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Blogging climate scientists

Filed under: — group @ 14 March 2011

The newest arrival in the climate science blogosphere is Isaac Held. This is notable in a number of respects. First, Isaac is a top-tier climate scientist who is hugely respected in the community. For him to decide that it is worth his time to blog on the science should be an important signal for other scientists. Secondly, Isaac is a federal NOAA employee at GFDL in Princeton, and the blog is on the official GFDL website.


From Gavin:

People blog for many reasons, but the most common is it that they think they have something to say and that it isn’t being widely said already. Coincidentally, there was a letter in Physics Today (Mar 2011) that brought up the reason why I started blogging. It was from James Kent, who worked in the communications department of WHOI in the early 2000s. He says:

The wrinkle I offer that I discovered many scientists would be marginally comfortable offering their opinions if asked but saw it as an entirely different thing to initiate the expression of their opinion. Passive participation was OK; active was not.

A case in point was the 2004 opening of the science fantasy film The Day After Tomorrow , in which the cryosphere goes global in about 90 minutes. Thermodynamic impossibilities aside, at last Hollywood was using the term “paleo-climatologist,” and we at WHOI had a chance to capture the public’s attention, riding on the science-fantasy coattails as science fact-tellers.

I met with a handful of climate scientists before the film opened and discussed how we, as an institution, might take advantage of the moment. The scientists all wanted to run, not walk, from such foolishness.

So we passed. The The Day After Tomorrow came and went. we posted a climate change FAQ to our website and waited for the phone to ring. As I recall, it never did.

It was precisely this lack of proactive communication related to TDAT that drove my decision to start blogging. NASA had initially warned all scientists off discussing the movie, or any science facts or fiction related to it, though later relented and put together a briefing on the topics (which I helped with, but was never posted on a NASA website). Apart from static web-pages at WHOI and LDEO (and maybe a few other places), almost no outreach was done, very little interaction with knowledgeable scientists provided, no Q&A sessions, no press releases, basically almost nothing. A few newspaper articles asked scientists what they thought, but that was about it. Thus perhaps the thousands or even hundreds of thousands of people, who might have had science questions that arose after watching the movie, had nowhere to go. I thought this was a tremendous lost opportunity and starting thinking about ways to provide some of that missing interaction. Subsequent discussions with a few other scientists, eventually, led to this blog.

In my experience, when it comes to climate scientists, they perceive that what is missing is the context, background and the understanding needed to interpret climate data, a policy proposal or the latest paper. A large part of this knowledge is relatively well-known inside the community but is somewhat rarer in the general public. What is clear, is that when people search for this knowledge – perhaps after seeing a headline, watching a movie or reading a brief summary of a new paper – they most often come across ill-informed or disingenuous commentary instead of real scientific information. Having more scientists providing accessible content can only improve that situation. (Just to be clear, this is not a statement that all disagreement on climate policy would disappear if people were more informed, rather a wish for people to use better/more appropriate/less nonsensical arguments for their point of view). What is most needed is layered information that allows people to go into as much depth as they want, starting from a soundbite or headline, without necessarily having to read and assimilate the technical literature.


Isaac’s entrance into the field of blogging is an important step forward, especially with the implicit support of NOAA for this new venture. Hopefully, more NOAA scientists (and indeed, NASA, DOE, other agency and university scientists) can be encouraged to contribute their voices and points of view as well. Note that RealClimate has a standing invitation to all working climate scientists to submit guest posts on science-related topics – so don’t be shy now!


192 Responses to “Blogging climate scientists”

  1. 151
    Phil Scadden says:

    Can I take it George that you are also dead against government agencies employing staff whose job is to communicate its science to the public? I don’t live in US but our institutes are actually required to be communicating their science through a variety of media.

  2. 152
    tamino says:

    Re: #149 (Brian Dodge)

    Good comment, or perhaps I should say, “Hell yeah!”

    And I agree Gavin, the next time a reporter who has quoted Monckton on climate asks you a question, tell him to ask Palin for the answer.

  3. 153
    James R. Barrante says:

    I found this new thread by accident. I’ve been clicking on my name in your index and it’s been taking me to a dead end. Why does Beer’s law apply when radiation is passing through a medium that is radiating at the same frequency? Isn’t that true for all radiation? When light passes through a solution and is absorbed by the solution, doesn’t the solution then radiate the light (actually the radiated light is scattered light). The question is how much IR light is radiated by the CO2 after the molecules absorb it. I think that the excited CO2 molecules collide with other molecules around it and transfer that light energy as heat before it can irradiate it as light.

