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Hooked on ‘theWeather’

Filed under: — rasmus @ 16 September 2011

During the annual European Meteorological Society’s (EMS) annual meeting in Berlin, I was pleasantly surprised by a magazine called ‘theWeather’, issued by the theWeather Club, an outreach activity associated with the Royal Meteorological Society. TheWeather Club was awarded the EMS outreach & Communication award 2011 for this magazine.

TheWeather is a source rich with different weather and climate facts, providing various accounts of recent weather events. It provides the background for such events, for instance the relationship between the Monsoon and the flooding in Pakistan last summer. I was also impressed by the coverage of extreme weather events, historical events (the Great storm of 1703), the effect of weather on sports/gardening, science lessons, the top 10 paintings with weather motives, and articles about climate modelling.

The magazine is written for lay people, with wonderful photographs and with focus on people. It is on the same quality level as National Geographic, but with a focus on weather. I think that theWeather also will be a valuable source of information for meteorologgists and climatologists too – and of course for the weather nerds.

64 Responses to “Hooked on ‘theWeather’”

  1. 51
    dp says:

    The annual cycle of ice extent is typically within days if not hours of all recent years, with some excursions in absolute extent at the very top and bottom of the curve. One would expect that with the rather linear growth of GHG over time there would be a similar linear drift in extent. Can you help us lay persons understand why it is the ice extent record is rather more convulsive than the GHG growth record?

  2. 52
    Geoff Beacon says:

    Phil Scadden @49
    See DEFRA nervous of it’s own research?,

    This has links to research which shows what an enormous impact sheep have. If we are serious we would farm for biochar and climate friendly food and kill most of the sheep and eat them now.

    David Cooke @48

    Biochar is not short lived according to Biochar reducing and removing CO2…

    They mention times of hundreds to several thousand years for most cases measured.

  3. 53
    Jim Eager says:

    Re DP @50, why do people continue to expect physical changes in the system to track the linear increase in GHGs?

    It’s not like GHGs are the only factor at play, and it’s not like natural variability has suddenly been suspended.

  4. 54
    ldavidcooke says:


    Hey Geoff,

    Your point is what…? As I stated, the recycle period is dependent on treatment or processing and encapsulation. The difference between fast combustion or pyrolozation/gasfication and a bio-digester is the energy (read combusted fossil fuel) you must input to the system.

    With a bio-digester or sewage treatment faciliity the system can be desgned to be self powering with the balance of the carbon and water being applied to desert soils to both incease soil moisture and carbon content for thousands of years, or reducing desertification. By the same token they can be pumped into old salt mines or even abandoned petroleum wells.

    The point being how we process and treat wastes today with little modification can enhance carbon sequestration. It is the disposal process that has more to do with the cycle time. Gasification or anoxious heating does increase the decompositon time; but, at what cost? Placing carbon bearing wastes even 1 foot below the surface, removing most oxygen, does extend the period, as does placing it on a dry or arrid surface and at about 100th the cost, (pumping sludge via low pressure wind or solar driven pumps would work).

    The truth is wheter bio-mass is processed via waste treatment, natural surface decay, consumption/decay or even simple diverse sequestratuon techniques it really does not matter. It really is not rocket science it is more of a choice and a change in government and individual policies/attitude.

    Dave Cooke

  5. 55

    #51–dp, what do you mean by “similar linear drift in extent?” (I find “similar” ambiguous in this context–similar how, exactly?–and don’t know at all what is meant by “drift.”)

    If you can clarify, I’ll take a crack at answering your question.

  6. 56
    ldavidcooke says:


    Hey Jim,

    As John Mason at UK Weather World pointed out to me roughly 4 years ago; It is not GHGs that are directly causing the warming events we are seeing, it is the influence they have on natural variation and/or weather patterns.

    Sad, to say, one of the most difficult issues I still face in regards to AGW or ACC is a disagreement with the conclusive agreement that CO2 fossil fuel emissions are the primary driver of changes in natural variation. Not to say they are not a participant; but, IMHO, a partner with other processes which combined appear to be influencing the past atmospheric equalibrium to a new plateu.

    Given the total carbon variations, whether, fossil emissions or bio-sequestration, to me, on the surface, between 1800 and 1950 appears to be a wash. Even during that period it was apparent that the Earth had been emerging from a cooler cycle. The problem I have is in the identification of the changes that preceeded significant fossil fuel emissions, that was influencing the emergence from the apparent LIA.

    Note: This is a just a personal observation or comment and not a denial of known scientific fact.

    Dave Cooke

  7. 57
    Geoff Beacon says:

    Dave @53.

    This looks interesting:

    “However, biochar production, especially in large amounts, takes a lot of energy. Burning it can also release other greenhouse gases, such as carbon monoxide and methane, into the air. At the same time it will also destroy precious plant nutrients such as nitrogen,” he says.

    “Our challenge was to come up with a method that will allow us to tie carbon added through manures and composts to the soil while keeping their fertiliser value. So we tried co-composting manures and composts with compounds such as iron oxide, aluminium oxide and allophane clay, and spreading this mixture on agricultural soils.

  8. 58
    David Miller says:

    Geoff says As to bio-char, it depends, get it wet and and it likely will breakdown over about a year. (With bio-char the sugars are carmelized by the heat, as well as oils and resins released along with methanol (methane alcohol if you will), the remains are generally, silica, phosphates, sulfites, magnesium…, in short, usually taken up rapidly by plant and microbe life, if left on the surface. Turn it under about a foot and it is slower, by a factor of 10, before it would be processed, due to a lack of oxygenation/reduction and water erosion. However, it usually will breakdown in well irrigated/rainy regions in a few years. Take the same sample and bury it at 10 feet and it may remain for several decades, except for regions with the water tables less then 10 feet.

