Friday roundup

Schwartz in the news again:

Stephen Schwartz of Brookhaven National Laboratory makes our weekly roundup again this week. This time, its for a comment/reply in the latest issue of Nature concerning a previously published Nature piece “Quantifying climate change — too rosy a picture?” by Schwartz et al. In the original piece, Schwartz and co-authors argue that the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) presents an overly confident assessment of climate sensitivity and potential future climate change. In the response by Forster et al, a number of IPCC lead authors point out that the Schwartz et al critique ignores or misinterprets several key IPCC findings.

update: if you don’t have a subscription, the original Schwartz et al Nature article is available here and the recent comment/reply is available here

update #2: It has been pointed out to us that the commentary by Stephen Schwartz and co-authors was published on the Nature Reports Climate Change website, rather than in the print journal Nature.

334 comments on this post.
  1. Barton Paul Levenson:

    [[Re #11, #35, #37, #39, #40: Using the figure that burning one kilogram of carbon in the air releases 33 megajoules (I had to ask so I don’t have a reference), 14 billion tonnes of carbon is equivalent to 462 exajoules.]]

    The reaction for burning pure carbon is

    C + O2 => CO2

    The respective heats of formation of the molecules are, respectively, 0, 0, and -393.5 kilojoules per mole. The reaction is exothermic, since (0 + 0) – (-393.5) = 393.5, a positive number. A mole of carbon has a mass of 12 grams. Therefore, burning one kilogram of carbon gives off 32,790,000 Joules, or 33 MJ, just as advertised.

  2. catman306:

    Some discussion of this book may be necessary. The author was interviewed on Some discussion of this book may be necessary. The author (Bjorn Lomborg) was interviewed on NPR Morning Edition this morning. 9/9/07

  3. Ray Ladbury:

    Re 51. Lomborg is not a scientist. He doesn’t understand science, and from what I’ve seen his economics is pretty shaky, too. Why should we compound NPR’s mistake by publicizing this joker.

    Re 48. Daniel Goodwin: What matters is whether the proper physics is in the models. The task of the models is eased by the fact that they are looking at climate, which by definition is an equilibrium or near-equilibrium state. By near-equilibrium, I mean you start with a equilibrium state and perturb it slightly–that’w what we have done to the climate. That is also what Mt. Pinatubo did–albeit on a shorter timescale–and the models nailed that. The models also did a pretty good job on the post-9/11 decrease in air travel. There are enough independent chacks to suggest that the models have most of the right physics, and that whatever is not there is not that significant. As to linear vs. nonlinear approximations, again, the models are actually highly nonlinear. Where there are linearizations or other approximations, there are also ways to check if the effects are potentially important and over what ranges.

    As to feedbacks–biological systems mainly affect ghg production and/or albedo. There is no reason why we can’t get these right if we know about them, and that is why investigations are ongoing.

    On the other hand, the physics of melting ice is highly nonlinear and largely not well understood. If I were looking for missing physics, that is where I would start.

    Having a model that gives conservative predictions is not necessarily a bad thing. It shows that the label of “alarmist” is a bald-faced lie.

  4. Jack Roesler:

    After watching Dimming the Sun on PBS’s NOVA last night, I don’t think there’s any question about the recent IPCC report being way too conservative.

    The data presented by Dr. Hansen and others indicates that if we were to eliminate air pollution and aircraft contrails, the Earth’s temperature would increase about 1 degree C. That, combined with the continued increase in CO2 emissions would likely put past the point of no return in as little as another 9 years. Very scary indeed, especially when recognizing the significant denial of AGW on the part of so many of our people, and talk radio hosts. In my opinion, the only thing that will break through that resistance is a very strong law.

    In the meantime, action on an individual level can offer reductions in CO2 emissions by as much as 60%. I did so with an investment of $7500 in my house, and a near vegan diet. The payback on the furnace was 5 yrs. It will be a little longer on the windows and insulation. The vegan diet cut my equivalent CO2 emissions by about 1.5 tons/yr. No cholesterol lowering drugs required. My hybrid bicycle gets quite a workout on local trips, and for exercise.

  5. catman306:

    Sorry for the mispost.

    Some discussion of this book may be necessary. The author (Bjorn Lomborg) was interviewed on NPR Morning Edition this morning. 9/9/07

  6. Deech56:

    RE catman306: Tim Flannery had a book review in yesterday’s Washington Post.


  7. David B. Benson:

    Barton Paul Levenson(50) — Thank you for the confirmation.

