a hemispheric average. Uncertainties were based on limitations in the image analysis and the variation of the ice cover over the three week period. The 1964 Antarctic extent is higher than estimates from the 1979–present passive microwave record, but is in accord with previous indications of higher extents during the 1960s. The Arctic 1964 extent was near the 1979–2000 average from the passive microwave record, suggesting relatively stable summer extents until the recent large decrease. This early satellite record puts the recently observed into a longer-term context.

The Arctic data-related charts and graphs from the paper are attached below: (there are relevant Figures for Antarctic sea ice within the paper, but discussing those here is out of scope for this part of the Forum)


For the above said calving event, based on a conservative estimation on a 200m retreat on a front of about 5 km, and a thickness of several hundreds of meters, say 500m, we have at least 0.5 km3 gone to the sea. Which means about half the volume of the Glacier Blanc ...
Hi bernard,

I'm glad you're working on this issue. It's always easier for people to get involved with something happening in their own back yard, and to places that they care about.

If you want to delve further, I can suggest a way you may be able to make an even better estimate. With the freely available program 'Google Earth', it is possible to overlay a bitmap image over a geographic region.

Further, if you obtain recent MODIS imagery from the NASA World View site that Jim Hunt has pointed us to recently, you should be able to see Glacier Blanc in 3 dimensions. Then you can use the Google Earth measurement tool to obtain better estimates for the extent of calving.

As a nice by-product of your efforts, you will be able to fly around  a 3-D Glacier Blanc and the Hautes-Alpes in a virtual Flight Simulator that comes built into every copy of Google Earth  8)

Let us know how it works out, and have fun!

Hi folks,

Conventional estimates of the mass of the Antarctic ice sheet are around 30 million cubic kilometers (and perhaps 10% of that for Greenland's ice sheet, so we'll simplify this question by ignoring it).

Assuming ~1000 kg / m3 density of pure ice, that would be roughly 30 * (1016) tonnes = 3.0 × 1020 kilograms of mass at or very near the South pole (you can calculate the polar moment of inertia if you wish to refine this initial state, radius is about r = 2100 km, distribution mostly flat but again refine away if you choose)

Now, if all this land ice melts over the coming X millennia, that mass will be redistributed Northward as it spreads out upon the world ocean. The new center of gravity for that mass would shift from near the pole to near the equator (i think this is the appropriate assumption, but see also below about 45 degrees latitude).

Now comes the real sticky part. The rotational speed of the Earth at the pole is zero, while the speed of Earth's rotation at the equator it is about 465 m/s or 1,674 km/h.

So then, the Earth would have to accelerate about 3.0 × 1020 kilograms mass to about 230 m/s or 830 km/h (this is half the equator's speed based on melt water moving to an average of about 45 degrees latitude, roughly). This energy would come from the Earth's rotational inertia, thereby slowing Earth's rotation by some amount.

Given the mass of Earth = 5.97219 × 1024 KG and rotational speed 465.1 m/s (and its to-be-defined density layers down to the heavy nickel-iron core), how much does the Earth's rotation slow down when the Antarctic ice sheet melts completely?

Anyone? Bueller? Ooh, and PLEASE, show your work... ;)

Policy and solutions / How to live with Coal while saving the planet
« on: March 18, 2013, 09:39:07 AM »

There has been a lot of fancy sciencey talk and arm-waving about the Evils of Coal, but few people have even come close to presenting a potential solution to the main problem associated with the recent growth in coal-fired generation in many parts of the World (ie: China, India, Netherlands). That is, how to capture C02 from combustion, aka Carbon Sequestration and Storage (CCS). This single sticking point is IMO largely responsible for the inability of recent Conference of Parties meetings (ie: COP17 Durban) to produce climate change action.

*** As is often the case, the solution is to avoid the problem. ***

One of the major technological hurdles with CCS is how to capture CO2 from a relatively low concentration stream of power plant exhaust. However, there IS technology available to produce a high concentration stream of CO2 from coal fired power plants, to avoid those hurdles. It's called Oxyfuel with flue-gas recirculation.

Instead of burning coal with atmospheric gases, coal is burned with (nearly) pure oxygen (O2). Normally, the extremely high temperatures produced would actually improve the Carnot efficiency of the heat cycle, but oxy-fuel burns so hot that it will actually melt steel (btw, a ceramic liner in the furnace and boiler allow hotter temps and higher efficiency, but let's not get ahead of ourselves) 8)

That's where the flue-gas recirculation comes in. Part of the exhaust stream of pure C02 is diverted back into the furnace, in sufficient proportion to reduce combustion temperature to the optimal level (C02 won't burn a 2nd time, so it's effectively inert during combustion). Hence, no super expensive metals are needed for the furnace, just some more piping to handle the C02 recirculation.

