Friday, September 01, 2017

Volcanic eruptions triggered global warming 56m years ago, study reveals

This is nuts.  In actual history, as distinct from these "reconstructions", big volcanic eruptions are always associated with cooling -- due to their shading effect.  This is a case of theory defying reality

A dramatic period of global warming 56 million years ago that saw temperatures climb by up to five degrees and triggered extinctions of marine organisms was down to volcanic eruptions, researchers have revealed, in a study they say offers insights into the scale and possible impact of global warming today.

One of the most rapid periods of warming in Earth's history, the Palaeocene/Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), occurred as Greenland pulled away from Europe.

However, details of the quantities of carbon dioxide behind the warming and where it came from had remained unclear.

Now scientists say they have solved the puzzle, revealing that the main driver of the event was a gradual release of carbon dioxide through volcanic eruptions - findings, they say, that overturn a long-held view that the PETM mirrors the rapid rise in carbon emissions seen today.

"[The PETM] was always regarded as the best natural analogue for current anthropogenic carbon emissions - but we have found that not even that event is a actually good analogue," said Marcus Gutjahr, first author of the study from the Geomar-Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Germany. "We are actually currently marching in unknown territory."

Writing in the journal Nature, Gutjahr and colleagues from the UK and US reveal how they unpicked the conundrum by combining computer simulations with an analysis of fossil shells from microscopic single-cell organisms found within a sediment core from the north-east Atlantic Ocean.

The team focused on the ratios of different forms - or isotopes - of oxygen, carbon and boron within the shells, the latter of which offers tell-tale clues about the ocean's acidity, a measure affected by levels of carbon dioxide that dissolved from the atmosphere into the ocean. "These shells recorded the chemistry of the ocean in which [they] grew," said Gutjahr.

The carbon dioxide, he notes, could either have been pumped directly into the atmosphere through volcanic events or have formed from other carbon sources, such as underwater methane deposits or organic-rich sediments.

However, carbon dioxide from the different sources would have a very different impact on carbon isotope ratios. What's more, while volcanic eruptions gradually release carbon dioxide over time, gases from methane deposits or sediments are released rapidly.

Drawing these factors together with the level and duration of the increased ocean acidity, the team found that the carbon dioxide was probably released through volcanic eruptions, with such events accounting for up to 90% of the emissions.

But, says Gutjahr, the study does not rule out the possibility of some very short, sudden releases of methane and other carbon sources.

"The key things is the acidification took 20,000 years and if we had introduced enough methane over 20,000 years to keep the pH so low, then the carbon signature would be [very different to what we see]," he said.

The team were also able to calculate that overall between 10,200-12,200 petagrams of carbon were released into the atmosphere during the PETM - more carbon than is in the world's total fossil fuel reserves - with rates of up to 0.58 petagrams of carbon released each year over 50,000 years. About 10 petagrams of carbon are currently released every year from fossil fuel emissions.

Daniela Schmidt, a professor of palaeobiology at the University of Bristol who was not involved in the study, said the study held a warning for the planet today.

"We know something which was smaller than what we are currently doing had profound biological implications," she said. "We always assume that if something happens quicker and we have less time to adapt, the impact will be larger."

Mark Maslin, professor of geography at University College London, said the case for volcanic eruptions being behind the PETM was compelling, adding that the research suggests underwater sources of carbon, like methane deposits, might be more stable than previously thought and play a smaller role in climate change.

But, he added, there are plenty of causes for concern, not least the rapid rate of carbon emissions today, and Earth's current sensitivity to such changes, means the planet will not be able to adjust in the same way it did in the past. What's more, he said, the potential loss of other carbon-rich deposits remains a serious issue.

"We should still be worried about methane stored in the permafrost in the high Arctic," he said.


Warmists now doing "intricate calculations" to find out if a storm is due to climate change

Skeptical climatologist Roy Spencer says: "Wow. Intricate Calculations! Now THAT'S impressive. Wish I could do those."

Levity aside, the author writes a generally cautious article but appears to have been star struck by attribution analysis, which is just another form of modelling

By the time the rain stops, Harvey will have dumped about 1 million gallons of water for every man, woman and child in southeastern Texas -- a soggy, record-breaking glimpse of the wet and wild future global warming could bring, scientists say.

