Monday, 29 August 2011

Pole Position

They made it! The intrepid 5-man "Old Pulteney Row To The Pole" team managed to drag their boat "Old Pulteney" the final few miles over the ice to the.... To the what? To the North Pole, stupid! Or is where they ended up the north Pole? Since that spot is on an island, and since the North Pole is not, then what was their objective? Aaaah - it was to the magnetic north pole - that's all right then. But wait, on their website, they say
The Magnetic North Pole is continually moving. It was originally reached by James Clark Ross in 1831. At the time it was located on the Boothia Peninsula, Canada.
More recently the Canadian government made attempts to measure it and show its movement northwestward.
This was eventually successfully achieved in 1996 when an expedition certified its location by magnetometer and theodolite. This was the first time it has been accurately measured. The expedition was led by David Hempelman-Adams and included Jock Wishart.
The measurements were accepted by the Canadian government and it became a recognised and certified position at;
The position is 78°35.7N 104°11.9W / 78.595°N 104.1983°W.
So it was at that position in 1996, and as they say, "The Magnetic North Pole is continually moving". so where is it now?
The speed of movement of the Pole began to increase significantly in a northwesterly direction about 1998, and now averages about 37 miles each year and so It is currently projected to be in a position in Siberia by the end of the century. 
Let's get this straight, they weren't rowing to the North Pole, as many newspapers and TV news reports stated. They weren't even rowing to the Magnetic North Pole, they were rowing to where the Magnetic North Pole was in 1996! So where is it now? Google maps knows:

Using the scale at bottom left, and using Mark One eyeball, that position would seem to be about 500km NW of their finishing point, marked by the red arrow. That red arrow is pointing at a spot only 78°N - some 12° south of the North Pole, and a long way away. What does this expedition prove? That the Arctic ice is in a bad way, and will be gone soon, and this proved by an exhausting row to nowhere-in-particular, with days spent marooned on land because of that "vanished" ice, and a final 3-day drag-your-boat over the "vanished ice". Or something

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Slaying Your Own Argument

In a post entitled "CO2 as a radiation valve contravenes the laws of thermodynamics" our old friend and "Dragon Slayer" Alan Siddons analogises the atmosphere as a "radiation" valve. He imagines such a valve letting in solar radiation, but preventing any escaping to space. Of course, in such a system, the Earth's surface would continue to heat up because there's no exit for the heat generated in the surface. He claims that this disproves the "greenhouse effect" because "back-radiation" from the "valve" (the atmosphere) is somehow magnified and therefore causes a "runaway" heating cascade. But with no path for the heat to escape, such an effect is inevitable anyway, "greenhouse effect" or not. It's nosensical, of course, and proves nothing.

The second part of the post describes a "valve" which actually lets some radiation to escape, so is worth examining. However, in summary this is another example of a poorly labelled diagram, which in this case seems to have confused the author himself;

I urge you to notice that the valve's efficiency doesn't actually matter, either, because physical laws are violated even in a modest case. In some sense, in fact, the crimes get worse. For instance, let's install a 20% valve, so that 80% of the infrared escapes and 20% back-radiates. 

In this case, 0.8 exits while 0.2 is "retained" by the surface. But 0.2 also radiates back to the surface, so it gains 0.4 in total (again, as a minimum: further back-radiation effects must arbitrarily be halted). In other words, even when the oft-mentioned "net flow" favors the outward movement of thermal energy (a modeling effort to satisfy the Second Law), the alleged heating effect still contradicts the First Law because you're getting more energy than you put in. Any furnace manufacturer would eagerly exploit such a loophole in the law if it existed. 

