Saturday, April 21, 2018

Apologia Pro Vita Sua

Recently the how to say it wars have picked up again and Eli thought he would have one.  Now some, not Eli to be sure, might think that there is neither rhyme nor reason over here, but a couple of things have popped up which have helped Eli recognize he has to be more like he was.  Also blog more, perhaps tweet less.

A watchword in the house of Eli is that when somebunny gives Ms. Rabett a hard time, she points to Eli and says:  Eli, you know how your are, be that way.  Sad to say after November 2016 the Bunny has been way too serious.  The point was brought home by an interview with one of the Parkland kids who was asked how do you deal with the gun nuts,

He provides a good answer.  Eli never has had to deal with the volume that the Parkland group has, but a bit comes his way, and Hogg's answer was pretty close to how Eli's position in the game of Climateball.

Over the last year, Eli has been increasingly caught up in the bullshit.  That is not the way to go because it validates the trolls.  The only response to idiocy that works is humor, turning fears and conspiracy theorists into jokes.

And when the conspiracy theorists clutch pearls and whine that you are not taking them seriously, well yeah.  It would be hard to, even if a bunny wanted to.

Responding seriously gives too much credit. They are only going to be taken seriously if you take them seriously, so why take them seriously?

David Hogg makes another point, when someone with a platform, a Laura Ingraham, goes after you, don't go after them, go after their money, their sponsors.  Don't go after the think tanks,find their sponsors and ask if they want to be associated with the nonsense. And yes, if one of your dearest friends is on an expert panel of Heartland, send them a tweet.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Pruitt's Sweetheart Deal Was With an Energy Lobbyist, Not Just the Wife

Seems like a minor point, but it's artificially lowering the level of sleaze to say Pruitt was only getting a sweet deal from the energy lobbyist's wife, and not from him.

Steve Hart's name was originally on the lease, presumably because he owns or co-owns the property through the LLC (really, a LLC for your residence? Seems like he planned something fishy from the beginning, although maybe he's just got a little empire going). Crossing his name off the contract doesn't remove his ownership interest in the property that Pruitt was renting.

The framing of this issue soft-pedals what's actually happened with this penny-ante corruption. Pruitt got a great deal on a property owned by energy lobbyist, who without a doubt was happy to tell his clients that the EPA Administrator lived in his condo.

For the Republican leadership, draining the swamp is only meant literally, not figuratively.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Pal Review

A rather scathing editorial comment on pal review has appeared in Global and Planetary Change  sadly behind a paywall, but Eli suspects soon to be featured, if not already on a number of blogs.  It concerns a paper published earlier by Hermann. Harde: “Scrutinizing the carbon cycle and CO2 residence time in the atmosphere”. Global and Planetary Change 152 (2017), 19–26 which can be viewed on line.  This paper was much commented on, in the sense of how did this crap get published in an ostensibly useful journal as well as a Detailed Comment by a number of extremely distinguished lagomorphs,  and today we have an answer from the editorial board
During the initial manuscript submission, H. Harde suggested five potential reviewers. Most if not all of them are prominent individuals advocating that currently raising CO2 concentrations would be natural and not related to human influence. A careful assessment of their CVs, fields of expertise and publications lists leads to the conclusion that none of the five reviewers proposed by Harde can be considered as an expert or authority in carbon cycle, carbon or climate sensitivity or similar fields of research.
Two of them agreed to take on this onerous task.  This pal review kinda bothered the editors, nononono, not the editor who, shall Eli say, guided the Harde paper through the process that when they sent Harde's reply to the Detailed Comment itself out for review,
In reviewing the Reply, the reviewers felt that Harde's argument is “...too simplistic, based on invalid assumptions, ignores a whole body of observational evidence, and cites selectively literature that has long-time been disproved”. The experts confirm the suggestion by Köhler et al. (2018) that “...the paper be withdrawn by the author, editor or publisher due to fundamental errors in the understanding of the carbon cycle.” Most importantly, the expert reviewers clarified that Harde (2017) does not contribute to a seemingly open scientific debate or provides an alternative view. In contrast, it “...contains many mistakes, misconceptions and omissions and ignores a vast body of scholarly literature on the subject” (quotes from the reviews).
and the other editors and Elsevier were extremely not happy about how the reviewers of Harde's manuscript were selected and between the line, the editor who did the deed
. . .however in the case of the initial submission of Harde (2017), this was not done. Additional factors indicated the potential for there to be flaws with this submission: it is highly unlikely that a single author without any demonstrated scientific track record in this field can ‘scrutinize’ and disprove the work of dozens or hundreds of experts performed over several decades; work that has been verified with multiple lines of independent evidence and is regularly reviewed in an utmost transparent process such as the Assessment Reports of the IPCC (2013).
 Suggestions?  Of course, the editors had some including publishing the name of the handling editor for all papers and increase the involvement of the entire editorial board
The Editorial Board is more than decoration; it is an exclusive pool of highly qualified experts who are committed to support the entire review process and provide additional expert opinions in the case of conflicting reviews or doubt.
and the publisher agreed
in this case the author selected an editor who was not an expert in the field and that editor invited the reviewers suggested by the author without checking their credentials – the editor was therefore not in a position to perform a sufficiently critical evaluation of the manuscript.
 Elsevier agreed with the suggestion to publish the name of the editor who makes the decision to publish with on the publication, to appoint new editors to better cover the field and that authors should not suggest the names of possible reviewers.