    My estimates of the anothropogenic carbon load were too low. Using data from

    Wallace S. Broecker
    CO_2 Arithmetic
    Science v. 315:5817, 2007 Mar 09, p. 1371

    and from the extremely well-done FAQ page on the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, web site, we have:

    1850, 288 ppm of atmospheric carbon dioxide;
    anthropogenic carbon load since that date through 2007: about 482 Gt;
    2007, 383 ppm of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

    Thus to reduce this to about 315 ppm at a removal rate of 7 Gt per year would require about 48 years.

  8. Ray Ladbury:

    Re 55. Isn’t it amazing how denialists discover the poor and underdeveloped any time they need to drum up an opportunity cost–as if the poor will not be affected by climate change–and then conveniently forget them afterward. I haven’t seen Lomborg lobbying for more development funds for Africa. It is truly sad when rationalization passing for analysis is deemed worthy of publication.

  9. catman306:

    Re 51. Lomborg is not a scientist. He doesn’t understand science, and from what I’ve seen his economics is pretty shaky, too. Why should we compound NPR’s mistake by publicizing this joker.” – Ray Ladbury

    I’m not disagreeing with your assessment but I was hoping that someone with credentials could email or perhaps even interview at NPR to help correct some of this spin. Millions of people must have heard Mr. Lomborg and few will know exactly where his point of view differs from that of real climate scientists.

  10. catman306:

    Thanks, Deech56, Tim Flannery certainly has credentials and his review might spare the unititiated reader’s time with Lomborg’s book.

  11. J.C.H.:

    What is his basis for claiming that 1.5 million Europeans die from cold?

    I grew up in South Dakota, which is much colder than most of Europe, and there were a tiny handful of people each year who died from the cold.

    Somehow I think there is a confusion between people who die in the flu season and death caused by cold.

  12. Moptop:

    Here is a link to a story from The Guardian which mentions 25,000 deaths from the cold in one year in the UK.,,1933677,00.html

    I don’t know how much time you have spend in Europe, but much of their housing is not up to US standards.

  13. Carl G:


    I would seriously question the state’s definition of “Excess Cold Death”, especially given that it is the sensationalist british government (and newspaper reporting) this phenomenon.

  14. J.C.H.:

    It’s a long way from 25,000 to 1.5 million. This is smelling like the 7 billion cows fantasy.

    Elderly people die of the flu because they’re elderly. They’ll die of the flu in a warm house. They’ll die of the flu in an insulated house. What are they going to blame then? This is a bogus number. Very few of those deaths were actually caused by the cold.

  15. Ike Solem:

    Thanks for mentioning the carbon cycle, David Benson. After reading the Schwartz and Foster letters, it seemed they were ignoring two of the biggest uncertainties: future biosphere-linked carbon cycle changes, and fater-than expected saturation of the oceans with CO2 (or at least not explicitly mentioning them). The effect on future forcings could be considerable.

    Woods Hole has a nice page at

    Estimates of global photosynthesis and respiration are on the order of 60-100 gigatons back and forth, compared to the 7 gigatons of fossil fuels added each year by human use of fossil fuels. The net biomass +soil active carbon pool is estimated at 2000 gigatons. It’s worth noting that if photosynthesis alone were to halt, the entire biosphere whould be respired to CO2 within 20 years. (that’s not going to happen – it just helps show that the biosphere is an active carbon pool) Is the global system currently in balance, and how will it respond to future warming? That’s very difficult to measure and predict. For more, see

    The scenarios that should cause worry are strongly weakened biosphere and oceanic carbon sinks, and melting permafrost and shallow methane hydrate carbon sources. One can imagine reaching a point where even a 100% reduction in the use of fossil fuels doesn’t stop atmospheric CO2 from increasing to some new higher point.

    Going from burning fossil fuels to sequestering biomass at similar levels is hard to imagine. Essentially, you’re talking about making new fossil fuel deposits from biomass on a very short timescale as a means to draw down atmospheric CO2 – this will take a lot of energy and effort… in an era when agricultural productivity is already suffering due to heat waves, droughts and floods. Forests in midlatitudes are under assault from insects and wildfires and decreased summer water flows.

    For more on the carbon cycle:

    There’s a lot of talk about sequestration, but few viable long term methods have been proposed. Mostly, its just PR for coal interests who want excuses to keep burning coal. The most effective sequestraion of agricultural crops appears to be partial conversion to charcoal and burial in soil (‘black earth’) – which results in about 20% of the crop biomass being locked up in soil for at least a few hundred years.

    So let’s say you take the entire human agricultural output, which I can’t find a numer for, but let’s be generous and estimate 1 billion tons per year, convert it to charcoal and bury it in the soil, leading to 0.2 billion tons per year being sequestered – while everyone starves to death ??? Keep in mind that the real number is probably a lot lower, and that most industrial agriculture relies heavily on fossil fuel inputs, and that agricultural yields are set to drop…

    The problem is pretty well defined at this point, but the only solution is relying on the sun and wind for power, and vastly reducing energy and material consumption, especially in industrialized countries, along with global population stabilization. This doesn’t mean pursuing the terra preta stragegy is a bad idea – it’s very good for soil productivity, apparently.

