Category Archives: science

Mauno Loa is a volcano, so what?

Anthony Watts, (in a comment to a post where I remarked that Watts implies that the CO2 measurements made at Mauno Loa might not be reliable), said:

If you can point me to a source that demonstrates clearly that no Co2 outgassing from the Mauna Loa volcano reaches the instrumentation, I’ll gladly revise my post.

Well, there is no such source, because of course the CO2 reaches the instrumentation when the wind is coming from a particular direction. However, scientists are of course aware of that, and take that into account. There is even an FAQ at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography:

Isn’t the Mauna Loa record influenced by CO2 emitted by the volcano?

If one looks at the minute-by-minute data from Mauna Loa, one finds rare occasions when the CO2 is elevated from emissions from fumaroles upwind on the mountain. The fumaroles are emitting constantly, so the timing of the events depends on wind direction and not changes in volcanic activity. These events impact only a tiny faction of the data and are easily distinguished from rest of the record. The reported version of the Mauna Loa record has been “filtered” to remove these events, as well as other certain other local effects, as described in the early publications (see Keeling 1960 Tellus paper).

Keeling himself writes (1960):

At Mauno Loa Observatory, Hawaii, a less prominent variability has been found in approximately half of the records. This is attributed to release of carbon dioxide by nearby volcanic vents; combustion on the island associated with agricultural, industrial and domestic activities; and lower concentration of carbon dioxide transported to the station by upslope winds. The values reported here are averages of downslope winds or strong lateral winds when the concentration remained nearly constant for several hours or more.

In that paper Keeling also shows CO2 measurements from other locations, all in good agreements, and points to problems these measurements have, and how he accounted for them.

Global CO2 data are available here.

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Three facts, three lies

In the image to the left you see that even if the global temperatures are corrected for the ENSO effects, the temperatures have risen significantly since the 70’s.

In the image below from the National Snow and Ice Data Center you will see that the northern sea ice extent has been decreasing since at least 1980.

You also may want to click on the images to learn more if needed.

Now go to this excellent post byTim Lambert, or this little factoid on stratospheric cooling, and learn about the fingerprints that show the greenhouse signature, thus confirming the models. Take your time if necessary.

Groked it all?

Good. Then go to this tripe and detect 3 lies.

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Watt’s wrong

This picture from JPL shows that CO2 is pretty well mixed in the atmosphere. The mixing ratio is between 373 and 380 ppm in most places, it exceeds it at a few spots and it is lower at Antarctica. The colors exaggerate small differences which are certainly interesting, but do not seem to be very important for the greenhouse effect. Anthony Watts (Watts Up With That?) shows this image to show that supposedly CO2 is not well mixed. But overall, compared with the preindustrial level of 280 ppm, it is relatively uniformly distributed. Watts complains:

My question is: how does this global variance translate into the phrase “well-mixed” when used to describe global CO2 distribution? It would seem that if it were truly “well-mixed”, we’d see only minor variances on the order of a couple of PPM. Yet clearly we have significant regional and hemispheric variance.

And yet, “minor variances on the order of a couple of PPM” is exactly what we see.

Watts also repeats the old canard implies that since CO2 were made on Mount Loa, which is a volcano, they could not be reliable, but actually measurements are made globally – and the graphic above, that Watts shows in the same blog entry,  shows that the measurements agree with the satellite data. Also, observe the remarkable absence of higher mixing ratios at locations with volcanic activity, for example Iceland or Hawaii.

So, Watt’s wrong?

Update: See also Mauno Loa is a volcano, so what?

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John Coleman

No idea how that guy can be taken seriously. Shorter version: CO2 is not a greenhouse gas because he says so.

I tried to distill the few, um, scientific, arguments in between the spam:

Well, it is simply not happening. Worldwide there was a significant natural warming trend in the 1980’s and 1990’s as a Solar cycle peaked with lots of sunspots and solar flares. That ended in 1998 and now the Sun has gone quiet with fewer and fewer Sun spots, and the global temperatures have gone into decline.

You know you can stop reading as soon as you are told that the earth has cooled since 1998. Anyway, the connection with the sun has been debunked multiple times already.

Earth has cooled for almost ten straight years.

No, it hasn’t.

Let me illustrate. I estimate that this square in front of my face contains 100,000 molecules of atmosphere. Of those 100,000 only 38 are CO2; 38 out of a hundred thousand. That makes it a trace component. Let me ask a key question: how can this tiny trace upset the entire balance of the climate of Earth? It can’t. That’s all there is to it; it can’t.

Not sure what he is trying to say here, all he has demonstrated is his impressive ability to divide by ten. I guess he thinks that because the mixing ratio is small it cannot have a large effect. Which is quite silly, because a lot lower mixing ration of cyanide will have a devastating effect on your body for example. And there a lot more effective toxins. Well, the point is that CO2 is a triatomic gas, which does absorb infrared radiation, while the much more common gases (nitrogen, oxygen and argon) have two or just one atom. That makes a lot of difference. And that’s not just something pulled out of thin air, it can be measured. (Pun not intended, but tolerated).

One point Coleman makes repeatedly is the claim that the only greenhouse gas we are worried would be carbon dioxide, which isn’t quite correct. There are also methane, nitrous oxide and, to a lesser extent, CFCs.

The rest of the article doesn’t contain any scientific arguments. This one certainly isn’t:

I suspect you haven’t heard it because the mass media did not report it, but I am not alone on the no man-made warming side of this issue. On May 20th, a list of the names of over thirty-one thousand scientists who refute global warming was released. Thirty-one thousand of which 9,000 are Ph.ds. Think about that.

