Olympian efforts to control pollution

What do the results show? The team at GSFC have released preliminary images from the NO2 analysis showing the before and during the pollution controls. In both images, Beijing shows up as a huge hotspot of pollution, but relatively, the levels during the Olympics were significantly smaller:

August 2008 levels were therefore about 50% less than a similar period the year before. Meanwhile values at other hotspots in China were steady or got even worse. So there was a significant effect, but the scale of the task was indeed Olympian.

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342 comments on this post.
  1. Theo Kurten:

    Thanks for the interesting article! A very small nitpicking comment: most atmospheric chemistry textbooks I have seen define NOx as just NO + NO2, while the sum of “all reactive nitrogen oxides” (NOx + NO3, HNO3, N2O5 etc) is usually called NOy. For the purposes of your article this makes no difference, as NO2 is the major component of both NOx and NOy.

    [Response: You are correct. I’ll fix it. – gavin]

  2. James Staples:

    So, does this mean that I – a ‘Tibetan School’ Buddhist – have to forgive them?

    [edit – sorry, but this is not a forum for discussing that.]

  3. Hank Roberts:

    > values at other hotspots in China were steady or got even worse.

    I realize these are just preliminary images. Are they going to be able to correlate this with any sort of economic, sales, transportation or other data? I sure wonder what was happening in Shanghai during the Olympics — look at the difference!

    And of course how much all these sites vary apart from the specific Olympic effort.

  4. Richard:

    It made me splutter into my 6 nations beer to imagine Chairman Mao’s China could point us the way forward to control pollution! As I understand it they just switched off their industry in the general area to reduce pollution. In addition I believe they also sprayed silver iodide into the atmosphere to try to prevent clouds forming during the Olympics (by making them form elsewhere).

    Clearly the current recession and eventual depression is in the process of switching off industry. However I am unsure that it would be terribly good idea to start spraying lots of silver iodide into the atmopshere to mess around with cloud formation. (Or spraying other aerosols into the atmosphere to “block” the sun’s radiation for that matter)

  5. Tom Woods:

    From the two images above it would appear that pollution intensive activities were simply increased in other areas around China during the Beijing Olympics, especially the Shanghai area. This is almost analogous to the cap-and-trade system that governments want to enact to ‘control emissions of GHGs’ and also proves why it’s a wasted effort. It simply shifts pollution intensive activities from one region to another without any real reductions.

    We even run into these contradicting efforts in everyday life. Ever bought a so-called ‘green bag’ for $0.99 from your local grocery store? It may comfort you to know that you’re using a bag made from recycled material that you can reuse. But then realize that the recycled materials used to make these bags come from America, then is shipped to China to make the bags then shipped back to the US for sale, usually traveling from a port in California by diesel powered trucks stopping at several distribution centers along the way to your local food mart. Chinese industry, as shown in the images above, aren’t the cleanest or most efficient places either.

  6. Roger:

    “From the two images above it would appear that pollution intensive activities were simply increased in other areas around China during the Beijing Olympics, especially the Shanghai area. This is almost analogous to the cap-and-trade system that governments want to enact to ‘control emissions of GHGs’ and also proves why it’s a wasted effort. It simply shifts pollution intensive activities from one region to another without any real reductions. ”

    This is a non-sequitur. While it would be interesting to see why Shanghai got worse, it could be for unrelated reasons, like say a week of storms over Shanghai the year before, and has nothing to do with cap and trade.

    Under cap and trade for traditional pollutants, what has happened in practice is that the largest facilities cleaned up first. They can’t just shift pollution around unless the cap (limit) isn’t set lower than current pollution levels. It’s cheaper to invest in pollution controls at one large facility than three small ones, so that’s what happens. There’s a wealth of data on this at the US EPA’s Clean Air Markets page.

    Now it is fair to say that under the cap and trade programs to date (US Acid Rain, Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, EU ETS) the mechanism worked but the programs achieved limited reductions due to cap levels that weren’t ambitious enough.

  7. Ike Solem:

    The role of shipping emissions in the aerosol and NOx production is probably pretty high, and it might be worth looking at shipping volume around Beijing and Shanghai around the Olympics.

    The specific issue of ship aerosol/NOx emissions has been studied:

    Soot From Ships Worse Than Expected 9 July 2008
    American Geophysical Union & National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:

    WASHINGTON—Large cargo ships emit more than twice as much soot as previously estimated, and tugboats puff out more soot for the amount of fuel used than other commercial vessels, according to the first extensive study of commercial vessel emissions.

    The connection between NOx and shipping emissions is as follows:

    These emission indices depend mainly on engine size/speed and load, and range from a minimum of about 40 kg NOx per ton of fuel (typical high-speed diesel engine, burning clean gas oil) up to 140 kg/ton plus for a large-bore, low-speed two-stroke diesel engine running on poor-quality heavy fuel oil. Quite a few of correction factors had to be introduced into the calculation procedure. A very important one took into account that, in terms of installed engine output, 86 percent of all ships are driven by old and unregulated engines and only 14 percent by NOx-optimized state-of-the-art prime movers.

    Cap-and-trade would do nothing for ship emissions, which are from many small point source emitters – in fact, the opposite effect is true. Recall the premise of cap-and-trade – that it worked well to reduce sulfur emissions? Think again:

    But sulfur emissions from international shipping represent about 8 percent of sulfur emissions from all fossil fuels, said James Corbett, one of the authors of the study.

    Most ships run on bunker fuel, which is cheaper than distillate, but also more polluting. Corbett said it was also getting dirtier over time as distillate fuels become cleaner, since the sulfur driven out of distillates ends up in the residuals used by ships.

    Remember, the primary argument for cap-and-trade is that it worked well to reduce sulfur in diesel fuel in Europe and the U.S. – but if the bunker fuel is getting the residual sulfur, than what does that say? As others have noted, that’s just outsourcing pollution, not reducing global emissions.

    P.S. I saw this earlier, on UAV flights over Beijing.


    AUG 10 2008 The National Science Foundation-funded Cheju ABC Plume-Monsoon Experiment (CAPMEX) will include a series of flights by specially equipped unmanned aircraft known as autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles (AUAVs) that were developed at Scripps. Instruments on the aircraft can measure smog and its effects on meteorological conditions.

    I haven’t seen anything since, but it was part of the same group (Ramanathan et. al) that was previously studying the Asian brown cloud using UAVs. See the DotEarth blog on Ramanathan’s work. There were a few inaccuracies in that, however. The ABC is not “rising mainly from cooking fires fueled with firewood or dried dung”, it is more like a 50-50 split.

  8. Richard:

    Very interesting post Gavin. It really indicates the “Olympian” task facing the world and developing Asia over the next few decades. A time series of those images from August 2008 up to recently would be of interest to see what impact the economic slowdown in China has had on pollution levels. Given the decrease in oil demand from China and decrease in shipping rates over the last quarter of 2008, it could be quite telling. Any chance this could be done soon?

  9. Nigel Williams:

    (Sorry if slightly OT)

    George Monbiot has just observed

    “What’s clear from Copenhagen is that policymakers have fallen behind the scientists: global warming is already catastrophic….”

    And he concludes:

    “… we have to stop calling it climate change. Using “climate change” to describe events like this, with their devastating implications for global food security, water supplies and human settlements, is like describing a foreign invasion as an unexpected visit, or bombs as unwanted deliveries. It’s a ridiculously neutral term for the biggest potential catastrophe humankind has ever encountered.”
    “I think we should call it “climate breakdown.” Does anyone out there have a better idea? “

    Breakdown suggests – like a broken down car – that it will grind to a halt. Unfortunately what is happening is not that passive.

    I believe the better term to adopt would be Climate Excitation. The issue is the increased energy in the climate system. Every event becomes more extreme. Where there is some there will be more. Where there is less there will be less still. Where it is warm it will be hot. Where there are breezes there will be hurricanes. Where there are showers there will be torrential rain. Where man already clings to life by his fingernails there will be death.

    Climate Excitation.

  10. Kevin Byrne:

    Will the rapid decline in fossil fuel combustion that is part of our current world recession reduce aerosols enough to cause significant global brightening? If so could this brightening cause a significant rise in global heating in the near future?

  11. tim jenvey:

    I’m new to this commenting so please be kind. Got into searching around on this man-made global warming and clicking around. My attention was taken to the bold text in #9 “climate excitation”.
    In clicking around a few days ago I read about the amount of storm energy released has been in decline for 30yrs: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/03/12/global-hurricane-activity-has-decreased-to-the-lowest-level-in-30-years/ This seem to be contradictory. I see this a lot and the proponents on both sides appear to be eminent practitioners in their fields . Your site appears to strongly support and defend the theory and call those that disagree skeptics and deniers (some get stronger)
    It appears there are a lot of areas where we are bogged down in defensive positions which are stopping us from getting to the next level of understanding.
    My science teacher exuded a passion for his subjects and taught me to have an approach of respect and questioning for differing views and encouraged to think wide to take a subject into new ground.
    My question is: Shouldn’t it be encouraged to be skeptical?

  12. GFW:

    Nigel, in terms of getting the idea across to the general public, I think Steven Kimball’s term “climaticide” is better than yours. Unfortunately, “excited” is a generally positive word to people, even though it has a specific meaning in physics/chemistry. Heh, the only place the average person has heard the word “excitation” is in the Beach Boys song “Good Vibrations”.

  13. Dennis Baker:

    so what your saying is that efforts have shown tangible benefits short term.

    Exactly what politicians need to hear

    as they have a 4 year attention span

    excellent reporting

  14. tim jenvey:

    I see you posted! Thanks. Slight correction on reading. Should have said lowest in 30yrs. My apology.

  15. Martin Vermeer:

    Nigel W #9:

    “Dark, Satanic mills” comes to mind.

    Though the experts may differ on what Blake meant to refer to: coal-fired power plants, or denialist think tanks? Hmmm…

  16. Brian Dodge:

    “I think we should call it “climate breakdown.” Does anyone out there have a better idea? “
    some other possibilities are calamity, cataclysm, catastrophe, crash, crisis, disruption, debacle, disaster, fiasco, havoc, meltdown, tragedy, trainwreck.

    My vote is for: crisis
    Definition: A highly volatile dangerous situation requiring immediate remedial action.

  17. Alan of Oz:

    A bit offtopic but some good news on the subject of clean air.

    Cyclone Hammish, that at the “last minute”, broke up over the Tasman sea brought both good news and bad. The oil spill on the sunshine coast is international bad news.

    However the reason why every one here in SE Australia is in a joyful mood this weekend is that it’s also dragged up a large LOW from Antaritica. It’s now centered over Tassie and to qoute the vanacular, it’s pissing down!

    I found grass shoots growing in my door mat this morning! :)

  18. Barton Paul Levenson:

    “…the efforts that the Chinese authorities to reduce air pollution…” should read “the efforts that the Chinese authorities made to reduce air pollution…”

  19. Mark:

    tim #11 asks “My question is: Shouldn’t it be encouraged to be skeptical?”

    Yes. Start with the information you have recieved and take as truth at this moment. Be skeptical of that. See if it is true, not just take Watt’s word for it.

    Be skeptical. Be skeptical of what you read there first. Then you can ask questions about skepticism.

  20. Manu Phonic:

    In #11 tim jenvey said:

    “Got into searching around on this man-made global warming and clicking around…. [Online claims and opinions] seem to be contradictory. I see this a lot and the proponents on both sides appear to be eminent practitioners in their fields…. My science teacher exuded a passion for his subjects and taught me to have an approach of respect and questioning for differing views and encouraged to think wide to take a subject into new ground.

    “My question is: Shouldn’t it be encouraged to be skeptical?”

    My response: Yes, but there are problems with treating “proponents on both sides” as equally “eminent practitioners” of science.

    One issue is that manmade global warming theory is built on peer reviewed scientific findings that have accumulated since Fourier in the 1820s. Among much else, these findings outline a physical basis by which infra-red excitable gases such as carbon dioxide transfer solar heat, as re-radiated by the Earth’s surface, into the atmosphere. Over time, objections by the likes of Angstrom and Lamb were decisively refuted; since then, there is no scientific reason to doubt that increasing the concentration of IR-excitable gases physically increases atmospheric warming.

    Models of climate consistent with nearly two centuries of scientific findings have successfully predicted climate changes both prehistoric and recent. Models inconsistent with those findings have not successfully predicted anything. Why then reject a known physical process that successfully explains the observational record while no other theory can?

    Spencer Weart’s website is a good resource on that topic:


    The other, uglier issue is that fervent opponents of government regulation have conducted an organized, and not very honest, propaganda campaign intended to discredit the science behind climate change. This campaign strives to confuse the public with claims that, in many cases, were scientifically refuted in the peer reviewed literature decades ago; in some cases, more than a century ago.

    Campaigners employ tactics directly descended from efforts by tobacco companies in the 20th century to discredit the science linking their products to lethal disease. They include so-called experts like S. Fred Singer and C. Dennis Avery whose published works on climate summarize the science in a manner so deficient and misleading, it’s as if they claimed to have refuted the theory of evolution, but never even mentioned the works, names or concepts of Darwin, Wallace, Huxley, Mendel, Watkins, Crick, Dawkins, Gould, Mayr, Margulis or any other major contributor to the field!

    This propaganda campaign has been offensively unscrupulous yet very successfully persuasive in its efforts to influence the media, politicians and the public. Bitterness over such successful dishonesty is the reason why people here so often, as you put it, “call those that disagree … deniers (some get stronger).” Remember too that, for human civilization and planetary biodiversity, the stakes could scarcely be higher. We’re likely to lose whole cities, whole agricultural regions and whole ecosystems because this propaganda campaign has already prevented timely action to curb emissions of IR-excitable gases, so that less timely action is the only option left us.

    This Naomi Oreskes video is a good resource on the anti-regulatory propaganda campaign:


    Tim, I hope this information illuminates your search for factual clarity in the debate over how we respond to global warming.

  21. Thomas Lee Elifritz:

    Shouldn’t it be encouraged to be skeptical?

    Only if you can present some form of scientific evidence which supports your skepticism. So rather you should be encouraged to be inquisitive. If you have evidence that your skepticism is warranted, then you could pursue that as an alternative hypothesis, but mere skepticism itself is generally not considered to be a viable scientific method in the modern paradigm fo science, which is by no means static.

  22. Alan of Oz:

    Re #11 My question is: Shouldn’t it be encouraged to be skeptical?

    Tim, you will find most people here think it IS essential.

    The thing that is disregarded by psuedo-skeptics (fale skeptics) is you also have to be skeptical of yourself, you have one article, find another article that can convine you otherwise and justify why it’s “better”.

    The more of us that click on that link the more ad revenue it draws, we’ve seen the story before and think it’s a bad one. Just linking from a popular site like RC will up psuedo-skeptics pagerank but to avoid losing credibility the editors have to point to some of their “critics” others you will have to find elsewhere.

    Here’s the thing with psuedo-skeptics. No genuine-skeptic wants to tell you WHAT to think but they might show you HOW they think as a skeptic. They offer plenty of info if you can be bothered looking for something interesting to you and THEM. Look at the posts in the “young blogger” story, have a look what I found about ice as a buffer and one particular psuedo-skeptic. Both will stick in my head because I found out for myself.

    You can disagree with skeptical thinking but you can’t only use bits of it and claim it’s the same thing. If you do disagree then it’s up to you to offer another method we can disagree using skeptical thinking.

    To his discredit the psuedo-skeptic does that in his bubble blog.

  23. Aaron Lewis:

    “Please, Sir, may I have some more?”

    Will there be some follow up on the Fate and Transport of “products of combustion”?

    Will there be some follow up on the Human Health and Environmental Impacts of these products of combustion?

    Will there be some follow up on how these materials affect global warming, the modeling of global warming, water and ice cycles?

  24. Thomas:

    (7) Interesting discussion. I wanted to note that prior to the current recession cum commodities bust, the price of Sulfur had skyrocketed to circa $1000/ton. Sulfur is a key industrial feedstock which is critical for fertilizer production. The bottom line, I think is that since much of the Sulfur supply comes from scrubbing of exhaust gases, or from refiners who remove it from high sulfur oil, the economic incentive to remove it from fuel should be pretty strong going forward.

    (2) The was a really great response!

  25. Christopher Hogan:

    I believe the Realclimate contributors have been quite circumspect on the issue of whether or not global warming will result in more or more extreme hurricanes.

    Seems worthwhile to quote realclimate’s FAQ on this:

    “Examples of non-robust results are the changes in El Niño as a result of climate forcings, or the impact on hurricanes. In both of these cases, models produce very disparate results, the theory is not yet fully developed and observations are ambiguous.”

    So, you may see comments that assert a known impact of global warming on hurricane frequency and intensity, but that’s not the position of the knowledgeable individuals who run the site.

    As an aside, hurricane frequency is not just a matter of heat input, but is also affected by atmospheric flows in the area where tropical storms form. Shear off the tops of the storms fast enough and they don’t form as often. There are apparent correlations between El Nino, monsoons, and intense hurricane frequency. For example see here:


    So it’s not as simple as “higher average temperatures must lead to greater storm intensity”. Failure to find greater storm intensity doesn’t prove or disprove anything in particular.

  26. dhogaza:

    In clicking around a few days ago I read about the amount of storm energy released has been in decline for 30yrs: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/03/12/global-hurricane-activity-has-decreased-to-the-lowest-level-in-30-years/ This seem to be contradictory.

    The scientist who made the original post at Climate Audit attributes this to the strong La Niña we’re experiencing. He does not argue that it’s “contradictory”, nor does he appear to be a climate warming denialist. His argument is limited to making the point that the warming signal that might or might not be present in this metric is currently overwhelmed by natural variability due to events like El Niño and La Niña.

    He takes a cheap shot at Gore, but doesn’t directly contradict the work by Emmanuel and others that attempt to show that the warming signal is already present. Please read this closely:

    The notion that the overall global hurricane energy or ACE has collapsed does not contradict the above papers but provides an additional, perhaps less publicized piece of the puzzle. Indeed, the very strong interannual variability of global hurricane ACE (energy) highly correlated to ENSO, suggests that the role of tropical cyclones in climate is modulated very strongly by the big movers and shakers in large-scale, global climate. The perceptible (and perhaps measurable) impact of global warming on hurricanes in today’s climate is arguably a pittance compared to the reorganization and modulation of hurricane formation locations and preferred tracks/intensification corridors dominated by ENSO (and other natural climate factors).

    No contradiction at all with AGW. Having read this carefully now, I hope you see this right? Also, “less publicized” does not mean “other climate scientists have ignored natural variability, I’m letting you into a secret bit of data that they ignore, blah blah blah”. OK?

    I won’t bother to read the thread at Watts’ blog because I’m certain that this statement is being blown out of proportion and being touted as more “proof” that climate science is a fraud, blah blah.

  27. schnurrp:

    Warming trends in Asia amplified by brown cloud solar absorption

    What is the current thinking on this type of pollution as a positive forcing?

  28. Hank Roberts:

    Try pasting your question into Google Scholar.
    You’ll find several good recent review articles.


    click “recent” and set for 2009 — this year’s articles are good.

  29. David Horton:

    “Trends in North American stations seem relatively flat” – hate to be picky, but can a “trend” be flat (relatively or otherwise)?

  30. Ike Solem:

    #27 see Ramanathan et. al 2005, and this quote:

    Atmospheric brown clouds—wandering layers of air pollution as wide as a continent and deeper than the Grand Canyon—are enough to dim atmospheric physicist Veerabhadran Ramanathan’s innate optimism. In fact, studying the effect of these clouds on the climate has landed him in the peculiar role of a scientist who wants to be wrong. “The most pessimistic scenario for me would be that what our model is suggesting for the future turns out to be true,” he says.

    Re#10 There’s been no reduction in carbon emissions, just a switch away from renewable energy towards dirtier, cheaper fuels. Engine upgrades for ships are also less likely – meaning more pollution due to the recession, not less, as credit for renewables has dried up.

    The priority for the fossil fuel lobby still appears to be the defeat of initiatives like this one:

    “New legislation that would require many U.S. utilities to generate 20 percent of their electricity from renewable energy resources by 2020 was introduced Thursday by Congressman Tom Udall of New Mexico.”

    Re#24 The sulfur in bunker fuel is in the form of organic sulfur compounds like dibenziothiophene derivatives. Those are highly toxic, especially if alkylated, and are also responsible for sulfur emissions when combusted. Not an economical source of industrial sulfur – so, there really has been no benefit from cap-and-trade for sulfur reduction other than to reduce local air pollution in cities – meaning cap-and-trade is useless for reducing global CO2. Coal has the same problem – “clean coal” means that the fly ash has more contaminants like sulfur, and look at the TVA ash spill – that’s clean coal’s poster child.

    #26. Dhozaga, take a look at the real Enso indicators: http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/enso/

    In general, equatorial Pacific temperatures fell short of typical La Niña values and were around 1°C warmer than those observed at the peak of the 2007/08 La Niña.

    Posting a link to a Steve McIntyre web site and quoting it at length isn’t going to do a whole lot for your credibility, by the way – and neither is repeating the “La Nina is the culprit” theme seen in U.S. press reporting on drought, for example:

    La Niña blamed for more drought: Powerful air pattern back again this year, By Robert Krier San Diego Union-Tribune (100,000 circulation). January 6, 2009: “La Nina is the culprit” – and forget about the chore of deciding between “global warming” and “climate change”, because no mention was made.

    That all seems just a tad bit deceptive – and posting Mcintyre’s nonsense on “global hurricane energy collapse” also looks like an effort to move the discussion away from Beijing’s approach to air pollution.

    #26 The hurricane issue has been discussed extensively, see:
    Reactions to tighter hurricane intensity/SST link RealClimate

    Bottom line? None of the other variables have as much explanatory power for the long term trends as SST which is the only consistently trending constituent in the mix.

    I would take this story on Beijing aerosols as a positive note – at least the Chinese officials clearly understand the problem:

    “The record-low water levels in some parts of Yangtze and its tributaries and the drought are not directly related to the Three Gorges Dam,” Hu Jiajun, spokesperson for the Yangtze Water Conservancy Committee said at a press conference this week. “The dam can only store as much water as is brought by the river.”

    Officials blamed the adverse climate for the unprecedented drought afflicting Sichuan province and the municipality of Chongqing. “The abnormalities are caused by global warming and the overall change in the world’s climate,” said Dong Wenjie, director of the National Weather Forecast Centre.

  31. tim jenvey:

    Mark #19, Manu #20, Thomas #21 and dhogaza #26. Thanks to you all (I hope I’ve included everybody) for taking the trouble to reply. I was a bit nervous about doing this as I’ve seen some messy fire fights. You have been most gracious.
    I came to this site and others like it as I have become inquisitive lately as I see more news on alternative theories so I decided to check out. One was a meeting in NY called ICCC which had some very well qualified individuals which, I confess, has challenged me to look deeper and question.
    I’m not qualified to address the science myself but I must admit that I think it would be good to see a few open debates on the subject as I know science from the past has always encouraged. I think we all agree that this is a very important subject which will have serious consequences. At the moment I have questions about our understanding of the basics and in my work unless they are founded on rock they will fall down. This can be a very messy and painful if we are heading in the wrong direction because so much baggage needs to be unhooked and redirected and personal allegiances need to be broken and special interests given up.
    Thanks for your hospitality. I will save you as a favorite and come back from time to time.

  32. dhogaza:

    Posting a link to a Steve McIntyre web site and quoting it at length isn’t going to do a whole lot for your credibility, by the way

    Well, gee, all I was doing was pointing out that our friend tim was misinterpreting what the actual grad student at FSU (not McIntyre, though the post appeared there) was saying.

    The FSU dude says that his analysis – right or wrong – is *not* “contradictory”, which was how tim interpreted it (probably because the CA and WUWT crowd interpret it that way).

    Now, as to whether or not his analysis is correct, I do not know, and I did not say. However I do know that he in no way said what tim believed he was saying.

    That should be clear from my post.

    I should think it’s rather useful to point out to tim that he’s misread (perhaps has been misled into misreading) what the FSU grad student claims his analysis shows, which boils down to “not much” and “nothing contradictory to AGW” if you parse what I posted above.

  33. dhogaza:

    Tim, if you look past the smoke and mirrors you’ll find out that most of the attendees at the ICCC conference you mention are totally unqualified to discuss climate science.

    Some of those that are, such as Lindzen and Spencer, have other odd beliefs. In LIndzen’s case, that tobacco smoking is not harmful, and in Spencer’s case, in special creation rather than evolutionary biology.

    And their views on climate change are in a distinct minority vs. other researchers.

    Most of the rest of the attendees are qualified in other skills – Watts is a TV weather guy, for instance – but not climate science.

    I’m not qualified to address the science myself but I must admit that I think it would be good to see a few open debates on the subject as I know science from the past has always encouraged.

    That’s not really how science works. Scientists don’t get together and debate whether or not the earth is flat, nor whether or not the earth is 6,000 years old, nor whether or not CO2 is a greenhouse gas that warms the planet.

  34. tim jenvey:

    Addition to #31.
    I see you have published. Just read and wanted to add a thanks for considered opinion giving me food for thought. Getting my confidence in this blogging….

  35. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Manu — very good post, except that I would dispute that Dawkins is a “major contributor” to evolutionary theory. He tells everyone he is, but I don’t think most evolutionary biologists agree. “Gene selection” does not have majority support, and Darwin, Wallace, Huxley, Mayr, Dobzhansky and many others got along fine without it. The paradigm is still: genes mutate, individuals are selected, species evolve.

  36. Ray Ladbury:

    Barton, At the risk of going far off topic, it is very hard to understand social insects–or for that matter naked mole rats–without gene selection. I would agree, though that the real breakthrough there came with Hamilton, not Dawkins.

  37. Hank Roberts:

    Wrong place to argue evolution; sufficient to note that it ain’t simple, and is exciting. Watch the headlines, e.g.
    But not here. Please. Except as climate change is involved.

  38. David Mathews:

    No coverage of the Heartland Institute’s climate change denier conference … ?

    You people didn’t miss anything.

    Same old song and dance.


  39. Ike Solem:

    Dhozaga – where did you get your information about “the strong La Nina we are currently experiencing?”

    Second, don’t you think that cap and trade is ineffective as a means of reducing emissions? Beijing’s approach of direct intervention is anathema to free market fundamentalists, but it’s very common in the U.S. as well – Congress intervened to block the sale of Unocal to China, for example, and instead made sure it went to Chevron.

    Third, this is also odd: “Scientists don’t get together and debate whether or not the earth is flat, nor whether or not the earth is 6,000 years old, nor whether or not CO2 is a greenhouse gas that warms the planet.”

    Funny selection of topics – why do you think all three fit into the same category? Also, how do you think that the IPCC report was prepared – discussion of the warming effects of increasing CO2 was involved, wasn’t it? Likewise, scientists get together and discuss ice sheet collapses, ocean warming, glacial melting, atmospheric circulation – that’s pretty typical.

    In any case, for a paper that tracks global shipping emissions, see:

    Corbett et al 2007 Mortality from ship emissions: A global assessment (pdf)

    In particular see Figure 3 and compare it to the NOx emissions. See also this paper for SO2 emissions in the Asian brown cloud region:

    Adhikary et. al Characterization of the seasonal cycle of south Asian aerosols: A regional-scale modeling analysis (pdf)

    In particular, look at the high level of SO2 emissions from figure 1B. Given the effects of the ABC (local amplification of warming), it seems that rapid aerosol reduction in India and China would be very beneficial for the people of the region.

  40. GlenFergus:

    #17 Cyclone Hammish(sic):

    I suspect that it will also have stirred Queensland coastal waters sufficiently to avoid the looming Great Barrier Reef bleaching event this year. Anyone confirm?

    OTOH Cape Moreton (and probably Flinders Reef) is stuffed.


  41. Sig:

    I thought the conference had merit. Thanks for bringing it up.

  42. GlenFergus:

    OT: To tax, or cap & trade…

    Those interested in this arcane debate would do well to read Gittins’ piece in the Saturday SMH. A clear explanation and an interesting perspective.

    [Ross Gittins is an economics journalist and educator (nee nerd) who pens for Fairfax’s Sydney Morning Herald, Australia’s leading daily (sorry Rupert).]

  43. Bill DeMott:

    What the public and the “skeptics” don’t seem to understand is that participating in the scientific debate means coming up with potentially relevant data and results, considering how these results relate to previously published work, writing this work up in the format of a scientific article and sending it off to peer review. The peer reviewers are quite critical, even when they agree with the general premise of a study. The scientific literature then is a record of the scientific debate. If you don’t read the scientific literature, you have a very limited perspective on this debate. You can learn about the concepts in blogs and journalist articles, but the debate takes place when the data are analyzed and placed in the context of previous studies.

  44. Bart Verheggen:

    tim jenvey (11),

    For a skeptical look at climate science from the point of view of a hard-core skeptic (without climate science background), see this nice post:
    He makes the case that it is perfectly reasonable for a skeptical layperson to accept the scientific consensus on a complex issue such as climate science, especially when it is evident that self-proclaimed skeptics who don’t trust the science use some rather weak reasoning.

    I compiled a list of clues to make sense out of the public debate on a complex issue such as climate change: http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/2009/02/08/who-to-believe/

  45. Barton Paul Levenson:


    That’s the impression you’d get (can’t understand social insects without gene selection) from reading The Selfish Gene, but in fact you’re still getting individuals selected and not individual genes.

  46. Adam Gallon:

    Just shows how much filth these “Tiger Economies” are spewing out.
    The lengths to which the Chinese authorities went to to clean up the enviroment for the Olympics was well-documented, closing factories completely (Any bets on the workers still getting paid?), removing homeless people from Beijing and suppressing any signs of dissent.

    [edit – OT]

  47. MJ:


    Bill, being a climate scientist myself I can tell you keeping up with the peer reviewed is no easy task. At times it is difficult to just keep up with the subsections that relate to my specialties. While I also encourage everyone to do what you just said, I have over time realized that there is a huge gap in what even ‘interested’ individuals have time for or can reasonably digest. I think the peer reviewed journals/process could benefit from some modernization and the issue of climate change is a perfect test case. I generally find people want to understand a bit about the science and also how it impacts them, but jumping into peer reviewed articles can quickly overwhelm them or turn them off.

    I am wondering what you (and others) think solutions to that problem might be. How do me make legitimate climate science more accessible? I think there are a few steps that could help. One is taking place here at RC (and other blogs/sources) that help in the translation process. I believe another would be an overhaul of the abstract portion of most peer reviewed articles. I think that if they were written in more a true summary with well articulated findings presented it would help. I also wish there were more forums where qualified scientist and news journalists presented digestible summaries for a broader audience.

    Any thoughts you or others have on this I would appreciate hearing.

  48. Ray Ladbury:

    Barton–Yes, individuals ARE the one’s reproducing, but the individuals reproducing are not the ones exhibiting “altruism”. It is only in populations with high genetic commonality that you see such behavior–either species reproducing via haplodiploidy or in the case of naked mole rats. And no, this is not Dawkins, but rather has a long history going all the way back to Darwin.
    While this stretches the topic, there is the question of whether social species exhibiting altruistic behavior will prosper or fail given the stresses of climate change. Bees seem to be suffering more from increased use of insecticides and herbicides than from climatic changes. Has anybody looked at social insect species that might be under stress from climate change and whether they are adapting–e.g. is there more “cheating” or less wrt altruistic abstinence?

  49. tarunkjuyal:

    For the first time, a large study shows the deadly effects of chronic exposure to ozone, one of the most widespread pollutants in the world and a key component of smog, according to a study in today’s New England Journal of Medicine.

    Doctors have long known that ground-level ozone — which is formed when sunlight interacts with pollution from tailpipes and coal-burning power plants — can make asthma worse. This study, which followed nearly 450,000 Americans in 96 metropolitan areas for two decades, also shows that ozone increases deaths from respiratory diseases.

  50. truth:

    Monbiot seems to be in an almost hysterical state—but I wonder why he doesn’t use his high profile to try to prevent the destruction of the Amazon forests that’s going on right now—nothing to do with climate change—-instead of throwing hissy fits about the end of the century?

    By the way, how come the George Will post has disappeared from the March archive?

    [Response: Cos it was in february.. – gavin]

  51. pete best:

    Re #50, Monbiots profile is not that high as to save the Amazon now is it.

  52. Kevin McKinney:

    Glen, thanks for the lucid discussion on cap-and-trade vs. carbon tax. I was interested to see mention of one of the points that I’ve been wondering about at times: that cap-and-trade should be much better suited to international implementation than a carbon tax regime, for which legal framework exists only up to the national level.

    In the US, my gut feeling about the politics of each would be that the tax would probably be harder to implement than the trading scheme–even in this recessionary environment which has somewhat tarnished the halo of the free market. “Tax” is never popular here, either as noun or as verb.

    (And indeed, I suspect that some of the “skeptic” bashing of cap-and-trade may be motivated by strategic thinking along those lines: “Get the environmentalists lined up behind the measure less likely to pass, and maybe we can go with BAU that much longer.”)

  53. TomRooney:

    #43. In the medical literature there has been a trend towards publishing short commentaries on studies that emphasize the quality of evidence, i.e. the “evidence-based medicine” movement. For an example, see a recent issue of Evidence-based Dentistry:


    Here, the goal is to get clinical findings to practicing dentists.

    I can envision a market for “evidence based climate change” and would encourage some strapping young investigator to start one. Unlike in evidence-based medicine, there is no clear “end user” for climate science. I would like to think that it is journalists, policy-makers, and the general public, but most seemed too trapped in their own paradigms.

  54. Mark:

    MJ asks “How do me make legitimate climate science more accessible?”

    The problem is the denialists. Give a simple explanation, they say it’s too simple. Give a more complicated one and you either have it still too simple, left out “something important” or have put it outside the accessible realm of the man-in-the-street.

    The FAQ has links for just such an accessible resource on climate change and the science. Doesn’t seem to get any press time, though. Why? Interference.

  55. MJ:


    Well, I think the problem is sensationalism on both sides. Unfortunately, it seems the only way to gather the attention is to respond in a sensationalist way.

    I agree the RC FAQ is one approach to help, but we need more. Climate change is a very complex issue for the scientist studying it, and an equally complex challenge in dealing with for policy makers, economists, etc. This broad interdisciplinary mix makes taking an issue and working towards solutions on a global scale that much more difficult. It is also a very unique issue in the time scales that must be considered. All these difficulties make informing the masses correctly and shaping policy wisely difficult. Reality is the whole world is not going to count on RC for their answers, so we need a broader reach through more channels.