    Still, the argument remains that ending the use of fossil fuels is ‘economically impossible’ despite plenty of evidence to the contrary. Canada and Russia are racing to find new fossil fuel deposits in the newly de-iced Arctic, as just one truly bizzare example of global short-sightedness. US universities still, by and large have no renewable energy research programs to speak of, political interests in governments have derailed expanison of renewables yet again, and the whole world seems to have geared up for a military struggle over control of the biggest oil reserves, while people and media outlets in the US still argue over whether global warming is real ot not, although the latest mainstream argument seems to be that taking action “will cost too much”. That’s actually an improvement over the past!

  16. Hank Roberts:

    I wish there were a practical truck-mounted system for dealing with woodchips. I know a range manager dealing with removing eucalyptus, and all they can do is chip it on site, leaving huge piles of flammable wood chips, no budget to haul it and no landfill to take it and nobody seems to want it.

    I suggested they do what we used to do in North Carolina with pine sawdust —get a backhoe, dig a long deep narrow trench, fill it mostly full, and pile all the dirt back on top and tamp it down good so there’s a few feet of dirt atop it.

    Wait through a couple of wet winters and dig out dark, black, well-rotted sawdust mulch, wonderful stuff.

    It ought to work. Lots safer than piling it up, which leads to spontaneous combustion once it gets damp.

  17. David B. Benson:

    Ike Solem(64) — You are welcome, although I don’t recall explictly doing so.

    Your gloomy forecasts regarding the production of massive amounts of sequesterable carbon do not agree, fortunately, with the studies cited in

    and explicitly linked in previous comments on this thread. For example, using biocoal,

    one can produce bio-anthracite, esssentially indistinguishable from fossil anthracite. This material will, obviously, last for millions of years in abandoned mines and carbon landfills. (And by the way, sequestering biochar results in almost half of it persisting in soils for at least centuries.)

    So the remaining question is where does the biomass come from? It turns out that there is the potential for a prodigeous supply from non-agricultural lands, using sand willow or jatropha or several other good producers which require neither irrigation nor artifical fertilizers. There is, by studies linked in previous comments, ample to provide bioenergy replacements for all fossil fuels plus other sources of carbon being added to the atmosphere, currently about 8 Gt per year, and also sequester, as biocoal, about 7 Gt per year. Assuming the former pays for itself, the latter has to be paid for. Depending upon transportation and labor costs, this might run from about $36 per tonne in the U.S. to an amazing low $10–15 per tonne in sub-Sahara Africa.

    Either way, the world economy can certainly stand it.

  18. Lynn Vincentnathan:

    I finally saw the global dimming program, “Dimming the Sun,” on PBS last week. The fact that it took so long to reach the U.S. is atrocious.

    I know climate scientists have been including the aerosol cooling effect in their models and calculations, but the impression I got from the film (which I know RealClimate critiqued more than a year ago – & ) is that the aerosol effect may be underestimated, which implies perhaps a greater climate sensitivity to the GHGs.

    Which fits the paleodata better (like what happened 55 or 251 mya) — the sensitivity centered on 3C (for 2X GHGs), or one centered higher, more in line with what that dimming program implied?

    As usual, I don’t know much about what I’m saying….

  19. John Mashey:

    re: #64, Ike
    re: universities: just a few examples, which don’t necessarily refute what you said, but are at least modestly encouraging.
    I’ll pick a few nearby:

    Stanford: (since 2002, and I *know* Stanford’s President cares about this a lot)

    UC Berkeley:
    (with LBL and U of Illinois) in Energy Biosciences Institute)

    UC Davis: is part of the DOE JBEI (along with LBL, Sandia, LLNL, Stanford, UC Berkeley), but has other efforts, including one funded by Chevron. Davis is a very good bioscience/ag place, and has been looking at miscanthus and others for a while. Some of this being Silicon Valley, Venture Capitalists are swarming around bees outside their usual haunts (i.e., EECS & health) looking for companies to nurture.

    Actually, from a brief sample, I’ll bet that many of the land-grant state universities, especially those that have kept strong ag/bioscience programs, are doing biofuels research, and a bunch of others with good physics/ee (like Delaware) and working hard on solar effiency.

    This is not to minimize the problem, which is serious. I just observe that not everybody is being completely idiotic.

