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Unforced Variations: June 2011

Filed under: — group @ 1 June 2011

A new open thread…

487 Responses to “Unforced Variations: June 2011”

  1. 101

    Record atmospheric CO2 concentration measured at Mauna Loa; monthly average May (blue line) above 394 ppm:

  2. 102
    Phil Scadden says:

    Greg Eliot. Accumulated sealevel rise since Bligh is less than 30cm – wave height on calm day. Nothing to challenge climate theory here. Its what climate theory projects S/L over next 100 years and beyond that is worrying.

  3. 103
    dhogaza says:


    So, Ron R, be very afraid of CT scans. You need to have a basis for comparison and you must do the arithmetic. Otherwise, you will be mislead by mere words. Words without the numbers and the comparison mean very little.

    interesting comment, considering …

    [January 2010] While physicians agree that computed tomography (CT) scans are a life-saving diagnostic tool, new research has sparked renewed concern over their safety. One study found disturbing variations in radiation doses among scans, while another estimated that the 72 million CT scans in 2007 could cause 29,000 future cancers.
    James A. Brink, MD, chair of diagnostic radiology at Yale School of Medicine, says the new studies highlight concerns many doctors have had for years.

    “We still don’t know definitely whether medical radiation associated with CT scanning may cause cancer,” says Brink. “However, we must practice in the best interests of our patients and presume that a link exists. As such, we must reduce CT scanning doses to levels that are as low as reasonably achievable, and use CT scanning only when other imaging tests won’t suffice.”

  4. 104
    Ron R. says:

    NISA doubles early fallout estimate

    Simple rule. Whenever a vested interest gives a figure regarding a disaster involving one of their products always assume it’s worse than they reveal.

  5. 105
    Eric says:


    Half a degree Celcius of warming is bringing on more earthquakes? I don’t even want papers on this, simply your logic.

  6. 106
    Eric says:

    @Greg Eliot
    How much was sea level rise between 1450 and 1600?

  7. 107
    Edward Greisch says:

    96 SecularAnimist: see 69

    99 Prokaryotes: Thanks for the URL Where is the paper on the
    earthquake hockey stick?

    102 dhogaza: If you have cancer, look for benzene.

    85 Ron R.: There is no dead zone at Chernobyl.

    93 Ron R.: That work is normally done by robots, not humans. We have electronics that can survive truly enormous doses of radiation. There is absolutely no reason for humans to enter the containment building.
    “Although radiation may cause cancers at high doses and high dose rates, currently there are no data to unequivocally establish the occurrence of cancer following exposure to low doses and dose rates — below about 10,000 mrem (100 mSv). Those people living in areas having high levels of background radiation — above 1,000 mrem (10 mSv) per year– such as Denver, Colorado have shown no adverse biological effects.”

  8. 108
    Michele says:

    @ 95 – Patrick 027

    Sensible forcing without PV = 13%
    Sensible forcing with PV = 52% (all the incoming solar power reaching the ground)
    Variation of the sensible forcing caused by PV = 52/13=400%

    If we would be fussy, the produced electric power (10% of incoming power) is used elsewhere and the variation of the sensible forcing for the installation site would be 400*0.9=360%. It’s six of one and half a dozen of the other.

    The PV panel acts in the same way of the other devices that transform a high form of energy in another high form: what isn’t transformed is lost as waste heat.

    Allow me a question. If we have two panels having the same surface of capitation, one with conventional cells PV and the other with a concentration device (say 400 suns) which of they will have the higher output power? I think the conventional. That means that the other will have more losses and so more waste heat.

  9. 109
    Chris Dudley says:

    I got no response at the end of last month so I’ll post this hoping raypierre will fess up.

    ; This is an idl-type script which will calculate and display the carbon dioxide
    ; emission profile required to hold the atmospheric concentration of
    ; carbon dioxide at a particular target level. The variable t is set to a
    ; target concentration of 450 ppm and can be adjusted to other levels.
    ; As can be seen when the script is run a substantial period of emissions
    ; at around half of year 2000 level emissions is RREQUIRED to stabilize the
    ; atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide at this target level.
    ; The dashed-line in the right-hand plot is half the year 2000 emission level.
    ; This is contrary to claims made in the popular press by Ray Pierrehumbert and
    ; Andy Revkin that emissions must fall to near zero post peak to stabilize the
    ; atmospheric concentration. Those claims are incorrect. And, the substantial
    ; post peak emissions are extremely policy relevant since they imply that
    ; no further research into alternative energy sources is required to stabilize
    ; the concentration of carbon dioxide. Current technology is entirely adequate.
    ; There is NO EXCUSE to not take all necessary direct action now to cut emissions
    ; using rapid deployment of renewable energy.
    ; To run this script in the absence of and IDL license, the Fawlty Language can
    ; be used for free. In either case, save this as a file and type '@filename'
    ; at the prompt. You could also cut and past this to the prompt in IDL.
    ; Reference: Kharecha, P.A., and J.E. Hansen, 2008
    ; Global Biogeochem. Cycles, 22, GB3012

    a=findgen(1000) ;year since 1850

    b=fltarr(1000) ;BAU concentration profile
    for i=1,999 do b(i)=b(i-1)*1.02 ;2 percent growth
    ;plot,b(0:150)*4.36+285.,/ynoz ; 370 ppm year 2000
    c=(18.+14.*exp(-a/420.)+18.*exp(-a/70.)+24.*exp(-a/21.)+26.*exp(-a/3.4))/100. ;Kharecha and Hansen eqn 1
    e=fltarr(1000) ;annual emissions
    for i=1,999 do e(i)=b(i)-b(i-1)
    d=fltarr(1000) ; calculated concentration
    t=450.-285. ;target concentration
    f=0 ;flag to end BAU growth

