Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #352

Brought to You by www.SEPP.org, The Science and Environmental Policy Project

By Ken Haapala, President

Changing Seas: Sea level specialists Nils-Axel Mörner, Thomas Wysmuller, and Albert Parker posted comments on ResearchGate stating TWTW’s comments on sea level rise were too superficial to be useful. Fortunately, Tallbloke posted the section of TWTW and the comments, so they can be easily viewed by all. The objective of TWTW is to be understandable by the competent reader, not to appeal to specialists or to be a scientific journal. Above all, it is not the last word in anything.

Of particular concern have been the claims of multi-foot and multi-meter increases in sea levels endangering coastal cities of the US. These claims have been made by employees of NOAA and by lead authors of the latest full Assessment Report (AR-5, 2014) of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The recent effort by the cities of Oakland and San Francisco to sue ExxonMobil illustrates how these highly questionable claims are being used in litigation in hopes of collecting huge legal awards that are unjustified.

Further, for cities on the coastal plain of the Atlantic, or on the Gulf of Mexico, land subsidence is a major problem. False claims of sea level rise confuse the problem of land sinking due to groundwater extraction, and hinder or prevent a reasonable solution, such as desalination of ocean or brackish water. For these reasons, TWTW considers the cited August 8, 2018 report by NOAA Tides and Currents Section to be a welcome change. The estimate of average global sea level rise rate of about 7 inches per century is a welcome change from AR-5 and claims by NOAA employees. It is not the “final word” but it is a significant improvement. For more detailed explanations of sea level change, see the comments by the three authors with extensive note under Changing Seas.


Quote of the Week:Why 100 authors? If I were wrong, then one would have been enough!” – Albert Einstein, in response to a book “100 Authors against Einstein” [H/t Roy Spencer]

Number of the Week: 26%


William Happer, Climate Realist: SEPP board member Howard Hayden edits a monthly newsletter, The Energy Advocate, promoting energy and technology. This month he addressed the efforts of the climate establishment to discredit William Happer, who thus far is the only suggested appointee to a special President’s Commission to provide an independent review of the claimed threat climate change poses to the security of the US. Sections of the newsletter merit quoting:

“The second paragraph of the Wikipedia hit piece on Happer reads:

‘Happer rejects the scientific consensus on climate change. He has no formal training in climate science.’

“Let us begin this discussion by referring to one of the cartoons in Al Gore’s documendacity An Inconvenient Truth. The picture shows sunlight pouring in to the surface of the earth, with infrared leaving the surface, some of it blocked by the atmosphere (my yellow arrow). Of course, the horrid blocking molecules involved are CO2 molecules.

“The American Physical Society (APS) has sixteen divisions, such as astrophysics, nuclear physics, chemical physics, fluid dynamics, and laser science. Happer’s field of expertise is Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics, AMO, for which the APS Division of Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics (DAMOP) is the most appropriate. Its members deal with experimental and theoretical aspects of atomic and molecular energy levels, “forbidden transitions,” collisional dynamics, excited-state populations, interactions with electro–magnetic radiation (a.k.a., spectroscopy), and so forth.

“Let us be perfectly clear about this. The only aspect of science that links CO2 to putative global warming (a.k.a., climate change) is AMO: Atomic, Molecular and Optical physics. Now, we quote one of the apolitical paragraphs in the Wikipedia article:

‘William Happer (born July 27, 1939) is an American physicist who has specialized in the study of atomic physics, optics and spectroscopy. He is the Cyrus Fogg Brackett Professor of Physics, Emeritus, at Princeton University and a long-term member of the JASON advisory group where he pioneered the development of adaptive optics.’

“In other words, what passes for ‘no formal training in climate science’ is Happer’s long career in AMO, the field that is not part of any traditional course in climatology, and the only one that has any relationship to the greenhouse effect.

Interesting Aside: Adaptive Optics

“The art and science of astrophotography have long been beset by atmospheric phenomena (moving air, varying density, varying temperature) resulting in images wandering a bit on the photographic plate during long exposures. In the old days, a photographer would sit in a seat for hours making minor adjustments to keep a bright star centered on some cross-hairs in order to get a fairly sharp image.

“The first step in automation is to insert a small tilt mirror into the light path of the telescope so that the adjustment can be done quickly. A major problem is that there aren’t enough bright stars to use for all parts of the sky.

“Beyond that is the field of adaptive optics. Happer pioneered the field with the notion that a properly tuned yellow laser could excite sodium atoms in the mesosphere. The sodium would re-radiate, and appear to the telescope as a star, whose light has to travel through exactly the same atmosphere as any star’s would. That returning yellow light would serve as a “guide star.” Therefore, all parts of the sky can now have their own guide star.

