Saturday, November 10, 2018

Where I stopped resisiting Vox's call to resist - it's a matter of distance

I wasn't thrilled reading the title and intro to Yglesias' article, "House Democrats must resist Trump’s infrastructure trap":

President Donald Trump’s infrastructure trap is back, and for the new House Democratic majority to succeed, they need to escape it.

It’s forgotten now, but in the transition winter of 2016-’17, a shockingly large and diverse set of congressional Democrats — from both the progressive and moderate wings of the party and including some key leaders — spent enormous time and energy making friendly noises toward Trump and suggesting that the result of his election should be some kind of bipartisan infrastructure deal.

....Trump rapidly fell into the clutches of congressional Republicans’ hard-right agenda. He continued to tout vaporware infrastructure plans, only to eventually come up with a scheme to make grants stingier and privatize some airports, which went nowhere.

But with Democrats now running the House of Representatives, infrastructure is back. And Trumpworld figures, looking at the polls, maybe Trump and the Democrats should come together around a random debt-financed increase in infrastructure spending that lets Trump regain his reputation as a dealmaker and lets Democrats say they accomplished something.

....Since Trump is not very subtle, his team even explicitly told a group of Washington Post reporters that the infrastructure dangle is a trap designed to weaken Democrats’ political position. But in case anyone doesn’t get the message: This is a trap designed to weaken Democrats’ political position.

....Democrats of course can’t categorically rule out the possibility of doing a legislative deal with him. But you also don't trade away the rule of law and the basic integrity of the American government for the sake of some pork barrel spending.

Then it got better:

....Democrats also can’t afford to let Trump tour the country complaining that all Democrats want to do is investigate him while he is trying to fix the country’s infrastructure.

....This requires Democrats to come up with a plan that is striking and visionary enough that normal people stand a chance of actually hearing about and understanding it. But it needs to also be genuinely transformative in a way that would make it legitimately worth doing on the off-chance that Trump somehow decides to agree to it. ....[T]he country (and the world) really does need a transformative infrastructure plan. If Trump is desperate enough for a deal, maybe he’d go for it.

But the key is to put ideas on the table that would genuinely alarm the conservative movement — and, more important, the corporate interests who stand behind it — and force Trump to make a serious choice about breaking with the plutocrats who prop up his regime or clearly standing in the way of an infrastructure transformation.

That means massive investments in clean energy generation and transmission, municipal broadband, a serious revival of airline competition, and competitive grants to states for carbon-cutting transportation programs.

....priority No. 1 for that congressional resistance should be developing a strategy to counter Trump on infrastructure.

The key here is long distance power transmission. Yglesias argues for forcing Trump to break with his backers. I'm all in favor of forcing bad people to reveal the vile positions through symbolic votes,  but I don't think forcing Trump to break with plutocrats is a realistic path to get actual policy change. OTOH, long distance transmission puts jobs in red and purple states and helps expand the market renewable energy sources in those states, and the less-ideological/more-pragmatic conservatives in those states kind of like that profit motive. Given that power transmission could even theoretically be used by massive nuclear power plants, that constituency could also provide a minor amount of support.

Clean transportation is another potential area of cooperation - there are some advantages to purple areas and profit-seeking corporate interests, but long distance transmission is a real opportunity and a very important need.

Final note - while a deal may help Trump's image, it won't improve the economic fundamentals in time for the November 2020 election. Speaking as someone involved in receipt of the Obama stimulus for water projects, it will take more than two years for real expenditures to happen, and a deal is months away from happening.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Eli Explains It All: How Back Radiation Warms the Oceans

There appears to be a limited but vital audience for this newish series, Eli Explains It All, so once more the Bunny Brings Enlightenment.  An everygreen amongst the ignorati is that backradiation can't heat the ocean because it is all absorbed in the first millimeter or less.

And indeed this is true, the distance that IR light radiated from greenhouse molecules penetrates into water is a few wavelengths.  That distance is called the skin depth and it is not without consequence in some interesting and amusing ways as St. Jackson has taught us (well some of us).

Yet, as Einstein teaches us, the world is not malicious, but it is subtle, and the reason why heating the surface warms the ocean is closely related to why increasing greenhouse gases warm the Earth.

Eli will now explain.  Others have done so, Real Climate for one, but the Bunny has another simple picture that USAns can use on their uncs in a couple of weeks.

Start with the observation that sunlight is absorbed in the first few meters of the oceans.  How deep depends, of course, on what other kind of crap is there, bio and anthro, but for arguments sake a few meters.  That warms the top few meters, but the surface, that skin layer cools by evaporation.  Heat from the mixing layer will move by convection to the cooler skin layer.

Now comes the elegant part, back radiation warms the skin layer.  That means back radiation decreases the temperature difference between the skin layer and the mixing layer, Since convection depends on temperature difference, the rate of heat loss from the mixing layer decreases.  Thus the mixing layer will be warmer than it would be without back radiation and the extra warmth will be carried into the deeper ocean by conduction and currents.

Greenhouse gas warming of the surface thus acts as a control valve regulating the heating of the oceans by the sun.  The same thought about how greenhouse gases regulate the emission of heat from the Earth into space was expressed many years ago by John Tyndall
[T]he atmosphere admits of the entrance of the solar heat, but checks its exit; and the result is a tendency to accumulate heat at the surface of the planet.
To which Eli would add
The ocean surface  admits of the entrance of the solar heat, but infrared surface warming checks its exit; and the result is a tendency to accumulate heat in the oceans.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Conversations With Exelon

Eli sat in on an interesting conversation last week at the Brookings Institution involving Chris Crane the Exelon CEO.  Exelon is a large electricity generator and supplier in the US with over $30 billion in revenue and a large fleet of nuclear plants as well as natural gas and oil but not much coal.  Crane's first words were

The impacts of climate change are irrefutable
Bunnies can view the video if they have an hour or so.  IEHO it is worth it.

Eli visited the Brookings Bunny and live tweeted the discussion into the ether where it vanished.but  the talk is worth listening to because it goes considerably beyond the usual.

What the utilities have is a century long record of outages and service calls many of which they can increasingly trace back to climate change (as well as various critters with sharp teeth chewing on wires and such).  It would be worth asking if they would share these, or already have, much in the spirit of the US Navy, with urging from Al Gore, making public the records of undersea observations of the Arctic ice pack.