This all reminds Eli of yesteryear.  Some here abouts may remember Gerlich and Tscheuschner published a 90 page paper on how atmospheric science was wrong in a condensed matter journal, the International Journal of Modern Physics B.  Georg Hoffman had something to say about the process which reminds us that this is not the first time that motivated editors have slipped nonsense into a journal.  It's in German so allow Eli to translate
I wanted to know a little more detail then. Who made what decision regarding G / T at the Journal? A request via the email address of the journal, which, as far as I can see, has a focus more in Asia, led me to editor Mr. Wong Chee Keong Benjamin, who was very proud of the 90 pages:
Physics is able to explain natural phenomena, such as climate change. Furthermore, heat transfer and thermodynamic concepts such as Gibbs theorem have numerous applications in solar technology and condensed matter physics.
I wondered if he had read the paper, and indeed, if anyone at IJMPB had read the paper. When asked who had accepted the paper, he sent me much to my surprise back to Germany. According to Mr. Keong Benjamin the final decision would have been made by Professor Wolfram Schommers. In turn, he was not pleased that I even considered reporting on this paper. He said that he had to stand by the decision of the house editor (not knowing who that was) and trust the reviewers. The only way to respond to G / T would be via peer-reviewed response in IJMPB.  
This appears to have been Prof. Schommers fall back position.  Unfortunately for him, the bunnies pushed on but that is another story.
When the lion roars, who will not fear? The same peer review, which not only allowed this paper through especially including comments about the "scientific misconduct of Raschke / Bakan"? I mean, you can do one thing (write this post) and you do not have to do the other one (provide a formal reply). Professor Schommers, I think, should be less worried about what I'm writing in this little blog at the end of the world than about how peer review works in his journal. The Gerlich / Tscheuschner paper is one of the saddest examples of how peer review can sometimes go down the drain, and it would be desirable if the journal would do something to limit the damage. An apology to Stephan Bakan and Ehrhard Raschke would be a first step.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Guns, Part 2: A "Well-Regulated" Militia for Concealed Carry

Borrowing in a way from William's prior comment that didn't like my idea of guns that didn't last forever:

I think this kind of thinking is just the wrong way to go. Overly complex, hard to sell. I'd go the other way: take the constitution more literally. Accept the right to bear arms, but in the context of "a well-regulated militia", which is your justification for extensive background checks, etc. etc. I think your path to success is convincing folk that the liberals aren't coming for their gunz, providing they are responsible. Offering them rubbish gunz that fall apart doesn't seem likely to work.

I could get distracted here:  I wasn't saying to sell guns that wouldn't work, but rather guns that wouldn't work forever. If you keep a gun for self-defense (mostly stupid, but whatever) then get your lazy butt off to a gun range once every five years and shoot a few rounds to make sure it works. You'll probably have to dump that gun after five to fifteen years and get another one. It won't kill you to do that.

That's not what I wanted to talk about though, but rather the well-regulated milita angle. I think that's a good one too. The gun-control researched often cited in favor of gun-control, John Donohue, said that the "good guy with a gun" that helped stop the Texas church shooter last year had the type of training that would fit into a well-regulated civilian militia. I've thought that is an area where the left side of the spectrum could say if someone is fixated by the idea of self defense with a gun, then get serious about and qualify for a civilian milita. If you're not willing to do that amount of work, then your self-perceived need for a gun couldn't actually be all that great.

The milita-service requirement could be to own a handgun or to have a concealed-carry permit, according to whatever the local politics will allow.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Guns for Self Defense Shouldn't Last Forever (And Maybe the Same for Ammo)

Kevin Drum lists the demands of the March For Our Lives:

Fund more gun violence research. We actually made a step in this direction when President Trump signed the 2018 budget, which clarifies that the 1996 Dickey Amendment doesn’t prohibit the CDC from conducting gun research.

Unleash the ATF. Let them store their background-check records on a computer, for example.

Universal background checks. In theory, everyone is in favor of this. In theory.

High-capacity magazine ban. This has long been my favorite. MFOL is calling for a 10-round limit. I’d make it six, myself.

Assault weapons ban. The gun folks are right when they say it’s tricky to define “assault weapon,” but it’s not actually impossible.
I agree with Kevin that more could be asked, so here's one more idea: guns (and maybe, ammunition) shouldn't last forever. It would help, slightly, in keeping our country from being overrun by guns if the guns had their own limited lifespans.

Simply requiring guns sold for self-defense be made of parts that tend to wear out and rust would be fine. If you want a gun that will last for decades and could be fired thousands of times (if say you're someone who actually goes to a range regularly) then pay an extra $50-$100 that will go into a fund that will help respond to violence made worse by guns flooding our country. I expect most people will go for a cheaper option.

Even more intriguing would be ammunition that degrades with normal atmospheric moisture but is fine is fine if kept sealed. The great advantage in this case is that idiots will stop leaving loaded guns lying around because they can't guarantee then that bullets will fire. I'm not sure this is feasible, but it doesn't seem impossible.

UPDATE:  borrowed this from a previous idea that weapons supplied in dicey situations like Syria, if they should be supplied at all, shouldn't last forever.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Dear Judge Alsup: The TL:DR

Gingerbaker asked for the TL:DR for the good Judge Alsup.  Eli had already written it over at Real Climate, but deep in the comments so here it is

Eli Rabett explains it all about question 2, whether N2 and O2 play a role in the greenhouse effect.

A three parter with some TL:DRs below

A bit on observations and spectroscopy: showing that the collision free absorption of O2 and N2 can be ignored. Just too small

A discussion about the physics of molecular spectroscopy:  Shifts the balance from the qm selection rules to how molecules interact with electromagnetic radiation (e.g. IR or light). Discusses how changes in charge distributions during transitions determines whether photons are absorbed or emitted. Makes contact with electromagnetic antenna theory, eg electric dipole allowed transitions w. dipole antennas, etc. 

Eli figured the good Judge, having been a ham radio operator should grok that.

Collisional effects
Starting from the quantum interlude discusses (much paw-waving) how collisional induction of electric dipoles drives continuum absorptions for N2, O2, CO2 and H2O (by implication, need to add a paragraph, the water vapor continuum being an important part of the greenhouse effect, of course the concentration of water vapor in the atmosphere is dialed in on average by the non-condensible greenhouse gases.)

There were a couple of open questions in the discussion which the Bunny will get around to next week.  Hope that helps.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Dear Judge Alsup: Putting on the Pressure

Some may recall that at the end of the first episode, the Spectroscopic Basis,  Eli asked why the CO2 IR absorption spectrum at atmospheric pressure

Was different from that at 1/1000 th of an atmosphere

The answer lies in the second letter to the judge, the Quantum Interlude, where Eli discussed how the interaction of light with molecules is really an interaction with the charges, the electrons and nuclei, and how that interaction can be decomposed into a series of multipole moments, the dominant one being the electric dipole, an asymmetry in the distribution of charges.  Higher moments, like the quadrupole and shudder, octapole, only become important when the dipole is zero because the molecule is cylindrically symmetric as is the case for N2 and O2.

