Friday, June 18, 2010

Richard Lindzen's Fantasies (2)

We continue to examine Richard Lindzen's recent WSJ tract, 'Climate Science in Denial', on behalf of the flat Earth brigade.

Lindzen’s next bit of balderdash is a 'hit and run' on a letter published in The Financial Times on April 9, written by Prof. Martin Rees and Ralph Cicerone, in which they acknowledge a reduced concern among the public due to "Climategate", in tandem with unusually cold temperatures in North American (there were no such colder temperatures in many other parts of the world – and 2009 again went down as one of the warmest years).

Lindzen skewers the authors for referencing "the uncertainties in feedback effects from water vapor and clouds", adding: “Without these positive feedbacks assumed by climate modelers there would be no significant problem and the various catastrophes that depend on numerous factors would no longer be related to anthropogenic warming”.

But this is bare bollocks. For example, we know that water vapor is not a factor in the initial positive feedback phase and it certainly doesn’t trump CO2. This was pointed out by Spencer Weart in his excellent article: 'The Discovery of the Risk of Global Warming’, in Physics Today, Jan. 1997, p. 34). Weart points out that even a tiny, minuscule amount of CO2 is vastly more efficient at blocking the re-radiation of energy than any amount of water vapor- at those bands. Part of the misconception arose because early researchers, lacking the current technology of infrared spectroscopy, assumed that water vapor bands already blocked out most of what would (ordinarily) be taken by CO2.

Meanwhile, we've known for over 15 years- thanks to climate researcher D. Lubin (Science, Vol. 265, July, 1994, p. 224,) the effects of water vapor only kick in once the super-greenhouse gets under way. Thus, the water vapor will provide a non-linear driver and forcing mechanism to ramp up global warming as the oceans evaporate worldwide. (Evaporation worldwide will commence when the mean ocean temperature reaches 100C, likely in 400+ years now – at the rate of current CO2 absorption and possible future outgassing).

More worrisome, an article in Eos Transactions of the AGU (Vol. 83, No. 34), from August 20, 2002, ‘Progress Made in Study of Ocean’s Calcium Carbonate Budget’, notes that sedimentary carbonates represent the largest reservoir of carbon on Earth. The author also notes that “a third of the anthropogenic CO2 that has been added to the atmosphere since the middle of the 18th century has been absorbed by the oceans”. This means that the oceans, acting as CO2 reservoirs, have actually masked the worst effects of global warming. And that when their saturation point is reached, the spillover effect will be rapid and calamitous indeed.

Other more recent data, including that disclosing increased acidity of the oceans, confirms this. The oceans are now 30% more acidic (because of CO2 absorption) than they were at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution). What does this all mean? It means that the positive feedbacks from CO2 have been making themselves felt on the planet for at least 180 years. Those positive feedbacks have led to a third more anthropogenic CO2 being added, much of which has been absorbed by the oceans – increasing their acidity while concealing the worst effects of direct warming (via the ocean acting as a backup CO2 repository to the atmosphere). So no, the positive feedback here is not “assumed” at all.

What about clouds, cloud cover?

In fact, the relevant positive feedback vis-à-vis clouds was sorted out in the paper: ‘Can Earth’s Albedo and Surface Temperature Increase Together’ in Eos Transactions of the AGU, Vol. 87, No. 4, Jan. 24, 2006, p. 37) As the authors note, though there is some evidence that Earth’s albedo has increased from 2000 to 2004 this has NOT led to a reversal in global warming. (Albedo is a measure of the reflectance of the radiation from the Earth's surface. When one has a higher albedo, then that means less IR should be absorbed and global mean temperatures ought to be theoretically cooler).

The authors cite the most up to date cloud data released in August, 2005 from the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP). The data – from a range of meteorological satellites covering the entire Earth, discloses the most likely reason for the anomaly is primarily in the redistribution of the clouds.

