Friday, December 28, 2018

Holman Jenkins' Quest For "Climate Maturity" Ought To Start With His Own Op-Eds

Image result for brane space, Holman Jenkins
Above: U.S. maps comparing increase in days each year above 95 F (top) and increase in degrees F for average summer temperatures (late 20th century vs. mid -21st century predictions).

Looks like the WSJ's Holman Jenkins is at it again, or maybe he wearied of pumping and humping his "Hillary, James Comey, FBI" conspiracy codswallop   for now.   Little Holman asks in his latest piece ('Will 2019 See Climate Maturity?" p. A16):  

"For almost 40 years, science has failed to advance on a basic question: how much warming can we expect from a given increase in atmospheric CO2"

He then goes on to cite IPCC estimates in the same ballpark as those from the Charney Report in 1979, i.e. :  "A doubling of CO2 corresponds to a temperature increase between 2.7 and 8.1 degrees Fahrenheit."  Jenkins'  purpose is to try to show the wide variability in projected temperatures doesn't square with the claim of higher CO2 being a confident temperature indicator. Hence, climate scientists are nowhere near "climate maturity" if they are unable to specify the temperature increase much better, say to a doubling of CO2 concentration

But, of course, little Holman - who likely never took a college thermal physics course in his life-  plays fast and loose using his journalistic license.  My point? The very expectation that a climate scientist can be as precise in temperature forecasts tied to CO2 is itself a sign of scientific immaturity and indeed juvenile on its face.

Let's examine why. First, what we do know is that for the previous 800,000 years (thanks to the ice core analyses of climate scientists like Gunter Weller,

CO2 levels never exceeded 300 parts per million.  Prof. Weller's results showed that the greatest ambient temperatures corresponded to the highest CO2 concentrations in the gas extracted from the ice cores.  The CO2 concentration was about 280 ppm at the start of the Industrial Revolution and is now approaching 415 ppm.    We also know (again from ice core studies) that there has never been an ice age when the CO2 concentration exceeded  200 ppm.   This is critical because it tells us (like the Keeling curve, top)  in the most general terms that CO2 is indeed tied to temperature increases.   The question then is why these increases cannot be quantified more exactly. 

One reason is the differential properties of cloud cover in terms of albedo (or degree of reflection of solar energy back into space.)  A major research paper in this regard appeared in Eos Transactions: 'Can Earth’s Albedo and Surface Temperature Increase Together’ (Vol. 87, No. 4, Jan. 24, 2006, p. 37) wherein the authors pointedly noted evidence that Earth’s albedo increased from 2000 to 2004 but that this had NOT led to a reversal in global warming. They also remarked on apparent temperature anomalies and divergence between differing altitudes but pointed to the differences between clouds at those altitudes.

The authors cited (to then) the most up to date cloud data from the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP). The data – from a range of meteorological satellites covering the entire Earth- disclosed the most likely reason for the anomaly was primarily in the redistribution of the clouds. As the authors observed:

"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.”

 The complex  issues surrounding cloud feedbacks and their relation to temperatures was discussed in a previous blog post, including the most recent research, e.g.

As I noted in that post, regading  the convergence of cloud properties in relation to global warming:

"Zelinka et al discovered that all climate models agree on the direction of three main feedbacks that accompany global warming. First, upper level clouds rise to higher altitudes in all models, warming the planet by trapping more heat. Although this was previously known, the positive feedback is actually smaller and better constrained than past research has suggested. Second, low-level cloud cover decreases in all models, warming the planet by reflecting less incoming sunlight back to space. And third, optical depth of low-level clouds increases in all models, cooling the planet by reflecting more sunlight."

The progress toward tying cloud properties to higher temperatures is a work still in progress and requires not only factoring in albedo, but also resolving the types of cloud feedbacks into the underlying mechanisms in play.  Until this aspect is resolved, and given the wide distribution of cl0uds in the atmosphere, there will be large uncertainty in terms of the predicted temperature.  Is Jenkins even aware that no  experimental scientific quantity is given as a single absolute number but with a range "+" ?  I doubt it. 

What about temperature measurements themselves?  Much needed light was shed on this by Thomas Karl, Director of the National Centers for Environmental Information of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in a June 4, 2015 paper which appeared in the journal Science.