    Geoff, what you say flies in the face of everything I’ve read about biochar. If you’ve got some references I’d like to hear about them.

    What the rest of the world says about biochar is:

    1) It’s a combination of elemental carbon with variable pore size and ash.
    2) Nutrients in the ash are largely water soluble
    3) The carbon is fixed for an indefinite period; soil organisms don’t consume it
    4) The char helps retain nutrients. Of particular interest is the fixing of nitrogen compounds

    The summary is that charring crop residue annually should fix carbon for the long term, raise soil carbon levels, and lower fertilizer requirements.

    Taken as a whole, biochar offers one of few ways of reducing atmospheric carbon and increasing agricultural output.

  9. 59
    ldavidcooke says:

    Hey David,

    Sorry Geoff was not responsible for the quote, I was. Before we go terribly far down the wrong road you really must understand organic or bio-mass pyrolozation. First, you may want to understand the difference between fast and slow. Second, you may want to understand the difference between wet and dry. Third you may want to research the dfferences between the various temperature bands as the relate to the output, ie: syngas, bio-oils, charcoal. The issue being the amount of energy you put in for the desired output. I have seen estimates that up to 15% of the potential reserve is required to convert the raw materials to a useable product. Experience has shown that up to 85% is required in the case of wet bio-mass. The less input the more that can be used elsewhere.

    Bacterium or fungi, and molds do not usually reduce biochar as it is basically sanitized. As to processing of it, at each temperature band it undergoes a level of transformation, understanding what happens in each band is critical in defining what is contained in the various byproducts. Feedstock, heat, water, processing can result in a number of useful items of which biochar is but one. Place pyrolized bio-mass away from water and it can last as a form of charcoal for thousands of years, yet requires the greatest amount of energy to get there. If we can use low energy to provide a useful product the better off we would be in the scheme of things.

    Dave Cooke

  10. 60
    Hank Roberts says:

    That’s the difference between opinion and citation.

  11. 61
    ldavidcooke says:

    Hey Hank,

    Sorry, biochar is not rocket science, it is simply a byproduct of pyrolysis as was employed in the production of charcoal. Most of those who had taken a 8th grade course in physics and ecology would have at least run the experiment of wood strips reduced in a test tube and the collection via ice bath collection points and would be aware of the process and the residuals.

    For a reference a nice book appears to be available form

    The point being that biochar or charcoal production has set stages of transformation related to the conversion temperature applied. The greater the energy levels the higher the isolation of pure carbon which runs between 85-95%. The rest is genetaly “tars” or a combination of carmelized sugars, incomplete converted resins, potash (potasium) and other common chemicals that precipitate out of biomass.

    Being that the science is terribly old I doubt you will find many papers on the subject, it would be like trying to find a citation in regards to the photonic-electron energy state in relation to CO2s exposure to various em exposure. Unless it is a new twist it will like be best supported from quotes of textbooks.

    In Science Daily there is a reference to an earthworm experiment, apparently someone forgot to balance the soil moisture if the intent was to integrate it into the soil. The other reference was to the use of charcoal or biochar to reduce the impact of bio-nitrate concentrations (Apparently in preperation for the introduction of a new pet product related to how to have a fenced in dog and a healthy lawn…)

    Dave Cooke

  12. 62
    ldavidcooke says:

    Hey David,

    As to the last line in the quote there is a mistake, I was certain that I had typed if you buried the biochar at 10 feet it would likely remain undissolved for several milleniums and not decades. Much of the issue as regards charcoals integration is the breakdown of the cellulose structure in bio-mass, unless oxidized. As to other forms of bio-mass, such as partially digested, either as manure or paper or kitchen wastes, the liquifaction is likely the better application and the extraction of bio-oils via wet pyrolysis. The use of dry pyrolysis is generally well applied to industry or farm-field dried crop wastes, where it can be returned to the soil.

    The problem with charcoal is trying to wet it, unless emulsified in the presence of a detergent (as with oil) the tendency is for charcoal not to go into solution or absorb water. Over hundreds of years of natural sequestration or mixed in with boggy/wet organics the charcoal will eventually get wetted and begin to be reduced by the dissolved oxygen in the water. Then the controlling factors are wetted area and dissolved O2 concentrations, (boggy waters tend to be anoxic and clay soils tend to be drying). As to sources, not opinion, just empirical…

    Dave Cooke

  13. 63
  14. 64
    Hank Roberts says:

    The ‘Ask for Evidence’ campaign has been launched by Sense About Science, a charity that aims to help people make sense of science in the public domain. The charity sets out to respond to the misrepresentation of science and scientific evidence on issues that matter to society, and to work with scientists and civic groups to increase understanding of the insights of scientific reasoning.

    The public domain is awash with scientific and medical information in advertisements, product websites, advice columns, campaign statements, celebrity fads and policy announcements. Even where there is regulation, claims that are not based on good evidence keep reappearing. Sense About Science believes that the only way to address this is to enable the public to ask questions about the evidence behind such claims for themselves….”

    — excerpts follow —–

    Ask for evidence launch
    Why we should ask for evidence …

    … Confident assertions are often made in the evidence-free zone ….
    … Science allows us to evaluate claims – to sort the wheat from the chaff. The more we question and rely on evidence, the more we will know, the better informed we will be and the better our decisions are likely to be….

    … “There is much misleading information on the web ….”

    … “You should always be asking ‘where is the evidence?’”

    … “difficult to distinguish personal opinion from scientific evidence – it is important to search out the underpinning evidence.”

    “… next time somebody tells you that something is true, why not say to them: ‘What kind of evidence is there for that?’ And if they can’t give you a good answer, I hope you’ll think very carefully before you believe a word they say.”
    — end excerpts —

    Opinions without cites
    are not the facts you are looking for.