Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Wither Twitter?

After distributed computing efforts such as SETI at home, and Climate Project came GLOBE, a world wide effort to involve students in gathering ground truth for environmental and climate studies and Weather Bug, a distributed set of weather stations available to classes, media, and on your Blackberry. Motivated by early efforts to gather climate and weather data over new media Eli asks, wither Twitter and is not very optimistic. From the Urban Dictionary

freep: To slew or cheat an online poll by repeatedly voting (clearing cookies, using proxies) or to make a blog appear to be commented by numerous posters by the same means. (From the practices of the Free Republic or "freepers")
The results of the CNN question of the day were running 70:30 in favor until an hour ago when it got freeped.
Alas, without enforced automatic quality control or restricting the contributors to trusted sources, something like this is doomed which is too bad, because involving the public in climate and weather sciences would be a valuable thing. Not only would coverage increase, but feedback could be used to provide a valuable introduction to science, mathematical and statistical concepts and ways of posing questions and answering them.

Comments and suggestions?

Kiss Hubble Goodbye

Into Eli's mailbox floated this

NASA is placing RFI NNH09ZDA010L ("Feasibility of using Constellation Architecture for Servicing Existing and Future Observatory-Class Scientific Spacecraft") on hold. The August 10 due date for information in the form of a white paper is cancelled; no new due date is announced at this time. The "Workshop I" described in NNH09ZDA010L will not occur in June; a new date has not been established at this time. Updates will be made available at http://ServicingStudy.gsfc.nasa.gov/ regarding revised study plans and opportunities for community involvement. Any new workshop or white paper opportunities will be announced through a new RFI.
The bunnies will gather at 17:00 in the usual place for the wake. Comments?

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Catastrophist

Elizabeth Kolbert has an article about the cap and trade legislation and Jim Hansen. It's behind a paywall, but the New Yorker is one of those things you should subscribe to ($50/yr) so don't expect sympathy. Particularly interesting is Kolbert's description of how Hansen moved from space science (modeling Venus) to Earth science. After the discovery that CFC were killing off the ozone layer Hansen

"realized that we had a planet that was changing before our eyes, and that's more interesting," Hansen told me. The topic attracted him for much the same reason that Venus's coulds had: there were new research questions to be answered. He decided to try to adapt a computer program that had been designed to forecast the weather to see if it could be used to look further into the future. What would happen to the earth if, for example, greenhouse gas levels were to double.

"He never worked on any topic thinking it might be any use for the world," Anniek told me. "He just wanted to figure out the scientific meaning of it."

When Hansen began his modeling work, there were good theoretical reasons for blieving that increasing CO2 levels would cause the world to warm, but little empirical evidence. Average global temperatures had risen in the nineteen thirties and forties; then they had declined in some regions, in the nineteen fifties and sixties. A few years into his project, Hansen concluded that a new pattern was about to emerge. In 1981, he became the director of GISS. In a paper published that year in Science, he forecast that the following decade would be unusually warm. (That turned out to be the case). In the same paper, he predicted that the nineteen nineties would be warmer still. (That also turned out to be true.) Finally he forecast that by the end of the twentieth century a global warming signal would emerge from the "noise" of natural climate variability. (This too proved to be correct.)

Later, Hansen became even more specific. In 1990, he bet a roomful of scientists that that year, or one of the following two, would be the warmest on record. (Within nine months, he had won the bet. ) In 1991, he predicted that, owing to the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, in the Philippines, average global temperatures would drop, and then, a few years later, recommence their upward climb, which was precisely what happened.

From early on, the significance of Hansen's insights was recognized by the scientific community. "The work that he did in the seventies, eighties and nineties was absolutely groundbreaking," Spencer Weart, a physicist turned historian who has studies the efforts to understand climate change told me. He added, "It does help to be right."