  56. Mark:

    MJ says “Well, I think the problem is sensationalism on both sides. Unfortunately, it seems the only way to gather the attention is to respond in a sensationalist way.”

    Why do you think it both sides?

    One side has “You can’t use radiative balance in working out the earth’s temperature because convection and conduction are far more important” and the other side has “If it weren’t for water, CO2 et al, we’d be on an iceball earth. And we’re adding more blankets”.

    And when one side has “YOU’LL SEND US ALL TO THE STONE AGE!!!!!!!!” you think “It could get 6C hotter” is equally sensationalist???

    You have a severe problem in your balance.

  57. Jack Roesler:

    One article I read the other day on this subject put this dimming into perspective. It said the dimming effect is like reducing the output of a 100 watt lightbulb to 99 watts. That’s 1%. Compare that to the variability of the sun’s output over its 11 year cycle, of 0.1%. So the dimming is now very significant, isn’t it? Ten to one.

  58. dhogaza:

    Ike Solem …

    Dhozaga – where did you get your information about “the strong La Nina we are currently experiencing?”

    I thought I made it clear I was just quoting the opinion of the FSU grad student Tim was referring to.

    I thought I was just making it clear that Tim’s interpretation of the FSU’s grad student’s post at CA that it “contradicted AGW” was false, and that this FSU grad student no where claimed that La Niña or El Niño “proves AGW wrong”.

    Second, don’t you think that cap and trade is ineffective as a means of reducing emissions?

    I have not commented on cap and trade. I was simply trying to make it clear to Tim that he had misread the FSU’s student’s conclusions as “contradicting AGW”, which they don’t.

    Third, this is also odd: “Scientists don’t get together and debate whether or not the earth is flat, nor whether or not the earth is 6,000 years old, nor whether or not CO2 is a greenhouse gas that warms the planet.”

    Funny selection of topics – why do you think all three fit into the same category?


    1. The earth is not flat, to debate this would be stupid.

    2. The earth is older than 6,000 years old, those who claim that we should debate this, such as those at Answers in Genesis, are stupid.

    3. CO2, without doubt, warms the planet. To argue it doesn’t, as some denialists do, is stupid.

    Which of these three statements do you disagree with? Which of these three are worthy of “scientific debate”?

  59. Ike Solem:

    As far as making climate science more accessible, the problem is biased coverage in the U.S. press – which is why you get 99% agreement among climate scientists on the basic issues of fossil fuels, deforestation, atmospheric CO2 and global warming, but only half the public shares that view. That’s because the U.S. press has for the past two decades insisted on giving “equal time” to a small number of industry-funded spokespeople, without reservations or qualifications – and it’s not just the George Wills and Heritage Institutes, it’s really seen across the entire spectrum of U.S. media coverage.

    Jon Stewart said this about reporters in finance:

    “STEWART: Yeah. I’m under the assumption, and maybe this is purely ridiculous, but I’m under the assumption that you don’t just take their word for it at face value. That you actually then go around and try and figure it out. So again, you now have become the face of this and that is incredibly unfortunate.”

    That doesn’t just apply to financial news reporting.

    An example is Dr. Don Easterbrook’s Letter to Andy Revkin, New York Times Story, posted courtesy of ICECAP, one more in the train of secretly financed front groups for the fossil fuel lobby. In that case, Joseph D’Aleo is one who set up ICECAP, and you can also see him being lauded over at Pielke’s site. The problem is not these denialist setups, really – it’s the fact that they’re given a platform by media organizations.

  60. Derek Smith:

    I find Dhogaza’s statement 3 “CO2, without doubt, warms the planet. To argue it doesn’t, as some denialists do, is stupid” rather curious because I thought it now agreed that 380 ppm would not be enough unless there was a concomitant effect involving water vapour. Is this climate science or political invective?

  61. ziff house:

    Sorry to be off topic but can someone help me counter this from a skeptic website

    ”As we can see above, carbon dioxide absorbs infrared radiation (IR) in only three narrow bands of frequencies, which correspond to wavelengths of 2.7, 4.3 and 15 micrometers (µm), respectively. The percentage absorption of all three lines combined can be very generously estimated at about 8% of the whole IR spectrum, which means that 92% of the “heat” passes right through without being absorbed by CO2.”

  62. Mike Koefman:

    “truth” – such a modest name – (comment 50) shouldn’t be so lazy. Instead of slagging off George Monbiot as a hysteric throwing unnecessary “hissy fits” over climate change, and in the meantime neglecting the destruction of the Amazon, he (she?) could have looked up Monbiot’s very precise record on the Amazon. It is superb, and encompasses a narrow escape from death at the hands of a gun-wielding thug – in the Amazon. Look it up Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms “truth”, and report back to RealClimate, pronto! And get real on climate too!

  63. schnurrp:

    It’s encouraging to see articles and studies appearing about what we used to call pollution (so2, NOx, O3,soot,etc.). This evidently still-dangerous current threat may have been pushed to the back by the future threat of co2.

    I believe there is a good chance China and India will attack their conventional pollution problem using long-proven technology that does a good job on everything except co2 before turning to co2. Maybe they can do both.

  64. Mark:

    re Derek #60, you thought wrong. Don’t even know where you’d get that from either.

    There isn’t enough change in CO2 forcing to account for the observed change, even at a level of 380ppm, but that along with the various positive and negative feedbacks known is.

    It isn’t what you said. Did you just make that up?

  65. dhogaza:

    To argue it doesn’t, as some denialists do, is stupid” rather curious because I thought it now agreed that 380 ppm would not be enough unless there was a concomitant effect involving water vapour. Is this climate science or political invective?

    If the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere were diminished to 0 ppm – all CO2 removed – the planet would cool. CO2 is known to be a GHG. There’s no scientific disagreement over this fact.

  66. Mark:

    ziff, why?

    Just ask yourself 8% makes WHAT difference to things. If I were to add 8% arsenic to your teaspoon of sugar, you’d be on your back, doing the dying fly in seconds.

    What is it that you think needs debunked? There’s nothing there TO debunk.

    E.g. if we were 8% warmer, we’d have to add ~24C to the earth’s temperature. then again, your query doesn’t say what that 8% is supposed to mean.

  67. Adam Gallon:

    dhogaza old chap, there’s no argument about CO2 being a greenhouse gas, the argument is to what extent it’s current levels are contributing to our climate, both past, present & future.
    A straight plot of “temperature” against “CO2 levels” isn’t a straight line, as I’m sure you’re aware.
    The relationship is poor, hence the need to add “forcings” by other atmospheric components.
    It’s these “forcings” where debate lies, the question about past temperatures & what proxies we can use to assess these and their accuracy, how accurate measurments are from the “scientific era”, the effect of urbanisation on temperatures and, of course, exactly how accurate climate models are, seeing as their predictions are extremely wide.
    I also fail to see why Gore’s statements, as published in today’s Guardian, compared to the last few year’s polar ice data, are OT, compared to many other comments here.

  68. Hank Roberts:

    Ziff house — I’d suggest since you’re not ready to “argue” at that skeptic website, on this basic question, you might want to back off a while, read the Start Here links and the first link under Science, get familiar with the background.

    It sounds like someone has made up some numbers, then applied the made-up numbers as a percentage and claimed to have refuted the observed facts. This kind of argument is often pointless to join.

    You could point to a picture:

    You could point out that the energy of a photon depends on the wavelength, so the amount of energy absorbed is not a simple percentage of all photons; it depends which ones. You know how to find that.

    You could point out the difference between incoming and outgoing. You know how to find that.

    Once you can point to the science — rather than try retyping it — you may find it more useful to respond. Or maybe not.

    My opinion: there are far more septic websites than there are people who understand even basic physics. Most of them are worth leaving to fulminate.

    Coming to RC and asking for some single tidbit amounts to trying to educate a broad misunderstanding by arguing points, without foundation. That isn’t likely to do more than “teach the controversy.”

  69. Martin Vermeer:

    ziff house #61, an invaluable learning resource is David Archer’s interactive MODTRAN model:


    What matters is not how much or how little of the outgoing heat is absorbed by CO2, but how much that changes as the concentration changes.

    Set all other gases, and water vapour, to 0, and do the calculation for CO2 = 375 ppmv. You see that 355.762 watts per square m is coming out of the top of the atmosphere.

    Then, repeat the calculation with CO2 = 750 ppmv. No you see that only 351.366 W/m^2 comes out. Difference: 4.4 W/m^2.

    Now you want to know how the temperature on the ground changes. That’s simple: add temperature to the “Ground T offset, C” field. If you enter 1.1, you’ll see that balance is restored, again 355.762 W/m^2 coming out. That’s 1.1 degrees C for the doubling sensitivity for CO2 only, a well known value. On top of that come all the feedbacks, water vapour the biggest of them.

    Have a look at the CO2 absorption spectrum: effectively you only have to look at the 15 µm = 666 cm^-1 band, which is very broad, and saturated in the middle, i.e., there you’re looking at the top of the atmosphere where temperature is around 220K (this is for the tropical atmosphere).

    What happens when you double CO2 is that the “flanks” of this inverted trapezoid move outward from the band centre. That’s what causes the CO2 part of the greenhouse effect.

    As for the 92% that “passes right through”, no it doesn’t. That’s what the water vapour is for ;-)

    BTW if you want to give your favourite “skeptic” a puzzle to chew on, point out the narrow upward spike in the middle of the 15 µm band, which gets more pronounced as you increase CO2. This is the stratospheric warming signature, a very specific fingerprint of a greenhouse gas transitioning from opacity to transparency at altitudes where the temperature gradient is positive with height.

    Rub it in.

  70. Hank Roberts:

    Oh, for “ziff house” — here’s your problem. One good way to check what you’re arguing with is just to paste their stuff into Google. I tried that with your quote.

    That bit appears on 746 English web pages, according to Google. See if the original source has been debunked, if you want to pursue it; if it has, point to that.

  71. Jim Eager:

    Re Derek @60: What Dhogaza wrote, namely “CO2, without doubt, warms the planet. To argue it doesn’t, as some denialists do, is stupid” is in no way in conflict with the additional feedback warming that water vapour subsequently adds.

    In fact, it is the warming provided by increasing CO2 that allows the atmosphere to hold more water vapour.

    Dhogaza is entirely correct: that argument is stupid.

  72. Maya:

    ziff, if they’re honestly trying to claim that CO2 only absorbs at 3 discrete frequencies, they’re full of it. Check http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/briefs/ma_01/

    Here’s a quote:

    “The spectrum of heat absorption by Earth’s atmosphere contains hundreds of thousands of absorption “lines”. For carbon dioxide alone there are over sixty thousand lines.”

  73. Philippe Chantreau:

    Ziff, it looks to me that your interlocutor is handing you the gun to shoot him in the foot. You could ask him as a follow up question what would happen if that 92% failed to escape.

  74. Maya:

    ziff, another source, if you need one (although the strategy of pointing to the debunking of the original argument is always fun). This is a graph of absorption spectra of various atmospheric components: http://www.iitap.iastate.edu/gccourse/forcing/images/image7.gif

    …which is a part of this short online course, which has some nice references, even where they get their formulas and so on. Not real slick to look at, but good info. http://www.iitap.iastate.edu/gccourse/forcing/forcing_lecture_sec.html

  75. dhogaza:

    Adam, it’s easy to find denialists who deny that CO2 is a greenhouse gas.

    I’ve tried posting a link to such a claim, but the spam filter here keeps rejecting it, but you can find such claims yourself in google.

  76. CM:

    Ziff #61,

    There is a two-part post on RC debunking a different but related argument (CO2 absorption band saturation). Reading it will not give you a snappy rejoinder, but you can learn a great deal about the science underlying your question. It’s good background for understanding the explanation Martin Vermeer gives in #69.



  77. ziff house:

    Everybody, thank you for your responses. Boy oh boy, i can see the of problem trying to convince people is long and difficult.

  78. Ike Solem:

    Martin Vemeer says: “BTW if you want to give your favourite “skeptic” a puzzle to chew on, point out the narrow upward spike in the middle of the 15 µm band, which gets more pronounced as you increase CO2. This is the stratospheric warming signature… Rub it in.”

    If you suspected that is complete nonsense, you are correct. Take a look at the following RealClimate post and links therein:


    The changes in the figure are related to the cooling seen in the lower stratospheric MSU-4 records (UAH or RSS), but the changes there (~15-20 km) are predominantly due to ozone depletion. The higher up one goes, the more important the CO2 related cooling is. It’s interesting to note that significant solar forcing would have exactly the opposite effect (it would cause a warming) – yet another reason to doubt that solar forcing is a significant factor in recent decades.

    For more background: http://www.atmosphere.mpg.de/enid/20c.html

    The lower stratosphere appears to be cooling by about 0.5°C per decade. This cooling trend is interrupted by large volcanic eruptions which lead to a temporary warming of the stratosphere and last for one to two years. Calculations from many research institutes generally estimate the cooling trend for the last two decades (1979-2000) to be greater than for the previous period (1958-1978).

    Second, it is not the “outgoing heat” that is absorbed and re-radiated by CO2, CH4, N2O, CFCs, and H2O – it is the infrared radiation – those gases are mostly transparent to visible radiation.

    As others note, the increase in atmospheric CO2 due to fossil fuels and deforestation warms the troposphere but cools the stratosphere – think of a cold blanket; you wrap it around yourself, and you get warmer, but to a distant observer looking in the IR region, you’ve suddenly cooled off.

    The aerosols over China and India complicate the picture – are they warming the lower atmosphere while also cooling the surface? What is the role of visible radiation absorption & scattering vs. the role of infrared radiation absorption by aerosols? How does China’s aerosol pollution influence the drought situation in northwest China? How does the ABC influence temperatures across the Indian subcontinent and the Indian Ocean? Those are the real issues related to this, which are actively being studied.

  79. Rod B:

    Maya (72), in your answer to ziff you are terribly misreading or misrepresenting the “discrete” and narrow nature of the CO2 absorption bands.

  80. ziff house:

    Ok so its the upper atmosphere CO2 thats imporatant, i understood there was very little mixing above the tropopause. Don’t get me wrong here, i’m not trying to debunk

  81. Ray Ladbury:

    Ziff, Two homilies:

    A man cannot be reasoned out of an opinion into which he was not reasoned to begin with.–Anon

    Never teach a pig to sing. It doesn’t work, and it annoys the pig.–Mark Twain

    I fear the best you can hope for is a vivid demonstration that your correspondent is full of fetid dingo’s kidneys.

  82. Steve Reynolds:

    Martin(69): “David Archer’s interactive MODTRAN model: …Set all other gases, and water vapour, to 0, and do the calculation for CO2 = 375 ppmv. You see that 355.762 watts per square m is coming out of the top of the atmosphere.

    Then, repeat the calculation with CO2 = 750 ppmv. No you see that only 351.366 W/m^2 comes out. Difference: 4.4 W/m^2.”

    While I had looked at David’s model before, I had not tried that exercise. I wondered how much effect your setting other gases to 0 had, so I tried it using the defaults at mid-latitude summer. Now the difference for doubling CO2 is only 2.86 W/m^2. Even more interesting, the ground offset to recover the original Iout is just 0.85 degrees for constant water vapor, and 1.26 degrees for constant relative humidity.

    Maybe I made an error (please point it out if so), but I’m surprised the water vapor positive feedback is so small. Those other much more poorly understood feedback effects must be very large!

  83. Maya:

    Rod B, I really wasn’t sure what they (whoever ziff is quoting) were trying to say – it seemed to be self-contradictory, or at least incomplete. To try and figure out the question, I went and looked up information about the absorption spectrum of CO2, from which I posted the link(s) to the further information. ziff’s post refers to bands, but cites 3 specific wavelengths, and a band would be a range of wavelengths, not a specific one. Um, right? I barely even remember having had optics in physics, much less any of the terminology, so if I’ve got that completely wrong, please explain!

  84. Richard Ordway:

    Another new study stating that “global warming has been proven false” has been released. It’s already hitting blogs. Hold on to your hats. Tsonis at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.


    [Response: I guarantee that few of the people quoting this study have even read the abstract, let alone the paper, and have absolutely no idea what is being discussed. A quick read is sufficient to discover that a) this is a discussion about how the climate reacts to forcings, not whether it does, and b) doesn’t look at GCM output (and so can’t really assess whether GCMs are in some way deficient), and c) explicitly states that the authors expect the long term trends to continue to warm. How this supports the idea that GW is false is completely beyond my ken. It proves rather (once again) that there are plenty of people who can type faster than they think. – gavin]

  85. Hank Roberts:

    > it is not the “outgoing heat” that is absorbed
    > and re-radiated by CO2, CH4, N2O, CFCs, and H2O –
    > it is the infrared radiation

    Outgoing heat = infrared. Same thing.

    > – those gases are mostly transparent
    > to visible radiation.

    True that. Transparent in the visible and soft UV range where most of the sunlight energy comes in.

  86. Hank Roberts:

    Rod, Maya’s not misrepresenting anything. That’s a direct quote from the source, accompanying the illustration. Seriously, man, read what you’re criticizing, would you please? At least now after the fact; preferably before.

    A slightly longer excerpt from Maya’s source:

    “… Because carbon dioxide can drive climate change, it is important to be able to accurately determine its heat absorption characteristics. The spectrum of heat absorption by Earth’s atmosphere contains hundreds of thousands of absorption “lines”. For carbon dioxide alone there are over sixty thousand lines. In order to model the absorption spectrum of CO2, we need to know the spectral location (wavelength), the strength, and also the shape of each line….”

    Rod, you may not like a vague feeling you get reading this, but it’s silly to attack Maya for how you feel.
    Consider the feeling may be telling you something about reality — something that you find uncomfortable — and that’s the important lesson for you about this.

    Then read the actual source text. Bite the bullet.

  87. ziff house:

    Here is the article from which that quote came so you may see it in context. http://www.middlebury.net/op-ed/global-warming-01.html
    My apologies for posting this rubbish. So why did i quote it? I hadn’t seen an attack on the basic premise before and had no idea how to respond.

  88. Hank Roberts:

    Ziff house, the critical info at that site is the “bio” of the editor:

    So, given that information, try this search:
    I suggest reading the first hit, at Rabett’s place, for background.

    Some battles are worthwhile. Choose yours carefully.
    I guess that this all belongs in the ‘new blogger’ advice column.

  89. Bill DeMott:

    I took a quick read of the original paper (draft) posted by Gavin just above which is purportedly in contradiction with AGW. My take is that it is a statistical analysis showing that long term trends in temperature (upwards) include periods of stasis or even decline. Rather than being contrary to AGW, it is just talking about something that we already know, perhaps in more precise stastical terms–that we are not seeing an annual warming proportional to the annual increase in CO2, nor is there simple uncorrelated (between years) random variability with an upside bias. Rather, there are periods as long as a decade when temperatures can be stable or even declining superimposed on a longer upward trend. These medium term periods of stasis will make political action more difficult (my conclusion), but I am sure that the authors would agree with Gavin that there is no contradiction at all with AGW. At least, they are not concluding anything that conflicts with AGW.

  90. Rod B:

    Maya (83), no, your description here is accurate. I was merely quibbling with your emphasis in (72), responding to ziff’s query about “…three narrow bands of frequencies…” with “…they’re full of it…” and citing jillions of frequencies that, at first glance, would lead one to think it almost a continuous spectrum of absorption. I think it was too much hyperbole (Hank’s rousing defense not withstanding), though your referenced graphs could have corrected that notion.

  91. Richard Pauli:

    A classic essay is The Waking Up Syndrome
    by Sarah Anne Edwards and Linda Buzzell


  92. Bill DeMott:

    My comment #43, MJ #47. I am an American professor on sabbatical in The Netherlands and working long hours in the lab. I can only rarely comment on posts in a timely manner due to the time differences. Yes, I agree that it’s difficult for a scientist to keep up with the literature even in a relatively narrow corner of his or her specialty and I don’t see anyway around this. My point is that the real scientific debates that place in the scientific literature, with only very informal debates at scientific meetings and perhaps by email. Postings in blogs hardly ever matter, unless they are followed up by a publication in a scientific journal. As someone who does a lot of work as an editor and reviewer, I would say that competent reviewers need to be familiar with at least a significant portion of the citations found in a manuscript and that this familiarity is largely limited to active researchers in a relatively narrow field. I don’t see anyway of getting around that. One the other hand, since modern research often has a strong interdisciplinary component, it’s not unusual for the authors of scientific papers to make mistakes when they go outside their conceptual framework. As an ecologist who works on lake food chains, I occasionally review papers and grant proposals by biological oceanographers that reflect weaknesses among a large part of this group in understanding ecological and evolutionary theory. If one is not familiar with the literature cited in a manuscript, one can read it competently if one is familiar with the appropriate research tools, such as statistics, experimental design and/or computer modeling. I would rate myself able as well qualified to read articles about ecological aspects of climate change, but only qualified to review such articles dealing aquatic food chains. Since I am now very interested in climate change, I may occasionally read papers on physical modeling but I have to admit that I would need to spend great amounts of time that I don’t have to be able to criticize or contribute to a debate on such approaches. I have to assume that peer reviewed papers are building on previous studies and a critical but valid way.

  93. Garry S-J:

    ziff (#87) – I have had the misfortune to stumble across this rubbish myself.

    It contains the most incredible statement: “Curiously enough, the UN IPCC reports don’t even mention water vapor, since it is technically not a ‘gas’ in the atmosphere.”

    Using the search function in Acrobat Viewer, I started counting the references to water vapor (or vapour) in the 4th IPCC report and lost count at around 200.

    I pointed this out to the author and he tried to fob me off by claiming he meant “IPCC models.. do not include any consideration of H2O in cloud formations”, which was (whether or not it is actually true!) clearly not the context of the claim.

    The only interesting thing about the piece is why someone would write it, but that is a question of psychology, not of climate science.

  94. Martin Vermeer:

    Ike Solem #78: what you write (quote) is all true, but beside the point… my argument was about the CO2 spectrum in the context of David Archer’s simulator.

    Steve Reynolds #82: Yes, I remember going through the exactly same exercise some time ago, and wondering how low these values were. And not only at mid-latitude; at all latitudes, and changing cloud cover doesn’t make a difference either.

    “All models are wrong. Some models are useful.” I don’t know what’s wrong with this model, but these numbers are unrealistic. (Realistic numbers would be 1.1 degree for CO2 only, and 0.8 on top of that for H2O. The balance to 3 degrees is complicated, but IIUC cloud cover makes up much of it.)

    Note that the model makes a number of approximations, e.g., that the vertical temperature profile is fixed, when in reality it changes when water vapour changes.

    Note (2) also (looking at the lower graph) that CO2 increases strongly to 15 km altitude. Now I know that it increases a bit, but not that much. Makes one wonder.

    Note (3): look here. Note (slide 15-17) that the author happily critches up the water vapour scale to 10… WTF? So “1” doesn’t mean “saturated”? Note also slide 7, showing an empirical counterpart to Archer’s model plots.

    ziff house #87: don’t apologise. You created a learning experience for all of us ;-)

  95. Mark:

    “So why did i quote it? I hadn’t seen an attack on the basic premise before and had no idea how to respond.”

    Ask yourself first: is this worth responding to?

  96. MJ:


    Bill, thanks for your follow up and your comments are in line with what I see as part of the challenge. You and I who work in the sciences have a hard time just keeping up with our areas of expertise. However, the issue of climate change has implications on a global scale and for people of varied backgrounds. Just like you and I, most of these folks spend long days working, caring for family, etc. that don’t allow them time to delve into peer reviewed literature (that btw is not always easily accessible). This is combined with the fact that the majority of the population does not have the relevant background and experience to fully and accurately absorb the implications of the findings in a peer reviewed paper.

    So, reality is we need other avenues, like RC and other blogs, but also other channels that reach the masses to provide accurate information in language and formats accessible to a wide range of folks outside the climate science researcher arena to drive wise response amongst people and their governments. Not an easy task.

  97. Manu Phonic:

    On postings #20, #35, #36, #37, #45 and #48:

    I listed (or mis-listed?) “major” contributors to evolutionary theory only to make the point that no one can plausibly claim to have refuted evolution without even mentioning their names, works or concepts, yet this is precisely what Marshall Institute and Heartland Institute “experts” have done against manmade global warming theory.

    Personally I will probably never “get over” my impression that The Selfish Gene and The Extended Phenotype together constitute a major contribution even though they “merely” synthesize the original (and therefore “more” major?) work of other scientists. Your value judgment that I should have omitted Dawkins and/or included Hamilton instead may well be correct, but I did not regard or intend my list as definitive.

    As for whether Dawkins and the scientists whose work he synthesized made a good case for gene selection, I deliberately named in my list, ad hoc though it were, such rival theorists as Gould and Margulis who are more appreciated by critics of gene selection. By dropping famous names on every side, I was hoping to side-step that debate. I still step aside from it now.

    Until climate-science notables like Tyndall, Milankovitch, Arrhenius, Plass, Revelle, Keeling, Matanabe and the rest achieve some significant fraction of the fame or notoriety that accrues to notables in evolutionary biology, dishonest propagandists will continue to “get away with” claiming to have refuted manmade global warming theory even when they have not bothered to mention the names, works or concepts of leading climate scientists.

  98. Steve Reynolds:

    Martin#94: “Realistic numbers would be 1.1 degree for CO2 only, and 0.8 on top of that for H2O.”

    I thought that this calculation was the one part of climate modeling that was well understood. Can gavin or david help here to explain why david’s model says CO2 doubling direct sensitivity is 0.85 degrees for constant water vapor, and 1.26 degrees for constant relative humidity.

  99. Hank Roberts:

    Rod, seriously, this is one of the clearest examples recently of how what’s in your head interferes with reading the science.

    > citing jillions of frequencies that, at first glance, would lead
    > one to think it almost a continuous spectrum of absorption.

    No. You take a specific count and turn it into ‘jillions’ — whatever that means to you. And then you paint that with the notion of ‘continuous’ absorbtion, the bogus claim about saturation.

    Seriously, man, step back and look at the interference going on between the published science and the emotional weight you’re grafting on. It’s clearly interfering with your ability to read and think, it’s come to the surface here, you have made a lot of progress by asking good questions in between these episodes.

    You’ve almost got it.

    Catch these eruptions before they obscure your understanding and you’ll be able to read the science without immediately fooling yourself and blaming it on other people.

    Look, we _all_ do this kind of thing, it’s normal human behavior.

    But science is about how to _catch_ ourselves and one another to get past this kind of self-fooling.

  100. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    #93 Garry S-J

    I googled: ipcc.ch wator vapor

    second link


    Send that to the author you mentioned who claimed:

    “IPCC models.. do not include any consideration of H2O in cloud formations”

    The name of the chapter is

    Climate Models and Their Evaluation

    It contains such crazy statements such as:

    Cloud feedbacks have been confirmed as a primary source of these differences, with low clouds making the largest contribution. New observational and modeling evidence strongly supports a combined water vapour-lapse rate feedback of a strength comparable to that found in General Circulation Models (approximately 1 W m–2 °C–1, corresponding to around a 50% amplification of global mean warming).

    It is loaded with info on clouds, and water vapor, and modeling, and precipitation, and, and, and…

  101. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    #84 Richard Ordway

    Regarding the paper (Swanson, Tsonis Has the climate recently shifted?)

    I was able to find a draft, not the original so please forgive if there is a major point i have missed. But if this one is circulating and anyone wants to put it in perspective Gavin’s concise reply is wonderful. I thought I would try to add perspective to it as well for anyone that wants to post to blogs using that argument:

    1. The title of the paper is “Has the climate recently shifted?” It is presented as a question. It does not provide any answer of substance.

    2. The paper is based on the break in consistent warming 10/40 – 76/77 – 01/02. They are doing an analysis based on a perspective and considerate of resonant qualities (as appropriate in their context) as understood based on the scope of their analysis. However, the paper is not considerate of the relevant contexts such as

    a. Strong El Nino event 1998 set up the downtrend as
    b. we went into solar minimum in the Schwabe cycle, and were at the bottom of the PDO, and
    c. it is a non linear system and while climate inertias and momentums are intrinsic to the nature of the system, they shift based on imposition of the dynamics involved, such as,
    d. loss of summer ice loss in the Arctic which will allow more absorption of solar radiation, and
    e. oceanic thermal inertia, and
    f. return to solar maximum in the Schwabe cycle (the cycle averages 11.1 years but peak length is around 14 years, so we are expected to return to solar maximum within 5 to 6 years), and
    g. economic downturn may provide a lull on increased CO2 production, but it won’t remove the CO2 in the atmosphere already,

    3. They are assuming that state changes in the climate system are reliant on or attached to resonances, which is logical, but do they reasonably consider the magnitude of forcing components on the resonant qualities in relation to positive forcing of the system? Remember overall forcing is positive bias around 1.6 W/m2.

    4. It does seem to be a statistical analysis, and while they discuss significant breaks in temperatures trend, they don’t seem to account of the probable causes of those shifts such as 10’s to 40’s lots of coal burn but not as much aerosols in industrial output; 40’s to 70’s aerosols; 70’s to 2000 removal of some aerosols, lot’s more CO2. 1998 to 2008 El Nino peak to solar minimum (including minimum phase of PDO, etc.).

    5. The coupling theory is appropriate only to the extent that the coupling exists and one can as easily hypothesize that the increased storage of energy in the climate system may have resonances and decouplings at a faster rate than in an energy balanced system, thus rate of state change may be less likely to maintain it’s assumed inertia as they indicate in relation to time scale.

    6. They state “This cooling, which appears unprecedented… is suggestive of an internal shift of climate dynamical processes that as yet remain poorly understood.” While they do consider some factors known in climate they do not seem attentive enough in the paper to the short term resonant coupling factors with fairly well understood process of PDO, Schwabe cycle, energy balance short term inertia, oceanic thermal inertia, etc. I don’t know how to do the math on all of it but it seems they have limited the scope to short term and are presuming some sort of long term effect out of that.


    Again, it’s the weather vs. climate argument. Short term is weather, long term is climate. Their conclusions are merely suggestive and speculative, but to speculate that this is a state shift that “may persist for several decades”, though it would be nice, is unlikely based on the inconsideration of the aforementioned points regarding positive forcing bias and oscillations that are returning to positive phase.

    This is likely not an actual state change as suggested, but rather a resonant change based on the systemic cycles from certain negative phase components in natural variability. The amount of forcing in the system biases the state to warming. As the natural variables return to positive phase, it is reasonable to expect the state to return to it’s biased path, that of warming.

    System impacts tend to resonate based on magnitude of event, and resonant and coupling qualities such as transmissive capacity and resistance v. forcing and bias. These regulate magnitude of resonance and coupling capacity. Affects are coincident with capacity in these areas. i.e. the amount of change or shift has inertia, but is limited by contrary factors/forces.

    Baring another large volcanic eruption in between the tropics, we should reasonably expect a return to warming in the trend within 2 to 7 years as there is some negative inertia here. I am not a climatologist so there may be additional negative phase components I am unaware of. If anyone knows where I might find a list of all the relevant cycles I am referring to I would love to see it.

    I am suggesting that if we add the known positive and negative cycles and the resonant qualities/forces, as well as coupling to the parent climate system, we can reasonably project when we will return to the biased course of warming. If anyone can add to this I would like to learn more about other cycles I am unaware of, and what phase they are in.

  102. Kevin McKinney:

    Re #93 & #100,

    It also sounds as if our unnamed friend hasn’t quite grasped the whole “water vapor” vs. “cloud” thing yet. Wrong thread, but it would be “good advice for young (climate) bloggers” to get that straight.

  103. William:

    Does everybody know that the models you are discussing cannot replicate the actual temperature of the earth? They predict only anomalies from a calculated long term average. Regardless of how they are tuned and the parameters tweaked they cannot produce a result that reflect real world temperatures. Doesn’t that bother anyone?

    [Response: Hmmm… so if I find a model that has a mean SAT of almost exactly 14 deg C, you will henceforth trust in all of its projections? – gavin]

  104. MarkB:

    Re: #101

    Richard Ordway,

    That looks like a good analysis, and some of those thoughts crossed my mind (2a, 2b, 4, for instance) when I read the paper. I want to run another point by this group to see if this critique is justified. The paper writes:

    “Assuming a mixed layer ocean depth of 200 m, an anomaly of roughly 1 Wm−2 should in principle have been sufficient to drive roughly a 0.25◦ C increase in global temperature since 2001/02″

    It seems like they using a higher-end estimate of GHG forcing in order to justify higher internal variability implied by observations. 0.25 C over 7 years translates into a warming rate of about 0.35 C per decade, higher than the average model projects.

    [Response: No one has claimed an imbalance of 1 W/m2 since 2001. The only estimate I am aware of was an average of 0.6 W/m2 over the decade 1993-2003 (supported by obs), and with a spot value of 0.85+/-0.15 W/m2 in the simulation for 2003. Given that year to year standard deviation in temperatures is around 0.1 to 0.2 deg C, and that you probably can’t neglect some amount of deeper ocean warming, these kinds of short term calculations are in the noise. – gavin]

  105. Ike Solem:

    Re Vermeer:

    Reposting Steve Mcintyre themes on ” the 15 um CO2 absorption band” is a bit repetitive – and has already been discussed multiple times:

    CO2 absortion (1)

    CO2 absorption physics

    Water vapor and CO2 absorption

    In particular, you want to look at the figures:

    Sea level absorption spectra for greenhouse gases:

    Idealized blackbody vs. 11 km CO2 vs. sea level CO2:

    Oxygen absorption spectrum vs. distance above sea level:

    Now, compare those figures to the one that Steve McIntyre’s 15 um notion revolves around (linked on Climate Audit):


    Hmmm…. what does that say?

    Re#82, “Maybe I made an error (please point it out if so), but I’m surprised the water vapor positive feedback is so small.”

    To be polite, I think you could spend more time reading the literature on the water vapor feedback… but, for your convenience, here are some pointers:




    Yes, Richard Lindzen used to say that water vapor had no effect, and that the water vapor response in models was too high, but the fact is that water vapor feedback is coming out much like the models predict, with important variations in time and space – like the expansion of the subtropical dry zones.