As the authors point out (ibid.):

“whereas low clouds have decreased during the most recent years, high clouds have increased to a larger extent leading to both an increase in cloud amount AND an increased trapping of infrared radiation”

Obviously then, high clouds count as a positive feedback contributor if they increase trapping of IR. The ISCCP data indicate that high clouds are definitely a players here. Reinforcing this, Prof. Gale Christianson in his book ‘Greenhouse’ (Penguin, 1999, p. 203)has noted that “stratus clouds are gray, dense and low flying and have a net COOLING effect since their albedo is relatively high”.

He goes on to add:

"Conversely, wispy high flying cirrus are semi-transparent to incoming sunlight but block infrared radiation emitted by the Earth thus CONTRIBUTING to the Greenhouse Effect”
Meanwhile, towering cumulo-numbus clouds are neither here nor there and contribute minimally one way or the other
." (Ibid)

In other words, Lindzen's "uncertainties of positive feedback" argument is a red herring. We've known which clouds contribute to positive feedback in the CO2 warming scenario, and which contribute to negative feedback, for over a decade. Moreover, the positive feedback effects are gaining as more high clouds form in the atmosphere from a combination of global warming and accelerated evaporation of large bodies of water from heating.

What about other positive feedbacks which can be quantified?

In the first instance, one can regard the critical overshoot of critical CO2 thresholds (e.g. we now anticipate 550-600 ppm is the threshold for the runaway greenhouse effect) in terms of positive feedback, with some gain 'g' - in this case driven by population increase. We know, after all, increasing populations decimate CO2 reservoirs (e.g. forests) even as they pump millions of tons more carbon into the atmosphere each month ....via automobiles, as well as wood burning as fuels.

A rough diagram for some such mechanism can be given as:

(Direct stress)---

!-------[Direct Mechanism]------>
Gain = g..................................{closed}
!---------[Feedback Mechanism]---!

By 'total effect' - we mean the CO2 accumulation arising from population growth and its inevitable increased output, from consumption, wastes, fuel use (burning etc.) Where Total effect = Direct Effect x (1 + g + g^2 + ........) = (Direct effect)/ ((1- g) .

If gain g is proportional to population size then: g = k (const.) x population.

For example at a population of ~ 6 billion (6 x 10^9) let the gain factor for increase in CO2 concentration per century be 0.7 (By way of illustration, if the CO2 concentration reaches 550 ppm by 2100, from 380 ppm today, the increase or gain g = (550 - 380)/ 380 = 270/ 380 = 0.71 .

Now, g (6 x 10^9) = 0.7

But: 1/ (1- g) = 1/ (1- 0.7) = 1/0.3 = 3.33

Thus, total effect = 3.33 x (direct effect)

Now, let the population grow to 10 billion, or a 40% increase - which linear relation implies 0.7 will increase by 40% or to 0.98.

Then: g(10 x 10^9) = 0.98

and 1/(1 - g) = 1 /[1- 0.98] = 1/ (0.02)= 50

so the total effect at carbon deposition in the atmosphere is now 50 times greater. In other words, a 40% population increase precipitates a 50-factor or 50/ 3.33 or 1500% increase in response. Of course, if the gain g is nonlinearly related to population increase, the situation would be drastically worse. In any case, we'd be well ensconced in the runaway greenhouse effect, with perhaps 3-4 centuries before the oceans begin vaporizing.

Readers are invited to access Alvin Bartlett's article, Thoughts on Long-Term Energy Supplies: Scientists and the Silent Lie’ by Albert Bartlett (Physics Today, July, p. 53) for further support for the inclusion of population as a direct positive feedback agent in the global warming arena.

More mathematically-inclined readers need to get hold of Bartlett's (2004) monograph: The Essential Exponential! For the Future of Our Planet, paying special attention to Chapter Three: On Population. In it, Bartlett makes an ironclad mathematical case for immediate zero population growth in the U.S. The only reason people resist is: 1) they believe they have a right to make as many babies as they want with no thought to the carbon footprints left by each, and 2) they haven't the foggiest notion how exponential processes, especially consumption of finite resources, work - and the havoc that'll be wrought in the near future. (The most proximate havoc, apart from oil running out and the imminent collapse of our oil-addicted civilization, is the disappearance of adequate water sources).