While scientists are quick to say climate change didn't cause Harvey and that they haven't determined yet whether the storm was made worse by global warming, they do note that warmer air and water mean wetter and possibly more intense hurricanes in the future.

"This is the kind of thing we are going to get more of," said Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer. "This storm should serve as warning."

There's a scientifically accepted method for determining if some wild weather event has the fingerprints of man-made climate change, and it involves intricate calculations. Those could take weeks or months to complete, and then even longer to pass peer review.

In general, though, climate scientists agree that future storms will dump much more rain than the same size storms did in the past.

That's because warmer air holds more water. With every degree Fahrenheit, the atmosphere can hold and then dump an additional 4 percent of water, several scientists say.

Global warming also means warmer seas, and warm water is what fuels hurricanes.

When Harvey moved toward Texas, water in the Gulf of Mexico was nearly 2 degrees warmer than normal, said Weather Underground meteorology director Jeff Masters. Hurricanes need at least 79 degrees F as fuel, and water at least that warm ran more than 300 feet deep in the Gulf, according to University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy.

"What I think we can say is that the fact that we do have climate change, our atmosphere is warmer, it contains more moisture, it means that when we do have a hurricane, a tropical cyclone like this, then when an event does occur, then you know climate change does very likely increase the associated rainfall. But climate change per se does not cause tropical cyclones," said Clare Nullis Kapp of the World Meteorological Organization.

Several studies show that the top 1 percent of the strongest downpours are already happening much more frequently. Also, calculations done Monday by MIT meteorology professor Kerry Emanuel show that the drenching received by Rockport, Texas, used to be maybe a once-in-1,800-years event for that city, but with warmer air holding more water and changes in storm steering currents since 2010, it is now a once-every-300-years event.

Research published last year in the journal Nature Climate Change projected that extreme downpours will happen nearly three times as often in the United States by the end of this century. Its high-resolution computer modeling found extreme rainfall will be five times more frequent in the Gulf Coast and six times more in parts of the Mississippi Delta by 2100.

"It's much more likely that you'll get hit by very strong thunderstorms, very strong downpours in the future climate," study co-author Andreas Prein, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, told The Associated Press when the study came out. "What this means in the future is you might have a much higher potential for flash floods. This can have really big impacts."

There's a lot of debate among climate scientists over what role, if any, global warming may have played in causing Harvey to stall over Texas, which has been a huge factor in the catastrophic flooding. If the hurricane had moved on like a normal storm, it wouldn't have dumped as much rain in any one spot.

Harvey stalled because it is sandwiched between two high-pressure fronts that push it in opposite directions, and those fronts are stuck.

Oppenheimer and some others theorize that there's a connection between melting sea ice in the Arctic and changes in the jet stream and the weather patterns that make these "blocking fronts" more common. Others, like Masters, contend it's too early to say.

University of Washington atmospheric scientist Cliff Mass said climate change is simply not powerful enough to create off-the-chart events like Harvey's rainfall.

"You really can't pin global warming on something this extreme. It has to be natural variability," Mass said. "It may juice it up slightly but not create this phenomenal anomaly."

"We're breaking one record after another with this thing," Mass said.


This `Endangered Species' Story Was Government-Sponsored Fake News

Leave it to the federal government to make a costly mistake, obscure it for decades at taxpayer expense, and then try to claim it was a success.

In 2016, Johnston's frankenia-a wiry, blue-green, roughly 1 to 2-foot-tall shrub with tiny oblong leaves-was taken off the endangered species list. The Fish and Wildlife Service's endangered species database reports the happy plant was "delisted" because it had recovered.

It seems strange that such good news did not get much attention, and that the Fish and Wildlife Service only put out a press release in the southwestern U.S.

The reason it was not more publicized is probably because the whole thing is a farce. The species did not recover-it never was endangered in the first place.

When the Fish and Wildlife Service added this plant to the endangered species list in 1984, the agency reported it could only find about 1,000 of them in a few southern Texas counties, and that there was concern about "grazing pressure" on the hapless plant.