Comparing the two spectra above, bunnies notice that the baseline has lifted in the first, and if they look real close or blow the figure up, they would see that the absorption lines are wider.

Now those out there who have taken General Chemistry, or even maybe General Physics, can go get a drink while Eli goes on.  Turns out that the electrons and nuclei in one molecule or atom can interact with the electrons and nuclei in nearby ones and move the charge around.  If we are dealing with molecules that have a dipole moment a picture of what is happening would look like this.

But we need not restrict molecular interactions to only dipole-dipole forces, but can also include the interaction between a dipole and a molecule that has zero dipole moment.  In that case, the dipole can interact with the electrons on the dipoleless molecule and shove them around so that there is an induced dipole moment.  That is what is happening with the CO2 molecules in the first spectrum.  Collisions with N2 or O2 molecules induce a dipole on the N2 and O2 molecules, which then interact via the electric field with each other.  This spreads out the spectrum of the CO2 that we observe.

The symmetric N2 and O2 molecules are no longer so symmetric.  They can interact with IR light in the regions near their vibrational frequency via the induced electric dipole moment, but wait, there is more.  When two molecules with zero electric dipole collide, their electrons and nuclei can also rearrange (as a practical matter it takes a lot less energy in the collision to shove the electrons about than the nuclei, and a lot easier to move the outermost or valance electrons about.

So, let's take a look at what these collision induced dipole moments do to the absorption spectrum of N2 over 10 km at 70% N2.  The fuzz is the quadrupole absorption that was shown in the first letter to the judge.

O2, because of it's position at lower frequencies where the 300 K black body spectrum is more intense is perhaps more interesting

and we might better compare it's absorption spectrum with ozone (O3) and methane (CH4) which occur roughly at the same place in the spectrum at their measured mixing ratios in the atmosphere.  Even so, the effects of methane and ozone on the absorption are relatively small.

The upper scale shows the absorption coefficients of the molecular lines without boadening.

As a final (well semi-final) point, a Rabett could look for the absorption of O2 in the observed high resolution spectrum from the FIRST balloon ~60 km up

A definite maybe.

Now Eli did say semifinal.  Turns out there is a paper by Höpfner, Milz,Buehler,Orphal, and Stiller  from the Karlsruhr Institute of Technology that goes through the numbers.  They find
The effect of collision-induced absorption by molecularoxygen (O2) and nitrogen (N2) on the outgoing longwaveradiation (OLR) of the Earth’s atmosphere has been quantified. We have found that on global average under clear-sky conditions the OLR is reduced due to O2 by 0.11 W/m2 and due to N2 by 0.17 W/m2. Together this amounts to 15% of the OLR-reduction caused by CH4 at present atmospheric concentrations. Over Antarctica the combined effect of O2 and N2 increases on average to about 38% of CH4 with single values reaching up to 80%. This is explained by less interference of H2O spectral bands on the absorption features of O2 and N2 for dry atmospheric conditions.

An important point in interpreting these results (Eli's and the KIT group) is that while the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has changed from 280 to 410 ppm (see Keeling, Charles) in the last 150 years or more and the concentration of CH4 has more than doubled, the concentration of O2 has changed by a few ppm (see Keeling, Ralph), and N2 bugger all.  The small absorptions of O2 and N2 have remained constant only changing really in very deep time.

Eli has written to Dr. Hoepfner about a few questions but has not yet received a reply.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Sounds More Like Glacial Geo-Adaptation to Me


Interesting article in Nature speculating that certain possibly feasible, artificial interventions in major ice flows from Antarctica and Greenland could slow the pace of sea level rise. The ideas are artifical barriers that slow the flow of "warm" ocean waters that undercut and speed up ice flows, creating artificial islands that partially pin ice floating sheets in place, allowing them to brake ice flows from land, and pumping out lubricating water flows from underneath ice sheets that speed up their flow.

The authors acknowledge the difficulties and potential environmental damage caused by these interventions and consider them no substitute for reversing GHG emissions. To the extent that the effort is to reduce ice flow velocities to speeds closer to what happened prior to climate change, it sounds to me like it's approximating a more natural system than doing nothing. That's why I'd consider it more of an adaptation approach than a geoengineering approach that is meant to subsitute for actions on GHG emissions.

I'd be interested to know if these adaptations can help stabilize and recover the ice sheets that in the long term seem doomed, even with some level of recovery from climate change.

Definitely seems worth further research.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

A Simple Model for Why the Greenhouse Effect Warms the Surface

While working on the answers to Judge Alsop's second question a very simple model that explains what is happening occurred to Eli about the third,

3.  What is the mechanism by which infrared radiation trapped by CO2 in the atmosphere is turned into heat and finds its way back to sea level?
The thought goes back to the early days of thermodynamics when it was realized that heat flows and interrupting or slowing a flow while maintaining constant delivery rates requires increasing the pressure head of the pump

Heat from the Sun flows to the Earth's surface at a constant rate determined by its ~6000 K black body temperature.  The Earth's surface transforms the visible light from the sun into ~290 K IR emission which escapes to space.  The flow of energy from the Sun to the Earth has to EXACTLY (them's Nikolov caps folks) match the flow of energy from the Earth to space.

Greenhouse gases function as a regulating valve.  If their concentration increases, the valve restricts the energy flow and the Surface has to pump harder to maintain the flow.  If the concentrations decrease the pressure the pump is delivering decreases.  

The operating mechanism of the valve is simple. The higher the mixing ratio (concentration) of greenhouse gases, the more absorbing the atmosphere is at frequencies that the greenhouse gases can absorb. The optical density of the atmosphere at those frequencies sets the level at which each greenhouse gas can emit to space without being re-adsorbed, i.e. it sets the level below which emission is blocked.  The rate of emission from the level at which the greenhouse gas IR emissions can reach space thus rises with concentration.  Since the temperature decreases with altitude, the higher the effective level, the slower the emission, the more the valve closes.