"I have a whole folder in my drawer labelled 'Canonical Papers,' Michael Oppenheimer, a climate scientist at Princeton, said. "About half of them are Jim's"

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Ms Rabett on GM

Eli was wondering why GM (and Chrysler) killed off particular dealerships. Ms. Rabett pointed out that for the last fifty years, the US automakers have been concentrating on the high end of the market, esp. large cars with fins and machine gun mounts. They allowed, or at least turned a blind eye when their dealers opened up foreign car dealerships because they saw that as the entry level for customers who would later move up to the domestic brands. Of course , Toyota, BMW et al., had other ideas, filling out their own lines. Today, the US manufacturers are going to have to downsize their offerings. She speculates (and Eli is damned if he is going to check this out) that at least in part, they divested dealerships which also sold imports which would be in competition with the US brands. You go argue with her.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ethon RTFR ( a bit edited:)

Ethon flew in the window with a great flap of concern. Big Bird was distraught, someone had moved his liver and it looked like Prometheus was no more. Don't worry Ethon, Eli said, they moved the liver, but you can still have some. The Rabett will bet you that one of the bunnies right now is out there scouting for you and we can have more fun playing follow the dead links on Uncle Stoats blogroll.

Sure enough, the new rock was quickly located tho whether it will be as comfortable as the last is not clear, it is close in Bloggerland, with a fine exposure to the elements, a nearby pool, and Eli still can't go there. (That means you too Dano). The Eagle Scout bunny who reported back, asks Eli to speculate about the need for a move, did Roger's balloon mortgage go south, has Al Gore bought them out, did the new head of the Center say no more or did they have to cut the technical support? The possibilities for speculation are endless, but in that, as much else we will lean back and listen

With the move of his food source to a more exposed position, Ethon put on his GPS and wandered out for a little liver snack. The young fellow lay out in a delightful repast. He started with a tasty snippet and Ethon was delighted as well as hungry,

Silvio Schmidt and colleagues have a new paper in press that replicates our hurricane loss normalization work in Pielke et al. 2008 (PDF).
After a detailed look at the data they conclude quite properly:
There is no evidence yet of any trend in tropical cyclone losses that can be attributed directly to anthropogenic climate change.
They do speculate about a link based on the conclusion of IPCC 2007:
Ethon, being used to this sort of thing, clicked through to the paper, and what did he see. Well first there were three authors, Silvio Schmidt, Claudia Kemfort and Peter Hoeppe. Hoeppe, you may recall is at Munich Re and is the fellow who came up with the idea of comparing earthquake losses with losses due to weather over the long run to try and tease out climate effects. Someone that Roger would like to send down the memory hole. The birdie saw an abstract which is quite different from what was promised.
No trend is found for the period 1950–2005 as a whole. In the period 1971–2005, since the beginning of a trend towards increased intense cyclone activity, losses excluding socio-economic effects show an annual increase of 4% per annum. This increase must therefore be at least due to the impact of natural climate variability but, more likely than not, also due to anthropogenic forcings.
This is interesting, because as everybunny knows, warming really took off in the 70s. The climate record shows that the warming trend flattened out between 1940 and 1970.

But wait, there is more. This one comes from the demolition job our boy tries on Evan Mills
One answer might lie in the fact that Evan Mills was a co-author of the report (p. 159). Do you think that had anything to do with it? His list of consulting clients is positively Phil Cooney-esque. Here are a few businesses and organizations that he lists under Consulting & Advising in his resume:
* Armstrong/Energyn (US)
* Barakat, Howard & Chamberlin, Inc. (US)
* Better Energy Systems (UK)
* Ceres (US)
* CMC Energy Services (US)
* Integrated Process Technologies (US)
* Investment Research, Inc. (US)
* Teton Energy Partners (US)
The amusing thing is that we get a link to Mills' cv, from which Eli will quote somewhat more completely then that carefully selected list. The joy of Roger Jr. is the contempt he holds his readers in, leaving the link knowing that the clientele won't follow.

