Sunday, August 30, 2015

More Lies From Tom Harris

Tom Harris has posted another of his lies, this time comparing the coal industry to someone falsely accused of a crime. You can read it here. I have submitted the following at a rebuttal to his false claims.


This is in response to “Coal industry leaders betraying workers,” written by Tom Harris and Tim Ball and published August 29.

Misters Harris and Ball use a highly deceptive analogy in an attempt to make the coal industry appear as an innocent person unjustly accused of committing crimes. The truth is, coal is a very dirty industry. There is nothing innocent about the business and it knows it. A much better analogy would be to compare coal to the tobacco industry executives who testified before Congress that nicotine is not addictive, even though they knew otherwise (
Misters Harris and Ball state, “You would expect coal leaders to proclaim their industry’s innocence of the crime of which they stand accused, pointing out, for example, that:
–       Global warming stopped 18 years ago despite a 10% rise in CO2 levels,
–       Hurricane activity is at a record low,
–       Medium to strong tornadoes have become less frequent,
–       Antarctic sea ice cover has been increasing at about 1 to 2% per decade,
Let’s take a look at these claims. First, global warming has not stopped and the claim it stopped 18 years ago has been so completely debunked you immediately have to question the credibility of anyone making that false statement. This claim is based on the fact that you can find an average of any database. Fossil fuel industry supporters take that average and draw a straight line, claiming this shows there is no warming. What is interesting is this claim actually proves global warming is continuing. If you look at their claim over time, the only way you can explain their results is by concluding the planet is getting warmer. Read more about this lie at:

What about hurricane activity? It is true the United States is in a low-level period of hurricane activity. The lie is to characterize this as worldwide low. In fact, the western Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean have seen an increase in tropical cyclone activity. Why didn’t Misters Harris and Ball mention that? This is what is known as ‘cherry picking’ and consists of using only the data that supports your claim and ignoring all else.

What about the tornadoes? It is true the number of tornadoes from 2012-2014 was very low. In fact, 2014 was one of the quietest years ever recorded. But, again, Misters Harris and Ball have cherry picked the data. The year 2004 tied the all-time record number of tornadoes. Likewise, the years 2008 and 2011 were significantly higher than the average. Why wasn’t this revealed?

And, let’s discuss the Antarctic sea ice. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, the maximum sea ice extent (occurring in September) around Antarctica has been growing at 1.3% per decade. So, was the statement truthful? Of course, not. What they failed to mention is how the amount of land ice on Antarctica is decreasing at an alarming, and increasing, rates. They also failed to mention the sea ice extent this year is dramatically below the average, currently running at more than 10% lower than last year. All of this also ignores how land ice around the world and sea ice in the Arctic is disappearing. This is the lie of omission. They didn’t want you to know about this, so they left it out of the conversation and provided only what they wanted you to know.

And, there is another lie of omission in their letter. What they didn’t tell you is these two men are both supported by the fossil fuel industry. Mr. Harris, in particular, has a long track record as a fossil fuel lobbyists and is closely associated with the Heartland Institute which is supported by the fossil fuel and tobacco industries. Take a look here for more information on Mr. Harris:

Unfortunately for Misters Harris and Ball and their employers, the science about manmade climate change is settled. In fact, there is no scientific evidence to the contrary. There is no reproducible scientific evidence to provide any alternative explanation. Read about what happens when scientists attempt to reproduce contrarian claims (spoiler alert: they are unable to reproduce them). The only valid scientific conclusion is that manmade emissions are changing the climate.

In short, coal is the number one source of compounds sulfur and nitrogen pollution in the atmosphere; it is the number one source of mercury in the food chain (our food chain!); it is the number one source of manmade radioactive material in the air; it produces particulate pollution responsible for a number of respiratory and pulmonary health problems; it is the number one source of poisonous arsenic in the water system. And, oh yeah, it produces billions of tons of carbon dioxide leading to climate change.

Tom Harris and Tim Ball are paid by the fossil fuel industry to deceive the public on the facts. But, their lies do not change the facts: The crisis is real and we need to act.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Contrarian Papers Debunked

What if the contrarian scientists are right? What if that 3 percent of scientists claiming manmade climate change is real are correct and the 97% are wrong? A team of scientists decided to put this to the test via the scientific method. They took contrarian papers, assumed they were correct, and tried to replicate the results. I'm sure you can guess the results. You can find their paper here.

What I found most interesting is the reason they said most of the research failed - cherry picking. That's right, the most common false argument among deniers is used by denier scientists to falsify their research. Another cause? They simply ignored any laws of physics that didn't fit their hypothesis. Really. Is anyone surprised by that finding?

The researchers do throw a bone to the contrarian scientists, they say the errors may not be malicious. They concede it is possible the errors were honest mistakes by new scientists.

I love the conclusion:
“Science is never settled, and both the scientific consensus and alternative hypotheses should be subject to ongoing questioning, especially in the presence of new evidence and insights,” the study concluded.
This is the exact wording deniers use in an attempt to discredit real science. Karma is a bitch. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

More Scientists Comment On Tom Harris' Deceptions

Turns out I'm not the only one stepping up to comment on Tom Harris' silly editorial on global temperature. Take a look here. The facts are in - Harris continues to have zero credibility.

Clear Demonstration of Denier Logic Failure

One of the most common false arguments I hear about climate change is that it isn't real because the models don't work. This is not only a false argument, it is a false statement. I wrote a posting about it last year that is still valid.

But, there is more to the story. Models improve with time. Deniers want models to be perfect right away and, if they aren't, then the science is invalid and should be abandoned. But, what if that were applied to weather models? Then, the models we use for daily weather and things like hurricane forecasts would never improve. Take a look at the improvement made in hurricane forecast models:

Source: NOAA

Now, ask the deniers if they would rather not have improved hurricane forecast models. When they answer, ask them why the wouldn't want improved climate models?

I'm betting they won't be able to give you a logical answer.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Effort Underway to Block Tom Harris

Tom Harris is a paid shill of the fossil fuel industry and part of his job is to publish false claims in newspapers and blogs where ever he can. See more about him at these websites:

Now, an effort is being made to encourage newspapers to stop printing his lies. Here is an article about Tom Harris printed in the Daily Kos.

And, it turns out Millennials have little patience for people like Harris and his employers. Forty-one percent of them believe climate change denialism disqualifies the candidate. Maybe the papers need to pay attention and stop publishing pieces by Tom Harris. He has disqualified himself.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Tom Harris' Lies About The Temperature Record

Fossil fuel-supported deniers are selling the story that the temperature record is false and there is no global warming. This is particularly interesting considering the number of paid shills who keep insisting the warming is all natural, or the warming is good for us. How could warming be natural if there is none? How could warming be good for us if there is none? This is merely one simple, shining example of how the paid deniers are liars with the goal of deceiving people. Now, there is another, a editorial written by Tom Harris.