    for i=1,499 do begin & d(i:999)=d(i:999)+e(i)*c(0:999-i)*4.36*2. & if d(i) gt t then begin & e(i+1:999)=e(i)/1.5 & f=1 & endif else if f eq 1 then e(i+1:999)=(t-d(i+1))/4.36/2. & endfor ;factor of two reproduces BAU growth

    plot,a+1850.,d+285.,/ynoz,xtit='Year',ytit='carbon dioxide concentration (ppm)',charsize=1.5 ; atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration in ppm showing target achieved
    plot,a(0:499)+1850,e(0:499),xtit='year',ytit='carbon dioxide emissions (AU)',charsize=1.5 ;emission profile to reach target in arbitrary units
    oplot,a(0:499)+1850,fltarr(500)+e(150)/2.,linesty=2 ;half of year 2000 emission level

    ; Chris Dudley, June 7, 2011

    [Response: I’m sorry, Chris I don’t have time to debug your code, but I’m letting the comment through so others can have a look at it and try to spot why it apparently yields a different result from any other carbon cycle model I’ve seen, going right back to Bolin and Eriksson’s two box model published in the 1950’s. B&E do not do the same problem as Matthews and Caldeira, but their model only has three linear ordinary differential equations in it, and I’ve programmed it up found that it yields similar results to M&C. The Chapter 8 scripts for Principles of Planetary Climate have some utilities to aid in doing carbonate/bicarbonate equilibrium calculations, but I did not include a Python script for the two-box transient model since I did not discuss transience in the current edition of the book. At some point I’ll put the Python script for B&E up, or turn it into a problem, and that will also eventually make its way into the second edition a few years down the road. But remind me, Chris, just what point is your script supposed to make, and what is it I’m supposed to “fess up” to? –raypierre]

  10. 110
    Prokaryotes says:

    Edward asks “Where is the paper on the
    earthquake hockey stick?”

    Here is a graph, accordingly showing the USGS historical data from here

    Earthquake Hockey Stick Graph

  11. 111
    Steve Fish says:

    Michele, please explain your notion of waste heat from a solar panel in relation to that of a tree, a road, a lake, or a roof. Steve

  12. 112
    Prokaryotes says:

    Secondly, there also has been a dramatic increase in volcanic activity, both in frequency and numbers of volcanoes coming alive. George Ure over at has compiled this chart:

  13. 113
    Prokaryotes says:

    Another page with graphs showing worldwide volcanic activity and earthquake uptake

    So why is it not possible for the USGS to provide these graphs of their own data?

  14. 114
    Thomas says:

    Michele: The waste heat issue is only of interest for hughly concentrated urban areas. Concentrated Photovoltaics CPV is actually more efficient, because the several hundred to a couple of thousand times concentration the economics favors highly efficient triplejunction cells (circa 40%), versus 15-20% for plane panels. So if you are concerned with the amount of waste heat (or have limited surface area) it is a better solution. I think thin films (12% today) will outcompete CPV however.

  15. 115
    SecularAnimist says:

    Edward Greisch wrote: “96 SecularAnimist: see 69”

    Yes, I read the offensive nonsense you posted there.

    Here is what you are celebrating as the triumphant “survival” of the Fukushima reactors:

    1. Three of the reactors experienced full core meltdowns within hours of the tsunami, as the Japanese authorities have now acknowledged.

    2. There were multiple explosions and fires which destroyed reactor buildings.

    3. Corrosive sea water was used for emergency cooling, which was done out of urgent necessity in spite of the fact it was known at the time this would permanently destroy any prospect of ever operating the reactors again.

    4. The Japanese are still struggling to “stabilize” the reactors, and authorities are now questioning whether the reactors can in fact be “stabilized” within a year of the tsunami event.

    5. The costs of dealing with even the best case situation that is now imaginable are astronomical. TEPCO will likely be bankrupted and will have to be taken over by the Japanese government, which means that the Japanese taxpayers will have to absorb ALL the costs of this disaster.

    And I haven’t even addressed your sophistry about the radiation risk.

  16. 116
    dhogaza says:


    102 dhogaza: If you have cancer, look for benzene.

    Now there’s some content-free handwaving. Yes, benzene is carcinogenic. This does not mean that exposure to radiation is harmless …

  17. 117
    Ron R. says:

    Edward Greisch at 1:50 AM

    It’s officially called the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and variations thereof.

    The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Exclusion Zone, which is sometimes referred to as The Chernobyl Zone, The 30 Kilometer Zone, The Zone of Alienation, or simply The Zone (Ukrainian official designation: Зона відчуження Чорнобильської АЕС, zona vidchuzhennya Chornobyl’s’koyi AES, colloquially: Чорнобильська зона, Chornobyl’s’ka zona оr Четверта зона, Chetverta zona) is the 30 km/19 mi exclusion zone around the site of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor disaster and is administered by a special administration under the Ukrainian Ministry of Emergencies. Geographically, it includes northernmost raions (districts) of the Kiev and Zhytomyr Oblasts (provinces)[dubious – discuss] of Ukraine, and adjoins the country’s border with Belarus. A separately administered Belarusian zone continues across the border.

    Here is a photographic account.