    If you were to tell me that increasing the level of CO2 in the atmosphere causes heat energy to move from upper layers of the atmosphere toward the surface so that the surface temperature increases and the upper layers cool, I would wholeheartedly agree with you.

    By the way, you should really read my book more closely. The “Dim Wits” in the title does not mean dimwit. It’s meant to describe all humans, since our brains put out about 40 watts (not very bright). I said that my book is from one dim wit to another. The point is that we are not as smart as we think we are (of course this doesn’t include the gang at RealClimate, since, as you keep pointing out to me, you are all experts. The book was written for persons not trained in science. It’s interesting that you refer to them as children.

    My definition of “troll” is a cave-dwelling dwarf having an ugly appearance.

  4. 154
    Deconvoluter says:

    Re: #145.

    There is nothing special about blogs, except perhaps that they may involve unpaid work. Openly sharing ideas with colleagues from other institutions, without political interference, has usually been regarded as a benefit to those institutions. I should imagine that the GFDL would be proud to see their name at the top of a blog by a distinguished employee, rather than the opposite.

    Of course there is no guarantee that George’s view will not prevail, but it should be remembered that those countries which discouraged the practice of free and open exchange of ideas(e.g. in Eastern Europe before 1989) began to fall behind. Much more could be written about that.

    If you were to ban open blogging, the next steps would be to stop government scientists from going to conferences, or to politically control their lectures, or make them conceal where they come from. It may yet happen, but not without a brain drain and a national decline.

  5. 155
    t_p_hamilton says:

    All the comments about how long CO2 bend stays in the v=1 state after it absorbs IR, and how the vibration goes to v=0 (by collisional de-excitation, spontaneous emission, or stimulated emission) is only part of what should be considered. And what would that be?

    The reverse process: where does the IR come from? A short distance above the surface negligible IR comes from the surface because of the saturated absorption. Collisions can produce excited bending vibration in CO2 to v=1 followed by emission.

    More CO2 means more absorption AND more emission. Which means higher radiation flux in W/m^2, which means higher surface temperatures.

  6. 156
    Ray Ladbury says:

    James,
    Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great that you wrote a book on climate science. I just think it might have been more useful if you’d bothered to understand the subject first.

  7. 157
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re James R. Barrante –

    40 W brains? Wow! (I honestly don’t know if that’s right or not; I know our brains are energy intensive but that’s a huge chunk of the average person’s caloric intake! (rough back of the envelope: 2000 kcal = ~ 8 MJ, 8 MJ/day * 1day/86400 s ~= 100 W … well there’s roughage to account for, many people eat more than that, but you get the idea…)

    Beer’s law: exponential extinction of a beam of radiation, where the e-folding distance is a unit of optical depth or thickness. Optical thickness adds linearly from type and contributor (scattering, absorption, absorption from CO2 adds to absorption for H2O – FOR optical thickness, not the changes in radiant fluxes/intensities). Beer’s law applies to the initial incident radiation. For LW (longwave, longer than about 4 microns wavelength in a vacuum) radiation, the Earth’s surface and atmosphere can generally emit significantly. Absorptivity of a path = 1 – exp(- optical thickness); that is the fraction of incident radiation which is absorbed. Emmissivity of a path is the same as absorptivity (specifically for a given frequency, polarization (where it matters), and at LTE and for emission back in the direction from which the incident radiation would be absorbed, but for randomly-oriented gas molecules and spherical particles, etc, direction shouldn’t matter). Emmissivity is the fraction of the Planck function (for the temperature of the path) that is emmitted from that path in that direction. LTE tends to be maintained by molecular collisions so that the temperature of emitting substances (CO2, H2O, cloud particles, etc.) tend to be about the same as the temperature of the air they are in – they add and remove energy to the same total heat capacity of a given volume. The greenhouse effect on Earth is mainly caused by absorption/emission, but a scattering greenhouse is at least possible in principle and could occur or at least add to the total greenhouse effect in some cases (dry ice clouds in a snowball state). Anyway, basically you have to consider where the radiation you would recieve (at any given place) is coming from. A scattering greenhouse effect reflects some of the darkness of space back to space and some of the radiation from the surface or underlying emitting matter back downward, thus trapping heat (the surface must get warmer than otherwise in order to get the same flux out to space to balance solar heating). An absorption/emission greenhouse effect ‘replaces’ (by absorption and emission) radiation from a greater distance with radiation emitted closer-up, so that the radiant intensities and fluxes tend to correspond with temperatures found nearer the observer. The Earth’s atmosphere cools with height in general (the bulk of Earth’s atmospheric mass and even more so it’s optical thickness (except maybe in wavelengths where ozone dominates ??, provided lack of clouds) is in the troposphere). Adding more greenhouse gases and clouds (depending on how high the clouds are): For radiation going upward, such as toward space or upward at the tropopause – first replaces the radiation from the surface with radiation from the air below, then replaces radiation from the warmer lower troposphere with radiation from the cooler upper troposphere, etc. For downward radiation – first replaces the darkness of space with radiation from all layers above, then replaces radiation from higher levels with radiation from closer levels. Because convection in the troposphere tends to maintain a particular temperature profile, the surface temperature responds in particular to changes in radiative fluxes at the tropopause – the surface and troposphere warm up to increase the global average net upward flux at the tropopause level in order to balance tropopause level forcing (and feedbacks) (after stratospheric adjustment – look it up, I want to finish soon), such as an increase in net downward flux caused by adding CO2 (or adding H2O vapor, or adding clouds, or increasing the heights of cloud tops).