  20. Lawrence Brown:

    There’s an interesting article in the September issue of Harper’a Magazine,by McKenzie Funk, about an ice free northwest passage and it’s geopolitical consequences.

    There’s also a summary in the article of some of the unusual events around the world that point to global warming. “….a manatee swam past Chelsea Piers in New York’s Hudson River, …..Armidillos reached northwest Arkansas.Wolves ate dogs in Alaska.Fire consumed 50 million acres of Siberia. Greenland lost a hundred gigatons of ice.The inuit got air conditioning units.The polar bear lurched toward the endangered species list……. Alaska’s Shishmaref village decided to be evacuated before being lost to the
    Chuckchi Sea.Canadien scientists reported that the forty square mile Ayles ice shelf had broken off Ellsmere Island….”

    If the Inuit had to get air conditioning you have to believe that strange things are happening.

  21. Falafulu Fisi:

    Ray Ladbury said…
    There are enough independent checks to suggest that the models have most of the right physics, and that whatever is not there is not that significant.

    I think that your statement is completely misleading. Take a look at the issues which were raised in the following workshop a few year ago. So, the missing physics if they were to be included would have definitely changed the outcome of the models.

    Note if you click on the following link and when it appears, just refresh it, so that the text doesn’t quashed up to the left side.


  22. Jack Roesler:

    Re: #67, Lynn — I also saw “Dimming the Sun” on PBS/NOVA Sunday. I was left with pretty much the same questions you have. One question is: has NASA included the findings from the 3 days after 9/11 into their computer models? Have they also included the shading effect of aerosols? With regard to the latter, they probably don’t have a no-aerosol scenario to compare with what now exists. So how accurate are their estimates of the aerosol effect?

    In summary, I got the impression that if we eliminated air pollution and aircraft contrails, global temperature increases since the start of the industrial revolution would be about double what they are now. As Dr. Hansen pointed out at the end, if we eliminate pollution, and keep increasing CO2 at the present rate of 2%/yr. we’re in big trouble, quickly.

    I’m hoping solar panel efficiencies will increase soon, but even if they don’t, I think the answer is to use solar and wind wherever possible, and as soon as possible. In the meantime, as I’ve done myself, simple measures should allow most to reduce their CO2 equivalent emissions by 50% or more. That should give us some breathing room. However, one of the things that really troubles me is the number of very large vehicles on the road, usually occupied by only the driver! These mega vehicles last a very long time, so they’ll be emitting tremendous amounts of CO2 for years to come. We’ve really got to do something about that, and soon.

  23. Vernon:

    Gavin, I have been thinking since this is Friday roundup, here is my off-topic post. It is about your statement a while back about 60 DoF and how 60 stations could measure the NH surface temperature trend. I am assuming that your referring to Estimation of Spatial Degrees of Freedom of a Climate Field by Wang et al (1999). Well, it took me a while to work though the paper, been a few years for me. Now having read it and read the supporting papers, two major points come to light. First, the underlying assumptions made is that the best-fit distribution represents the ‘true’ data well enough, so that the effects of noise in the simulated data and in the real data are the same. A second assumption made is that the error distribution of each data point is Gaussian.

    The impact of these assumptions is that while they say stations in the paper it quickly becomes apparent that they are interchangeably using cells. As a further note, the cell size is quite large (4.5×7.5 degrees) so basically they are saying if you have a station that can represent a cell, only 60 cells are needed to measure a trend. However, their results are only valid if the individual cells error distribution is Gaussian. This would only be true if there were no UHI as Jones and CRU propose but Hansen and GISS say there is. In this case, while I am not a fan of the way Hansen applies his UHI offset and with the GISSTEMP code release I hope to have a better understanding of it, there is an UHI which is a warming bias.

    Additionally, NOAA/CRN indicates that it takes ~12-24 stations to do a cell that size with any accuracy (depending on the location of the cell).

    So my understanding is that using the MCM they proposed only 60-90 cells +/- 5 cells are needed to determine what the temperature trend, they do not say what the precision of the the results will be, nor can they by definition know what cells. This would indicate that every cell has to be measured at a high level of precision, that all errors must be Gaussian, which cannot be claimed right now, and that while they discuss ‘stations’ they are actually talking about cells.

    I therefore say that your claim that 60 ‘optimally’ placed stations could measure the whole NH is not supported by this paper.

    Oh, and I almost forgot, since your using so few observations (cells), then you loose the Law of Large Numbers (LLN) so each cell has to have a higher precision. Current stations are accurate to within 0.3 degree C. The NOAA stations per cell gets the precision to 0.1 degree C per cell. That is not addressed in the DoF argument either.

    So the paper does not say there is 60 DoF, but rather, 90 +/- 5 are needed for annual temperature measurement.