Crane, of course, favors market driven choices with elimination of all subsidies but emphasizes the Golden triangle of safety, reliability and cost.  The first two are key going into the future because saving costs today leaves business, and generators subject to enormous procrastination penalties if generation and distribution are not hardened to deal with a 1.5 C world, let alone a 2 C one.  It's the nature of Golden triangles that you mostly get to pick two of three or at best trade off current costs against future disasters.  

He sees efficiency as the least expensive renewable energy cost, but as interestingly, does not foresee future nuclear plant builds because of the cost and time. Natural gas is too cheap to afford building new ones.  Between the lines you can sense that he is not a real believer in modular nuclear.  He would be pleasantly surprised, but mostly is not betting Exelon's bottom $30 billion on it either.  As Eli has been pointing out this means that the ONLY way of building lots of conventional nuclear plants is for governments to do it (Russia and China) or finance it (France) to absorb the up front capital costs and long build times.  The government could lease the plants back to operators for annual payments to finance continuing new construction.  One of the few new technologies Crane is optimistic about is  using high pressure hydrogen to cover the times when renewables are not producing.  Eli would point out that for some applications heat from burning the hydrogen could be used directly and yes Crane knows about embrittlement.  He is a very sharp cookie.

Perhaps the most interesting take away is how Exelon views carbon capture, not as a way of reducing carbon in the atmosphere, but as an enabling technology for expanded natural gas generation.  Eli sees the sense of this because natural gas after scrubbing is a clean fuel with essentially a single component, methane, whose combustion produces a stream of almost 100% carbon dioxide and water vapor.  The two components are relatively easy to physically separate which makes carbon capture easier, and the CO2 could at least in principle be re-injected into the natural gas wells.  

As far as the political side of the coin Crane sees customer and state demand for zero emissions and federal resistance.  He sees no point in trying to make believe that coal or oil is coming back to appease folk in WV, TX and various luckwarmer and denier think tanks.  The current US government may be bypassed, if for no other reason that utilities are state regulated.  While the prospects for a national carbon tax (much better than regulating emissions in his opinion) are grim, state or regional ones could happen.  

As an operator of utilities he sees that the climate is changing and this has already become a huge cost.  Exelon in the immediate future will close its older and expensive to operate nuclear generating plants, but closing all of them is dumb.  Germany has shown that the major effect of that is to increase the burning of dirt, aka lignite.  Clearly, according to Crane, the US has lost its base for building new nuclear plants which absent a new capital allocation mechanism will not improve, leaving the capacity for new nuclear builds worldwide mostly for China, Russia and Japan who have the technology.  

Which brought the conversation to what will be needed to go carbon free, or at least carbon less.  Networks and resistance to network expansion are keys.  New England is hanging by a thread in winter because loss of a single natural gas pipeline would put them in deficit but there is considerable resistance to new ones.  Expanding the electrical distribution network faces the same issues.  Grid reliability requires network expansion both for fuel and electrons.  If nuclear is not benefited for emissions reduction as renewable energy is then fossil fuel use will increase. 

Utilities in the US have to allocate capital in a 30 year time frame.  Rebuilding the network for two way flows  (e.g. for rooftop solar) will be expensive and, if it is to be done start soon.  Simpler technologies like smart meters can make a contribution and have a surprising to Eli benefit of immediately notifying operators of outages and speeding up response before troubles spread and the carrots in the fridge go bad.

As such things go worth a listen to understand climate change issues from the point of view of the utilities.

Note:  Edited to spell Exelon the way the SEC prefers it.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Seneca almost hits the mark on technological change

I saw a reference to Seneca while reading Let It Shine, a history of solar energy (more on the book later). The reference was intriguing, and here's the full quote:

24. Reason did indeed devise all these things, but it was not right reason. It was man, but not the wise man, that discovered them; just as they invented ships, in which we cross rivers and seas – ships fitted with sails for the purpose of catching the force of the winds, ships with rudders added at the stern in order to turn the vessel's course in one direction or another. The model followed was the fish, which steers itself by its tail, and by its slightest motion on this side or on that bends its swift course. 25. "But," says Posidonius, "the wise man did indeed discover all these things; they were, however, too petty for him to deal with himself and so he entrusted them to his meaner assistants." Not so; these early inventions were thought out by no other class of men than those who have them in charge to-day. We know that certain devices have come to light only within our own memory – such as the use of windows which admit the clear light through transparent tiles,[16] and such as the vaulted baths, with pipes let into their walls for the purpose of diffusing the heat which maintains an even temperature in their lowest as well as in their highest spaces. Why need I mention the marble with which our temples and our private houses are resplendent? Or the rounded and polished masses of stone by means of which we erect colonnades and buildings roomy enough for nations? Or our signs[17] for whole words, which enable us to take down a speech, however rapidly uttered, matching speed of tongue by speed of hand? All this sort of thing has been devised by the lowest grade of slaves. 26. Wisdom's seat is higher; she trains not the hands, but is mistress of our minds.
(Emphasis added - this is a reference to the invention and first use of glass windows.)

Any learned person of the time would have understood that different cultures have different levels of technology, and even that their own culture had simpler technologies in the distant past. Here, Seneca takes that understanding to the next level, that technological change has happened recently. He's so close but doesn't quite get there to realizing that technological change will keep happening. It would have been interesting to see what he or others might have anticipated, two thousand years ago.

He doesn't get there AFAICT because he's not interested in technology but rather in the nature of true wisdom, and in concluding that wisdom does not concern itself with practicalities.

Too bad - if Seneca and others like him had been more concerned with practicalities, maybe Roman technological improvements could've moved faster than they did.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Eli's Thermo Class Is In Session

Lately Eli has been playing Clarissa, explaining all the thermochaff thrown up against the wall by his friends the confused.  First it was the Green Plate Effect showing how the presence of a colder third body decreases the cooling rate of an externally hotter one.  Then Eli pointed out that all of the heat flows between the sun, the surface, the atmosphere and space balance.  These are, Eli hopes useful cites to others.