The benefits of oxy-combustion are three-fold:
  • zero Oxides of Nitrogen (toxic NOx air pollution) produced since no nitrogen is present during combustion, no acid rain, and no Asian brown cloud
  • a highly concentrated stream of CO2 (near 100% concentration) can be used directly as a feed source to make concrete, or to feed to a green house, and
  • a stream of hot water can be condensed from the flue gases yielding both a source of heat for distributed domestic hot water heating, and a source of usable water for irrigation, or domestic grey water.
Here's the bottom line: any City that needs electricity, heat, water, concrete, and food could benefit from an oxy-fuel coal-fired power plant. Best of all, oxy-fuel combustion can be retrofitted to existing coal-fired generation and once in production the extra cost could be as little as 2 cents per KWH of electricity.

So why aren't we requiring this OBVIOUS solution for existing plants? And for new Natural Gas-fired plants, which have many of the same issues? Simple: Because Engineering execs also have MBAs, who tell them it's CHEAPER to buy off politicians and lie to the public.

So that's the REAL reason: It's not the concentration of CO2, it's their concentration on $$$. Funny that, because I think I could sell the water, food, concrete, domestic hot water and space heating for a wee bit more than 2 cents.

Care to add your 2 cents worth?  :D

Consequences / What happened to ENSO?
« on: March 03, 2013, 11:16:21 AM »
Hi folks,

There are three climate patterns on planet Earth that override all other factors. These are, in decreasing order of effect:
During Northern Autumn of 2012, something happened to El Niño, something unprecedented in Human history, and perhaps something that has never happened before.

A building El Niño has faded, and failed to appear. This was completely unexpected by the various National Forecasting agencies, and remains unexplained to this day.

Whatever happened, it is more powerful than the third greatest climate forcing on Earth.

So then I ask you, what has happened to El Niño?

Blog friends,

Many of you are also frequent readers and contributors at Joe Romm's indispensable blog, "Climate Progress".

On Feb 28, 2013, he was treated to remove a tumor on his pancreas. It remains to be determined if it is cancerous.

More from Joe himself, here: (Get well soon, Joe!)

The rest / Solar Max - Aurora photos
« on: February 21, 2013, 06:10:41 PM »
2013 is witness to spectacular aurora, as the sun moves into the peak of solar cycle 24. Share your photos of Solar Max (past and present) in this thread!

"Northern Lights around the Arctic Circle! "There were great auroras yesterday night outside the little Inuit village of Ivujivik in Nunavik, Quebec," says Sylvain Serre, who photographed some of the onlookers. credit: Sylvain Serre shared by"

The rest / 3rd Annual 'Guess-what-Neven's-Avatar-Is' Contest
« on: February 21, 2013, 08:09:23 AM »
Hi folks,

Welcome to the Prologue of the 2013 Arctic melt season (is there a Snooker metaphor for the time before the start of a match?)

What beater time then now to play our little game:

"What the heck is Neven's Avatar?!"  :o  ::)  :P;u=2

 ;D The Discussion is now OPEN!  ;D

The forum / Self-signed certifcate for HTTPS?
« on: February 21, 2013, 02:25:28 AM »
Hi Fred (hi Neven),

Is it feasible to create a self-signed SSL certificate for use with the new forum?

It would ease some of the scary-looking security warnings that most web browsers display when connecting with HTTPS

And it provides a good value proposition: Free!  ;D

The forum / [Solved] Setting an Avatar under Profile | Forum Profile
« on: February 20, 2013, 10:18:47 PM »
Hi Neven,

When I go to the 'Profile' menu, then choose 'Forum Profile', I'm given the chance to select an Avatar (the thumbnail picture that appears beside your posts inside the Forum).

However, when I choose either of these:
  • Specify avatar by URL
  • Upload an avatar
I get the following message:

An Error Has Occurred!
The attachments upload directory is not writable. Your attachment or avatar cannot be saved.

Sounds to me like there remains some configuration to be done in the Forum Administrator's setup to grant permissions to write files in the Forum upload folder.

Hope this helps!

Arctic sea ice / Operation IceBridge - Arctic Spring 2013
« on: February 04, 2013, 12:45:59 AM »
Since the demise of the last functioning laser on NASA's IceSat mission, the data gap has been filled with airborne missions known as Icebridge. With IceSat2 unlikely to fly before 2016, these Icebridge missions will continue to be an important source of data on Arctic sea ice thickness and the Greenland icesheet. Here's the Operation IceBridge blog for 2013:

NASA Icebridge blog

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