  24. Ike Solem:

    Thanks for the link to the biopact site. They have a lot of good articles, such as

    However, I don’t think we can avoid the necessary step of completely halting the use of fossil fuels, or of reducing energy demand by a large percentage (at least 50-75% in the US, in particular). This means using smaller more efficient vehicles that get 50-100 mpg, for example, as well as getting rid of energy-intensive air conditioning – and many other similar strategies.

    However, from biopact:
    “Southern Ocean carbon sink weakens
    Scientists have observed the first evidence that the Southern Ocean’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas, has weakened by about 15 per cent per decade since 1981. The Southern Ocean normally cycles about 15% of the world’s carbon dioxide, but can no longer keep up. Researchers had predicted this weakening would occur somewhere in the second half of this century, not this soon. The Southern Ocean’s efficiency at cycling vast amounts of carbon dioxide is due to its cool waters.”

    Sub-Saharan Africa is also drying out, as is Spain, which will also weaken the biosphere carbon sink.

    However, biofuel and biocharcoal stratgies should be vigorously pursued – but they won’t help at all unless we stop using fossil fuels, period. That means we also need to be doing research into fossil-fuel free agricultural strategies – and that’s not going on anywhere in the US university system at any scale.

  25. Hank Roberts:

    Falafulu, did you try following that forward from 2002?
    I found no mention of it since 2005 with Google Scholar.
    Searched: “GEWEX Radiation Panel” +feedback

    I think you’re worrying about models that aren’t written yet; right now the modelers are working with the early fast rise of CO2 and the changes over a few decades. The feedbacks that aren’t well understood are those that carried the PETM excursion to its extreme, and those that slowly remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

    Yes, it’s possible one of those will suddenly occur any day now, but there’s no evidence for it, unless you can point to something like the recent change in the South Pacific sink, or the changes in plankton populations — and those are very new findings not yet well documented. I don’t see how you can incorporate feedbacks before they’re known — even though we can say for sure from the geologic record that there’s _something_else_ out there that _will_ happen.

    Right now everyone knows that we don’t know all the feedbacks. Nevertheless the models are working on the short term immediate future level, and looking at the geologic record they are reasonable matches given how much faster atmospheric CO2 is changing this time.

    I’m just reading along; I don’t get what you think is known about these issues that isn’t acknowledged.

  26. Ray Ladbury:

    Falafulu Fisi,
    Maybe I’m missing something, but I see nothing that will qualitatively change the results we get from the models. Indeed, what the participants seem to be saying is that the basic physics is correct, but we need to understand feedbacks better–or indeed what all the feedbacks are. So maybe you get an ice-free Arctic in 2040, rather than 2070. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for improving the models. However, what I am trying to say is that the uncertainties in the climate models are tiny compared to the uncertainties (including feedbacks) in our understanding of melting-ice dynamics. Thus, I don’t view the failure to predict the current breakup of Arctic ice we are seeing (which may in part be a fluctuation) as a failure of the models.

  27. David B. Benson:

    Ike Solem(72) — You are welcome.

    Stopping using fossil fuels means producing enough biofuels to replace the fossil ones. This may take too long, given the time it takes to change. In the meantime, sequester enough carbon in the ground to balance the continued use of fossil fuels.

    However, biocoal appears to be quite promising as a slightly superior fuel, in comparison to fossil coal, and it appears that it could be produced and transported at the same cost, or possibly less.

    DoE’s EERE is exploring some of these bioenergy ideas, both internally and in cooperation with a number of universities. THere is more research going on than you seem to realize.

    I would appreciate your commenting on my comment #11 above.

  28. catman306:

    “I wish there were a practical truck-mounted system for dealing with woodchips.” – Hank Roberts

    I do also. How about a woodchip fired, steam turbine driven truck and chipper. These could be sold as green machinery to help clear fire loads in the forests where the threat of forest fires is quite real. A similarly powered backhoe could bury the chips. I hope some mechanical engineer types will pick up on this idea.

  29. David B. Benson:

    And perhaps we need a greater sense of urgency?

  30. J.S. McIntyre:

    re 77

    Odds are 7-10 years from now the debate will shift from whether or not we’ll exceed a 2 degrees increase to whether or not we’ll exceed a 3 degrees increase.

  31. Richard Ordway:

    #2 Falafulu wrote:

    >that there are also feed-forward processes which are >taking place at the same time as those feed-back >processes. Again, this is just a thought, since both >feed-back and feed-forward control processes do really >occur simultaneously in the real world science…

    Do you mean positive and negative feedbacks?

