The Week That Was: By Ken Haapala, President, SEPP
Brought to You by www.SEPP.org, The Science and Environmental Policy Project
Quote of the Week: “It is a pleasure to stand upon the shore, and to see ships tost [sic] upon the sea: a pleasure to stand in the window of the castle and to see the battle and the adventures thereof below: but no pleasure is comparable to the standing upon the vantage ground of truth ( a hill not to be commanded and where the air is always clear and serene), and to see the errors, and wanderings, and mists, and tempests, in the vale below. – From Of Truth, Francis Bacon [H/t Numberwatch, hopefully returning]
The Greenhouse Effect –Atmospheric Layers: The atmosphere is divided into distinct layers and the altitude of the layers depends on the latitude, the distance from the equator. One could think of an oval shape with the thickest (elongated) part being above the equator. (Seasonal variation will be ignored in this section.)
The lowest layer is the troposphere. The boundary between the troposphere and the next higher layer, the stratosphere, is called the tropopause. The dominant greenhouse gas in the troposphere is water vapor. By the top of the troposphere, the tropopause, water vapor freezes out of the atmosphere, and above the tropopause water vapor is no longer an important greenhouse gas, interfering with the earth’s loss of heat energy into space.
At the equator, the altitude of the tropopause is about 18 km (60,000 feet, 11 miles). In the mid-latitudes, the temperate regions, the altitude of the tropopause is about 11 km (36,000 feet, 7 miles) and at the poles the altitude of the tropopause is about 8 km (26,000 feet, 5 miles). As one travels higher in the troposphere, water vapor declines and the temperature drops. Pilots call this gradual decrease in temperature the lapse rate.
Above the tropopause, the temperature of the lower stratosphere remains roughly constant with increasing altitude, then gradually rises with altitude from ultraviolet light heating the ozone layer. Because there is little water vapor in this layer, there is little convection, transfer of heat by bulk movement of molecules in fluids, such as air or water circulation, winds or currents.
Understanding of what is occurring in the troposphere is important to understanding the greenhouse effect, and it is complicated. In the troposphere that what we call weather occurs. There is significant heat transfer from circulating air and from the evaporation/condensation cycle, whereby water vapor absorbs the huge amount of heat at the surface by evaporation of water and releases it up in the atmosphere where the vapor condenses into clouds
These complex processes are in addition to the influence of greenhouse gases including water vapor absorbing and re-emitting photons — interfering with the cooling of the earth by long-wave infrared radiation. The most important region of the earth for greenhouse gases, especially water vapor, influencing the earth’s climate is the tropics, where the troposphere is thickest, and which absorbs most of the incoming solar radiation and emits most of the infrared energy going to space.
As discussed below, John Christy, director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, has established that the climate models used by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) and their followers have failed to capture what is occurring in the atmosphere above the tropics. Thus, the models are of little value for policy purposes and may be harmful.
Blinded by Belief: The Global Warming Policy Foundation published a talk given by John Christy at the Palace of Westminster (UK) on May 8, 2019. It is a clear demonstration of the poor quality of the science held by the IPCC, the USGCRP, and their followers. The opening paragraph bears repeating:
When I grew up, science was defined as a method of discovering information. You would make a claim or a hypothesis, and then you would test that claim against independent data. If it failed, you rejected your claim and you started over again. In other words, your hypothesis was not good information. But nowadays, if someone makes a claim about the climate, and someone like me falsifies it, rather than abandoning the hypothesis, that person tends to just yell louder that their claim is right. They find it difficult to look at what data might say about their beloved hypothesis.
As Christy explains, the energy transfer from the sun to earth, including its atmosphere, and the transfer from the earth to space involve enormous amounts of energy in which the role of extra carbon dioxide (CO2) is but a bit player, difficult to measure. The proper place to measure the influence of increasing CO2 is in the troposphere. In 1990 Roy Spencer and Christy published their seminal work, demonstrating how one can estimate temperature trends from comprehensive satellite data, with the data going back to 1979. There were slight errors due to slightly decreasing satellite altitude, which were promptly corrected when revealed.