    Apparently the Red Forest was hit “the radiation equivalent to 20 times of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki”. “In the post-disaster cleanup operations, the Red Forest was bulldozed and buried in ‘waste graveyards’.[2] The site of the Red Forest remains one of the most contaminated areas in the world today”

    Doesn’t sound too good to me. They do talk about wildlife returning to the area but personally I think it’s pretty sad that the only place where wildlife feel free to exist is the one place so contaminated by us that we’ve abandoned it.

    You said That work is normally done by robots, not humans. We have electronics that can survive truly enormous doses of radiation. There is absolutely no reason for humans to enter the containment building.

    See, that’s why you should be there so that you can point these things out to them. Seriously though, don’t you think that if they could have they would have by now, especially in a country as technologically modern as Japan?

    Maybe I’m reading it wrong but that quote from the NRC website, first it says that 10,000 mrem (100 mSv) (it doesn’t say how long the exposure) is a “low dose”. Then it calls “above 1,000 mrem (10 mSv) per year” “high levels”. Anyway, as I said, I will accept the judgment of the NAS over that of a group that represents the nuclear industry any day.

    Now, again, you said Fukushima has not yet gone beyond natural background radiation except temporarily very close to the reactor.

    That’s been proved false. Fukushima has gone way beyond background levels in some areas of Japan and above background and legal levels have neither abated nor are they limited to areas only “very close to the reactor”. Will you disavow this statement?

  18. 118

    NOAA just came up with their latest ENSO prediction:

    Most excellent presentation, but the sky contradicts their conclusion , it appears that El-Nino will return sooner.

    IRI graph on the NOAA presentation shows one particular model which trends different than the others Cola CCSM3 have been projecting better in my opinion, giving good predictions lately. Where is this soda pop computer model originating from :)?

  19. 119
    Ron R. says:

    Speaking of Chernobyl, I want to again refer to wili’s comment earlier in the thread, re: nuclear power.

    I happen think these points are extremely important. Look at Chernobyl as an example. They built a steel and concrete “sarcophagus” over it, the exploded Unit 4, but the radiation it contains is so strong that it is barely containing it. So they are, at very high cost and which they are barely able to afford, building a new one, the so-called New Safe Confinement, designed to last 100 years.

    Note this statement about it:

    “The lifetime of the new confinement would be 100 years. This is enough time to develop new technology for storing radioactive materials and disposing of radioactive waste,’ says Yulia Marusich, a Chernobyl NPP worker.”

    That sounds a bit ‘kick the can down the road and hopefully the technology will be there by then to take over’ wishful thinking to me. A big gamble. What if it’s not?

    Just a few years ago, we are told, the entire world economy was on the verge of complete collapse, perhaps back to the stone age, which only a $700 or $800 Billion bailout of the banking and other corrupt industries narrowly averted. So say it did collapse, or say the end of civilization did happen, whether temporary or permanently, for some other reason, let’s say climate change or a third world war or whatever, who would be maintaining all those highly radioactive fuel deposits etc. and for how long? Is there any contingency plan for such an emergency? No. The industry has no plans for such worst case scenarios.

    According to Wired there is currently around 250,000 tons of radioactive spent fuel in the world. Other places mention up to 300,000 tons. The US has 70,000 tons stored all over the country while Yucca Mountain (at a cost of $100 billion no less) has a capacity for 77,000 tons. So setting aside the fact that a lot of smart people think that YM is unsafe to store the stuff in, what do we do, just keep digging big holes all over the place and chucking it in? Call me silly but it just seems idiotic to be creating hundreds of thousands (and potentially millions) of tons of highly radioactive waste, stuff that has to be stored and babysat safely for many many thousands or even millions of years, far longer than any human civilization has even existed, for a relative moment’s worth of energy! Think of all the variables that could happen to it in the meantime. And remember that old adage about the best-laid plans. Earthquakes, volcanism, erosion, corrosion due to water incursion, political upheaval, direct targeting by enemy nukes, people looking to dig it up for dirty bombs, accidental discovery, all the things that wili thought of etc. etc. What about recycling it? Well that comes with it’s own bag of issues.

    As I’ve said before, nuclear power is way too volatile an energy source to be left to as unstable a species (and planet) as we currently are (and live upon). Anything with as many serious attendant issues as nuclear does is just best left alone. It’s a waste of the valuable time (and money) we could be using to outfit the world in clean alternatives.

    Again, as I’ve stated in previous threads, does all of this mean that I am forever anti-nuclear. No. Perhaps in the distant future people will, if we survive ourselves, evolve to a more enlightened state and can be in less a rush and more thoughtful about thing’s nuclear. Perhaps mini-nukes buried deep underground, but only if cleaner/safer options aren’t viable for a particular situation (and only if the downside issues have been fixed). Nuclear would definitely come in handy in travel to the stars. But that’s off a ways. Right now though we need to cut our losses and stop beating this dead horse. Let’s leave it in the ground.

  20. 120
    Walter Pearce says:

    #113–Ron R, EG has been furnished with links to studies indicating adverse affects on Chernobyl wildlife, but as you and other commenters have experienced, he’s unable to hear a discouraging word about nukes. Your points are spot-on, but as you say in comment 115 — let’s leave it in the ground.

  21. 121
    CM says:

    Prokaryotes #106, 108, 109 (earthquake hockeystick)

    I followed your links. They’re silly. Edgar Cayce’s clairvoyant predictions, NASA airbrushing away an approaching planet… Crank city. Enough.