  8. 158
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re “Absorptivity of a path = 1 – exp(- optical thickness)”

    That’s in the absence of scattering, of course.

  9. 159
    Patrick 027 says:

    … to clarify – Adding CO2 will tend to cool the stratosphere and warm the surface and troposphere, but the amount of heat is not conserved; there is a net imbalance left at the top of the atmophere until climate equilibrium occurs; until then the planet as a whole has a net gain of heat (PS I’m ignoring the continuing geothermal loss, which is too small relative to solar heating (for the inner planets, not so much the gas giants so far as I know) to have much direct effect on large-scale weather and climate, and anyway, it could be included in the energy budget as an add-on to solar heating of the surface – it’s already there, and not changing much over relevant timescales. Etc. for tidal energy. Heat from fossil fuels and nuclear fusion has changed on the relevent timescale but is very small except locally.)

  10. 160
    Patrick 027 says:

    … PS – the greenhouse effect at the tropopause is not generally saturated in total ever. A particular gas could become saturated if it’s absorption band had definite cutoffs and the actions of other matter on solar radiation and LW radiation produced an isothermal upper atmosphere (without any upper atmospheric solar heating, temperature declines with height even above the tropopause). But if the net flux at the tropopause were brought to zero for all relevent frequencies, heating would continue (assuming any solar heating beneath the tropopause occurs) until it either shifts the relevant frequencies or moves the tropopause higher to ‘unsaturate’ the greenhouse effect. Anyway, CO2 is (for Earth) saturated or nearly saturated ***at the tropopause level*** for the central part of it’s band but the absorption spectrum is shaped such that it effectively widens by roughly some amount for each doubling (the optical thickness halves over that wavelength interval; doubling the amount of substance shifts the optical thickness values outward from the central part of the band – this is approximate and is glossing over some finer-scale texture of the absorption spectrum). H2O vapor is concentrated in the lower troposphere and so much of the CO2 essentially sits on top of most of the H2O and can block radiation from the warm H2O vapor below (but other parts of the H2O spectrum, away from the CO2 band, have stronger absorption).

  11. 161
    One Anonymous Bloke says:

    Prof. Barrante, I can recommend Peter Hadfield’s series of videos on climate change. You can find them on the “Potholer54″ channel on Youtube. They are quite easy to understand, even when you know absolutely nothing about the subject. Other good resources can be found at the top of this page, and in the sidebar on the right.

  12. 162
    James R. Barrante says:

    It is pretty clear by heat capacity ratio experiments that molecular collisions cannot excite gas molecules to higher vibrational states particularly around room temperature or below. The energy spacing between vibrational states is too large. I would assume that is the case with CO2 although I have never studied that particular gas. If this is true, then the only way to vibrationally excite CO2 molecules is by absorption of IR radiation (exchange is fast at the speed of light). The question is when a CO2 molecule absorbs a photon of IR light does the temperature increase mean anything? Unlike a solid, the gas molecule will not transfer this light energy as heat unless it collides with other molecules. My point here is if the CO2 molecule simply emits the energy as IR light before it collides with other molecules, then isn’t that the same as it not absorbing the light in the first place. Wouldn’t the outcome be similar to a simple diffraction of light.