In 1994, Christy and his colleague Dick McNider tested Jim Hansen’s climate model, and other models, against 15 years of tropospheric satellite data. Hansen was head of NASA-GISS (Goddard Institute for Space Studies). The models indicated a warming rate of 0.35ºC per decade. The data indicated a greenhouse warming trend of 0.09ºC per decade – one-fourth the rate indicated by the models. In 2017 McNider and Christy re-checked their work using current data which was 37.5 years long. They removed the effects of El Niños and volcanoes. The updated data indicated a warming trend of 0.095ºC per decade. As Christy states:
“The warming trend we found suggests we are having a relatively minor impact on global temperatures. From the IPCC, we know what the forcing was over that 37.5 years – how many extra greenhouse gas molecules there were and what forcing they would represent. We also know about the effect of aerosols. Taking all this data together, we can calculate what I call – and we were the first to use this term – the ‘tropospheric transient climate response’. In other words: how much temperature actually changes due to extra greenhouse gas forcing. The calculation includes a major assumption, namely that there are no natural variations left in the temperature data, and in particular that there are no long-term natural variations. It’s a huge assumption, but it allows us to move on.
“Our result is that the transient climate response – the short-term warming – in the troposphere is 1.1ºC at the point in time when carbon dioxide levels double. This is not a very alarming number. If we perform the same calculation on the climate models, you get a figure of 2.3ºC, which is significantly different. The models’ response to carbon dioxide is twice what we see in the real world. So, the evidence indicates the consensus range for climate sensitivity is incorrect.” [Study published in peer reviewed journal.]
Christy then discusses the important work he and Ross McKitrick did to test the climate models against observations from 1979 to 2017 in the important tropical troposphere. They chose the Canadian climate model and tested it against temperature trends of the atmosphere between 30,000 and 40,000 feet, in the tropics from 20°N to 20°S. They also tested the warming trends against 102 climate model runs (those publicly available). They found the models show a warming about three times what is occurring. [Study published in peer reviewed journal.]
As Christy points out, the climate establishment has been hiding the problems with the models for a long time. It is doubtful that the climate establishment will willingly correct their errors. Christy ends with the graph he inserted with difficulty into the later supplement of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5, 2013). The graph shows that the models are better at describing what is occurring in the tropical troposphere if the models do not include the effects of greenhouse gases than if they include the claimed effects.
It’s important to note that Christy realizes that his calculated trends assume that all the natural causes of climate variation are included in the period covered. The assumption may not be true, especially with the possibility of a future cooling. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.
Erroneous Method: One of the major errors made by the IPCC and its followers is an error in its method, the process used to collect information and data. When listing the greenhouse gas factors that may be causing global warming / climate change, the IPCC does not include water vapor. The argument is that water vapor falls out of the atmosphere as rain within a few days. This is absurd. It is similar to saying that the Mississippi is not flooding because the individual water drops do not stay over the land.
Water vapor is persistent in the atmosphere even though individual water droplets may fall out. The persistence can be seen in maps compiled by NASA’s Earth Observatory. The maps are based on data collected by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensor on NASA’s Aqua satellite. What is especially important is the band of extremely humid air as it wobbles north and south of the equator as seasons change. The band is called the Intertropical Convergence Zone. The zone may vary with general warming and cooling as the earth goes into and recovers from Ice Ages. For example, it probably is the cause of drying and wetting of the Sahara. See link under Measurement Issues — Atmosphere
Phantom Evidence? The U.S. Congress held hearings on the UN report that one million species may soon become extinct. Only a vague summary has been produced, no detailed report. As Judith Curry wrote:
“And of course, I haven’t read the full Biodiversity Report, since it is not yet available. I am appalled that they published the relatively short Summary for Policy Makers well in advance of publishing the full report (I haven’t even seen a publication date for the main report). This fact in itself supports Morano’s contention that the intention of this Report is propaganda. They got their headline regarding ‘1 million species at risk from extinction’ without providing the documentation that apparently can’t be very convincing.”
Participating in this hearing discussing phantom evidence was Robert Watson. Watson (UK) is a long-time foe of carbon dioxide emissions who chaired the IPCC from 1997 to 2002. Under his leadership the IPCC produced the Third Assessment Report (AR3, 2001), which claimed a false scientific consensus and featured Mr. Mann’s hockey-stick, rising sea levels, rising sea levels, increased frequency of heat waves, false confidence in the ability of climate models to project / predict, and stronger evidence (highly questionable) that global warming / climate change over the previous fifty years was caused by human activities, primarily use of fossil fuels. As Curry notes, Morano, also Patrick Moore, were not intimidated by Mr. Watson’s pedigree. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.