    I don’t know how the historical earthquake list on that USGS web page was put together, but I’ll hazard a guess that it was never meant to be turned into a frequency plot, and that the reason the USGS does not provide these plots is that they know it’s meaningless.

    Generally speaking, you can get a hockey stick out of the frequency of any kind of event if, say, you graft a few years of all-inclusive, real-time monitoring onto a historical record based on god knows what inclusion criteria. For example, plot the number of car crashes in a city based on newspaper clippings for the period 1900-1999 and police statistics for 2000-2010.

  22. 122
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    re: 116

    Vitrify the waste and bury it in artificial caverns beneath the water level in the salt deposits of Arizona. As a cavern fills, destroy the access to the cavern and move on. Absent a psychotic amount of effort and absolutely no above-ground security, the waste will just sit there until its harmless. No tectonic activity. No leeching. No terrorists. OTOH, there are more voters in Arizona than Nevada.

  23. 123
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 110 Thomas, 107 Steve Fish – thanks; Re 105 Michele

    – Setting aside the TOA energy balance, the surface energy balance (setting aside storage, and in the ocean, horizontal transport) is
    LW net cooling + sensible cooling + evaporative cooling = solar heating

    As with any other surface in the sun, solar cells will warm up and emit more LW radiation – unless they have high LW albedo, in which case the maximum warming effect would be the loss of net LW cooling (not the loss of LW emission, because the emission from the atmosphere would be reflected upwards in that case) – or unless they don’t warm up as much, in which case they’d have to have a higher conversion efficiency of what they absorb and/or or be reflecting the photons that are below band-gap energy.

    In the case of aluminum mirrors, there may be a loss of net LW cooling (though not as great when the mirrors are aimed away from the zenith, depending on the ground and mirror undersides…). On the other hand, most of the solar waste heat would not be deposited on the mirrors anyway (unless the mirrors double as cooling fins – nice idea! Economic?) – so the waste heat would be coming from the (T)PV cells or more conventional mechanical heat engines, and that could involve radiant cooling (?) or purely air cooling (as can nuclear power, or presumably any other power source) or otherwise evaporative cooling, or liquid water cooling.

    Perhaps waste heat could be circulated in the ground as in hydronic heating systems (with little net water use) and the ground could radiate upward – note this could occur at night with mirrors tilted sideways.

    For desert installations and rooftop installations there wouldn’t be so much evaporative cooling anyway; if you only used the rain water, and all of it, falling on the plant area for cooling (and washing), then you’d come out even, though I think you could get by using less water than that, and runoff could enhance agricultural productivity on some neighboring land if managed well – which would provide evaporative cooling there. If the power plant gets hot because of lack of evaporative and/or net LW cooling, a local updraft may occur which might pull in cooler air from surroundings – this would be problematic if it enhanced local cloud cover; perhaps consideration of local climatological conditions would aid the design of large installations(?). I’ve read that Atlanta has generated it’s own thunderstorm on at least one occasion.

    But anyway, you have to make some farther specifications before you can show that solar power plants would eliminate radiant and evaporative cooling of the surface, because they could be designed not to do that.

  24. 124
    Patrick 027 says:

    if you only used the rain water, and all of it, falling on the plant area for cooling (and washing), then you’d come out even,

    Well, actually it might just be the amount falling on the fraction of the area covered by collectors (panels or mirrors), since the evaporation of water from the underlying ground may be proportional to the area open to the air above … (?)

  25. 125
    Ron R. says:

    Edward Greisch 6 Jun 2011 at 12:41 AM said:

    I invite you to invest all of YOUR money in wind and solar. You won’t be the first person to loose your shirt by doing so. Yes, please do convert YOUR town, not mine, to run on wind or solar only, and detach from the grid. The news from your town will be amusing.

    Here are some cities that have or are going solar. Fortunately not everyone is as defeatist as you about clean alternatives.

    UCLA’s Luskin Center estimates that most or all of LA’s power could be provided by decentralized solar power. That is, solar on every rooftop where viable. That’s what I’ve been saying.

    “Some of the key findings from this project were as follows:

    – Nearly 1.5 million rooftops throughout Los Angeles County could be used as solar power generators.

    – On the whole, there’s currently enough potential roof space to create 19,000 MW from rooftop solar.

    – The total rooftop solar potential for the city of Los Angeles is over 5,500 MW, which could power the city on most days. (The highest-ever peak in Los Angeles was 6,177.) Of course, the city must have more power capacity than is needed at peak times.”

    As I’ve previously stated I realize that clean alternatives may not at the moment be able to cover everyone all of the time. But demanding that they do, that it be all-or-nothing is unfair, unrealistic and, frankly, stupid. Every watt generated by clean alternatives is one watt of dirty energy (oil, coal and nuclear) that can stay in the ground. If we get, say, 50% of our power from clean through a concerted effort that would take a lot of pressure off big issues like oil depletion, climate change and pollution. It would also buy us some time to develop good clean alternatives for vehicle use. Additionally, the energy left in the ground could be stored for a “rainy day”, you could think of it as money in the bank.

  26. 126
    GLC-SX-MM says:

    What happened to the original post? The Fukashima situation is degrading over time btw…

  27. 127
    Prokaryotes says:

    In this Video James Hansen mentions 4th generation power plants and notice that they burn 99% of the waste fuel.