    The bottom line to all your angst about whether I have or have not the credentials to write a book on global warming: it certainly didn’t stop Al Gore from making a movie about it, and certainly any one of you experts are free to write your own book. If you do, you might hope that critics would read more than a few initial pages before deciding whether the book has any merit or calling you a lying, ingenuous troll.

  13. 163
    Brian Dodge says:

    “Why does Beer’s law apply when radiation is passing through a medium that is radiating at the same frequency? Isn’t that true for all radiation?” James R. Barrante — 23 Mar 2011 @ 7:18 PM

    Consider the amount of blackbody radiation from a globar lamp element in your FTIR spectrometer at 1400 Kelvin versus an infrared absorbing/radiating component dispersed in potassium bromide at room temperature, ~295 Kelvin. (1400/295)^4= ~500. Is the instrumentation signal to noise better than 0.2%? If the effect you’re measuring is important at that level, can you cryogenically cool the sample?

  14. 164
    One Anonymous Bloke says:

    Perfesser Barrante #162, Angst? I have no dog in this fight (thanks Prof Schmidt for the metaphor). I just want science to progress in spite of bias. You’ve never studied Co2? Then your opinion on its properties means as much as mine.

  15. 165
    Marco says:

    James R. Barrante, as I understand it, if CO2 does not absorb the longwave radiation from earth, that radiation follows a one-dimensional trajectory: away from earth. If CO2 *does* absorb the radiation, this adds a few dimensions, one of which is straight back to earth.

  16. 166
    Septic Matthew says:

    149, Brian Dodge: Gavin, the next time a reporter who has quoted Monckton on climate asks you a question about climatology, try referring him to Palin for the answer.

    That’s very cunning. I applaud the idea. Not only did I smile when reading it, but I think it would be effective.

  17. 167
    Craig Nazor says:

    James Barrante,

    Definitions are important. By changing or confusing definitions, black can become white, up can become down, and war could be peace. In an honest discussion, one party does not get to pick the definitions to be used.

    Do you really believe that you were being accused of being a cave-dwelling dwarf of ugly appearance? Since your picture is readily available on the Internet, this is easily disproven. It’s much more likely that “troll” was referring to the definition I provided (from Wikipedia).

    But that is beside the point. It appears to me (from the evidence I have provided) that you have, at least in the past, used the reactions you have gotten on this web site to povide your arguments with some kind of “credbility” with those who are already in the denier camp.

    That is not really a scientific argument, is it? That seems to me to be relying more on the emotional reactivity (and possibly the scientific ignorance) of others to manipuate them.

    As to the reradiation of energy from CO2 – I am no scientist, but as I understand it, the direction of that energy is important. The energy coming into the climate system enters from above. The reradiated energy is randomly released, meaning that approximately half of it is released downward. This would tend to hold heat in the system, and slow down the reradiation of that heat back into space, no?

  18. 168
    Snapple says:

    George doesn’t want scientists who work for the American government to discuss climate change on blogs.

    How does he feel about Attorney General Cuccinelli citing official Russian sources in his EPA suit?

    Cucinelli cited RIA Novosti trashing British climate scientists. That article was an edited version of an article that cited Andrei Illarionov of the Russian Institute for Economic Affairs in Alisher Usmanov’s Kommersant. Usmanov is a Gazprom operative with an education and career pattern that suggest an affiliation with the Russian state security.

    How does George feel about the Cato Institute (funded by the “anti-communist Koch brothers) hiring the same Russian economist Andrei Illarionov to also be a Cato spokesman on the subject of climate change? Illarionov is a “former” Putin advisor who also worked for Chernomyrddin, the head of the Soviet Gas Ministry and now Gazprom. It is a Russian government entity.

    Cato gives the impression of being an outpost of Gazprom/Russian state security.

    Some people want US Agencies muzzled, but they don’t seem to have problems with foreign governments influencing this debate.

    I am not giving obedience to American politicians who are promoting the propaganda of Russian agencies.

  19. 169

    162. Barrante,

    You said (emphasis mine):

    Unlike a solid, the gas molecule will not transfer this light energy as heat unless it collides with other molecules. My point here is if the CO2 molecule simply emits the energy as IR light before it collides with other molecules, then isn’t that the same as it not absorbing the light in the first place.