OK, make a copy of this and take it to your festive dinner.  Haul it out when Uncle Ralph starts.

Dear Judge Alsup: The Quantum Interlude

In Part I, the Spectroscopic Basis, Eli looked at measurements of the O2, N2 and CO2 spectra and found that the CO2 is absorption is many times stronger than the O2, and N2 absorption even taking into acount the much higher density of the diatomics .  Strong enough that one can neglect the absorption of the other two molecules as a practical matter, however let the Bunny not stop there but go on to the quantum basis of all this trying not to get either too mathematical or too esoteric (esoteric comes in Part III:  Putting the Pressure On where the surprises are).  Eli will attempt to be correct, but not perfect and certainly not complete, that is a two semester course.

Starting back with neolithic quantum physics, let us now look at the emission spectrum of a blackbody.  We can treat the surface of the Earth as one in the IR with unit emissivity (OK ice is a bit different but it is a lot colder so it emits a lot less) and look at the spectrum.we would expect at 290 K

where your gracious host has marked where our three players, O2, N2 and CO2 would absorb and what the black body emission would be at 290K.  The observant among Eli's readers have noticed that there is simply no IR, or darn near none of it out where N2 and the CO2 asymmetric stretch absorbs.

If you want to know what the bending and symmetric stretching vibrations are, make sure your significant other or keeper is not around.  Place your fists on either side of your head and move them up and down or forward and back.  Your head is the model of the C atom and the fists are oxygen.  That is the bending vibration.  There are two such, forward and back and up and down.  They have the same frequency and Eli calls them degenerate.  If somebunny catches you doing this, you may be so called also.  For the asymmetric stretch move one of your fists toward your head and the other away while bending the noggin toward the fist that is trying to hit it.  Then reverse.  Folks doing this too enthusiastically can knock themselves out.

Rabett Run now needs to crawl a bit further down the physics tree to Electricity and Magnetism.  Light (Eli will use the word light to describe IR, which strictly speaking annoys the fussbudgets who reserve light for visible light, but what the heck), is electromagnetic radiation, from the gamma ray to the radio waves and beyond in both directions.

Molecules are composed of atoms, which are composed of positively charged nuclei and negatively charged electrons.  The charges have electric fields, which interact with each other and the electromagnetic field.  The forces created by the interaction can move the charges relative to each other and in space.

We can describe the field created by the electrons and nuclei one by one or we can describe the potential energy in the field at a point  a large distance r from the molecule as a power series in (1/r)n.  If r is large, the importance of each term decreases with n. It is pretty well hopeless to describe the field created by the charges one by one especially if they are moving, and the power series converges quickly.  That means that each term is a lot bigger than the next so in practice we only need to keep the first non zero term, maybe the second.  This power series is called a multipole expansion.

You can look up the details of the multipole expansion, but it is just a bunch of geometry where each charge qi is some distance ri from a point in space P which is quite far away.  For convenience in what follows we can let the origin of the coordinate system be at the center of charge of the molecule.

The first term in the multipole expansion is proportional to the sum over all the charges divided by (r).  Since molecules are neutral the sum of charges is zero and the first term is zero for a molecule.

The second term, for which the potential would vary as 1/r2 is called the electric dipole and is equal to Σ qi di where Σ is the sum over all the charges and di  is a vector pointing towards charge i.  Rather than bothering about the math, let's look at some examples CO2 and H2O.

In the case of CO2 the molecule is cylindrically symmetric. The distance rc for the carbon nucleus is zero and the contribution to the dipole moment will be zero.  Each of the oxygen nuclei has the same charge, but the distance from the carbon nucleus is +d for one and -d for the other so their contributions to the net electric dipole cancel.

For the electrons, the image is an electron anomaly distribution, with the blue areas being electron rich and the red electron poor, but the point is that the distribution is also cylindrically symmetric and for every point that contributes positively to to the electric dipole moment there is one that contributes negatively.  They cancel, and the net electric dipole moment of ground state CO2 is zero. 
The same is true for O2 and N2

The case for H2O is different.  The shape of the molecule is bent, there is a region of high electron density on the side of the molecule facing away from the hydrogen atoms and the electron density on the side of the hydrogen atoms facing away from the oxygen atom is electron poor.  H2O will have a permanent dipole moment. The blue arrow points towards the region of higher negative charge 

When a molecule with a permanent dipole moment rotates (there are three axes that water vapor can rotate about) the dipole moment moves and that movement interacts with light because light is an electro-magnetic field that is influenced by moving dipoles and/or can influence them.  By this mechanism rotating water vapor molecules can either gain (absorption) or lose (emission) light (IR or better put Far IR) between 0 and 800 cm-1 accompanied by a change in rotational state.  Molecules with zero dipole moment can spin merrily on their way but they do not interact with light in this way.  We can see these rotational transition in the  spectrum of water vapor between 0 and 800 cm-1

The semi-log plot comes from another handy dandy web app Spectral Plot.  The rotational lines (the bunch on the left) overlap the CO2 bending vibration as can be seen in the high resolution FIRST balloon specta taken at about 60 km looking down.

The bunch of water vapor lines at 1700 cm-1 are the result of the bending vibrational transition.  Looking at the electron density map of HOH, it is clear that changing the molecule bends the H-O-H angle will change, vibrating about the equilibrium ground state position as shown in this gif from Marc Henry.

If we averaged the dipole moment over one, or many cycles of the vibration it would not change, but it obviously does change during the cycle and this change can both generate an electromagnetic field and absorb energy from one. It is the CHANGE in the dipole moment during a transition that couples the molecule to light.  

The instantaneous change in the dipole moment is called the transition dipole moment.  It is the non-zero transition dipole moment that makes the bend  (Source at UVA)


 and asymmetric stretch of CO2 IR active,

while the symmetric stretch is not.  A little thought will show that when homonuclear diatomic molecules such as N2 and O2 begin to vibrate there is no change in the dipole moment and therefore they cannot absorb or emit IR accompanied by a change in vibrational state.