Well, I did think about it and found that there are 22,000 scientists without a PhD on that list. Anyway, it seems to be quite easy to get onto that list. And this is not a signature contest in the first place.

Coleman opened his speech with:

You may want to give credit where credit is due to Al Gore and his global warming campaign the next time you fill your car with gasoline, because there is a direct connection between Global Warming and four dollar a gallon gas.

Later he argues:

The battle against fossil fuels has controlled policy in this country for decades. It was the environmentalist’s prime force in blocking any drilling for oil in this country and the blocking the building of any new refineries, as well. So now the shortage they created has sent gasoline prices soaring.

Completely wrong. For example. drilling in the ANWR would decrease the price of gasoline by 2 cents. And the refineries are underutilized. Who cares, when we can have a cheap shot at the evil environmentalists.

If Al Gore and his global warming scare dictates the future policy of our governments, the current economic downturn could indeed become a recession, drift into a depression and our modern civilization could fall into an abyss. And it would largely be a direct result of the global warming frenzy.

Sounds alarmist, doesn’t it?

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Venus and all that

The year 2000 was a leap year. If you ask anybody, you will most likely be told that it’s because it’s divisible by four, and years divisible by four are leap years. Case closed. But it’s wrong. Years divisible by 100 are not leap years, so the year 2000 should not have been. But years divisible by 400 are. So you can be right although you are wrong.

Similarly, when you ask somebody why Venus is hotter than the Earth, you will most likely be told that’s because it is closer to the sun. But it’s wrong (well, not completely).

Venus has a very high albedo (0.65) compared to that of the Earth (0.3), because it is covered with white clouds. A simple formula which gives the black body temperature for the distance (0.72AE) gives the temperature T = 252.6K (-20.6C). For the Earth, we get T = 254.9K (-18.3C). So, Venus should actually be slightly cooler than the Earth, even though it is closer to the sun. Of course, both values are false, because the black body temperature is only comparable to the real surface temperature for planets (or moons) without any atmosphere.

The average temperature on Venus is 461.85 °C, and ~15 °C on Earth. Both effects are explained by the greenhouse effect. Which is a good thing on Earth, not so much on Venus (if we want to move there). That doesn’t mean we should increase it on earth.

And you know what? Mercury is closer to the sun than Venus, and yet it is cooler.

So, why am I writing this? Because Tim Blair does not understand it. That’s why.

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Rockets, not Science

A few days ago Phil Chapman wrote in the Australian about his theory that instead of global warming, a new ice age is imminent. He supports his theory with two facts:

  • the global mean temperature in January 2008 was lower than in January 2007
  • solar cycle 24 refuses to start, although it’s about time

That’s it.

Well, the temperature (according to NOAA) in January 2008 was indeed lower than in January 2007. Chapman’s article has been published on April 23rd. At that time, the data for March 2008 were already out: and it was warmer than March 2007. Indeed, March 2007 was the warmest March on record on land, and the second warmest for sea/land combined. With Chapman’s logic (extrapolating one arbitrary month to another), we would expect warming. But that is not how it works anyway, it is the trend that is important. The trend is still rising.

Next point:

We are currently at a solar minimum, which means that solar cycle 24 is expected to start. It looks like this takes a little longer, but this is not anything unusual, in fact solar cycle 21 was just as long. From Solar Science, where Ken Tapping writes:

The current solar activity is not that unusual. At this point it is completely unjustified to see current solar behaviour as an indication of any departure from its what the Sun has been doing for at least the last 300 years.

Figure 1 shows a plot of solar activity as measured by the solar radio flux monitors operated by the National Research Council of Canada.

The arrow under the 1964-1977 cycle indicates the length of that cycle, which was a little longer than the others. That same arrow has been copied and put under the last cycle. The length is unchanged. It can be seen that the current solar activity cycle (now ending) has not yet exceeded the length of the 1964-77 cycle. It is also clear that the longish cycle in 1964-77 was followed by further activity cycles – normal solar behaviour. To exceed the duration of the 1964-1977 cycle, the new cycle would have to delay its start at least well into 2009.

But, even is the solar cycle were unusual, it still would have to be shown that this has an influence on climate. So far, any link has been spurious at best.

Well, the rest of Chapman’s article, is, (how shall I put it), um, alarmist. He writes:

There is no doubt that the next little ice age would be much worse than the previous one and much more harmful than anything warming may do. There are many more people now and we have become dependent on a few temperate agricultural areas, especially in the US and Canada. Global warming would increase agricultural output, but global cooling will decrease it.

Millions will starve if we do nothing to prepare for it (such as planning changes in agriculture to compensate), and millions more will die from cold-related diseases.

Good thing we have refuted him. Oh, but he has a brilliant solution to the problem:

We could gather all the bulldozers in the world and use them to dirty the snow in Canada and Siberia in the hope of reducing the reflectance so as to absorb more warmth from the sun.

Yeah, right. This is a rocket scientist?

See also the 3 posts on Deltoid (part 1, part 2, part 3) and on Nexus 6. Eli challenges us to find something even more stupid.

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Melting Ice

From time to time I see clueless people writing that the melting polar sea ice increases sea level, and sometimes that it would decrease it. Fact is that it remains the same melting sea ice does not contribute to seal level rise. I am so glad someone made this video to demonstrate it, so I don’t have to:

The reason is that a floating piece of ice displaces exactly as much water as it weighs. It neither gains nor looses mass during melting, so the water from the ice replaces exactly as much as it had displaced.

The rise of the sea level expected from global warming comes from the melting ice on land, from the ice shields of Greenland and Antarctica, and to a lesser extent from the ice of mountain glaciers and thermal expansion. That ice is not floating on the oceans.

Update: rephrased, and added thermal expansion. Changes in italics.

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