    But it does collide, on the order of 1,000 times (at sea level atmospheric densities) before it is able to emit the energy as IR. This also means 1,000 chances to collide in just the right way to become vibrationally excited, in an incredibly short period of time, but even then, the received energy is far more likely to be passed on through another collision than to be emitted as IR.

    The net result is that the energy absorbed by CO2 as IR is very rapidly transferred to surrounding molecules as kinetic energy (i.e. heat), warming the air and freeing the CO2 molecule to absorb again (or to be excited through a collision, only to de-excite the same way).

    This heat energy can then, in turn be transferred through more conventional means to other parts of the atmosphere, so conduction/convection can come into play (on larger scales).

    I don’t think one can properly understand or discuss this without considering all of the reactions involved, and the various rates of reaction, which are in turn dependent on CO2 concentration, IR levels, and atmospheric density.

  20. 170
    Donna says:

    I am very glad to see that another scientist who has actually studied climate science is blogging. I think it will be great for us (those who don’t know that much), great for him and great for the science overall.
    Why I say great for him – when you try to write up a topic in new ways (not just for the same types of audiences that you always write for) – it challenges you to think about new ways to make your points and that can help spawn ideas of new approaches you could follow.
    As that happens – new ideas, new trails to follow, new thoughts – its easy to see the benefits to the science as well.
    Science is not just about “benchwork’ but also about spreading the knowledge so the more communication from people who actually understand the science the better.

  21. 171
    Ray Ladbury says:

    James Barrante,
    First, a troll is one who hijacks a discussion with off-topic posts intended to generate more heat than light–as you have done here. Such beasts are indeed ugly,whether or nto they live in caves. Your elementary misunderstandings of greenhouse forcing belong, if anywhere, under the opten thread “Unforced Variations”.

    Second, Al Gore, it is true, is not a scientist. However, he is seeking to communicate the consensus science, while you are disputing it. What is more, Gore’s expertise in the matter considerably exceeds yours, as he at least bothered to talk to some climate scientists and learn something about the discipline–and you, clearly, have not.

  22. 172
    SecularAnimist says:

    James Barrante wrote: “… whether I have or have not the credentials to write a book on global warming …”

    The issue is not your “credentials”.

    The issue is that much of what you have written about global warming is just plain not true.

  23. 173
    J. Bob says:

    James Barrante,
    your comments about Beer’s Law remind me of how we used another parameter. This is the Mean Beam Length, which we used in radiation energy transmission.

  24. 174
    Brian Dodge says:

    “It is pretty clear by heat capacity ratio experiments that molecular collisions cannot excite gas molecules to higher vibrational states particularly around room temperature or below.” James R. Barrante — 23 Mar 2011 @ 10:38 PM

    It is true that the energy of a single photon at 10 microns is ~ 2e-20 J, and the average kinetic energy of gas molecules at 288 K is about 6e-21 J, about 3.4 times less. But, some molecules will be moving faster, and some slower, than average. Kinetic energy varies with the square of the velocity, so an individual molecule only has to be going ~3.4^0.5 = ~1.8 times the average velocity to excite CO2 to a radiative state.

    Maybe the skies seem pretty clear because we can’t see into the infrared.

    “…this adds a few dimensions, one of which is straight back to earth.” Very, very nearly half of them are back to earth; in geometric optics speak, 2 Pi worth, less a teeny bit because of earth’s curvature and finite surface area.

  25. 175
    Deconvoluter says:

    Barrante again:

    does the temperature increase mean anything?

    The right question is whether temperature means anything in the presence of IR absorption?. Answer yes provided there is equilibrium, in this problem it is assumed that there is LTE (local thermodynamic equilibrium) and that applies whenever there are a large number of intermolecular collisions as described in earlier comments. The rest follows. Temperature is a parameter occuring in a Gibbs or Boltzmann distribution function describing the occupation of all the energy levels in a set of gas molecules.

    Thats theory. Now for a measurement:

    From #174:

    Maybe the skies seem pretty clear because we can’t see into the infrared.

    Yes and as shown in in the crucial observation in Fig.1(b) “surface looking up” :

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/does-greenhouse-effect-exist-intermediate.htm

  26. 176
    John Mashey says:

    I actually purchased the book (142 pages small pages, double spaced, about 200 words/page, for $20 … well, I do collect these things.)
    My wife picked it up, read a bit, and laughed a lot.