A really good analogy to this is a dipole antenna such as the ones used for receiving FM radio.

So how do N2 and O2 interact with light?  Well, the next element in the multipole expansion beyond the electric dipole moment is the quadrupole moment.  Eli will not bother you with how to calculate it. It turns out that, both N2 and O2 have ferocious quadrupole transition moments, essentially because they are so cylindrically symmetric and the same is true of the symmetric stretch of CO2, but even with a strong quadrupole transition moment the fact that the interaction of a quadrupole with light is proportional to 1/r3 rather than 1/r2 makes their absorption much weaker. There is also an antenna analogy.  The Adcock antenna, used for direction finding, is a quadrupole array.

The TL:DR version of this is that it is the interaction of the electromagnetic field of light with the charge distribution of molecules that gives rise to absorption and emission of IR radiation. Although not dealt with here, quantum mechanics tells us about what changes in rotational and vibrational levels are allowed if the electromagnetic interaction is non-zero.  If the electric dipole is nonzero, vibrational transitions with unit change in quantum number are strongly favored, the same is true for rotational transitions.  Overtones with changes of two or more quanta are very weak.

So stay tuned for the exciting finale.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Dear Judge Alsup: The Spectroscopic basis

In a suit brought by cities in California against Exxon, Judge Alsup has asked of the parties a set of questions which some parties on the INTERNET are busy crowd sourcing the answers to.  Now Eli has never been one to avoid a pile on, so the Bunny thought he might essay an answer to two of the questions
2.  What is the molecular difference by which CO2 absorbs infrared radiation but oxygen and nitrogen do not? 
3.  What is the mechanism by which infrared radiation trapped by CO2 in the atmosphere is turned into heat and finds its way back to sea level?
Let Rabett Run start with question 2. Many of the answers start and end with what was learned in Modern Physics or Physical Chemistry.  Real Climate has settled on
Greenhouse gases are those that are able to absorb and emit radiation in the infrared, but this is highly dependent on the gases molecular structure. Diatomic molecules (like N2 or O2) have stretching modes (with the distance between the two molecules expanding and contracting), but these require a lot of energy (so they absorb only at higher energies. Vibrational modes in molecules with three or more atoms (H2O, CO2, O3, N2O, CH4, CFCs, HFCs…) include bending motions that are easier to excite and so will absorb and emit lower energy photons which coincide with the infrared radiation that the Earth emits. Thus it is these molecules that intercept the radiation that the Earth emits, delaying its escape to space.
This is approximately true, but not quite the whole story and much can be learned by going a bit deeper.  It is not that N2 or O2 cannot absorb or emit IR, but their absorption and emission is many orders of magnitude weaker than H2O, CO2 and other greenhouse gases found in the atmosphere.   How many orders of magnitude?  Well about ten.

A good place to start is the HITRAN data base maintained by the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.  HITRAN stands for High Resolution Transmission.  The database, just like the JANAF tables, is a fruit of the cold war started when the US Air Force was interested in learning more about the propagation of light in the atmosphere for such things as aiming missiles and such.  It is essentially a list of lines in the transmission spectra of various molecules under different conditions of  temperature, and pressure.  Using the database one can generate spectra of self-same molecules which are eerily accurate.  GATS among others provides a front end to calculate spectra using HITRAN, so let us start to explore.

The first question is does N2 or O2 absorb IR light. We know the vibrational frequency of these molecules, so we can look at what the database tells us how much light nitrogen would absorb in the atmosphere at a pressure of 1 mbar (1000th of atmospheric pressure. Be patient the reason for this choice will become clear in a few minutes), a temperature of 296 K and a path length of 1000 km.  Yes Eli knows that such a gas cell is not currently available, but with HITRAN we can accurately model this.

The alternating intensities of the lines are due to the symmetry of the nitrogen molecule but that is another story with which we need not concern ourselves at this time.  We can do the same for O2 

Turns out that the triplets seen in this spectrum are the source of the signal that the Microwave Sounding Units that measure tropospheric temperatures monitor.

But now we can do the same for CO2

The difference in path length for absorbing about the same amount of light by CO2 is 0.1 cm, or, if you wish 10-6 km.  So the difference in the absorption would be a factor of 10-9.  

But you say, the mixing ratio of CO2 in the atmosphere is 410 parts per million or 0.00041, and the concentration of N2 is 0.70 thus the number  of N2 molecules per CO2 molecule is just 1.75 x 104 while the N2 absorption is 10-9th of the COabsorption.  Put that together and the amount of IR absorbed by N2 is roughly 0.00002 of that absorbed by CO2.

Ms. Rabett is calling, so let Eli provide a bit of a teaser for Part II.  Here is the absorption of 400 ppm CO2 at atmospheric pressure across a 3 m cell.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Breakthrough Institute and The Politics of Limits

The Interchange is an interesting renewable energy/renewables business podcast by GreenTech Media, and the most controversial podcast I've heard so far is an interview with Breakthrough Institute's Alex Trembath.

Some thoughts:

  • Alex says they've consciously decided to be less critical of mainstream environmental groups, less obnoxious and rock-throwing, and good for them for this change. There are some times when obnoxious rock-throwing is appropriate - that wasn't the case regarding past BI behavior, so it's good that they've changed it and are willing to say they've decided to change it.

  • Alex rightly says the environmental movement prior to 2004 (when the Breakthrough guys started doing their thing) had a much stronger emphasis on limits to growth then it does today, but is wrong to say there was something wrong about that. I'm sure plenty of people back then realized solar and wind costs were dropping dramatically, but I don't know if anyone would've said you can count on renewable energy being cheaper than fossil fuels, even without subsidies or accounting for externalities. That meant some type of limit was a necessary argument back then for energy issues (and remains a component of many other environmental issues).

  • He goes on to argue that limits to growth and saying no in general is a bad political tactic. I'm open to that argument but I'm not sure what BI is doing with it or backing it up with solid research (might be a little unfair to demand that of a podcast).