  32. Jim Cripwell:

    In #72 we read ““Southern Ocean carbon sink weakens
    Scientists have observed the first evidence that the Southern Ocean’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas, has weakened by about 15 per cent per decade since 1981.” CO2 is NOT the major greenhouse gas; water vapor is. There are various estimates; I have seen figures between 75% and 98% of the total greenhouse effect being due to water. Now if the quote had used the euphamism “forcing” instead of “gas”, or added “well mixed”, it would be technically correct.

  33. Nigel Williams:

    Regarding what sort of fuel we burn; Look folks! We have got into this mess because we think we can create energy by any number of means and generally conduct our affairs as we like and make the emissions and refuse of that activity go to that place called AWAY.

    But AWAY has now become the same place we live in. There is no more AWAY left. We cannot swap to bio fuels, because those emissions also have to go someplace, and AWAY is full.

    If its not closed-loop or solar-renewable (hydro, wind, wave, tide and direct solar) then we should not spend a bean on looking at it or a moment thinking about it. Forgetit!

    Lets accept the consequences, and move on fast, because time is running out! The water is rising and the Sky is Falling, honestly!

  34. James:

    Re #72: […getting rid of energy-intensive air conditioning…]

    Regarding which, see the article in today’s Wall Street Journal:

  35. Dave Rado:

    Re. 82, if you’re not a WSJ subscriber, the full article is here.

  36. Dave Rado:

    Re. 80, in what respect is the scientific technical term “forcing” a euphemism, and what is it a euphemism for?

  37. Jim Cripwell:

    Since I have been accepted again, may I reopen a topic I commented on some days ago, which is OT to this subject. I was suggesting that the solar system was the remnants of a super nova which exploded 5 billion years ago, with the sun a neutron star surrounded by debris from the supernova. I now have a couple of references, though I admit the physics is beyond my understanding. I hope others can understand them.

  38. Dave Rado:

    re. wind, solar, biofuels, no-one is mentioning geothermal energy. There was a fascinating radio programme a few weeks ago on the BBC World Service about geothermal energy (unfortunately it doesn’t appear to be available online).

    According to the documentary, if it were properly invested in, geothermal could provide around 10% of US energy needs by 2020 and around 20% by 2050; but far from investing properly in it, the US administration recently cut its geothermal research budget to zero.

    Would be interested in knowledgeable people’s opinions about this.


  39. A.C.:

    I assume there is more and better info to be had about this:

    can anyone point me to it?


  40. catman306:

    Geothermal works for Iceland and according to this reseacher will work here too.
    (I wonder if his funding runs out this year?)

    “Deep Heat” is the name of the program segment.

  41. David B. Benson:

    Nigel Williams(81) — Biofuel is carbon-neutral. Excess biocoal can be produced and sequestered in the ground. That is carbon-negative, but at a price. One which we must learn to pay.

    Dave Rado(85) — Perhaps. There are many uncertainities associated with geothermal energy as well as some certainites which make it less than fully attractive. Nonetheless, producing some electricity that way while moving to a (almost) fully bioenergy economy certainly seems attractive. At least it will appeal to those promoting ‘energy independence’.


    On another topic, the Broecker paper in Science that I referenced earlier states that we (all of us, all sources) are currently adding about 8 Gt per year of carbon to the atmosphere. Of this, from Energy Information Center sources, I estimate the United Ststes contributes about 2.6 Gt yearly.

    Another source of carbon in the atmosphere is the contribution of running the world’s approximately 91,000 ocean vessels. I estimated about 99,000 billion tonne-km of shipping per year in these vessels. While very efficient, just over 0.1 megajoule per tonne-km, this still appears to represent the expenditure of 9.9 exajoules of energy per year. I assumed that all the vessels are powered by marine diesels, and if I did the conversions correctly, this adds about 2.265 Gt of carbon to the anthropogenic carbon load in the atmosphere. While this figure overlaps the U.S.A. contribution (ships fuel up in the U.S., too), it is so large that:

    (1) I hope others who are better at this sort of thing will independently redo my work.

    (2) Notice that this, if correct, is a much more significant source of carbon than automobiles, etc., and help figure out ways to convert to biodiesel and even sails for wind power to assist.

  42. Jerry Toman:


    A lot of geothermal temperature sources are low-temperature

  43. Falafulu Fisi:

    Ray Ladbury said…
    Do you mean positive and negative feedbacks?

    Nope. Positive & negative summation sign could occur both in feedback & feedforward control loops. Take a look at the block diagram shown here for State Space modeling of control system. The first block diagram under the sub-section State variables contains a single feedforward loop that contains block D, which is positive (the + sign at the summation block). It also contains a single feedback loop that contains block A, which is also positive (the + sign at the summation block). The signs (positive or negative) does depend on the process that is being controlled. When the sign of a loop changes , sometimes it makes the process unstable (uncontrollable) , scroll down to see the sub-section with title, Controllability and observability and see the condition when such uncontrollable system behavior occurs.