Tom Harris is a paid shill of the fossil fuel industry. He also has strong ties to the tobacco industry. These are both industries with track records of falsifying the scientific record in order to prevent any government or public actions that might be damaging to them. These links include a strong affiliation with the Heartland Institute, which receives considerable funding from the fossil fuel and tobacco industries. (Heartland, by the way, is a major player in the fight to convince people that second-hand smoke is harmless.) Mr. Harris denies his link to these industries, but the evidence is conclusive. Take a look at these postings on Mr. Harris and his affiliations.

Part of Mr. Harris’ job, possibly his entire job, is to put false claims in editorials and letters to the editor anywhere he can. In this way, he can promulgate any lie he wants without worrying about being held accountable. After all, he’s entitled to his opinion, even if it is a lie. Mr. Harris has a long record of making false statements. Take a look at his comments from 2006 on Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth documentary.

A recent posting of his concerns the temperature record and is filled with falsehoods and false arguments. You can see his entire posting here:

Let’s take a look and see exactly how he goes about lying.

Mr. Harris states, “But government spokespeople rarely mention the inconvenient fact that these records are being set by less than the uncertainty in the statistics.” The uncertainty, he claims, makes the data ‘meaningless.’ This, of course, is nonsense and is a clear demonstration of his intent to deceive. Let’s take a closer look.

The NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (  did an analysis of the temperature record for 2014. Taking into account the uncertainty and assuming all years (1880-2014) in the time series are independent, they found the chance of 2014 being
  • Warmest year on record: 48.0%
  • One of the five warmest years: 90.4%
  • One of the 10 warmest years: 99.2%
  • One of the 20 warmest years: 100.0%
  • Warmer than the 20th century average: 100.0%
  • Warmer than the 1981-2010 average: 100.0%
Wait! There is ‘only’ a 48% chance 2014 actually was the hottest year on record. That sounds like Tom Harris is right. And, there is the lie. It’s the lie of omission. If 2014 wasn’t the hottest, then some other year must be. Take a look at the rest of the data. The chance of 2014 being one of the top ten hottest years is 99.2% (virtually certain) and it is 100% likely it is in the top 20. It is also 100% certain 2014 was hotter than the 20th century average of the 1981-2010 average. Every year of the 21st century is in the top sixteen hottest years.

These are facts Tom Harris and other paid deniers fail to mention. The important point is not that 2014 (and soon, 2015) is the hottest year on record, what is important is that every single hottest year ever recorded has occurred since 1997, and they are consistently getting hotter. The data fluctuates from year to year, but the trend is what is important and is unmistakable. Take a look here:

Tell us, Mr. Harris, if July 2015 wasn’t the hottest month ever recorded, why didn’t you discuss the trend? But, it gets worse. Mr. Harris in no way demonstrated July 2015 was not the hottest month on record. In fact, he made a clear-cut argument it is bad and could be much worse than claimed. The reason for this is deniers always take the margin of error the way they want and it doesn’t work that way. Taking the data you want is known as ‘cherry picking’ and is one of the biggest and most common lies deniers use.

The margin of error is a plus-or-minus. When they say the data is ± .14 degrees, that means the range, with great probability, is between .14 degrees less and .14 degrees greater. So, in fact, if there is a chance the temperature was less, there is an equal chance it was greater. In other words, there is a reasonable chance July 2015 was even hotter than reported. The data is conclusive – the temperature trend is upward and the planet is getting hotter. This is true even if July 2015 isn’t the hottest month ever. Funny how Mr. Harris didn’t mention that. Was that because he doesn’t want you to know? I mean, he wouldn’t be doing his job if you end up thinking for yourself. By the way, the temperature rise over the 20th century average is many times the size of the margin of error. Strange, Mr. Harris didn’t mention that either. Another lie of omission on his part.

He then tries to make his case by personal attacks on the climate scientists. “Such misrepresentations are now commonplace...,” and “Scientists within the agencies know that this is dishonest.” These are the kind of statements you can expect from paid shills and have no value in the discussion. First, these are not ‘misrepresentations’ and they are in no way ‘dishonest.’ The most proper way to report the data is to provide the most likely value along with the amount of uncertainty. Mr. Harris proved himself they actually do this by quoting the data. Please Mr. Harris, show us how reporting the data with appropriate uncertainties is in any way ‘dishonest’ or a ‘misrepresentation.’

His deception continues when he states, “After all, there is very little data for the 70 percent of Earth’s surface that is ocean. There is also little data for mountainous and desert regions, not to mention the Antarctic. Much of the coverage is so sparse that NASA is forced to make the ridiculous claim that regions are adequately covered if there is a temperature-sensing station within nearly 750 miles.”
Why is this a deception? Again, Mr. Harris is engaging in the lie of omission, one of his favorite tactics. What Mr. Harris doesn’t want you to know is that the entire planet is measured every day by satellite instruments. That data is in addition to the ground stations he mentions which provide ground-truthing. This satellite data allows us to obtain the temperature at various levels of the atmosphere as well as the land and ocean surface. His claims about the distance between data points is entirely false. Why didn’t he mention the satellite data?

Mr. Harris then writes a peculiar paragraph, beginning with “In their award winning book…” I can find no reference that says Taken By Storm has won any awards. In fact, the only reviews I found soundly blasted it. Take a look at this one example (there’s plenty more):

Maybe they got an award from the Heartland Institute. That would be a true statement of its credibility (i.e., none). In any event, Mr. Harris goes on with a definition of temperature. Yeah. So, what? Temperature measures the amount of energy contained in something. I’m not sure what point he’s trying to make and I don’t think he does, either. That’s usually the case when deniers show and try to fool people into thinking they know something about science.

Then, he continues the lies, stating, “Even if enough accurate surface temperature measurements existed to ensure reasonable planetary coverage (it doesn’t).” We already covered this one. Yes, Mr. Harris, there are accurate enough records. But, he doesn’t stop there and continues with complaints about how the data processing methods aren’t known. First, the specific method isn’t as important as ensuring you use the same method on the entire data base. What we want to see is the trend over time. Again, Mr. Harris has committed the lie of omission. The truth is four agencies around the world and the Berkeley Earth Project all use different methodologies (and even different data bases), but come up with essentially the same results. Again, the lie of omission.

Mr. Harris then makes one of the most egregious statements I have ever seen him make and he has a record of whoppers. He states,

“Even if you could calculate some sort of meaningful global temperature statistic, the figure would be unimportant. No one and nothing would experience it directly since we all live in regions, not the globe. There is no super-sized being straddling the planet, feeling global averages in temperature. Global warming does not matter.” 

Wow! I had to read this several times to make sure I wasn’t misreading it. So, Mr. Harris, we don’t need to worry about all of those silly little things that happen on the other side of the planet because we don’t straddle the planet? Things like massive droughts, war, famine, ISIS, etc. I mean, no one is a ‘super-sized being straddling the planet.’ Of course, when those effects of global warming hit us directly we don’t need to worry about it because it’s just us and there is no ‘super-sized being straddling the planet.’ You know, effects such as mass extinctions, food shortages, hotter summers, more severe winter storms, more extreme weather, higher utility bills, loss of jobs, more flooding, coastal erosion due to sea level rise, and don’t forget the $44 trillion that climate change is expected to cost us.