    She especially liked “Also, we must keep in mind that a computer is no more intelligent than a person who programs it, and that limits its computing power to 40 watts.”

    Computers are not intelligent, this is irrelevant, and (especially for those of us who have designed supercomputers), this is hilarious. We’d all love it if computers were limited to 40 watts. I helped design supercomputers that have been used for many climate simulations (including the SGI machines that were used by GFDL for many years), and power is a serious problem.

    But this whole 40-watt brain idea is a complete red herring. Dr. Barrante’s *message* is that people who think CO2 matters are dim wits.

    Dr Barrante says (in #153)
    “By the way, you should really read my book more closely. The “Dim Wits” in the title does not mean dimwit. It’s meant to describe all humans, since our brains put out about 40 watts (not very bright). I said that my book is from one dim wit to another. The point is that we are not as smart as we think we are…”

    p.2 of his book has the rather irrelevant idea that human brain is ~40 watts. Then:
    “This book was written for dim wits. The dictionary defines a dimwit as a stupid or silly person. That definition doesn’t apply in this case. As a physical scientist and somewhat knowledgeable in the physical chemistry of the atmosphere, I am going to re-define a “dim wit” as someone who believes that greenhouse gases, and in particular carbon dioxide, could actually control the climate. Such individuals generally fabricate their version of science to fit their own agenda. When it comes to dim wits, there is a lot of truth to the old saying “in one ear and out the other.”

    Did his comment in #153 fairly represent what he wrote?

    Again, I ask him to explain why he thinks the world’s National Academies and science societies are all dim wits and he knows better. Maybe it’s true, that with no obvious track record in this turf, he has proved everybody wrong, in which case a Nobel awaits.

    he writes (p.xii):
    “No one writes a book in a vacuum. I have been working in this area of science for a number of years…”
    (Vacuum: true, although it is possible to write books that manage to ignore most real science. The second statement is an appeal to authority not backed by published peer-reviewed references. Usually, if a scientist actually works in an area for a number of years (although 1 is a number, so is zero), they publish peer-reviewed papers.)

    He also writes (p.xiii) “I would also like to thank some individuals who reviewed the manuscript and made valuable suggestions:
    Mr. David Whalen, (I don’t know who he is)
    Mrs. Sharon Barrante Adkins, (might be a relative)
    and Ms. Kimberly Barrante. (might be a relative)

    With all due respect, one might ask if these reviewers are experts in this topic?
    Dr. Barrante did reference one of David Archer’s books (1 of 8 references, most of which were irrelevant, 3 of which were pretty dubious (SPPI as a reference?) Archer might have been a better reviewer, although I suspect if he’d been willing to take the time, the review would not have been very positive.

    He also writes (p.xii) “I am hoping that this book becomes a popular read for children.” I speculate this is a forlorn hope., although I suupose the Mpemba Effect is something they needed to learn.

  27. 177
    dhogaza says:

    A troll is one who engages in trolling. Comes from fishing, i.e. a commercial troller baits hooks on lines, and trails them in the water behind the boat hoping to attract fish to the bait. An internet troller offers virtual bait in order to hook people into a needless conversation argument. The commercial troller isn’t offering fish a free meal, and an internet troller is not offering opportunity for real debate.

    It has nothing to do with trolls that live in caves or under ridges.

    Barrante:

    The bottom line to all your angst about whether I have or have not the credentials to write a book on global warming: it certainly didn’t stop Al Gore from making a movie about it, and certainly any one of you experts are free to write your own book

    Oh, you’re undoubtably qualified to do what Gore did: summarize consensus science as accurately as you can.

    The question is whether or not you’re qualified to overturn the work of generations of scientists, going back as far as Tyndall, when such overturning requires ignoring the observational evidence that led to the initial discovery of greenhouse gasses and that continues to support the more mature theoretical understanding of how they heat the earth.

    Quite a difference …

  28. 178
    Didactylos says:

    Dear darling James R. Barrante: we do not turn to Al Gore’s book and film for original science, but for a popular summary of what actual working scientists are doing. This is why Gore’s work is studied in classrooms, but your work will only be of interest to special-ist book collectors (and the odd crank with money to waste).

    I imagine at your age, if you are still unaware of your own fallibility, then it is far too late to learn now. But is this really what you want for your legacy? A mere punchline?