    If you scroll further down to the sub-section Feedback, you would note the block diagram (2nd diagram on that page), that it has 2 feedback loops (block A and block K), while it has one single feedforward loop (block D). The 2 feedback loops (block A and block K), you note that inner feedback process block A is nested inside the outer feedback process block D.

    All those processes depicted in the the link for State Space control modeling shown in that link above, only shows a simple linear SISO (single-input-single-output) dynamical system, but real climate processes are MIMO (multiple-input-multiple-output) system and also highly non-linear. Current climate models SISO only. When all necessary processes are included in the climate feedback process system dynamic, then it is a MIMO and it gets complex, even by just looking at its block diagram, where feedback are nested within nested blocks. The whole block diagram looks like a complex circuit board. I have quoted the Rossow/Aires paper in the other on multivariate climate feedback processes where they discuss the concepts (nested coupled nonlinear feedback) I am briefly describing in this message.

    I have only seen about 3 papers on climate modeling using State-Space feedback control, but I have tried to Google using search terms : State Space Climate Model, but to no avail. A climate scientist pointed out to me the links for those papers last year, but I didn’t book mark it. If anyone has come across those papers, would you mind posting the link(s) here, so that I can donwload them please.

  44. Jerry Toman:

    Somehow the message got truncated. Read this published in the Toronto Star of July 21, 2007

    “Nilton Renno, a professor at the department of atmospheric, ocean and spaces sciences at the University of Michigan, has spent his career studying tornados and water spouts. He says there’s no reason why Michaud’s vortex engine wouldn’t work.

    “The concept is solid,” says Renno.

    Top atmospheric scientists from the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have joined AVEtec’s advisory board. The group includes respected MIT meteorology professor Kerry Emanuel, perhaps best known for establishing a strong link between hurricane intensity and global warming.

    Still, Renno isn’t without reservations. He’s particularly concerned about the ability to control such a powerful monster.”

    I’m still waiting for comments from other scientists at this site on the AVE’s potential. Do they agree with Dr. Renno that its potential is so great that it could become a “powerful monster”?What are they waiting for?

    Dave: When combining geothermal with the Atmospheric Vortex Engine, overall efficiencies easily exceeding 30% can be achieved. Any low temperature waste-heat can be used as a feed to supplement the harvesting of the Convective Available Potential Energy in the Atmosphere with this device to make electricity.


  45. David B. Benson:

    I saw a paper today about burning sea water in the presence of an electromagnetic field. Really. Somehow the hydrogen burns. Quite hot.

    Unfortunately, I don’t recall where I saw it.

  46. Hank Roberts:

    FF — this gets 24 hits (limited to 2006 and later papers in Scholar)

  47. ray ladbury:

    Falafulu Fisi, actually you are responding to Richard Ordway. I think part of the problem is that people are not sure of exactly how you are using “feedforward”. For instance, it is not clear that any of the uses detailed here:
    would be applicable to climate as there is certainly no active control, no “desired” state, etc. It might be argued that the iris effect might be viewed as a type of feedforward, but that’s been shown not to be significant. Perhaps you could provide an example of a type of feedforward in climate.

    Dave Benson, the rf “burning” of saltwater has been all over today–for instance here:;_ylt=AvOQamqWZfDRZS77hG2oBZUPLBIF
    I suspect that there is less there than meets the eye. The hydrogen in water is already burned. Not sure what’s going on, but I would be willing to bet vast sums of wealth that it will not fix our energy problems.

  48. Craig Allen:

    Re 86 88 90 – Geothermal energy

    There is a Geothermal energy race underway in OZ at the moment. Geodynamics seem
    to be leading the pack. They are currently sinking their third bore into a geothermal anomaly in the Cooper Basin in central Australia using a massive drilling rig they recently purchased from the US. The Australian National University estimates that the structure holds enough tappable energy to meet all Australia’s electricity needs for the next thousand years! The rock is 250 degC at 4 kilometres depth, which is enough to power a Kalimna Cycle power station. They appear to be on track to have their first heat exchanging well pair running by early next year and to have a demonstration power plant operating within the next two. Then they plan to scale up to a 300MWe power plant with 37 wells, producing electricity at a cost of 4 to 5 cents/kWh. There are something like a dozen other companies exploring for hot rock around the country. Imagine what could happen if there was significant political commitment to non-coal non-nuclear low emissions power generation!

    If only we could find a way to viably use electricity to convert CO2 into liquid fuel, we could solve the whole greenhouse problem lickety split.

  49. Timothy Chase:

    RE Models based on Feedback Theory?