Now comes the bunny to deal with a related everygreen, but let Ned Nikolov who is well rated as both confused and certain, state the issue

Somehow, Ned missed the latent heat and convection in his diagram, but let us be generous.  Eli can simplify that diagram

showing the flows into and out of the Surface and the Atmosphere.  Solar irradiation is shown in yellow, IR emission to space in green and the flow between the surface and the atmosphere are shown in brown and red.

Since William Nordhaus has won the Economics Nobel today, let's think of an economic model. Eli has a Savings and a Checking account, and each month he deposits $160 into the Savings account and $80 into the Checking.  He also takes out some percentage (40%) of what is in the checking account to pay Ms. Rabett's yarn bill, and puts another 45% of the Checking balance into the Savings account.  To settle things up at the end of the month the Rabett transfers 6% of the Savings account into the Checking account.  The flows of $ are

If we plot the outflow to expenses, and the interchange between the Savings and Checking accounts as a function of time, what happens?

The flows between the Savings and Checking account reach equilibrium in about 12 years as does the monthly outflow.  The numbers are pretty close to those in the energy balance diagram, but not exact because Eli has simplified stuff.  The percentages were adjusted so the equilibrium outflow is $240 but that was just for giggles. Also interesting is that the Savings and Checking accounts both reach equilibrium.  

Just like the Green Plate Effect, this is not a mystery, simply the result of counting.  The inflow cannot be compared to the flow between the two accounts (reservoir) which is what the Ned's of the world try to do

Conservation of dollars only requires that the flow into the two accounts (reservoirs) be the same as the flow out when a steady state is established.  Until then the flow out is lower, but in the case of the earth that happened millions of years ago.

Just when I thought I was out, I pull myself back in

Longtime readers may remember that I (Brian speaking here), realizing what great reputations politicians had, decided to become one myself, and was elected to the board running the water agency for Silicon Valley for four years. I wasn't re-elected, moved to Belmont in the neighboring San Mateo County and went on to other things.

Until recently. My councilmember said there was an open seat on Mid-Peninsula Water District, the public water agency providing retail-level water supply in Belmont and some adjoining areas. It's a much smaller agency serving 30,000 people instead of 2 million, so I think I can do it while continuing my main work at Greenbelt Alliance.

So, unfortunately in lieu of more blogging that's what I'm spending some of my time on for the campaign this fall and hopefully afterwards - we'll see how it goes! I hope to emphasize some of the same water conservation issues I worked on at Santa Clara Valley Water District, issues that overlap directly with responding to climate change.

And if you happen to live in Belmont or know someone that does, check out my Facebook page for the campaign, or more objectively the League of Women Voters website comparing the candidates.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

The abortion law/environmental law connection

Much craziness over Kavanaugh. Separate from the recent controversy is his opinion on upholding settled precedent, wherein he pretends that Roe v. Wade and abortion rights are not under threat if he's seated. For those who don't know all the details, conservative but not-superconservative Justice Anthony Kennedy, who Kavanaugh would replace, provided the crucial fifth vote for Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which essentially reaffirmed/reinterpreted Roe v. Wade.

Judges, including Supreme Court justices, are supposed to rarely overturn precedent. Kavanaugh pretends there's a chance he won't overturn abortion rights.

We do know about his (and Gorsuch's) contempt for crucial aspects of environmental law, most importantly the Chevron Doctrine, which lets adminstrative technical experts interpret ambiguous statutory language instead of judges, like the language found in the Clean Air Act that forms the legal basis for regulating greenhouse gas emission.

Their approach of gradually neutering Chevron is a model for how they could limit abortion rights.

And one other thing - I've dug for the transcript of Kavanaugh's testimony two weeks ago and can't find complete transcripts, but I recall listening to him talk about how much better it would be for judges to interpret ambiguous statutory language than administrative experts. So the other thing is this - if the judiciary is politicized now, it's nothing compared to how politicized it will be with this power grab to control ambiguity. Kavanaugh will further send the judiciary down a poisoned well.

There is a partial solution, one that has bipartisan support - term limits for the Supreme Court to lower the stakes involved. The bipartisan support could make this constitutional amendment happen, if presidential nominees felt serious about it. I'd also add to that term limits for appellate judges, and a Senate 55-vote supermajority appointment requirement for presidential appointments in the second half of a presidential four-year term. I'd take what I could get.

And after 2020, if Dems control the White House and Congress, take back the Garland seat that Republicans stole, which would be done by adding two more seats to the Supreme Court.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

While Eli's Away, the Arctic's That Way

Hi Gang,

Eli is out on the flatlands and yes he has been neglecting his duties, but there are a couple of interesting things this year in the Arctic.  For one thing although the melt is not as large as in some other years, it is continuing quite late in the season

For another, the Northern Sea Route is wide open, with container ships making the transit and, very strangely, the Northwest Passage opened up late in September after being jammed all summer.  Even the main channel threatened to open up

That's September 15.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Mongolia: land of Priuses and coal

The headline is the answer to where we spent our summer vacation: two weeks in Mongolia, finishing with a week in South Korea.

Lots that could be said. Maybe the most blog-relevant though was the astounding number of Priuses (my favored plural form) we saw in the country, I'd guess they're almost half of the medium-sized and smaller cars on the road, virtually all of them second-hard cars from Japan with retrofitted frames to accept larger wheels for off-roading. Mongolia makes California look Prius-unfriendly.

By contrast to the Priuses, here's a view of air quality in the capital city:

This was in summertime a little over a week ago and our eyes stung within minutes; in winter the air quality is one of the worst in the world, for a city of 1.5 million people. Beijing had better air quality when we flew through there in transit. Most power (80%) comes from the pictured coal power plants. Even worse, the ger (yurt) districts ringing the capital are heated by individual coal stoves, or by wood and trash fuel.

We asked two elderly people in different parts of the country, a woman and a man, about what had changed the most in their lifetime, and both volunteered that it was the climate. Spring is always the dry and dusty season, but in the last 20 years it's been dryer for longer periods. Rains didn't start this year until July, and then came as floods. A country of pastoralists faces huge problems for climate.

With 3 million people, Mongolia doesn't contribute much to climate change, and it's on a good trend with the Priuses. I'd say most of the gers also sported PV solar panels like the one in the first pic; they've replaced generators for limited power needs.

Our guide says motorcycles have only recently replaced trucks as a way to herd animals around. One suggestion then would be the electric motorcycles now coming available could be used along with additional PV panels (and presumably an additional charging battery) to get the nomadic one-third or so of the country off the use of fossil fuels.

