Sunday, March 07, 2010

Methane frozen beneath Arctic sea bed being released at a faster rate than estimated

There seems to be some attempt to portray this finding as being a cause for alarm -- e.g. here. All that it in fact shows, however, is that previous estimates were wrong -- an all too common event among Warmists. It does NOT show that methane release has accelerated in recent years

Vast quantities of methane are stored in ocean sediments, mostly in the form of clathrates, but methane is also trapped in submerged terrestrial permafrost that was flooded during the last deglaciation. There is thus concern that climate warming could warm ocean waters enough to release methane cryogenically trapped beneath the seabed, causing even more warming. Shakhova et al. report that more than 80% of the bottom water, and more than 50% of the surface water, over the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, is indeed supersaturated with methane that is being released from the sub-sea permafrost, and that the flux to the atmosphere now is as great as previous estimates of that from the entire world ocean.


Journal abstract below:

Extensive Methane Venting to the Atmosphere from Sediments of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf

By Natalia Shakhova et al.

Remobilization to the atmosphere of only a small fraction of the methane held in East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS) sediments could trigger abrupt climate warming, yet it is believed that sub-sea permafrost acts as a lid to keep this shallow methane reservoir in place. Here, we show that more than 5000 at-sea observations of dissolved methane demonstrates that greater than 80% of ESAS bottom waters and greater than 50% of surface waters are supersaturated with methane regarding to the atmosphere. The current atmospheric venting flux, which is composed of a diffusive component and a gradual ebullition component, is on par with previous estimates of methane venting from the entire World Ocean. Leakage of methane through shallow ESAS waters needs to be considered in interactions between the biogeosphere and a warming Arctic climate.

Science 5 March 2010: Vol. 327. no. 5970, pp. 1246 - 1250

More data selectivity from NASA -- Britain's CRU is not alone

Comment from Tasmania

On the subject of surface stations, one can click here to go anywhere on a world map and bring up temperature graphs of the surface stations in that area. The stations are the ones used by NASA’s GISS to help calculate global mean temperature.

For Tasmania it appears that up until 1993 there were 25 stations being used. At the end of 1992 most of those stations were dropped for data gathering purposes, leaving only the ones at Launceston and Hobart Airports for the next six years. This wiped out many rural areas, all our high stations and also those on the colder, more exposed West Coast.

Two coastal stations appear to have been resurrected around 2008 - Eddystone Point on the warmer north-east tip of Tasmania and Cape Bruny on Bruny Island south of Hobart in the D’entrecasteaux Channel. They are probably now automated.

I have no idea why so many stations were dropped all at once, but interestingly, in examining the charts I found that almost all had recorded a sharp drop of between 1.2 to 1.4 degrees Celsius in the four years from 1988 to 1992, which of course would have been a rather uncomfortable fact for those pushing the AGW theory. Without the colder areas and combined with the known UHI effect at airports, Tasmania would presumably have been contributing warmer mean temperatures to the global calculations after 1992.

However, at the risk of being accused of “cherry-picking”, Launceston Airport may still be an inconvenient truth for the AGW lobby, particularly Tasmania’s “catastrophic man-made global warming” alarmists, Christine Milne, Bob Brown and the Greens.

The trend line has been remarkably stable and refusing to record any local or global warming in that area. The first recorded annual mean temperature was 12.1 degrees in 1939 and 70 years later in 2009, 11.8 degrees. The 1939 mean temperature has only been exceeded five times in that 70 years and only twice with any significance - by 0.4 of a degree in 1962 and 0.6 in 1988.

A brief look at other parts of Australia show that many stations were dropped after 1992. It would be interesting to see the results if other posters here checked the stations in their own areas. Any takers?


Climate scientists to fight back at skeptics

Apparently a pliant media and academe are not enough to defeat a small band of truth tellers

Undaunted by a rash of scandals over the science underpinning climate change, top climate researchers are plotting to respond with what one scientist involved said needs to be "an outlandishly aggressively partisan approach" to gut the credibility of skeptics.

In private e-mails obtained by The Washington Times, climate scientists at the National Academy of Sciences say they are tired of "being treated like political pawns" and need to fight back in kind. Their strategy includes forming a nonprofit group to organize researchers and use their donations to challenge critics by running a back-page ad in the New York Times. "Most of our colleagues don't seem to grasp that we're not in a gentlepersons' debate, we're in a street fight against well-funded, merciless enemies who play by entirely different rules," Paul R. Ehrlich, a Stanford University researcher, said in one of the e-mails. [Not false prophet Ehrlich again!]