  29. 179
    Hank Roberts says:

    > I would assume that was the case with CO2

    Why not look it up before the 2nd edition of the book?
    A cite would be helpful.

  30. 180
    Donna says:

    It is a bit frustrating to see a thread essentially taken over by someone who really seems to have no interest in the type of blog that Isaac Held has created.
    It must be a bit of an ego trip to get people so focused on you that they more or less turn away from something really interesting to reply to someone who cannot even quote himself accurately.

  31. 181
    Vendicar Decarian says:

    Re: 162

    “It is pretty clear by heat capacity ratio experiments that molecular collisions cannot excite gas molecules to higher vibrational states particularly around room temperature or below.” – James R Barrante

    Cause room temperature is special to you I guess.

    To illustrate how idiotic your above claim is, lets consider taking a container of gas, at thermal equilibrium, and cut off the tail of the Boltzman energy distribution by removing all the gas molecules that have a kenetic energy above say… the Boltzman peak = sqrt(2RT/M).

    Your claim is equivalent to saying that thermal equilibrium can never be reached because “molecular collisions cannot excite gas molecules to higher vibrational states” IE. that low energy collisions could never boost the low energy gas molecules that remain to higher energies.

    The Boltzman distribution has no practical high energy cutoff does it….

    And of course the thermal distribution (vibrational linked by equipartition), will readily be re-established.

    So your claim is simply Kook Tard nonsense.

    You would think that if you actually taught this stuff for 40 years, you might actually have managed to learn it yourself.

    Your students should sue for a refund.

    “If this is true, then the only way to vibrationally excite CO2 molecules is by absorption of IR radiation” – James R. Barrante

    The mean free path of a typical molecule in air is about 2.5 cm. With an average speed of roughly 40,000 cm per second, a typical molecule in air will experience about 20,000 collisions per second. or roughly 1 collision every 50 microseconds.

    In comparison the Einstein coefficient for the CO2 P20 line is 0.187/s, (1) which corresponds to an energy state occupancy time terminated by spontaneous emission of about 5 seconds.

    It follows immediately then that vibrational excitation on Co2 molecules at STP comes almost exclusively from molecule/molecule collisons and from radiation absorption as you assert.

    Perhaps you would like to argue that the Co2 molecules are pumped by the vary radiation you erroniously claim has been extinguished by Beer’s law.

    And again your students should sue for a refund.

    (1)
    Analysis of the data on spontaneous emission probabilities and collisional broadening cross sections of 0001-1000 lines of the CO2 molecule

    A S Biryukov, A Yu Volkov, E M Kudryavtsev and R I Serikov

    Soviet Journal of Quantum Electronics Volume 6 Number 8

  32. 182
    dhogaza says:

    Donna

    It must be a bit of an ego trip to get people so focused on you that they more or less turn away from something really interesting to reply to someone who cannot even quote himself accurately.

    Yes, he’s a troll … you’ve got it :)

  33. 183

    #180–That’s it in a nutshell, Donna.

  34. 184
    Septic Matthew says:

    171, Ray Ladbury: Second, Al Gore, it is true, is not a scientist.

    I admire Al Gore up to a point. He did well as a Senator and VP, but was disappointing as a pres. candidate. His work on global warming essentially started the debate, whereas he thought he was ending it. However, he is also a businessman, and his work is promotional literature for his business. Since earning (I emphasize “earning”) his Nobel Peace Prize and Oscar he has become less trustworthy, and is another BP, GE, Peabody Coal, or Siemens. I think that it is a mistake to overlook the conflicts of interest of people with whom one agrees.

  35. 185
    Vendicar Decarian says:

    There aren’t many people that I admire, but Gore is certainly one of them. Gore is admirable not only for his excellent work promoting the issue of Global Climate Change, but also for his instrumental work in creating what is now known as the “internet”. Without Gore’s vision of lowering to near zero the barriers to knowledge and his legislation to realize his vision, the Internet as it is constituted today would not exist.

    Gore saw both of these issues as moral imperatives, and I absolutely agree with him, as do all thinking, moral people.

    In addition, Gore has had the fortitude to put his money where his mouth is, and he has profited handsomely for his efforts.

    Those who criticize his success do so out of a combination of jealousy and a deep seated hate for anything environmental – especially if it is a proven success.

  36. 186
    Vendicar Decarian says:

    The Republican Party of Wisconsin is demanding that a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor turn over his emails through the state’s open records law.