Also, notice how Mr. Harris went from saying there is no global warming to saying it doesn’t matter. Which is it? No global warming or it doesn’t matter? You can’t have both.

Once again, the lie of omission. And, this was a huge lie.

Mr. Harris then states, “Future generations are bound to ask why America closed its coal-fueled generating stations, its cheapest, most plentiful source of electric power, and wasted billions of dollars trying to stop insignificant changes in imaginary phenomena.”

No, Mr. Harris, future generations are going to wonder why we debated for so long before acting. They are going to wonder why we didn’t immediately close the fossil fuel plants when we learned their emissions were destroying the ozone layer, causing acid rain, providing the number one source of mercury in the food chain (our food chain), poisoning the air with cancer-causing radioactive debris, poisoning our bodies with particulate matter, and poisoning our water supply with arsenic. And, oh yeah, destroying the world’s environment by causing climate change. They will see we had cheaper, safer energy sources. They will see the science was settled and the world’s scientists were in nearly unanimous agreement on the dangers. Then, they will wonder why we allowed paid shills to lie and deceive without holding them accountable.

The sad part is I don’t know how to answer that. Maybe the time is coming when we will hold them accountable.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Sea Ice

Why is it so hard to measure the sea ice extent? There's a number of factors. The Arctic Ocean is large, remote, and the weather is really nasty. All of that works against measuring the ice extent, even by satellite. But, take a look at this image and you can see another reason. Just how would you characterize the ice extent?

Source: NASA
This true-color image was captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite off the coast of Greenland on July 16, 2015.

As you can see, although the ice is broken up it is still very dense in some area, but not so dense in others.  And, if a storm or high winds comes through, all of this can change very rapidly. This makes measuring the extent a difficult process.

By the way, the extent for this year has now been measured to be less than the minimum extent for every year prior to 2007 and still falling.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Good News About Coal

Coal is a complex topic. On one hand, it is one of the most ideal of energy sources. It comes out of the ground ready for use and even comes in a very handy form for shipping. Then, it has a high yield, lending itself to highly efficient power plants. Take a look here to see which states use coal the most.

But, on the other hand, digging it out of the ground is environmentally damaging. Burning coal is the number one source of sulfur and nitrogen compounds in the air, causing all sorts of chemical problems, including acid rain. It is the number one source of mercury in the environment, poisoning the food supply and leading to neurological diseases in people who eat it. It is the number one source of manmade radiation in the air, a known carcinogen. It is the number one source of particulate matter, leading to a whole host of respiratory and pulmonary issues. And, the waste product is highly poisonous and contains, among other things, lethal levels of arsenic - an element and does not degrade. Nuclear foes beat the drum that nuclear waste can be poisonous for thousands of years. Well, coal waste is poisonous for all time.

And, of course, there are the CO2 emissions driving global warming and climate change. A recent study showed the heat trapped by CO2 emissions is as much as 100,000 times greater than the heat generated from the actual burning.

Given the fact that there are plenty of alternative fuel sources today, the conclusion I easily reach is we need to get off coal all together. I believe we need to shut down all coal mines and close all coal burning power plants. And, I don't believe that is a radical statement. What would be radical is to suggest we should continue to poison the planet and ourselves, and destroy the environment at the expense of our own safety and well-being. That is the radical position.

But, is that simply a pipe-dream? There is a massive amount of money involved in the coal industry. It is very safe to assume the coal interests will not merely shutter the mines and go away. However, the market is indicating that it may not be their choice. It is being made for them. Regulations to clean-up coal's act and alternative energy forms may be doing the job.

Natural gas appears to have kept 160 coal-fired plants from being built in recent years. Coal plants representing roughly 7 percent of the nation's power generating capacity will be closed this year. I estimate wind power kept about $1 billion worth of coal in the ground last year alone in just Canada and the U.S. Solar power is generating as much as 50% more than previously estimated and that amount is growing daily.

It is becoming more difficult for coal to be profitable and the markets are paying attention. In 2011, shares of Peabody Energy, one of the largest coal producers in the country, were selling for $72. Today, they sell for under $2. Recently, Alpha Natural Resources filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, stating "The Board of Directors of Alpha Natural Resources authorized the filing of the Chapter 11 cases to enhance the company's future as it weathers a historically challenged coal market." Walter Energy, another coal mining company, filed for bankruptcy in July. Coal prices are down 70% from four years ago. The coal industry's market capitalization is down 80% since April 2011. Many countries are distancing themselves from coal and renewable energy is cheaper than coal in many places. 

European oil giants have petitioned international governments to set carbon-pricing standards in order to provide a stable environment. The idea is to essentially charge carbon producing companies a fee commensurate with the cost of the damage they do to the environment and the public. This would not be good for coal. The efficiency of coal rests on the fact that it is easy to mine and burn, but only when you pass the indirect costs on to others. If coal has to start paying for the damage it does it will be unable to compete economically. By the way, ExxonMobil and Chevron were not parties to that petition. Nor do Democrats from coal-producing states support the idea.

However, coal isn't dead. Interestingly, billionaire George Soros has recently invested millions of dollars in coal companies, including Peabody Energy. Soros has long been a critic of coal, so this move has generated plenty of speculation. Is he putting his money where his mouth is and planning on shutting down coal operations? Or, is he merely a money-grubbing SOB who sees a chance to make a profit at the world's expense? Soros is not one of my favorite people, despite his stance on climate change, so I'm expecting it is the latter.

Additionally, the International Energy Agency estimates coal demand will continue to rise, albeit at a slower rate, through 2019 and will peak out at 9 billion tons per year. The majority of that demand will be in China, despite its efforts to reign in coal burning, and undeveloped countries which will typically burn it in inefficient plants.

Coal defenders are quick to claim this will spell disaster for the world. Funny how they claim bad things for them is a disaster, but climate scientists predicting bad things are 'alarmists.' The fact is, it will not be a bad thing for the world economy. The energy industry has shifted before and the results were far from bad. In fact, coal accounted for about 80% of the world's energy production in 1900, but only about 20% today. The revolution has already occurred. Now, we need to finish it.

The trend is certainly there - coal is on the way out. We just need to make it happen faster.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

100 Days to Paris

As of today (Saturday), there are 100 days to go before representatives from around the world get together in Paris for the latest round of climate change negotiations. Known as COP21, you would think there would be no news here. After all, the 21 in COP21 means this is the 21st time we've done this. But, I think things might be different this time. There is more of a public demand for action now than in the past and you can see it in the way the various nations are acting. But, most importantly, countries are announcing in advance the steps to which they are committing. Instead of showing up and negotiating, the cards will be on the table long before anyone heads to Paris. I am not as optimistic as John D. Sutter at CNN (read his excellent article here), but I am guardedly hopeful.

