Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Evan J. Wright: A Study in Cluelessness

Some ten odd years ago, I waged a fierce battle in The Mensa Bulletin with one Evan Jon Wright, who denounced any remote possibility of there being any "global warming", essentially dismissing it as so much foolishness and "bad science". This from a character who actually believed ....I kid you not!.....that I was "writing nonsense" because I noted the much higher absorption of CO2 in the oceans. According to Wright: "That's preposterous! If the oceans absorbed carbon dioxide they'd all turn into carbonated liquid, or soda pop! Does anyone see that? NOOO!"

One wonders how some folks ever got into Mensa! One further wonders how Wright (and his equally know-nothing offspring, Jon Wright, who rushed to his dad's defense) now manage to account for the documented fact of higher acidity of the oceans, arising directly from....tada.....the absorption of enormous amount of CO2 since the onset of the Industrial Revolution. There is now about 30% higher acidity as a result of the chemical reaction: H2O + CO2 -> H2CO3, in other words, the production of carbonic acid.

Anyway, just when one thought Wright had retired from spieling about areas in which he knows nothing, he emerged again in yesterday's Wall Street Journal letters section. He wrote:

"Having studied this subject for about 50 years from a research engineer's viewpoint and having read hundreds of articles and scientific reports during this time, I must say that sunspots are probably a factor, more so than Earth's elliptical orbit..."

Wait! Hold strain one momento! "A research engineer's viewpoint"? What the hell is that? How the hell is the design or construction of bridges, or walkways, or whatever in any way relevant to the fluid dynamics of the atmosphere? Even in our earlier confrontation, Wright - who insists he reads ""hundreds of articles" - lacked even the most basic acquaintance with the sunspot cycle, and in particular how it arises and the difference between solar irradiance and radiance.

He wasn't aware for example, that from the standard (sunspot) theory of Eugene Parker, the basis for large susnpots is the "inverse ion hurricane" which enables the latent energy to translate into a convective collapse process so the luminosity can flow out and around the periphery of spots. This, according to the reaction:

H + (energy) -> H+ + e(-) [ionization of hydrogen]

supporting a a super-adiabatic temperature gradient being largest near the surface .

This is why the more spots there are in a cycle, the higher the solar irradiance, and the higher the mean global temperature of Earth. (One can get variations up to 0.21 K or more, according to a paper delivered at the 40th Solar Physics Division conference of the American Astronomical Society in June, 2009). This is often counter intuitive, since spots are actually cooler regions in relation to the Sun's surrounding photosphere, which is roughly 1500 K hotter.

So, one is left to ponder what "articles" Wright actually read, and whether they mainly issued from comic books. Well, we'll give him a break here, maybe they issue more from the hack papers (non-peer reviewed) generated by the Global warming denier pulp mills, and agnotology centers like "the Global warming coalition".

Anyway, it's evident that anything Wright is likely to write can be taken with the proverbial "grain of salt". He continues:

"but I am inclined to think that the wobble in Earth's tilt on its axis is a more important one.. The tilt causes the seasons, obviously, but it's the wobble in the degree of tilt that creates their inconsistency, i.e. global warming and cooling."

Of course this is total rubbish! In fact the degree of tilt has nada, do with global warming and cooling. To reinforce this point, one need only reference the mangitude of the "wobble" we're actually talking about. Start with the datum referenced in Astronomy- Principles and Practice by A.E. Roy and D. Clarke, 1978, Adam Hilger Books, p. 118:

Because of the nutational wobble in the Earth’s axis of rotation, the obliquity of the ecliptic (KP in Fig. 10.32) varies about its mean value. The magnitude on either side is about 9.”2.”

For the benefit of non-astronomers, the magnitude cited (9.”2) isn’t even one hundredth of a degree! Indeed it is nearly a factor 4 LESS than a hundredth of a degree! (which translates to 36”- there are 3600” = 1 degree). Going now to Eichhorn and Mueller’s standard text in astrometry and geodesy (Spherical and Practical Astronomy Applied to Geodesy) p. 69, “astronomic nutation’:

"The main term of astronomic nutation is produced by the non-coincidence of the Moons’ orbit with the ecliptic in conjunction with the retrograde motion of the lunar nodes. This results in a periodic change in the obliquity of the ecliptic termed nutation in obliquity, denoted by delta eta.

