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.

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

Administrivia

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.

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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.

References

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