    Ray Ladbury (#52) wrote:

    What matters is whether the proper physics is in the models. The task of the models is eased by the fact that they are looking at climate, which by definition is an equilibrium or near-equilibrium state. By near-equilibrium, I mean you start with a equilibrium state and perturb it slightly–that’w what we have done to the climate. That is also what Mt. Pinatubo did–albeit on a shorter timescale–and the models nailed that. The models also did a pretty good job on the post-9/11 decrease in air travel. There are enough independent chacks to suggest that the models have most of the right physics, and that whatever is not there is not that significant. As to linear vs. nonlinear approximations, again, the models are actually highly nonlinear. Where there are linearizations or other approximations, there are also ways to check if the effects are potentially important and over what ranges.

    Falafulu Fisi (#70) responded:

    I think that your statement is completely misleading. Take a look at the issues which were raised in the following workshop a few year ago. So, the missing physics if they were to be included would have definitely changed the outcome of the models.

    Note if you click on the following link and when it appears, just refresh it, so that the text doesn’t quashed up to the left side.


    Falafulu, I think you are rather selective in your quoting – and that can be rather misleading. Particularly when you leave out all but the conclusion – the one sentence that is now bolded.

    As for the workshop, unless I am mistaken, what it was about is how we conceptualize feedbacks and apply them in understanding how models operate, what, for example, the sensitivity of a climate model is. However, it is not a critique of the models themselves. In essence, the models solve for each variable as a function of the values of the variables from the previous time increment. It is a crique of the mathematics through which we attempt to analyze the behavior of the models, but not of the actual mathematics or physics used in the models – which doesn’t actually presuppose feedbacks except in the loosest sense.

    The feedbacks within the models are emergent phenomena of the models, not what the models are based upon. So refering to the workshop as a means of criticizing the models is misleading as well.

  50. Timothy Chase:

    Falafulu Fisi (#2) wrote:

    I found Rossow/Aires work interesting. They treated each climate process as parallel to each other, but I think that their work is just the start in adopting non-linear control theory for climate data analysis. It would be interesting if future work by researchers in this area if they would discover that there are also feed-forward processes which are taking place at the same time as those feed-back processes. Again, this is just a thought, since both feed-back and feed-forward control processes do really occur simultaneously in the real world science.

    Regarding the term “feedforward,” Richard Ordway (#79) asked:

    Do you mean positive and negative feedbacks?

    Falafulu Fisi (#91) responded to Richard Ordway by calling him Ray Ladbury:

    Ray Ladbury said…
    Do you mean positive and negative feedbacks?

    Nope. Positive & negative summation sign could occur both in feedback & feedforward control loops….

    Falafulu Fisi, I hope you don’t mind if I don’t quote more of your post – I think the hyperlink will be enough this time.

    Richard Ordway, here is a definition of feedforward from Wikipedia:

    Feed-forward is a term describing a kind of system which reacts to changes in its environment, usually to maintain some desired state of the system. A system which exhibits feed-forward behavior responds to a measured disturbance in a pre-defined way — contrast with a feedback system.

    He is an example they use of feedback and feedforward:

    A feed-forward system can be illustrated by comparing it with a familiar feedback system — that of cruise control in a car. When in use, the cruise control enables a car to maintain a steady road speed. When an uphill stretch of road is encountered, the car slows down below the set speed; this speed error causes the engine throttle to be opened further, bringing the car back to its original speed (a PI or PID controller would do this. Note that a good PID control will return the car to the original speed, after an initial transient response).

    A feed-forward system on the other hand would in some way ‘predict’ the slowing down of the car. For example it could measure the slope of the road and, upon encountering a hill, would open up the throttle by a certain amount, anticipating the extra load. The car does not have to slow down at all for the correction to come into play.

    Feedforward is a common concept in neural networks – which in essence “learn” to anticipate things and may even be used to model the brain or behavior. Likewise, in terms of behavior, someone who considers hunting food only when they are hungry is an instance of feedback. Someone who hunts for food in anticipation of becoming hungry later is exhibiting feedforward. In essence, it is a teleological concept in which something acts rather than reacting so that it is able to maintain a given state.

    Falafulu, can you give realistic examples of feedforward in the climate system? That is, without appealing to some form of “animism”?

    Oh, but I suppose I should define what I mean by “animism.”

    Here are three definitions:

    1. the obsolete doctrine that the soul is the source of all organic development.
    2. the belief that nonliving objects and phenomena (such as clouds) are inhabited and motivated by a nonphysical agent; it is a characteristic of the thinking of early childhood.
    3. the theory that behavior is controlled by an immaterial mind or soul.

    I am concerned with the second.