One thing I think will be different this time is I believe this transparency in advance of the conference will undermine the efforts of deniers to sabotage the conference. In the past, they have pulled some criminal stunts to blow up the efforts (Climate Gate) and did so successfully. You have to assume they are working as hard as the fossil fuel money can drive them to come up with something new. This time, with the base work being done over a long period of time well in advance of the conference, the deniers will be faced with a much more difficult task. Plus, I believe the efforts in the past have backfired on them. There are the cult followers who still insist ClimateGate exposed a conspiracy, but nearly everyone not wearing a tin hat understands the deniers really demonstrated their true nature.

In any event, the next three months will interesting.

Decision Time

I have made a decision. Two years from now I will pull a John Gault and leave the real world. I have some projects in the works and I hope to publish the results of some research before I leave. But, I have decided, come August 30, 2017, I will leave all academic pursuits. I will no longer teach or work on research and I will discontinue this blog. After that time, I plan on devoting myself to other things, principally my fiction writing. Mostly, I will devote myself to enjoying myself and letting the rest of the world do it's business without me.

Until then, I will be here. But, the clock is ticking.

Friday, August 21, 2015

War On Science

I was reading a blog post by meteorologist Dan Satterfield about the forecasts made concerning Superstorm Sandy in 2012. At the time, the European forecast model (ECMWF) had Sandy hitting New Jersey while the American model (GFS) had it going out to sea. As we all know, the Europeans were right.

Turns out, there is more to the story than just two different forecasting models. The real problem is that the Americans did not have current computers. The European computers were faster and were able to make more detailed forecasts. It turns out, when the GFS is given the same detailed information the ECMWF had it produces similar results.

This means the problem wasn't the model. The problem was the funding. Given proper funding, the American's would have had the ability to make an accurate forecast in advance the same way the Europeans did. You now have to wonder how much damage and how many deaths were caused because of the disconnect between the two. If both ECMWF and GFS had provided a forecast showing Sandy striking New Jersey what would have been done differently?

Satterfield, states it well,
The anti-science posture of many of our so-called political leaders is actually having an impact on many aspects of how science is done in this country. The effects are widespread, and run from NASA, to weather prediction, to a serious deficiency in weather satellites. While NOAA now has new computers going online, we’re going to have a tough time catching up, because Europe,China and Japan are not sitting still. More so, they aren’t sitting around arguing over stickers in Biology books saying that natural selection is just a theory, or fighting over teaching accurate climate science to high school students. The result is that they have better weather models, faster computers and much more sophisticated weather satellites that can feed data into those models.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Record Heat Continues Through July

Sounding like a broken record, the NCDC released their Global Analysis for July this morning. I have to wonder if there is anyone on the entire planet who would be surprised to hear July was the hottest July ever recorded. The previous record was set in 1998 (the record El Nino period). Last month broke that record by .08 degrees C (.14 F) and that is a significant amount. This past July was .81 degrees C (1.46 F) hotter than the 20th century average. This was the hottest month ever recorded - any month, not just July. That is 1627 months since the records began.

July is the fifth month to break it's monthly record this year. The other four are February, March, May, and June. April was originally classified as the fourth hottest April but is now listed as the third hottest. February was previously listed as the second hottest, but is now listed as the hottest February ever.

So far, 2015 has five hottest months, one second hottest months, and one third hottest month ever recorded, not to mention the hottest of all 1627 measured months. January through July 2015 is the hottest such period ever recorded.

For the last 12 months, the tally is:

July 2015 was the hottest July (and hottest any month) ever recorded;

June 2015 was the hottest June ever recorded;

May 2015 was the hottest May ever recorded;

April 2015 was tied for the third hottest April ever recorded;

March 2015 was the hottest March ever recorded;

February 2015 was the hottest February ever recorded;

January 2015 was the second hottest January ever recorded;

December 2014 was the hottest December ever recorded;

November 2014 was the 7th hottest November ever recorded;

October 2014 was the hottest October ever recorded;

September 2014 was the hottest September ever recorded;

August 2014 was the hottest August ever recorded;

Adding up the score for the last 12 months gives us: one 7th hottest month, one 3rd hottest month, one second hottest month, and nine hottest months ever.

But don't worry. The deniers are still telling us there hasn't been any warming for ### (insert the number of your choice - they do) years.

Guest Submission: CO2 Doesn't Heat The Atmosphere

Below is a comment submitted in regards to the Global Warming Skeptic Challenge. The challenge ended July 31, 2014 (a year ago), so this is not a submission. In fact, it really wasn't even new in that this claim has been made. However, this person's comment had sufficient valid science in it that I felt compelled to address it in detail. It is still invalid (and I will show why below), but there is some valid science in it.

Guest Submission


I'm not sure what challenge this would fall under, but, i'll give it a go....let's start with the basics; there is no mechanism by which the IR EM radiation absorbed and then re-emitted by co2 can be absorbed and changed into kinetic heat energy that warms the atmosphere. The theory of global warming as I understand it is dependant on the assumption that the IR EM radiation re-emitted by co2 adds additional heating to the atmosphere, so I should be able to knock the whole theory down with the above assertion...... The atmosphere is made of several different gasses, and each has its own electromagnetic (EM)absorption spectrum. The co2 absorption spectrum does not overlap with any of the major gasses that make up the atmosphere. Nitrogen gas (N2) has its own absorption spectrum, as does oxygen (O2), and all three gasses will absorb EM at different frequencies from one another. In other words, the frequency band of EM that can be absorbed by each of the different gasses is unique. If the atmosphere is irradiated with EM at a frequency within the absorption spectrum of say N2, it will not affect co2 or O2, and the N2 will absorb the EM. N2 reacts to absorption of EM energy by vibrating, thus changing EM energy into kinetic energy. It then collides with other molecules in the atmosphere dispersing the kinetic energy into the atmosphere through convection. This KE is measured as heat energy by thermometers. If co2 is irradiated by EM that is at a frequency within the co2 absorption bandwidth, the co2 will absorb some of the EM. but, co2, even though it is a symmetrical molecule will temporarily form a polar molecule. A dipole moment. when it returns to its symmetrical state, it re-emits EM at the same frequency it absorbed. co2 does not convert the EM into KE, so there is no heating effect. Since the EM re-emitted by the co2 must be at the resonant frequency of co2 and thus within the absorption spectrum of co2, it cannot be absorbed by the other gasses in the atmosphere. so, the IR that is emitted by the earth and absorbed by co2 in the atmosphere will cause no heating effect in the co2, and the IR that is re-emitted by the co2 back into the atmosphere will not be absorbed by the other gasses in the atmosphere, and again there will be no heating effect due to any of the IR within the co2 absorption spectrum. no heating effect means no atmospheric global warming caused by co2. The theory is sunk...I think the thing that caught climate scientists off guard was relying on the simple experiment where co2 is put in a jar with a thermometer, and another jar with just air and a thermometer, and both are exposed to the same IR source. The jar with co2 gets warmer than the air only jar.... the problem with that experiment is that glass shares a bsorption spectra with co2. so the IR emissions from the co2 will heat the thermometer directly through radiant heating, and show additional heating compared with the air only jar. The gasses inside the jar did not get warmer due to co2 changing the IR into KE, or because they absorbed any of the IR emitted by the co2, but the thermometer did get warmer because of the increased amount of IR within the absorption spectrum of the glass. the jar and the thermometer were incorrectly assumed to be isolated from the interactions within, but they were not... they were actively changing the results of the test, giving a false positive... ok, so that's my country bumpkin attempt, did I even come close? lol, I don't even check the e-mail on this account, so i'll probably never find out :)


FreedomClause is correct on several points. But, he is incorrect on others and, most importantly, he is incomplete.