  28. 128
    Prokaryotes says:

    Re CM +117
    The chart uses earthquake magnitude data of strong quakes and the data can be checked at USGS. Though i cannot follow your frequency argument and opinion about other content on this web-page(which is irrelevant).

  29. 129
    Ron R. says:

    Oh and to add on to my previous post, it’s not just solar power, there are lots of cool, low profile, rooftop wind turbines too.

    So maybe solar won’t be enough in a particular area, OK, let’s put a wind turbine up there as well. All paid for by diverting the close to trillion dollars annually currently going to the war machine for a couple of years or so (how many times do we need to blow the world up up anyway).

    And of course we need to use any other good source we can. Japan itself, situated as it is on the ring of fire, has a wealth of untapped geothermal and other alternative energies, a of it being wasted at public spas. Whoever convinced the Japanese that a small island like there’s needed 54 nuke plants must have been quite the salesman! Refrigerators/Eskimos?

    We’ll probably still have to use some dirty energy in places, but the point is we need to reverse our priorities, make clean alternatives the energies of first choice and leave the others as a last resort, a bridge to cover everyone, at least until the clean can close the gap. At the very least we save a lot (money, conventional energy and lives in wars for other countries energy).

  30. 130
    Steve Fish says:

    Patrick 027, I was addressing my questions to Michele. I don’t understand what point you are making, but if you and Michele agree with the following I am OK:

    The albedo of trees, asphalt roofing, roadways, and solar panels are all in about the same range near 0.15 (or 15% of light is reflected). What is absorbed is converted to latent and sensible heat that both can only be removed from earth by radiation. Calling energy absorption by a tree “waste heat” is silly, and the almost infinitesimally small excess heat generated by PV solar panels that would only be added to the earth’s heat budget if they were placed in a region with a higher albedo than the panels is not worth considering. Furthermore, I want a definition of “waste heat.” Steve

  31. 131
    Ron R. says:

    I think I screwed up the link to the alibaba site. Anyway there are a lot of great wind power models out there.

    Walter Pearce at 3:02 PM

    I hear you. Apologies. I had some spare time on my hands. Will try to cool it. But you know how it goes sometimes.

  32. 132
    Piotr says:

    To CM’s criticisms (117) on Prokaryote’s (106) earthquake hockeystick: “you can get a hockey stick out of the frequency of any kind of event if, say, you graft a few years of all-inclusive, real-time monitoring onto a historical record based on god knows what inclusion criteria.”

    I would add that both “deadliness” and “destructiveness” would change in time even if the earthquakes causing them were the same (population and economic growth in the seismic zones).

    And that despite Prokaryote’s assertion that the graph is
    “showing the USGS historical data from here
    when you actually check this web page, say, for year 1965

    – you find 12 earthquakes magn 6.0-8.0 (10 with listed fatalities)
    – while the Prokaryotes’ graph shows only … 1 or 2^*
    (^* “1 or 2” because it is unclear which of the two bars corresponds to 1965)

    So, what criteria have been used to get from value of 12 on the USGS page to 1 or 2 in the Prokaryotes’ graph?

    And why his graph talking about the “Deadly@Destructive Earthquakes” excludes the … strongest (i.e. M >8.0) earthquakes ?

  33. 133
  34. 134
    Prokaryotes says:

    Here is another graph with earthquake magnitude, which shows a general uptake but includes low magnitude quakes too.

    Deadly earthquakes since 1900. horizontal axis: year, vertical axis: magintude (the exact base unit of each entry varied in the data source). The values are as accurate or complete as the measurement equipment and measurement density was at a given time as given in the data source.

  35. 135
    Thomas says:

    Ron. Urban areas are a terrible place for windturbines. First because of the rough topography urban winds are very turbulent, which is not good for turbines. Secondarily there is a safety issue, blades do occasionally fail, and the public is excluded from the vicinity of windturbines for a multiple of the blade diameter. Scale down a windturbine and its cost effectiveness becomes plumments. There is a reason they keep making them larger and larger, with current research envisaging 5-15MW turbines. Of course there is no need for a city to be totally supplied by renewables generated from within the cities boundary, in fact the larger and more varied the collection area the better the time distribution of power. That is an important issue for time varying power sources.

  36. 136
    dhogaza says:


    Though i cannot follow your frequency argument and opinion about other content on this web-page(which is irrelevant).

    The other content speaks to credibility, of which that website appears to have none …

  37. 137
    Piotr says:

    (124) Prokaryotes says:
    “Re CM +117
    The chart uses earthquake magnitude data of strong quakes and the data can be checked at USGS.”

    – I checked. For 1965 USGS website lists 12 earthquakes with magn. between 6 and 8, while your graph referring to the very same site and the same year shows only 1 or 2 earthquakes (I am not sure whether 1 or 2 because of the unclear format of the graph).

    ” Though i cannot follow your frequency argument and opinion about other content on this web-page(which is irrelevant).”

    – Really? I thought it was quite straightforward – CM answered your question why USGS didn’t produce their own graph by suggesting that they probably knew it would be misleading – comparing apples and watermelons: many earthquakes recorded today would have been missed in the past. So looking for a temporal pattern in such unequal dataset would mistake changes in observation technology for changes in seismic activity.
    But then again, if you have a puck, everything looks like a hockey stick, eh?

  38. 138
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 126 Steve Fish –

    The albedo of trees, asphalt roofing, roadways, and solar panels are all in about the same range near 0.15 (or 15% of light is reflected)..

    Yes, if local effective albedo includes the energy carried away as electricity/etc. Some land surfaces get around 0.2 or even above 0.3, though; PV cells with combined albedo and efficiency less than that would have some net local warming effect.