“For a large telescope, the light reaching one part of the main mirror has traveled through somewhat different atmospheric disturbances than another part of the mirror. What ought to be a plane wave that hits the mirror is more like the shape of a potato chip. Some exotic techniques involving a guide star, an array of small lenses, small detectors, and a deformable mirror turn the reflected “potato chip” back into a plane wave, greatly enhancing the quality of the image.


“Al Gore, Michael Bloomberg, Scott Waldman, Juliet Eilperin, Josh Dawsey, Brady Dennis, Carol Davenport, Jennifer A. Dlouhy, Ari Natter, Carla Herreria, Bill Nye, [and] Aaron Rupar, the know-nothing who wrote the Wikipedia hit piece, and the rest of enforcers of the climate consensus complain that Happer is not a climate scientist. They can’t even figure out what atomic and molecular physics might have to with the atmosphere. Enough said.”

Perhaps the real problem is that the climate establishment believes that nothing regarding climate can exist, unless it appears in climate models. The Energy Advocate is not linked below but see links under Challenging the Orthodoxy, Change in US Administrations and https://www.albany.edu/faculty/rgk/atm101/sodium.htm


The Greenhouse Effect – Emissivity: No doubt many physicists lose the audience when they speak of Blackbody radiation. Yet all objects above absolute zero, (zero degrees Kelvin, 0ºK, minus 273 degrees C, or minus 459.7 degrees F) emit electromagnetic energy. A web site at Humboldt State University has a solid discussion on how the blackbody curve (intensity versus wavelength) can vary from one type of emitter to another.

“In reality, objects in the real world are not perfect blackbodies. Not all of the incident energy upon them is absorbed, therefore they are not perfect emitters of radiation. The emissivity (ε) of a material is the relative ability of its surface to emit heat by radiation. Emissivity is defined as the ratio of the energy radiated from an object’s surface to the energy radiated from a blackbody at the same temperature.”

The higher the emissivity, the more readily the body, or substance emits electromagnetic radiation. The higher the temperature of a given substance, the more total energy is emitted from the surface, proportional to the temperature in K raised to the fourth power. So, the emission of electromagnetic energy increases dramatically with increasing temperature.

The web site at Humboldt State gives table of the emissivity of some common materials at a fixed temperature. Polished aluminum emits a tiny fraction of the energy emitted by anodized aluminum. The same with polished copper as compared with oxidized copper. Ice emits energy more readily than water or snow.

The web site has an experiment designed in the early 1800s by John Leslie demonstrating that different materials or different colors of the same material emit energy at different levels even though they are at the same temperature – Leslie’s Cube. For example, the white surface on the cube absorbs visible light very poorly, but emits very efficiently in the infrared. See links under Seeking a Common Ground


The Greenhouse Effect – Molecular Motion: In explaining the greenhouse effect of certain atmospheric molecules, called greenhouse gases, one needs to consider what happens to these gases when infrared radiation, emitted by the earth, in the form of photons hits one of these molecules. The dominant greenhouse gas is water vapor (H2O) followed by carbon dioxide (CO2). At the surface, or near surface, these molecules are in equilibrium with local temperature. When a photon with the proper wavelength of hits CO2 it is absorbed by the molecule and causes the molecule to vibrate and rotate.

There are many more nitrogen (N2) and oxygen (O2) molecules in the atmosphere than CO2. If the excited CO2 molecule hits nitrogen or oxygen it will usually lose its energy in that collision. If not, the CO2 may emit (radiate) a photon, which can go in any direction. Near the surface, the atmosphere is dense, so the photon will soon hit another CO2 molecule, and the process continues. In the atmosphere, particularly the lower atmosphere, molecules are colliding constantly, photons being consistently emitted and absorbed. The process continues with increasing elevation, until the atmosphere thins to the point that upward-directed photons escape into space. Photons escaping into space cool the planet.

Escaping photons from CO2 molecules originate mostly in the stratosphere; at lower altitudes, a CO2-emitted photon would get re-absorbed by a CO2 molecule further up. H2O, on the other hand, “freezes out” by the top of the troposphere, called the tropopause, and the amount of H2O in the stratosphere above the tropopause is only about 4 ppm (parts per million). CO2 is about 400 ppm throughout the atmosphere. Consequently, if a photon emitted by H2O at say 9 or 11 km is headed upward, it might well escape because there are hardly any more H2O molecules above to re-capture that photon.

There is a characteristic, parameter, called “optical depth” that expresses the distance a photon can travel without being absorbed. Generally, radiation-to-space is discussed as coming from the top of the troposphere. At that altitude, the ambient temperature is about 240 or 250 K, and across the broad region of the infrared, the spectrum of outgoing photons looks fairly close to the idealized black-body. But not exactly; there is a “window” in the atmosphere right around 10 microns where black-body radiation emitted by the surface of the earth can escape to space, because no gas in the atmosphere absorbs in exactly that frequency.