What he says about absorption is correct. When sunlight enters the atmosphere it is eventually either reflected back to space or absorbed by something. Once it is absorbed, it is reradiated back out as IR light. Infrared radiation falls under the classification of 'long wave' electromagnetic radiation (Note: 'electromagnetic radiation' is the precise term for light, including the visible light we see with our eyes, but also including things such as gamma rays, x-rays, uv, IR, and radio). These long waves are too big to be absorbed by O2 and N2 molecules, so they pass right by them. If our atmosphere was nothing but nitrogen and oxygen then we would be like the Moon - blazing hot in the daylight and freezing cold at night. This is because there would be nothing to retain the heat and it would all go straight back out into space. But, we do have other gases in our atmosphere and these gases can absorb IR. These are the gases we refer to as 'greenhouse gases.' The term is a misnomer, but we're stuck with it.

The two principle gases we have in our atmosphere that act this way are CO2 and water vapor. Water vapor is much more efficient than CO2 at absorbing IR than CO2, but it is temperature dependent. Cold air loses its water vapor. That means something must work to warm the atmosphere independently of the amount of water vapor. CO2 fits the job very nicely. It would take a very cold atmosphere in order to lose the CO2 so we have the greenhouse effect present even when the temperature drops.

A good demonstration of the efficiency of these gases can be seen in a dry desert. The temperatures may get very high during the day (depending on the desert - not all deserts are hot), and then experience a very large drop in temperature at night. This is because the air is dry and the heat is not being retained as well.

So far, Mr. FreedomClause is correct. He is also correct when he states gases that absorb IR radiation then reemit it at the same frequency. So, once again, O2 and N2 don't have a chance to absorb any of that heat.

But, we know there is a way to heat the atmosphere because we know it doesn't drop to sub-zero temperatures every time the Sun sets. Somehow, the atmosphere is retaining heat at night and we all know this for a fact. It gets cooler at night, but it doesn't drop 270 degrees C (500 F) as it does on the Moon when the Sun sets. But, if O2 and N2 don't absorb IR, what is that method?

It is actually pretty simple - collisions. Mr. FreedomClause is incorrect when he says CO2 does not convert the IR energy into kinetic energy. In the dense part of the atmosphere where we live, molecules in the air collide with great frequency - typically between 1 and 10 billion times per second. This comes out to an average of about .13 nanoseconds between collisions (a nanosecond is one-billionth of a second). At these high rates, the molecule frequently doesn't have time to reemit the energy as IR and will instead lose the energy to the other molecule via collision. Since the vast majority of molecules in the air (about 99%) are N2 and O2, it is highly likely a molecule of CO2 excited by the absorption of a photon of IR energy will transfer that energy to a molecule of O2 or N2 before it gets a chance to reemit it (many will still have time to reemit before they collide - thank goodness or else we would all have incinerated long ago). This is the process in which IR energy heats up the atmosphere.

A couple of final notes. Remember, when CO2 reemits the photon of energy, half will go generally upward, but half will go generally downward. Meaning, basically half of the reemitted IR radiation is sent back to the surface where it originated and the surface (water, ground, or ice) is very efficient at absorbing IR.

Also, he discusses an experiment consisting of two bottles with thermometers in them. One bottle has a CO2 atmosphere and one has an N2/O2 atmosphere. He critiques that it is the glass bottles that affect the experiment, not the difference in the atmosphere. I would debate that point, but I don't need to. I developed a lab experiment years ago that I used in my astronomy labs. This experiment was pretty similar to what Mr. FreedomClause describes except I used 2-liter, plastic soda bottles. The plastic does not absorb IR well, so this complaint is invalid. The result of having hundreds of students repeat this experiment showed the CO2 bottles consistently warmed up much faster than the N2/O2 bottles.

So, while this was a well-thought out submission, the conclusion is wrong. The fatal flaw is the omission of collisions of greenhouse gas molecules with other molecules once they have absorbed IR radiation. Once that factor is included it is easy to see how the atmosphere is heated.

One final note: None of this is controversial and nowhere did I make reference to manmade greenhouse gases. Everything here is equally valid for the naturally occurring greenhouse effect which makes our planet habitable. But, what happens when you increase the amount of greenhouse gases?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Why Do Republicans Hate Science?

You might think the title of this posting is severe, but I don't. Take a look at the record of things Republicans have fought for over the last 50 years:

They fought against the science linking tobacco to lung disease and did so even after they already knew the science was conclusive;

They fought to push the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), commonly known as Star War, even though the scientists said it was not feasible. Just one fact was enough to invalidate the entire idea - it is a lot cheaper to make dummy warheads than to defend against them. The Soviet Union merely had to make massive amounts of dummy warheads to overwhelm any system we devised. This was just one of many scientific criticisms of the plan. The politicians were aware of this, but the Republicans pursued SDI anyway;

They fought against the science of acid rain. The science was conclusive that sulfur emissions were causing acid rain, which was devastating the environment and caused numerous health issues. And yet, the Republicans did, and still do, deny that science and claim it is okay to overwhelm the atmosphere with sulfur emissions;

They fought against legislation addressing the ozone hole and denied the dangers it presented to the environment and the public;

They fought, and continue to fight, the science showing the dangers of second-hand smoke. The science is conclusive, but let's ignore that. Try to imagine a world where inhaling cigarette smoke directly is very harmful, but inhaling it second-hand isn't. You have to really reject science to buy into that line of reasoning;

They are now engaging in a campaign to denigrate Rachel Carson and are labeling her as a mass murderer for her efforts to bring the dangers of DDT to light. Their line of reasoning is a U.S. ban prohibited other countries from using DDT and this led to an explosion of malaria. This is a double false argument and extremely deceptive. No ban in the U.S. affects any other country and American chemical manufacturers are free to manufacture and sell DDT to other countries. In fact, they have. DDT use continued worldwide long after the American ban. The problem is mosquitoes rapidly develop resistance to it. An examination of the cases cited by the Republicans and their supporters shows DDT spraying not only continued in areas that experienced increases in malaria, the amount of spraying and the concentration of the solution both increased. The problem was not a lack of DDT. The problem was too much DDT. Why don't the people criticizing Rachel Carson tell the whole truth?;

Virtually every public supporter of creationism is a Republican. The people who fight to include this pseudoscience in our schools and try to water down the proven science of evolution are hurting our children by undermining our education system. When I had students working for me I would automatically reject the application of anyone subscribing to creationism. My reasoning was that if they rejected science once, they could be counted on to do it again. My experience has been they do;

