Monday, October 19, 2020

No Overlaps - The source of the Urban Heat Island

Yesterday, Eli showed that surface warming depends on the average distance that an IR photon will travel before being absorbed by a greenhouse gas molecule. Today, some riffs.

Looking at a high resolution IR spectrum looking down from more than 30 km

The large bite into the blackbody emission at ground level (320 K) in the region of the CO2 bend at 640 cm⁻¹ is obvious, but the question is how much of that comes from CO2  and how much from H2O, in other words how much overlap. Well, let's look at the spectra from a 1m path in water vapor and  CO2 at atmospheric pressure and concentrations using high resolution

and it is clear that there is little overlap and most of the concentration is from  CO2. If you add up the absorbance between 620 and 720 cm⁻¹ the total from  COwould be 30 times that from H2O.  

If you asked how much of the IR would be absorbed in a 10 km path (the troposphere) by water vapor in this spectral region the answer would be pretty much all of it. That's what you get from the usual figure that is shown in such discussions elsewhere, or at least that there is a great amount of overlap

But that's the wrong question. The right one is, of the IR emitted from the surface, how much of it is absorbed by CO2 and how much by H2O, and there, the answer is CO2 absorbs essentially all of it in the first few meters so very little is left for water vapor to absorb.

Bunnies can ask, well, what is the distance at which the absorbance is 1 (~2/3 of the IR, or to be more exact 63%, is absorbed). At high resolution this is pretty confusing to look at

but it does look like very little gets more than 30 m or so. By averaging over 1 cm⁻¹ the picture becomes clearer   

So, remembering yesterday's lesson, in this region of the spectrum, essentially all of the surface warming is controlled by CO2 back radiation and none of it by water vapor (there is, of course some convection and condensation, but radiative emission and absorption are the primary effect.

By implication this means that a significant part of the urban heat effect is driven by CO2  backradiation.

Perhaps tomorrow the rest of the IR spectrum and the minor greenhouse gases.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

How Greenhouse Gases Heat the Surface Revealed

 Over many years Eli, your humble Bunny, has explained things about the Greenhouse Effect in words that even Mom Rabett of blessed memory would understand. The Cyanobacteria's Friend would say, the secret is at the top of the atmosphere where the outgoing radiation to space must match the incoming from  the sun and that means as greenhouse gases increase and the level of the atmosphere from which emission can reach space increases and colder, the surface must warm.

But how does the surface warm and in particular how does backradiation play a role. Thanks to Twitter,  Eli has found a splendid argument which he will put into these margins. Might even get published.

Dear friends, let us start. We got the sun. Let's ignore the absorption of sunlight in the atmosphere, the Foote effect, and say that it all hits the ground and is absorbed

Greenhouse gases prevent IR radiation from the surface reaching space directly

The atmosphere is transparent in the visible, but, there are many regions of the IR where absorption is high, including those regions where CO2 and H2O absorb. A handy dandy number to carry about is that at the surface the average distance light can travel in the CO2 spectral region is 10 meters (or about 35 feet for you unethical customary unit users).

Energy does not stay in the molecule that absorbs the IR photon, to be re-radiated later. This is not so, it is quickly degenerated to thermal motion (translation, zipping about) via collisions. Thermalization requires about a 10 μs at atmospheric pressure. So where does the emission come from the bunnies ask?

Well, there is a considerable thermal energy at room temperature, and even much lower. True this average energy is low compared to even the lowest vibrational excitation of CO2 (which would be ~1000 K), but it is enough that a small, but significant fraction of CO2 molecules are always found in excited levels which can emit in the IR (about 6% at room temperature).

Eli has explained this many times before. The two new things are to recognize that 

1. The amount of heat passing from one layer to the next has to be equal to the amount of heat absorbed from the sun and

2. the number of layers the heat must pass through depends on greenhouse gas concentration and ability to absorb IR.  Another way of thinking about this is that the IR energy emitted from the surface has to undergo a number of absorption/emission cycles before reaching space.