    Calling energy absorption by a tree “waste heat” is silly, – yes, of course; in the context of energy conversion the unused heat production can be called ‘waste’, but it is good to note that solar heating occurs generally.

    and the almost infinitesimally small excess heat

    At least globally, agreed. Presumably also regionally; locally I’d guess any effects would be like urban heat islands (we have such islands distributed regionally and I haven’t heard of a particularly important regional-scale impact by them).

    definition of “waste heat.”

    Of some flux of energy available to a conversion device, that which ends up as heat and is not used (in any intended way).

    – Re Michele – another point – so the solar panels or heat engine exhaust gets warm and for the former if not the later, depending on locality, evapotranspiration may not be as much as for the solar-heated surface that would have otherwise been there. Well, if the panels are hot they lose more heat by radiation and also sensible heat. Lack of evapotranspiration will mean higher temperatures than otherwise, and the air temperature downwind would be elevated a little. But where the runoff evaporates, the temperature may be cooler and if the air mixes between those places (depends on layout), perhaps it comes out even on a somewhat larger scale. What happens to the ground temperature around the panels? Because we’re not worried about the native ecosystem that inhabits the panels themselves. Consider panels tilted to face somewhat equatorward will cast some shadows on land surfaces that can still emit radiation upward somewhat.

    And it seems to me this wouldn’t be much more than the heating effect of using nuclear or coal or geothermal to generate the same amount of power. Wind, hydroelectric, tidal and wave power would be the choices for having zero net direct heating effect.

  39. 139
    Piotr says:

    (130) Prokaryotes says:
    “Here is another graph with earthquake magnitude, which shows a general uptake but includes low magnitude quakes too.”

    No, it does not show “general uptake” in the number of earthquakes, but merely “uptake” in the number of earthquakes that caused at least 1 recorded fatality and that’s very different, for the reasons already discussed here: many times more people living in the seismic zones and better reporting of individual deaths.

    And the information on this is already in your graph – the number of larger earthquakes that kill many people does not change much – the “uptake” is only in weaker earthquakes, because the same weak earthquake hitting, say, Indonesia in 1900, would have a much smaller chance to kill at least 1 person and have the information on this death communicated to the rest of the world (the conditions for appearing in the graph) than the same earthquake in the same place in 2010, when the population is 5 times larger and the media coverage and local scientific network – incomparable to that of 1900.

    The same you can see in the very weak (magn. 2-3) earthquakes – they appear ONLY in the last 25 years of the graph, not because they became suddenly more frequent or more lethal, but because there are more people so the chance of a freak fatal accident to _someone_ ,and therefore of getting a data point on the graph, increases.

  40. 140
    Ron R. says:

    Prokaryotes at 5:33 PM

    Unfortunately I can’t watch videos on my dinosaur of a computer. I am going (again) to try to get out of this debate however:

    #1. Do we have decades to wait? Meanwhile the NRC in the US is approving 20 yr extensions on old tech plants right and left. That’s a lot more waste build up. Where are we going to put it?

    There are 104 nuclear reactors currently operating in the US, all of which were granted initial licenses for 40 years. The NRC has approved renewals for 63 of those plants, and is currently considering extensions for 12 more. Every plant has gotten the green light, nuclear watchdogs say, because of NRC rule changes in the early 1990s that limited the factors regulators evaluate when considering a relicensing application.

    #2. How much will they cost?

    #3. Are they impervious to Murphy’s Law?

    I’m no expert so I’m going to quote what Sovacool & Cooper have to say about Gen IV plants (There’s more if you want to read the article).

    Nuclear Nonsense: Why Nuclear Power is No Answer to Climate Change and the World’s Post-Kyoto Energy Challenges,5

    While, historically, the costs of nuclear power plants appear to be low, in the near future the cost of building new nuclear plants will be outrageously high, and the promise of Generation IV reactors are entirely theoretical and will require billions of dollars of further R&D before the industry can construct even an experimental reactor” (p. 25)

    Researchers at the Commissariat à l’Energie
    Atomique in France looked at five Generation IV reactors and theoretical
    models of their associated fuel cycles from 2000 to 2150. They found that
    Generation IV reactors entailed much higher reprocessing and disposal costs compared to conventional recycling and fuel disposal and estimated that the Generation IV pathway would cost 30% to 45% more than business as usual.
    ” (pps. 34-35)

    Advanced nuclear R&D is also costly and highly uncertain. The National Research Council of the National Academies issued a highly critical assessment of GNEP and the Generation IV program, arguing that its rapid deployment schedule entailed considerable financial and technical risks and prematurely narrowed the selection of acceptable reactor designs.270 The report also faulted the DOE for not seeking sufficient independent peer reviewers for projects and for failing to adequately address waste management challenges.271 For example, because higher temperature reactors tend to burn up more of their fuel at faster rates, they operate less efficiently than conventional units, and result in more radioactive
    waste per unit of energy generated.272

    A study commissioned by the Office of Science and Innovation in
    the United Kingdom found that R&D on “all of the [Generation IV] systems
    face several key challenges” that will require considerable expense and
    ingenuity to overcome.273 The report identified significant gaps in materials technology, especially in designing materials that can resist irradiation and neutron damage while operating at high temperatures and minimizing stress-corrosion cracking.274 Fast reactor systems will likely use fuels containing significant quantities of trans-uranium elements, necessitating a shift away from uranium assembles to ones based on nitride or carbide fuels.275 The manufacturing processes for these fuels, however, have not yet even been established.276