  • Alex says BI started off with a focus on renewables and EVs. That's sure not how I remember it, which was nuclear power all the time. He says they're now into nuclear as well. Yep.

  • He claims power systems get unstable with renewables are 50% of the total. I thought we were over that, and the discussion really is 80% versus 100%.

  • Alex makes an unnecessary dig at energy efficiency, with the Jevons Paradox etc.  That's a miss - I think the political economy vastly underestimates the unsexy value of efficiency, the complete opposite of what he was saying.

All in all, too much techno-optimism, but it could be worse, and BI seems to be moving in a better direction. It's less clear to me whether they have the chops to make any real contribution, though.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Sleazy Actor Slush Fund (Cohen's the sleazy actor, not the porn star)

Late to the party but that's not new. The issue is Trump's attorney Michael Cohen claiming he paid porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 out of his own pocket without being reimbursed by the Trump Organization or the Trump campaign. Kevin Drum says:

OK, here’s my guess: Cohen paid Stormy; Kushner paid Cohen; Ivanka paid Kushner; Don Jr. paid Ivanka; and Don Jr.’s end-of-year bonus from The Trump Organization was $130,000 higher than last year thanks to his outstanding performance. You don’t believe me? Fine. Come up with a better theory.
Kevin's theory is closer to reality than he thinks, because I think I may have seen this game before in California politics. The game is played by sleazy political consultants who want to keep up the win ratios for a client for purposes of getting future business, but can't bill the client for the sleazy thing they'd like to do. So they use money they earned previously, that was previously placed in an entirely separate slush fund, to do whatever's needed. Long after that matter is concluded and the campaign is over, they go back and refill the slush fund with their own personal profits.

In reality the client is being billed, ultimately - the sleazy actor is very expensive because he wins a lot, so he can afford to replenish the revolving slush fund from profits as a kind of cost of doing business that doesn't quite show up on the accounting books.

I'm not guaranteeing this is right. Maybe it's something else in Cohen's case, as people point out he doesn't rule out being paid directly by Trump. This technique seems like an obvious possibility though and one I've guessed at previously.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Matching Methane Combustion to Carbon Capture

An idle thought that probably has occurred to a lot of people.  There is a lot of talk about clean coal with carbon (dioxide) capture. There is a lot of discussion about a hydrogen economy driven by catalytic electrolysis of water.

2H2(g)+ O2(g)--> 2H2O(g)    ΔH = 2(-241) kJ/mol = -482 kJ/mol

Eli's idle mind thought about comparing this to natural gas combustion

CH4(g) + 2O2(g) --> 2H2O(g)  + CO2(g)   ΔH = -801 kJ/mol 

Now methane, or natural gas, whether it is in the gas form or liquefied is easier to handle than hydrogen, if for no other reason that it can be liquefied. What interested Eli in this simple calculation is that methane and hydrogen have the same number of hydrogen atoms.  Eli knows that this is a very Rabett way of thinking, but if you twist your mind that way it means that there are 319 kJ/mol available for carbon capture.  True you might have to invest some of that to sweep out the water vapor, but even there there are possibilities for recapturing the heat generated in the condensation step

 2H2O(g)  --> 2H2O(l)    ΔH = 2(-44) kJ/mol = -88 kJ/mol

The interesting chemical question is can a bunny find a carbon dioxide capture system which can simultaneously capture CO2 and absorb the water vapor into solution as a liquid.  Eli is a clever bunny, it's easy to be clever and find the answer when you figure out what the question is.  Amines are obviously not going to do the job, ionic fluids might and there are some systems already known which may point the way

Setting this up as a process means that natural gas can be combined with carbon capture to yield an emission free system that can easily be combined with wind, solar, hydro and yep, nuclear to provide inexpensive (a friend taught Eli never to use the word cheap) and reliable electrical energy.  There is lots of energy to be used for the carbon capture process.  Given the right chemical system, it might even work for trucks and buses.  Autos, well leave them to Toyota, Tesla and GM.

The future will be clean natural gas and renewables.

Monday, February 19, 2018


The latest massacre of innocents has stirred up a hitherto unseen anger. Thoughts and prayers were never enough, but Emma Gonzales put it in words

  • Nothing could have ever been done to prevent this                                     We call BS
  • Tougher gun laws do not decrease gun violence                                          We call BS
  • They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun                        We call BS
  • They say guns are just tools like knives that are as dangerous as cars,         We call BS
  • They say that no laws could have prevented the 100s of
    senseless tragedies that have occurred                                                            We call BS
  • That us kids don't know what we are talking about that we are too
    young to understand how the government works.                                            We call BS
Eli went to school in the 1950s when every month you practiced ducking and covering under your desk in case an atomic bomb dropped, where just about every building had an air raid shelter  sign pointing to the basement.  Everybody knew this was useless.  We had all seen pictures of Hiroshima after the bomb dropped.  It was BS but the fantasy of survivability supported a complex of  illusionists like Herman Kahn and the Rand Corporation who made their living. A generation of kids was scared of every day.

Today we have a generation of kids who have grown up practicing active shooter training.  They go to school every day wondering if it will be their last.  The students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have endured this all their days

Let Eli close with a story from Twitter, of a parent's discovery.  There should not be a parent in American who is not having such moments.
My 5th grader and I were conversing on the way to work/school this morning. As an educator, I wanted to be sure he and his classmates were taking the school safety drills seriously and not using it as a time to socialize and goof off.

Me: Have you guys practiced a lockdown drill in class yet?

Dez: Are you talking about an active shooter drill?

Me: Yes

Dez: Yes, we practiced it

Me: So tell me what you are suppose to do.

Dez: The teacher is suppose to shut and lock the door, put the black paper over the window on the door. Then myself and three other boys are suppose to push the table against the door.

After that all the class is going to stand behind us on the back wall.

Me: The class is suppose to stand behind who?

Dez: Me and the other 3 boys. We stand at the front and they get behind us.

*I internally went from 0 to 100 real quick. My child is one of only 2 black children in a class of 23. Being transparent, I immediately went to the "why is my black son being put on the front line?" (Just being real) So I asked before I verbally stated my thoughts*

Me: Why did you get picked to stand in front of everyone else if a shooter came in your school?