    The request came on March 17, two days — and half a million hits — after Cronon published his first-ever blog post, an exploration of the influence of the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council on state legislatures and the Wisconsin union fight. This was five days before Cronon published an op-ed in the New York Times saying that Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s bid to limit union rights represents a radical break from American tradition.

    Cronon, who is president-elect of the American Historical Association, says he believes the request for his emails is a GOP fishing expedition to locate “ammunition [...]to embarrass, undermine, and ultimately silence me.” Cronon suspects the GOP is trying to catch him violating a university policy that forbids professors from using e-mail to “support the nomination of any person for political office or to influence a vote in any election or referendum”–a rule he says he hasn’t broken.

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/yblog_thelookout/20110325/ts_yblog_thelookout/wisc-gop-defends-request-for-professors-emails

  37. 187
    Thomas Asada-Grant says:

    I don’t know if you read the comments this far down, and on old stuff, but here goes. I greatly appreciate your blog!!! (Are 3! enough?) I teach English here in Japan. My advanced level group consists of a sprinkling of retired engineers mixed with housewives and 1 or 2 younger “kids”, There is an abiding interest in science topics in general from the engineers, and very frequently the bridge of climate science news is something that reaches the homemaker in their backyard garden as well as the newest discoveries as a result of drilling for core samples in some remote place. Climate science is a wonderful bridging science that has both immediate relevance for even secondary students, male and female, up the socioeconomic ladder. I have used your site often as a concentrated, up-to-date, reliable, quick. source for something “new” to slip into my 10 min. intro or conclusion to the class.

    Personally I try to avoid inert facts/news that doesn’t connect to something positive and tangible to our lives (the our means the community space I share with my students in this area of Japan). This is the only difficulty I encounter when I come here. The theory or discovery, I have to find some tangible way for some who are not theoretically inclined or appreciate learning for the sake of it, to grasp and hold on to.

    Again, thank you very sincerely for this blog, and the comments which I read associated with your postings.

  38. 188
    john says:

    Any comments on the Sea Level Rise paper? – if I am reading this correctly there is an issue correlating temperature rise to sea level rise.

    http://www.jcronline.org/doi/pdf/10.2112/JCOASTRES-D-10-00157.1

    Thank you for your comment in advance

  39. 189
    Hank Roberts says:

    > john …jcronline (J. Coastal Research)

    Note they don’t discuss “increase” or “decrease” — they say “acceleration” or “deceleration”

    ” Several additional years of GRACE measurements will be necessary to accurately determine the contribution of the land–water interchange to sea level….
    … Our analyses do not indicate acceleration in sea level in U.S. tide gauge records during the 20th century. Instead, for each time period we consider, the records show small decelerations that are consistent with a number of earlier studies of worldwide-gauge records. The decelerations that we obtain are opposite in sign and one to two orders of magnitude less than the +0.07 to +0.28 mm/y2 accelerations that are required to reach sea levels predicted for 2100 by Vermeer and Rahmsdorf (2009), Jevrejeva, Moore, and Grinsted (2010), and Grinsted, Moore, and Jevrejeva (2010). … global sea level has possibly decelerated for at least the last 80 years.”

    Look at the chart and the trend.

  40. 190
    Craig Nazor says:

    This is one research paper based on one technology and one type of measurement in a small portion of the planet. Notice that the last sentence includes the word “possibly.” For a discussion of why the authors used that word, read here:

    http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/sltrends/mtsparker.html

  41. 191

    The Worldwide Methane Reduction Project is seeking funding to research and develop chemical compounds that will drastically lower methane production from landfills, rice paddies and sewage treatment plants. Given enough funding our goals are realizable and practical. We belive that favorable laboratory results and in-field testing of these formulations will lead to the next stages of funding patent applications and pilot projects. We expect the funding to result in patents that will be licensed to as many companies as possible to provide the biggest impact on the worldwide environment and also to payback investors with sustainable profits. http://www.40billion.com/invest_now.asp?rid=753547812_243201117859

  42. 192
    eric says:

    c02 co2 co2
    in most cases, to produce co2
    you will need a
    combustible substance+heat+OXYGEN
    (GASP GASP) yep, good old OXYGEN,
    must be time to combine rising CO2 levels
    with the lowering OXYGEN levels

    [Response: For every 1 % CO2 increase, it's only .0014% oxygen decrease.--eric]


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