    Or, look at this:

    The Radiative Signature of Upper Tropospheric Moistening, Science 2005, Brian J. Soden,1* Darren L. Jackson,2 V. Ramaswamy,3 M. D. Schwarzkopf,3 Xianglei Huang4

    Climate models predict that the concentration of water vapor in the upper troposphere could double by the end of the century as a result of increases in greenhouse gases. Such moistening plays a key role in amplifying the rate at which the climate warms in response to anthropogenic activities, but has been difficult to detect because of deficiencies in conventional observing systems. We use satellite measurements to highlight a distinct radiative signature of upper tropospheric moistening over the period 1982 to 2004. The observed moistening is accurately captured by climate model simulations and lends further credence to model projections of future global warming.

    By the way, wasn’t this post actually about reducing aerosol pollution? Can we perhaps get back to considering questions along the lines of what strategies are most effective at reducing aerosols? How about solar-powered vehicles, for one? For India, the solar-powered rickshaw is promising.

    Oct 2008 – The most common sight in India, the wooden rickshaw, pulled by people for a fee, could soon be replaced by modern, electric counterparts, as part of India’s effort to reduce the heavy pollution it is facing, as well as its dependency on fossil fuels. New Delhi has hosted this month the exhibit of the first solar-powered rickshaw prototypes, whose job is to relieve the clogged streets that characterize today’s India.

  106. Chris Colose:


    on your reply concerning the Tsonis paper, I think you’re a bit too generous in your description if it. I’m not sure the authors understand what they are talking about. I don’t think its main focus is “about how the climate reacts to forcings” but rather is taking after the concept of “internal radiative forcings” although they don’t use that terminology. After a brief read, it doesn’t sound serious to me.

    [Response: I’ll concede that the paper in discussion seems a little hand-wavy, but it is a serious approach. I’m not personally convinced of its merit, but I’m willing to see where this goes. It’s still apparent that the reaction in the denial-osphere is completely out-to-lunch with respect to the merits (or otherwise) of this paper. – gavin]

  107. Barton Paul Levenson:

    ziff — I get 20.5% from Essenhigh’s (2001) carbon dioxide scheme, and Essenhigh, let me remind you, is a denier, though a more sophisticated one than most. The fact is that CO2 accounts for 7 K of the Earth’s 33 K greenhouse temperature increment. It should also be noted that water vapor bands cover areas of the spectrum that CO2 doesn’t, and the more warming from carbon dioxide, the more water vapor in the air.

  108. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Adam Gallon writes:

    A straight plot of “temperature” against “CO2 levels” isn’t a straight line, as I’m sure you’re aware.
    The relationship is poor, hence the need to add “forcings” by other atmospheric components.

    Actually, it’s a spectacularly close relationship. Remove the hyphen and post this into your browser:


  109. Barton Paul Levenson:


    I didn’t criticize Dawkins because he summarized the work of others. I criticized him because I think his theory of gene selection is completely wrong. Ditto his penchant for sociobiology. I was a Dawkins critic long before it was fashionable. [edit]

  110. Martin Vermeer:

    Ike Solem #104: I have no idea who you are arguing with — or what about. I have nothing in common with Steve McIntyre — trying to insult me, are you?

  111. Rod B:

    re ziff’s reference in (87): the article says Mann’s paper was published in Nature (1998) without peer review. That sounds odd. What’s the situation? I’m not resurrecting the Mann “hockey stick debate — just curious about Nature publication rules.

    [Response: Not true in the slightest respect. – gavin]

  112. Mark:

    BPL, [edit]

    It’s probably better to leave Dawkins to one side.

    [edit – these discussions are OT]

  113. Rod B:

    Hank (99), my thinking was not near as philosophical as your defense. When ziff says his source says CO2 absorbs in only three bands and Mara says they’re full of it, that’s hyperbole, plain and simple. I won’t go as far as to say WRONG because Mara kinda clarifies it in the fine print.

  114. Timothy Chase:

    Martin Vermeer wrote in 109:

    Ike Solem #104: I have no idea who you are arguing with — or what about. I have nothing in common with Steve McIntyre — trying to insult me, are you?

    No, he didn’t intend that. He was responding to your post 94 (where you responded to Ike’s 78 and to Steve Reynolds’ comment 82) and he was also responding to Steve Reynolds’ comment — the same comment that you were partly responding to.

    In any case, I can see how it can get a little confusing when one a given comment is used to respond to different people, particularly when those people hold different views which one is responding to — even when you indicate in the text where you are switching from responding to one person to responding to the other.

  115. Steve Reynolds:

    Ike#104: “I think you could spend more time reading the literature on the water vapor feedback… but, for your convenience, here are some pointers:…”

    That long list may have the answer to my relatively simple question somewhere, but I did not find all of it. This was somewhat useful:
    “They found that using the observed volcanic aerosols as forcing the model produced very similar cooling to that observed. Moreover, the water vapour in the total column and in the upper troposphere decreased in line with satellite observations, and helped to increase the cooling by about 60% – in line with projections for increasing greenhouse gases.”

    I think the 60% agrees reasonably with david’s model for water vapor increase when it says CO2 doubling direct sensitivity is 0.85 degrees for constant water vapor, and 1.26 degrees for constant relative humidity. What I did not find is why david’s model prediction is only 0.85 degrees for constant water vapor. Is that correct or not and why?

  116. veritas36:

    Clear skies – no clouds ???
    When does this happen now? As a sky-watcher (for pleasure) I’ve noticed that the bright blue clear skies are gone in the last 2-3 years. At best the sky is whitish blue, not ‘cerulean’. Jet contrails persist, criss-crossing each other in the sky as they widen long after the jet has passed by. Contrails used to vanish behind a silver jet almost as fast as they were created on clear days.
    I have questions: is anybody measuring a significant change in albedo? What is causing it (judging from photos on the net it’s worldwide.) If haze has increased, will it increase or decrease reflection of sunlight with the resultant change in global temperature.?

  117. Richard Ordway:

    #106 Gavin wrote: “It’s still apparent that the reaction in the denial-osphere is completely out-to-lunch with respect to the merits (or otherwise) of this paper.”

    Some blogs do seem to be getting excited (inaccurately, but a fact nonetheless) over the Tsonis study. An example:

    “The latest peer-reviewed study in Geophysical Research Letters is being touted as a development that “could turn the climate change world upside down.”

    The study finds that the “Earth is undergoing natural climate shift.” The March 15, 2009 article in WISN.com details the research of Dr. Anastasios Tsonis of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

    “We realized a lot of changes in the past century from warmer to cooler and then back to warmer were all natural,” Tsonis said. “I don’t think we can say much about what the humans are doing,” he added.”


  118. Hank Roberts:

    > clear skies

    Perhaps someone at NASA reading this will recall some discussion of this — I recall reading sometime around the Spacelab/Mir years that the astronauts who went to the Moon had a very clear view of Earth from space, but since those years the atmosphere had become increasingly murky and no astronaut in then recent years had had the same crystal-clear view seen by the earlier space travelers from Yuri Gagarin up to sometime in the 1970s.

    The meteorologists also had a name for it, around that time I think it was being called the “midwest pall” — the general haze from the increase in coal burning at the time, before the Clean Air Act at least.

    Can’t find it with my usual 15-second research program online. I’m sure the optical astronomy people must keep track of this sort of thing too.

  119. Hank Roberts:

    Rod, seriously, you’re making this up and not even realizing you’re fooling yourself by misremembering.

    Three specific _wavelengths_ were specified.

    Wavelengths. By number.

    A percentage was calculated from those three numbers.

    Not three bands.

    Catch yourself, man, nobody else can!

  120. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    #104 MarkB

    I’m not Richard Ordway ;)

    #104, #106 Gavin, thanks for the clarification.

    My opinion is it’s a semi-decent paper, but too limited in scope of consideration (hoping that is not an intentional bias) and without any reasonable merit on that point alone. Context too limited to justify conclusions.

    It seems to have some merit at a smaller scale than it seems to infer. Coupling, state changes, resonance are all well and good, and have a degree of relevance, but in the case they present, I seriously doubt enough to support their conclusions (suggestions/speculations), id est, “may persist for several decades”. Two 30 year shifts and one 10 year shift with no ties to the subsystem forcings does not cut it because they left out very important parts.

    Please pardon a bad pun, but there is an old saying that: Bikinis are great, they reveal a lot information, but still hide critical parts.

    I think it may be a great start though and hope they plug in the numbers of the critical sub-systems forcing, inertia, cycles, and weigh that with parent system forcing bias. Then maybe we get better at short-term climate inertia prediction?

    I’m hoping for a third paper that is more holistic and considerate of the major/minor systems and that they reach beyond the limitations of the current paper (and maybe add a few more names in there that understand those forcings). That could actually be useful.

  121. David B. Benson:

    veritas36 (116) — I suggest the effect is due to ABC, Atmospheric Brown Cloud.

  122. SteveF:

    Carl Zimmer has an interesting discussion of the Swanson and Tsonis paper, including comments by the authors on the reaction in the denialist blogosphere to their work:


  123. Maya:

    hy⋅per⋅bo⋅le /haɪˈpɜrbəli/
    –noun Rhetoric.
    1. obvious and intentional exaggeration.
    2. an extravagant statement or figure of speech not intended to be taken literally, as “to wait an eternity.”

    So … if they were indeed trying to claim only 3 discreet frequencies, rather than 3 bands of frequencies centering on the ones cited (which as I said, was not clear to me from the quote), then they were indeed full of it, absolutely no hyperbole intended. :D If they were talking about bands centering on those frequencies, provided the claim was accurate, then it was merely sloppy rhetoric. Again, devoid of hyperbole.

    For the record, I’m fairly careful in what I say, particularly online. I may exaggerate somewhat for effect, but I am not given to true extravagances in my speech, either spoken or written, unless I am being obviously silly for the humor of it. If you wish to call someone out for such extravagances, you may wish to choose an easier target.

  124. Maya:

    Richard, that was a good essay – recalling my own (ongoing) journey of understanding, I think they nailed it pretty well.

  125. Mark:

    “Can’t find it with my usual 15-second research program online. I’m sure the optical astronomy people must keep track of this sort of thing too.

    All amateur astronomers are *really* pissed off with the last two years (at least). Lots of cloud, lots of bad visibility. Especially us urban astronomers. When there’s no cloud, the crud that now seems to be up there in its stead glows orange.

    Bloody annoying.

  126. Carrick:

    Gavin, you may or may not remember that about a year ago I brought up the possibility that the recent plateau in cooling might be associated with recent increases in anthropogenic aerosol particles.

    Does this article tend to foster that notion, or is the amount of decrease in surface heating insufficient to explain the observed flattening of the global warming trend?

    [Response: Well, emissions inventories still haven’t been updated from 2000, and so we are still a little in the dark (so to speak). The big problem is that the global mean impact is a complicated balance between the decreases in Europe and the US, and increases in Asia. This data might tilt the balance towards Asia (and thus for a bigger cooling impact), but it isn’t definitive. Your idea remains within the realm of possibilities though… – gavin]

  127. Maya:

    ::hands Hank a catcher’s mitt::

  128. Jamie:

    Maya Hank, Rob,

    “The spectrum of heat absorption by Earth’s atmosphere contains hundreds of thousands of absorption “lines”. For carbon dioxide alone there are over sixty thousand lines.”

    Isn’t the resolution of ‘bands’ into ‘lines’ completely dependent on the scale at which one measures? Is there a single standard scale at which all electromagnetic spectra are universally measured? Does wavelength vary continuously, or in quantum steps? It seems to me that how many lines one finds must relate to the resolving power of the tool one uses. Is this wrong?

  129. Hank Roberts:

    Jamie, it’s a description of what’s observed, and looking at the papers it takes more than a few sentences just to describe how they look. Did you read the papers linked above? Put those into Google Scholar and look for papers that cited them or for more recent work on the same subject. The search tool at the top will find several earlier topics about that question.

  130. Rod B:

    Hank (119), the direct quote from ziff’s post is, “…carbon dioxide absorbs infrared radiation (IR) in only three narrow bands of frequencies…” (emphasis mine). It’s common usage to refer to a band by its main but general wavelength, e.g. 15um (but not 15.2378um.)

  131. Patrick 027:

    Re 80 – (ziff house)

    For substances/phases that undergo relatively quick physical and/or chemical reactions (H2O vapor, clouds, aerosols, … O3), atmospheric mixing cannot everywhere keep up with sources and sinks, and concentrations can be spatially variable, sometimes highly so. Regarding vertical variations, the general cooling up to the tropopause limits the water vapor concentration that can reach the stratosphere; variations in temperature, pressure, and UV will obviously be important to photochemical reactions and thus to O3.

    CO2 has sources and sinks at the surface allowing significant exchange between the atmospheric CO2 and other C reservoirs over a few years (but the “residence time” of any CO2 molecule should not be confused with the longevity of a change in CO2 amount in the atmosphere, which is considerably longer (there is a difference between the photosynthesis rate and the rate of net biomass accumulation, for instance). There is significant diurnal and spatial CO2 variability in the immediate vicinity of the surface in at least some location (under forest canopies, in cities, I think – don’t know the details) but CO2 in the bulk of the troposphere is well-mixed, with some seasonal variations, largest in the northern high latitudes (where much seasonal vegetation is found) that are small compared to the overall change in the last century –

    (http://cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/co2/sio-keel.html – The annual range of several stations is highest for Barrow Alaska (often close to 20 ppm), north of 60 deg N; next highest are Alert, Canada (farther north) and La Jolla Pier, California, between around 10 to 15 ppm; Baja California Sur, Mexico, and Cape Kumukahi and Mauna Loa, Hawaii, in northern low latitudes, are about between 5 and 10 ppm; near the equator, Christmas Island is around 5 or less ppm; the South Pole station has roughly 2 ppm, give or take, and the three stations in the middle-to-low southern latitudes (Cape Matatula in American Samoa, Kermadec Islands, and Baring Head in New Zealand)have little to no annual cycle.) –

    I would expect that variations in CO2 above the stratosphere and above vary less by latitude and have seasonal variations reflecting the tropical seasonal cycle, with reduced amplitudes; the relatively slow vertical overturning above the tropopause is driven by kinetic energy supplied from below via vertically propagating fluid mechanical waves (Rossby waves, gravity waves) – in the stratosphere, this is the Brewer Dobson circulation (I’m not sure if that name also applies to the mesospheric part), and involves rising in lower latitudes, drift to winter high latitudes and sinking in the winter polar region (some portion, at least, occurs in fits called sudden stratospheric warmings); the mesospheric portion involves rising in the summer high latitudes, drift to the other hemisphere, and sinking in the winter high latitudes.

    Obviously this motion is slow enough to keep volcanic aerosols (particularly from low-latitude eruptions) in the stratosphere for over a year, but for an increase in CO2 that has been going on for decades, the stratospheric and mesospheric concentrations will closely follow the troposphere. Generally, gases that are generally unreactive within the air, without significant sources in the air (not much CO; by molecules, much less CH4 than CO2), such as CO2, N2, O2 (much more abundant than ozone), are well-mixed not just in the bulk of the troposphere but in most of the atmosphere below the ‘turbopause’ (somewhere around 100 km up, in the thermosphere) – the fraction of atmospheric mass, and atmospheric optical thickness at most wavelengths, above the turbopause is very very very very small and (along with the mesosphere) can be set aside for calculating the radiative energy fluxes of the troposphere and stratosphere.

    (Above the turbopause, molecular diffusion dominates over eddy diffusion (macroscopic overturning and mixing), and the concentration of heavier molecules decreases with height relative to ligher molecules; at some point, atomic O dominates).

    (I don’t know how or if the concentration of CH4 changes with height within the stratosphere – I think it can be broken up by UV and whereever it is, it does eventually oxidize to CO2 and H2O over a decade or two, but whether the reactions are fast enough above the tropopause to affect the concentration significantly, I don’t know).


    Re 90 (Rod B) – The individual lines are broadenned enough so that, while the absorptivity may fluctuate by an order of magnitude (? – or more – depending on vertical position (pressure, temperature), etc – see book by Ray Pierrehumbert (further reference to come) ) over individual lines, the absorptivity at a line center (not too close to the strongest part of the band of lines) will be less than the relative minimum absorptivity between a pair of lines at some sufficient wavelength interval away – or at least this is the case for the band centered near 15 microns – the most important by far for CO2 in LW (wavelengths dominated by surface and atmospheric thermal emission) and more important than bands/lines in SW (solar-dominated) wavelengths.

    So I would think it could be called a continuum, at least for tropospheric and maybe lower stratospheric (?) conditions – but maybe there is a stricter definition of continuum that does not apply to this case.


    Re 83 (Maya) – see my Re 90 above; – a gasseous substance has individual absorption lines – for non-interacting molecules at rest, (or perhaps a single molecule averaged over time for many opportunities of photon absorption/emission), the line would be infinitely thin, thus having infinite absorptivity per unit wavelength within the line (though finite absorption cross section over a finite wavelength interval, proportional to the strength of the line) – except for ‘natural broadenning’ which as I understand it is due to the Heisenberg Uncertainty principle. The dominant broadenning mechanisms, however, are temperature dependent doppler broadenning (lines are blue shifted/red shifted by individual molecular motions, which are random, so the bulk effect is to spread the blur the absorption spectrum of the bulk material) and collisional or pressure broadenning, caused by molecular collisions. As I understand it, line broadenning takes the absorption cross section of a line and spreads it out over a range of wavelengths. Molecular interactions can also produce additional absorption lines, which is probably why the gap in water vapor absorption between about 8 and 18 microns fills in at sufficiently high specific humidity (PS this does not nullify additional radiative forcing from CO2, because it only happens at lower levels, so CO2 above such humid airmasses can still block some radiation from reaching space – see next paragraph). Line strengths can also be temperature dependent.

    (At local thermodynamic equilibrium, at any given wavelength and in any given direction (absorption from and emission toward) absorption cross section = emission cross section; absorptivity = emissivity. A cross section is the effective area, normal to (facing) a particular direction, with which an amount of substance can absorb or emit as a perfect blackbody. Emissivity is the intensity of emitted radiation as a fraction of blackbody radiation. Blackbody radiation intensity is only a function of wavelength, temperature, and index of refraction (the last not being important in the atmosphere or space). The reason the greenhouse effect works is that at any given wavelength wherein the air has some finite opacity, the absorption/emission cross section of air at some level hides the radiation (absorbing it) going in some direction coming from behind it and replaces it with it’s own radiation continuing in the same direction – which will be of greater or lesser intensity than that which it is hiding if it has higher or lower effective temperature than the source of the radiation it is hiding (the effective temperature being a weighted average over a path length of sufficient optical thickness that the emissivity approaches 1 – this includes the cold of space (can be considered a blackbody near absolute zero for these purposes) and the surface – radiation coming up from the surface can include some radiation emitted by the atmosphere that has been reflected by the surface because the surface is not a perfect blackbody, though it is not too far from being so in LW wavelengths).


    Re 78 (Ike Solem) – regarding stratospheric warming/cooling – Yes, the stratosphere cools in response to increased well-mixed greenhouse gases (CO2) – this is because the stratosphere recieves less radiation from below, but at the same time, becomes more ‘visible’ – radiating more energy upward and downward for a given temperature distribution. The cooling decreases that radiation, bringing the energy budget back into balance (reducing the tropopause level radiative forcing somewhat – often tropopause level radiative forcing is given for such an equilibrated stratosphere (but before tropospheric and surface responses) PS for the benifit of those who don’t know, the surface temperature tends to respond to tropopause level forcing because radiative equilibrium would be convectively unstable; convection tends to keep the troposphere vertical temperature profile near neutral stability to moist convection (where convection occurs – not in polar regions so much); the tropospheric and surface temperatures thus tend to rise and fall together in response to radiative forcing. There are some deviations – in particular, warming is concentrated near the surface at higher latitudes in winter because the surface is where the ice-albedo feedback occurs and the temperature profile is generally stable to convection (air gets heat advected from lower latitudes) – the tropical warming is greatest in the mid-to-upper troposphere because of changes in the moist adiabatic lapse rate (neutrally stable to moist convection); also, changes in surface evaporation and night-time cooling on land, etc…

    BUT I think Martin Vemeer (69) was not refering to the temperature response in a climate change, but rather to the spatial temperature variation at any one time.

    Temperature generally slows or stops decreasing with height at the tropopause and (by solar heating – ozone layer) eventually starts to increase until reaching the stratopause (in winter at higher latitudes, temperature continues to decrease with height above the tropopause (though less rapidly) for some distance; in the tropics, temperature increases nearly immediately above the tropopause, while elsewhere, the lower stratosphere can be nearly isothermal).

    Because of this, looking at the spectrum of LW radiation emitted to space, at wavelengths where there is great enough opacity, stratospheric emission dominates the emission to space. When going toward such opacity maxima, or when increasing the concentration of the relevant gas (including increases sufficiently high above the tropopause), the source of the radiation to space becomes concentrated higher up, and thus past the point where enough is coming from the stratosphere and not the troposphere or surface, the brightness increases. This does not contribute a negative radiative forcing at the tropopause, of course, because at such wavelengths, the tropopause level radiative forcing simply approaches zero as the source region for radiation in either direction becomes concentrated closer to the tropopause and thus has less temperature variation from one side to the other.

  132. Patrick 027:

    Just to be clear, I was eyeballing the annual cycle amplitudes from the graphs at http://cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/co2/sio-keel.html – hence the ‘give or take’ note regarding South Pole values.

  133. Patrick 027:

    “A cross section is the effective area, normal to (facing) a particular direction, with which an amount of substance can absorb or emit as a perfect blackbody. ”

    Actually, though not of much importance to LW radiation (as opposed to solar radiation) under Earthly conditions, there is also the scattering cross section, which is the effective area that intercepts radiation without absorption but with redirection (scattering – reflection, refraction, diffraction). Scattering cross section + absorption cross section = extinction cross section.

  134. Martin Vermeer:

    Steve R #115

    I think the 60% agrees reasonably with david’s model for water vapor increase when it says CO2 doubling direct sensitivity is 0.85 degrees for constant water vapor, and 1.26 degrees for constant relative humidity. What I did not find is why david’s model prediction is only 0.85 degrees for constant water vapor. Is that correct or not and why?

    Yes, I noted that too… And I would like to have the answer to that last question too. The value is wrong, and either the model computes wrong, or we’re all misunderstanding that “water vapor scale” thingy.

    We’re not the only ones exasperated: See last slide


    I don’t think David is actively following this blog, and Gavin has I think taken to not answering on others’ behalf. So let me try — nobody can mistake me for competent ;-) : this is a toy model. The atmospheric structure is assumed constant and equal to the US Standard Atmosphere, with lapse rate -6.5 degs/km, come rain or shine. The MODTRAN code behind it is a serious model (though a bit old) developed for serious work in military far-IR remote sensing. It was never meant to be used like this.

    What I did notice was that if you blow up “water vapor scale” to large values, the relative humidity in the data file output is restricted to 100%, even if the plotted curve is not. Wonder what the computation does.

    Jamie #128:

    Isn’t the resolution of ‘bands’ into ‘lines’ completely dependent on the scale at which one measures? Is there a single standard scale at which all electromagnetic spectra are universally measured? Does wavelength vary continuously, or in quantum steps? It seems to me that how many lines one finds must relate to the resolving power of the tool one uses. Is this wrong?

    Actually the limiting factor is a phenomenon called “line broadening”, merging the lines into bands. Quantum theoretically one can compute every line individually and its precise wave number, and for CO2 and H2O etc. there are thousands of them, associated with rotational and vibrational states, and they are very close together.

    There are two main line broadening effects: 1) doppler broadening, due to the molecules’ thermal motion, producing an exponential (gaussian) profile. And 2) pressure broadening, due to molecules being in the EM field of nearby molecules distorting their quantum states. This produces a Cauchy-Lorentz type profile, that sticks out over the doppler one for high enough pressures.

    Studied stellar atmospheres in a previous life… the Earth’s atmosphere isn’t so different ;-)

  135. Bill DeMott:

    I’ve been reading fairly broadly on climate blogs. Here are two general fallacies that seem really common on denialists blogs. The first is that scientists have some how overlooked some very obvious factor, such as sun light, water vapor, the light absorbance characteristics of CO2, recycling of carbon in the biosphere etc. Any such statement suggests that scientists are completely incompetent. Scientists are constantly searching for some factor that has been overlooked or underestimated as a forcing factor. I can’t claim to have read extensively in the climate primary literature, but the notion that “low hanging fruit” have not been considered seems silly.

    The second fallicy is that some new scientific study proves that the whole basis of earlier scientific conclusions false. This hardly every happens in science and when it does, it usually takes many studies to change basic views and theories. This second fallacy is very similar to what one can read in the “anti-evolution literature.” Here minor progress (in understanding how evolution works in a particular case) is often taken completely out of context as proof that the “the theory is false.” These two fallacies seem to be bigger stumbling blocks for Americans, or at least for English-speaking counties, than for non-English speaking parts of Europe and Asia. I’m not sure why. Maybe it has something to do with distrust of authority and experts.

  136. Mark:

    re #128

    FWHM is generally given as the definition of an absorbtion line.

    And that isn’t central to their rebuttal. Even if you consider it smeared over the 60,000 lines, it’s not those specific frequencies anyway. Which kind of is the point of “it’s only 8%” is not really the take-home message.

  137. Mark:

    RodB: “Maya (72), in your answer to ziff you are terribly misreading or misrepresenting the “discrete” and narrow nature of the CO2 absorption bands.”

    Can you please tell us how narrow “narrow” is. You could be misrepresenting Maya’s comment: 60,000 narrow bands can (indeed MUST) cover quite a large area of the IR spectrum.

    Other queries to zif etc:

    1) 8% of the wavelength spectra or 8% of the energy released
    2) If 8% of the energy, at what temperature are you considering? 8% of the sun’s output isn’t in IR, and most of Deneb’s energy isn’t in the visible or lower frequencies. But my body radiates in a peak given by Wein’s displacement law. Which is happily within the IR band.
    3) 100% of the energy I’ve put into heating the water in my house will disappear unless I turn the heating on again, despite 97% of the heat loss being retained by the cladding. What importance does 8% have on heat retention and balance temperatures
    4) Please show your working on the 8%. After all, it’s easy to say it’s 28%. Who’s right? You with 8% or me with 28? How you worked it out is how you prove who is right.

  138. Kevin McKinney:

    Mostly on-topic, here is a relatively upbeat assessment of the political and economic situation vis-a-vis mitigation in Asia. It underlines once again that the common Western perception that the large developing economies will have to be “dragged kicking and screaming,” so to speak, is less than entirely accurate.


  139. Maya:

    “It’s common usage to refer to a band by its main but general wavelength, e.g. 15um (but not 15.2378um.)”

    Aah, now that’s a piece of information I was missing. Thank you.

    “a gasseous substance has individual absorption lines ….”

    Thank you, too, Patrick, for all of that. That helps a lot in understanding the context of what I’ve been reading on this, and I appreciate your effort in explaining.

  140. Maya:

    Patrick – “Line strengths can also be temperature dependent.” Is that because of the doppler broadening effect itself? I’m picturing sort of a smearing effect, but I’m not sure if that’s a good way to think of it. If you draw a charcoal line on a piece of paper and then smudge it with your finger (metaphorically broadening the spectral line), the line changes from black to grey – the color (strength) is no longer as strong.

    Jamie, Martin (134) gave a better answer than I ever could in this lifetime! :)

  141. catman306:

    Off topic

    Please be aware of today’s (Mar 18) NPR Fresh Air: An interview with James Balog National Geographic photographer documenting the melting of glaciers with time lapse photography.

    Next week’s Nova National Geographic TV special will feature Balog’s work.

  142. Rob:

    Does CO2 drive temperature rise or is it just UHI, according to the Jones et al study of 2008 40% of the increase in global temperature from 1951 to 2004 is from the Urban heat island effect.

    In it, Jones identifies an urban warming signal in China of 0.1 degrees C per decade. Or, if you prefer, 1 degree C per century.


    [Response: Read the paper a little more carefully. Jones et al suggest an urban effect in china (not globally) that reduces the regional trend (1950-2004) from ~1.3 deg C to 0.8 deg C. Still plenty of non-urban warming. Note too that this is with respect to nearby ocean temperatures which is not ideal. – gavin]

  143. Hank Roberts:

    Check: given this claim, point to the “narrow bands of frequencies, which correspond to wavelengths of 2.7, 4.3 and 15 micrometers”


    ” An example of a terrestrial radiation spectrum measured at the top of the atmosphere by the Nimbus-3 IRIS instrument is shown in Figure 15.3. The absorbing bands such as the 9.6 µm band of O3 and the 15 µm band of CO2, as well as the atmospheric window and several other features (H2O, CH4), are noticeable.” http://acd.ucar.edu/textbook/ch15/index.html

    So “narrow” is meaningless, and lacking any justirication for the eight percent claim, it seems pointless to try to figure out what the guy was talking about, eh?

  144. Patrick 027:

    Book (by Ray Pierrehumbert) with a lot of information about radiative energy transfer :


    Re 139/140 (you’re welcome :) ) – as I understand it, the line strength refers to all of the emission/absorption cross section per unit amount of substance attributable to that line. While conserving line strength, broadenning reduces the absorbance at and near the line center but increases it farther from the line center.

    The change in line strength due to temperature is a change in the emission/absorption cross section attributable to the line (PS changes in doppler broadenning and line strength due to temperature are not significant climate feedbacks, so far as I know).

    PS when adding up the cross section over a wavelength interval, it is not weighted by the radiation per unit wavelength (which varies over wavelength) – either for available radiation to absorb, or for blackbody emission – when finding a total cross section that is conserved by broadenning. OF course, one must weight by the radiant intensity per unit wavelength interval when calculating the effect of all this on radiative energy transfers.

  145. Timothy Chase:

    Hank Roberts wrote in 142:

    Check: given this claim, point to the “narrow bands of frequencies, which correspond to wavelengths of 2.7, 4.3 and 15 micrometers”


    After looking at that diagram, I got to thinking: for each wavelength, given:
    — the Planck curves that are labeled with their associated temperatures;
    — the lapse rate which tells you how quickly temperature drops relative to altitude; and,
    — the fact that local equilibrium conditions hold until above 20 mb of pressure,

    … one could calculate the altitude at which the atmosphere goes from being opaque to a given wavelength to being transparent to that wavelength by looking at which Planck curve the wavelength’s brightness temperature crosses.

    The diagram contains a lot of information.

  146. Chris:

    Wait a minute Gavin. I can see that in Rob’s posted paper the data has only been collected and applied in China, but is that really grounds for completely dismissing it? I mean, Chinese cities aren’t fundamentally different from cities anywhere else, are they? The argument that Chinese cities have grown faster than others may be valid (I’m not sure if they really have), but the UHI effect was still underestimated by around a factor of 20 by the IPCC. This seems rather serious and deserving of discussion.

  147. snorbert zangox:


    From Dictionary.com.
    1. Physical Chemistry. a system of colloidal particles dispersed in a gas; smoke or fog.

    In other words, the cloud is an aerosol, the particles may be either liquid or solid.

    On to a more interesting subject. I just found an article that is appearing in Int.J.Mod.Phys.B23:275-364,2009, soon if not already. I have just now begun reading it but the abstract, below, is interesting to say the least.


    [Response: It’s nonsense. It was nonsense when it was first written two years ago, and it remains nonsense now. However it does stand as prima facie evidence that anything can make it into some obscure corner of the scientific literature if one is persistent enough. Thus the absence of serious contriarian literature becomes even more remarkable. – gavin]

  148. Patrick 027:

    Re 146 – perhaps you are well aware of this, but of course, there are ocean temperatures, receding glaciers, ecological changes, borehole measurements…

    If a station has been in an urban environment for some time, conceivably, changes in temperature would not be due so much to the urban heat island because it’s already there.

  149. Patrick 027:

    Re 145 – “one could calculate the altitude at which the atmosphere goes from being opaque to a given wavelength to being transparent to that wavelength by looking at which Planck curve the wavelength’s brightness temperature crosses.”

    Clarification: The source of radiation reaching any location, coming from any one direction, is distributed along a path; the brightness temperature at any wavelength is some effective temperature that is within the range of temperatures along the path.

    (clarification also for point in 144): The distribution of emission of radiation along a path that reaches a viewer is an exponential function when the path is measured in optical thickness; it is the same as the distribution of absorption of the radiation at the same wavelength in the opposite direction that is passing by the viewing point.

    The distribution exponentially decays away from the viewing point – proportional to exp(-optical thickness). The transmissivity along the path exponentially decays (from 1) along the path in the same way. The absorptivity and emissivity thus start at zero and assymptically approach 1 with increasing optical thickness.

    For sufficiently small optical thickness, absorptivity and emissivity are about equal to their emission cross sections per unit area facing the direction being considered; thus absorptivity and emissivity increase over geometric distance in proportion to cross section per unit volume. However, as the absorptivity/emissivity become significant, additional cross sections are partly blocked by the cross sections already added. Thus, optical thickness increases linearly with cross section per unit area (equal to cross section per unit volume multiplied by geometric path length), while absorptivity and emissivity ‘decay’ exponentially to 1 from zero.

    When scattering is significant, it get’s a bit more complicated; absorptivity and emissivity cannot reach 1; some of the radiation coming from a path will have been scattered into that direction… (PS a greenhouse effect can operate with LW scattering instead of or along with emission/absorption – this could happen in a ‘Snowball Mars’ wherein dry ice (CO2) cloud particles would scatter LW radiation. The mathematics will be a bit different but there are at least some qualitative similarities in so far as radiation is being blocked (but by backscattering rather than absorption – it would be like putting a double-sided mirror in between the surface and space; the atmosphere would control radiative transfer but not actually gain or lose energy directly by it if scattering occurs without absorption/emission).

  150. Patrick 027:

    “The distribution exponentially decays away from the viewing point ”

    So looking down from space, you can see a certain depth into the atmosphere (and some of the surface if that depth is great enough), not because the atmosphere is transparent above that level but because visibility of an object increases while visibility of what is behind it decreases gradually for increasing object thickness from zero, disregarding reflection at a surface (as is appropriate for bulk atmospheric properties).