As for Richard Lindzen, he will still have to pay off a bet he made with one climatologist on the increase in global temperatures. (I'd estimate within about five years!)


Francis T. Manns, Ph.D. said...

I am absolutely certain of one thing. People in a position of trust have violated the principles of the scientific method. The minute you believe your own hypothesis, you are a dead duck as a scientist.

“What is the current scientific consensus on the conclusions reached by Drs. Mann, Bradley and Hughes? [Referring to the hockey stick propagated in UN IPCC 2001 by Michael Mann and debunked by McIntyre and McKitrick in 2003.]

Ans: Based on the literature we have reviewed, there is no overarching consensus on MBH98/99. As analyzed in our social network, there is a tightly knit group of individuals who passionately believe in their thesis. However, our perception is that this group has a self-reinforcing feedback mechanism and, moreover, the work has been sufficiently politicized that they can hardly reassess their public positions without losing credibility.”

AD HOC COMMITTEE REPORT ON THE ‘HOCKEY STICK’ GLOBAL CLIMATE RECONSTRUCTION, also known as The Wegman report was authored by Edward J. Wegman, George Mason University, David W. Scott, Rice University, and Yasmin H. Said, The Johns Hopkins University with the contributions of John T. Rigsby, III, Naval Surface Warfare Center, and Denise M. Reeves, MITRE Corporation.

Copernicus said...

Francis D. Manns wrote:

"I am absolutely certain of one thing. People in a position of trust have violated the principles of the scientific method. The minute you believe your own hypothesis, you are a dead duck as a scientist"

Of course, as a solar physicist, I concur. However we accentuate "people" here - which from the emails numbers 4 (Mann et al). One does not pillory or punish the whole edifice of global warming research or its scientists.

As a member of the AGU, the largest professional orgnization of climate, Earth scientists in the world, I can accept their take as authentic, and *if* the emails had corroded climate science to the extent claimed by deniers, they'd not have retained their most recent position statement - but would have edited it to suit the new results.

They didn't. (Please consult the link I gave).

As for "ad hoc committees" - from my days as a grad student I have never trusted them. Too given to biases, and always acting to countermand findings they don't like but can't disprove themselves.

They are often the most extreme exponents of the "self-reinforcing feedback" mechanisms that they so easily project onto others.

The bottom line here is the emails of Mann et al do not majorly affect the IPCC conclusions in any substantive way, just as the (recent) error to do with Himalyan melting doesn't affect it.

These are minor issues, errors, that don't overturn the solid thrust of research and especially the position statements of major scientific professional societies (like the AGU). But I am sure deniers will never see it that way.

What I want to see, is the cyber-hackers who broke into a system they had no business in - subjected to the full force of law.

That means, tried as terrorists, which is what they are.

janidebar said...

Copernicus wrote:

"These are minor issues, errors, that don't overturn the solid thrust of research and especially the position statements of major scientific professional societies (like the AGU). But I am sure deniers will never see it that way."

Absolutely! Over fifteen hundred peer reviewed papers have been published in professional climate science journals that support the thesis that anthropogenic warming is here and ocntinuing. Those emails no more torpedo the fundamental basis than the snow storms occurring in the U.S. did this past winter. (Since those are ephemeral meteorological phenomena. Besides, deniers always invoke those but forget to factor the heat waves!)

"What I want to see, is the cyber-hackers who broke into a system they had no business in - subjected to the full force of law. That means, tried as terrorists, which is what they are."

Totally agree here! We know the Pentagon already issued National Security papers which listed climatic upheavals due to global warming as a primary future threat, since it could lead to outbreaks of insurrections and wars over resources around the world.

If the hackers broke in to systems containing emails and this break in led to a lowering of consideration of the imminent clmaate threat, then it is a national security issue. The hackers can then be charged with undermining the threat assessments of the Pentagon and possibly shot in front of a firing squad for treason.

Maybe then we'd see no more of these shenanigans.