The phenomenon of it getting very cold out in the desert at night is related to that. If there is very low humidity (desert conditions), it will be possible for a considerably higher percentage of the photons emitted by the ground to escape unimpeded; so that “window” around 10 microns gets a whole lot wider. Those camping in the desert at night find that it’s much than a more non-desert place of comparable altitude and latitude, because water vapor (clouds, humidity) absorbs infrared photons and gives off some photons in a downward direction

For some reason, the climate establishment does not recognize that understanding the molecular action of greenhouse gases is important to understanding “climate science,” and whether CO2-caused warming is a danger to humanity.


Hurricanes: Judith Curry finished her 7-part series on hurricanes, which TWTW will try to summarize next week.


Number of the Week: 26%. On WUWT, Larry Hamlin estimates that the industrialized nations of the EU and US account for about 26% of world-wide human carbon dioxide emissions (2018 projections). Will plants protest?



1. ‘Extension Cord’ to Carry Green Power From Midwest to East

Siemens, Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners to take over $2.5 billion project to transmit wind and solar energy

By Russell Gold, WSJ, Mar 10, 2019


[SEPP Comment: Bringing the high cost of electricity in Germany and Denmark to the US?]

SUMMARY: The journalist states

“Two European firms are backing an ambitious $2.5 billion project to carry renewable electricity underground through the American heartland.

“Siemens AG SIEGY 0.89% is joining with a Danish investment fund to build and operate a 349-mile-long, electrical-transmission line that would carry wind and solar energy from Iowa into the Chicago area, according to the project’s developer.

“The link would allow renewable energy from the Upper Midwest to travel all the way into the eastern U.S. by hooking up to the PJM Interconnection, the power grid that serves all or part of 13 states, including Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The PJM Interconnection goes south through Virginia and includes a part of eastern North Carolina.

“Called the SOO Green Renewable Rail, the project is a giant extension cord designed to carry electricity on buried direct-current lines. The fund, called Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, and Siemens are purchasing the project from its developers, a group that includes several private investors and the U.S. subsidiary of Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. The terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

“The vast majority of the line will run in a Canadian Pacific railroad corridor. The project’s developers expect that going underground on an existing railroad right of way will make it easier to obtain permits and local permission, a strategy that they say was used before in expanding high-speed internet networks. It is using direct-current technology, instead of the more widely deployed alternating current, because it doesn’t interfere with railroad signals.

“’The fact is that going underground, you don’t have wires rubbing up against trees. You are not going to have tornado impacts. It is safer and more resilient,’ said Joe DeVito, president of Direct Connect Development Co., which has developed the project.”


2. When There’s Too Much Sun and Wind

The biggest danger of renewable energy is overproduction.

By Rupert Darwall, WSJ, Mar 10, 2019


The author of “Green Tyranny: Exposing the Totalitarian Roots of the Climate Industrial Complex” claims most destructive consequence of wind and solar power result from periods of oversupply.

“Coal and gas generating plants have to be kept on standby and ramped up to cover the shortfall resulting from still air and darkness. That forces them to operate less efficiently and pushes their costs up. During periods of low demand, wind and solar can produce too much electricity, creating gluts and driving wholesale prices negative, meaning grid operators have to pay consumers to burn unwanted energy. That makes nuclear, coal and gas generators unprofitable, necessitating extra subsidies to save the power stations needed to keep the lights on.

“These costs fall on everyone sharing that grid, as Europe’s experience shows. In 2016, Germany paid €1 billion (about $1.13 billion) for discarded renewable output. Each year Germany dumps 50,000 of the 85,000 gigawatt-hours of wind power it produces on neighboring countries at low cost. “Poland and the Czech Republic see Germany as an aggressor, overproducing electricity and dumping it across the border,” the Journal reported in 2017. Poland is installing phase shifters on its western border to repel current from the German side. A spokeswoman for the Czech national grid called the energy dumping “collateral damage of a purely political decision of the German government.”

“Similar conflicts have arisen between U.S. states. Surplus California electricity plays havoc with wholesale prices in Arizona and is a factor behind the planned closure of the Grand Canyon State’s Navajo Generating Station.

“One answer is for states to institute capacity markets, which pay power stations for merely remaining operational rather than for the electricity they supply. That is, consumers must pay for both unwanted renewable energy and underused gas and coal plants. In Germany, Europe’s wealthiest country, 1 in 6 people is threatened with fuel poverty, defined as energy bills eating up more than 10% of household income.

“The Trump administration should instruct the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to craft rules aimed at isolating the bad effects of states’ renewable policies. One way for a state to comply would be to require all generators, including wind and solar, to meet minimum annual levels of capacity availability and to submit firm, unconditional time-of-day bids so that all generators are contractually obliged to deliver electricity whatever the weather. That would create incentives for wind and solar investors to fund innovation in grid storage to overcome the intermittency problem of the technologies for which they are handsomely subsidized.

“Doubtless that would provoke howls of anguish from Californian politicians. But they shouldn’t be able to make a show of their virtue while burdening other states with the costs.”


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