This concerned inconsistent data treatment, particularly in processing sea surface temperatures - especially as measured by buoys.   This error was likely compounded in conjunction with the misinterpretation of Hadley UK Center future projections on climate that I've already discussed at length, e.g.

I would even venture to say that the preponderance of false judgments by too many (mainly conservatives like George Will,  i.e. in his only recent appearance on Bill Maher's Real Time) is due to inadequate study of the climate backstory. That includes the role of changing carbon isotope ratios over geological time, e.g.

As Thomas Karl observed, quoted in Eos Transactions - Earth & Space Science (July 1, 2015):

"The biggest takeaway is there is no slowdown in global warming".

Indeed, he added that warming the past fifteen years is the "strongest it's been since the latter half of the 20th century". Putting an exclamation point on that, July that year (2015) was the hottest July since records were initiated. 

Readers can learn more on  the background issues here:

Why the measurement difficulty? Well, because the data gathering and process of analysis are inherently complex.  In order to achieve such measurements, i.e. as to how Earth's average global temperature is increasing, there's a lot of "sausage making".  

First, scientists must combine thousands of measurements from Earth's surface, taken by land instruments, ships. buoys and orbital satellites.  Second, each of these has its own random errors, all of which must be identified. Not only must researchers comb through the data to eliminate these errors, they must also correct for any differences in how each type of instrument measures temperature.

Thus, the authors of Prof. Karl's  Science paper had to dig into NOAA's global surface temperature analysis data to examine how sea surface temperatures (SSTs) were being measured. SSTs are measured in various ways:

-  collecting ocean water in a bucket and measuring its temperature directly

- measuring the temperature of water taken in by a ship engine as a coolant

- using floating buoys moored in the various oceans

Each technique records slightly different temperatures in the same region so scientists have to adjust and 'harmonize'  the data. In the past couple decades the number of buoys has increased - adding 15% more coverage to the ocean. But because buoys tend to read colder temperatures than ships at the same locations, a measurement bias is introduced which must be corrected for. This was the primary task set out by Karl et al.  They corrected for the bias by adding 0.12C to each buoy temperature.

By then combining the ocean data with improved calculations of air temperatures over land around the world, Karl and colleagues found that overall global surface warming over 2000-14 was 0.116C per decade or more than twice the estimated 0.039C starting in 1998 that the IPCC had reported.

Basically then, the WSJ's know nothing climate opinionators  like the editors,  Holman Jenkins, Dan Henninger etc. are guilty mainly of rank ignorance in: a) not knowing how sea surface or other global temperatures are processed, and b) failing to appreciate the significance and why the rise in temperatures fully comports with Hansen's model.  Oh, and oversimplifying the CO2-temperatures connections with the intent to misinform.

All of this also comports with the latest reports  from the IPCC, e.g.

And even warnings from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists that the warming risks are understated, e.g.

Climate report understates threat


"So far, average temperatures have risen by one degree Celsius. Adding 50 percent more warming to reach 1.5 degrees won’t simply increase impacts by the same percentage—bad as that would be. Instead, it risks setting up feedbacks that could fall like dangerous dominoes, fundamentally destabilizing the planet. This is analyzed in a recent study showing that the window to prevent runaway climate change and a “hot house” super-heated planet is closing much faster than previously understood."

Jenkins' biggest wet dream is the Right's "carbon tax" idiocy which he claims:

"For decades this was the recommended policy of economists of every political disposition, but increasingly dismissed on the hard-bitten left as 'right wing dogma'"

Well, he has the last part correct, but why? Well, because this "tax" - the spawn of economists who fancy themselves real scientists like physicists -  has nothing but hot air behind it.  It is a mere McGuffin, tossed out for the non critically thinking to guzzle as a specious counterpoint to actual fuel taxes.  The reason is because "The revenue obtained via the tax is not always used to compensate for the carbon emissions on which the tax is levied"  

More specifically, if you are going to tax something, the price or value needs to be known. But up to now  all efforts of U.S. legislation that might have put a price on carbon have failed.  So there's no known way to practically tax it and hence to compensate for actual carbon emissions.  In other words the whole scheme is a joke.  It will not delay or abate the coming Climate Armageddon one iota.   This is what leads little Holman to belch such bollocks as:

"If climate politics reaches its overdue maturity, it will advance on the right rather than the left under the aegis of tax reform."