By contrast to the rural gers, the village buildings almost never had solar panels, so the fiscal incentives to hook up to coal-powered electricity must be heavily subsidized. I understand the need to do that in the capital, but in the villages it could be changed.

Our guide was shocked when I told him that in the US, wind power is cheaper than coal. He guessed that powerful people in government own the coal mines and have locked in the power contracts. It was windy every place we went to in southwest Mongolia, and there's more where that came from:

Mongolia's first priority has to be to fix air quality in the capital. The gers are picturesque but have to be replaced with housing connected to sewer and modern indoor heating. Soon they need to make use of this real wind power potential and limit coal. They should also just do everything possible to reduce incentives for people to move there, including decentralizing government functions.

Some other thoughts from the trip:

  • Mongolians prefer the term "Ulan Bataar" over "Ulan Bator" for their capital, and "Chingis Khan" over "Genghis Khan".
  • In a rare piece of good news, we saw lots of black-tailed gazelles, and our guide said there are a lot more of them due to new hunting regulations. Governmental rules in Mongolia are not just scraps of paper.
  • The over-simplified Mongolian viewpoint is that China was and remains a colonial oppressor, while Russia was the liberator (although they recognize some oppression there too). America has a good rep, maybe as a slight bit of counterbalance to the two giants on either side of Mongolia
  • AFAICT, Putin hasn't done anything potentially menacing in Mongolia like he has in many other former client states. Maybe there's no longstanding historical interest to move him, and Mongolia could theoretically rebalance towards China. It's interesting that Mongolia survives as a democratic country surrounded by dictatorships, albeit a somewhat corrupt dictatorship.
  • I'm somewhat - not completely but somewhat - cynical about indigenous peoples' cultural attachment to their environment resulting in better environmental protections, but it might actually make a difference in Mongolia. We'll see.
  • I have no big insights into South Korea, other than the sense that South Koreans (like Americans) don't have a great reputation as tourists, but they were incredibly nice to us visitors in their home country.

UPDATE: per the comments, that SUV is Toyota hybrid SUV, but not a Prius SUV. I added a few more grainy pictures of Priuses, but they were everywhere.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

One of Life's Little Delingpole Lights or Nature Bites Last

James Delingpole is out there shaking the cup for himself, setting up a gofundme to pay for treatment for chronic lyme disease and a bad overbite.

Delingpole is a Brit, and the Brits have a National Health Service so why is Delingpole out there with the begging bowl.  Well, it turns out that the right wing climate change denying rags, and Delingpole is an a number one denier of climate change, don't pay so well, and the National Health Service won't.  Why, well chronic lyme is one of those things that you can start a bar fight about at a medical convention.  The quacks don't believe in it and the people who believe they are suffering from it don't believe the quacks.

Flimsin is not very understanding, perhaps understandably
but Eli is laughing his head off.  Why the bunnies ask, enjoyment at the discomfort of others is not becoming they say to Eli.  Well, some not Eli to be sure, might be enjoying Delingpole brought low, but Eli he knows some stuff.

Like lyme disease is carried by a tick.  If you have ever been walking through the north woods, you inspect yourself and your loved ones inch by inch for those buggers if they have dug in because of lyme. Done correctly that can be. . . enjoyable.  Lyme is getting a lot worse.  Indeed the EPA tracks the incidence of lyme. on  a page with the title "Climate Change Indicators: Lyme Disease".  Turns out that the ticks can't survive cold winters, and if the winters are warmer there are more ticks.

James Delingpole has been laid low by climate change.  Nature bites last

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Heat Has No Hair

Among physicists and chemists, well at least the theoretical side of the latter it is well known that electrons have no hair by which is meant that a bunny can't tell one electron from another.  This has serious consequences in quantum mechanics because in a multi-electron system you have to allow for each electron to be anywhere any electron is and it gets quite complicated.  True, when an atom is ionized you can trace the electron as it is expelled from the atom, but you can't say WHICH electron it was.  Same for electron capture.  You could identify an atom before it is captured, but once it was captured you can not identify it from any of the others in the atomic system.

The same thing is true of heat.  Heat in an object, perhaps better thermal energy, is random motion of atoms and molecules, translation, vibration, whatever.  You can say where heat entering an object came from (say radiation from the sun), but  if there is more than one source (trivial case).
once it is randomized and in the object you can't say where it came from.

Which brings Eli to the evergreen claim of those who deny the greenhouse effect, that radiation is not important compared to convection. 

We can summarize the data in the figure above adding that ~40 W/m2 go directly from the surface to space as IR radiation of the 398 W/m2 leaving the surface.  In and out in the table below means into and out the surface the atmosphere and space respectively.  In is taken as a positive addition to the heat content and negative a decrease. All numbers are fluxes in W/m2 

The total amount of thermal energy leaving the surface is ~502 W/m2 with 398 of them coming from radiation and 104 from a combination of evaporation and sensible heat.  Just in passing note that the variability in the latter is much higher when integrated over the globe.

In addition to 161 W/m2 from the sun absorbed at the surface the surface is warmed by 342 W/m2 of IR radiation from the atmosphere.  At this point a whole lot of people say, hmm, 104 W/m2 from sensible heat and evaporation, e.g. convection, is bigger than the net 398 - 342 = 56 W/m2 from radiation, so radiation is not such an important process in cooling the surface, more properly removing thermal energy from the surface.  A lot of the more, shall Eli say, sky dragonny, or numerically impaired go so far as to say radiation is not important, even though on their own terms it accounts for about a third of the heat leak.

However, that is not the important point.  The important point is to realize that surface IR radiation absorbed in the atmosphere is rapidly (10 μs) thermalized and converted into random motion of the molecules in the atmosphere, just as is latent heat from condensation of water vapor and from sensible heat.  Very little, less than a part per million, is directly radiated back to the surface and we can neglect that.

The 342 W/m2 of back radiation is OBSERVED, so this ain't a model or a theory, where does it come from?  It comes from ALL of the sources pushing heat into the atmosphere, from the convective and radiative heat transfer from the surface.