Some scientists question the tactic and say they should focus instead on perfecting their science, but the researchers who are organizing the effort say the political battle is eroding confidence in their work. "This was an outpouring of angry frustration on the part of normally very staid scientists who said, 'God, can't we have a civil dialogue here and discuss the truth without spinning everything,'" said Stephen H. Schneider, a Stanford professor and senior fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment who was part of the e-mail discussion but wants the scientists to take a slightly different approach.

The scientists have been under siege since late last year when e-mails leaked from a British climate research institute seemed to show top researchers talking about skewing data to push predetermined outcomes. Meanwhile, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the authoritative body on the matter, has suffered defections of members after it had to retract claims that Himalayan glaciers will melt over the next 25 years.

Last month, President Obama announced that he would create a U.S. agency to arbitrate research on climate change.

Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican and a chief skeptic of global-warming claims, is considering asking the Justice Department to investigate whether climate scientists who receive taxpayer-funded grants falsified data. He lists 17 people he said have been key players in the controversy....

Not all climate scientists agree with forcing a political fight. "Sounds like this group wants to step up the warfare, continue to circle the wagons, continue to appeal to their own authority, etc.," said Judith A. Curry, a climate scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology. "Surprising, since these strategies haven't worked well for them at all so far."

She said scientists should downplay their catastrophic predictions, which she said are premature, and instead shore up and defend their research. She said scientists and institutions that have been pushing for policy changes "need to push the disconnect button for now," because it will be difficult to take action until public confidence in the science is restored. "Hinging all of these policies on global climate change with its substantial element of uncertainty is unnecessary and is bad politics, not to mention having created a toxic environment for climate research," she said. Ms. Curry also said that more engagement between scientists and the public would help - something that the NAS researchers also proposed.

Paul G. Falkowski, a professor at Rutgers University who started the effort, said in the e-mails that he is seeking a $1,000 donation from as many as 50 scientists to pay for an ad to run in the New York Times. He said in one e-mail that commitments were already arriving.


AGW science and due process

A powerful and vital aspect of the fully free society would be that only those burdens may be imposed on citizens that they have been convincingly shown, via due process of law, to deserve. This is roughly how the criminal law works. This is why the prosecution carries the onus of proof and not the defense–all the defense (the skeptic!) needs to do is point out serious holes in the case being mounted by the prosecution and the jury will acquit.

In contrast, when in the old Soviet Union a police officer suspected someone of criminal activity, this would pretty much close the case and the accused would have to try to do something awfully difficult, namely, prove a negative: “I am not guilty.”

The New York Times reports in a recent issue that AGW–anthropogenic global warming–scientists are beginning to mount a defense of their work in light of the growing skepticism that follows some of the recent (more or less serious) malpractice by some of them. As The Times presents the story, some of the scientists are pretty much baffled by the persistent skepticism. They appear to believe that their education, research, and academic credentials should suffice to make the case for what they earnestly believe.

This suggests that the protesting scientists share the attitude with the police officers of the former Soviet Union: A suspect is guilty until proven innocent. These –though by no means all– scientists appear to want the skeptics to conclusively disprove AGW.

But in a debate about the AGW hypothesis it isn’t the doubters who owe the proof, just as in a court of criminal law (as noted above) it is not the defense that owes the proof but the prosecution. And this is quite sensible: the assertion that someone has done the crime is provable if true since there is a reality corresponding to it; the assertion that someone hasn’t done the crime is not except for showing that the case in support of guilt is weak, not true beyond a reasonable doubt. (Proving negatives is only possible once the argument for the positive is in place, otherwise on is shooting in the dark!)

What the scientists need to realize is that a sizable portion of the public holds to the idea: the onus of proof is on those asserting the AGW theory. And it needs to be a solid proof at that since the consequences of accepting it imply Draconian burdens to be imposed on the public, burdens no one ought to suffer unless there is powerful proof that it is deserved.