That form of "advance", of course, will mark zilch in physical reality - where it counts - and by then we will already be in the throes of the runaway greenhouse.  I hope Holman and his Right cadre of nincompoops have plenty of emergency generators to keep their a/c going when the runaway emerges.  They will need it.

It is evident to me that Holman Jenkins, along with his denier cohort,  are the ones who need to attain climate 'maturity'.   A first step would be to see if they are even qualified to comment on climate change, say by passing the thermal physics quiz below:

In each case, either solve the problem as given, or provide the correct answer (A, B, C , D or E) for multiple choice:

1) An air conditioner has a power rating of 1.0 kilowatt. A solar panel on the roof of a house has a collective efficiency of 12% and is 5 meters by 5 meters. The solar power (insolation) constant is 1360 watts per square meter. Assuming the ac will be run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. , will the panel be able to achieve the objective? Assume no cloud cover, and no significant variation in insolation. Show all working.

2) A hot air balloon of constant volume contains air at 100 C. The fraction of this air which escapes if the temperature is increased by 1 K (Kelvin) – the pressure remaining constant is:

A) 1/ 373 B) 1/ 273 C) 1/ 100 D) 374/373 E) 101/100

3) The first law of thermodynamics is often stated in the form: Q = DU + W. Which of the quantities, Q , DU or W must necessarily be zero when a real gas undergoes a change at constant pressure?

A) Q only B) DU only C) W only D) none of DU, Q, W E) all of DU. Q, W

(Note Q denotes heat added, W is work done, and DU denotes change in internal energy)

4) Two identical copper calorimeters of mass 0.1 kg contain 1 kg of water and 2 kg of alcohol, respectively. It’s found that they both take 60 minutes to cool from 350 K to 300 K under similar conditions. Find the specific heat of the alcohol (in J/ (kg K) ) based on this information:

A) 600 B) 2060 C) 2100 D) 2140 E) 3800

5) Which of the following statements about temperature is NOT true?

A) It represents the amount of heat contained in the body.
B) It is a measure of degree of hotness or coldness of a body
C) It is a property that determines the direction of heat flow in a body.
D) It is a measure of the average kinetic energy of the particles of which it’s composed.
E) It may be measured by examining the length of a column of mercury.

6) A detector of thermal energy is placed an equal distance in turn from each of four faces of a hollow metal cube full of water. The reading on the detector is greatest when the face is turned toward the face that is:

A) painted silver B) painted shiny white C) painted dull black
D) highly polish E) neither of the faces makes any significant difference

7) A bottle of water is placed in the freezer of a fridge and forgotten. It’s recovered after 24 hrs. and found to be broken. The reason for breakage is:

A) the bottle expanded as it cooled 
B) water expanded more than the bottle as it froze
C) the bottle contracted as it cooled
 D) the water contracted as it froze
E) the water and bottle both expanded as they cooled

9) The diagram below shows two bodies of equal mass (A and B) within a thermally insulated material. A has a thermometer inserted to take readings. A was initially at a temperature of 100C and B at 50 C when placed in thermal contact.

[ [A][B] ]

a) Find the temperature of the system of two bodies in thermal equilibrium. Is this the same as the reading of A’s temperature? (Show work, explain)
b) Which body undergoes a positive change in entropy?
c) Which body undergoes a negative change in entropy?
d) What is the total entropy change for the system, A + B?

10)a) Describe the principle of operation of a basic, glass-enclosed greenhouse. What specific features enable more heat to be collected within than available from the immediate, outside environment?

b) One kilogram of mercury is initially at 0 C. Find its change in entropy when heat is slowly added to raise its temperature to 100 C.

Data: Heat of fusion for Hg = 1.17 x 10 4 J/ kg, specific heat (Hg) = 138 J/ kg C; Melting temperature (Hg) = -39 C)

Specific heat (H2O) = 4,200 J/ kg C

Marking scheme: Problems 1 through 8, 8 marks each. Problem 9: 16 marks ; Problem 10: 20 marks

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