    Even if it is perfected, future Generation IV technology will not
    solve the problem of radioactive waste. The radiotoxicity for the most haz-
    ardous forms of spent nuclear fuel is at least 100,000 years.341 Partitioning and transmutation are considered theoretical ways of reducing the waste, but even if technically mastered through some sort of breakthrough, their potential is severely limited.342 Nuclear engineers at the CEA in France have warned that radiotoxicity can only be reduced by a factor of ten if all plutonium is recycled, and by a factor of 100 if all minor actinides are burned.343 This means, at a minimum, that spent fuel will remain dangerously radioactive for at least 1000 to 10,000 years. That is ten centuries, presuming a best case scenario. Also, the technologies needed to attain this level of waste reduction, either fast reactors or Accelerator Driven Systems, will require technological breakthroughs in separating actinides, reprocessing advanced fuels, and coupling transmutation technologies to existing reactors.344 As one study concluded, no single country has sucessfully deployed Partitioning and Transmutation technologies, and no attempt has been made to pursue serious regional or international cooperation on these efforts.345

    Sounds a bit like more give us a bunch more money and time to experiment, pie-in-the-sky kind of delaying doing anything about clean energies stuff that we’ve already seen so much of from the nuke industry. I tend to like simpler, safer, lower complexity technologies that are closer to home.

  41. 141
    john byatt says:

    The Australian Broadcasting Comission (ABC) fair and balanced view

    The ABC’s war on facts
    This opinion piece from Ted Lapkin appeared on the ABC Drum 28 April 2011.

    This is the relevant quote from Lapkin

    “In a moment of unguarded candour, a major climate change guru once explained why he and his ideological fellow travellers didn’t hesitate to play fast and loose with the truth. This revelation came during a 1989 interview with Discover Magazine, when Stanford Professor of Global Change Stephen Scheider said: “We are not just scientists, but human beings as well. Like most people we’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that we need to get some broad-based support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have”

    The ABC policy for opinion pieces is that the views of others should not be distorted.
    After putting in a complaint that by omission of the full quote Lapkin had distorted the original meaning of Prof Schneider’s plea I have received the following reply from Claire Gorman, AACA

    “Of relevance to your concerns however the principles state “The accuracy standard requires that opinions be conveyed accurately, in the sense that quotes should be accurate and any editing should not distort the meaning of the opinion expressed.”
    On review we note that in editing the quote, Ted Lapkin is highlighting one of the points made by Schneider about the manner in which scientists might act in the face of an issue. We are of the view that he does not misrepresent Schneider on this point. He merely omits the second key point made by Schneider that: “This ‘double ethical bind’ we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both.”
    Accordingly, we are of the view that there has been no breach of editorial standards in the use of this quotation.
    Thank you again for taking the time to write and express your views.

    Yours sincerely
    Claire M Gorman Audience and Consumer Affairs

  42. 142
    Michele says:

    I use the expression “waste heat” referring to the amount of the high quality energy (mechanical, electric, EM …) that degenerates to heat because the losses. We know very well that whereas any high quality energy can be transformed (integrally and spontaneously) to heat, conversely the vice versa doesn’t occur naturally because we need to use some work to do that. In other words, the heat has the poorest quality.

    Of course, if the global efficiency of the PV plant increases up so that 0.29Eth/Es becomes less than one, then my claim vanishes.

    A PV panel is used with the aim to capture the incoming solar power as much as possible (theorically the 100%) and, when it has been installed, it shadows some surface of the ground causing the decrease of its radiant and evaporative cooling which is replaced by the sole air cooling of the panel.
    I agree with you about the auto-generated thunderstorms. The PV plants are sources of local gradients of the temperature and a gas which moves adiabatically experiences an acceleration equivalent to Cp*gradT, that’s 1000X the temperature gradient.

  43. 143
    CM says:

    Prokaryotes #124,

    First off, I see now that the chart you linked to in #106 is presented as an “official USGS graph”. Is it, and if so where does it appear? Or did someone else make it from the USGS list (as I assumed)?

    Anyway, the chart you linked to in #106 shows the number of quakes between magnitude 6 and 8 per year from a USGS list of selected earthquakes of historical interest. I have reproduced it (with some differences, like the 1965 discrepancy noted by Piotr above). From 1900 to 2001, no more than 13 such quakes are listed for any one year. From 2002 to 2009, the range was 23–51 quakes per year. This is an amazing jump. (It is part of a similarly stark jump in the total number of quakes.)

    Looking at these data, one might conclude that in 2002, the Earth suddenly started taking boogie lessons, and that a staggering cover-up has kept us ignorant of the fact. Or one might conclude that far more inclusive or complete records of quakes have been included in the list since 2002, producing a false upward trend when added to a less complete historical record for 1900-2001. Population growth, economic growth and settlement changes could also produce a false trend, as Piotr noted, but I don’t think they account for the sudden discontinuity we see here.

    So the first thing one wants to know, when someone claims an earthquake hockey stick or similar, is whether they have tried to eliminate that kind of bias and get consistently complete records — or representative samples — over the whole period. Pretty hard to do from a list of selected quakes someone has deemed to be of historical interest.

    (You can see at a glance that the Wikipedia graph you point to at #130 paints a quite different picture, with a rise in recorded quakes in the 1970s rather than the 2000s.)