Al Gore & Co. are very enthusiastic about imposing these burdens not just on Americans and other citizens of developed countries but on virtually everyone across the globe, even those whose chances to finally emerging out of poverty will be severely undermined by them. Given the prospect of such public policy consequence, the pro-AGW scientists simply must realize that many of us don’t want a plausible theory, not even a probably true one. What we want is something that nails the case firmly, without any reasonable doubt left. But this of course the scientists haven’t managed to produce and there is evidence that among them there are quite a few skeptics –e.g., reportedly among physicists. In other words the pro-AGW scientists need to realize that they don’t run the show and cannot expect to lord it over the rest of us merely because they have a strong suspicion about AGW. That will not suffice for free men and women, not by a long shot.

Perhaps it is a sign of the waning influence of the classical liberal political and legal tradition that we are witnessing with these scientists insisting that their current case alone should suffice and we need all comply, never mind reasonable doubt. That would be a devastating development for it could establish a precedent that is completely antithetical to how a government in a free country must treat the citizenry. It would, in short, begin to usher in dictatorship. I doubt even scientists confident of their belief in AGW want something like that to happen. [I wonder ... JR]


British meteorologists concede that they can't predict even three months ahead

But predicting 50 years ahead is a cinch!

Britain was in for a season of mildness, the Met Office announced, shortly before the coldest winter in 31 years. That followed the prediction of a barbecue summer that went on to leave the nation with some very soggy sausages. Now the Met Office is to abandon the seasonal forecasts that have brought it so much recent humiliation.

While the move will be seen inevitably as a climbdown, the Met Office insists that it comes after widespread public polling over the past few months. “All our research shows that the public aren’t interested in seasonal weather forecasts, but they do want a monthly forecast, which we’ll be running on our website,” an official said.

Some experts, though, argue that the forecasts were too experimental for public consumption, and were harming the reputation of the Met Office. “I don’t think these forecasts are much value to the public,” said Professor Mike Hulme, at the University of East Anglia. “When people see them going wrong, they see everything else the Met Office does is wrong, and it weakens the rest of their science.”

Even the chief executive of the Met Office, John Hirst, gave a less than full-hearted endorsement of his own forecasting team during this winter. “Our recent seasonal forecasts have been disappointing,” he told The Times. “Our initial prediction that this winter was likely to be mild in the UK is going to be wide of the mark.” It was, instead, the coldest winter in decades. “To be fair, we’ve always said this is a developing area of forecasting,” Mr Hirst added. “We’ve also emphasised the probabilities and uncertainties involved in these forecasts.”

Others, though, have criticised the way the forecasts were overhyped. The much derided “barbecue summer” headline was a piece of PR spin — added long after the forecasters had done their work. In fact, the forecasters had predicted a warmer than average summer and were perfectly candid in admitting that there was no indication of what the rainfall would be. In the event they were vindicated, because June, July and August were all warmer than normal. It was the rainfall that washed out the barbecues, not the temperatures. Predicting whether a season will be wet or dry is far more difficult than temperatures because rains are more susceptible to the vagaries of winds and other capricious weather patterns.

The prediction of a mild winter this year was an enormous howler, however. Even so, the forecasters had warned of a cold end to the winter, around February, thanks to a huge disturbance in the atmosphere triggered by El NiƱo in the Pacific. This launched a massive plume of warm air high into the atmosphere that led to bitterly cold Arctic air being shunted down through Europe. That part of the forecast came true.

Long-range forecasts need to be handled with care. This is cutting-edge science, only about 25 years old, but has scored more success in the tropical regions, such as forecasting seasonal rains in Africa, where the impact of oceans on the weather is more predictable.

But in the mid-latitudes, where Britain sits, the ocean and atmosphere are less predictable, which leaves the forecasts riddled with uncertainties. They have to be expressed in infuriatingly woolly language, using statistical probabilities, while the public wants something that is much more clear-cut. That is why seasonal weather forecasts will in future be restricted to the experts.


Glass Dismissed

Attacking someone’s religion is a practice guaranteed to elicit heated responses. This is certainly true when one dares to question the deeply-held tenets of the First Church of Environmentalism. The green commandment “thou shalt recycle” is an especially touchy subject. Yet, at the risk of damnation, let us consider another bit of blasphemy: there is no good reason — environmentally, economically or otherwise — to recycle glass.

One of the reasons that we are told we have to recycle is that it takes so long for many wastes to decompose in a landfill. This argument presupposes that there is something inherently wrong, even dangerous, about burying an inert material under the soil in a relatively small plot of land. The decomposition argument is not the only evidence used by recycling zealots to advance their case, but it’s an especially important exhibit.