The figure below idealizes this showing that if there are effectively n layers each with an emissivity ε, that then the temperature at the bottom increases as the fourth root of n.  when you add up the contribution of all the layers. We also know that the temperature of each layer decreases linearly with altitude for everything except water vapor where it decreases much faster because of condensation.

Remembering that q is both the heat absorbed from the sun and the heat radiated to space and substituting q= εnσTn⁴ where To is the temperature at the surface (say 287 K) and Tn the effective radiative temperature at the top (~255 K) we get n~ 4 after estimating that the altitude whose temperature is 255 K is between 5 and 6 km, where the density is approximately 40% of that at the surface. 

So increasing greenhouse gas concentrations increases the number of layers, and decreases the separation between them which directly increases the surface temperature as n grows.

This is the mechanism by which the greenhouse effect warms the surface

If you are going to do a detailed calculation of the thermal structure of the atmosphere level by level, the separation between levels will depend on frequency as will the relative strength of different greenhouse gases. One of the tricky things is that greenhouse gases radiate at discrete fixed frequencies and the surface and clouds IR emit and absorb like black bodies, but more of that later.

So simply measuring the total absorption of a greenhouse gas at different frequencies in the atmosphere is not very useful.  

Total absorption throughout the atmosphere does not account for the average distance that an IR photon can travel before being absorbed and thus the number of layers. For example, if the distance at 14 microns IR photon travels before being absorbed in 1% water vapor is 1 km, and that for 400 ppm CO2, 10 m, then CO2 would have much more of a warming effect on the surface at 14 μ but both would absorb 100% of the IR over the path from ground to space (and how).

Tomorrow, the concept being elastic and Eli tired, the Bunny will show how using the average distance that IR can travel at different frequencies helps understand the roles that different greenhouse gases play.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Again, and Again

 In which Eli explains what is going on in the world by going back to 2015 when the bunny clarified what Normal Science is. So OK this is recycling, but sometimes it is necessary to repeat until the hard of learning catch on

Post Normal Science was formulated by Silvio Funtowicz and Jerome Ravetz. While the concept was useful it really missed what science is about and how it works and the title was unfortunate. It is really Pre Normal Science and the key is how the detrius is used in denial to distort. Funtowicz and Ravetz tried to chart a path when

  • Facts are uncertain, 
  • Values in dispute, 
  • Stakes high, and
  • Decisions urgent. 

It was a response to problems that came to the fore in the 1980s such as environmental tobacco smoke, HIV/AIDS, acid rain, ozone depletion and, yes, climate change.  The observant amongst the bunnies will have noticed that science only has something to say about facts.  Values are a question of ethics, stakes economics, and decisions policy. However, the misleading formulation leaves much room for ClimateBall.  
The science part is Pre-Normal Science, the stage at which something has been observed, but no one quite knows where it came from, what it means or how to understand it.  Science actually has a way of dealing with such situations.

The initial flailing about to reach a useful understanding is later used by those who oppose action to obfuscate by insisting that still nothing is known, what is known is wrong, or at best that more research is needed.  Oh yes, natural variability.

Science starts with the Pre-Normal Science stage. What was the cause? Every idea could be proposed and is. Normal science sorts through them. Discarding ones falsified by observations and those inconsistent with basic principles. 

So the question policy has to answer in the Pre Normal Science stage is what to do, and often, including in the Covid disaster the answer is buy time. Do what can be done, wear masks, socially distance, produce ppe and don't frack.  Finally after a consensus forms the Jedi Council (IPCC, Ozone Secretariat, NRC, RS) clues in the policy makers.

Often after the science becomes sufficient there is no need for the last step except say, that’s a really cool paper. But sometimes the initial flailing about for a scientific solution can produce long lasting Post Normal Policy responses. These can be pernicious, and involve serious denial of reality.