Miracle of Photosynthesis: Last week’s TWTW brought up the Miracle of Photosynthesis, where the simple, single-cell cyanobacteria developed the method of using energy from the sun in the presence of chlorophyll to chemically breakdown molecules of water and carbon dioxide and reform them, creating carbohydrates and oxygen. From this method of obtaining chemical energy, multicellular life and animal life developed.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensor on NASA’s Aqua satellite is used to compile maps showing changes in amounts of single-celled algae and phytoplankton as they move seasonally through the seas. They are tracked by the green in chlorophyll. The growth in the polar seas is remarkable, which TWTW believes is the result of increasing CO2. As the NASA web site states:
“The highest chlorophyll concentrations, where tiny surface-dwelling ocean plants are thriving, are in cold polar waters or in places where ocean currents bring cold water to the surface, such as around the equator and along the shores of continents. It is not the cold water itself that stimulates the phytoplankton. Instead, the cool temperatures are often a sign that the water has welled up to the surface from deeper in the ocean, carrying nutrients that have built up over time. In polar waters, nutrients accumulate in surface waters during the dark winter months when plants can’t grow. When sunlight returns in the spring and summer, the plants flourish in high concentrations.”
“A band of cool, plant-rich waters circles the globe at the Equator, with the strongest signal in the Atlantic Ocean and the open waters of the Pacific Ocean. This zone of enhanced phytoplankton growth comes from the frequent upwelling of cooler, deeper water as a result of the dominant easterly trade winds blowing across the ocean surface.”
Of course, some people find this flourishing of life undesirable, claiming that global warming / climate change is driving plankton towards the poles. See links under Social Benefits of Carbon Dioxide, Changing Seas, and Changing Cryosphere – Land / Sea Ice.
Time Warp: In a commencement speech for the 2019 graduates of Tulane University in New Orleans, Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple Inc. stated:
“In some important ways, my generation has failed you. We spent too much time debating, too focused on the fight and not enough on progress.”
Sadly, Mr. Cook talked about global warming / climate change and rising sea levels, and nd how the political system ignores such important issues.
When satellites first started compiling atmospheric data that could be converted into temperature trends in 1979, the state-of-the-art Apple computer was the Apple II, which had two floppy disks; when Roy Spencer and John Christy published the method of using this satellite data to calculate atmospheric temperature trends the state-of-the-art Apple computer was the MacIntosh Classic, with a 9 inch (23 cm) monochrome CRT. Mr. Cook may be a great president of a technology company, but his scientific thinking in the topic of his commencement address has not advanced beyond the Macintosh Classic. See links under Defending the Orthodoxy.
Playing for Propaganda? NOAA has lowered its criteria for naming storms. Thus, names once reserved for hurricanes are now used for storms with far less intensity. The problem is that only hurricanes were named storms. Now NOAA names storms which would have largely been considered strong winds or gale force winds, etc. One can see the marked decline in wind speed for storms in the definitions. According to NOAA:
NOAA’s National Hurricane Center does not control the naming of tropical storms. Instead, there is a strict procedure established by the World Meteorological Organization.
“A tropical cyclone in which the maximum sustained surface wind speed (using the U.S. 1-minute average) ranges from 34 kt (39 mph or 63 km/hr) to 63 kt (73 mph or 118 km/hr).
“A tropical cyclone in which the maximum sustained surface wind (using the U.S. 1-minute average) is 64 kt (74 mph or 119 km/hr) or more.”
The current NOAA forecast is for 9 to 15 storms, 4 to 8 hurricanes, and 2 to 4 major hurricanes. The resulting headlines vary from “NOAA predicts near-normal 2019 Atlantic hurricane season” to “Weather forecasters predict up to 15 major storms this hurricane season” See links under Changing Weather, Communicating Better to the Public – Exaggerate, or be Vague? And https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/storm-names.html
1. What if Green Energy Isn’t the Future?
There’s a reason Warren Buffett decided to bet $10 billion on the future of oil and natural gas.