That being the case the source of the IR backradiation must be allocated by proportion to the amount transferred from the surface.  Let's do that as is shown in the second and third lines of the table below

The bunnies can refer to the first table above and read out the amount of flux absorbed in the atmosphere from each source.  The next and last line is the proportional flux which warms the atmosphere.  By inspection IR radiation from the surface is much larger than the other three, indeed it is about twice as big as the sum of them.

As far as emission to space, 29% directly from reflection from the atmosphere and surface, 12 % directly from thermal IR emission of the surface and 59% comes from IR emission from the atmosphere.

Friday, August 31, 2018

The Simplest Green Plate Effect

Sometime ago Eli created a simple example of how the presence of a colder body can limit the rate at which a warmer one emits energy.  If the warmer body is receiving energy at a constant rate, then the steady state (colliquially equilibrium) temperature of the warmer body will be higher.

Of course this kind of kicks in the nuts arguments about how Uncle Clausius Bunny (he was a Bunny, not a Rabett) said that it was unpossible, even though he said no such thing and was quite aware that warmer and colder objects interchange thermal energy, aka heat, just that more flows from the hotter to the colder so on net, the warmer heats the colder.

Following Izen's lead and a suggestion by Christian Anders, Eli has a stripped down version to break even more heads.

Let's start with a blue plate special and a heat source which constantly transfers an amount of heat a per unit area to the plate.  To maintain a constant temperature the plate then radiates an amount of heat b from each side (yeah, Eli is assuming an really large blue plate, but edge effects are a bitch and if the plate is big enough the heat transfer from the edges can be neglected).  The algebra is trivial and the result is that the blue plate sheds an equal amount of heat in either direction

Now let us insert a green plate behind the blue plate.  Working the example through the bunny at the back of the class with his hand up finds that more of the absorbed heat a is radiated from the blue plate b'=2/3a and c=1/3a since a has to equal b'+c

Eli can keep on adding plates, Ms. Rabett has gone out to buy some extras.  Here is the red plate special.  If somebunny works it through they will find that b'=3/4 a, go another plate and, as Christian pointed out, now b' has increased to 4/5 a and so on. 

Eli has not said anything about how the heat is being transferred, radiation, convection or conduction but since heat transfer, no matter the mechanism, is always proportional to temperature, the temperature of the blue plate must increase as more plates are added.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Temperature Correlation Scale Over Time and Distance

What makes global temperature anomalies plots and maps go is the correlation of temperatures over a large area.  This also is key to homogenization of individual station data when something like position or time of day when measurements are made changes.  ATTP has a discussion going along these lines and perhaps Eli, as a long time observer, can add a bit of history and even some new insights.

The first (as far as Eli and most of the Bunnies know) study to make use of this was the ur-GISSTemp work of Hansen and Lebedeff in 1987 which settled on a correlation distance of ~1000 km, but noting a variation with latitude shown to the left.  The figure can be enlarged by clicking on it.

At middle and high latitudes the correlations approach unity as the station separation becomes small; the correlations fall below 0.5 at a station separation of about 1200 km, on the average. At low latitudes the mean correlation is only 0.5 at small station separation.
that they ascribed to

The distance over which strong correlations are maintained at high latitudes probably reflects the dominance of mixing by large-scale eddies. At low latitudes the most active atmospheric dynamical scales are smaller, but apparently there are also substantial coherent temperature variations on very large scales (for example, due to the quasi-biennial oscillation, Southern Oscillation, and E1 Nifio phenomena), which account for the slight tendency toward positive correlations at large station separations.

Casper, Alexander and Vose advanced the climateball in 2006, but to some, maybe only in Eli view not enough, notice, measuring how the correlation depended on season as well as latitude, clearly showing that the correlation distance decreases well below 1000 km during the summer and increases well above it in the winter.

While using a variable correlation distance would be hard to implement with a pad of paper and a comptometer for multiplication and division, it should be easy to do today with significantly greater computer power and better organized data bases to improve homogenization algorithms and temperature anomaly maps.

Which brings Rabett Run to the next point, how many stations are needed.  Sticking to his upbringing, Eli will ask needed for what? If all a lagomorph needs is a global temperature anomaly plot, the answer is not too many and one of the locals, Caerbannog, owns that franchise with his Wattsbuster, which he has been using on and off Twitter to slice dice and rice all use raw station data, use rural station data, use less station data, use more station data, use data from stations with left handed thermometer readers or right. bleats.

You can even get a reasonable match to the various global temperature anomaly measurements with fewer, even less that 10, but what you can't get are maps of the anomalies.  How many do you need for that.

While looking for the Casper, Alexander and Vose paper the existance of which Eli had dredged out of memory, Bunny came across Bridget Tobin's Master''s Thesis (advisor:Jerry North) which makes the point that

The autocorrelation length scale found in annual averaged observational surface temperature data is about 1500km (Hansen and Lebedeff, 1987; Kim and North, 1991). 1500km is the inherent length scale for long term averages in noise-forced energy balance models (North, 1982). It also happens to be the characteristic size for the synoptic scale features that are prominent on daily weather maps. This latter is probably due to the corresponding size of the Rossby radius of deformation (Hess, 1959). The climate (time averaged data) length scale is not solely determined by dynamical considerations but seems to be dependent on radiation damping as well.

It is interesting to see if this is a property exclusively of the surface temperature. If one takes disks of 1500 km radius and covers the earth, about 65 are required. This implies there are about 65 statistically independent regions on the earth with respect to low frequency surface temperature fluctuations (Hardin and Upson, 1993). If the correlation lengths are significantly larger in one season than in the other, it may be possible to use fewer than 65 statistically independent regions to cover the earth during that season. At the same time, the correlation areas seem to be largest in the more variable seasons. This coincidence suggests that a compensation occurs making the sampling errors seasonally invariant. 

So the answer is 65 or so.

Saturday, August 18, 2018


Yes, Rabett Run has a full time administrator, but he sleeps a lot being very old.  Thus Eli has removed the comment notification gadget because the spam is getting fierce and it was exceedingly annoying. 

Read the damn topnotch posts and comments.

Reto Knutti on Research in the Era of Fake News

Reto Knutti wrote his experiences of Fake News and how to deal with it for the Schweiz am Wochenende.  It also appeared on the ETH Zurich website.  Since it is in German, Eli thought a translation would be useful.  As a scientist he included a few footnotes.