And, of course, the Republicans are leading the charge on undermining the proven science of global warming a climate change. They seem to think they are being clever with the line, "I'm not a scientist, but..." then proceed to show how they have total disdain for the entire scientific community. They don't care what the science says. If it goes counter to their beliefs, then it is bad and needs to be rejected;

The COMPETE Act that passed the House but failed in the Senate, which eviscerated funding for geosciences and climate science, passed on a wholly Republican vote;

Republican donors hide their funding of anti-science lobbyists by using third-party entities, such as Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund. If they thought what they stood for was so right, why are they working so hard to hide and deny their funding?;

Now, take a look at the stand the presidential candidates take on climate change. Every Democrat agrees manmade emissions are causing climate change. Only a few Republicans agree and those that do hedge their stance with comments about how we can't hurt the economy. Where does destroying the environment, causing millions of deaths and causing economic hardships help the economy? Oh, that's right! I forgot! It helps the billionaires providing the fossil fuels and, surprise!, funding the Republicans. What a coincidence.

This is quite a list. Unfortunately, I could go on, but I think I made my point. Republicans, for whatever reason, hate science. You can debate the pros and cons of this. You can argue the whys and wherefores. But, the bottom line is this: Republicans hate science.

Now, why is that and what are you going to do about it?

Disclaimer: I am not a Democrat and am not a liberal. In fact, I have voted Republican many times in the past (as well as Democrat and Independent) and may do so in the future. But, I will vote Republican in the future only if they start accepting science instead of rejecting it.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Climate Change Lawsuits Are Starting

We have discussed on this blog the idea of lawsuits, similar to the one that found the Dutch government negligent in addressing climate change. I am in favor of such lawsuits. In my opinion, the situation is almost identical to what we saw with the tobacco industry situation. We saw how the science was conclusive in establishing a link between smoking and lung disease, but the merchants of doubt were paid by the tobacco industry to question this science and prevent any action being taken to protect the public. Instead, politicians took funds from the tobacco industry and blocked any actions that would have benefited their constituents. The politicians gladly took the money and all the while, their constituents were dieing from tobacco use.

Today, we have the identical situation. The science establishing the link between manmade emissions and global climate change is absolutely conclusive and the scientific community is in agreement about that link. But, the fossil fuel industry has funded deniers to act as the modern merchants of doubt and cause the public to question the science. And, we see many politicians taking funds from the fossil fuel industry and blocking any effort to address the problem. And, their constituents are dieing as a result.

So, the situation is identical. The tobacco issue was finally resolved in the courts. Most notably when the tobacco industry was found guilty under the RICO Act. The evidence is mounting that the fossil fuel industry, like the tobacco industry before them, conclusively knew the dangers of their industry, but funded efforts to protect their interests in complete disregard of the public well-being.

Well, it looks like the lawsuits have started. A group of 21 youths filed suit against the U.S. asserting that, in causing climate change, the federal government has violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, property and has failed to protect essential public trust resources. The person behind this suit is 15-year old Xiuhtezcatl Tonatiuh Martinez. The basic premise of the lawsuit is that the government has known of the dangers of global warming and climate change since at least 1965 but has failed to act on the danger, thus endangering the well-being of future generations. The lawsuit seeks to force the government to take all necessary actions to protect the rights and well-being of its citizens.

I find their complaint compelling. What I hope is that the pattern has been established of how the merchants of doubt are working to defy the science, not to produce legitimate science. If the court recognizes the pattern of behavior, maybe, just maybe, we might see some justice.

Either way, I do not expect this issue to be resolved this quickly and easily. But, the fight needs to start somewhere. Someone needs to take it out of the hands of the politicians and put it in the hands of the public. This is a start, and its a good one.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Forecast Indicates Strong El Nino

The National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) released it's monthly statement concerning the ENSO status. This month's forecast shows a 90% chance the current El Nino will continue through the northern hemisphere winter and an 85% chance it will continue through spring. That is up slightly from last month. The difference is they are now expecting it to become a 'strong' event with an Oceanic Nino Index (ONI) of 1.5 or greater. It is currently 1.0 and has been increasing in recent months.

What is interesting is the speculation this may become the strongest El Nino ever recorded. The record goes to the 1997/98 event which reached an ONI of 2.3. As we recently discussed, it had a devastating effect worldwide.

But, there is something different about this event. There is a huge mass of warm water in the eastern Pacific west of the U.S. west coast. This image shows the El Nino warm waters along the equator, but also the North Pacific Blob. (Red indicates warmer than normal and blue indicates cooler than normal).

Source: CCI

That North Pacific Blob was not there in 1997. What effect will this have on our current event? No one seems to know. What we do know is that for every area that for every area that gets increased rainfall, some other area will see a decrease.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Weather Girl

I guess anything can turned into comedy. I haven't seen these before, but found them to be pretty funny. I wish there really was a TV weather forecaster like this.

Weather Girl Goes Rogue

Weather Girl Goes Rogue 2

Monday, August 10, 2015

Are We Heading Into A Mega-El Nino?

El Nino is a complex interaction between the oceans and the atmosphere and results in changes in the weather patterns worldwide. They occur aperiodically and are characterized by warming equatorial oceans in the eastern and central Pacific. Take a look at this plot of the sea surface temperature anomaly.

Source: CCI

The qualifying definition of an El Nino is when the Oceanic Nino Index (ONI) is +.5 or higher for three consecutive months. This first occurred for the current El Nino during the October-November-December 2014 period when the index hit .6 - a weak El Nino. It then fluctuated over the next few months between .4 and .5. But, in March-April-May it increased to .7, followed by increases to .9 in April-May-June (a moderate El Nino), and now to 1.0 in the May-June-July period. This is still an unspectacular event, but it is also increasing. What I find disturbing is the models which predict it might strengthen to a 3.0 event this fall. That would be a mega-event.

Let's put a 3.0 event into perspective. The strongest El Nino event recorded in the last 60 years occurred in the 1997-98 year and grew to 2.3 (twice over the winter). That's the largest ever recorded. In fact, the only other times the ONI has reached 2.0 was in 1972-73 when it hit 2.0 (October-November-December) and 2.1 in 1982-83 (three times during the winter months). An ONI of 3.0 would be massive.

How likely is it that will happen? Not very likely at all. That is the extreme level of the modeling forecasts so I would be surprised it if gets anywhere near that high. However, something in excess of 2.3 is very feasible. While less severe than 3.0, it would still be the most severe El Nino ever measured. And, that 1997-98 event had an ONI of 1.0 at this time of year, the same as what we have currently.

Why is this such a big deal? Recall that the only way to heat the planet is via sunlight. Greenhouse gases do not heat the planet, they merely keep it from cooling down after the Sun heats it. Much of that heat (about 93%) is stored in the oceans. When an El Nino occurs, it releases some of that stored heat back into the atmosphere, resulting in an increase in the surface temperature. (A La Nina is the opposite effect, taking heat out of the air and resulting in cooling). I have to wonder - are we about to experience a huge release of stored energy?