But surveys conducted after 1984 found a wealth of Johnston's frankenia-over 4 million by one account and over 9 million by another-enough that biologists probably quit trying to guess.

The Fish and Wildlife Service hailed the "recovery" of the plant, saying, "The threats to this species have been eliminated or reduced to the point that the species has recovered . "

That sounds a lot like a doctor claiming his patient is cured after realizing a terminal diagnosis was totally wrong.

When the Fish and Wildlife Service removes a species from the list, it is to attribute the action to either recovery, data error, or extinction. It's clear Johnston's frankenia was never "recovered" because it was never in desperate condition at all.

The Fish and Wildlife Service's annual expenditure reports indicate that $670,000 were spent on Johnston's frankenia between 1998 and 2014 alone. This includes nearly $250,000 shelled out by Customs and Border Protection in 2008 in order to avoid adversely affecting the plant.

Even more troubling than the expenditures is the fact that the government knew the plant was just fine when it made them. I know this because I petitioned the Fish and Wildlife Service to remove the species from the list as a mistake in 1997, citing data familiar to the service.

A half-decade later in 2003, the Fish and Wildlife Service finally announced a proposal to delist the species, stating that it was "not able to act on this petition upon receipt due to the low priority assigned to this activity . "

The effort to deregulate the plant somehow ground to a halt until the Fish and Wildlife Service announced in 2011 that it was reopening the public comment period on the proposal to take this species off the list.

By January of 2016, the Fish and Wildlife Service finally removed the plant from the endangered list.

It took the agency decades to correct this mistake, and when it finally did, it was dishonest.

Because the Fish and Wildlife Service calls the plant "recovered," it is required to monitor the species after taking it off the list. This requirement was intended to make sure species that actually belonged on the endangered list don't slip back into an imperiled state.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has a 28-page monitoring plan that explains how the agency will keep a vigilant watch over the frankenia. It will spend $100,000 over nine years to conduct remote sensing at 20 sites and on-site assessments at nine sites.

And, as explained in the Federal Register, the Fish and Wildlife Service will make sure that threats, including "substantial human persecution," are not visited upon the plant.

Of course, this is all an absurd waste. These measures do nothing but paper over the agency's decadeslong mistake.

But after promulgating dozens of pages in the Federal Register costing perhaps $500 a pop, producing a 55-page recovery plan, and imposing hundreds of thousands of dollars on agencies that have other important things to do, what's another nine years of monitoring to hide embarrassing facts from the public?

The Fish and Wildlife Service's press release regarding removal of the plant from the endangered species list states, "The goal of the service is to make implementation of the Endangered Species Act less complex, less contentious and more effective."

Nice idea-but how does the service now expect to have any credibility with landowners whose role in species conservation is crucial?

Smart public policies cannot be made when the government is producing patently fake information. The secretary of the interior should correct the record for Johnston's frankenia.


Resilience, not devastation, is the real story of the Texas floods

Houston's response to Hurricane Harvey is a lesson for the world
The numbers are awesome. In a matter of hours, Hurricane Harvey dumped nine trillion gallons of rainfall on Houston and southeast Texas: at one stage, 24 inches of rain fell in 24 hours. Like all American cities, Houston is prepared for hurricanes and floods - but Harvey was of a different magnitude. `We have not seen an event like this,' the chief of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, William `Brock' Long declared. It led rapidly to unprecedented flooding in one of the world's richest cities.

The photos from Houston have been heartbreaking. Pensioners have been pictured sitting half-submerged in retirement homes, awaiting rescue. Some 30,000 may be forced into shelters, and officials are braced for almost half a million requiring federal assistance. We have seen parents walking knee-deep in water with their children in their arms, and belongings balanced in bags on their heads. Families wait on the rooftops of their homes, stranded by the flood.

Amid all this, another picture emerges: of the resilience of the city and its people, of the calm effectiveness of the emergency services and the orderliness of communities responding to an extreme set of circum-stances. The volunteers who took their boats to rescue those who had been stranded. There are people like Arthur Buchanan, who runs the C&D hardware store on 11th Street, who cycled to work through the floods. `We only close five days out of the year,' he told reporters, who were amazed to find his shop open, `and this ain't one of them.' That's Texans for you.