    To a first approximation, where well-mixed optical agents dominate, one could assume optical depth is proportional to mass path – so in the vertical, optical depth as a vertical coordinate would be nearly proportional to pressure. At many wavelengths, however, optical thickness per unit mass per unit area decreases (up to a point, at least) with increasing height because of reduced pressure broadenning, while at a few wavelengths the opposite would occur. Because absorptivity/emissivity can only approach 1 (saturation), the concentration of cross section into smaller wavelength intervals results in more rapid saturation at some wavelengths along with reduced opacity at others, so that the overall opacity over a range of wavelengths, over some distance, is reduced by lack of broadenning.

  151. Patrick 027:

    OT, but I recently noticed that p. 768 of Chapter 10 in IPCC AR4 WGI states a negative cloud feedback in the model ensemble average, but Chapter 8 gives a positive value. I have heard elsewhere that the average is positive, so I assume that the Chapter 10 value is a typo (and the graph accompanying it on the same page is accidentally flipped). I do realize that it matters whether the cloud feedback is calculated before or after some other feedbacks (water vapor, lapse rate, surface albedo) – I had assumed that it is given after those unless stated otherwise but I haven’t read the whole of any of these chapters (far from it)…

  152. sidd:

    I do apologize for this off topic comment, but I hope someone knowledgeable will reply:

    I just read the Pollard article in the latest issue of Nature, and I notice that in the methods section they have some difficulty adjusting basal sliding. In the body of the paper they mention that they allow basal sliding only where basal ice is at the melting point. Is this in the Pattyn model they use ? And if so, why is this justified ? Surely frozen ice can slide on rock ?

    They also derive an estimate for collapse of WAIS by dividing the ‘protected ice shelf melt rate,’ M_sub_p, of 1.9 m/yr by a modelled sensitivity from Beckman and Goose(Ocean Model v5, pp157-170, 2003) of 0.4 m/yr/C to obtain a required ocean temperature rise of 5C. I have been so far unable to obtain a copy of the Beckman reference. Would someone who has read it care to comment ?


  153. Hank Roberts:

    Wait a minute, Chris.
    Did you watch any part of the Olympics?
    Read the topic here on olympic efforts at cleaning up the air?
    Ever hear of anything at all different about Chinese cities that’s reason not to generalize from limited information?
    Got a cite for your claim about what’s in the IPCC report?

    See if there’s a clue in here:

    Haunting Asia, a brown cloud blots out sun – International Herald …
    Nov 13, 2008 … The report identifies 13 cities as brown-cloud hotspots, among them Bangkok, … In some Chinese cities, the smog has reduced sunlight by as much as 20 … that can be traced to the emissions from coal-burning factories, …

  154. Chris:

    Re 148 – Yes I am well aware of those other sources. However, GISS, HadCRUT, and all the other ‘global mean temperature’ sets are determined by the ground stations, which are subject to UHI. These are the temperature data used in arguments back and forth, for the most part. And of course some sites have always been in cities… but don’t make the mistake of forgetting that cities develop and grow. More buildings, more concrete, more asphalt etc. More UHI. And there are plenty of sites that were rural one hundred years ago, but aren’t any more.

    As an aside, glaciers receding is a silly thing to bring up because they’ve been doing that since the early 1800s.

    The point is that UHI was deemed insignificant (about .05 degrees of warming per century) but has now been shown to be about twenty times greater.

    [Response: No it hasn’t. You are confusing a global estimate with a local one. Even assuming that this was typical of all urbanised land areas (extremely unlikely), you’d only get a fraction of that. There is nothing ‘silly’ about glacier retreat, or Arctic sea ice decline, or increased surface melting on Greenland, or changes in phenology etc. etc. – gavin]

  155. Hank Roberts:

    And, Chris, by cite, I don’t mean reference to the always busy websites you find when you paste your claim into Google. http://www.google.com/search?q=UHI+effect+was+still+underestimated+by+around+a+factor+of+20
    WTF, audit, septic, bingo.

  156. Hank Roberts:

    Urban and rural temperature trends in proximity to large US cities: 1951-2000
    Brian Stone Jr *
    City and Regional Planning Program, Georgia Institute of Technology, USA

    urban heat island effect • climate change • urban planning • public health

    This paper presents a study of urban and rural temperature trends in proximity to the most populous metropolitan areas of the US. As data from urban meteorological stations are typically eliminated or adjusted for use in continental and global analyses of climate change, few studies have addressed how temperatures are changing in the areas most vulnerable to the public health impacts of warming: large cities. In this study, temperature data from urban and proximate rural stations for 50 large US metropolitan areas are analysed to establish the mean decadal rate of change in urban temperatures, rural temperatures, and heat island intensity over five decades. The results of this analysis find the mean decadal rate of change in the heat island intensity of large US cities between 1951 and 2000 to be 0.05 °C and further show a clear division in temperature trends between cities situated in the northeastern and southern regions of the country.
    Copyright © 2007 Royal Meteorological Society

    Digital Object Identifier (DOI)]10.1002/joc.1555

  157. ziff house:

    Re 131, Patrick thank you for your post, answers a lot of questions that i couldn’t find myself googling.
    Question, if so little water vapor makes it to the stratosphere why is the stratosphere such a big factor in GW? I always thought of GW warming as mainly of the troposphere.

  158. Bill DeMott:

    The article cited above (147) for falsifying the greenhouse effect cites the second law of thermodynamics as making the greenhouse effect impossible. This is strangely similar to the argument that the second law of thermodynamics falsifies evolution. In my opinion, this argument with respect to evolution might better be applied to the theory that life on earth is impossible because of the “second law of thermodynamics.” (Fortunately, no one has been arguing that a law of physics falsifies the existence of life). I agree with Gavin that almost anything can be published (in a peer-reviewed journal) somewhere, with enough persistence and by searching for a journal with low enough standards. I just hope that journalists do not give equal time and weight to such a publication in comparison to articles in Science, Nature and well-respected specialized journals. No doubt, if we every get a “falsification” of evolution published in an obscure scientific journal, certain blogs will be sure that such an article falsifies or at least balances 10s of thousands of studies that are supportive of evolution.

  159. Ike Solem:

    Martin, you did say this, quote:

    “Have a look at the CO2 absorption spectrum: effectively you only have to look at the 15 µm = 666 cm^-1 band, which is very broad, and saturated in the middle, i.e., there you’re looking at the top of the atmosphere where temperature is around 220K (this is for the tropical atmosphere).”

    “What happens when you double CO2 is that the “flanks” of this inverted trapezoid move outward from the band centre. That’s what causes the CO2 part of the greenhouse effect.”

    Go and read the links posted above, because that is not what causes the “CO2 part of the greenhouse effect” – it’s a height-dependent effect, not based on the “inverted trapezoid”… That’s why the CO2 warming effect is greatest at mid-troposphere, where pressures are lower.

    Reducing aerosols is really a basic health issue – breathing 2X CO2 is not going to affect you personally, but breathing 2X particulate matter will, especially if loaded down with alkylated benzene derivatives, sulfate and nitrate particles, mercury, arsenic and all the other side products of dirty fossil fuel combustion.

    Biodiesel is a quick substitute that can be used in diesel engines, although availability is dependent on agriculture (algal biodiesel being the most promising alternative). Rather than being made up of thousands of different molecules, the residue of petroleum refining, biodiesel is simply fatty acids capped with methanol, with no sulfur or other contaminants.

    The engine experimental results showed that exhaust emissions including carbon monoxide (CO) particulate matter (PM) and smoke emissions were reduced for all biodiesel mixtures. However, a slight increase in oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emission was experienced for biodiesel mixtures.

    Nabi et al 2008, Biodiesel from cotton seed oil and its effect on engine performance and exhaust emissions, Applied Thermal Engineering, Nov 2008

  160. Mark:

    “Question, if so little water vapor makes it to the stratosphere why is the stratosphere such a big factor in GW? I always thought of GW warming as mainly of the troposphere.”

    I don’t know exactly what you mean, but the stratosphere is important in disproving some alternative explanation of why temperatures are rising, not that they are an important effect in AGW.

    E.g. if it was solar input, then the entire atmosphere would heat up, including the stratosphere.

    From what I’ve understood.

  161. Hank Roberts:

    Ziff, teh Google is teh friend of you:


    The first 2 results are from the RealClimate topic, already here, already written, that probably answers your question.

  162. snorbert zangox:


    You may be correct, Gerlich and Tscheuschner may be wrong. I’ll be in a better position to judge after I have finished reading the article and have reviewed the links that you provided.

    I understand your reference to the obscure corner of the literature. However I also know that DeWitt was forced, by the dweebs who in compliance with Imhoff’s law rise to the top of scientific associations and journals by bent of their political acumen rather than their scientific talent and who never wish to rock the PC boat, to publish his re-test of quail egg thinning in an obscure corner of the literature. Such sources are not always without merit.

    [Response: Not always but mostly. And G&T is not being dismissed because it is obscure. I dismiss it because it’s nonsense (that is also obscure). – gavin]

    The web address to a PDF and free version of the article for anyone who is interested is http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0707/0707.1161v4.pdf

  163. Ian:

    Anyone looking at the G&T article might want to read Arthur Smith’s detailed reply too: “Proof of the Atmospheric Greenhouse Effect,” http://arxiv.org/abs/0802.4324

  164. wmanny:

    re. 154r

    No [UHI] hasn’t [been shown to be about twenty times greater]. You are confusing a global estimate with a local one. Even assuming that this was typical of all urbanised land areas (extremely unlikely), you’d only get a fraction of that.

    Over at WUWT, the Jones et al paper is being characterized as a “small bombshell”, apparently due to the abstract’s conclusion:

    “Urban-related warming over China is shown to be about 0.1°C decade−1 over the period 1951–2004, with true climatic warming accounting for 0.81°C over this period.”

    Is this a semantics issue? (The previous sentence ends, “residual warming is…relatively small compared to the large-scale warming.”) Otherwise stated, is the paper corroborative or ground-breaking?

  165. David Donovan:

    Snorbert wrote :

    “You may be correct, Gerlich and Tscheuschner may be wrong.”

    Gerlich and Tscheuschner are not only wrong they are epically wrong. Its so wrong, reading through it is like taking a long hot slow bus ride sitting next to a smelly unhinged talkative person who keeps offering you gum he has already been chewing while talking and inadvertently spitting in your face.

    It is so wrong the work could be considered high farce if the authors intended it to be so. If they indeed do take it seriously, then it is indeed a tragic state of affairs. G + T do have Phds. (I think) how someone with even a good Bsc. in Physics could come up with something like than and be serious about it is beyond me. It is to scientific papers what “Battlefield Earth” is to movies. I do not know much about G+T..I wonder if is there any chance the work is indeed a Hoax ?

  166. Crust:

    Anyway, in his recent speech at the recent Heartland Institute denialist conference, Lindzen mostly makes what one might call political arguments, but he does make one argument that at least sounds substantive:

    We know that in the absence of feedbacks (in which water vapor and clouds allegedly act to amplify the effect of added CO2), an increase in temperature will lead to a certain increase in this heat radiation (also known as outgoing longwave radiation, OLR). With positive feedbacks, this amount of radiation will be reduced (in terms of the ‘blanket’ imagery, the blanket has gotten thicker). Current models do, indeed, predict this. We also know that the 1990s temperature was warmer than in the 1980s.

    During this period, satellites were measuring the emitted heat radiation. What at least four groups all confirmed was that emitted heat radiation during the ‘90s was not only much greater than what models predicted, but also greater than what would have been expected if there were no feedback at all.

    This implies that nature is, as any reasonable person might suppose, dominated by stabilizing negative feedbacks rather than destabilizing positive feedbacks.

    What’s really going on here? Forgive if this argument has already been dealt with at RC (I didn’t find it in a quick search of the site, but I may well have missed it).

  167. Aaron Lewis:

    What is the over all opinion on :


    (Climate Literacy: “The Essential Principles of Climate Sciences” A Guide for Individuals and Communities)?

    It seems to have been signed off on by most US Government Agencies.

    My take is that it is generally good, but weak on the risk and impacts, and the potential for impacts to occur faster than currently expected.

    I would have hoped that at least one of the agencies would have taken a planning and engineering risk management perspective.

  168. ziff house:

    As a lay[non math]person , the details don’t interest me that much, as long as the basic premise [CO2 traps heat and is increasing] remains sound. The various circuation coolings and heat sinks don’t matter much long term as the pot warms.

  169. Ike Solem:

    Hank Roberts – for some odd news comparisons, try this:


    The byproduct of automobiles, slash-and-burn agriculture, wood-burning kitchen stoves and coal-fired power plants, these plumes of carbon dust rise over southern Africa, the Amazon basin and North America but are most pronounced in Asia, where so-called atmospheric brown clouds are dramatically reducing sunlight in many Chinese cities and leading to decreased crop yields in swaths of rural India, says a team of more than a dozen scientists who have been studying the problem since 2002.



    “Study pinpoints the main source of Asia’s brown air pollution cloud…Orjan Gustafsson of Stockholm University and colleagues have now removed the cloud of uncertainty hanging over the brown cloud. Burning of biomass, they report in Science, is the greater culprit.”

    That’s an odd spin, as it has been picked up by other reporters who now claim that the ABC is due mostly to biomass burning by poor people… even though the study in question more or less confirmed previous estimates of a 50-50 split between biomass and fossil fuel particulate matter over the Indian Ocean – based on only two data collection sites. It was a useful study that used a new technique to get at the question – but the reporting was highly distorting, and was continued at the NYT:

    The smoke is rising mainly from cooking fires fueled with firewood or dried dung. The indoor pollution from such fires annually kills more than 1.5 million people worldwide, mainly women and children, according to United Nations estimates.

    Although one article attempts to lay the blame at the feet of Indian villagers, both articles ignore a major source of particularly nasty particulate pollution, which is that put out by ships. Increased global trade is thus a major factor in increased regional air pollution, a politically touchy topic in the era of globalization – i.e., who is responsible – Persian Gulf oil producers and shippers, Chinese and Indian manufacturers, or their customers in Europe, Japan, the U.S., etc.?

    The aerosols do act as something like an urban heat island effect, in that they add to the effects of rising global CO2. This is true for the clouds of aerosols that hover over Southeast Asia:

    ‘Brown Cloud’ speeding up melt of Himalaya glaciers, 2007

    PARIS: The haze of pollution that blankets southern Asia is accelerating the loss of Himalayan glaciers, bequeathing an incalculable bill to China, India and other countries whose rivers flow from this source, scientists warned on Wednesday.

    In a study released by the British journal Nature, the investigators say the so-called Asian Brown Cloud is as much to blame as greenhouse gases for the warming observed in the Himalayas over the past half century. Rapid melting among the 46,000 glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau, the third-largest ice mass on the planet, is already causing downstream flooding late summer. But long-term worries focus more on the danger of drought, as the glaciers shrink.


    It should be clear that reducing aerosol pollution over China and India would have huge benefits for both climate and respiratory health, but the question is how to go about it. If we believe that biomass burning by poor people is the problem, then we should build them coal-fired power plants to replace their dung fires, right?

    However, dung is carbon neutral – grass fixes atmospheric carbon, the cow eats grass, some fraction of undigested cellulose passes through, dries out in the sun – and there is your fuel, rather dirty though. A better choice for the rural agriculturalist is chicken manure methane – farmers in China have discovered that buried pits of chicken manure generate methane and heat – attach a tube with a valve to the buried pit, and you have a clean-burning carbon-neutral fuel source, enough to cook with and heat a small residence.

    Thus, if we really want to reduce aerosol pollution in brown clouds, you need a multi-level approach that eliminates the use of coal, diesel and bunker fuel in favor of wind, solar, nuclear or natural gas – that would be the advanced industrialist’s approach – and at the other end of the spectrum, you need to replace open dung fires with efficient forced-air dung furnances, or, even better, locally produced biodiesel and biomethane.

  170. Kevin McKinney:

    Ike, a very sensible discussion. I think we do need solutions at various levels of technological sophistication, and the poor of the world mustn’t be scapegoats for a problem that they have done least to create.

    (I’ll also say that first sentence you quote is a doozy, though. It took me about three readings to connect all those well-dispersed parts of speech.)

  171. Ray Ladbury:

    Crust, FWIW, it sounds to me as if Lindzen is trying to resurrect his beloved Iris. That’s fine if you don’t mind ignoring the paleoclimate data, which shows significant excursions both above and below the current temparature range. And even if Lindzen were correct and the climate were meta-stable, one has to wonder how much it could be perturbed before entering a new regime.
    As to his argument that more radiation is escaping than expected, I think that is a wilde overestimate of the data quality. We don’t have near enough coverage to really determine radiative balance. Moreover, if Lindzen really wanted to know, I’d think he’d be crying out for DISCOVR to be launched with its Earth-observing instruments. Haven’t heard a word from him. So it sounds like typical Lindzen–truth be damned if it at least sounds reasonable.

  172. Maya:

    David (165) – hahahaha, I loved that description. It’s the way I feel reading a few of the denialist arguments – they make so little sense to me that I don’t even know how to respond because I can’t figure out what their point is supposed to be. (And before anyone jumps on me for exaggerating, note that I said “a few” – as in, not all, only some.)

  173. David B. Benson:

    sidd (152) — Cold ice sticks to the basal rock, which is rough. Just above there the ice can deform so there is a flow, the more the higher and further from edges.

    That’s my amateur take on it.

  174. Michael:

    Kevin McKinney, I would tweek your statement slightly: …the poor of the world mustn’t PAY for a problem that they have done least to create. If coal is the cheapest and most readily form of energy for these people, we have no right to pressure them with restrictions. History will not look kindly on the haves of the world putting downward pressure on the have-nots, not matter how dire the emergency.

  175. Crust:

    Ray Ladbury, thanks for the reply. So the basic point is the data quality on OLR is too poor to draw a conclusion. (BTW, sorry for the poor editing in my original comment.)

  176. SecularAnimist:

    Michael wrote: “… the poor of the world mustn’t PAY for a problem that they have done least to create. If coal is the cheapest and most readily [available] form of energy for these people, we have no right to pressure them with restrictions.”

    No, we in the developed world have an obligation to provide technological and financial assistance to developing countries so that they can build healthy, sustainable economies based on clean, renewable energy, rather than following the dead-end road of fossil fuels which will lead inevitably to their ruin, and to famine, dislocation and death for hundreds of millions of their people.

    Your comment ignores the fact that the most catastrophic effects of unmitigated anthropogenic global warming are projected to fall hardest on the developing world, which will be least able to “adapt” to them.

    You seem to suggest that since the developed nations are historically responsible for the overwhelming majority of the accumulated anthropogenic excess of CO2, that nature will somehow allow developing nations to burn vast amounts of coal and release vast amounts of additional CO2 with impunity. Unfortunately, the physics of greenhouse gases have no sense of “justice”.

    Your comment also ignores that fact that many people — including government and corporate policy makers — in developing nations are well aware of the disastrous consequences that will inevitably follow from increasing the use of coal, and are working hard within their own societies to put their nations on a different path — the path of clean, sustainable renewable energy. China is already becoming a world leader in both wind and solar energy, and a major exporter of wind turbines and photovoltaics. Indeed China is projected to become the world’s top exporter of wind turbines this year.

    That’s the direction that needs to be encouraged and supported with funding and technology transfer from the developed world.

  177. sidd:

    Re: the Pollard paper:

    Thank you Mr. Benson. I am yet unclear on the boundary conditions at the ice bottom interface. Reading the paper and the supplementary material indicates that they have to tune the basal sliding coefficient.

    In the dotearth blog: Bindschadler points out that the ice model is a longterm model and cannot capture short term dynamics, so 0.5m/century is a lower bound for the WAIS contribution to seal level rise.

    This is as I suspected, the timesteps are large for a 5 million year run.

  178. John Burgeson:

    the G&T article may be both obscure and nonsense. But it LOOKS authoritative, and I, for one, would like to see at least two or three points of refutation.


  179. Bill DeMott:

    165, 172–on reading the G&T paper, I kept asking myself, are these guys really serious? So maybe it is a hoax. Scientific papers are generally succinct and focused. Don’t anyone use the G&T paper as a model for writing

  180. dhogaza:

    If coal is the cheapest and most readily form of energy for these people, we have no right to pressure them with restrictions. History will not look kindly on the haves of the world putting downward pressure on the have-nots, not matter how dire the emergency.

    Really? Even if failure to act burdens the have-nots far more than taking action would?

    Inherent in arguments like this is that either 1) warming isn’t harmful or 2) it won’t harm developing countries, neither assumption being warranted.

  181. Hank Roberts:

    > the basic point is the data quality on OLR is

    a collection from many different satellites, over different years, in different orbits, with different instruments, that has to be put together.

    Why don’t we have better information? Because you have to get far enough away from your subject to capture the whole thing in the window, and put the instrument in a stable position, to accumulate a long time series.

    Why don’t we have eight years of data from that instrument? Ask Robert Park:


  182. Hank Roberts:

    Here, let’s reprint the relevant part of that, with deserved hat tip to Robert Park.

    > the most fundamental question of climate science:
    > what is the energy balance between solar radiation
    > falling on Earth and reflected or reradiated energy?

    And why don’t we have eight years of data collected?

    You still need to click some links within this:

    WHAT’S NEW Robert L. Park Friday, 5 Dec 08 Washington, DC

    1. TRIANA: WHY DOES THIS ADMINISTRATION HATE IT SO MUCH? Could it be because Al Gore’s initials areon it? They changed the name, but the initials wouldn’t rub off. Three years ago while Congress was out of town for the Christmas break, I heard NASA was quietly terminating Triana, a.k.a. DSCOVR


    How could this happen? The $100 million observatory was already built. It was meant to answer the most fundamental question of climate science: what is the energy balance between solar radiation falling on Earth and reflected or reradiated energy? Global warming deniers all claim solar variation is the major factor in global climate change. Is it? Well, Triana is the only experiment that can unequivocally answer that question. But I couldn’t find a single global warming denier who wanted it tested. So I wrote an op-ed for the NY Times; but maybe nobody read it,


    It’s still timely; the NY Times should feel free to reprint it without change.

    2. DSCOVR: A DICK CHENEY SHOTGUN BLAST BLINDS THE WORLD. The Nov 19, 2008 online Nature news, reported that the NASA reauthorization bill ordered the agency to come up with a plan for DSCOVR. The article quoted Francisco Valero of Scripps, the mission’s principle investigator, who estimated that it would take $117 million to refurbish and launch DSCOVR. The Air Force offered to launch it, but incredibly, only if all Earth observation equipment is removed. This led me to wonder if there could be a national security reason. No, Dick Cheney just doesn’t want to hear about global warming. DeSmogBlog, the best of the environmental blogs, quotes an unnamed source within NASA who spoke on the condition of anonymity, saying Cheney was the hatchet man, intent from the beginning on killing DSCOVR, and keeping Bush’s fingerprints off the axe. And why did I have to learn about this from a UK science magazine and a Canadian blog? The only major U.S. paper that mentioned it was the Houston Chronicle.
    Excerpt above from:
    Robert L. Park Friday, 5 Dec 08 Washington, DC

    Main page: https://listserv.umd.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A0=bobparks-whatsnew&D=1&F=P&H=1&O=D&T=0

  183. MC:

    To comment on the actually post by Gavin:

    It’s very interesting that the pollution seemed to be redistributed rather than reduced overall. I could be wrong on this. If so ,it’s almost like the Chinese government inadvertently performed an experiment in sociology to see would every day habits change or would they just adapt. It looks like people dealt with the hassle of not drving in Beijing by going somewhere else.

    [Response: I doubt that pollution sources in China are that mobile. More likely there was simply an overall increase in pollution as economic activity increased, and only in Beijing did the authorities really make much effort to reduce it. – gavin]

  184. Hank Roberts:

    Argh, the first link isn’t working now. It’s his January 6, 2006, column. Here’s the relevant paragraph:

    Friday, January 6, 2006
    Triana was never able to overcome its roots. NASA has quietly terminated what may have been its most important science mission. Critics of programs to limit emissions argue that climate change is caused by solar variation, not by atmospheric changes. There is one unambiguous way to tell: locate an observatory at L-1, the neutral-gravity point between Earth and Sun. It would have a continuous view of the sunlit face of Earth in one direction, and the Sun in the other, thus constantly monitoring Earth’s albedo. Al Gore initiated the observatory project in 1998 to inspire school children with a continuous view of climate unfolding on our fragile planet. It was even given a poetic name, Triana, the sailor on the Santa Maria who was first to sight the New World (WN 24 Jul 98) . But Triana’s importance to climate research, perhaps Earths biggest challenge, was not recognized until later. With urging from the National Academy, it was finished in 2001 and given a new name. It was still waiting to be launched when Columbia crashed. By then we had a new President and a new “vision.” It was put on hold. The official reason for killing it is “competing priorities.” The priority is to replace Gore’s vision of the world with the Bush vision of sending people back to the moon. We should all weep.

  185. Ray Ladbury:

    Michael says “If coal is the cheapest and most readily form of energy for these people, we have no right to pressure them with restrictions. History will not look kindly on the haves of the world putting downward pressure on the have-nots, not matter how dire the emergency.”

    Uh, Dude, why are we forcing them to make do with a dirty and very finite source of energy while we are moving to cleaner and more sustainable forms? By all means we must find ways to meet the needs of developing nations, but that is in our interest as well as being a moral imperative. If we don’t find a way to do this with clean, renewable, carbon-free energy in a generation or two, there probably won’t be any more generations capable of doing so.

  186. Patrick 027:

    Re 157 – some basic features of the climate system would be qualitatively similar without any of the atmosphere above the tropopause – that is, if the troposphere extended upward to infinitesimal pressures. The greenhouse effect would still work. But the stratosphere does modify the radiant energy budget of the troposphere a bit and also has roles in the fluid mechanical aspects of the system

    The stratosphere absorbs about 3 % of incident solar radiation, whereas the troposphere absorbs about 17 % and the surface about 50 % (mesosphere and thermospheric absorption is much smaller in comparison); a majority of the radiation emitted to space is from the troposphere; some comes from the surface (mostly in the wavelength interval of 8 to 12 microns) and some comes from the stratosphere. The radiative cooling to space and the radiant heating by the sun are displaced from each other; this is balanced by 1. LW radiation from the surface to the troposphere and from the surface and troposphere to the stratosphere (thus, net LW cooling is not equal to LW cooling to space) and from warmer to cooler levels in the atmosphere in general, and 2. within the troposphere and between it and the surface, by convection … and considering horizontal variations and temporal fluctuations and cycles: 3. horizontal advection and storage of heat in the ocean, troposphere, and stratosphere.

    The net stratospheric radiative heating and cooling are dominated by ozone (solar heating) and CO2 (LW cooling); H2O vapor dominates solar heating within the troposphere (with clouds being the next biggest contributer), while H2O vapor, clouds, and CO2 dominate net LW cooling in the troposphere.

    continued and Re 159 – clarification:

    CO2 contributes significant optical thickness to the atmosphere between about 12 and 18 microns, with an overall trend across multiple lines of an increasing effect towards about the center of that range (15 microns).

    Radiative forcing at a given level is (where applicable) the reduction in net upward LW (longwave, emitted by earth and atmosphere in significant amounts) radiation plus (where applicable) the increase in absorbed SW (shortwave, solar energy) radiation below that level (greenhouse gases also often have some SW absorption that modify the total effect), for a given climatic state – an imposed radiative forcing causes imbalances (relative to an equilibrium climate) that cause net heating and/or cooling; equilibrium is attained when feebacks: temperature changes combined with changes in optical properties (radiative feedbacks – water vapor, clouds, snow and ice) in response to the forcing combine to counteract the imposed imbalance – an imposed reduction in net upward LW radiation at the tropopause causes warming of the troposphere and surface, thus —(combined with stratospheric changes, other feedbacks (positive feedbacks require greater temperature changes to attain balance)) — increasing the net upward LW+SW radiation at the tropopause to balance the imposed change.

    Tropopause level radiative forcing is often given after stratospheric equilibration in response to radiative forcing of the the stratosphere that occurs in the absence of the tropospheric and surface responses.

    For example, the radiative forcing at the top of the atmosphere by an increase in solar brightness generally involves (at least for changes shorter than many millions of years, so far as I know) an increase in UV radiation, which heats the stratosphere; the initial radiative forcing at tropopause level is less than at the top of the atmosphere, by the amount absorbed in the stratosphere. However, after stratospheric equilibration, the stratosphere will be warmer and will emit more LW radiation downward, thus partially transfering the stratospheric forcing to the tropopause level. However the radiative forcing is distributed within the troposphere-surface system, convection couples the vertical levels so that they tend to warm together; the response is generally to warm the troposphere and surface (convection will slow down or speed up in response to slight changes in lapse rate caused by variations in radiative energy fluxes) (with some regional, diurnal cycle, seasonal, and phase of internal variability, etc, variations on amount and vertical distribution, as convection is not evenly distributed everywhere, the moist adiabatic lapse rate changes with temperature, radiative feedbacks are not evenly distributed, changes in evaporation rates affect surface temperature relative to air temperature above some level, all of this as well as precipitation will affect ocean currents and atmospheric winds and modes of internal variability, which feeds back into regional variations, etc…). The warming of the troposphere increases upward LW radiation at the tropopause (although this and other things will be affected by changes in the tropopause height), some of that is absorbed in the stratosphere, thus warming the stratosphere; some portion of which causes an additional downward LW radiative flux at the tropopause, etc, enhancing the warming of both a bit more.

    In the case of addition of a greenhouse gas, generally, this concentrates direct cooling to space toward higher levels and reduces it at the surface and, depending on the initial opacity and the shape of the spectrum, potentially at lower levels in the air. Because the temperature (with some regional and seasonal variations) generally decreases with height (tending toward a moist adiabatic lapse rate sustained by moist convection) within the troposphere, the result reduces upward LW radiation at the tropopause, as cooler air more effectively ‘hides’ the warmer surface and air below it. Because of the upward concentration of emission to space, upper levels will generally recieve less LW radiation from below, and with thin layers emitting more effectively in both directions, the stratosphere and layers above tend to cool (the top-of-atmosphere radiative forcing is less than the tropopause level radiative forcing).

    An increase in SW absorption by greenhouse agents can increase heating in the troposphere and stratosphere (depending on distribution) – by intercepting some of the radiation that would otherwise have been reflected to space, this can also result in overall top-of-atmosphere positive radiative forcing (warming) – but if the absorption within the stratosphere is greater, it will cause a negative SW forcing at the tropopause level – even if the tropopause level SW forcing is positive, while this by itself tends to warm the troposphere and surface, the surface SW radiative forcing would be negative (because of stratospheric and tropospheric SW absorption), thus tending to reduce convection (although this might not be the case after all feedbacks have occured – when this occurs regionally (brown clouds), there is not a perfect regional equilibration due to horizontal heat transport, so the slowdown in vertical convection may be a more obvious result (?) ).

    Anyway, the LW effects of greenhouse gases generally dominate over their shortwave effects (not so for clouds as they are, although this may not be so for changes in clouds in response to global warming) (stratospheric and tropospheric ozone can be treated seperately as ozone is chemically reactive, not well-mixed, and occurs for different reasons at different levels – tropospheric ozone causes a net positive (warming) radiative forcing at the tropopause and can be harmful to life; stratospheric ozone warms the stratosphere, cools the troposphere by SW effects but also has some LW warming effect, and is benificial in general to life on land and in the upper ocean). Increasing CO2 causes a net cooling of the stratosphere. Thus, with stratospheric equilibration, the tropopause level forcing will be somewhat reduced (from memory, maybe 13% – PS the tropopause level roughly 3.7 W/m2 forcing per doubling of CO2 figure is for equilibrated stratosphere and so far as I know, includes the SW effects). After stratospheric equilibration, however, the tropospheric and surface warming will have some warming effect on the stratosphere, as for solar forcing – the net effect is generally still to have a cooler stratosphere, but this illustrates how tropospheric and surface responses can be more similar to different forcings when the forcings are in terms of tropopause-level forcing with an equilibrated stratosphere (there will still be some differences – the regional variation in tropopause level forcing is a little different between CO2 and solar forcings (although regional variations in tropospheric and surface feedbacks, and similarities in other feedbacks, are similar and more important, I think) – volcanic forcings and tropospheric aerosols will have some different effects; black carbon at high latitudes can have a greater overall warming effect because it’s radiative heating is concentrated near a significant positive feedback – Regional and seasonal variations of Milakovitch forcings are the most important part of the Milankovitch forcing – ice sheet decay (that causes a global average warming) could be encouraged by conditions with a direct global average cooling effect (redirecting more solar energy on an ice sheet could initially result in some slight cooling by increasing the global average albedo, even though it may eventually melt the ice sheet). In summary, variations in the vertical, temporal, and spatial distribution of a radiative forcing can result in different global time average temperature changes in response to the same global time average equilibrated-stratosphere tropopause-level radiative forcing, and also the shape of the responses (changes in vertical convection, evaporation, precipitation, winds, regional effects, seasonal effects, diurnal cycles, modes of internal variability) may be different, even for the same global average surface temperature change. Similarities in feedbacks may reduce the differences between responses in proportion to the total magnitude of responses if the variations of the shapes of the feedbacks in space and time, etc, are large enough and can overcome the the variations of the forcings, as could be expected for feedbacks that occur with some shape in response to global average changes… See also ‘efficacy of radiative forcing’.

    As opacity increases, eventually it becomes saturated with respect to tropopause level forcing – the source of emission of LW radiation reaching the tropopause from below is concentrated more and more toward the tropopause, and thus occurs across a smaller temperature variation, and the radiative forcing can only occur when there is temperature variation across a shift in source of radiation. Likewise for downward radiation from above (increasing opacity from zero, at first, downward LW radiation increases as the stratosphere blocks the cold of space, but then it will tend to decrease (global average conditions) as the cooler lower stratosphere blocks the warmer upper stratosphere). Of course, climatic responses involve changes in tropopause height… Anyway, with respect to the tropopause-level radiative forcing, CO2 is saturated in the central portion of it’s band – I think between about 14 and 16 microns. Additional tropopause-level forcing from increasing CO2 comes from LW forcing outside this interval. The shape of the spectrum and the saturation at the center of the band results in a roughly logarithmic proportionality of radiative forcing to concentration – each doubling (within some range) of CO2 contributes about the same radiative forcing, by widenning the wavelength interval that surpasses some level of opacity. In the process, the wavelength interval of intermediate optical thickness for any sufficiently thick layer of air remains about the same; air-to-air net radiative transfer requires enough opacity for significant emission and absorption but enough transparency for significant transmission across a distance with significant temperature variation, so with such a spectrum, with saturation at the center of the band, setting aside variation in blackbody radiation over wavelengths (the effect will be small for slight shifts in the wavelength intervals of intermediate optical thickness), changing CO2 level will tend to affect mainly radiative transfers involving the surface and space, either between them or between one of them and the air, and not so much direct air-to-air transfers – when CO2 does not overlap any other absorption spectrums. CO2 can still affect air-to-air transfer when their are clouds and/or significant humidity – for example, by blocking radiative energy transfer from lower-level humidity and from lower-level clouds to the stratosphere. (For sufficiently thin layers of air, CO2 would not be saturated over the center of its band, and so air-to-air tranfers could be reduced more where there is a sharper temperature change over vertical distance.)

    The wavelength interval where CO2 is saturated relative to the tropopause results in an interval over which, from space, the brightness temperature does not vary much (except for the narrow spike in the middle where more or most emission is from the stratosphere) – hence the ‘upside down trapezoid’ description by Martin.

  187. Patrick 027:

    Regarding 174, Re (all Re 174) “the poor of the world mustn’t PAY for a problem that they have done least to create. If coal is the cheapest and most readily form of energy for these people, we have no right to pressure them with restrictions. History will not look kindly on the haves of the world putting downward pressure on the have-nots, not matter how dire the emergency.”

    I have heard that solar is actually already competitive with fossil fuels in areas without an electric grid … But anyway, it may not have been Michael’s intent to suggest that the poor SHOULD take the same well-worn path of the richer nations – it’s possible he made that statement regarding the wealthy’s rights or lack thereof to restrict or dictate to the developing world, just a brief point, fully aware of the other points others have brought up, in fact expecting that most would be aware of such things.

    To put it another way – we do have a right to pull (with incentives – ie funding for climate change adaptation costs, family planning, etc.) developing nations into properly-structured international agreements (carbon-equivalent taxes, trade agreements to correct for international variations in internal emissions taxes, to fund mitigation and adaptation, etc) provided that we, the wealthy nations, offer something in return (said funding above, for example). We don’t (yet) have the moral high ground to just say do as I didn’t do, even if it makes sense for them to do it. And whatever is or is not fair, it won’t happen if it is not presented in a manner that is acceptable.

  188. Patrick 027:

    … Interestingly, solar forcing, which generally warms both the stratosphere and surface+troposphere, greenhouse forcing, which generally warms the surface+troposphere and cools the stratosphere, and volcanic aerosols, which generally cools the surface+troposphere and warms the stratosphere (aerosols absorb some solar radiation), all cause an increase in the horizontal north-south temperature gradient in a part of the stratosphere in high latitudes, as especially does stratospheric ozone depletion (See graphs on p. 679 of chapter 9 of IPCC AR4 WGI – zonal averaged temperature over latitude and height). So do all of these contribute (to varying degrees, depending also on hemisphere) to variations in NAM and SAM, in proportion to the north-south temperature gradient change in that part of the stratosphere. I’ve read that it seems volcanic cooling and greenhouse warming as well as the ozone hole do seem to contribute to positive trends in NAM and SAM (ozone hole in SAM specifically) – what about solar forcing? If it is proportional to the temperature gradient change, than presumably anthropogenic greenhouse gas forcing will eventually dominate in the NAM, SAM trends if it does not already (especially or at least if the ozone hole heals over time)… (??)

  189. Patrick 027:

    Re 165 – “Gerlich and Tscheuschner” I concur. My take on it:

    Jul 7, 2008 2:30:19 PM
    Jul 7, 2008 10:39:45 PM – Jul 8, 2008 12:36:35 AM

  190. Jerry Toman:

    Michael: the operative terms here are “cheapest” and “most readily (available)” forms of energy for these people…

    We need to quickly demonstrate to “these people” that Convective Available Potential Energy (CAPE) can be harvested much more cheaply than the energy in coal can be (without emitting carbon) and for most people is much more readily available than is coal. In fact, 6000 times more CAPE is dissipated in the atmosphere each day than the energy man produces using fossil fuels.

    At times of the year or day when CAPE, is not abundant, “waste heat” from industry, cities, power plants (even those based on renewables, eg geothermal) or warmed bodies of water can be processed in the same Atmospheric Vortex Engine and converted to electricity with an efficiency near 15%.

    Ref: http://vortexengine.ca
    and: http://www.tornadochaser.net/capeclass/

  191. Mark:

    re: 190.

    Actually the cheapest and most readily available form of energy is not to use the energy in the first place.

    And in case you harp up with “but that would keep them poor!” intensive farming with chemicals increases yeilds, but the yields go down and you need more and more chemical help for your yields. Chemicals that cost money you could have spent elsewhere.

    A test was done (forget where, some developing nation, maybe a region of India) where old-style farming without chemicals was undertaken. Yields went *up* slightly from before and money didn’t have to be spent on Monsato products.

    Similarly for energy, not having to use energy is cheaper and doesn’t mean you can’t do all you wish. It merely means you can’t throw energy at the problem, you have to THINK first.

  192. Ike Solem:

    Thanks for the Robert Park quotes, Hank, that explains a lot about Triana. If you ever pick up Jeremey Leggett’s “Carbon Wars” you’ll see that the same dynamic existed ever since the late 1970s – mostly based around economic fundamentals related to fossil fuels and geopolitical strategies that centered on control of global fossil fuel reserves – all during the Cold War, with nuclear issues always on the front burner. Nuclear issues are still on the front burner, and Middle East oil is still a matter of global geopolitical tension.

    It’s not just Triana – the National Biological Survey, the underfunded equivalent of the US Geological Survey, was also shut down – and there was the case of the employee of the Interior who was fired after putting a map of caribou breeding grounds up on an Interior website. Cheney’s attitude is thus that absence of evidence can serve as evidence of absence, at least in public relations terms, which makes sense for the CEO of Halliburton, whose first responsibility is to maintain profit margins for shareholders. Some of those shareholders are direct recipients of billions in taxpayer bailout money, as well.

    For anyone who has been paying attention to trends in academia, this is no surprise – as corporations extend their relationships with university administrators, various types of research fall out of favor – “disruptive” is the term. If your institution is deeply involved in public-private partnerships with Exxon, BP, General Electric and Dow Chemical, then they might not be thrilled to find that your school has the best organochlorine analysis lab in the region, and generates a steady flow of papers on organochlorine contents in seals, whales, shellfish, sediments, the water column, the atmosphere – especially when General Electric was among the largest producers of PCBs. Rather than questioning the research, they’d rather just see it not done.

    This has practical consequences; when the massive bunker fuel spill happened in San Francisco Bay, there was no one around to collect samples and figure out exactly what was in that fuel.

    In response to this new political reality, savy environmental scientists over the past decade have switched to purely natural lines of research – studying viruses in seals is fine, but studying polychlorinated biphenyl concentrations in seals will cost you your position. This is something of a side effect of the rise of patent-related research at public universities under the guise of private-public partnerships with pharmaceutical and biomedical concerns, which has lead to a steady shift towards “trade secret mentality” and away from open and transparent research. In particular, schools that receive large incomes from the licensing of patented products tend to develop administrations bent on protecting the income from those sources. Thus, if they are looking into a $5 billion public-private partnership with Dow Chemical and General Electric and a whole host of biotech firms, they might not be too supportive of organochlorine research – and they aren’t.

    The same goes for solar development research, but there you really have to blame Congress and the President, who together write the budget. If they wanted to, they could easily move $10 billion a year to renewable energy – they could have started in 1977, and we would have no need for fossil fuels by now. That was done in the 1950s with the Atomic Energy Commission (not the Manhattan Project), which built the national complex of nuclear facilities – dozens – in a few years – which resulted in the rapid construction of nuclear reactors and thousands of nuclear weapons, all within several decades. We don’t need a Manhattan Project for solar – that’s been done – we need a Renewable Energy Commission with the same level of clout that the AEC had. Can you hear the howls of outrage from the fossil fuel/finance sector?

    That also explains why solar and wind development can’t come up with the necessary billions needed for building infrastructure and manufacturing capacity – if you are selling solar panels and wind turbines, you are not selling fuel as well – but if you sell SUVs and gas turbines, you are also creating lifetime consumers for fossil fuels. The fundamental role that fossil fuels play as the leading commodity on economic markets is the factor that ties energy to finance, and the fact that the economy is still dependent on fossil fuels. Thus, if we give billions to Morgan Stanley, a big Halliburton investor, should we be surprised when they invest it in fossil fuel development, and not solar and wind development? Of course we should expect that – and if we budget $10 billion for renewables over 10 years while dumping hundreds of billions into AIG, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs – well, should we be surprised if Citigroup then invests $8 billion of that in Dubai (yes, fossil fuels) and not in Oklahoma wind farms? Likewise, Shell just dropped all their wind and solar investments, claiming they were un-economical.

    For Shell, they are, since with wind and solar, the fuel is free, and that would eventually undercut Shell’s business: selling fuel. This is particularly true for a cartel-based economic system that relies on fuel sales for liquidity – this also goes for the electricity supply. What you see right now is political pressure to increase electricity rates and fuel prices, and what effect would a large-scale renewable development program have on the price of fossil fuels? Do consumers prefer clean, zero-emission energy or do they prefer coal emissions?

    The fundamental problem, in many cases, appears to be an unwillingness to concede that there is no “free market” in energy, but that in fact the energy business is a cartel business, meaning that the so-called “free market model of the Western economic system” is largely a sham – and that’s hard for people to accept. It’s easier to believe that “solar costs too much”, especially if that’s the only message you hear.

    gavin’s comment gets to the heart of the matter:

    I doubt that pollution sources in China are that mobile. More likely there was simply an overall increase in pollution as economic activity increased, and only in Beijing did the authorities really make much effort to reduce it.

    If we can’t decouple increases in economic activity from increases in emissions and pollution, we have no hope. Of course, we can, but even the political supporters of “taking action on climate change” or of “rolling back global warming” can’t seem to bear to point to the real solutions, such as solar breeder systems…

    Solar breeder: a polysilicon producing and photovoltaic manufacturing facility that draws all power for operations from a solar PV array or from a concentrating solar power system, or from a solar thermal system.

    With such a system, economic activity is decoupled from the need for fossil fuels. Try getting the World Bank to finance one in Africa – they’ll put up $4 billion for a Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline, but not for that.

  193. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Snorbert writes:

    You may be correct, Gerlich and Tscheuschner may be wrong.

    They are definitely wrong. Their analysis violates several laws of physics. It’s garbage from end to end. For a quick precis as to why, try the discussion here, which goes into it at length:


  194. David Donovan:

    Re 178 Burgy.

    “The G&T article may be both obscure and nonsense. But it LOOKS authoritative, and I, for one, would like to see at least two or three points of refutation.”

    Use the sidebar to check out the current open tread on “Open Mind” and follow some of the links in the comments.

    Even if you do not want to wade through G+T and the associated voluminous rebuttals on the web, why not cut to the chase ? The ultimate test of any theory is if it is consistent with relevant measurements.

    Focusing on one of G+T’s main points (That the absorption of radiant energy emitted by the (colder)atmosphere by the surface violates the 2nd law of thermodynamics and thus can not occur) consider this…

    Given the surface temperature together with the atmospheric temperature and pressure profiles and the profiles of the main GHGs (H2O, O3, CO2), one can compute the long-wave spectrum that one would expect to be observed by a satellite looking down at the Earth. Similarly one can do the same for for a ground-based spectrometer looking up. If one preforms these calculations (using a computer and a data-base of spectroscopic properties for the gases) making “standard assumptions” (ie. Kirckhof’s Law, Plank’s Law etc..) one finds that one can simulate real observations to a pretty good degree of accuracy. IR spectral measurements have been, and are being made by various satellites (from Nimubus-4 in the 70’s to the AIRS instrument today etc..) and at various ground-based sites.

    Now if IR radiative transfer worked like G+T suppose there is no way one could simulate real observations ! You would not be anywhere close ! In fact, many upward looking IR device would see absolutely nothing ! Since for these devices the detector temperature is often held at a temperature of about 40 Deg C (for reasons of stability and the fact that fixing the detector temperature at 40C means only a heating system and not a combined heating/cooling system is needed). Since 40C is hotter than any temperature in the atmosphere below 100 km or so, then according to G+T, the absorption of IR photons by the detection device would violate the 2nd law of thermodynamics!
    Thus, according to G+T, such a device could not register any signal. Since IR detectors do not have to be cooled to temperatures below those encountered in the atmospheric column to measure down-welling IR radiances, any formulation of Radiative transfer following G+T must be very flawed indeed.

    (Note: IR instrument are often cooled when high precision and high spectral resolution are required since this does improve the Signal-to-noise ratio.)

  195. Chris Dudley:

    Ike (#192),

    I disagree about requiring polysilicon foundries to run on solar power. Our mix of generation is our mix and we need to shift it quickly. Trying to get all pure will only slow things down. So long as building solar panels near hydro dams in Washington means that the power does not go to LA and LA uses fossil fuels to make up the difference, then it just does not matter. For grids on other continents, we can use a carbon tariff if we are really worried about the coal burned in China to make a solar panel, but so long at the energy pay back time is short, it is probably not too important.

    You are right that our energy priorities are misaligned and that undue fossil fuel and nuclear industry influence is largely responsible. But there is some good news too. World solar energy demand grew 110% in 2008 over 2007 and prices are beginning to come down as the supply constraints on polysilicon are reduced with new capacity. Nearly 6 GW of new PV capacity were installed in 2008. http://www.solarbuzz.com/Marketbuzz2009-intro.htm

    Thin film company First Solar announced recently that it has pushed its production cost below $1/Peak Watt and their product is considered to be pretty reliable (20 plus years). If their stuff lasts 30 years that is about $0.018/kWh production cost though the price will be higher with the balance of the system, profit and financing. As more production methods move into this cost regime, we should be seeing even greater growth in solar.

    All of this could have happened 20 years ago with better prioritized R&D but some very good things are happening now.

  196. Ray Ladbury:

    Burgie #178, G&T (or Gin & Tonic, as I’m sure they were under the influence when they wrote this) have attempted to construct an edifice that looks imposing to the layman, but it is transparently laughable to anyone who has even a passing acquaintance with the physics.
    They go out of their way to bring in irrelevant digressions.
    They are verbose to the point of anasthesia.
    They don’t actually address any of the relevant radiative physics.
    They don’t have any data.

    Pauli once lamented of a paper that it was so bad it wasn’t even wrong. Wrong is correctable. G&T is BS from beginning to end.

  197. Michael:

    Secular Animist, given the many thought paths you could take with the present level of economic and scientific understanding, why do you choose to identify with the solar/wind energy solution? Every solution out there has a certain vulnerability to failure, and certain cost/benefit ratios.

    ps don’t take this comment as a slight, I am genuinely interested in a response.

  198. James:

    Mark Says (20 March 2009 at 6:43 AM):

    “Actually the cheapest and most readily available form of energy is not to use the energy in the first place.

    And in case you harp up with “but that would keep them poor!”…”

    In the light of current economic events, it might also be instructive to reflect on the perhaps subtle difference between wealth and simply “having stuff”, particularly when that stuff consists mainly of status symbols bought on credit. It’s perfectly possible to live a comfortable & satisfying life on far less energy than the average American or European uses.

  199. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company:


    It was encouraging to see Pres. Obama’s enthusiasm for changing the motivation for future career choices away from the financial world in favor of “engineering, science, teachers, and doctors in his appearance with Jay Leno. Moving the discussion to the going forward mode seems like something we should be happy to see him do.

    But Help *&^%$#* There is a looming disaster, not to mention a national embarrassment in the stampede to plug-in electric cars which Pres. Obama seems to think is a good thing.

    This proves the need for engineers and scientists, none of whom should be unaware that heat energy does not equal electric energy. It depends on which way the conversion is done. If you make heat from electricity then heat energy does convert to electric energy and the equality holds; but if you try to make electric energy from heat you get very much less of that electric energy.

    Who cares? Well, everyone who thinks there is a global warming problem should care. Most people have figured that electric cars simply shift the pollution source to someplace over the hill, and that zero emissions is absolute &^%$#$%. But the next part of the problem seems to need a little more knowledge of basic physics; that is, it takes a lot more heat energy to make electric energy than you get out in electric energy. It is easy to understand that since half of the electric power comes from burning coal, and coal produces a lot more CO2 than any other fuel for making the same amount of heat, maybe there is something very wrong happening here.

    Sure, the combination of coal power, electric power distribution, battery losses, and electric motor losses could come out a little better than the old internal combustion engine, which might only get 20% efficiency from its traditional design. But wait, the Prius engine in that hybrid configuration was measured to get 38% efficiency (Argonne National Laboratory data). In the end, making this into a plug-in is a very bad idea.

    The problem is much broader. The car companies are making plans to convert their existing vehicles to plug-in operation. Others of influence are working in this direction; Andy Grove, ex CEO
    of Intel and James Woolsey, ex CIA Director for example.

    Unfortunately, Jay Leno seems to not understand such things and consequently Pres. Obama came away seriously misled.

    Surely there are many at RealClimate who understand that we will not be very successful at solving our problems if we proceed on the basis of flawed understanding of fundamental physics.

  200. Patrick 027:

    Re 191, 192 – I’ve also read that many farmers use way more fertilizer than is useful (“Against the Grain” – Richard Manning); and that a car company bought up the public transportation system in L.A. and shut it down, resulting in some portion of the poverty in some L.A. neighborhoods today, and also that car companies were reluctant to adopt all-electric vehicle technology because it would have forced them to get out of their rut of basing profits on repairs and maintenance costs… (seems to me that for a ‘free market’, the CEOs are not all that competitive or efficiency-seeking). And completely OT, but why would it cost more money to make an in-state call then an out-of-state call (and not just across the border, either)? – and why does it cost less for a person living halfway between Madison WI and Minneapolis MN to drive to Madison, fly to Minneappolis, and then fly to Portland OR, then it does to drive to Minneappolis and then fly directly to Portland OR – it’s as if they’re paying people to fly from Madison to Minneappolis; it makes no sense at all! And don’t get me started on how the heck a bunch of alternative ‘plans’ are supposed to bring down costs via competition in Medicare part D…

    “With such a system, economic activity is decoupled from the need for fossil fuels. Try getting the World Bank to finance one in Africa – they’ll put up $4 billion for a Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline, but not for that.”

    I wonder if it’s because businesses often base risk/profit assessments on past histories and not enough on what is knowable about untried (on some scale) methods (too much genetic drift, not enough natural selection ??).

  201. Crust:

    Hank Roberts, thanks for the replies re OLR and Triana. Interesting stuff.

  202. snorbert zangox:

    I have finished reading the Gerlich & Tscheuschner article, but have not fully digested it. Nor have I yet read the information at the links that Gavin provided the other day. However, even though I have not finished cogitating over this article, I do think that David Donovan’s recent post (194) missed the point that Gerlich & Tscheuschner made. They did not say that it was impossible for the atmosphere to radiate photons of IR downward. They were careful to say that the Second Law applies to heat transfer, not to individual photon events. The fluxes of IR photons that David mentioned are not inconsistent with the Gerlich & Tscheuschner article. The article says only that (in the absence of application of work) the net heat flux cannot be from a cooler atmosphere to a warmer surface. They are saying that there the net flow of heat must be from the warmer surface to the cooler atmosphere, which means that the cooler atmosphere cannot contribute warmth to the warmer surface.

    This is a fascinating article. I intend to pursue it further as time permits. However, I will be out of town over the weekend and will not get back to it until sometime next week.

    I agree that Gerlich & Tscheuschner covered a lot of ground. I also think that the failure of the translator to remove much of the German syntax is already making the article difficult to read. However, as I said, what is obscure is not always without value.

  203. Michael:

    James, do you realize how your argument “the rest of the world could do with less” doesn’t make much sense until the rest of the world is at least brought up to your own living standards? Your speaking from a position of vast privilege in comparison. From their eyes, the computer you are staring at right now might seem like a huge overindulgence to ‘the rest of the world’.

    Question: Why doesn’t ‘the rest of the world’ enjoy the living standards of the posters on this blog right now? What would it take to get them up to this level?

  204. Hank Roberts:

    Michael, do you realize your argument “until the rest of the world is at least brought up to your own living standards” is self-defeating if you assume that will be attained using fossil fuels?

    Do you understand the problems caused by increasing carbon dioxide in the ocean, and the length of time involved?

    Assuming you believe James’s standard of living is the goal for everyone — with no change in efficiency or economy — is needed, that has no bearing on _how_ other people can reach the same level.

    No one tries to build buildings like the Egyptians.
    It took til the 1800s to mostly eliminate slavery, but it’s close to accomplished. No one can use that path any longer, it’s self-defeating. No one handles sewage like the Victorians either.

    Same for fossil fuels. Look at ocean pH. There’s a limit.

    If you could argue your great concern for other people in terms of outcome, with awareness of the limits of the old methods, rather than to promote outdated methods, you’d make more sense, I think.

  205. Paul Klemencic:

    Jim Bullis in 199.

    I think your analysis is really far off where you conclude plug-in electric cars (Don’t you mean, plug-in hybrid?) are less energy efficient than the IC engine version we have now. Producing, refining, and moving crude oil and converting it to gasoline can consume 10% for a light crude oil, and up to 30% for heavy oil or tar sands. So the actual energy efficiency of the IC engine is lower that you indicate.

    Modern electric power plants can get close to 45% conversion of heat to power, and over 50% for combined cycle natural gas turbines. Even allowing for transmission and transformer losses, and adjusting for the efficiency of the electric motors in the cars, the final energy conversion efficiency is clearly better than oil to gasoline to mile driven efficiency.

    Also you are presuming that additional electricity generation will be coal fired… In reality, most plug-ins will likely charge at nights, and this is the best time for wind power generation.

    I wouldn’t conclude that the experts who study this have it wrong. There clearly would be a positive impact in switching significant number of our current fleet over to plug-ins. But I do agree that the most positive impact to reduce carbon emissions, is shutting coal down. Coal is the big problem, and the biggest opportunity lies in reducing coal consumption.

  206. David B. Benson:

    Michael (202) — Read Jared Diamond’s “Guns, Germa and Steel” to obtain the answer to your first question. As to the second, what makes you think everyone would enjoy that?

  207. Ray Ladbury:

    Michael asks: “Why doesn’t ‘the rest of the world’ enjoy the living standards of the posters on this blog right now? What would it take to get them up to this level?”

    Infrastructure, education (especially for girls), medical care and a government that gave a damn about them. In particular, transport in many developing countries is woeful. In Togo, where I was a Peace Corps volunteer, you could go 15 miles off the country’s main road and reach villages where kids never saw vegetables–or antibiotics for that matter. Communications infrastructure has already improved dramatically with cell phone technology being widely available in many countries. Of course energy per capita will have to increase, but there is no reason why this cannot be done with renewables–in many cases more easily than with a traditional “grid”.

  208. MarkB:

    Re: #120

    My mistake, John P. Reisman

    Re: #189

    Patrick 027,

    This is a good read. If only all of us had such notable patience with contrarians…for example, when someone claims the IPCC is political and/or “alarmist” then goes on to quote a few “climate science” articles in Investor’s Business Daily or Monckton, that’s usually when I tune out. Kudos.

  209. Michael:

    David B. Benson, Ray lists out a few good examples right after your post. I can’t deny anyone the basics of life that I take for granted. I am not the kind of person that can sit here with a roof over my head and ask “would they really enjoy roofs over their heads?”. I don’t think a single person here can think like that with their conscience engaged.

  210. Patrick 027:

    Re 202 (snorbert zangox) – please see my comments referenced in comment 189 above –

    “They were careful to say that the Second Law applies to heat transfer, not to individual photon events.”

    But their conclusion implies that those individual photon events are impossible or screwy in some manner.

    “The article says only that (in the absence of application of work) the net heat flux cannot be from a cooler atmosphere to a warmer surface. They are saying that there the net flow of heat must be from the warmer surface to the cooler atmosphere, which means that the cooler atmosphere cannot contribute warmth to the warmer surface.”

    Based on that logic, I would advise you not to wear any jackets or coats or hats, etc, in cold weather. They are not actually any warmer than your skin, and thus cannot provide any warmth to you – they can not keep you warm. The idea that layers will protect you from the cold is based on fictitious physics.

    The error in that logic?

    In both cases, the greenhouse effect (by optical properties’ effects on radiative energy transfers) and blankets (insulation), the net flow of heat (radiant or otherwise) is from warmer to cooler layers, but the rate of flow (the energy flux) for a given temperature distribution can be slowed or sped up, thus requiring greater or lesser temperature differences to sustain a given flux.

    A potential point of confusion with radiant energy transfer is that while net fluxes of blackbody radiation, between points of emission and absorption, are always from warmer to cooler, they may traverse layers of any temperature in between.

  211. Patrick 027:

    Re 202 – “This is a fascinating article.”

    Much more fascinating and infinitely more informative regarding physical reality is the book I linked to in comment 144 above

  212. Michael:

    Ray, I can totally get behind providing clean energy for the less fortunate. Restricting/outlawing coal or oil at the expense of the less fortunate – not so much.

  213. David B. Benson:

    Michael (209) — I agree completely with Ray Ladbury. My point was directed toward our over-consumptive, stress-filled way of life for many, if not most, in the United States of America.

    I’ll quote Jeffrey D. Sachs from the most recent issue of Scientific American: “America ranks 22nd of out 23 high-income countries in public social outlays as a percentage of national income … As a result, the U.S. has the largest poverty rate, income inequality and per-capita prison population of any high-income nation, as well as the worst health conditions.”

    Now I happen to know of several substantial Jatropha projects in India, Myanmar and Madagascar. These are beginning to provide biodiesel for local use and provide a cash crop for otherwise subsistence farmers. No fossil oil required, vegetable oil will do. No air pollution to control, either.

  214. Hank Roberts:

    Contining to use fossil fuel at the expense of the oceans?

  215. quasicon:

    While this recession/depression is frightening, can we not accept the reduced carbon output all over the world as a small sacrifice to help us in our long term objectives? Driving has been down since the high gas prices last summer, manufacturing is dead worldwide. I would bet that the recession so far has reduced carbon emissions far more than 20 years of cap and trade, green technology could have done in a growing economy.

  216. James:

    Michael Says (20 March 2009 at 2:33 PM):

    “James, do you realize how your argument “the rest of the world could do with less” doesn’t make much sense until the rest of the world is at least brought up to your own living standards?”

    First, my argument isn’t what you apparently think it is. It’s that quality of life is not a linear function of consumption, and particularly of energy consumption. I use less energy (and have less “stuff”) than most of my neighbors, yet I don’t see my quality of life being any the worse for it. Quite the opposite, in fact, especially these days.

    Another point you seem to have missed is that there’s a basic contradiction between bringing everyone up to what you seem to assume is my own standard of living – equating that with a stereotypical American lifestyle, and my own attempts to improve my quality of life by selective removal/rejection of many aspects of that lifestyle.

    “From their eyes, the computer you are staring at right now might seem like a huge overindulgence to ‘the rest of the world’.

    A good example. It’s hardly an indulgence based on energy consumption, since it takes something under 20 watts (per PowerTop: http://www.lesswatts.org ) to run in staring-at-screen mode. (More on the occasions when I test number-crunching code, but that’s infrequent.) Could easily be run off a fairly small solar panel – and it’s not all that far removed from the “one laptop per child” model.

    Furthermore, the computer & network access allow me to avoid consuming far more energy, since I can make a living without having to expend large amounts of (probably fossil fuel) energy on transporting myself to & from some office. I can also manage other parts of life – shopping on-line, electronic banking, exchanging letters with friends – at far less energy cost than traditional methods.

    “Question: Why doesn’t ‘the rest of the world’ enjoy the living standards of the posters on this blog right now? What would it take to get them up to this level?”

    The question requires making too many assumptions for me to give a meaningful answer. For instance, I’d guess that many of the posters here live in cities or suburban developments, which by my measure gives them a pretty low living standard. Maybe they have flat-panel TVs, cell phones, and so on, but I don’t, and I think NOT having them improves my quality of life.

    So, if you’ll allow me a bit of Socratic method on the nature of wealth, which is richer: the man who wears a Rolex, or the one who has no need of a watch?

  217. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company:

    Re Paul Klemencic, #205

    I think you misconcluded what I concluded.

    Some of our key facts differ though. In 2005 coal fired electric power plants were 33% efficient for the whole USA. Similarly natural gas plants reached about 40% efficient. (I am doing this from memory. Look at http://www.miastrada.com for analysis and references.) The numbers you quote are achievable but not generally achieved results.

    The heat engines can be compared quite directly, with the gasoline engine being something that is a current achievement at 38% being not much different than actuals for the USA power system.

    Every situation requires some detail to work out but my main objection is against analyses that ignore the inefficiencies of the central power plants. The fact that Argonne and SAE seem to take this approach is very misleading since so many rely on authority rather than thinking things out themselves.

    A well presented analysis is at http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/mar09/7928/2

    However, I object even to this as to the way they think about how different fuels make respective grids different. Sure they do in the short term, but the real question is how does the whole system respond to an incremental increase in electric use, that is, charging an electric car, or anything with batteries. I maintain that it will all turn out to be a coal load until the last coal fired power plant is salvaged. Everything connects through economics.

    For example, we in California like to think we are greener due to restrictions on coal usage. But we only get away with this because the rest of the country does not do the same. Thus the price of natural gas does not change much.

    The process of fixing things needs to be thought out a bit more. If we tax coal by adding $3 to $4 tax to the present $1 per million BTU of coal this will make natural gas becomes an economically viable choice. Then the cost of fuel to make electricity will be about 2 to 3 times greater than it now is. If that is politically possible, just wait until the next shoe drops, which is that the natural gas price will spike; past experience shows it can double or triple without much reason at all. I doubt that Boone Pickens will sell his supplies for less than market price and I doubt that Putin or the Iran guy will give us a bargain price on LNG either.

    I agree that coal is a huge problem, but I argue that trying to get it fixed by government action is not an approach that will work out very well.

    But then, not a lot of people think much of my solutions either.

    We will see what happens.

    But it sure would be nice to see a little honest physics supporting our decisions along the way.

  218. Barton Paul Levenson:

    snorbert writes:

    They are saying that there the net flow of heat must be from the warmer surface to the cooler atmosphere,

    Absolutely right.

    which means that the cooler atmosphere cannot contribute warmth to the warmer surface.

    Absolutely wrong. To see why, remove the hyphen from the URL below and paste it into your browser:


  219. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Michael writes:

    Ray, I can totally get behind providing clean energy for the less fortunate. Restricting/outlawing coal or oil at the expense of the less fortunate – not so much.

    You’d prefer a billion people to be without fresh water when the glaciers they depend on for it are gone? You’d prefer 100 million climate refugees when countries like Bangladesh are under water? You’d prefer massive starvation because of vastly increased droughts in continental interiors?

    Because that’s what you’re going to get if you DON’T restrict fossil fuels. Period.

  220. Ray Ladbury:

    Michael, Abandoning coal entirely is not an option in the near term (~10 years). In the longer term it is a prerequisite for the survival of human civilization. It is especially important to ensure that we meet the energy needs in the developing world with renewable energies. These are areas currently lacking in infrastructure, and the decisions we make NOW will lock them into either a polluting, outmoded energy infrastructure that is destined to fail or an infrastructure that is truly renewable. This is in fact easier than replacing our own decaying infrastructure.
    It is not “either development or sustainability,” development is an integral part of sustainability.
    Like it or not Michael, the climate crisis we face is very real, and the consequences could be catastrophic. We cannot ignore it even if our goals in doing so are noble.

  221. Alan of Oz:

    Ray #202: Ray FWIW, I think you’re right and so is Hansen, the only difference I see is the date. IMHO industry are waiting for government, Shell recently dropped renewables but I think thier message was “no more credit, we need a price on carbon”.

  222. david_a:

    Alan, my best guess would be that shell abandoned renewables because they did the analysis and found the economics wanting. With Steve Chu being a strong advocate of nuclear (at least before his political ascension) renewables will face a competitor they can not overcome on price alone.

    One of the more curious aspects of the AGW issue is those most strongly aligned with the hypothesis seem to be the most antagonistic to what is obviously the most practical mediation. Clearly coal burning power plants, and the burning of fossil fuels for transport are the two key drivers of C02 emission. Swapping electric vehicles for ICE driven ones and swapping coal for nuclear seem to be the clear choice at least on an economic basis under the assumption that the vast majority of people do not want to radically change their lifestyle. Not to mention the health benefits that would accrue to the society from the removal of an incredibly toxic torrent of heavy metals which enter the environment as a result of burning coal.

    I believe that it is this kind of misalignment which raises the hackles of many people who come to the issue with no preconceived notions.

    Detouring to climate models, can anyone explain to me whether or not the GCM’s posit any large scale regional (continental or hemispherical) warming effects over 30 year time frames and if so what might they be and what would be the causes? I’m trying to make sense of the surface temperature record I saw in a recent paper which seems to show a pretty strong divergence of temperature trend between the northern hemisphere and the southern hemisphere.

  223. Jack Roesler:

    Just in case anyone has not kept up to date on the “oceans cooling” problem that’s still in the news on my local TV stations, here are the facts:


  224. Rod B:

    Patrick 027 (210), a thought that might shed some light (and which has been debated in RC with vigorous opposition I should admit) is that the IR emitted radiation from the vibration energy of CO2 molecules is not the same mechanism that generates the so-called blackbody (Planck type) radiation, and does not follow the same detail rules. For instance, whether the radiation is emitted or not or its intensity does not depend directly on the temperature as Planck radiation does. (Though temperature has an “indirect” effect through the Boltzmann constant and the quantum mechanical likelihood of an energy level being occupied or not.)

    BTW, some very good posts that I’m still wading through.

  225. Patrick 027:

    Re 217 – Realizing the state of the art and what is possible may be quite different for each, my impression has been:

    1. fossil fuel (and nuclear) power plants ~ 40 % efficient standard, often less; hydroelectric 80 % efficient, … but non-fuel sources of electricity are often given in terms of fuel equivalent, so 1 W of solar electric power would be ~2.5 W solar power fuel equivalent…

    2. typical internal combustion engines are less efficient than typical fuel-based power plants

    3. Efficiency of electric transmission, batteries, motors, regenerative breaking (much more important in slow-speed city stop-and-go driving than high speed freeway driving; granted, hybrid electric vehicles can also have regenerative breaking) lack of maintenance costs, VS. efficiency of mechanical transmission

  226. Hank Roberts:

    Rod, there’s no debate about that. You assert it as your belief, people try to explain the physics, you repeat your belief. It’s a hobbyhorse.

  227. dhogaza:

    One of the more curious aspects of the AGW issue is those most strongly aligned with the hypothesis seem to be the most antagonistic to what is obviously the most practical mediation.

    Hansen’s name is perhaps the most strongly aligned in the public’s eye with the AGW hypothesis, and he supports nuclear power as part of the solution. He’s not alone, either.

  228. David B. Benson:

    david_a (222) — The big regional issue is precipitation changes in the next 40+ years. I found a regional study for Argentina, but just read thoroughly the section on Patagonia. Incidently, the study mentioned that central Chile, the farm belt of Chile, is going to become dryer. So is most of Patagonia, continuing the trend in precipitation during the 20th century.

    I’ve seen mention of predictions for the countries bordering the Mediterranian Sea, the Middle East and Eastern Europe: drier.

  229. Patrick 027:

    Re 222 –


    I suspect nuclear is safer than some would suggest (long term geologic storage, carefully managed, perhaps could be turned into a safe geothermal resource (I’m betting civilization does survive tens of thousands of years and more – that’s particularly where I’m still an optimist); Chernobyl was a bad design and poorly managed (political pressures to make it do what it was not ready to do); some incidents and risks (rusting out in Ohio; terrorism threat of on site waste (similar issues with chemical industry)) wouldn’t happen or would be reduced if political interests were better aligned with public interests), but is more dirty and dangerous than others would admit to (terrorism issues with breeder reactors? – presumably there are solutions, but … costs of safety (why are there political pressures to let things go?), waste has to be transported to long term geological storage, and as with coal, nuclear also has mining issues).

    Solar cells are expensive but not to the point that they don’t make economic sense – particularly if there is to be an emissions tax.

    Some waste and mining issues could also be involved (but I think solar technology has a smaller mining footprint and much smaller carbon footprint than coal, for energy produced – see below), although there will also be solutions – the effective energy per unit mass is much higher for solar cells than coal or oil or gas, so if waste and pollution were proportional to mass (??)

    (if one considers the mass of just the photovoltaic material, then the ratio of energy per unit mass of solar to fossil fuel is very very large. Based on a sampling of commercially available modules, with equivalent lifetime at rated power (divided by 5 for perhaps more typical average power under 200 W/m2 time averaged insolation) 2.4 times warranty (warranty generally 25 years) going by medians and averages, respectively, the mass per square meter is about 12.7 kg, the energy per unit mass is about 3.5 or 3.1 GJ/kg, which is, for 40% efficient power plants, 267 or 239 times coal, 202 or 180 times oil, and 156 or 140 times natural gas (assuming it is accurately characterized by methane energy density) – by volumes (of solar modules, etc.), the energy density is 48 or 44 times coal, 61 or 57 times oil, and 62,000 or 57,000 times natural gas (but that can be reduced by compression of gas, of course) – this says something about how the costs of shipping and handling might compare; Considering the energy density using the mass of the photovoltaic material itself, this increases by a factor of about 12 (relative to module mass) for conventional silicon wafers (which had to be a certain thickness for mechanical stability in manufacturing), but could be increased by more for other (poly)crystalline Si methods that can make thinner layers – perhaps to 100 or more (180 ?) times the whole module value if total-internal reflection is used with diffuse back reflection to reduce the necessary thickness of the layer used to absorb the photons – and that or even greater values relative to above median,average modules for amorphous Si and other thin film materials (higher absorption for a given thickness because they are direct-band gap semiconductors (it’s a solid-state physics thing).)

    , pollution control costs wouldn’t be so bad (would that also apply to nuclear?); some solar cells could be considered ways to reduce pollution by storing otherwise toxic material in a safer form (CdTe and other Cd based solar cells – Cd is a byproduct of zinc mining (or mining and processing?); Te can be taken from byproducts of the Cu industry).

    Costs? From the sampling above (for rated power), median and average costs per peak W were $5.26 and $6.34. I would think that increased module size and large scale applications might bring that down to $4 – as that has been the cost per peak W I’ve been familiar with since sometime before the year 2000.

    The median and average cost of solar electricity averaged over lifetime (see above) were 5.0 and 7.8 cents per kWh. Okay, that doesn’t include balance of system (installation/mounting, inverters) or financing over time (but consider the ‘demand’ for retirement investments – invest in solar cells, they pay back over time, problem solved? – and of course there’s renting… – aside from insurance for weather, etc, this is a very low risk investment – based on physics more than predictions of human behavior, aside from the prediction that humans will continue to demand electricity).

    Continuing gains in experience, plus increased mass production, will reduce R&D costs and bring down costs. R&D for better materials, designs, and manufacturing methods can also lower costs (reducing thickness of layers by light-trapping, or using bulk heterojunctions, or other more complex topologies of the p-n junction, to reduce recombination of electron-hole pairs; nanostructures to convert higher energy photons into multiple electron-hole pairs).

    I’ve heard that First Solar is/will be producing CdTe-based cells for $1/peak W, which, for similar life spans, suggests an electricity price of around 1 cent/kWh.

    The costs of modules (median,average) in the sample were $609, $628 per square meter, $47, $50 per kg. Electronic-grade crystalline Si might be around $50 per kg (it was about $25 per kg a few years ago, and solar-grade material can be made for less), so I’m guessing about 1/20 of the module cost is for photovoltaic material (following numbers can be adjusted if that is wrong); A layer of CdTe might only need be a few microns thick; not sure of density but I would guess on the order of magnitude of 10 g/cm3, so the CdTe mass per area may be about 1/360 of the mass of the sampled modules, … well, the point is some very expensive materials can be used in thin film solar cells; I’ve heard there might not be enough recoverable Te (one of the rarest of the rare) from Cu byproducts but there may be enough for 100 to 200 GW (forgot whether that’s power capacity or power supply (1/5 of capacity?) and surely as demand for Cu increases (developing countries), the Te supply will also increase…

    Other more common materials for solar cells (while rarer materials might be used for some electrical contacts, dopants, photosensitizers…): TiO2, oxides and/or sulfides of Fe, Cu, Zn, Ti, Ni, V, Cr, Ce, etc… And rarer but not as rare as Te so far as I know – GaAs, and combinations of Ga, As, In, Sb, etc…

    “Engineering Silicon Solar Cells to Make Photovoltaic Power Affordable” Steven Ashley –
    “Specifically, he has raised the conversion efficiency of test cells made from multicrystalline silicon from the typical 15.5 percent to nearly 20 percent—on par with pricier single-crystal silicon cells. Such improvements could bring the cost of PV power down from the current $1.90 to $2.10 per watt to $1.65 per watt. With additional tweaks, Sachs anticipates creating within four years solar cells that can produce juice at a dollar per watt, a feat that would make electricity from the sun competitive with that from coal-burning power plants.”

    And I haven’t even gone into geometric concentration, luminescent concentrators, solar thermal …

    It may be possible to increase solar infrastructure more rapidly than nuclear.

  230. Patrick 027:

    Re 222 – At least in the transient response (as opposed to equilibrium), it is expected that warming will be greater in the Northern Hemisphere, especially at higher latitudes because of albedo feedbacks, but in general because of the greater land area – minimal warming will occur in Southern midlatitudes because of the dominance of water, and also because of a ring of upwelling water (it takes considerable time for the warming of upper oceanic water to partly fill the deep ocean and come back up in areas of upwelling deep water) – this upwelling is driven by winds from storm activity that will tend to be enhanced when there is greater warming equatorward. There is also the near-term stability of much of Antarctic ice, compared to short-term vulnerability of Arctic sea ice. Antarctic sea ice may also be less vulnerable to initial warming because of the influence of salinity on the freezing point (I might have this flipped around but I think less freezing has freshenned the water so that there is less melting – or more melting has freshenned the water so that there is more freezing?? – it’s complicated but quite interesting. The same underlying physics applies everywhere but some of the same conditions don’t apply to the Arctic…)

  231. Patrick 027:

    Re 222 – the albedo feedbacks being stronger at higher latitudes in general applies to the equilibrium as well as transient climate response, except for the timing of albedo responses.

    Much of the importance of climate change is in spatial and temporal redistributions of precipitation and evaporation.

    Re 224 – emission can be expressed in terms of optical properties relative to a blackbody, and it is convenient to do so because with increasing thicknesses of layers, assuming local thermodynamic equilibrium, radiant fluxes approach the blackbody values and never exceed them.

  232. Patrick 027:

    “radiant fluxes approach the blackbody values and never exceed them.”

    (or if they exceed blackbody values for a local temperature, it is only because some radiation is reaching that location from another location with a higher temperature)

    Two ways to illustrate this:

    1. Build a chamber with a large internal volume and a small openning (a box with a small hole cut into one side). Whatever the optical properties are, there is, at any given wavelength, some emissivity and some absorptivity that are the same at local thermodynamic equilibrium. 1 – absorptivity = reflectivity. Let Ibb be the intensity (I) of blackbody radiation at some wavelength and temperature. Let all the walls be the same temperature. Start tracing the intensity of radiation at some wavelength along a path that reflects (or scatters if the surface is rough). Start with intensity I0. After the first reflection or scattering, the intensity I1 = I0*(1-absorptivity) + Ibb*emissivity. If absorptivity = emissivity, then, even if emissivity is a function of angle of incidence, after many many scatterings or reflections, the intensity along the path approaches Ibb. If the size of the hole is very small compared to the size of the box, than paths going into the box will scatter many many times before coming out of the box, so the intensity of radiation coming out of the box will be close to blackbody radiation intensity; the hole acts like a blackbody. If the inner surfaces are very reflective – so long as they are not perfectly reflective, it is only necessary to shrink the size of the hole to make the hole act like more like a blackbody.

    Imagine how the intensity of radiation in one direction along a path changes along a path. Assuming no scattering or reflection, through each infinitesimal layer, the fraction that is absorbed is equal to the fraction of blackbody radiation intensity that is emitted. Thus over distance, the intensity approaches a blackbody value. If there is scattering and/or reflection, then the intensity approaches a blackbody value if radiation scattered into the path was originally emitted from layers with the same temperature (consider the box above). For a gas or typical cloud, scattering, emission, and absorption cross sections of molecules and particles tend to be the same in all directions (except ice crystals that have preferred orientations as they fall… you get the idea)… but even when they aren’t, these methods can be applied.

  233. Hank Roberts:



    by Staff Writers
    Washington (AFP) March 18, 2009
    China pressed Wednesday for the US Congress to pass legislation to fight global warming, warning that inaction could hold up a new treaty slated for Copenhagen in December.

    China’s chief climate negotiator Xie Zhenhua held talks in Washington with the administration of President Barack Obama, who has vowed action to slow the planet’s warming in a sharp reversal from his predecessor George W. Bush.

    A UN-led conference in the Danish capital in December is meant to approve a new global warming treaty for the period after 2012, when the Kyoto Protocol’s obligations to cut carbon emissions expire.

    But Xie said China — by many measures now the world’s biggest emitter — was still waiting to see rich nations’ commitments before putting its own ideas on the negotiating table.

    “The difficulty in reaching an accord is how can we reach the mid-term goals,” Xie said.

    “Canada has not yet issued emission figures to meet its commitments. The United States is in the same boat — there is just talk but no action,” he told the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

    “The key point is whether Congress will pass a bill or not,” Xie said.

    Xie said that China was also waiting for rich nations to provide funding and technology to fight climate change.

    “Once these prerequisites are realized, then I believe China will move aggressively,” Xie said.

    China has already launched a drive to improve energy efficiency. The Kyoto Protocol makes no demands of developing nations — a sticking point that led Bush to shun the treaty….

  234. Ron Crouch:

    Worse than spoiled brats arguing over who’s going to ride the bike and who’s going to walk.

    All the makings for a sick soap opera — “As the World Warms”.

  235. Paul Klemencic:

    Jim Bullis, regarding your posts 199 and 217: Part I

    Perhaps I didn’t understand your posts, but you seem to be concluding that switching a significant portion of the auto fleet to PHEV or electric vehicles, would end up emitting more carbon per mile driven, than the current auto fleet, especially if the current fleet switches to hybrids.

    I reached a different conclusion, particularly with the current fleet with reasonable hybrid penetration, and I would argue especially in a state like California. I pointed out that a significant portion of the energy extracted from crude oil is consumed prior to ending up with gasoline. Lets quote your own source material.

    “But don’t jump to conclusions: The full analysis needs to be done on a “well to wheels” basis. That’s because the fuel for the car must be pumped from the ground, transported, refined, and transported again to the filling station—steps that add about a third more CO2. And you also need to consider how much carbon dioxide would come from plugging a car into your local grid, with its particular mix of generating technologies.”

    Please note that is what I pointed out my post… producing, moving, refinining, and distributing, eats up a lot of the energy in crude oil. This is especially true for heavy crudes, or crude oil from secondary or tertiary oil recovery, or tar sands, or oil from foreign countries moved long distance, especially if gas is flared as a result. This pretty much describes the oil supply for California, for example.

    Lets look at a second quote from your source:
    “Consider a plug-in hybrid that runs half its distance on gasoline and half on electricity derived from an advanced combined-cycle power plant fired by natural gas, for example. Such a car would reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by about 25 percent with respect to the well-to-wheels emissions of a conventional hybrid. Charging that same plug-in using electricity from nuclear power or renewables cuts CO2 emissions almost in half, because the carbon dioxide emissions involved with nuclear energy (mostly from mining) are minimal and are essentially ­undetectable for hydroelectric power. But if you run that plug-in with electricity from a typical coal-fired power plant, it now releases from 4 to 11 percent more greenhouse gases than a conventional hybrid would.

    So how green is your grid—or, more accurately, how carbon intensive is your supply of electricity? In the United States, the three cleanest states—at well below 200 grams of CO2 per kWh—are Idaho, Washington, and Oregon, due to their extremely high percentage of hydroelectric generation. The worst—at just over 1000 g/kWh—are North Dakota and Wyoming, which use large amounts of coal. California, the state that buys the most Priuses, comes in at roughly 450 g/kWh, about 25 percent better than the U.S. average. Be aware, though, that much electricity crosses state lines.”

    It says right in this article, that the PHEV reduces carbon emissions 25% from combined cycle plants, and most fossil fuel plants in California are either combined cycle or cogen, so this is close what we would expect there from existing grid supply. The savings of PHEV is 50% if entirely from renewables, and only if the electricity comes entirely from coal, does the carbon emissions end up higher by about 4-11%. This is an unrealistic assumption, particularly for California. They have a goal to hit 20% renewables on the grid by 2010, which the Governor says should be easy. The target for 2020 is expected to be 33%. And note that none of the electricity consumed in California can be coal sourced.

    So switching to PHEVs should reduce the carbon emissions by somewhere in the range of 30-40% over hybrids, and easily over 50% when compared to gasoline-IC vehicles.

    Your own source supports what I posted.

  236. Patrick 027:

    Follow-up CdTe:

    prelimary (further explanation to be posted later if time permits):

    If there are 20,000 metric tons of Te reserves (based on recoverable Te from processing of Cu ore), that would be enough (in terms of annual average power supply, not capacity) about 35 GW of solar power – maybe 8 % of current U.S. electricity supply, but not Earth-shattering. $500 per kg of CdTe translates into about a tenth of a cent per kWh.

    On the other hand, might the reserves be more like 40,000 or 80,000 metric tons (16 or 32 % of U.S. electric power – not to imply this all goes to the U.S., of course, just using U.S. electric power for comparison)?

    If the Te/Cu ratio in ore is 1/10,000, and if $1/kg Cu is the no-profit price for Cu, then an additional Te price of $10,000 /kg could drive the supply of Cu (rather then the demand for Cu driving the supply of Te). This price would add 2 cents /kWh to the solar electricity price (equivalent 60 year life span at rated power, before interest rates, etc.).

    Se is not as rare as Te.

    How much Te,Se,Cd,In,Sb,Ge,Ga,As… is in coal ash?

    Many of the more common elements in the Earth’s crust that could be used in oxide/sulfide solar cells (Cu, Ni, Zn, I think Cr, Ce, V …) are present in average rocks at concentrations on the order of 100 ppm (Ti,Mn,and Fe more abundant). If necessary, the energy of mining common rock for such materials might (?) be payed back in under a year (if memory serves – this was based on some back-of-the-envelope stuff; just wanted to put the concept out there) in under a year, and recycling solar cells makes this a once in a thousand+ year cost. Top-of-the-line deluxe high-efficiency solar cells could be used in concentrated sunlight.


    Of course the cheapest form of solar energy is daylighting (assuming affordable thermally-insulating windows/skylights available (silica aerogel?)). Windows with coatings or screens to reflect UV and solar IR, or luminescent concentrators to convert those wavelengths partly to electricity, or using transparent solar water heaters that absorb those wavelengths, or using poleward-facing skylights (blue sky light is depleted in solar IR) would boost the ‘efficiency’ of the lighting (closer to 100% visible, so less waste heat in summer) Rooftop PV modules could also be cooled by water, thus heating water. Don’t forget heat exchangers and heat pumps. Etc.

  237. Hank Roberts:

    > 233, 234
    Er, Ron? Did you get as far as the last paragraph there?

    > How much … is in coal ash?
    teh goog

  238. Rod B:

    Patrick 027, I was just trying to assist with the discussion of radiation exchange between bodies of different temperatures. The thought that vibration emission derives from a different mechanism and not directly a function of temperature like “Planck type” emission aids that discussion — much in the same ballpark as BPL’s reference in 218. I do realize, however, that Planck blackbody analysis is a convenient and the predominate construct used in analyzing that emission, even though the emission is physically generated differently. As BPL implied, once emitted, photons are all characteristically alike: ones from CO2 vibration will scatter, absorb, reflect exactly the same as photons with the same energy from a pure blackbody.

  239. Chris:

    Ok. Now that the article about UHI has been dismissed a few times, somebody at least answer me this. They found a substantial urban heat bias. It accounted for forty percent of the warming observed. The magnitude of the urban warming was twenty times larger than the value posited by the IPCC. This seems very serious, even if it happens to be just a local effect (local meaning all of of China, of course). Why should this not be examined further? Why shouldn’t we do a similar study here in the US and at the other ground temperature stations? Why dismiss this important data as irrelevant? Instead of guessing and assuming that China’s cities are different from all others in the world, why not look in to it?

  240. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Chris — it HAS been done in the US. Check these out:

    Hansen, J., Ruedy, R., Sato, M., Imhoff, M., Lawrence, W., Easterling, D., Peterson, T., and Karl, T. 2001. “A closer look at United States and global surface temperature change.” J. Geophys. Res. 106, 23947–23963.

    Peterson, Thomas C. 2003. “Assessment of Urban Versus Rural In Situ Surface Temperatures in the Contiguous United States: No Difference Found.” J. Clim. 16(18), 2941-2959.

    Peterson T., Gallo K., Lawrimore J., Owen T., Huang A., McKittrick D. 1999. “Global rural temperature trends.” Geophys. Res. Lett. 26(3), 329.

    Note the title of the second entry.

  241. Alan of Oz:

    Re #222,

    Yes I think nuclear has got a undeserved bad rep in some parts, Lovelock said as much a few years ago. Nuclear would also benifit from carbon having an associated cost.

    Shell are putting their money into bio-fules and carbon capture (both big pay-out long shots). They have still got considerable solar and wind assets they have just stopped growing them. To me this indicates a 5yr ‘buy a lottery ticket and do-nothing’ plan that will get them over the carbon market uncertainty.

    When you look at some of their marketing stuff they make it clear that they belive there were 2 senarios, “Design” and “Scramble”. The senarios include GW and peak oil and look at the next couple of decades depending on how well politicians plan and follow through with regulation. IMHO by dropping solar and wind they are acting as per “scramble”, ie: they believe a sound carbon market is a slow train arriving.

    OTOH maybe it’s just not in line with their “design” but if that’s the case then how does it explain the other companies and groups in the linked story below.

    There was also a story in the Age today about Australia’s proposed ETS. It would seem virtual all bussiness and union groups want a price on carbon (except the coal industry). The article also has a good list of market uncertainties at the end.

    Seems to me industry have been waiting around for 5+yrs for details on the carbon price/market and are now getting tough with a demand for some form of certainty so they can plan for the next X decades.

  242. Ray Ladbury:

    Rod B. #224: Horsepuckey from beginning to end. Propose a mechanism by which CO2 will absorb or emit radiation radiation that is not associated with quantum transitions–e.g. vibration, etc. Remember, we are talking about molecules, not ions or free electrons here–molecules. Please, enlighten me on this new physics. Or go back and learn the phsyics as it really is. That would be another alternative.

  243. Nick Gotts:

    “One of the more curious aspects of the AGW issue is those most strongly aligned with the hypothesis seem to be the most antagonistic to what is obviously the most practical mediation.” – david_a

    No, nuclear is not “obviously” the most practical mediation. Short-term, improved energy efficiency and demand reduction offer much faster reduction in emissions, as do protection of tropical forests and a switch away from meat- and dairy-heavy diets. Longer-term, according to the IPCC (AR4, report of WGIII), nuclear has a role, but it is a relatively minor one compared to efficiency, renewables, and CCS.

  244. Ray Ladbury:

    David A, I’m afraid I have to agree with Nick on this one. Despite the fact that I am generally a supporter of nuclear energy, in the near term we can’t build our way out of this crisis. Conservation is the only way forward in the immediate future. Renewables certainly offer considerable scope for relief in the mid-term. I don’t think we can take nuclear power off the table–it may well be needed. However, we do not do the case for nuclear power any favors by sweeping the problems it poses under a rug. Nuclear waste doesn’t have a solution yet, and proliferation remains an issue. I am confident these problems can be managed, but the way forward for nuclear power is to find solutions to these problems, not to merely assert confidently that it is the way forward.

  245. Rod B:

    Ray (242), I’m confused: I think that is what I said. Or, enlighten me on your assertion.

  246. JCH:

    To me it’s really simple. You store the nuclear waste where the power is being used. It takes a multi-thousand year commitment, and people aren’t likely to stand by that commitment if the waste is off in some depopulated desert in Nevada.

    In other words, put the waste in New York City, LA, Dallas, etc. They want the power, and they’ll be highly motivated to keep it properly contained for thousands of years. If they don’t like that, then they didn’t really want the power in the first place. They just thought they did.

  247. Mark:

    RodB, this bit:

    “is that the IR emitted radiation from the vibration energy of CO2 molecules is not the same mechanism that generates the so-called blackbody”

    is incorrect. Ray didn’t explain well his problem with it.

    CO2 molecules are not alone. They are in a sea of other molecules and this is rather similar to the state solids are in, except the binding energies are much higher. Yet you seem DETERMINED to say that although solids can accept CO2 emission spectra and thermalise it (even if it’s solid CO2) yet gaseous forms cannot.


    If anything, the binding energies of a solid being higher will remove the motion of the constituents from being a sink of energy and a method of thermal equilibrium being attained. A gas has much greater freedom to use this sink to repartition energy.

    And where it comes from makes absolutely no difference to this sink.

    You are completely, utterly and in all ways wrong on this.

  248. Ray Ladbury:

    Rod, you are implying there is some controversy over the nature of blackbody radiation. There isn’t. It is well understood, and has been since 1900. It may not be resolved in your mind, but blackbody is simply the energy distribution the pertains when the radiation field is in thermal equilibrium (both with itself and its surroundings).

  249. James:

    Ray Ladbury Says (23 March 2009 at 9:06 AM):

    “…and proliferation remains an issue.”

    Forgive a brief (I hope!) digression into geopolitics, but I fail to see why proliferation should be an issue, since it’s been amply demonstrated that countries which want nuclear weapons can develop them without first developing nuclear power generation. So why should the rest of the world refuse to use nuclear power in order to prevent proliferation that has happened anyway?

  250. veritas36:

    #182 Triana/DISCOVR Satellite
    The stimulus bill passed by Congress contains a $9 million item for NASA to de-mothball and launch the satellite ASAP – “on a priority basis”.
    I suspect the reason Bush-Cheney didn’t launch is the data would have shown global warming so unambiguously action would have had to be taken, in spite of the fossil fuel industry’s power. I’ve a hunch that’s why some Republicans ridiculed it as “Goresat”. JMO
    Whatever the reason, we would have 8 years of data, and it would show the dirtying of the skies.
    Note: Today is a CLEAR, BRIGHT BLUE Sky in the Northeast — no clouds or contrails anywhere. Run out and look at it, that’s the way a lot of days used to be. It has gotten worse in the last 3 years. I suspect the Asian Brown Cloud, possibly increase in jet travel is a factor. China is bringing 1 new coal-fired plant on line every week — I’d guess this is the major source. It may be emitted from Asia but it’s over my head.
    In 2007 I traveled by jet west to Cleveland. The plane passed through a brown layer of air; looking down from above it, I saw the ground looking hazier and browner.
    I’ve no guess whether the increase in air pollutions will warm or cool or plateau the average global temperature. I worry that if the smog results in a temporary cooling or plateau that the deniers and stallers will use to justify no action on AGW.

  251. Nick Gotts:

    “Forgive a brief (I hope!) digression into geopolitics, but I fail to see why proliferation should be an issue, since it’s been amply demonstrated that countries which want nuclear weapons can develop them without first developing nuclear power generation. So why should the rest of the world refuse to use nuclear power in order to prevent proliferation that has happened anyway?” – James

    Because the materials, skills and technologies for the two are so intimately connected, that the more there is of civil nuclear power, the easier it will be to develop nuclear weapons programmes: more plutonium and enriched uranium around, wider distribution of enrichment and other relevant materials-handling technologies, more people with the skills needed in weapons programmes. It’s actually quite remarkable how little proliferation there has been so far – take a look at predictions from a couple of decades or more ago of how many nuclear-weapons states there would be by now. The NPT is clearly part of the explanation, but the failure of the civil nuclear industry to expand as expected may have been more important.

  252. Ray Ladbury:

    James, you mean like Korea and Iran? Israel? Pakistan? S. Africa? All used civilian nuclear power as a cover for weapons activities. Using Th cycle ameliorates the issue somewhat (e.g. for Korea). It does nothing for the waste issue.

  253. Mark:

    Ray #252, you mean ***accused*** of using the civilian operations as a cover.

    The capability for weapons-grade purification wasn’t there for Iran. The “explanation” of “why do they need nuclear when they have all that oil” ignores that the US has one of the largest reserves in the world now. Yet they use nuclear.

  254. Patrick 027:

    Rod –

    Agreeing with Ray, Mark, et al, my understanding is that, not only does thermally-emitted radiation (radiation emitted by energy transitions with average power according to their likelihood for that temperature; availability of transitions also being a material property depending on atoms, molecules, and their interactions – at very high temperatures, nuclear interactions) obey some descriptions of blackbody radiation (within an isothermal material of sufficient optical thickness, fluxes and intensities at any given wavelength approach the blackbody values), it can be called blackbody radiation.

    But it may also be true (if I recall correctly) that Planck’s original proposed mechanism for emission of blackbody radiation, though it produced the correct temperature and wavelength dependencies (he was trying to solve the “ultraviolet catastrophe” issue), was not quite correct itself.

    —- Additional tidbits of information about radiation, of importance to solar cells.

    PS Ia. (In the absence of scattering, emission, and/or absorption, radiant flux away from a spherical source decreases with an inverse square law, but the intensity (flux per unit solid angle – how bright it appears within it’s fraction of one’s field of view) is conserved, except upon refraction. Refraction changes the solid angle envelope of any set of rays, so that intensity is proportional to the square of real component of the index of refraction when there is no emission,absorption,or scattering. Assuming the second law of thermodynamics still applies, blackbody radiation intensity and fluxes must also be proportional to the square of the real component of the index of refraction. Within a blackbody material with real index of refraction n, with an isothermal region of infinite optical thickness, or an infinite isothermal expanse of blackbodies embeded within some material with index of refraction n, the blackbody fluxes and intensities within the material will be proportional to n^2. If there is an antireflective interface with a vacuum (n=1) or air (n ~= 1), Total internal reflection keeps the flux and intensity of blackbody radiation escaping the material across the interface equal to (or very nearly so for air) the standard blackbody values if the isothermal material is thick enough to block any radiation from behind it. If the interface does have some reflection (at any direction on the outside, or within the cone of acceptance on the inside – I think the reflectivity must be equal in both directions for any pair of directions corresponding to refracted rays, or else second law violations occur, although there is some complexity regarding polarizations), then the material doesn’t act like a blackbody in terms of emission from it’s surface even if it does inside of itself. Anyway, the interesting point here, is that total internal reflection (which can be used to reduce necessary thickness of photovoltaic layers to absorb most of the radiation they are using – by having a diffuse (lambertian, preferably) back reflecting interface to scatter rays out of the cone of acceptance) can be related to the second law of thermodynamics.)

    PS Ib. Geometric (ray-tracing) concentration by reflection (parabolic and/or ellipsoidal, etc, dish or trough mirrors) concentrate flux but conserve intensity.

    PS Ic. Luminescent concentrators work by absorbing some wavelengths with fluorescent material, which emits some portion of incident photon energy as photons of lower energy (longer wavelengths) (PS an example of non-blackbody emission – the electron energy is temporarily distributed in a way that could not be achieved by spontaneous redistributions of thermal energy in a body at local thermodynamic equilibrium). The emitted radiation is at least partly trapped within a plate by total internal reflection, and thus is focussed onto a small area on the edges of the plate. Plates working with different wavelengths can be stacked, analogous to multijunction solar cells. Radiation emitted by fluorescence is monochromatic (or nearly so) and so solar cells can be matched to fluorescent materials to improve conversion efficiency. (Geometric concentrators could also be combined with prisms/etc to direct different wavelengths to different solar cells). Unlike geometric concentrators, luminescent concentrators can use diffuse light (blue sky, clouds, snow) and do not need to be aimed with much precisions (don’t need tracking). Diffuse light at any one wavelenght could be assigned a temperature based on the blackbody that would emit at that wavelength with the same intensity (direct solar radiation reaching the surface is generally not as hot as it is in space because of absorption and scattering removing some intensity out of the beam of light, while scattered radiation will be cooler still (but still quite hot relative to the Earth’s surface and atmosphere)); the potential for luminescent concentration can be analysed by applying the second law of thermodynamics, factoring in the change in wavelength during fluorescence and the index of refraction.

    PS II (reflection is due to sharp (relative to wavelength)discontinuities in index of refraction n. Approximating a gradual change in n with an infinite number of infinetisimal interfaces, the relatively weak reflections from multiple interfaces are out of phase with each other and thus sum to near zero, resulting in nearly zero reflection. Antireflective coatings for specific sets of wavelength-direction combinations work with some finite number of steps in the value of n with some spacing. Large scale texturization also reduces reflection by giving reflected rays multiple intersections with the surface; if the reflectivity of the surface is not perfect, there will be some loss from the reflected ray after each reflection. Texturization works best for normal rays (perpendicular to the average surface) – it works better and over a larger range of angles for steeper texturization. It is possible to conclude that total internal reflection works with texturization based on the previous paragraph. Texturization on scales smaller than a wavelength can simulate gradual transitions).

  255. Kevin McKinney:

    Speaking of Olympian efforts to control pollution, here’s a dispatch from the trenches.

    Lead paragraphs:

    “OSLO, March 23 (Reuters) – Governments broadly support tough 2050 goals for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions but are split on how to share out the reductions, according to a new guide to negotiators of a new U.N. climate pact.
    A document to be presented to U.N. climate talks in Bonn from March 29-April 8 narrows down a list of ideas for fighting global warming in a new treaty due to be agreed in December to about 30 pages from 120 in a text late last year.”

  256. David B. Benson:

    veritas36 (250) — My hazy understanding is that ABC results in global cooling via global dimming.

  257. SecularAnimist:

    We neither need nuclear power nor is it an effective solution for reducing carbon pollution — especially in the time frame within which major reductions are needed.

    Wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, and biomass — and of course efficiency and conservation — can do the job faster, better and cheaper.

    So there is really no need to deal with the very real dangers and risks of nuclear power.

  258. Hank Roberts:

    Sec, it’d help to cite to someone who’s actually doing the math on these issues. Try Fields, as cited by John Massey in the ‘Young Climate Blogger’ thread just recently. He’s seriously assessing this stuff.

    Without the numbers, it’s a profession of faith.
    With the numbers, it’s an investment plan.

  259. snorbert zangox:

    Patrick 027 (210)

    The flaw in your logic about the coat analogy to IR emission and absorption its purpose is not to prevent IR emission. Coats work by preventing convective and conductive loss of body heat to the surrounding air. A coat is analogous to a glass walled enclosure, e.g. a greenhouse. It confines warm air to a specific volume.

    Patrick 027 (210) and Barton Paul Levenson (218)

    You both make the point that net heat flux must be from a warm body to a cold body does not mean that IR absorption by the atmosphere cannot mitigate temperature swings at the surface of the earth. The atmosphere, mostly the water vapor, does that. In effect, the atmosphere introduces hysteresis into the surface temperature. Compare the temperature on the surface of Earth to the temperature on the surface of the moon. The surface temperature of the moon is about 110 degrees C on the lighted side and about 250 degrees below zero on the dark side. That is a swing of about 360 degrees C day to night, which is quite a bit more than the temperature swing on the surface of Earth.

    Patrick 027 (232)

    The chamber that you describe is what Gerlich & Tscheuschner call a cavity radiator. That is the classic thought experiment and is the basis for the T4 radiant heat transfer model. Gerlich & Tscheuschner discuss this model in detail and discuss why that model is not applicable to radiant heat transfer among molecules. Their primary point is that molecular radiant heat transfer is far more complex than is the transfer of radiant heat from a cavity to a flat surface. They further aver that no simple bulk model, such as those you propose can approximate the exchange of radiant heat among molecules.

    If I understand Gerlich & Tscheuschner correctly (a big IF, I admit) their reasoning is that the existing models describe radiation of heat from hot surfaces to cold surfaces. Molecules do not have surface temperatures.

  260. Michael:

    James, I’m not sure how we ended up talking about “flat-panel TVs, cell phones, and so on”

    Most of the world lives in poverty, and millions die every year from ridiculous causes that are a thing of the past for us in the developed countries. I use the word ‘developed’ on purpose. It is a word that represents industry that brings such things as nutrition, employment, security, hospitals, antibiotics, emergency services, etc. The rest of the world is poised to join us, and will, if given access to the cheap readily available energy that brought us to this point.

    The world needs our help, not our restrictions. This can be in direct conflict with the ‘end coal now’ movement.

  261. Hank Roberts:


  262. SecularAnimist:

    Hank Roberts wrote: “Sec, it’d help to cite to someone who’s actually doing the math on these issues.”

    I have done so numerous times in previous comments posted to this site. I don’t have my references available this afternoon. What I need to do, I guess, is put up a site of my own with links to all the relevant studies and then link to that from my comments.

    Hank Roberts wrote: “Without the numbers, it’s a profession of faith. With the numbers, it’s an investment plan.”

    There is a reason that wind and solar are growing at record-breaking double-digit rates and attracting billions of dollars in private venture capital every year (Nanosolar was the top recipient of venture capital investment in the USA in 2008), while nuclear power is barely holding its share of electricity generation and nuclear corporations are lobbying to make the taxpayers and ratepayers pay all the costs of any new plants up front.

  263. Michael:

    Barton Paul Levenson writes:

    “You’d prefer a billion people to be without fresh water when the glaciers they depend on for it are gone? You’d prefer 100 million climate refugees when countries like Bangladesh are under water? You’d prefer massive starvation because of vastly increased droughts in continental interiors?

    Because that’s what you’re going to get if you DON’T restrict fossil fuels. Period.”

    I’m interested in what thought process brought you to that ‘period’.
    What source of information convinces you that restricting fossil fuels will save these people from death and starvation?

    Is there a way to know if these 100 million would-be climate refugees might be better prepared for flood and famine if they had jobs, transportation/roads, education/expertise, emergency services, healthcare, etc.?

  264. John Burgeson:

    In #257, secularanimist writes: “We neither need nuclear power nor is it an effective solution for reducing carbon pollution — especially in the time frame within which major reductions are needed.

    Wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, and biomass — and of course efficiency and conservation — can do the job faster, better and cheaper.

    So there is really no need to deal with the very real dangers and risks of nuclear power.”

    I just sent off an article to my paper which implicitly argues the same thing. (see http://www.burgy.50megs.com/what.htm).

    I’ve been reading some arguments, however, which assert that renewables cannot be brought on stream fast enough, or cheap enough, and so some kind of nuclear plants must necessarily be built. The latest book I’ve read on this is by Joseph Schuster BEYOND FOSSIL FOOLS. Joe argues for fast neutron reactors, which apparently solve the “not enough uranium in the earth” problem.

    Joe writes in a “conversational tone,” which I find annoying; perhaps because of this I tend not to take the book seriously. But perhaps I should?


  265. Hank Roberts:

    > jobs, transportation/roads, education/expertise,
    > emergency services, healthcare, etc.?

    King Canute

  266. Hank Roberts:

    Back to the topic for a moment if I may, and a question for any astronomers watching sunspots — does the change in clear sky visibility documented in the Science article require any adjustment for those trying to emulate the original sunspot counters’ methods and using contemporaneous tools?

    I know there’s question about even those because they weren’t aware of some major volcanic eruptions, so their sunspot numbers were way low after the volcanos and they attributed the cooling to the change they observed — thinking it was the sun rather than Earth’s upper atmosphere that had changed.

    Lots of factors hard to sort out.

  267. Patrick 027:

    Re 259

    PART I:

    The analogy works in so far as pointing out that while spontaneous net heat flow must always be from warmer to cooler, the heat flow depends on – in one case, thermal conductivity and convection; in another case, radiation. Each is a greenhouse in the idea that heat can be trapped, forced to build up to a higher concentration in order to drive a heat flux to balance heat production or inflow by other forms (solar energy).

    The individual photons that travel from emission to absorption from cooler to warmer are what slows the net radiant flux from warmer to cooler. Although it also depends on the opacity of the warmer and cooler layers themselves, not just that of the intervening layers (see my other comments above).

    At any given wavelength, the net radiative flux at any level depends on what is visible. If the air is very opaque, one cannot see very far, and thus, larger temperature variations are hidden; the radiation tends to be more isotropic (invariant over direction) and tends to have the intensity of blackbody radiation for temperature near or at the viewing location. At more moderate opacity, relative to distances across which temperature variations are significant, greater temperature variation is ‘visible’, so there will be a difference between radiant fluxes in different directions, and so there will be a net radiative energy flux. If opacity is very low, the net flux decreases because there are not sources of radiation. However, the surface of the Earth is generally quite opaque and has a rather low (not zero) albedo in LW wavelengths – hence high emissivity and absorptivity. Aside from the sun, space can be considered a perfect blackbody with very very low temperature (essentially zero) for climatological purposes.

    PART II:

    Yes, the downward LW (longwave, terrestrial – as opposed to SW – shortwave, solar visible, solar IR, and UV) radiation at the surface, by making the SW radiation smaller in proportion to the total downward flux (that upward LW and convective fluxes tend to balance, on average), reduce the diurnal variation in temperature near the surface. Direct solar heating is concentrated at the surface, which does not have a high effective heat capacity on land (it takes time for heating/cooling variations to penetrated downward), hence the temperature variation over short time periods; above the boundary layer (lowest layer of air that interacts more closely with the surface convectively and mechanically), diurnal temperature variations are small in the troposphere and at least most of the stratosphere because direct solar heating per unit mass is relatively small. Where the surface can emit more radiation directly to space or exchange radiation directly across a larger vertical distance within the atmosphere, the diurnal temperature range will be larger. It will also be larger if the air above is colder relative to the diurnal range of solar heating.

    What has much greater control over the average surface temperature (globally, and averaged over at least short term cycles) is the radiative forcing at the top of the troposphere. This is because the surface and layers of tropospheric air are, globally and over time, convectively coupled – pure radiative equilibrium would make the lower atmosphere convectively unstable; moist convection tends to maintain vertical temperature variation close to a ‘moist adiabatic lapse rate’ (with regional variations from that). Thus, the greenhouse effect warms the surface and troposphere by reducing the net upward LW flux at the tropopause level for a given temperature distribution; the surface and troposphere tend to warm together (connected by convection) to increase net upward LW flux until it nearly balances the incoming SW flux, or in terms of climate change, until it balances the initial LW forcing plus any feedbacks.


    In practice, any cavity has walls that are made out of molecules.

    Gas molecule spectrums can be different than solids, but the basic idea is the same; there are energy transitions that can occur with some average power depending on temperature. (Solids’ thermal energy can be quantized – phonons are quanta of crystal lattice vibrations, which can be either thermal or acoustic. At sufficiently high temperatures, semiconductors would spontaneously emit photons according to electronic energy levels as thermal energy excites electrons across band-gaps (although the band gap will change a bit with large changes in temperature and also with phase transitions, etc.), whereas at lower temperature, some electrical work is required to produce such luminosity as in an LED.

    The surface of the Earth is opaque because it is not a sufficiently thin shell (with low enough refractive index, etc.) to be otherwise. At sufficiently small scales, the surface is not a surface, it is a field of atoms. At wavelengths where there is just sufficient opacity, the atmosphere looks like a surface on a large scale, although it will not radiate as a perfect blackbody because it is not isothermal across the visible depth – but at sufficiently high opacity, individual nearly-isothermal layers of air will act, radiatively, like surfaces. Individual molecules and particles can be assigned emmission and absorption cross sections according to the size of an idealized perfect blackbody they simulate – of course atoms and molecules do not actually have surfaces; nothing can on that spatial scale, but averaged over time and over molecules, they radiatively act, in terms of emission and absorption amounts, as the mathematical equivalent of little spherical blackbodies (assuming random distribution of orientations, as is ordinarily the case in a gas – otherwise they might be oblong).

  268. Patrick 027:

    “as the mathematical equivalent of little spherical blackbodies”

    The size being a function of wavelength, among other things. More generally, when scattering is important, they would act like little spherical ‘greybodies’ of size and darkness being wavelength dependent. You will usually see the term ‘greybody’ in a somewhat different context, describing bulk materials with optical properties that are invarient with respect to wavelength, as opposed to redbody, bluebody, etc. Atmospheric scattering is important for SW radiation but is not of much importance to LW radiation under Earthly conditions.

  269. Patrick 027:

    … And greybody in the more usual context would not automatically imply that there is any reflection; I’ve seen it used to describe the hypothetical case of an atmosphere that absorbs the same fraction of radiation over a given distance at any wavelength within the LW portion of the spectrum. This is opposed to a blackbody in the sense that the atmosphere might not be perfectly opaque, but the emitted radiation would still be called blackbody radiation and it would obey the rules of blackbody radiation.

  270. Hank Roberts:

    Patrick, I wish you’d put that in some topic where people could find it later and maybe use it. In this topic on China’s atmospheric efforts, it’s like crosstalk from the lecture across the hall. Are you writing this stuff off the cuff or pasting it in from something you’ve got all together in a page somewhere? I’ve seen chunks of it on other blogs too.

  271. Timothy Chase:

    Patrick 027 wrote:

    … And greybody in the more usual context would not automatically imply that there is any reflection; …

    I believe that normally one would distinguish between the reflection, scattering, absorption and transmission, at least with bodies. And even with the atmosphere scattering would be an issue with clouds and other aerosols.

    Patrick 027 wrote:

    I’ve seen it used to describe the hypothetical case of an atmosphere that absorbs the same fraction of radiation over a given distance at any wavelength within the LW portion of the spectrum. This is opposed to a blackbody in the sense that the atmosphere might not be perfectly opaque, but the emitted radiation would still be called blackbody radiation and it would obey the rules of blackbody radiation.

    As I understand it, sometimes we refer to this as grey body radiation, indicating that the spectral emissivity is constant at all wavelengths, in which case one may simply speak of “the emissivity.” However, when the spectral emissivity is not constant, one can still apply Planck’s law to describe it by calculating its intensity at a given frequency as a function of temperature, but one multiplies that intensity by the spectral emissivity, where the spectral emissivity is the emissivity at the corresponding wavelength.

    Of course one could argue that this is tautological if one defines spectral emissivity as the ratio of the intensity of thermal radiation emitted at a given frequency and temperature over the intensity of thermal radiation from a blackbody at the same frequency and temperature. And it should be noted that for a given material the spectral emissivity may change substantially as a function of the temperature.

    But in any case, one may refer to a body which has a spectral emissivity that varies with respect to wavelength as a “realistic body,” and then refer to its thermal radiation as “realistic body radiation” or more simply as “thermal radiation.” This last is perhaps most appropriate as both blackbody radiation and line radiation (with zero width) are somewhat unrealistic, idealized cases, and to one degree or another all thermal radiation is “realistic.”

  272. Hank Roberts:

    Speaking for the moment of China’s efforts to control atmospheric pollution, one recycling effort appears to have gone cattywampus — making artificial gypsum board out of the residue from capturing sulfate from coal plant smoke (a method used worldwide that, if the result is cleaned up, makes chemical gypsum; if not, it makes gypsum “plus”)


  273. Hank Roberts:

    More, generally, on air pollution in Asia with mention of China, here:


    “Page 1
    1.3 Air Pollution and the Issue of Resources
    1.3.1 Energy and Air Pollution
    Air pollution is brought about by substances like sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, soot and dust, hazardous substance, dust, carbon monoxide, and hydrocarbon species emitted from stationary source like factories and mobile sources like motor vehicles. Most air pollution is accounted for by combustion reactions to fossil fuels, but much air pollution caused by improvements made in combustion has been eliminated. Air pollution problems are closely related to problems with energy resources, and those material industries which dircctlyemploy these resources have become a major issue.

    Energy consumption in developing nations, as shown in Fig. 1.3.1, has been increasing rapidly in recent years. Energy consumption levels in 1993 were nearly three times those in 1973. Emissions of air pollutants like sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides have also increased along with the increases in energy consumption levels. To be more specific, there are countries which do not have flue-gas desulfurization equipment and flue-gas denitrification equipment, countries like China which are generating grave air pollution problems, and countries which, if left alone, may develop problems in the future….

  274. Patrick 027:

    Re 271 – okay – agreed, although I tend to think of any thermally emitted radiation as being blackbody radiation, in the sense that this is the name of the ‘substance’ being deal with, regardless of the amount (relative to a perfect blackbody’s emission). Am I wrong to do that?

    My introduction of ‘greybody’ was a bit clumsy – although different from its normal usage, I thought it a nice visual for what a particle with some scattering as well as absorption/emission cross section would ‘look like’.

    Re 270 – pretty much off the cuff, except I did look up a few figures as I found myself wanting to discuss them. Some Te info came from USGS websites and an economics blog which I mean to identify, although I’ll have to get back to that.

    I don’t have my own blog and I’m not sure that I am ready to have one, so…

  275. Timothy Chase:

    David B. Benson wrote in 256:

    veritas36 (250) — My hazy understanding is that ABC results in global cooling via global dimming.

    True. However, locally the Asian Brown Cloud contributes substantially to warming trends.

    Please see:

    Our general circulation model simulations, which take into account the recently observed widespread occurrence of vertically extended atmospheric brown clouds over the Indian Ocean and Asia, suggest that atmospheric brown clouds contribute as much as the recent increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gases to regional lower atmospheric warming trends.

    Ramanathan et al., Warming trends in Asia amplified by brown cloud
    solar absorption, Nature, Vol. 448, 2 August 2007, pp. 575-9

    However, they note that globally at the surface it still appears to produce cooling. The warming is important, particularly around the Himalayas as it appears to be speeding up the melting process with regard to the glaciers.

    They note that the Asian Brown Cloud appears to be largely responsible for the recent decline of glaciers in the Himalalyas.

    Please see:

    the observed air-temperature trend over the elevated Himalayas has accelerated to between 0.15–0.3 °K per decade during the past several decades. This large trend is thought to be the major cause for the Himalayan-Hindu-Kush glacier ablation. The Himalayan-Hindu-Kush region has seen a marked retreat in the glaciers that serve major Asian rivers such as the Yangtze, the Indus and the Ganges.

    It has been projected elsewhere (by the IPCC) that the Himalayas may be 80% free of glaciers relative to the present) by 2030.

    I also remember some time ago that Gavin noted it is a bit more complex thana given aerosol being warming or cooling as warming may be taking place at higher altitudes even when cooling is taking place at lower altitudes due to dimming. This is perhaps easiest to see in the case of aerosols which contain some carbon: reflective sulfate and nitrate aerosols which contain as little as five percent carbon will accelerate the melting process when they lower the albedo of snow, and as such, at higher altitudes and latitudes they may contribute to warming when elsewhere they are cooling due to their reflective properties.

  276. Timothy Chase:


    I wrote in 275:

    I also remember some time ago that Gavin noted it is a bit more complex thana given aerosol being warming or cooling as warming may be taking place at higher altitudes even when cooling is taking place at lower altitudes due to dimming.

    Actually Gavin was specifically referring to cooling near the surface due to dimming and warming in the mid to upper troposphere due to the absorption of radiation if I remember correctly, whereas I go on to discuss the effects reflective aerosols with some black carbon content (5% or above) upon ice and snow.

  277. Alan of Oz:

    Re #266,

    Hank, I’m a bit of a stargazer but too lazy to count stuff. However I don’t think haze, dust, etc makes much difference to traditional sun-spot counting. The reason I say this is that sun-spots are ‘backlit’ for want of a better term. If you can see the sun then you should be able to count the spots because the brightest source of light that would overwhelm them is the sun itself. Light pollution reflected off dust is really only a problem because it overwhelms the weak signals in the night sky.

    I don’t know if they still use traditional counts from ground based observatories but regardless of how the count is done I’d imagine they just compare old observations with new using a ratio based on the two resolutions. Anyway, the people who collate all the sun-spot stuff for NOAA, etc go by the acronym SIDC

  278. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Michael writes:

    I’m interested in what thought process brought you to that ‘period’.

    Actually reading the relevant climatology literature. Start with the IPCC AR4 if you’re interested.

    What source of information convinces you that restricting fossil fuels will save these people from death and starvation?

    Because global warming will melt glaciers (is already doing so), cause more droughts in continental interiors (ask the Australians), more violent weather along coastlines (ask in New Orleans), and increase sea level (ask in Tuvalu). Were you unaware of all of this?

  279. Barton Paul Levenson:


    Your cartoonist is illiterate. There is no ‘S’ in ‘Canute.’

  280. Mark:

    Alan is correct in #277.

    Though it’s not quite “backlit”. Optical depth=1 for visible light is higher up the atmosphere and because it’s a stratified atmosphere getting cooler as it goes up (until you get to the corona where temperature doesn’t really have any meaning any more since the gass is so diffuse) this means it is colder and so compared to the sun, darker.

    It would still burn your fingers if you touched it.

    But yes, the dust doesn’t stop you seeing sunspots until it’s thick enough to stop incandescence from the sun at 6000K getting through. A bigger problem is that seeing in sunlight is pretty bad: 5 seconds of arc seeing error is darn good in daytime anywhere. cf 1 second which is darn good at night anywhere.

  281. Mark:

    Patrick: “I tend to think of any thermally emitted radiation as being blackbody radiation”

    Actually, as you allude to later, thermal radiation can cause emission at a very high energy. Blackbody means that this energy is bounced around, shaken, split, added and subtracted to until it has been formed into a photon gas that has a generally black-body-curve distribution of energy.

    The corona of the sun is given a “temperature” of millions of degrees. This (IIRC) is done by saying “well, what temperature would give the same intensity of emission as the peak emission of the corona”. So a very high “temperature” is given for thin emission media but the overall energy doesn’t obey Stephan-Boltzman law and, despite being millions of degrees (and E~T^4), the corona isn’t the source of most of the sun’s energy output.

  282. Mark:

    (why and what is “spam in this message????? [edit – re-cipro-city])

    But a gas at a per-particle energy of 1/40th eV can still have some particles at an energy of 1/10 eV or higher. And this can be the same as the excitation energy of a quantum state. If the temperature of the gas goes up, more of the gas is at the excited state. This excitation is not because of absorption of an IR photon (necessarily) but could be from an inelastic collision. Likewise, a loss of energy from a gas molec ule in this excited state can be lost not as an IR photon lost, but as an inelastic collision. The reciprocity principle demands it (which is where Kirchoff’s law comes from too: so you can’t just ignore it RodB).

    And that doesn’t have to be from external or internal absorption of a line spectra, merely from the gas being warm.

  283. snorbert zangox:

    Patrick 027

    The ideal black body radiator, a cavity, is a theoretical construct. It does not exist. Its surface does not consist of molecules or anything else that is real.

  284. Mark:

    re “(why and what is “spam in this message????? [edit – re-ci pro-city])”

    Sheesh. I hope the spammers don’t start selling ecstasy..!

  285. Hank Roberts:

    Alan and Mark write their opinions that atmospheric dust cannot have influenced sunspot counts. I’d suggest you guys publish. Here are links to a couple of the papers I was recalling. You’ll find others.



    Here’s a good general writeup on the methods of observation generally:


  286. Martin Vermeer:

    snorbert #283:

    The ideal black body radiator, a cavity, is a theoretical construct. It does not exist. Its surface does not consist of molecules or anything else that is real.

    How philosophical… reality doesn’t exist either, only our imperfect perception of it ;-)

    Hey, you can build a decent approximation of a black body radiator by building a big cavity with a small hole in it. Not happy? Make the cavity bigger and the hole smaller. It will converge to the ideal BBR, irrespective of what material it was made of — that’s the whole point! Even an optically thick cloud of CO2 will do.

  287. Hank Roberts:

    This gets the abstract for the first cite (Wilson) at the NASA technical server. (The abstract was abysmally OCR’d and not proofread but is readable.)

    And this may be futile on a blog but I’ll try:

    Please, guys, read the paper, it’s 36 pages, and don’t essay to debate me. Publish; it’s the author whose idea you disagree with.


    You’ll need the title if you search on the server:
    Volcanism, Cold Temperature, and Paucity of Sunspot Observing Days (1818-1858): A Connection

  288. Mark:

    Martin, 286, you’re right but that isn’t undoing what snorbert said. You even acknowledged it. You can get *arbitrarily close* to the ideal black body by making the cavity as close to completely enclosed as will make it work. But you can’t *get* perfect blackbody radiation from a cavity, since you still have to let the photons out at some point and that means there’s a chance that a photon will escape before thermalisation has happened.

    Black body radiation from a cavity is an asymptotic extreme.

    Your point that even if you make it of CO2 is a good one. RodB doesn’t seem to think you can make the cavity out of *anything* and as long as the photons spend long enough bouncing around in there, it WILL BECOME black body in form. The cavity walls don’t even have to be black. They can be mirrored. As long as the photon bounces around enough, it will be a black body cavity.

  289. snorbert zangox:

    Martin Vermeer (286)

    Gerlich & Tscheuschner disagree with you. They state that a cloud of carbon dioxide molecules at 300 ppm consists of just 8 million carbon dioxide atoms per volume contained by a 10-micrometer cube (10x10x10 micrometers). They go on to state, “In this context an application of the formulas of cavity radiation is sheer nonsense.” You may not agree, however you should explain the basis for your disagreement.

  290. Ray Ladbury:

    Snorbert, absolute horse puckey. Martin specified that the CO2 cloud must be optically thick. Why restrict it to 10 microns on a side. As long as the medium is optically thick in the wavelength band of interest, you will reach equilibrium and the photon gas will approach thermal equilibrium–for that band. Voila, blackbody radiation (or at least grey-body).

    The fact that you even give G&T any consideration is proof that you don’t understand the relevant physics. G&T may well be the worst science paper ever written–and that includes the ouvre of Energy and Environment! It is so bad they should make it required reading in the 5th circle of hell! G&T is a joke and you are the punchline.

  291. snorbert zangox:

    Ray Ladbury (290)

    Gerlich & Tscheuschner calculated the molecules inside of a 10-micrometer box, which is approximately the length of an IR wave of interest in these radiation studies, merely to demonstrate the extreme dilution of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at 300 ppm. I know the present day concentration is closer to 400 ppm, but that is not significant is it. I am referring to text on page 12 of the Gerlich & Tscheuschner article. Perhaps you should read it.

    I have, from the beginning of my posts on this site, admitted that I am not an expert in the area of absorption and emission of IR radiation. You imply that you understand the relevant physics. If that is true, would you please read the Gerlich & Tscheuschner article and provide some specific and detailed analyses of what they have written? Name-calling and cutsie references to Hell and fifth grade reading do nothing to help me.

  292. Mark:

    “Snorbert, absolute horse puckey. Martin specified that the CO2 cloud must be optically thick. Why restrict it to 10 microns on a side.”

    Misreading Ray.

    I read it as “at 10 microns the solid isn’t all that solid after all, so why is the solidity needed?” the answer being, of course “it isn’t”. A solid becomes optically thick at, say 30 microns. The earth’s atmosphere at 15um wavelengths becomes optically thick at, say 10m. The difference is the same: none.

    Therefore “black body” applies just as well to an atmosphere with enough CO2 to be ~1000 optical depths (10km) as it does with a solid 3cm thick (1000 optical depths).

  293. Mark:

    “Alan and Mark write their opinions that atmospheric dust cannot have influenced sunspot counts.”

    Hank, a wee bit of advice to “the Link Man”: you can find a link that has someone telling you that there was a Tyrannosaur in the Garden Of Eden.

    OK, a link doesn’t cut it.

    The headline of the PDF:


    Which doesn’t mean there are days unable to see sunspots because the spots themselves are gone. Just that the sunspots can’t be seen (as you can’t see them if there’s a sodding big Cumulonimbus cloud in the way).

    It’s talking about how many observing days there are.

    Not how many sunspots can be seen.

  294. dhogaza:

    Snorbert, why have you chosen to believe these two crank physicists (G&T), when it’s obvious that there’s absolutely no support for their trash in the physics community?

    Physicists are making it obvious that G&T’s paper is dumber than cold fusion. I see no reason to disbelieve them.

    I wonder what G&T’s explanation for a hot Venus is? Apparently its very existence violates the 2nd law of thermodynamics …

  295. Hank Roberts:

    Mark, please read the article. Seriously, logic will only take you so far in refuting published work. Actually reading the article _will_ help you here.

  296. dhogaza:

    You imply that you understand the relevant physics. If that is true, would you please read the Gerlich & Tscheuschner article and provide some specific and detailed analyses of what they have written?

    And, look, Snorbert, the physicists writing here *have* provided some specific and detailed analyses as to why G&T’s article is crap, in particular the 10-micron cube not containing enough CO2 bit.

  297. snorbert zangox:

    Mark (292)

    Gerlich & Tscheuschner calculated the number of molecules inside of a box, whose dimensions approximate the length of the IR photon of interest. They then gave some reasons why they believe that the rules of radiation exchange between solid planes do not apply to volumes of such dilute mass. Martin said that he thinks that equations that describe the exchange of IR between solid planes do describe IR exchange among molecules of a dilute gas. I did not even disagree with Martin; I merely asked him to explain why he thinks what he said that he thinks.

    dhogza (294)

    I have not even said that I agree with Gerlich & Tscheuschner. I said that I find the article interesting.

    Let me ask you a question that is similar to what I asked Ray Ladbury. Which physicists? Where can I find the articles?

    [Response: Try here. – gavin]

  298. snorbert zangox:

    dhogza (296)

    I also am not convinced that Gerlich & Tscheuschner would disagree with the statement that IR absorption and re-emission by atmospheric gases can delay the emission of IR and thereby cause a temperature increase. I need to re-read some of the paper.

    I am certain that they did say that the model of planar radiators and absorbers cannot describe IR exchange among molecules. They also have described some of the complexities of intermolecular IR exchange and have said that it the problem may be intractable.

    They also have said that the IPCC methods overestimate the warming effect of carbon dioxide. Others have said the same thing; Gerlich & Tscheuschner attempted an explanation based on physical theory. Are they correct? I don’t know. Are they incorrect? I don’t know that either. I do know that no one has described any reasons why Gerlich & Tscheuschner are wrong.

    Now I am going to concentrate on reading Arthur P. Smith’s proof of the greenhouse effect, one of the articles that Gavin offered as demonstration of the nonsensical nature of the Gerlich & Tscheuschner paper.

  299. dhogaza:

    Let me ask you a question that is similar to what I asked Ray Ladbury. Which physicists?

    For starters, Ray Ladbury has a PhD in physics.

  300. dhogaza:


    I also am not convinced that Gerlich & Tscheuschner would disagree with the statement that IR absorption and re-emission by atmospheric gases can delay the emission of IR and thereby cause a temperature increase.

    Then why would the abstract claim:

    the atmospheric greenhouse conjecture is falsified


  301. David B. Benson:

    Timothy Chase (275, 276) — Thank you for the clarification.

  302. Martin Vermeer:


    Gerlich & Tscheuschner disagree with you.

    I’m flattered :-)

    They state that a cloud of carbon dioxide molecules at 300 ppm consists of just 8 million carbon dioxide atoms per volume contained by a 10-micrometer cube (10×10×10 micrometers).

    What about trying a slightly bigger cube? Like, big enough to be opaque at the wavelengths considered?

    They go on to state, “In this context an application of the formulas of cavity radiation is sheer nonsense.”

    Your claim was a much more sweeping one, if I may quote:

    The ideal black body radiator, a cavity, is a theoretical construct. It does not exist. Its surface does not consist of molecules or anything else that is real.

    AKA “moving the goalposts”.

    I have, from the beginning of my posts on this site, admitted that I am not an expert in the area of absorption and emission of IR radiation.

    Yes, evidently…

    If that is true, would you please read the Gerlich & Tscheuschner article and provide some specific and detailed analyses of what they have written?

    He has read it — at least as much of it as he could before disgust overcame him.

    If you don’t believe his judgment as a physicist, you’re not gonna believe his analysis as a physicist either. I’d rather see Ray do something useful and/or enjoyable instead :-)

    Mark #288:

    Black body radiation from a cavity is an asymptotic extreme.

    You got it.

    I was one of those that got bored in math class when the teacher started dotting his deltas and crossing his epsilons… but that’s what it is.

  303. Timothy Chase:

    David B. Benson wrote in 301:

    Timothy Chase (275, 276) — Thank you for the clarification.

    Actually I figured you already new pretty much everything I had to say and were keeping your response short — albeit the humorous “hazy” — for lack of time. But I had some more time. However, I probably should have responded to veritas36 (comment 250) directly.

  304. Chris Colose:


    Please visit the site “Rabett Run” to see a recent string of posts by a few different contributors on the G&T paper.

  305. Mark:

    Snorbert, the problem with using a cavity at the wavelength of the radiation being considered is that you have resonance and destructive interference to worry about.

    Read up on the Casmiir effect. It relies on that: if you put two conductive surfaces close together, you cannot fit an EM wavelength any longer than the distance between the plates and that energy is excluded from that region. The inability to contain that wavelength means that there is more energy *outside* the two plates than between them. And therefore a pressure force will be exerted on the two plates because the energy difference is effectively a mass difference.

    Now if you have a cavity EXACTLY the wavelength of interest in diameter, then the EM wave will have it’s zero point at either side of the cavity. And if there’s no EM wave, there’s no EM response and therefore no EM absorbtion. You no longer have a Blackbody cavity, you have a waveguide. And that’s a completely different kettle of piscine lifeform.

  306. Mark:

    “Mark, please read the article. Seriously, logic will only take you so far in refuting published work. Actually reading the article _will_ help you here.”

    I did.

    Nothing explaining that the dust stopped sunspots being discerend and a lot about how there were no observing on that day.

    What happens when you increase the condensation nuclei in a moist atmosphere?

    What may be happening here is you’re talking about one effect of dust and I’m talking of a different one.

  307. Hank Roberts:

    Mark, that’s right — two observers, located far apart, have similar gaps in their sunspot records. They did not, as far as I know, record _why_ they did not record observations on those days. The correlation is interesting.

    If you’re sure that stratospheric dust couldn’t possibly have caused this, what else might have?
    The longterm argument has been that the sun really was very quiet; but the pattern compared to the volcanos argues that dust might’ve interfered.

    We don’t have the same baseline atmosphere they did — the seeing was on average better, less dust and smoke. How much better?

    Again, I’m not arguing for or against the paper, just saying if you’re sure he’s wrong, and have a solid argument, that might be publishable.

  308. Patrick 027:

    Re 283 – 286 nailed it.

    G&T p.12:

    Regarding a small cube of wavelength-size: Wouldn’t that also disprove that the sun radiates energy? That the light in the sky is a figment of our imaginations?

    such an extreme effect existed, it would show up even in a laboratory experiment involving
    concentrated CO2 as a thermal conductivity anomaly. It would manifest itself as a new kind
    of `superinsulation’ violating the conventional heat conduction equation. However, for CO2
    such anomalous heat transport properties never have been observed.”

    Under some conditions (very short distances, high densities), thermal conductivity will become more important than radiative energy transfer; opacity can not reduce energy fluxes below that which is sustained by conduction.

    However, the optical properties of CO2 and other gases can be observed in the spectrum of radiation emitted to space from the Earth and atmosphere, and can also be measured in laboratories.


    G&T p.20-21:

    “In classical radiation theory radiation is not described by a vector field assigning to
    every space point a corresponding vector. Rather, with each point of space many rays
    are associated (Figure 3). This is in sharp contrast to the modern description of the
    radiation field as an electromagnetic eld with the Poynting vector field as the relevant
    quantity [99].”

    The Poynting vector describes the net radiant energy flux at any one point and at any one time, which at precise locations and times will fluctuate as individual photons pass by. There is no disagreement here. The understanding of electromagnetic and quantum mechanical mechanisms underlying phenomena has advanced, but geometric optics (ray-tracing) still applies to larger scale radiant fluxes. The former explains how, when, and where scattering, reflection, refraction, absorption, and emission occur; it is only necessary to know that these things happen and how much for different conditions to use them in calculating their bulk effects.

    “The constant [sigma] appearing in the T4 law is not a universal constant of physics. It strongly
    depends on the particular geometry of the problem considered.”

    It is proportional the square of the real component of the index of refraction (of the material or space through which radiation is propagating, not of an emitter or absorber outside the location being considered) and thus to the inverse square of the phase speed of radiation (see equation on 27 on p.20 – it looks correct (if h with a line drawn through it is equal to . For some materials, index of refraction varies by direction (and polarization?). None of this is of much consequence to radiative energy fluxes through space or air in bulk, though it will apply to the microphysics of cloud droplets and ice particles, etc, that give rise to the macroscopic optical properties of cloud.

    “The T4-law will no longer hold if one integrates only over a filtered spectrum, appropriate
    to real world situations.”

    True, but in the real world, scientists use more accurate descriptions of optical properties that are wavelength dependent to calculate effects on radiatiant fluxes. See my own comments above and any listed at my comments 7,13 here: http://www.skepticalscience.com/climate-sensitivity.htm

    “Many pseudo-explanations in the context of global climatology are already falsified by these
    three fundamental observations of mathematical physics.”

    NO WAY. (or perhaps they mean that the simple explanation given to the lay person is not quite accurate and precise. Well of course it isn’t. Nor is the Earth a perfect sphere, nor it any simple matter for water vapor to condense and precipitate (pages can be filled with the details of how that happens). But it is acceptable for introductory purposes to say that the Earth has a greenhouse effect that traps heat, that the Earth is spherical, and that water condenses from vapor into clouds (under certain conditions) and precipitates (under certain conditions). On the other hand, the grade-school explanation of how airplane wings produce lift is not quite right (the air above does not ‘have to keep up’ with the air below – it can actually end up farther along in the flow than the air below – it speeds up because it accelerates toward the wind while moving around the wing, which requires a pressure gradient away from the wing above it, which when integrated in two dimensions, results in a low pressure above the wing).

    I shall waste no more time reading G&T (is that being close minded? You have to balance being open-minded with being efficient as well as being skeptical. Sometimes statements obviously stink of snake-oil. Or to avoid implying anything nefarious, G&T are writing about subjects they do not appear to understand. I don’t plan my day around the horoscope.)

    If you really want to know about the subject matter, check out any links from RealClimate, or in comments, or the resources I listed in comments 286,306 here:
    … or my comments here:
    and/or here:

    or take it from a professional, for example, the book I refer to in comment 144 above.

