Friday, 23 March 2012

Disconnects in Logic (3) - We don't do Climate

More geo-engineering, I'm afraid, and the inevitable intrusion of the Law of Unintended Consequences (also known as the Law of Human Stupidity and Ignorance, appendix 1). Before it's filed in the "We don't do Climate" garbage bin of history, from the pages of the Toronto Star yesterday (21st Feb):
Global warming: Researchers develop technology to reduce methane gas emissions from oceans
For Stephen Salter and John Latham, there is nothing more deadly than the creation and emission of methane gas.
“It’s 200 times worse than CO2 (carbon dioxide),” Salter, who is emeritus professor of engineering at the University of Edinburgh, said in an interview with the Star.
“It has a quick and serious effect,” Salter said, likening methane to a kind of “crack cocaine” for the atmosphere.
Salter, who works out of the Engineering Design Institute for Energy Systems at the university, was recently in front of a British House of Commons committee on climate change, pleading his case against methane gas. He described its highly destructive impact as it is released from the ocean into the atmosphere, significantly contributing to global warming and the melting of Arctic ice.
"200 times worse than CO2" - just where did he get that from? And their ingenious (if costly) solution?
Salter and his colleague, Latham, who is an atmospheric sciences researcher at University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Co., have come up with what they believe is a solution to the impact of methane on the earth’s environment. They envisage a kind of vessel or land station that sprays salt water into the atmosphere, ultimately affecting the makeup of clouds. The idea is that the clouds could reflect back into space more of the sunlight hitting the ocean.
“We would cool down (the planet),” Salter said.
“We would cool down (the planet)” - indeed? By spraying water vapour, the most powerful greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere? Despite the low temperatures there, a large proportion of the drops would evaporate. A strong dose of reality for messrs. (or is it messers?) Salter and Latham, from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado.
A case of the vapors 
When it comes to climate change in the Arctic, melting sea ice and warming oceans often get the most attention. Yet in the atmosphere, another watery component is changing as well: water vapor. As sea ice extent and duration decrease and air temperatures rise, the increasingly open Arctic Ocean is subject to even more evaporation, pumping more water vapor into the atmosphere, making it more humid. In addition, warmer air is capable of holding more water, so increasing humidity over the Arctic may be yet another signal that air temperatures in the region are rising, producing yet another feedback mechanism throwing the Arctic climate off-kilter.
More from the article:
Latham worked out that if you increase the number of water drops in a cloud by increasing the condensation nuclei, the cloud will reflect more of the sun’s incoming energy back into the atmosphere, Salter explained. The ocean won’t heat up and won’t release more methane.
There's a very fine balance between "whitening" cloud and triggering precipitation, which not surprisingly reduces cloud, transferring the water to the surface as rain or snow. "Increasing the condensation nuclei" is employed in cloud seeding to induce precipitation. They also have utterly missed the point that increasing snow precipitation would "whiten" the Arctic far better than (possibly) increased cloud would. It might turn out all right in the end, but for the wrong reasons. They've even included a rather bold prediction (make a note in your 10-year diary - it's already in mine)
Without any action on the global warming front, it is predicted that there is a 50 per cent chance that Arctic sea ice will be non-existent in September 2014. If the forecasts are correct, the oceans will heat up even more and the already high levels of methane in the Arctic Ocean will rise even more, Salter said.
If the methane is "in the ocean" how could it possibly increase greenhouse gas warming? Warmer water will hold less methane in solution, not more. Oh - sorry, that quote is from the "loose terminology" department, employed when talking to reporters and dumb amateurs like me. Based on their woolly thinking and focussing on a tiny part of the Arctic climate system, I'd say there's a 100 per cent chance they're off-target by 180 degrees. These "spraying vessels" would be unmanned apparently, and sailing in Arctic waters for months. I can recommend a film for them to view. It's not "An Inconvenient Truth" but "Titanic".

Salter is emeritus professor of engineering at the University of Edinburgh, also known as the "We don't do Climate" department. Latham however, is an "atmospheric sciences" researcher at University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Co. That must be the "CO2 is the most powerful greenhouse gas" department. I was going to add "You couldn't make it up", but they've done all the work for me.

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