What can we expect? Let's take a look at the 1997-98 event for guidance. This is from the CARE report on the worldwide effects:
The El Niño phenomenon that affected weather conditions around the globe and contributed to massive flooding along the coast of Latin America and in parts of the Horn of Africa and drought in Southeast Asia has gradually weakened since April. The impact of El Niño has been particularly severe among the impoverished and vulnerable populations where natural disasters can easily upset their tenuous livelihood security. Heavy rains and flooding has lead to thousands of deaths, loss of household assets and crops and caused extensive damage to vital infrastructure in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Somalia and Kenya. In addition, water related diseases, such as cholera and malaria, increased dramatically in drought and flood affected areas in East Africa, Latin America and Asia. In Papua New Guinea, drought affected mountain populations moved to lowland areas where they contracted malaria at higher rates since they'd previously had limited exposure to malaria.

In Indonesia, El Niño related drought has caused a cereal shortfall of over 3.5 million metric tons and large scale environmental degradation from uncontrolled fires in October 1997. Food commodity prices sky rocketed and became prohibitively expensive to the majority of people in the fourth most populous country in the world. In a complex web of cause and effect, natural disasters are often the contributing spark needed to light the tinderbox, or in this case push an already fragile society over the edge into social crisis. The El Niño drought in Indonesia was one of many contributing factors in fomenting the economic and political unrest that now exists in the country.

There's more, but the point is made. On a worldwide basis, a strong El Nino is a bad thing. But, the record shows it was not bad for the U.S. Here is the report from the National Climatic Data Center on the effects on the U.S. This report here indicates the U.S. damages were about $4 billion, while there were $19 billion in benefits. An estimated 189 people died because of the weather, but an estimated 850 were saved because of it.

If the pattern repeats itself, and taking into account a stronger event, the results could be really devastating for the world, but we might be spared the worst of it here.

Personally, I'd rather not find out if that is true.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Is Climate Change Denial Murder?

Are climate change deniers committing murder by causing public doubt and preventing governments from acting on this problem? Schatzie thinks so (Schatzie's Earth Project) and she might have a case. By the way, in case you think I'm harsh sometimes, I just want to point out I'm nowhere near as harsh as she is.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Review: Merchants of Doubt

Merchants of Doubt is both an excellent book, by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, and an excellent documentary, by Robert Kenner. I highly recommend both of them for anyone that has any interests in what is going on in our society today.

The book is technical with lots of science, dates, and people. It is not an easy read, nor is it a pleasant one. The history of the people involved with deliberate deception for the sake of companies and at the expense of the public is alarming and, at times, depressing. Oreskes and Conway do a thorough job of exposing these people, providing a large amount of documentation in the process. While the book reads much like a newspaper article and is very in depth, the documentary is easier to follow, but does a much more superficial job. That is to be expected - the book is 274 pages long and the documentary is 93 minutes. You could not possibly cover the same amount of material in a documentary and, to their credit, they don't try.

Reading the book brings out a few interesting points. The first, and most obvious, is the history of deception and the success these people have had in this regard. Take a look at the list of things the public has been deceived about by the Merchants of Doubt:

  • Smoking
  • Second-hand smoke
  • The Strategic Defense Initiative
  • Acid Rain
  • CFCs and the ozone hole
  • Global warming
  • DDT
In every case, conservative groups have put the public at risk while helping industry to make a bunch of money.  What really makes it alarming is they have routinely known they were wrong. The tobacco industry knew smoking causes cancer way back in the early-1950s. The fossil fuel industry knew manmade emissions cause global warming back in the 1960s. The dangers of second-hand smoke was proven and known in the 1980s. The Strategic Defense Initiative was well known to be unfeasible, even by the people pushing it, from the very beginning. The link between the ozone hole and CFCs was never in doubt scientifically (DuPont, one of the world's largest chemical manufacturers, realized the danger of CFCs early on and quit making them). The economic and ecological damage as a result of acid rain (and the causes) was understood all along. And, the widespread danger of insecticides and DDT is fully known, even by the people pushing them.

Why is that? Why have the conservatives become the anti-public, anti-science group? Oreskes and Conway make the convincing case that it isn't about money, it's about ideology. To these people pushing anti-science, anyone that opposes them is a liberal and a liberal is someone who wants to destroy the country. To them, defending these horrible things is about freedom. We need to allow coal companies to belch out massive amounts of sulfur and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in order for the country to be free. It is important people smoke so the country will be free. DDT, SDI, CFCs and every other cause of these groups is all about keeping the country free. Opposing them means you want to take freedom away from the American people.

It never seems to enter their minds that someone could be a liberal and loyal American at the same time. They accuse someone of being a 'liberal' the same way you accuse someone of being a murderer or rapist. To these people, 'liberal' means someone who wants to destroy the country and civilization. One of the terms these people use for people who oppose them is 'watermelon' - green on the outside but red on the inside. According to them, if you are concerned with the environment, you're a communist, even though they know the science is correct.

I find this to be very interesting. Basically, I'm quite conservative on many things. After all, I spent 35 years in military intelligence. You don't do that and walk away with a cheery viewpoint of the world at large. And, when it comes to fiscal matters, I am a definite hawk. Believe me, my family gets quite a laugh when someone accuses me of being a liberal. And yet, I find myself on the opposite side of the fence from the conservatives on each of these issues. The reason for that is I accept the science and go where it leads me.

You can deny the science all you want, but it will keep right on doing what it does. The universe is not sentient. There is no "Mother Nature" looking out for us with a gentle hand. If you say manmade emissions won't cause global warming, that is your right. But, those manmade emissions will continue to cause global warming. And, if you say smoking doesn't cause cancer, that is your right. But, people will continue to get cancer from smoking. Nature doesn't need you to agree with it. It doesn't need your permission.

So, these Merchants of Doubt have protected the industries by causing people to question the science. And, they continue to do it. Unfortunately, as we have all seen, it is very effective. After all, the truth caught up with the tobacco industry, but it took fifty years for it to happen and millions of people died in mean time. Eventually, the truth will catch-up to the fossil fuel industry. I just wonder how many people will eventually die because of them. It's already in the millions. And, don't forget about the irreversible damage to the environment.

Is ideology really that important?

In summary, if you have any interest in the topic at all, I highly recommend you watch the documentary (available over the Internet) and read the book.

Friday, August 7, 2015

But, What About Antarctica?

Finishing out the big three ice reservoirs, let's talk about what is happening in Antarctica.

Now, first a word about the difference in the Greenland Ice Sheet (GIS) and the Antarctic land ice. The Arctic sea ice is just what it says, it is frozen ocean floating on top of the water. There are all sorts of important things about the sea ice, but one thing it does not affect is the sea level. The sea ice is already in the water and it will not affect the sea level when it melts. The GIS and the Antarctic ice sheets are not in the water - they are on land. As they melt, the water runs off into the oceans and is partly responsible for the rising sea level observed worldwide (heating the water also causes the sea level to rise). The more they melt in the future, the more the sea level will rise. We saw yesterday the GIS is melting at an alarming rate and that rate is continuously increasing. Now, let's turn our attention to Antarctica.