Proposers of the discarded theories often still clutch them, but mostly they become opinionated Christmas Turkey Uncles/Aunts ignored within the scientific community and at the Family Festivals.

Post-Normal Policy ensues when normal science has reached a coherent, consilient consensus and it is clear that action is needed but it is economically or philosophically impossible for some to accept.

The response is to deny the utility of science and scientific judgment, thus the attacks on scientists and scientific panels that provide policy makers with their best scientific advice. It is always pointing back at the initial confusion.  It is important to remember that choosing up sides happens in the Pre-Normal Science stage before the scientific consensus emerges, but persists

Vested interests will frame research outside of the scientific consensus

Recognizing the division between Pre-Normal Science and Post-Normal Policy and the uses of the former to block action by in the later stage is useful for understanding the course of controversies that require normal science to understand policy responses.  

Thursday, October 08, 2020

In the name of God, go!

Sometimes even the most despicable people are granted the gift of prophecy. Eli was remined of this over the last few days. Oliver Cromwell spoke directly to Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell and the Republican party in 1653

It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place,

which you have dishonored by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice.

Ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government.

Ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money.

Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess?

Ye have no more religion than my horse. Gold is your God. Which of you have not bartered your conscience for bribes? Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth?

Ye sordid prostitutes have you not defiled this sacred place, and turned the Lord's temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices?

Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation. You were deputed here by the people to get grievances redressed, are yourselves become the greatest grievance.

Your country therefore calls upon me to cleanse this Augean stable, by putting a final period to your iniquitous proceedings in this House; and which by God's help, and the strength he has given me, I am now come to do.

I command ye therefore, upon the peril of your lives, to depart immediately out of this place.

Go, get you out! Make haste! Ye venal slaves be gone! So! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors.

In the name of God, go! 

Is there anything that does not fit?

Register. Vote 

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

California ballot measure recommendations


 Prop. 14 - No. I supported the original stem cell funding by California in 2004 when it appeared the federal government was cutting it off, but I don't see why California should do it now. I also don't like to tie the hands of the state legislature unless there's either a very good reason or regulatory capture. This proposition, btw, seems like the only one that's hard to decide.

Prop. 15 - Yes. The original Prop. 13 from the 1970s is why California public schools dropped from among the best to among the worst in the US. This Prop. 15 lifts the limit on commercial property.

Prop. 16 - Yes. We need to do more for diversity.

Prop. 17 - Yes. Protects voting rights for formerly incarcerated.

Prop. 18 - Yes. Allows 17-year olds to register when they'll be 18 at the time of the election.

Prop. 19 - Yes. Strips massive inherited wealth protections. Also opposed by Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association, which means it's probably a good idea.

Prop. 20 - No. We need to reduce prison populations, not increase them.

Prop. 21 - Yes. Let local governments experiment and decide whether rent control is a good idea, or not, and this still limits the rent control that would be allowed.

Prop. 22 - No. I probably should spend more time on this, but we should protect gig workers. Anyway I believe the state legislature could do this if it turns out it's needed.

Prop. 23 - No. Lots of campaign money being spent on this, but I don't think voters should be making dialysis management decisions. Also looks like a power play by doctors.

Prop. 24 - No, No, No. Looks like a total scam that pretends to protect privacy while doing the opposite. Opposed by ACLU. This stuff makes me mad. (UPDATE: but see I'm still inclined against, but this softens the picture to make it complex.)

Prop. 25 - Yes, and be careful, it's a referendum. The California legislature replaced the bail bond system with one much less racist and classist. The bail bond industry put this referendum on the ballot. Voting yes preserves the state reform. Note some liberal groups oppose it on the basis it doesn't go far enough, but further reforms could be done later.

And for San Francisco and South Bay voters

Measure RR - Yes, save Caltrain, it was very successful before covid and will be again. (Disclosure: I live next to a Caltrain station.)