"In this case, 0.8 exits while 0.2 is 'retained' by the surface" - yet the upward red arrow at the top reads 0.8, meaning that the red arrow below it must represent 1 unit in order for the "valve" to have absorbed 0.2 units. Not a good start, since if the surface "retains" 0.2 it can only radiate 0.8 with a corresponding 0.64 exiting the "valve". The 0.8 shown escaping plus the 0.2 "retained " by the surface plus the 0.2 absorbed by the valve add up to 1.2 and not 1. Earlier in his post he said "You can't obtain more energy than you put in", yet he's just done it! Apart from this fundamental error, if the surface retains a net anything the system can never reach equilibrium - it has built-in positive feedback from the word go. He says earlier "for every unit of sunlight going in", so if for every unit going in 0.2 is "retained" the surface will continue to heat up, and thus far in the process the the "valve" has played no part in any "feedback". So the diagram doesn't actually represent what the description says it does. In reality the surface never does actually radiate 1 unit, as implied in the diagram, unless the"valve" is initially set to allow all radiation through, and then activated. All that's needed (once again, as in "A Simpe Solution") is to consider the energy actually lost from the system to get a properly thought-out analogy or "model".

At equilibrium, 1 unit escapes through the valve, which means that the surface is radiating 1/0.8 = 1.25, and the "valve" is absorbing and re-radiating 0.25 downwards. But where does that "extra" energy come from? It comes of course from energy absorbed during the equilibrium process. initially the surface acquires 1 unit, absorbs that energy and heats up until it radiates 1 unit. The "valve" absorbs 0.2 of that, and it heats up until it radiates the same down. The process continues with diminishing increments - the 0.2 is absorbed by the surface, increasing its heat content until it radiates 1.2 units, with 0.96 escaping and a total of 0.24 absorbed by the "valve" and so on. Of course, the process doesn't actually have discrete steps - it's smooth and continuous. The heat content of surface and valve increase until radiation in and out of the system balances and equilibrium is obtained. No physical laws are violated, and "furnace maufacturers" are well aware that it takes time for their products to heat up to operating temperature when turned on.

There's the nub of the matter - the "Slayer's" misunderstanding of the difference between heat flow amd heat content. The surface of the Earth and the atmosphere don't radiate because they are absorbing radiation, they radiate because they contain heat. Radiation from the sun merely tops up the heat content. At night there is no radiation from the sun, yet of course the Earth/atmosphere system cotinues to radiate heat to space, slowly cooling. It's surely a simple concept to grasp, yet it appears to elude some.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The truth may be only a click away ....

When you read a blog or forum post, or an article on a website do you click on supporting links provided by the author? I usually do, unless I trust the author or site and the article seems comprehensive. When I do check sources, I sometimes find that the author has misrepresented what the sources say, or has left out something that's "inconvenient" for his argument. Sometimes the linked source doesn't even mention what is claimed or says exactly the opposite. I gave an example in an earlier post Clutching at Straws, or "Scraping the Barrel" where a linked post didn't discuss what was claimed at all.

While re-organising my bookmarks, I came across this post titled intriguingly "Solar Ovens Prove Greenhouse Gas Theory is cooked", from "Dragon Slayer" author John O'Sullivan. The article jumps right in and says:
Colorado State University and Brigham Young University's (BYU) Professor Steven E. Jones of the Department of Physics and Astronomy and his student, Jenni Christensen Currit, have conducted experiments that prove that solar ovens are not just a cheap and reliable way of ‘free energy’ cooking but are also useful tools for disputing theories that the planet is in danger of any runaway catastrophic warming due to fossil fuel emissions. 
BYU's study entitled, ‘Solar Cookers for Developing Countries’ shows that the predicted harmful back radiation effect defined by the greenhouse gas theory (GHG), whereby carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is supposedly responsible for re-radiating heat energy (repeatedly up and down as if under a blanket) doesn’t exist in the real world.
The finding challenges the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and certain world governments who have premised trillion-dollar cap-and-trade tax policies on fears that catastrophic global warming may ensue if levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide continue to rise.