Unlike Greenland, Antarctica has two major ice sheets - the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) and the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS). These two ice sheets combined are unbelievably large. The GIS, the second largest ice sheet in the world, is about 2.8 million cubic kilometers and covers an area three times the size of Texas. If all of that ice were to melt it would raise the world's sea level by about 7.2 meters. In comparison, the EAIS and WAIS combined have about 30 million cubic kilometers, more than ten times the volume of the GIS. The Antarctic ice covers an area greater than the continental U.S. and Mexico combined. If all of that ice was to melt it would raise the sea level by about 70 m. Together, these ice sheets contain 99% of all of the fresh water ice on the planet.

Now, I give those statistics to provide an idea of the mass of these ice sheets. I am in no way suggesting any of these three ice sheets are at risk of completely melting within the next few hundred years. But, what if only 10% were to melt? That would result in a rise in the sea level of about 7.7 meters (25.26 feet) and that would be enough to inundate every coastal area of the world. What if only 5% were to melt within the foreseeable future? That is still enough to drown all coastal areas with about 3.9 meters (12.8 feet) of sea level rise. The point is, we don't need a catastrophic failure of the ice sheets to have a catastrophe. For this reason, it is extremely important for us to pay attention to the ice sheets. There is no turning back at this point. The sheets will melt and we will have to pay many trillions of dollars as a result as the coasts are drowned. The question is, just when are we going to have to pay? Of course, Southern Florida is already being drowned.

So, we understand the state of the ice in Antarctica is important, but just what is the state of those ice sheets?

People skeptical of climate change frequently claim the total ice mass is increasing. This is a false claim. The total ice mass around the world is decreasing and decreasing at an alarming rate. However, they are correct if they limit their claim to Antarctic sea ice. This is a plot of the southern sea ice trend for September, the month of maximum extent in the south:

Source: NSIDC

This would be reassuring, if that were all there was to the story. Unfortunately, most of that ice melts in the southern summer, reaching a minimum of about 4.4 million square kilometers in March every year. Also, this plot is for only the sea ice and does not include the land ice. Here is a comparison plot of the mass for the both the GIS and the Antarctic ice:

Source: Penn State University Department of Geosciences

Comparison of these two plots shows bad news, good news, and more bad news.

The first bad news is obvious. The ice sheets in both Greenland and Antarctica are losing mass, i.e., they're melting. This is not good due to the data I provided above. Melting land ice raises sea levels and the two largest reservoirs of ice on land are both melting.

The good news is that Antarctica is not melting at fast as Greenland. Draw a tangent line and you can see the line for the Greenland data has a steeper slope than the line for the Antarctica data.

But, that brings up the second batch of bad news - the slope on both is increasing. This means the rate of melting for both land masses is increasing. That is really bad news.

The EAIS is gaining mass due to an increase in snow fall. Unfortunately, at the same time, the melting of the WAIS is accelerating. The melt increase in the west is more than enough to offset the snowfall gain in the east. The result is a net mass loss, and one that is increasing in rate. In fact, the loss rate in the west has doubled in the last six years.

So, while the winter sea ice extent has been increasing in recent years, the land is losing about 90 Gtons of ice per year. The complete picture is that the southern continent is losing ice - and it is losing it at an increasing rate.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Meanwhile, In Greenland...

I have been discussing the Arctic sea ice a lot lately and haven't really mentioned land ice. The reason is pretty simple - there's lots of data on the Arctic sea ice and it is very dynamic up there. There isn't as much data on Greenland and Antarctica and it takes a long time to see a change in either. Having said that, let's take a look at Greenland and see what's going on there.

This is a plot, courtesy of the Polar Portal, showing this year's melt for the Greenland Ice Sheet (GIS):

Source: Polar Portal

The top panel shows the daily GIS mass change since September 2014. The grey line in the middle is the long term average seasonal mass change. The mass increases during the winter as the ice sheet accumulates snow. Then, as the melt season commences (late-May to early-June), there will be some melting and runoff, resulting in a loss of mass. This is to be expected and there is no controversy here. What we want to know is if there is any change in the seasonal process over a period of time. The bottom panel helps answer that question and we can see this year's melt season is significantly below the long-term average. The red line is the melt season for 2012, the disastrous year for ice melt.

So, 2015 is way below average, but you could argue it has 'rebounded' from 2012 and is increasing. Okay, fair enough. Let's take a look of the long term mass balance (again, courtesy of the Polar Portal):

Source: Polar Portal
This clearly shows the total mass balance (i.e., how much ice there is) is not only on a most definite downward trend, but we can see very easily that the rate of loss is increasing. Draw a tangent line for the period of 2003 through 2009. Then, draw another tangent line for the period of 2010 through 2014. The second line will have a much steep slope than the first, meaning the downward trend has been greater since 2010 than it was before that year.

Clearly, things are not going well. We don't need to go any further than this to understand the GIS is melting and it is melting at an ever increasing rate. This is very serious news for climate change and global sea levels. But, if you want more, read this article to see just how bad it truly is. Spoiler alert: It's much worse than we thought.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Woodward County, OK - Denier Country

There is a very interesting article on about a county in Oklahoma, Woodward County. What makes Woodward County notable is that, according to the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, it ties with six other counties in the country as having the highest rate of climate change skepticism in the country. This inspired the reporter, John D. Sutter, to go there and see what this was all about. The report is very interesting and Mr. Sutter did a much better job than I could in reporting on the subject. You can read it here:


Sunday, August 2, 2015

Percentage of People Who Reject Science

I recently saw a poll reporting there are many people who believe smoking is harmless. After everything that has come out on this subject, including the tobacco companies admitting to conspiring to deny the reality, there are still people who think it is harmless to smoke. It occurred to me this, and other, polls could be used to find a rough, back-of-the-envelope percentage of people whom simply reject science.

What we need to do is find the percentage of people who, for a lack of a kinder phrase, fall into the tin hat category. We can do that by looking at polls on certain antiscience topics. And, to be clear, I consider all of these issues (and others) to fall in the same category. If you feel offended because some belief you hold is grouped in with others you reject, you probably need to examine your beliefs.

Let's begin.

The percentage of people who believe smoking is harmless: 4%.

The percentage of people who believe second hand smoke is harmless: 18%

The percentage of people who believe in creationism: 42%

The percentage of people who believe the Moon landings were faked: 7%

The percentage of people who believe global warming is a hoax:  23%

Average: 18.8%

I think this gives a rough estimate of the percentage of people who simply, no matter what, will reject science. This needs to be taken into account when considering issues of science - approximately 20% of the population is a lost cause when it comes to science.

NOTE: I wanted to include Holocaust deniers in this, but there has apparently been no poll on this topic since 1994 and it was very controversial when they did. That most recent poll indicated fewer than 2% of Americans denied the Holocaust.