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

CNN's iceberg is just the tip of the iceberg

(Apologies here for using icebergs only as a metaphor in a climate blog. Real iceberg content can be found elsewhere at RR.)

CNN points to Ivanka Trump's little scheme:

Trump wrote off $26 million in unexplained "consulting fees" between 2010 and 2018, with almost $750,000 apparently going to his daughter, Ivanka, in one disclosure....

"Ms. Trump had been an executive officer of the Trump companies that received profits from and paid the consulting fees for both projects — meaning she appears to have been treated as a consultant on the same hotel deals that she helped manage as part of her job at her father's business."

....1) In at least two deals -- hotels in Hawaii and Vancouver, Ivanka Trump appears to have double-dipped -- serving as both a project manager in her official capacity as a senior staffer for her father's company and as a "consultant" to those same projects.

2) In those deals, Ivanka Trump's apparent categorization as a "consultant" allowed her father to write off three-quarters of a million dollars. (The IRS allows "consulting fees" to be written off as business expenses.)

...But it appears as though the Times may only have found the tip of the iceberg here. 

Why? Because of the $26 million that Trump wrote off as "consulting fees" between 2010 and 2018, none is allocated to any specific person or entity....So we don't know who received the other $25-ish million that Trump wrote off to "consulting fees" during that time.

But it appears to me as though CNN only found the tip of the iceberg here.

Why? Because of the next parenthetical sentence in the article, "(Worth noting: The Times reports that Trump wrote off roughly 20% of all income he made on projects over that time to 'consulting fees.')" 

What may be happening is a net profit distribution, something that should be taxed as corporate profit, is being disguised as consulting expenses. That makes it tax evasion and a way for the Trump family to make money while claiming a loss. And it's not just Ivanka's $750,000, and not "just" the $26 million, it's the 20% of all gross income made on projects over that time.

CNN and others speculate that this is a gift of funds from Donald to kids that illegally evades gift taxes, much like how Donald (and to a lesser extent his siblings) evaded gift taxes in the 1990s through one-sided business deals with their father. Not impossible, but I'm not sure. Fred Sr. did help Donald financially when Fred was mentally competent but only to the tunes of millions of dollars. The hundreds of millions transferred when Fred was senile, so his consent is questionable.

I question whether Trump is that generous to his children while Trump is still living. I don't doubt that lacking any spiritual or philanthropic legacy, Trump wants to vicariously live forever through wealthy children and would want to cheat estate and gift taxes, but that's in the future. So not impossible, but I'd tend to choose the most selfish option as the most likely one for Trump.

I'll just throw in a third possibility here for fun. Maybe it's really not an untaxed profit or untaxed gift but something that could legitimately be paid as income to Trump family members - except they asked to be paid as consultants instead, so they could do the exact same tax evasion as Trump does by making up deductible expenses. Employee income is income after all, but only the profit from business revenue is taxable, and you can do a lot to reduce the apparent profit. We need to see the Trump family taxes.

A disclaimer - I don't have a great handle on taxation of privately-held corporations, so I'm not certain my first possibility will hold up if researched (but it might). Regardless, the gift-tax evasion and the expanse-padding possibilities seem really strong.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Arsenic clothng-dye denial

 This one's a new one to me:

I've known about tobacco denialism, of course, and how many of the same liars and lies ported over to climate denialism. Before tobacco denialism, we had lead denialism - not just about lead paint and lead gas but even earlier with lead pipe, installed freely over the eastern half of North America (and mostly still there). A brief tangent - it occurs to me that there's a bit of an overlap between using lead pipes and geoengineering. You can avoid the worst effects of both if you're diligent, but if you ever drop the ball in injecting stratospheric haze or forget to watch the pH of water going through your pipes, then really bad things happen.

So, lead denialism goes back at least to the 1920s, but I didn't know about arsenic-dye denial that went even earlier. Add that to the historical record. I wonder if we'll eventually get to scaffold-makers in Salem denying that witchcraft had been disproven.