So let's click on that link and see what it says. It's indeed a report, but the abstract says:
The developing world suffers from a variety of problems including lack of food, fuel shortage, environmental abuses, and unemployment. Many non-profit organizations work to alleviate these problems, but often find that a coordination between scientists and developers is difficult yet necessary to make effective improvements. This project is an attempt to bridge the gap between technological development and international development. Dr. Steven Jones of Brigham Young University, has been developing solar oven technology for several years. I joined the project after much progress had been made. My project had two phases. The first phase was spent developing solar oven designs that would be both effective and practical in developing countries where money and materials are hard to obtain. The second phase was an effort to take the technology to non-governmental organizations currently doing work in developing countries in an educational approach that would allow them to have a flexible approach to implementing valuable technology for those with the most urgent need. This paper includes the findings and accomplishments of both phases. The educational materials distributed to the organizations are also included as well as a list of groups who have received this information in hopes that future interest will rise and the materials will be made available to an even wider audience. 
Not exactly what we were led to expect, is it? BYU's "study" is not a study at all, but a project, and the only "radiation" mentioned is from the sun, as one would expect in a project to develop and promote solar cookers. However, don't take my word for it - click on the link and see for yourself. There's no "finding" that disputes anything, let alone the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Linking to and totally misrepresenting a report which has nothing whatsoever to do with your claim is deception, pure and simple.

O'Sullivan's post continues:

Cooling or Warming: Ovens Satisfy Laws of Thermodynamics
Remarkably, the researchers doing a similar experiment at Colorado State University tested solar ovens not just as cookers but also for their potential to cool food and water both day and night. All solar cookers tested proved highly successful at cooling both day and night as long as they were carefully aimed.
Remarkable indeed, as the only "experimenting" the aforementioned BYU pair did was in
developing and modifying the design of the funnel cooker and to work on developing other designs. My contribution was mainly focused on researching heat-resistant plastic and alternatives to plastic, in addition to testing the funnel cooker and making a new type of box cooker.
Incidentally, the link to the "experiment at Colorado State University" pdf doesn't work in the original post; I've corrected it in the quote. Par for the course it seems. Did the "researchers" at CYU "test ovens not just as cookers"? Not exactly - they describe how to build a "solar fridge". Another non-experiment it seems. O'Sullivan goes on to say
It is proof of a cooling effect that appears to contradict the so-called re-radiation properties of carbon dioxide; if CO2 does cause warming it isn't showing up in these tests. This is because if back radiation was actually reaching the Earth, solar ovens would produce heating at night. But clearly they are not. The findings are set to become a hot topic in the ongoing global warming debate. 
Really? So what does the (incorrectly) linked construction project (which is what it actually is) say on this subject?
An object on the ground “sees” the earth below and the sky above. The sky is cool, the earth is (relatively) warm. The object will cool, because it will emit more than it receives—only half of what it “sees” gives significant infrared back. But an object in the “space refrigerator” doesn't “see” anything warm. The solar oven collects radiation from above—but above is the sky , and the sky is cool. So the object in the box gives off as much energy as an object on the ground, but it gets much less back.
Gets much less back - says it all really. A fine piece of work - citing and misrepresenting one article which is totally irrelevant, and another which actually refutes what's claimed as "evidence" . So we have even more "clutching at straws" except that in this case they're not even straws.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Glossary of Global Warming and Climate Terms

A light-hearted but satirical translation of terms and phrases in scientific papers, internet articles and news reports. Don't take it too seriously but remember that satire is best when a thread of truth (however thin) runs through it. The list is not in alphabetical order because it follows a tenuous narrative. It's not complete - I just jotted things down as they occurred to me. If you have any comments or suggestions, feel free, you know what to do. I had a lot of fun compiling the list; I hope you have some reading it.

Term or phraseTranslation
See Bloggs et al. 2003One day we might read it too
Bloggs et al. 2009We hoped you wouldn't mention that
GlobalBits of the Northern Hemisphere studied
RegionalThe area covered by our map
Ocean acidityOcean alkalinity
Increasing acidityReducing alkalinity
Low pH sea-waterSea-water with hydrochloric acid added
High pH sea-waterSea-water with no hydrochloric acid added
High morbidityLittle buggers don't like hydrochloric acid
W/m²Watts per square metre
WattOne joule per second
WattsThat damn blogger
ProxyTree rings, ice cores or sediments
Tree ringsThe "lonesome pine"
YamalA few "lonesome pines"
The Hockey StickTwo graphs for the price of one
"Nature trick"A surreptitious grafting operation
Statistical techniqueSmooth the hell out of it
Mediaeval Warm PeriodWe got rid of that (see Statistical technique)
Little Ice AgeAn urban myth (see Statistical technique)