The astronomic nutation, from now on called simply ‘nutation’ is not to be confused with the true nutation appearing as a force-free precession (Eulerian motion) of the Earth’s rotation axis about its principal moment of inertia axis, which is part of the polar motion described in 4.13

The first six terms of the expression for nutation in obliquity (which is the 'wobble' Wright is talking about) are:

delta eta =

(9.”2100 + 0.”00091t) cos Z - (0.”0904 - 0.”0004t) cos 2Z – (0.”0024 cos (2w_m + Z) + 0.”0002 cos (2w_s – Z) + 0.”0002cos ^2 ( w_ m + Z) + (0.”5522 – 0.”00029) cos 2L _s

where t denotes the time interval measured from 1900 January 0.5 d ET in Julian centuries (1 JC = 36525 mean solar days), Z is the longitude of the mean ascending node of the lunar orbit on the ecliptic measured from the mean equinox of date, w_m is the ‘argument’ of the point where the Moon is nearest the Earth (i.e. from the lunar perigee), w _s is the mean longitude of the solar perigee measured from the mean equinox of date, and L_s is the geometric mean longitude of the Sun measured from the mean equinox of date.

Most interesting in the above – which I merely give for the sake of completeness- is that even jacking up the value of t by 41,000 yrs. (e.g. 410 JC) doesn’t appreciably alter the magnitude from seconds of arc – very small seconds of arc (e.g. about 8.”85 with Z = 160 deg and counting only the first order term). And yet Wright claims (ibid.):

"It could be as late as 2350 A.D. (to make a guess) that the few degrees of global warming will end and the cooling begin, leading perhaps to another ice age".

Want to make a bet on that? Oh wait, we won't be around. Never mind, there will be no further ice ages. As has been noted in EOS Transactions papers appearing the past few years, it is doubtful any more ice ages will manifest once the CO2 concentration exceeds 500 ppm, and we are well on the way to that now, with adding 2 ppm per year, and nearly 2 watts/yr to the existing solar insolation. This means we will be approaching 440 ppm by 2050 and obviously exceeding 500 ppm (assuming the current rate of CO2 production - which actually shows no sign of abating), see:

So how does Wright come up with "2350 A.D."? He doesn't because he's just pulling numbers- in the case years-dates, out of his butt. The fact is, as Prof. Gale Christianson has noted in his book ‘Greenhouse’ (Penguin, 1999, p. 203), we have deduced from ice core samples that there has never been an ice age when the CO2 concentration has been over 200 ppm. We are nearly double that now and will be 2 ½ times that by 2100.

What we see from this is that Wright doesn't even know what it is that makes a greenhouse gas function, in terms of its capacity to warm our atmosphere. That is, the ability to absorb heat in the form of solar infrared radiation. This is directly contingent on the molecular vibrations undergone by the molecule which allow it to absorb and re-emit incident radiation. It is this that determines the forcing factors for the assorted greenhouse gases, e.g.

Carbon Dioxide >100 years, 1.3 to 1.5 W/m^2

Methane 10 years, 0.5 to 0.7 W/m^2

Tropospheric Ozone 10-100 days, 0.25 to 0.75 W/m^2

Nitrous Oxide 100 years, 0.1 to 0.2 W/m^2

Perfluorocarbon Compounds >1000 years, 0.01 W/m^2 (Including SF6)

Fine Aerosols: Sulfate 10 days -0.3 to -1.0 W/m^2

Source: National Research Council Report (1999)

Maybe instead of looking at climate variations from the limited purview of a "research engineer", Wright needs to broaden his base of knowledge. It would also help if he read outside the limited orbit of those publications which merely reinforce his own flat Earther views!

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