Research in the Era of Fake News

Fake news is everywhere, but climate research is specially targeted.  Reto Knutti on his experience with fake news and slander

Reto Knutti

A Russian website cites me under a picture as saying that mankind has only three quiet years left.  As a climate scientist I supposedly had written a report to this effect that was under lock and key [1].  Or: I was supposed to have said in another report that mushroom spores cause hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis [2]. Of course this is all completely made up from the first to the last word.  Still it did not take long for a Russian television station to come calling for an interview.

Communicating climate change is not for the faint of heart:  The range of reactions to my public statements ranges from allegations of fraud, power seeking and greed to hand written “proof”, that claim to show that conservation of energy is really something else than you find in physics books.  I’ve gotten used to this but it’s different when it comes to slander.

Those who lie about climate change or spread false rumors mostly do that because proposed solutions collide with their personal world view (Picture: marchmelena29 /iStock)

Known Symptons

The problem in a post factual age are at least superficially well known:   Democracy requires an informed public that in spite of differing opinions find common solutions.  But the opening of academic discourse (wissen-ER) through social media has led to each and every being able to say something faster and faster.  Everybody talks, no one listens and experts are often held to be suspicious rather than trustworthy.

In social media we often find ourselves in bubbles, there are no quality controls and fantasies or controversial statements get the most “likes”.  Fake news spread on Twitter faster and wider than facts [3].

There are reasons why the truth does not penetrate.  Sometimes it’s just about paying attention or advertising revenue.  In the case of climate there are often political or economic interests.  In 1998 an internal report from Shell documented the dangers of manmade climate change and the possible effects on the oil industry.  After that for many years the company tried to cast doubt on the scientific consensus [4].

Even today in the US one in four registered voters believes that global warming is fictional [5].  More than anywhere else opinions about climate change are determined by political ideology:  People don’t “believe“ in climate change because the possible solutions (high energy prices, governmental regulations) contradict their personal neoliberal convictions about unlimited growth and small government.

Hand Wringing About Solutions

Much of this diagnosis is not new.  The underlying problems are made worse by the vanishing of quality journalism, shouting on social media and as a result an increasingly polarized society.  How can one best deal with Fake News?

I have no conclusive answer.  Some answers which at least at first view seemed clear (not only to me) simply don’t work.  More facts in even more reports are to be sure relevant for policy decisions and technical solution but they scarcely change the opinions of the already convinced.  On the contrary, making clear why Fake News is fake often only increases its visibility.

Most of my attempts to respond to hostile or random claims and discuss them on line have not been fruitful.  The exchanges give the impression that the situation is unclear and everything is open to debate.  It is astounding that even penetrating the bubble does not help.  People who every day voluntarily confront different perspectives on Twitter become even more convinced in their views [6].

Get Involved Anyhow

There are also bright spots.  New work shows that readers can better deal with fake news if they are warned beforehand that it exists on a topic [7].  I am still convinced that we must continue to think about the relevant questions and discuss them in public despite the abundance of evidence and the shortage of time.

My experience is that eye to eye dialog is best when we are trying to separate facts from opinion.  A thermometer is not politically right or left exactly the same as there are not two sides to gravity.  We can agree about the facts and still have a debate about how we should react to them.  As scientist I don’t dictate to society what should be done.  However, I consider it my duty not only to produce numbers but to look at them critically and to explain what they mean without engaging in PR – a tightrope dance in the age when researchers are fighting for money and positions [8].

In addition to a common (fact based) denominator I always try to find common values and goals in conversations.  For this the way a problem is formulated, so called framing, is extremely important.  Respect for other opinions and readiness to listen are elements that build the trust that helps build bridges.  In this stories are crucial to deliver the message.  It all takes time but for me there is no way around it.

Sometimes It Needs a Few More Characters

Controversy delivers good headlines buy hardly constructive discussions.  With all the enthusiasm for new media and big data, for me, a real discussion requires both the solid synthesis of a quality newspaper and an informed reader rather than propaganda tweets from Trolls on the Web.  Not to mention algorithms that daily determine what is true or false.  Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter, once said: “One can change the world with 140 characters”  He is really right.  But to understand the world and to improve it for the next generation you need a few more.


1. The ETH deliberately is not linking to these pages.  A Google search “knutti "the impending weather and climate catastrophe" will find multiple examples

2. The ETH deliberately is not linking to these pages.  A Google search “knutti Monica Gagliano" will find it

3. Article in Science

4. Center for international and environmental law: Internal Documents Shed New Light on Shell’s Role in the Climate Crisis (April 2018)

5. Yale Program on Climate Change Communication: Politics & Global Warming (March 2018)

6. Article in the Tagesanzeiger based on a preprint of a scientific manuscript

7. PNAS: Science in the age of selfies

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Interesting Times in the Arctic

Well, after what has been a boring melt season, maybe even Neven thinks so, the Northern Hemisphere heat wave appears to have created some interesting times (in the sense of the Chinese curse, may you live in interesting times) at the end. 

It may in the long run be nothing, but the ice pack appears to have separated from Greenland and the passage between Ellesmere Island and Greenland, or at least some impressive melt pools have formed and the ice to the west of the separation is not healthy

EH2R has a nasty gif  showing this from NASA Worldview, again, interesting in the catastrophic sense with a comparison from 2012 where it was smooth enough to skate on (well not really but not nearly so broken up)

Zack Labe has a really good tweet about this

And last, but not least, there are, again, interesting things happening on the Pacific side.  Neven has that story.  Basically WTF?

Could be interesting.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

The blind orange squirrel on Trump's scalp finds a nut

I share the same appalled reaction as the rest of the planet to Trump's dimunitive behavior when standing next to Putin. That isn't really what this post is about, but I can't entirely ignore it. I disagree with the claim that he made a Kinsley Gaffe when he said:

...they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be

A Kinsley Gaffe is when someone publicly says something they privately believe to be true and gets in trouble for it. That didn't happen here - Trump knew he was lying the first time around about there being no reason for Russian interference. He then lied again a few days later by claiming he meant to say he didn't see any reason why it "wouldn't" be Russia - he didn't mean to say that, he's just layering on another lie because he was in trouble from his previous lie. Saying there was literally no valid reason arguing against Russian involvement would be completely inconsistent with virtually everything that comes out of his mouth on the subject, constantly casting doubt on Russian involvement.