  309. Patrick 027:

    Okay, here’s the be-all and end-all of it:

    Do you accept that there is thermally-emitted radiation? (which I earlier refered to as blackbody radiation that may or may not come from a perfect blackbody but obeys some of the rules of blackbody radiation (given emissivity, absorptivity of a real body).

    Do you accep the Second Law of Thermodynamics?

    When there is thermal energy, any given energy transition may occur at a rate depending on the temperature and the nature of the transition. Some of those energy transitions can emit photons. The reverse transition can aborb those photons. When in local thermodynamic equilibrium, the Second Law requires absorptivity from a direction = emissivity toward a direction, at a location, along the same path, for a given wavelength and polarization. That path encounters crystal lattices, molecules, atoms, electrons and ions, etc, that are responsible for emission and absorption, and thus are mathematically equivalent in how much they absorb and emit and scatter to objects of some size with some albedo at any given wavelength, etc; when that albedo is zero, they act like perfect blackbodies. This describes a bulk property of many such particles over some period of time – at any one moment an individual particle may or may not emit or absorb.

    Local thermodynamic equilibrium requires all the energy involved in these energy transitions be ‘thermalized’ (I think that’s the term). An example of energy not involved in such transitions is the bulk motion – macroscopic kinetic energy – until visosity would transform it into thermal energy. Molecular collisions tend to thermalize energy. CO2 and other molecules in the vast majority of the mass of the atmosphere collide with other molecules frequently enough – relative to photons coming from or going to layers with different temperatures – that their energy is thermalized and the different gaseous substances have the same temperature (or can be very closely approximated as such), so when one kind of gas radiates energy, it radiates as if part of a blackbody at the temperature of the air (a thin part of a blackbody that may not be a perfect blackbody in and of itself, although it can approach that over sufficiently thick layers relative to temperature variations), and when it absorbs radiation, it transfers it to the rest of the air.

    Absorptivity cannot be greater than 1 or less than 0, so in LTE (local thermodynamic equilibrium), emmisivity cannot be greater than 1 or less than zero.

    If mixtures of gases with sufficiently infrequent collisions with each other occupy the same space but have different temperatures, they could be treated as two seperate entities that are within themselves in LTE – or more generally, it may be possible to assign different temperatures to different subgroups of particles. More generally, energy that is not thermalized may not be distributed in such a way as to be easily assigned a temperature.


    PS when I mentioned assigning a temperature to radiation, I forgot about polarization. If the same intensity over all polarizations is concentrated into a subgroup of polarizations, then it has less entropy. It’s temperature would be that of the blackbody that emits that intensity for those polarizations.

  310. Patrick 027:

    Re 281,282 – good points. The reason why the corona thermally emits such a very small amount compared to the sun is that it is optically very thin (I think it actually does have a rather hot temperature, which must be related to the random component of motions and not the bulk kinetic energy that it has). Although also, I think some of the coronal radiation is light scattered by solar wind particles.

  311. Lawrence Coleman:

    I would like to take this opportunity to pay a belated tribute to Steven Kimball aka. Johnny Rook of ‘Climaticide chronicles to died of cancer on the 2nd March. His hope and vision was much like mine..to leave the planet a little better for his children and thus he devoted a large part of his final years to projecting though his blog the dangers we all face from Climate change. I contributed to him information about Australia’s recent crazy weather north and south resulting in over 200 deaths and he asked me to keep in regular contact with him, thus it was a great shock to hear of his untimely (only 53) death. There is a lot of information available to anyone on his site written brilliantly and persuasively about all topics relating to climate change. Rest in peace Steven Kimball, you and your blog along with ‘real climate’ has made me vow to carry the torch and raise peoples awareness of this ‘elephant in the room’ for my little boy’s sake as well as yours.

  312. Mark:

    I’ll have to use the old “correlation != causation”.

    That statement *really* means if you don’t have a causation then your correlation means NOTHING.

    It is no proof of anything.

  313. Alan of Oz:

    Hank, I wasn’t really thinking 150+ yrs ago and quite possibly they did get less days suitable for observing due to major volcanoes back then. I didn’t get as far as examining what they did to relate them because that really wasn’t the question I was answering, and both Mark and I had already pointed to the “if you can see the sun” small print.

    Disclaimer: I live, and in some cases work, with acedemics but I’m not an academic and have zero interest in writing papers that have “sun-spot counting in the first half of the 19th century” as part of the title.

  314. Barton Paul Levenson:

    snorbert: Try here for a few analyses ripping G&T to shreds:


    If you want quick precis, here’s what I wrote on Open Mind in response to the six points in G&T’s abstract:

    (a) there are no common physical laws between the warming phenomenon in glass houses and the fictitious atmospheric greenhouse effects,

    Yes, “greenhouse effect” doesn’t really describe how a greenhouse works. Scientists have known that for longer than G&T have been alive.

    (b) there are no calculations to determine an average surface temperature of a planet,

    Take the temperature in representative areas and take the average. They had the figure approximately right as far back as the late 19th century.

    (c) the frequently mentioned difference of 33 C is a meaningless number calculated wrongly,

    It’s the difference between the Earth’s mean global annual surface temperature of 288 K and its radiative equilibrium temperature of 255 K (I get 254 K myself). Yes, if Earth didn’t have an atmosphere, its albedo would probably be different and Te would be a little different, but so what? What possible relevance does that have?

    (d) the formulas of cavity radiation are used inappropriately,

    The formulas of cavity radiation aren’t generally used at all in atmosphere physics unless one is discussing blackbodies. The Stefan-Boltzmann law:

    I = s T^4

    is the basic “cavity radiation law.” For a graybody one adds an emissivity term, and for a real body one adds a wavelength or frequency subscript to the emissivity term and accounts for the fraction of radiation output in the range of interest. Usually you can use the Planck law for the blackbody fraction, then multiply by the appropriate fractional constants.

    (e) the assumption of a radiative balance is unphysical,

    Very true. The Earth’s atmosphere is in radiative-convective balance, not radiative balance. G&T apparently think climatologists don’t know this.

    (f) thermal conductivity and friction must not be set to zero, the atmospheric greenhouse conjecture is falsified.

    Thermal conductivity and friction are covered in the expressions for surface cooling by sensible heat loss, which is part of what makes up the “convective” part of “radiative-convective equilibrium.” They are only set to zero for theoretical simplifications usually shown to students.

  315. Mark:

    “(f) thermal conductivity and friction must not be set to zero, the atmospheric greenhouse conjecture is falsified.”

    But the earth is in space. In space, there’s nothing for you to rub against. There’s nothing for you to conduct through. It’s space.

    So how are you supposed to remove energy from the earth system by conduction/convection/friction? Invoke the Aether?

  316. Patrick 027:

    Re 314 – Nice job!

  317. Patrick 027:

    Re 263:
    “Is there a way to know if these 100 million would-be climate refugees might be better prepared for flood and famine if they had jobs, transportation/roads, education/expertise, emergency services, healthcare, etc.?”

    I suspect migration (as opposed to building dikes/levees) will be the most cost-effective adaptation to sea level rise. Adaptation of farming to changing conditions may involve a combination of migration, changes in crops, and increasingly smart farming (having back-up crop plans for droughts, floods, cold and heat waves – see “Against the Grain” by Richard Manning, buckwheat example, I think). (Though there are ultimate limits to what any plant can do, especially over a short time; evolution is slow, intentional breeding can only go so fast, and genetic engineering has risks (and it’s a lot harder to take salt out of water than to put it in – that’s an analogy to new genes or new embodiments of them let loose in the environment) – there is room for improvement in irrigation efficiency. People can also adapt their diets (less meat). Peaks in solar power could be ‘stored’ by desalinating seawater.

    (For that matter, greater use of perennial crops or some other changes could also potentially help mitigate climate change as well as help adapt to it. Progress in biofuel technology will open up markets for damaged (from weather) and diseased crops, and some crop residue, as well as non-food biofuel crops that can be grown in conditions outside where food and feed crops are best grown, etc – switchgrass, wildflowers, used coffee grounds, used cooking oil, banana peels, paper plates, paper napkins, cupcake and muffin paper cups and the stuff that sticks to them, expired mayonaise, grass clippings, crumbs, sewage, algae, sawdust, etc. Eating less meat would help, as would wiser use of fertilizer. I hope there are ways to reduce methane emissions from cows (because I really like cheese).)

    Infrastructure – buildings, pipes, etc, will need some updating (okay, it may need that anyway, but perhaps not so much. Much infrastructure doesn’t migrate very fast, by the way.).

    But we also can’t forget about ecosystem services (fresh water and soil, some pollination, biodiversity as potential for future growth/maintenance of crop, medicine, and material resources; wetlands’ role in flood management).

    Winter is a great disease control program (see link to be posted later).

    Individuals and even whole nations can reduce their dependence on climate and weather by switching away from reliance on farming. BUT SOMEBODY has to grow the food.


    Adaptation has costs (loss of property values, realized when a farmer moves, when people leave coastal areas and drought-stricken regions, for example; costs of dealing with increased disease, R&D for crops, etc – and cliamte change and adaptation have material, psychological, social, political (migrations, among other things), aesthetic, and scientific costs (can’t study that glacier anymore!).

    Mitigation has some costs.

    It makes perfect sense that some tax be applied to fossil C emissions, as a fossil fuel C sales tax, for example, and also that other emissions (farming, deforestation, cement) also be taxed at a rate comparable to equivalent CO2 emission – to reflect the public cost as a price signal in the market that drives changes in demands and investments in supplies (energy efficiency, clean energy, less fossil fuel use), and that some of that revenue go towards mitigation and adaptation R&D, sequestration, subsidies, adaptation cost compensation, cuts in other taxes, programs to reduce population growth, etc.

  318. Alan Millar:

    Can all those posters who feel that climate trends should be considered over periods like 30 years and feel that trends can be masked for a while by short term variation please consider the following graphs of global temperatures since 1880.






    Could they please state in clear language what they consider the true climate trend to be and what is the short term variation.

    Could they also state what they find so alarming in these trends.


    [Response: Ironically enough given the website you use, you are completely missing the wood for the trees. The issue is not that the 20th C trend is alarming – it is that our understanding of why it trended implies that we can expect much more in the future. That is what is alarming. You also misunderstand attribution – it doesn’t matter for the models or the scientists whether a forcing causes cooling (i.e. a volcano) or warming (CO2) or whether it was a short term effect or a long term effect. All that matters is whether the forced effect can stand out from the noise of the internal variability. – gavin]

  319. Michael:

    Patrick, what do you mean by ‘adaption cost compensation’ listed under mitigation costs?

  320. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Thanks, Patrick! :)

  321. snorbert zangox:


    As I have said, reading the Gerlich & Tscheuschner article is difficult at best. The authors spent most of the first 40 pages refuting example after example (ad infinitum) of explanations of the greenhouse gas effect by comparison to horticultural hot houses. I now well understand that hot houses work by trapping hot air. They do not work because the glass blocks infrared radiation. The atmosphere has no blankets that keep us warm. All of these things I already know. The effect, which Gerlich & Tscheuschner call the carbon dioxide greenhouse effect (accepting that other gases behave similarly), includes only absorption and re-emission of long-wave IR.

    The rest of the paper addresses two other major points. The first is the calculation of absorption and emission of light and heat by the earth. The second is the modeling of absorption and re-emission of IR by atmospheric gases.

    Gerlich & Tscheuschner develop a set of theoretical partial differential equations that one would have to solve if one were to calculate the temperature distribution on the surface of an airless obliquely rotating globe (page 68, et seq.). They then conclude,

    “Rough estimates indicate that even these oversimplified problems cannot be tackled with any computer. Taking a sphere with dimensions of the Earth it will be impossible to solve this problem numerically even in the far future. Not only the computer would work ages, before a ‘balanced’ temperature distribution would be reached, but also the correct initial temperature distributions could not be determined at all.”

    As I understand it they maintain that the problem of securing an analytical (or even a thorough numerical) solution to the gray body temperature of an airless earth is intractable.

    I have read the article by Arthur P. Smith and compared his approach to that of Gerlich & Tscheuschner and find that there is less disagreement than I thought I might find. Smith develops a partial differential equation for a rotating globe, albeit a non-oblique globe. He does not mention the difficulty in finding analytical solutions for the equation. He proceeds to develop a simpler approach that allows him to calculate the surface temperature at several values of a parameter, λ. He makes other simplifying assumptions and finally calculates the expected temperatures on several planets as a function of λ.

    Smith’s next to develops differential equations for the case of a rotating globe, still non-oblique, having a variable albedo. The only variation that he considers is the increasing albedo of ice near the poles. Finally, he shows the calculation of the gray body temperature of the solar system rocks.

    It looks to me like what Smith has done is to develop a theoretical basis for computation of the gray body temperature that incorporates a couple of arbitrary parameters and then used NASA data to find appropriate values for the parameters. I could be wrong about this last point and am willing to consider another analysis of Smith’s procedure.

    However, it seems clear to me that Gerlich & Tscheuschner are correct in their conclusion that the IPCC approach to calculating gray body temperature is empirical and not analytical.

    The last major point that Gerlich & Tscheuschner make is that the model that IPCC uses to calculate the absorption and re-emission of long wave IR by carbon dioxide is wrong. Gerlich & Tscheuschner have not denied that the Earth loses heat to the cosmos by radiative transfer. They are convinced that the overly simplistic model that IPCC uses does not rigorously describe what is really happening. The IPCC approach appears to be to develop relatively simple physical models and to adjust parameters to force those models to fit the historical data. The Smith paper appears to present an example of this approach in Section IV. Statistical models work well for many applications; their weakness is that you may not extrapolate the beyond the envelope of the data. Antoine equations can interpolate vapor pressures quite accurately between measurement points, but you extrapolate beyond the data range at your own risk. To the extent that Gerlich & Tscheuschner are correct about the IPCC approach, there is risk that the ignored factors that probably exist in the data beyond the historical data set will ruin the predictive value of the models.

    You may believe that what Gerlich & Tscheuschner advocate is to incorporate needless complexity and difficulty into the process of analyzing what is happening to our climate. You may also believe that should we undertake what Gerlich & Tscheuschner appear to be advocating, the result will be little different from the results that IPCC has obtained with the statistical approach. That could be correct. It could just as easily be incorrect.

    I believe that a more analytical approach is justified. I also believe that the result of the extra work will be worth the effort.

  322. Patrick 027:

    Re 319 –

    Farmer’s property value drops due to climate change, sells farm at low price, is partially compensated for the difference.
    Expensive infrastructure and propery in southern Florida becomes worthless; people can’t sell property, partially compensated for the difference. (Not completely compensated because one could argue that they could have seen it coming.)

    Some details to be worked out.

    Obviously the policy will necessarily be more complicated because of the international scale of the problems and solutions…

    (PS yes, some people in some areas could benifit from climate change (up to a point; generally, I expect the balance to be more and more obviously a net cost for more and more people with greater changes); but there are also other problems with coal mining in particular and with CO2 (ocean acidification) and other pollutants that come from burning fossil fuels (mercury).)

  323. Patrick 027:

    Re 321 – analytical vs empirical is a false dichotomy – although to your credit you did mention numerical at one point.

    Computer models used in climate simulations are numerical – they have to be, as there are no simple equations that encompass the entirety of radiation in the atmosphere at all wavelengths, or the distribution of clouds and pressure, etc, at any one moment in time (although one can seperate fields into a number of linearly-superimposed sinusoidal functions in flat rectangular spaces, or some other set of orthogonal functions in more general domains such as on a sphere).

    Computer models generally use parameterized equations to describe radiation – this is just to speed computation. These can be tested against line-by-line models, which essentially are as accurate as one can get, unless one wants to count individual photons (there is no need for that kind of accuracy; climate modelling is a boundary value problem; sensitivity to initial conditions (butterfly effect) is not a major concern, because the goal is not to forecast individual instances of cyclones, ENSOs (in long-term simulations, at least), etc.), but a larger time-scale pattern of those things.

    Climate models are formulated according to mainly established physics (conservation of energy, momentum, angular momentum, ideal gas laws, conservation of mass of substances except for chemical reactions, latent heat of phase changes). This is especially true of explicitly resolved (grid-scale) phenomena. There is some parameterization that is based on … well, see these:



    The point is that models are not parameterized in order to produce a fit to the instrumental record of climate change. They are not fundamentally statistical models, and although there is some uncertainty, it is not mainly from the inherent problem of extrapolating outside of a statistical sample.

    (Then there’s paleoclimatic evidence, etc…)

    It isn’t necessary to be exact (analytical); within limits, approximations can be reasonably expected to give approximately accurate results. (Taking out a handful of relatively small wavelength intervals from the radiation calculations would not result in major changes to radiative forcing values.)

    It is true that it is not necessarily the case that the amount of warming by the total greenhouse effect (about 33 K) for global and annual average conditions should be the same as that resulting on a differentially and cyclically heated and cooled sphere (and obviously, many aspects of the climate cannot be resolved by considering a single column of air), but a calculation for global time average conditions (or representative conditions) is a good starting point. The more complex climate models do the more detailed calculations. In totality, for a long-term climatic equilibrium, the radiative fluxes at and above the tropopause (up and down, LW and SW) must sum to nearly zero (a tiny flux of kinetic energy does come out of the troposphere and into the stratosphere and some of that is converted to heat energy, but this is very small in comparison to other parts of the thermal energy budget); below the tropopause, convection makes up the difference. This will not be the case at all times at all places but must be the case for the total radiant and other heat fluxes across each closed surface, such as each vertical level taken over the entire globe (forming approximately concentric spheres). Considering the multidimensional nature of climate, there are other requirements for long-term equilibrium, involving balancing the fluxes (of mass, momentum, and heat) into and out of smaller closed surfaces, with patterns in imbalances that occur over smaller time units, etc…
    Persistent imbalances/shifts in these fluxes drive long-term changes.

  324. dhogaza:

    The authors spent most of the first 40 pages refuting example after example (ad infinitum) of explanations of the greenhouse gas effect by comparison to horticultural hot houses. I now well understand that hot houses work by trapping hot air. They do not work because the glass blocks infrared radiation. The atmosphere has no blankets that keep us warm. All of these things I already know.

    As does anyone else who’s paid more than passing attention to the issue, including every climate scientist on the planet.

    It’s a 40 page strawman. It’s the equivalent of saying “American football doesn’t exist because the Statue of Liberty play doesn’t actually involve the Statue of Liberty”.

    If that alone isn’t enough to convince you that the authors are trying to mislead people with a bunch of sophisticated-sounding handwaving, I imagine that no amount of explanations from physicists will convince you.

    Especially since I see no evidence that you’re paying attention to anything physicists here and elsewhere have said about the paper, which despite your claims, includes plenty of analysis.

    You’re exhibiting classic denialist behavior.

  325. Ray Ladbury:

    Snorbert, OK, now given that the first 40 pages of the G&T snowjob are so transparently irrelevant to the “problem” they are supposedly addressing, shouldn’t this tip you off that maybe, just maybe the rest is BS as well. Numerical doesn’t mean “wrong”. Most differential equations are solved numerically. That is what science does: It takes on a difficult problem that cannot usually be solved exactly, makes simplifications, approximations and estimates and gets a solution that works well enough. G&T are a joke and you are the only one who hasn’t gotten the punchline yet.

  326. Patrick 027:

    Any ideas about the issue I mention in 151 above?

  327. Alan of Oz:

    RE # 321

    “Rough estimates indicate that even these oversimplified problems cannot be tackled with any computer. Taking a sphere with dimensions of the Earth it will be impossible to solve this problem numerically even in the far future. Not only the computer would work ages, before a ‘balanced’ temperature distribution would be reached, but also the correct initial temperature distributions could not be determined at all.”

    Without getting into the rest of the argument I don’t see why you can’t set the Earth’s initial temprature to a random value, run the simulation and get the same end state. The time taken to do this depends on the definition of “rough estimates” and the amount of number-crunching power you have.

    I think the author underestimates similar problems that computers are routinely used to solve. As a computer scientist I can say at the “high end” we are not that far off a cellular level simulation of the mamallian brain (google “Blue Brain Project”).

    The reason they use historical values to seed ANY numerical simulation is to TEST if it can PREDICT the rest of the historical data set that comes after it. Before that was possible similar techniques were used to solve the three body problem when planning space probe trajectories, and before that the technique was used by the very first mechanical computers to create atillery tables.

    Climate models grew from weather models which were also an an early miltary/civilian problem for computers. Ironically I believe climate is easier to predict but only at the low end of the error bar since the top end depends on biology and other complex feedbacks, most of which would seem to make things worse if they eventuated.

    Looking at the simpler low end:

    The only mathematical difference between numerical and analytical solutions is that delta is not zero in the numerical method. Analytical solutions are only available where nature allows us to divide by zero, the vast majority of “real world” problems do not have an analytical solution. As a matter of fact we can’t even intergrate the normal distribution curve! Sure an analytical solution would be way more efficent, but the point is we don’t NEED an analytical solution to get a good answer.

    A good demo simulation from Japan’s Earth Simulator can be found here (scroll half way down to watch the embedded movie). Note that not all of the simulated effects are visable, eg: ocean currents and heights are not shown. Also take a look on youtube for a clip of the hardware, it was quite a revolutionary machine, purpose built for climate simulations, and as the WP entry states; “not to be confused with the videogame, SimEarth”.

    Computer tech still moves quick, the ES is now around #70 on the top 500 supuercomputers after claiming #1 for it’s first 3yrs of operation. There are now at least a dozen more powerfull machines simulating climate. The difference between the paper in question and all that hardware is a concrete example of the difference between pure and applied maths. Until someone actually finds an analytical solution to the n-body problem, space probes will always need in-flight trajectory tweeks.

    IMHO if the author want’s to find out anything about his equations then he is going to have to look at “rough estimates” from numerical analysis techniques.

  328. Barton Paul Levenson:

    snorbert writes, after a long defense of G&T:

    I believe that a more analytical approach is justified. I also believe that the result of the extra work will be worth the effort.

    I believe that anyone who keeps looking for ways to defend an obvious piece of garbage like the G&T article has taken as a premise that they must have something to say, and therefore rejects any evidence that they don’t. Let me put this as simply as I can: G&T have nothing worthwhile to say. Nothing. No matter how carefully you interpret their paper, it’s still worthless. Stop looking for something that isn’t there. If somebody publishes a paper asserting that the Earth is a cube, it’s futile and self-defeating to go into long explanations of why the author may have meant something more subtle in calling Earth a “cube,” and arguing about what exactly a cube is and how it differs from a sphere. The paper is just prima facie stupid, and it remains stupid no matter how you try to justify it.

  329. Mark:

    For those who DEMAND that reducing emissions can only come from wasting money:


  330. Mark:

    Mind you, some will complain about ANYTHING to avoid having to say “saving power saves money”. E.g. “When do you do updates then???” Uh, WoL exists. Machines off. Once a month after Patch Thursday, machines woken up via WoL, patches installed, machines shut down.

    Or “Huh, they waste that and much more while I sit about waiting for my PC to boot”. Well, they waste that much time you taking a dump. Shove a cork up there and save your company billions!

  331. snorbert zangox:

    Patrick 027, dhogza, Ray Ladbury, Alan, Barton Paul Levenson;

    I read your responses but can find no indication that any of you have read the Gerlich & Tscheuschner paper. You certainly have not responded to my penultimate post (321) on this subject.

    Gerlich & Tscheuschner claim and support their claims that the IPCC modeling approach assumes an invalid physical model for the insolation and radiation of heat from the Earth and an invalid physical model for radiation among gas molecules. I do not believe that a numerical solution (or even an analytical solution) to the differential equations for an incorrect model is any better than or different from an empirical model.

    [Response: They are simply wrong. The physical basis for radiative transfer modelling is validated every time you look at a satellite picture. – gavin]

  332. snorbert zangox:


    I think that a satellite picture proves that surfaces emit or reflect electromagnetic radiation at lots of wavelengths. I do not think that proves that a carbon dioxide (or any other) molecule receives and emits radiation in the same way that bulk objects do.

    [Response: If you look at an SSMI picture of the sea ice, or the water vapour amount from GOES, or the CO2 distribution from AIRES you are looking at a highly processed retrieval using multiple spectral intervals and using our full understanding of radiative transfer and all of the multiple absorptions due to dust, water vapour, trace gases and aerosols. If you think we don’t know anything about radiative transfer, or that it’s all based on some fundamental misunderstanding of the physics, you are a fool. – gavin]

  333. Chris Colose:


    G&T is a fraudulent puff-piece which is clearly succeeding in its intention to confuse. These are the same authors who think a pot of boiling water invalidates the atmsopheric greenhouse effect. If you’re learning from these pretentious idiots rather than picking up an atmospheric science book, you’re just bound to look foolish. The whole paper is a pile full of erroneous remarks, irrelevancies, and accusations.

    Eli Rabett, myself, Duae, among others have very clearly shown at Rabett Run why G&T have absolutely no understanding of thermodyanmics or atmospheric radiation. A more formal rebuttal is already available by Arthur Smith. It’s a shame we need to spend our time on this, but an equally greater shame they actually got this published in a respected physics journal.

  334. Hank Roberts:

    Snorb — look up the various kinds of lasers. Solids; gas molecules in rotation; gas molecules in vibration.


    The physics works, for different forms of matter.
    You’d know if it were different, you could look it up.
    You rely on this stuff every day.

    “Reality is whatever refuses to go away when I stop believing in it.”
    — Philip K. Dick (1928-1982)

  335. Hank Roberts:

    Patrick, you asked about a possible typo above, on cloud feedback two places in the last IPCC report; have you checked at the source for an errata list? (I haven’t.) If not found, have you emailed the question to the people who produced the document? From the home page:
    e-mail: IPCC-Sec@wmo.int (they’ll have the authors’ contact info for the two pages where you found an inconsistency). I’m sure this is obvious to you, but going to the source is always a good exercise.

  336. Patrick 027:

    Re 335 – Thanks for the suggestions (I hadn’t noticed the errata sections before). I just checked and there was nothing about what I found, so I’ll try emailing.

  337. Ray Ladbury:

    Snorbert, I got my PhD in physics over two decades ago. In over 30 years of studying physics, G&T is the only paper I’ve ever read that made me angry. It made me angry because it was so transparently a fraud. Scientists are busy people. They usually read several papers a week. Knowing this, when they write a paper, they don’t waste 40 pages on irrelevant examples. And that is not the only irrelevancy they bring in–the paper is full of them.
    As to the rest, if G&T were correct, lasers would not work, satellite measurement would not work, IR spectroscopy would not work. The physical world says G&T are wrong. The way the paper is written leaves no doubt that it is a fraud–out there to snare the gullible layman by masquerading as a scientific ouvre.

    Uncle Eli’s post at Rabett Run quite effectively eviscerates G&T’s ideas about modeling of Earth’s climate, as does Arthur Smith’s more involved takedown. If you haven’t read this, read it.

  338. Patrick 027:

    Tieing up loose ends:

    Sample of commercially available PV (photovoltatic, not to be confused with PV, potential vorticity) modules:

    “Real Goods Solar Living Sourcebook” John Schaeffer, Doug Pratt, 2005

    Modules used in calculations:

    Sharp 185
    Sharp 167
    Sharp 165
    Sharp 140
    Sharp 70 (triangular)

    Sharp 123-Watt
    Sharp 80-Watt

    Kyocera KC120

    Evergreen EC-115
    Evergreen EC-110
    Evergreen EC-55
    Evergreen EC-51

    Uni-Solar 64-Watt
    Uni-Solar 42-Watt
    Uni-Solar 5-Watt

    CdTe cells:



    “Tellurium’s crust abundance is 1 pbb versus 37 ppb for platinum (pbb is “parts per billion”). Tellurium is mainly produced as a byproduct from the anode slime accumulated during copper refining. But not all copper mines contain significant amount of tellurium. Chile produces 1/3 of the world’s copper but virtually nothing in tellurium. According to USGS and Arizona State Geologist Lee Allison, the world produces any where from 160 to 215 metric tons of tellurium a year.”
    “Tellurium was traditionally used in metal alloys and other uses. Demand from emerging new applications, like DVD discs, digital camera, computer flash memory and CPU thermoelectric cooling, among other things, has caused a severe shortage in recent years, and drove the price from below $4 a pound to over $100 in 2006, according to Lee Allison. Jack Lifton on Resource Investor suggested that investors could sense the shortage and start to hoard physical tellurium, adding fuel to the fire and causing a huge tellurium price run.”
    “How much tellurium does FSLR use? They use about 7 grams of cadmium and about 8 grams of tellurium in each of the 2 feet x 4 feet CdTe solar panel. That’s roughly 135 metric tons per each 1 gig watts (GW) of products.” …


    “Treatment of 500 tons of copper ore typically yields one pound of tellurium.”

    … to be continued….

  339. Patrick 027:

    1 pound/500 tons = 1 ppm – a lower limit of Te concentration in Cu ore based on the last source.

    If Cu ore is 1 % grade, then Te/Cu = 100 ppm at least. (How much Cu is recovered from the ore?)

    If Cu is present in common rocks at 70 ppm and Te is present at 7 ppb (some sources say 1 ppb in crustal rocks, although one says 10 ppb (Encyclopedia Britannica)), then Te/Cu = 100 ppm in common rocks.


    “Most copper ore is mined or extracted as copper sulfides from large open pit mines in porphyry copper deposits that contain 0.4 to 1.0 percent copper. Examples include: Chuquicamata in Chile and El Chino Mine in New Mexico. The average abundance of copper found within crustal rocks is approximately 68 ppm by mass, and 22 ppm by atoms.”
    (1%, 68 ppm in close agreement with Encyclopedia Britannica)


    PS about http://stockology.blogspot.com/2007/11/first-solar-has-dark-future.html
    – comments are interesting. Remember my point that Te prices can get much much higher before significant price increases in CdTe solar cells.

    Also, from closely related source:

    “At 3 microns CdTe layer thickness, there’s about 15 grams of CdTe per 2 feet x 4 feet panel of 70 watts. Allow some production waste, 0.25 grams/watt CdTe is reasonable. FSLR produced 77 MW in Q4,07, that’s a consumption of roughly 19.25 metric tons of CdTe. At over US$500 per kilogram, that’s worth $9.625M of purchase from VNP. Add CdS, which also came from VNP, total purchase should be almost US$11M for the quarter.”

    (The area given, 8 square feet, is 0.743 square meters. 70 W per panel implies 94.2 W/m2. I haven’t checked some of the other numbers from these stockology sites.)

    70 W / 15 g CdTe = 4.67 W/ g CdTe. The amount of waste allowed in the above quote implies 4 W/g CdTe. I had used 4.67 W/g in my calculation.
    I had also used, in terms of Te, assuming no waste,
    70 W / 7.975 g Te.

    (About 53.16 % of the mass of CdTe is from Te – from periodic table atomic mass values).

    The numbers given by this site and the closely related site seem about right in terms of layer thickness and density (about 6.7 kg/L), and the mass ratio of Te to CdTe is about right.

    $500 per kg of CdTe adds $0.107 per peak W, and 0.102 cents/kWh over the equivalent of 60 years at rated power output / 5 (divide by 5 for an average of 200 W/m2 incident solar power; rated power (peak Watts) is for 1000 W/m2 incident solar power).

    An increase in the cost of Te of $10,000 / kg would add $1.14/peak W, and 1.08 cents/kWh.

    20,000 metric tons of Te is enough for 37,619 metric tons of CdTe and about 176 GW rated power, or at 200 W/m2 average incident solar power on the panels, about 35.1 GW average power output.

    The effective energy density (for 60 years at rated power equivalent) relative to the CdTe layer is about 1,770,000 MJ/kg, which is about 136,000 times coal electricity (coal at 32.5 MJ/kg, it can vary – conversion to electricity assumed 40% efficient).

    (Of course, given the energy density of a single component based on total energy production may seem a bit meaningless. The numbers can be used this way – the energy per unit mass used to produce that layer can be divided by the above energy density to give a contribution of energy payback time as a fraction of effective life of 60 years at rated power (a bit fuzzy given a gradual decay – could actually be more like 70 or 80 years to produce that amount of energy).


    Decay rates – an exponential decay in power output of 0.5 % per year results in the equivalent energy production of 60 years at rated power over an actual time of about 71.4 years, and over indefinite time, total energy production approaches almost 200 years at rated power.


    I have notes taken from “The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Earth Science”, that energy of extraction of Cu from ore of various grades:
    mass fraction, MJ/kg of Cu (calculated from kWh/kg)

    0.02, 54
    0.01, 79.2
    0.005, 126
    0.002, 324
    0.000259 (seawater *- is this relative to total or to non-water component?), 1800
    0.00007 (common rock), 5400

    I may have rounded the common rock value up from 60-something and I may have gotten the seawater concentration of Cu from another page or source…

    Subtracting 2 MJ/kg of chemical energy (a rough round figure), I found a rough fit that – I’m guessing – might tend to fit many mineral resources:

    Energy of extraction = chemical energy + 1.6472 MJ/kg * (mass fraction)^(-0.8444).

    a little bit left….

  340. Patrick 027:

    “I may have rounded the common rock value up from 60-something ” … that’s 60-something ppm.

  341. Hank Roberts:

    Hat tip to: http://www.spacemart.com/reports/Beijing_extends_post-Olympics_car_rules_report_999.html

    (Not the full scale Olympic rules, and only automobile limits as I read it; perhaps useful for comparison over the longer term)

    Brief excerpt below:
    by Staff Writers
    Beijing (AFP) April 6, 2009
    Beijing has extended its post-Olympics traffic control measures for one year after a successful initial effort at easing road congestion and curbing pollution, state media reported Monday.

    The rules, first introduced in September last year following more stringent rules during the 2008 Olympic Games, will take 930,000 of the city’s 3.6 million vehicles off the roads every weekday, the China Daily reported.

    “Beijing’s air quality is getting better,” Li Kunsheng, head of the vehicle management section of the Beijing municipal environmental protection bureau, was quoted as saying.

    He said daily vehicle emissions had fallen 10 percent since the measures were introduced on September 20, the newspaper reported…..

  342. Patrick 027:

    “The Geography of Poverty and Wealth” by Jeffrey D. Sachs, Andrew D. Mellinger, and John L. Gallup, Scientific American, March 2001, pp.70-75, http://www.earth.columbia.edu/sitefiles/File/about/director/documents/SCIAM032001_000.pdf


    “Winter could be considered the world’s most effective public health intervention.”

    I had mentioned something about this above somewhere but didn’t give the reference, so there it is.