Dez: I didn't get picked. I volunteered to push the table and protect my friends

Me: 😯*immediate nausea * Dez why would you volunteer to do that?

Dez: If it came down to it I would rather be the one that died protecting my friends then have an entire class die and I be the only one that lived

Father God, it took everything out of me not to breakdown. I still have a lump in my throat. Ten damn years old and this has to be our babies thought process in America.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Nothing New in the Pielkesphere

Well Gavin, Climate of, has had it with a certain political scientist, 

and And is naval gazing about how scientists should communicate, so memories stirred in Eli's Email list about science communication and Ethon's friend, so with the majic of search Eli found this letter which discussed how the National Assessments of Climate Change impacts came into being and the role of scientists as communicators.  
But Roger didn't like that either. It became evident that Roger's modus operandi, like his father's, is along the lines of "everyone but me is full of shit so stop thinking about what you think is significant and do my agenda instead."  
Bush-Cheney suppressed the National Assessment for the denial machine, because they could see the implications of allowing that discourse to flourish. But Roger has nothing to contribute on any such matters. He has failed so badly, and even harmfully, to see that the science community is not the problem on climate change (not to say that scientists couldn't benefit from knowing how to communicate better), it's much more importantly what happens on the receiving end of politics, media, and the public -- and how that connection has been mediated and manipulated by various interests.  
If it could be fixed by heroic efforts of scientists to communicate with civilians on climate change, it would be fixed already. I believe that a serious discussion of climate change as a policy problem calls for a progressive critical analysis of the political situation, not just beating up on the science community. For someone whose degree is in political science (my field of graduate study as well), Roger is just friggin clueless (to put it as kindly as I can) about how to think about and discuss the political aspect of things. That contributes to his remarkable, never-ending ability to miss the key point of whatever matter he is discussing and say something wrong-headed. If he gets into new subject matter the same problem will occur.  
 That only scratches the surface of the problem, I realize.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Another Sadly-Unpaid Endorsement: The Beyond Burger


(Someday maybe I can sell out for money, but right now I'm forced to endorse products based on quality alone....)

I have both (slightly unusual) ethical and (the usual) environmental reasons for thinking I should avoid meat, especially red meat. But I really like it. And I'm back on a low-carb diet which also narrows options.

I haven't yet tried the Impossible Burger that all the hip people are talking about. I have tried The Beyond Burger though (it's in our local Safeway) and it's darn good. It's not identical to burgers in taste and feel, but very close, and when grilled it gives you a very similar experience. I've never been satisfied with the various veggie burger alternatives, so if you're in the same camp, check it out. I don't think I'll every buy regular burger meat again for myself when I have this alternative.

Consumer Reports has a writeup here. Definitely a healthier alternative, except for the high sodium (a problem I see in a number of veggie alternative foods). Too bad they don't have a greenhouse gas emission comparison, but it's virtually certain that pea protein has far lower emissions than beef.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Reducing Textbook Expense (Rant II)

In Rant I.2018 Eli explained that the root cause of unaffordable textbooks is that they are ordered by faculty and paid for by students.  Teh textbook publishers know this and focus their attention on providing services for faculty not serving students needs.

Faculty have created a wide range of educational materials. Individuals, educational institutions, foundations and funding agencies have invested considerable time and resources to these projects. The INTERNET provides a global low cost distribution channel for educational materials but broad adoption of open on-line educational materials and software lags. While many STEM faculty can and have created educational materials, marketing of the materials to others for the most part requires a skill set and resources that they do not have, nor for open Online Educational Resources (OER) is it clear what the rewards are. There has been a strong effort to create educational materials, but there has been no systematic effort to disseminate them.

While science is a gift culture where those who contribute the most are the most highly valued, this is not true for those who create open educational materials, especially at research universities. A key to establishing high quality OERs will be extending this ethic to educational resources so the effort of all who participate is rewarded. Such sponsorship will be important not only at teaching oriented institutions but also in traditional research centered departments to create and maintain a broad range of OERs,

The study of science education needs to be discipline based and it needs to be housed in university science departments.  Research centered departments resist hiring tenure track faculty in discipline based educational research (DBER) but such faculty are increasing, if not at all the best places, at least at some places and some fields, with major conferences bringing practitioners together.  There are well established DBER journals in the geosciences, chemistry, physics, engineering and more.  Research on science education needs to be recognized as a major focus.

Faculty creating educational materials need support and rewards. Administrators should provide rewards for faculty, with increasing rewards as the OERs they create, and market are adopted nationally and globally. This will require measurable outcomes but can be as simple as crediting creation and marketing of first rate materials in annual evaluations and consideration for raises. For promising OERs, universities should consider hiring outside consultants and advertising experts. The contribution of a successful OOER to institutional reputation and recruiting can be significant.

Faculty seeking to disseminate materials needed to learn marketing skills that will influence adoption.  They need to bring in marketing and advertising folk from the business school to help with this and to learn from them.  This issue is obviously connected with the issue of climate or science communication in general.  Getting the public to pay attention to scientific results without involving marketing and advertising expertise is a category error.  Transforming scientists or content creators into communications experts to disseminate their ideas and materials is neither efficient nor likely successful.  Working with people whose skill IS marketing is much more likely to succeed.

 Moreover it is important for creators to work with the DBER folk to continually evaluate their materials and modify them to best meet student needs and business school colleague to identify and serve the market .

Finally, to compete with commercial publishers for the attention of faculty, an ecology of OERs is needed: texts, workbooks, videos, test banks, on line homework systems and more.  OER can be integrated both within a field, and linking together related fields.

Nye was right

To attend the State of the Union speech as a guest of the climate-denying Trump nominee to lead NASA, Jim Bridenstine. Obviously, it's controversial:

A science guy is heading to Capitol Hill to watch an anti-science president address the nation on Tuesday.

Bill Nye the "Science Guy" is going to watch President Donald Trump's State of the Union address in person, and of course, not everyone is happy about it.