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Clutching at Straws, or "Scraping the Barrel"

I used to like the Hockey Schtick, often first with news of new scientific papers or articles on global warming, until the blog became a mouthpiece for the Dragon Slayers with their distortions and pseudo-science. A recent post there claims that a climate scientist  "inadvertently explains why greenhouse theory is wrong". The post links to a video of Professor David Archer of the University of Chicago giving a lecture to non-science majors on modelling the "greenhouse effect":
In lecture 5, The Greenhouse Effect, Archer uses the Stefan-Boltzmann equation to calculate the supposed temperatures of Venus, Earth, and Mars with and without a greenhouse effect. Archer's calculations show the greenhouse effect on Venus is wildly underestimated by 415C and wildly overestimated on both Earth (by 23C) and on Mars (by 19C) in comparison to actual observed temperatures. This is despite the fact that CO2 levels are very high and virtually the same on Venus and Mars (around 96%) and only trace (0.039%) on Earth. Archer says in the lecture that one would have to assume the Venus atmosphere behaves like multiple panes of glass in order to obtain an answer near the observed temperature, yet on both Earth and Mars one would have to assume the atmospheres behave like much less than one pane of glass. 
What is not said is that in the lecture, Archer develops a very simple atmospheric model, using a "pane of glass" to represent a totally absorbing atmosphere, and at the end shows that its results are wrong for all three planets. So this post is claiming that a very simple "one-layer" atmospheric model, which as Archer explains is being used as a step towards a more accurate "multi-layer" model, and which produces the wrong results somehow disproves the "greenhouse effect"! Give me a break! Incidentally, what's "much less than one pane of glass", which it's implied Archer has said (he does not)? The post continues:
H/T Professor Claes Johnson, who explains why Archer also uses the Stefan-Boltzmann equation incorrectly (and here)
The first link which purportedly "explains why Archer also uses the Stefan-Boltzmann equation incorrectly" doesn't mention Stefan-Boltzmann at all. Misrepresent what was being taught in the lecture, leave out relevant parts, come to an unsupported conclusion. and supply a link which doesn't address what you claim it does.The entire post is really scraping the barrel.

A Simpe Solution

In Zen and the Second Law of Thermodynamics I discussed claims of the non-existence of the so-called "greenhouse effect". Some of those claims use analogies or examples to "prove" the point. Most of these are misconceived at best and erroneous at worst. Most scientists and informed non-scientists accept the basic physics. I won't say "99%" or similar because I'm aware that 87.37% of statistics are made up on the spot, and in any case I don't know what the figure might be. This is not an "appeal to consensus" - the basic physics involved is well understood and founded on fundamental physical laws.

Here's such an analogy designed to "prove" that the infrared radiation ("back radiation") from the atmosphere to the Earth's surface either doesn't exist or cannot have the claimed effect. Not surprisingly, it's from one of the many authors of "Slaying the Sky Dragon" who thinks he's illustrated "perpetual feedback":
Say you have a blackbody plate (think of an electric heater) radiating 1000 W/m² toward another plate which, because of distance, absorbs half of that intensity, i.e., 500 W/m². At equilibrium, the receiving plate thus radiates 250 W/m² toward the 1000 W/m² plate. Question: Does the 1000 W/m² plate thereby rise to 1250 W/m²? If so, then, by raising the radiator's temperature without adding more energy, you've disproved the first law of thermodynamics. Effectively, you've made the radiator heat itself. Moreover, now at 1250 W/m², the radiator will heat the other plate still more, absorb another dose of back-radiated energy, and will reach 1562 W/m². And so on, ad infinitum.