By Mark Mills, WSJ, May 19, 2019
The senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a partner in Cottonwood Venture Partners, an energy-tech venture fund, begins by asking why Warren Buffet bet $10 billion on oil and gas financing the purchase of Anadarko, a US shale leader; yet, the bond and stocks markets are clearly negative on oil and gas as compared with “clean tech?” Mills continues with:
A week doesn’t pass without a mayor, governor or policy maker joining the headlong rush to pledge or demand a green energy future. Some 100 U.S. cities have made such promises. Hydrocarbons may be the source of 80% of America’s and the world’s energy, but to say they are currently out of favor is a dramatic understatement.
Yet it’s both reasonable and, for contrarian investors, potentially lucrative to ask: What happens if renewables fail to deliver?
The prevailing wisdom has wind and solar, paired with batteries, adding 250% more energy to the world over the next two decades than American shale has added over the past 15 years. Is that realistic? The shale revolution has been the single biggest addition to the world energy supply in the past century. And even bullish green scenarios still see global demand for oil and gas rising, if more slowly.
If the favored alternatives fall short of delivering what growing economies need, will markets tolerate energy starvation? Not likely. Nations everywhere will necessarily turn to hydrocarbons. And just how big could the call on oil and natural gas—and coal, for that matter—become if, say, only half as much green-tech energy gets produced as is now forecast? Keep in mind that a 50% “haircut” would still mean unprecedented growth in green-tech.
If the three hydrocarbons were each to supply one-third of such a posited green shortfall, global petroleum output would have to increase by an amount equal to doubling the production of the Permian shale field (Anadarko’s home). And the world supply of liquid natural gas would need to increase by an amount equal to twice Qatar’s current exports, plus coal would have to almost double what the top global exporter, Australia, now ships.
Green forecasters are likely out over their skis. All the predictions assume that emerging economies—the least wealthy nations—will account for more nearly three-fourths of total new spending on renewables. That won’t happen unless the promised radical cost reductions occur.
For a bellwether reality-check, note that none of the wealthy nations that are parties to the Paris Accord—or any of the poor ones, for that matter—have come close to meeting the green pledges called for. In fact, let’s quote the International Energy Agency on what has actually happened: “Energy demand worldwide [in 2018] grew by . . . its fastest pace this decade . . . driven by a robust global economy . . . with fossil fuels meeting nearly 70% of the growth for the second year running.”
The reason? Using wind, solar and batteries as the primary sources of a nation’s energy supply remains far too expensive. You don’t need science or economics to know that. Simply propose taking away subsidies or mandates, and you’ll unleash the full fury of the green lobby.
Meanwhile, there are already signs that the green vision is losing luster. Sweden’s big shift to wind power has not only created alarm over inadequate electricity supplies; it’s depressing economic growth and may imperil that nation’s bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics. China, although adept at green virtue-signaling, has quietly restarted massive domestic coal-power construction and is building hundreds of coal plants for emerging economies around the world.
In the U.S., utilities, furiously but without fanfare, have been adding billions of dollars of massive oil- and natural-gas-burning diesel engines to the grid. Over the past two decades, three times as much grid-class reciprocating engine capacity has been added to the U.S. grid as in the entire half-century before. It’s the only practical way to produce grid-scale electricity fast enough when the wind dies off. Sweden will doubtless be forced to do the same.
A common response to all of the above: Make more electric cars. But mere arithmetic reveals that even the optimists’ 100-fold growth in electric vehicles wouldn’t displace more than 5% of global oil demand in two decades. Tepid growth in gasoline demand would be more than offset by growing economies’ appetites for air travel and manufactured goods. Goodness knows what would happen if Trump-like economic growth were to take hold in the rest of the developed world. As Mr. Buffett knows, the IEA foresees the U.S. supplying nearly three-fourths of the world’s net new demand for oil and gas.
Green advocates can hope to persuade governments—and thus taxpayers—to deploy a huge tax on hydrocarbons to ensure more green construction. But there’s no chance that wealthy nations will agree to subsidize expensive green tech for the rest of the world. And we know where the Oracle of Omaha has placed a bet.