More than 28,000 signatures have been added to a petition asking that Nye refuse to attend the State of the Union.

I'm sympathetic to the Climate Hawks campaign against attending, but I have to disagree. I don't see it as fundamentally different from Al Gore's sit-down with Trump - you should take an opportunity to make your case, even if the odds of success are low. It's also worth noting that Bridenstine is a young guy and likely to be around in politics for a while. Getting an idea into his consciousness now could pay a dividend sometime in the future.

And yes, Bridenstine is using Nye as a prop, but I don't think that's going to swing a single confirmation vote in the Senate. Beyond that, Nye has responsibilities as head of the Planetary Society:

But here's the thing about Bill Nye: While he's an outspoken advocate on issues like climate change and a harsh critic of Trump in that respect, he also needs get along with the White House. Nye is the CEO of the Planetary Society, an organization that advocates for space exploration.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that he needs to make nice with the administration that will effectively set space exploration policies for at least the next three years. If nothing else, getting a little face time with the administration could benefit the Planetary Society in the future. 

So yeah, purity takes a hit, but Nye has additional responsibilities beyond communicating about climate change. There are occasions when you have to draw the line - if Bridenstine were an overt Trump-level racist, say, - but I wouldn't do it in this case.

Beyond this, there's the interesting fact that the Republican War on Science has a truce, mostly, when it comes to planetary and space science. I haven't seen much discussion about this. With the inconclusive issue of attacking NASA earth science studies because Republicans can't handle the truth about climate change, the Republican Party has been comparable to and occasionally better than the Democrats on funding space science. Worth thinking more about whether this means anything.

Anyway, I expect I'm in the minority on agreeing with Nye's decision. (Personal bias note: I'm a space nut and member of the Planetary Society.)

Monday, January 29, 2018

Eli Once More Rants About the Cost of Textbooks (Part I)

At the beginning of time or this blog whichever came first, of which there is some discussion, Eli would, on occasion point to the textbook market as an example of what was killing students, faculty and education in the US.  These were very well written rants and deserve another reading.  Back then it was possible to obtain less expensive paperback copies outside of the US, however a US Supreme Court Decision holding that textbooks could be imported and resold has put the sword to that as the publishers simply disappeared the cheaper editions.

Discussion about textbook price is anchored to cost which has grown faster than that of drugs, to the point that it matches or exceeds pro rated tuition at community colleges or comprehensive public institutions. But, cost is a relatively minor issue in the choice of books by instructors. Textbooks are marketed and selected based on the services offered to faculty including desk copies, solution manuals, test banks, PowerPoints and more modern apps including online homework systems. This is vital for faculty at teaching institutions who teach three or more courses per semester and greatly appreciated even at the R1s.

Increasing the adoption of OOER requires understanding how textbooks have been marketed by commercial publishers in the past and how commercial textbook marketing is changing to meet online challenges. Textbook marketing can be described as an odd version of “business to business” (B2B) marketing most closely resembling how pharmaceuticals are marketed to physicians who then prescribe them for their patients. In normal B2B transactions the buyer resells what they have bought to their customers. In the traditional textbook market faculty select textbooks for their course but do not buy them and they do not sell them to their students (of course the elderly were victims of faculty selling their mimeographed "textbooks" although the INTERNET has pretty much killed that off). The college bookstore functions as a more traditional B2B marketer, passing the cost of the textbooks onto the students, but does not specify what should be ordered. The separation between marketing, ordering and selling leads to the current economic dysfunction in the textbook market.

A modern textbook costs of the order of $250 or even more in advanced courses. This is about tuition for a three credit course at a community college. Students resist registering for courses with expensive textbooks and when they do, often do not purchase the text which degrades their performance. In order to escape this trap students have in the past purchased used books. Today they pass along bootleg versions on the INTERNET. Most concerning, they often try to work without a textbook.

Traditionally publishers resisted by introducing new editions every few years.  At this point as one publisher told Eli, they only make money in the first year and profit is vanishing. Increasingly, publishers include software access to the text and online homework systems in the packages sold to students while charging significantly more for the online homework system if the book is not purchased new. Publishers have begun to rent online editions of the text to students, but this means that the students will not have access to the information in the text that they may in follow on courses. Finally, just as the pharmaceutical manufacturers, commercial publishers have started to market directly to students and their parents.

What needs to be done, well stay tuned.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Climate betting update: dog bites man, and I'm still winning. And isn't James Annan $10k richer?

The 2017 GISS data for global temps came in at .90 above baseline, second highest ever and only beat by 2016. As I've occasionally mentioned, David Evans and I bet each other back in 2007 over warming, and we're inching closer to deciding two of the six bets we made.

Complicated bet details here, but summary is we're comparing 5 year averages in the future to the 2005-2009 average. We're comparing 2015-2019 averages, 2020-2024 averages, and 2025-2029 averages. For each time period we had one bet set around half the warming rate that IPCC anticipated for the next few decades, and a second bet set around the low ends of what the IPCC anticipated would happen. David wins both bets if temps go up no more than .08C/decade; I win both if temps go up more than .17C. Things get complicated at temps in between those ranges. David's page on the bet is here.

The 2005-2009 average anomaly is .616C over baseline. The 2015-2017 three-year average is .916. I need the 2015-2019 to be .80C to win both bets, and .71C to avoid losing both bets.

So my lawyer math tells me that temps can drop a lot from the last three years, and I'll still win. Temps in 2018 and 2019 could average .63C, barely warmer than 10 years ago, and I'll still win. For David to win both bets, 2018-2019 would have to average about .48C or lower, much lower than when we made the bet.

So barring something really weird, I'm just coasting to a win from here. Too bad that's the case.

Speaking of coasting to a win, there's James Annan's bet for $10k that should've been resolved by now - he found some Russian cosmologist willing to bet temps would actually decline. The real question is whether James will get paid. No news that I saw on James' blog linked at the blogroll.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Having a draft blog post self-destruct is a First World Problem

Still, this is me:

At least I had some fun searching images of angry crying babies to see which one best represents me. There were a few other good candidates.