This seems to prove a feedback causing a runaway heating in the system. However, the author (Alan Siddons) is confusing an infinite geometric series (with a finite sum) to a never-ending sequence of feedback. Let's look closer at the diagram. Something is missing (par for the course in these analogies). In this case it's the radiation lost from the system, and examining that will directly give us the equilibrium conditions.

At equilibrium, the two-plate system is receiving the equivalent of 1000 W/m² via the heated plate, so the system must lose that energy to the surroundings. If the heated plate is now radiating x W/m², then x/2 W/m² is being lost to the surroundings. The receiver is absorbing x/2 W/m², so must be radiating the same amount, with half of that radiation, x/4 W/m² lost to the surroundings. We have a simple expression to solve:

x/2 + x/4 = 1000   so 3x/4=1000  and x = 1,333.3

The heater radiates 1,333.3/2 = 666.7 (actualy 666.66 recurring) to the receiver, which radiates half, or 333.3 back:

Balance is restored and no runaway heating. But where does the "extra" radiation come from, which as claimed above "violates the First Law"? It comes from the heat energy stored in the system during the equilibrium process, and the amount depends on the specific heat of heater and receiver. There is no violation of the First Law, and no violation of the Second Law either. Net flow between the two plates is from hotter to cooler, with both plates heating up until overall equilibrium is restored. Al the heat energy in the system came from the heated plate, which has some of that returned to it from the receiver. The returned heat reduces the net heat lost from the heater, so because the input remains the same, it heats up until the heat lost from the system equals the heat input.

Does the cooler receiver "heat" the hotter heated plate? No, it simply replaces some of the energy radiated (and therefore lost) from the heater, so it's the continual 1000 W/m² energy input which does the heating. Mr. Siddons has himself said "a cooler body cannot heat a hotter body, it just slows the rate of cooing". This is a perfect example - initially the heater radiates 500 W/m² to the receiver, reducing to a net 666.7 - 333.3 or 333.3 W/m² at equilibrium, and the result is a hotter radiator, radiating a total of 1333.3 W/m².

The misconception arises from only considering the instantaneous input to the system and ignoring the heat stored during the equilibrium process, a common thread in such discussions. If you intend waving a big stick, make sure you've got hold of the right end of it first.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Skating on Thin Ice in Winnetka

I'd never heard of Winnetka, Illinois until yesterday. It seems the worthy residents are reluctant to spend as much as $750,000 for a system to guarantee winter ice at their outdoor skating rinks. Triblocal reports:
a 2008 Winnetka Caucus survey polled members on the subject. It asked if residents would support a $700,000 to $750,000 “removable ice system” at Indian Hill Park. Of the 1,170 people who responded, 73 percent voted against it. 
Sensible folks, but where does the drive for such a project originate?
Global warming presents a potentially dire future for Winnetka, warns a Park District report.
“This would obviously mean the end of outdoor (ice) skating in Winnetka,” the report says.
Citing the threat posed by global warming, the Winnetka Park District is investigating ways to continue providing outdoor ice skating should winters become shorter. And it would only cost the district $450,000 – less if it just rents a global warming-resistant rink, instead of buying its own.
Now we have it - "the threat posed by global warming". Where did notice of this threat originate? The state government? The federal government? The local weather bureau? The IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) 2007 report? "A regional climate model? No - a report on "global warming" in the Wall Street Journal (I can't find a link).
The report cites a June 16 Wall Street Journal article about global warming that said “Chicago’s weather could someday resemble Hunstville, Ala.”
Indeed it could, but it could also resemble Vostok station, Antarctica, as it once did when Chicago was under about one thousand metres of ice, during the last ice age. An investor who wishes to buy or sell shares will examine the price record for the shares. Let's examine (as the Park Board should have) the winter temperature record for Chicago (14 miles to the south) and similarly situated on the shore of Lake Michigan:

Winter (Dec-Feb) 1991 - 2011 Trend = -2.02 degF / Decade

The average winter temperature (with two exceptions) has been below freezing over the last 20 years, and that looks like a distinct downward trend to me, but then I'm not a WSJ reporter. However, if I was a Winnetka taxpayer, I'd hang on to my money.