As early as 1937, local officials declared Houston to be a city `at the mercy of the relentless water'. Storms have battered the city several times over recent years: Hurricane Allison in 2001 and Rita in 2005 each had a significant death toll. Yet its population keeps growing, and the risk of hurricanes are factored into everyday life. As the storm approached, locals were telling journalists that they had filled the bath with water, had prepared plenty of food and were ready to stay put for a few days and sit the storm out.

Americans are less afraid of the weather than they used to be, and with reason. The pictures of Houston's motorways turned into rivers look shocking, until you realise that this is their function. Houston has 2,500 miles of managed waterways, a network of drainage channels and sewers. They fill up when a hurricane strikes, but the idea is that the roads provide overrun and act as massive drains - saving neighbourhoods that might otherwise be underwater. More roads could, and should, have been upgraded in this way. Houston's first `chief resilience officer' said earlier this year that he needed about $3 billion to upgrade, but the city's overall defences saved countless lives.

This is the story of human development: when a nation grows more prosperous, it is less at the mercy of the elements. When Superstorm Sandy struck New York five years ago, it took 74 lives - but if a similar storm had struck cities in the third world, the death toll could have run into the thousands. An MIT study of natural disasters between 1980 and 2002 found that America suffered an average of 17 deaths per windstorm, compared to almost 2,000 in Bangladesh. The average flood cost six lives in the US, but a couple of hundred in East Asia. It isn't that the storms are more severe or more frequent - just that America has the money to cope better.

Outsmarting the weather is part of the basic story of human progress. Indur Goklany, a science analyst at the US Department of the Interior, once looked at all deaths from 8,500 droughts, wildfires, storms and floods over the last century. He found that in the 1920s there were nearly half a million deaths annually from extreme weather events. Although since 1900 the world's population has more than tripled, global deaths from extreme weather have fallen by 93 per cent. (The number of deaths from flooding has fallen by 99 per cent.)



Renewable energy, along with unicorn flop sweat, Al Gore's organic gasses, and moonbeams always get the ink for the "future of energy." And don't forget how Tom Friedman and others like to remind us that China is going to overtake the U.S. as a "clean energy leader" because Trump dumped the Paris Climate Accord (thereby causing Hurricane Harvey in the process).

Turns out if you look close you find out two things. First, in 1990, 88 percent of the world's energy came from fossil fuels. After more than 25 years and over a trillion dollars in subsidies for "renewable" energy, in 2015 the world's share of energy from fossil fuels was . . . 86 percent. (See figure immediately below.) At this rate, it will take 150 years to get fossil fuel energy down to 75 percent of the world's total energy supply. I'm sure just $200 trillion in subsidies will do the trick.

Second, where is most of new energy supply for the developing world (including China) coming from? Here are two recent headlines-first from the Wall Street Journal today:

Big Name in Coal's Resurgence: China

China's reemergence as a coal importer has boosted the fortunes of U.S. producers who are now shipping more coal abroad than any time in the last two years. . .

Industry leaders say that good fortune has been backed up by a change of sentiment led by Mr. Trump. Business would have been worse and future prospects would be lower under a Democratic administration that used new rules to move consumers further away from coal, they said.

And now from India:

Coal to Remain India's Main Energy Source in Coming Decades: Gov't Think Tank

Coal, which powers around three-quarters of India's electricity, will continue to be the foremost energy source over the coming decades, government think-tank Niti Aayog said in its Three-Year Action Agenda released Thursday.

It is important that India increases its domestic coal production to provide energy security and reduce its dependence on imports, it said.

By 2019, the government will explore 25% of the untapped 5,100 sq km coal bearing area to ensure availability of more coal mining blocks, it said.

There will also be efforts to convert 25% of the 139.15 billion mt of coal reserves that were in the `indicated' category as of March 31, 2016 into the `proved' category by offering top exploration companies attractive contract provisions, the report said.

So much winning.




Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


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