Major Clients

  • California Air Resources Board (CARB)
  • California Energy Commission (CEC)
  • California Institute for Energy & Environment (CIEE)
  • National Science Foundation (NSF)
  • U.S. Agency for International Development (AID)
  • U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)
  • U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
  • U.S. Global Climate Change Research Program (GCRP)
Consulting & Advising
  • Armstrong/Energyn (US)
  • Barakat, Howard & Chamberlin, Inc. (US)
  • Better Energy Systems (UK)
  • CalPERS - California Public Employees' Retirement System
  • Capital-E (US)
  • Ceres (US)
  • Connecticut Interlocal Risk Management Agency (US)
  • CMC Energy Services (US)
  • Disney Imagineering (US)
  • Electricity Corporation of New Zealand (New Zealand)
  • Energy Auditor and Retrofitter Magazine (now Home Energy) (US)
  • German Marshall Fund (US)
  • Harvard Medical School - Center for Health and the Global Environment (US)
  • Hewlett-Packard (US)
  • Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts (US)
  • Institute for Environmental Technologies (Netherlands)
  • Integrated Process Technologies (US)
  • International Association for Energy-Efficient Lighting (Sweden)
  • International Project for Sustainable Energy Paths (US)
  • Investment Research, Inc. (US)
  • Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development--Environment Directorate (Group on Urban Affairs) (France)
  • Peralta Community College District (US)
  • Regents of the Central European University (Hungary)
  • Rockefeller Familly Fund (US)
  • Swedish Parliament Working Group on Energy Efficiency and Renewable Sources (Sweden)
  • Teton Energy Partners (US)
  • United States Trade and Development Agency (US)
  • United Nations
  • World Bank / International Finance Corporation (US)
It's gonna be a fun summer. But remember always RTFR.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Grants 101 (aka shaking the cup for science)

Eli's life, such as it is, if you could call it one, has been dominated over the past month and a bit with grants, reviewing, writing, submitting. While not in the class of the most successful, over the years the bunny has kept Ms. Rabett from complaining much about his lying about doing nothing* and he is foolish enough to think that he has some useful advice. The targets for this series are both those starting out to shake their cups for science and the general public, who might benefit from understanding. Besides which, as has been written elsewhere, pretty much everything has been said in the climate blogging game and it is more fun agitating the denialists on their own sites. This is going to be US centric and Rabett Run welcomes input from the rest of the globe, but that's the part Eli knows best.

Let us start at the beginning by describing the players. People who write grants can be divided into faculty, research faculty, folk at independent research institutions (SRI International, Desert Research Institution), folk at for profits and contractors and civil servants at government laboratories. You at the back, did I leave you out?

Faculty come in a few varieties, including the obvious ones, full, assoc. and asst., research oriented schools, and non-research oriented, bio-medical and others. Except for deans and chairs, they have 9 month appointments, which means that the family budget depends on hustling a quarter of their salary from summer school, summer research fellowships, consulting, grants or contracts. That is the strong motivation for becoming a Chair or Dean

At this point Eli needs to introduce the institutional base salary (IBS). This is the yearly (9 month) salary that the institution guarantees to pay a faculty member. Part of it can come from grants or contracts. Biomedical schools and a few of the higher rated research institutions demand that faculty externally fund a substantial portion of their academic year salary. Mount Sinai, for example, wants a 35/65 split. You can guess where the 35% comes from, or you could follow the link.

IBS is adjusted each year and most often has fixed and variable components. It's sausage, except for your own salary, you really don't want to inquire about how it is made, but to generalize the variable component is connected to the external support that you brought in in the previous year.

The need to bring in 3 or more months salary is a strong motivator, but what about research faculty? They need to bring in 12 months salary, and if they don't they are either out the door, or in part time status (which usually negatively affects their fringe benefits). Serious places have a bridge funding bank where the number of weeks that you can be paid without external support is related to the amount of time that you have had previous support, but it rarely goes beyond a year. Lots of places have a swinging door. This is the buzz saw that our friend Pat Michaels ran into when the State Climatology gig was up.

At independent research institutions, and for profits, EVERYONE is in the same position as research faculty and their entire salary comes from grants and contracts. The same is true of contractors at government labs. The general run of things is that you come in as a post-doc, serve as a co-Investigator as you move up to junior status, and start writing your own grants. Most of the technical staff at government labs are contractors, essentially everyone at all the DOE labs and JPL, which are run on contract. Civil servants have protection but are assignable to projects.

Tomorrow the playing field.

* We know, comments?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Good question

When last seen Eli was providing an example of how Science lurches forward, a nice example, where a flawed experiment loosened a tidal wave of publicity, only to end in a quiet fizzle. Some of the bunnies asked good questions and the Rabett will here endeavor to provide some answers. The question was whether excited state NO2* could react with water to form OH radicals as first proposed about a year ago in Science, by Sinha's group. This was questioned (we are being nice) by Dwayne Heard and colleagues recently and there was a reply. Eli did not think much of the reply although he did not go into it at the time.

Chuck asked

Is zero zero, or is zero their detection limit, after background subtraction?
for4zim thought that Li, et als answer was fine and Ankh had a few
Isn't the problem here that their conclusions come from logical reasoning rather than from collecting relevant data?

They got a different result, using a different method and different materials. Well, okay.

So wouldn't they also run the experiment without using the concentrating lens, just to reduce that difference?

They used different source chemicals. I don't know if that's something their setup allows them to experiment with or not.
Carr, Heard and Blitz first calculated the amount of OH radical that would be formed if Li, Matthews and Sinha were correct. They then generated OH, by photolysis of acetone at 280 nm followed by its reaction with O2 to form OH

(CH3)2CO + hv (280) --> CH3CO +CH3

CH3CO + O2 --> OH + other products

They detected the OH from this process as shown by the red dots in the figure to the right, which establishes that they can detect the radical at the levels implied by Li, Matthews and Sinha. The acetone was used to calibrate the signal. The thin black line shows the expected OH signal if Li, Matthews and Sinha were correct.

Now let's look at the response from the Shinha group. There are some interesting ideas there that will help understand what happened, even beyond the Heard group's objection. We can summarize the response as follows
1. Focusing was necessary to produce enough excited NO2* the absorption coefficient of NO2 is small.

2. A different calibration photodissociation was used for OH

3. Carr, et al do not suggest a mechanism for production of the OH that Li, et al observe (Eli is going to start naming the groups by their leaders, Heard and Sinha respectively for convenience) and they also did not push the intensity high enough to observe multiphoton production of OH

4. The non-zero intercepts in the power law measurements are characteristic of what is found in the Sinha lab for other situations including their OH calibration by photodissociation of HNO3 and CH3OOH.

5. Other than the offset, the linear power dependence shows that the process was first order in the laser intensity. Therefore little to no doubly excited NO2 was produced

6. Introduction of H2 into the system did not result in production of OH from O(1D) + H2O, a well known reaction. This shows that no O(1D) [the first electronically excited state which will not collisionally or radiatively quench to the ground state by collision in almost all cases] was produced by multiphoton processes

7. Any ground state O(3P) would have to be improbably hot translationally to react with water vapor producing OH

8. Higher lying quartet states of NO2 are unlikely to react.

9. The action spectrum (you tune the laser, monitor the OH) matches the absorption spectrum of NO2 showing that the excitation was not multiphoton

10. Transfer of energy from NO2* to H2O followed by reaction of other NO2* with the vibrationally excited H2O would depend on the square of the NO2 concentration.
Of these, 6 is by far the strongest. However, let us turn to the others starting with 1, 5 and 9 which are related. The absorption cross-section of NO2 around 570 nm is ~ 10-19 cm-2 which is not huge, but not vanishingly small like the O2 absorption @ 760 nm ~4 x 10-24 cm-2. Sinha focused their laser, which depending on this or that made the diameter of the focal volume something smaller than 50 microns to be conservative. Thus the cross-section would be ~10-4 cm2.

They used 12-15 mJ @ 55o nm to excite the NO2, which can be converted into a number of photons using E = hv yielding ~3 x 1016 photons/pulse, the number divided by the cross-sectional area of the focus, F, is
F = 3 x 1016 photons/10-4 cm2 = 3 x 1020 photons/cm2 .
If the transition is not saturated the fraction of NO2 molecules excited is the product of F and the absorption cross section. If it is saturated we have to include stimulated and spontaneous emission and carefully account for transitions to other electronic states. Let us see what we get for Sinha's conditions assuming no saturation.
P = 3 x 1020 photons/cm2 x 10-19 cm-2 = 30
Hmm, obviously saturation is going to be an issue for the focused condition, and the relative number of NO2* to NO2 ground state molecules may become a serious concern. On the other hand, for unfocused conditions (assuming a beam area of 1 cm2 which is maybe an upper limit for the lasers used, 0.1 cm2 might be slightly better - personal communication E Rabett) the fraction of NO2* will be about 0.003 and saturation will not be an issue.

Points 5 and 9 are tightly coupled. For molecules and multiphoton excitation (MPE), one distinguishes between a simultaneous and step-wise aka sequential multiphoton excitation. In simultaneous MPE the molecule is never in an intermediate state and simultaneously absorbs or emits two or more photons. If such a transition is not saturated (and you can saturate it by focussing hard or using a room sized laser or using a femtosecond system) the result depends on the intensity of the laser to the power of the number of photons absorbed.

In sequential MPE, the molecule absorbs a photon and is excited to another electronic state in which it remains for some time longer than a few fs, and then absorbs another photon, is excited to a yet higher excited electronic state, and then, maybe another, etc. This is what happens when multiphoton excitation is used for ionization (MPI). Sequential MPE and MPI are expecially effective for molecules because the number of states available increases rapidly (almost exponentially) with energy, so there are always more states available the higher you go.

Because of this, the action spectrum that will be observed is always the action spectrum associated with the "hardest" step, usually the first, and Sinha's point 9 is simply contrary to experience. Such stepwise transitions have been seen by Romanini in cavity ringdown spectra of NO2 at much lower intensities
In addition, in coincidence with absorption by these near infrared transitions, an appreciable fluorescence signal was detected in the visible range. According to our interpretation, this fluorescence is from NO2 levels excited by two photons in a stepwise incoherent process, with a strongly allowed second step. Since the fluorescence spectrum has the same lineshapes as the CRDS absorption spectrum, it seems that the first transition step is the one limiting the overall two-step process.
Indeed, you can get very high up, even with much less energy then Sinha used, as shown by the fact that in 1983 emission was seen from the Schumann-Runge bands of O2 following focussed excitation of NO2 (open article), and there are lots of studies of multiphoton ionization following focussed laser excitation of NO2 (Ed Grant was hot on that in the 1980s).

In short, Sinha's conditions favored significant multiphoton excitation, it occured as sure as Eli likes carrots. While it is not clear what highly energetic fragments molecules were produced, it is clear that a large variety were available including electronically excited fragment molecules, ions, atoms, radicals (NO is an honorary free radical having one unpaired electron) and more.

That takes out the rest of the points with the exceptions of 2, 4 which is simply bad technique and 6 showing that there was little to no O(1D). Point 2 is not really important, both groups have previously demonstrated that their methods work for calibrating the amount of OH and other radicals. Both groups and their father, mother and grandparent groups have excellent reputations for such stuff.

Thanks for getting the bunny even more interested in this.

It will get prettied up tonight maybe even with a couple of more pictures.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Science lurches backwards

About a year ago, a friend came into Eli's office, hair standing on end, waving a copy of Science. Eli's friend is an atmospheric modeler, but he models air pollution, not global stuff, and the article claimed (it's open source) that excited NO2, which can be written as NO2* can react with water vapor to create OH, something like this

(1) NO2 + hv (> 420 nm) --> NO2*
(2) NO2* + H2O --> OH + HONO (aka ho no as opposed to oh no)
(3) NO2* + H2O --> NO2 + H2O

The last step is de-excitation and it dominates, so Sinha (the boss bunny in the lab that did the experiment) said that they had to really press on the first step to excite a lot of NO2* to see even a bit of OH. In the competition between reactions 2 and 3, 3 is a lot faster. To get a high concentration of NO2* they focused the excitation laser. This is a VERY tricky thing, because you can easily do amusing multiphoton things like

NO2 + 2hv --> NO + O
O + H2O --> 2 OH

Sinha et al. measured the amount of OH they produced and found that it scaled linearly with the number of photons they pumped in. Normally, for a single photon process, the response scales linearly with the photon flux, for a two photon process it scales as the square, etc. However, in a focussed geometry, the power law is 1.5. Anyone who wants an explanation of that needs to hire Eli. If you look at the figure on the right, you see that the response appears linear, but as the dog that did not bark in the night, the intercept is not at the origin. If the reponse really was linear it has to pass through the origin.

Eli spent a lot of his youth doing multiphoton stuff and his reaction to this test was that he was not impressed, and certainly not convinced.

Hopefully gentle bunnies you will continence a short digression here about why air pollution guys hair caught on fire when they saw this. Indeed there was a huge amount of press coverage because it provided another source of OH radicals which could attack hydrocarbons in the atmosphere leading to smog and additional ozone. The paper was splashed all over the world. There was a perspective in Science (Li is the lead author)

Li et al. add another level of complexity to the story. In laboratory experiments, they show that excited-state NO2 (denoted NO2*) may also break the O-H bond in water, yielding OH and HONO. NO2* is produced in the atmosphere when NO2 absorbs sunlight between 400 and 650 nm. Li et al. find that for typical urban conditions, 1 in 10,000 of the NO2* molecules produced reacts with H2O to produce OH and HONO. Despite this low efficiency, the rate of OH production from NO2* in urban atmospheres can be comparable to the classical OH source (ozone photolysis). The amount of OH produced from NO2* scales linearly with the amount of NO2 in the atmosphere. The net result is that the calculated ozone production rate is higher. In addition, the maximum ozone production rate occurs at higher NOx concentrations.
We have performed model simulations of air quality in the Los Angeles basin for a typical summer smog episode (4, 5) both with and without the NO2* source of OH. With the NO2* source, ozone concentrations are calculated to be much higher throughout the city, with increases of up to 55 parts per billion; percentage increases in ozone concentrations are as high as 30 to 40% (see the second figure). The most affected area is downwind of the city, near Riverside, where NOx is most abundant. Aerosol levels are also affected, especially near Riverside, where small particle concentrations (diameter <2.5 src="http://www.sciencemag.org/icons/symbolgifs/hand/mu.gif" alt="mu" border="0">m) increase by 20 mug/m3.
To give credit, the perspective did hedge its bets
The experimental approach used by Li et al. differs slightly from that used by Crowley and Carl, but it seems unlikely that this alone explains the different findings. We find no obvious problem with either study. Given the potential importance of this chemistry and the high sensitivity of atmospheric models to the reaction of NO2* with H2O, further investigation is clearly needed.
Crowley and Carl being an earlier study that found bupkis. So Eli was sitting in the smallest room a couple of weeks ago reading Science (wo sonst?) when he saw buried at the end of the letters a short one from someone he knew (lab bunnies live in an incestuous world).
Li et al. (Reports, 21 March 2008, p. 1657) suggested that the reaction between electronically excited nitrogen dioxide and water vapor is an important atmospheric source of the hydroxyl radical. However, under conditions that better approximate the solar flux, we find no evidence for OH production from this reaction.**
These folk did not focus the excitation laser and they did not see any OH.

Nor did they get any publicity

Eli's friend said he was glad he had not added this to his models.

(**There is still a potential gottcha. NO2 has two different low lying electronically excited states, 2B2 and 2B1. Don't worry if you don't understand the notation. The point is that the 2B1 state is much longer lived than the 2B2. The two spectra overlap so it is possible that Sinha and Heard excited different states....time for a proposal....:)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ya gotta get a horse.

It's melt season up north and the ice jockeys are mounting their ponies. Michael plays the chalk with nsidc's classic, Stoat throws the IJIS spaghetti against the wall, and Tony Watts, why he wants to sell you the Norwegian entry with his Aussie girlfriend upside down in the saddle.

Eli, Eli prefers to look at dirty pictures from the Reeperbahn

June 12, 2009

June 12, 2008

June 12, 2007

As Drudge would say: Developing


Monday, June 01, 2009

Down the Rabett hole

Sorry for disappearing but Eli is

a) engaged in a bunch of real world things that are quite exciting.
b) just has nothing more original to say.
c) celebrating Ms. Rabett's birthday.

Give me a week.