And none of that is what I want to talk about - which is the new gas pipeline, and Trump's Blind Squirrel is right to criticize it. However bad and dangerous Russian interference is in American elections, it's even worse in Europe. Why is Germany rewarding Russia when Germany and the rest of the democratic world is under attack?

I get the interdependence idea that Germany has advanced even during the Cold War, but this pipeline has the opposite effect - it reduces interdependence with Eastern European countries that are otherwise under the Russian thumb. Right now, if Russia cuts off supplies to Ukraine or other East European countries it's mad at, then it also loses sales to Western Europe. This new pipeline decreases integration and interdependence.

Trump's goal is for Europe to buy more American natural gas instead. A better goal and an achievable one is to further ramp up European renewables generation and storage capacity. It's not just an environmental issue, it's a national security one. Germany is missing the boat.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Public Access Policies for NASA

At least for the physical sciences public access policies are fairly recent and not at all clear.  This became obvious to Eli in a recent Twitter exchange and indeed, shows that many have not read the FAQ.

Note, that these are public access policies, not an open access policy, the difference being that any material not labelled open access remains under copyright but can be read.  It is subject to normal copyright use.  Open access publications are usually covered by Creative Commons copyrights.

NASA has established an archive for public access, NASA PubSpace, as part of PubMed Central.  Policy requires that digital copies of all peer reviewed articles sponsored by NASA in full or in part be made available for public access on PubSpace for publications supported by NASA grants that started after November 28, 2016 (OTOH there is another place which says it applies to all funded proposals submitted after January 2016.  Consult your program officer).  Unlike some other US government publication archives the final version must be deposited although an embargo of 12 months is allowed. IF the journal has an agreement with PubMed Central this may occur automatically.  Talk to your publisher.
What repository does NASA require PIs to use for depositing publications?  
NASA requires principal investigators who publish peer-reviewed journal articles or juried conference papers to deposit a copy of the item (either the final accepted version or the version of record, as defined in NASA's public access plan) in the NASA public access repository hosted by the National Institutes of Health at PubMed Central. 
What is a "final accepted version" of a manuscript?  
The final accepted version is the author's final manuscript of a peer-reviewed paper accepted for journal publication, including all modifications resulting from the peer-review process. It is the version before the journal makes edits that will constitute the final "version of record."  
What is a "version of record"?  
The version of record is the publisher's authoritative copy of the paper, including all modifications from the publishing peer review process, copyediting, stylistic edits, and formatting changes.
In other words no preprints.  Whose gonna pay for it?
What if my grant does not have sufficient funds to cover publication costs (remember this means costs with the public access in 12 months or less), or the grant has expired?  
Please consult with your institutional official for advice and options.

Where is the hammer?
Will compliance with the NASA Public Access Policy affect the outcome of the application review? 
Compliance with the NASA Public Access Policy is not a factor in the scientific and technical merit evaluation of grant applications. Non-compliance will be addressed administratively and may delay or prevent awarding of funds. 
Are there exceptions?
Will NASA grant exceptions to the policy?  
NASA will consider exceptions only under the most extreme circumstances, such as the death of the sole author, on a case-by-case basis.
They have a video for external grantees, for civil service folk  and a FAQ

For civil service types there is undoubtedly training.  For external grantees, the first step is to register with Orcid.  With your grant you should have received information about linking your NASA grant to Orcid.  If not contact  This is mandatory for PIs but co-Is and authors should also do this.  Registering links your grant to the National Institutes of Health Manuscript Submission System.  You should also check in your grant/contract whether your project requires pre-publication review.  In case of doubt check with your grant monitor.

At this point you have to go to the NIH Manuscript Submission System and it gets complicated.  Briefly, you login using your NASA Orcid ID, fill in some metadata, identify a Reviewer (PI appears simplest), upload the manuscript files including supplementary data

The FAQ and the Video have more information.  Eli's candid advice at this point is to take somebunny with an R1 out to lunch and get their advice on PubMed Central and the NIH Manuscript Submission System.

The End of Physics

Science is maybe only three times as old as Eli (Eli is very old, has he mentioned that recently) maybe 5 if you count back to Newton.  About a month and a half ago, the Bunny pointed out that physics was the simplest science, the one where you could most easily combine and contrast observations with theoretical descriptions in useful models.  It is also the science where humans have gone the farthest.  That raises the interesting question as to whether we have reached the end of physics or if a lagomorph prefers, the end of physics that a bunny can understand or do or use for other ends.  Comes to the same thing

There is little doubt that progress on foundations of physics finds itself in a traffic jam of a multitude of unprovable theories.  String theory, the multiverse, and other attempts to break out have not been very successful, one could say not at all for more than a few decades.  Astronomy, confronted with the issues of dark matter or modified gravity may not be far behind.

Attempts to go beyond the current paradigms for gravity and quantum behavior have become increasingly fanciful.  Peter Woit, on his blog, Not Even Wrong, has chronicled the search.  Sabine Hossenfelder, on her blog Backreaction and book Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray grapples with these issues.  Both are optimists in that they think that further progress is possible.  Eli maybe not so much. 

John Horgan, in 2012, wrote about an interview he had with Thomas Kuhn.  There is much of what Kuhn says that Eli disagrees with but perhaps more on that later.  For example, Kuhn appears to miss much of the interplay between observations and theory and models.  He also appears to fall into the philosophers trap of what does a thermometer measure, however there is a disturbing for us thread in the interview.

Kuhn described normal science as the working out of puzzles within an accepted framework or paradigm.  IEHO, for some areas it is almost certain that humans have approached the point where no further changes are likely.  Paradigm shifts in those areas are jogs not car crashes, and most often the new is simply an extension of the old to more extreme, smaller, or larger conditions.  Extension rather than revolution is something that the follow on to physics sciences are now experiencing. 

In that sense it is to be expected, that for example in chemistry, many new, exciting and useful puzzles will be solved in new ways but don't expect the hydrino revolution.  Ain't happening folks.

New foundational science can end.  It might have already done so in physics

Sunday, July 15, 2018

On Records

A distinguishing mark of a new record in a time series is that it exceeds all previous values another is that the first value in a time series is always a record. 

Given a stationary situation with nothing except chance, aka natural variation, the number of new records should decline to zero, or pretty close, as the series extends in time.

If governed by natural variation the rate at which it declines should be a marker of the nature of the wings, e.g. the distribution characterizing the climate from which the weather is sampled.

It’s pretty hot out there, with all sorts of new record highs being recorded. They are not declining to zero. This is strong and convincing evidence of increasing global temperatures.

That, and it being pretty hot out everywhere

ADDED:  Two interesting items, the first a 2017 paper by Andrew King on Attributing Changing Rates of Temperature Record Breaking to Anthropogenic Influences pointed out by Doug McNeil, the second a blog post by Andrew Gelman “A Headline That Will Make Global-Warming Activists Apoplectic”  on new temperature records.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Betts Test

Having engaged himself in a worthy round of hole digging while trying to explain why he never used what he himself acknowledged as the excellent Skeptical Science’s explanations about climate issues, Richard Betts fell back on defending Ethon’s favorite, Roger Pielke Jr., against the Skepticals listing said Roger as a climate misinformer.

This too did not go so well until Richard came up with the Betts test, that there were nowhere to be found on said list those who were really out of their mind worried about the dangers of climate change (the name of Peter Wadhams came up in this regard and indeed Dana Nucetelli has a few words on this)

However Eli finds the Betts test a good one and would point to an interesting example previously discussed here on Rabett Run, specifically Roger Jr.’s Convenient Truthiness. Now at the time, Roger’s Prometheus had not yet been pecked to death by Ethon, and Rabett Run was but a small vanity blog, but Eli had asked over there why Roger reserved all his fire for Mike Mann, Al Gore and the IPCC. The answer came

Question: Why don’t I write about glaciers, solar variability, Fred Singer, or Pat Michaels?  
Answer: I don’t know anything special about glaciers, solar variability, or the issues which are often discussed by Fred Singer or Pat Michaels. By contrast, I do know something about disasters and climate change. In fact, I know a lot, perhaps as much as only a few dozen people.
Eli was not particularly impressed
Other than the fact that the Google turns up a mess of Singer / Michaels pronuncimientos about climate change and disasters, we here at the Rabettorium were under the impression that the good Prof. Pielke runs a SCIENCE POLICY INSTITUTE and is always telling us that he loves science policy and we don't.

S. Fred and Pat have been playing in the science policy patch like forever, and maybe before. I am morally certain that RPJr has never, ever read a single word of that stuff. On the other hand, I am a bunny, and you know about the morals of hares. In the words of Dorothy Parker about a particularly childish children's book, Tonstant Weader Fwowed up.
UPDATE: Well, it looks like Roger knows S. Fred well enough to invite him to lecture his classes. FWIW, Trenberth, Sawitz et al also came. Roger also knows Pat Michaels work well enough to cite it in his publications on hurricane damage and elsewhere, as well as the fact that his father and Michaels are co-authors and long term collaborators. In short, the deniability here is not even plausible.
You want the links bunnies, well go to the original

Then, not a single comment from the audience now, well, ATTP has gathered a few but he always does a better job of that than Eli, but none at the time.

As to Roger, the Betts test is a wonderful razor to tear apart the envelop of his latest and Richard might consider taking a Betts test hisself.  Eli will be back with the results.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Hansen 1988 Retrouvé

Celebrating the 30th anniversary of the 1988 publication of Global climate changes as forecast by Goddard Institute for Space Studies three-dimensional model Hansen, J., I. Fung, A. Lacis, D. Rind, S. Lebedeff, R. Ruedy, G. Russell, and P. Stone Eli along with others (like Gavin Schmidt, Nick Stokes and others) Eli went back and took a look at what had been discussed in these parts as well as those.  There are a lot of very good people who contributed to that paper, so it henceforth hereabouts shall be known as HFLRLRRS.

One of the most important things is that the current discussion focuses on the predictions of forcing as well as outcomes.  The first is more or less ecomonics, the second physics.

That being the case, HFLRLRRS were pretty good on both.  Back in 1988 Hansen described the choice of scenarios
For the future, it is difficult to predict reliably how trace gases will continue to change. In face, it would be useful to know the climatic consequences of althernative scenerios. So we have considered three scenarios for future trace gas growth, shown on the next viewgraph. 
Scenerio A assumes the CO2 emissions will grow 1.5 percent per year and that CFC emissions will grow 3 percent per year. Scenerio B assumes constant future emissions. If populations increase, Scenerio B requires emissions per capita to decrease. 
Scenerio C has drastic cuts in emissions by the year 2000, with CFC emissions eliminated entirely and other trace gas emissions reduced to a level where they just balance their sinks. 
These scenarios are designed specifically to cover a very broad range of cases. If I were forced to choose one of these as most plausible, I would say Scenario B. My guess is that the world is now probably following a course that will take it somewhere between A and B
In 2006, Eli pointed out that the CO2 prediction was eerily accurate

It shows that many details in emission scenarios are unimportant, or rather that false estimates in one direction are most likely going to be cancelled by false estimates in the other for a different forcing agent, and that on average the scenarios should be useful for larger periods.
Which is what happened using the illustration from Real Climate

A neat thing in HFLRLRRS which has not been commented on much were the color coded maps of temperature anomalies by decade in the future which can be compared to measurements. Eli finds this much more interesting and informative about the early GISS model than the time one dimensional variation of averate global temperature change.  Comparing the result for the 2010s with measurements between 2014-2016 show that HFLRLRRS captured the broad picture but was not perfect

Arctic amplification is clear in the model and 30 years later in the observation.  Otoh, the Antarctic in the model is clearly too warm as is the Arctic south of Greenland. The third pole (the Tibetan Highland is too warm also. It would probably be better to map out more of the current decade wrt the El Nino - Southern Oscillation, 2016 being a monster El Nino, but the period also includes about a year of La Nina.
Another, not remarked much upon thing is that  HFLRLRRS calculated the temperature change compared to the interannual variabilty of their 100 year control run.  The change is everywhere (with the exception of the Indian Ocean off Perth) positive compared to the null of the control.  What would be interesting (to Eli) to compute would be the model interannual variability for the 2010s compared to that of the control run.  Indeed were Eli in charge, CIMP runs would include such a metric.