    This Redhawk character doesn’t state his methodology. This is where the other content in his post does become relevant. If he’s a crank, you should assume he has not done any checking that might contradict what he wants to believe. Is he a crank? Well, he claims NASA is covering up an “approaching planetary body.” Your call.

    Follow me now?

    There’s some interesting, if speculative, science being done on possible climate-earthquake links. This is not it. Give it a rest.

  44. 144
    Damien says:

    A cartoonist for Australian “New Media” outfit Crikey (one of only a few that a sympathetic to AGW) has declared Friday 10th June to be The Official Hug a Climate Scientist Day.

  45. 145
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Although radiation may cause cancers at high doses and high dose rates, currently there are no data to unequivocally establish the occurrence of cancer following exposure to low doses and dose rates […].

    Yep. In related news, the wind is only known to rustle the leaves of trees within earshot.

  46. 146
    Prokaryotes says:

    Cm says 139 “There’s some interesting, if speculative, science being done on possible climate-earthquake links. This is not it.”

    I think you misunderstood my postings, because i did not claim that these images were accurate, nor did i claim that this is tied to climate / earthquake links. The graphs are found with a quick google search and there are similar graphs too. And someone here asked for it, which made me look it up.

    I agree we cannot have the best data for recent historical earthquakes, but that doesn’t mean we can draw conclusion from todays observations. I don’t know how accurate the seismic observations were, but i guess starting in the late 40’s should give a good picture, especially with the observation of big quakes.

    CM says 139 “So the first thing one wants to know, when someone claims an earthquake hockey stick or similar, is whether they have tried to eliminate that kind of bias and get consistently complete records”

    The first thing you want to do to define earthquake record bias, which has become not clear with the argument you provide. And secondly i only provided a graph which shows a hockey stick i did not claim this was accurate. I provided it to see the reaction and if the graph really is robust. It now turns out this was not the case, according to some fact check. Thank you for that!

    And concerning recorded seismic bias, for example if you say, today are more people around which leads to bigger life lose, one could argue we have today building codes which reduces life lose.

    Further i do not agree with your statements in regards to climate and earthquake links, as the science here seems quiet robust. And again this has nothing to do with the special graphs we discuss.

    **** Further, the scientist which observe earthquake, make a rather good case here, same point i tried to make. That high magnitude earthquakes are on the rise(And latest science suggest this could be due to climate change – sea level rise).

    “We are not having more earthquakes than usual,” said Lisa Grant Ludwig of the University of California, Irvine. “What we are having is earthquakes with a bigger impact as the world’s population increases, and is concentrated in places where earthquakes are likely to strike.”

    Geoff Abers of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University had a different take:

    “In general, no, but it is true there have been more M>8 earthquakes [magnitude 8.0 or higher] per year in the last eight years than the two to three decades previous,” Abers said. “There is some debate, currently, as to whether or not that increase is statistically significant, and if it is, why that should occur.”

  47. 147
    Ezzthetic says:

    As a matter of interest, 2GB was originally owned by The Theosophical Society. The “GB” refers to Giordano Bruno.

    Just sayin’.

  48. 148
    Esop says:

    UAH channel 5 temps are skyrocketing. About to surpass 2010 level. This following a very strong La Nina. 2012 could be very wam.

  49. 149
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 138 Michele

    which is replaced by the sole air cooling of the panel.
    and radiant cooling of the panel.
    And if the ground has moisture than the heated air from the panel may be mixed downward and be evaporatively cooled; if not mixed downward then the ground would stay cool and wet; if the ground is dry then it is either because it would have been dry anyway (no evaporative cooling even without PV panel) or else there was enhanced runoff; if there is runoff it might be used elsewhere, and then the issue is whether or not, given local conditions and the ability to manage runoff, whether it is better to allow runoff or have the plant’s ground hold the water.

    I agree with you about the auto-generated thunderstorms.

    I’m not aware, though, that this has become a problem for Atlanta, Georgia. I’m curious about how a solar power plant could affect local cloud and precipitation patterns, but I’m not sure it would be easy to have a strong effect. With high enough albedo and efficiency a cooling effect might be advantageous for decreasing cloud cover over the plant; however, the effects may be translated downwind from the source and dispersed (consider that lake-effect snow doesn’t stay over the lake all the time; I think there is a distance the air travels over the lake before clouds and precipitation develop). The lack of evaporative cooling would correspond to dryer air; if the runoff from the plant goes upwind and if air from where the runoff went comes in, it could tend to be cooler from enhanced evaporative cooling there; it might perhaps only then get back to ‘normal’ upon sensible heating from the plant, although perhaps not, as evaporative cooling slows with greater humidity, etc. … If you know of any research into this, feel free to share it. I am acknowledging there can be effects but it isn’t clear to me that they would be problematic, to a point that we should largely stay clear of solar power, or that it would be much worse than nuclear, or coal or gas, even setting aside the more pressing issues of greenhouse emissions and perhaps safety. Certainly these arguments have little to do with roof-top solar and perhaps not as much to do with desert solar (relative lack of evapotranspiration), depending on effective albedo.

    The PV plants are sources of local gradients of the temperature and a gas which moves adiabatically experiences an acceleration equivalent to Cp*gradT, that’s 1000X the temperature gradient.

    Acceleration is not in units of K/m. Acceleration = pressure gradient/density. pressure gradient = g * gradient in density * thickness of layer. Etc.

  50. 150
    Lawrence McLean says:

    Re #77, CM,
    thank you, that answers my question (#46).