Wastes that end up in landfills can be broken down into two broad categories: organic and inorganic. Organic wastes, like foodstuffs and paper, break down pretty quickly; twenty years is the generally-accepted rule of thumb decomposition period for organic waste in a landfill. Plastics are the organic exception to this rule, but that’s another column. Global warming alarmism has changed the way that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) views the organic decomposition process. When organic wastes decompose, they create methane, which can then be recovered and thus used to generate electricity. This energy is, according to EPA, renewable, greenhouse-gas-neutral power and is therefore prized. Indeed, under the proposed Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill, power generated through the use of landfill gas would be exempt from what would effectively be a carbon tax.

Of course, burning those organic wastes directly is still officially frowned upon. That would be “incineration” and incineration is bad. The irony here is that it is enormously difficult to obtain EPA permission to separate the organic components of a waste stream and burn them “tomorrow” to generate renewable energy, but it’s perfectly fine – environmentally friendly even – to bury those same materials under a mound of earth and slowly recover their energy value over the course of two decades.

In general, inorganic wastes take a very long time to decompose. Inorganic wastes include metals like aluminum and steel and, to return to the focal point of this piece, glass. Depending on the source, the decomposition rate for glass is variously quoted as thousands to millions of years. The first question that leaps to mind is a basic one: Who cares? Undecomposed glass does not, can not, harm the environment or endanger human health by any possible stretch of the most vivid imagination. Chemically speaking, you can’t get much more inert than glass. Further, as I have previously pointed out, we’re hardly hurting for landfill space that an excess of glass waste could somehow use up.

The second question that quickly follows is this: What does the term “glass decomposition” even mean? Glass is primarily comprised of fused silica, i.e., sand. If the concern here is that it takes thousands or millions of years before silica crystals that make up the empty bottle of your favorite libation finally break apart into smaller pieces, here’s a suggestion: grab a ball-peen hammer and smash the offending bottle into smithereens. Problem solved. (Safety warning: please don’t forget to don your safety goggles should you perform this valuable environmental service).

The big problems with glass recycling are that: a) the primary raw material (sand) used in glass production is plentiful and cheap, and b) the supply of recycled glass far exceeds demand. There are a couple of reasons for the latter. The first has to do with the chemical composition of recycled glass. While glass is primarily made up of silica, it also contains trace amounts of other chemicals that are specific to the application in question. The chemical compositions of the glass in windshields, beverage containers and panes of window glass are all subtly different; each product is carefully engineered to optimize performance related to a specific end use.

Ground, recycled glass, called “cullet” in the industry, is a mish-mash of diverse chemical components. Accordingly, glass manufacturers can only use a small amount of cullet when producing their products. If they use too much cullet they run the risk of compromising the integrity of whatever they are manufacturing. In recognition of this inherent problem, recycling proponents have labored valiantly to create new markets for cullet, but those markets don’t even come close to addressing the gross over-supply of waste glass. When you drop that empty bottle of brew in your recycle bin, chances are that it will ultimately end up in a landfill.

The other problem with recycled glass involves color. Like it or not, manufacturers who utilize glass products are charged with producing specific colors. Heineken beer bottles are green, while Miller favors clear glass and Michelob chooses a brown hue for their brand of suds. When bottle manufacturers utilize cullet, they introduce a wild-card that has the potential to throw their color-matching train off track. Accordingly, color-matching is another reason why recycled glass is used sparingly. The problem is especially acute when it comes to green glass. While the market for recycled glass of any color is limited, the demand for green glass is practically non-existent. Some municipalities that require residents to recycle glass have tried to exempt green glass from their recycling ordinances, to little avail. Environmental groups will not tolerate such apostasy, even when blasphemy is grounded in marketplace reality.

Glass recycling programs are perhaps the ultimate example of environmentally inspired, pointless government intervention in the free market. A recycled commodity with essentially no value has been declared by government mandate an essential resource when it is anything but.

Want to prove the point? After you have dutifully set aside your recyclables, try this: sort out your aluminum cans and your glass bottles and place them in separate piles upon your front lawn. I’ll guarantee you that some enterprising scavenger will collect the aluminum in short order, because those cans will bring a profit. The glass bottles? They will go untouched, leaving your neighbors to wonder what in the heck you are trying to pull. When it comes to the environmental movement’s recycling dogma, one has to wonder the same thing.



For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here


No comments: