The Week That Was: June 22, 2019, Brought to You by www.SEPP.org
By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project
The Greenhouse Effect – It’s Simple Physics – NOT: One of the disturbing characteristics of many politicians, “experts” on climate science, and even established scientific organizations is to talk about the greenhouse effect as simple physics. It is not. It is a complex process that has been ongoing for billions of years with varying concentrations of atmospheric gases, that have changed significantly. Human emissions of carbon dioxide are not changing the atmosphere to something that has not existed before. One cannot be certain, but the early atmosphere may have been mostly of carbon dioxide, along with smaller amounts of methane, ammonia, nitrogen and water vapor. Today, “dry” atmosphere (from which all water has been removed) is about 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, 1% argon and 0.4% carbon dioxide. (Due to rounding, numbers may not equal 100%.)
Of course, dry air only exists in a laboratory, and any calculations based on dry air must be verified by observations. Unfortunately, such necessary observations are ignored by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its followers such as the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP). Instead, these organizations add an assumed influence of the importance of water vapor, not one based on observations.
Water vapor varies from considerably less than 1% to about 4% of the actual atmosphere, not dry. Usually, the polar regions have less than 1% water vapor, and the tropics almost 4%. Water vapor creates several problems in estimating the greenhouse effect, including clouds and interfering with the greenhouse effect of other gases. The natural greenhouse gases are water vapor, carbon dioxide, ozone, methane, and nitrous oxide. It is important to realize that convection in the atmosphere mixes all the gases well in the troposphere except for ozone, which largely remains in the stratosphere where it is formed by ultraviolet light.
Separating the troposphere from the stratosphere is the tropopause, where water freezes out. The altitude of the tropopause varies from 18km (59,000 feet) at the equator to 8km (26,000 feet) at the poles. In the troposphere, heat transfer by convection is as important as the heat transfer by infrared radiation from the surface to the atmosphere. The entire system is complex and not easily modeled.
No one fully understands the role of clouds, which, generally, cool during the day and warm during the night. Cirrus clouds, thin, wispy clouds above 20,000 feet (6,000 meters) composed of ice crystals, may be an exception. According to MIT Emeritus Professor of Meteorology Richard Lindzen, cirrus clouds have a warming effect, and by accumulating and thinning, may have a significant impact on regulating the temperature of the earth.
The manner in which water vapor interferes with the greenhouse effect of other gases is a separate problem, also not well understood. It requires an understanding of molecular physics, which is not sufficiently well developed to make general calculations. Instead, libraries (data bases), such as HITRAN, have been developed from observations to assist in making the calculations for the tens of thousands of molecular transitions that take place at every altitude for all the frequencies of outbound infrared radiation.
In the energy range of the infrared emanating from the earth, the molecules have a wide array of rotational and vibrational states that can change by absorption or emission of infrared radiation, or by collisions with other atmospheric molecules. Separately, solar ultraviolet light has enough energy to dissociate oxygen molecules (O2) into two oxygen atoms (O), which than can combine with other O2 to molecules to produce ozone (O3). Needless to say, the physics is not simple.
On the Power Line blog, John Hinderaker posted an informative 10-minute interview by John Robson, on Climate Discussion Nexus, of William van Wijngaarden at Department of Physics and Astronomy, York University, Canada. Van Wijngaarden received his doctorate in physics at Princeton and has published extensively in fields such as Quantum physics, Brownian motion, the Photoelectric effect, Electromagnetically induced transparency, Ultrahigh precision laser spectroscopy, as well as climate issues of temperature, precipitation, and humidity.
Van Wijngaarden’s description of the complexity involved is much needed. As his interviewer, Robson, states:
“But part of understanding science is understanding where the complexities lie, and not getting browbeaten, especially by people who aren’t scientists or won’t admit science is complex, into believing it’s so simple a child can explain it with a crayon.”
In other work reviewed by SEPP, van Wijngaarden brought out that, in the current atmosphere, on a per molecule basis, the four greenhouse gases in the troposphere (water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide) have about the same properties to absorb and emit photons. [If molecules re-emitted infrared radiation immediately, the temperature of the atmosphere would not rise because from infrared radiation. By collisions, the CO2 molecules heat the atmosphere; conversely, they can absorb energy by collisions and cool the atmosphere if the infrared radiation has a clear path to space.] There are no huge (factors of tent) differences in the ability of the type of greenhouse gas to interfere with outbound infrared radiation. That is, regardless of the gas, the greenhouse effect is approximately the same as for others.
Further, the additional work by van Wijngaarden discusses how water vapor reduces the capability of other greenhouse gases, such as methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) to interfere with the greenhouse effect because the frequencies in which these gases interfere with radiative transfer are already covered by water vapor (the frequency saturated). Web searches often reveal specific frequencies in which greenhouse gases interfere with radiative transfer, but too frequently these sites avoid mentioning that the frequencies are already covered (saturated) by water vapor, thus the greenhouse effect of the gas, such as CH4, is minimal.
An often used “term-of-art” is a comb of frequencies, with the narrow spikes for frequencies of infrared radiation interfered with being teeth in the comb. Methane and nitrous oxide have narrow teeth, and photons pass right through them. Because water vapor molecules bounce off nitrogen oxygen, and argon, while gaining and losing photons: it can be said the teeth of water vapor are broad. This gives rise to the term “H2O continuum,” which, as van Wijngaarden discusses has no clear meaning and is used as a “fudge factor” or crutch to adjust for the failure of models to make verifiable predictions. As van Wijngaarden states, after pointing out that sometimes climate models fail abysmally:
“That doesn’t mean the modelers are dumb folks. But it’s just a very difficult thing sometimes to model. Climate is not simple to model.”
Since most of the greenhouse effect occurs in the troposphere, and water vapor already broadly absorbs the narrow absorption frequencies of methane and nitrous oxide, their global warming effects are minimal. Also, absorption frequencies of methane and nitrous oxide experience a broadening, but not as significant, water vapor is more dominant. Nevertheless, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and others, have contrived a misleading metric, or measurement, called the global warming potential. For practical observations, the term is meaningless. Yet, “global warming potential of methane” is being used to damage agriculture in the US, New Zealand, and elsewhere.
When one is listening to a politician or “expert” claim the dangers of carbon dioxide, methane, etc., it may be useful to ask oneself “Does this person understand complex natural phenomena such as quantum physics or Brownian motion?” See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.
Lowering Standards: Last week, TWTW discussed the volunteer work of The Right Climate Stuff research team to address the issue of human-caused (Anthropogenic) Global Warming (AGW). One of the standards The Right Climate Stuff team adhered to was problem identification and specification. Among other things, specification requires that the terms used are clear and not subject to several interpretations; they are cohesive and capture the needed functions; they are complete, adequately describing the scope and limits of the problem; they are consistent, correct, and current.
This week, the presidents of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine announced that they “Affirm the Scientific Evidence of Climate Change.” They claim that: “A solid foundation of scientific evidence on climate change exists.” Climate has been changing for hundreds of millions of years. What is disturbing is:
“Scientists have known for some time, from multiple lines of evidence, that humans are changing Earth’s climate, primarily through greenhouse gas emissions. The evidence on the impacts of climate change is also clear and growing. The atmosphere and the Earth’s oceans are warming, the magnitude and frequency of certain extreme events are increasing, and sea level is rising along our coasts.”
As described above, the greenhouse effect is not well-understood, and many of the multiple lines of evidence TWTW has reviewed are highly questionable, if not outright exaggerations. It would be interesting to hear the response of these presidents to the question: “What caused the Little Ice Age and brought it to an end?” They certainly lack the scientific rigor exhibited by The Right Climate Stuff research team. See links under Defending the Orthodoxy.
Testing Climate Models: The full transcript of a talk John Christy gave to the Global Warming Policy Foundation on May 8, is now available. In the talk, he covers the small influence carbon dioxide has on temperature trends, details of the failure of climate models to forecast correctly, how poorly the latest climate models are in forecasting, and some observations about changing weather. His conclusions deserve repeating.
“I have three conclusions for my talk:
“Theoretical climate modelling is deficient for describing past variations. Climate models fail for past variations, where we already know the answer. They’ve failed hypothesis tests and that means they’re highly questionable for giving us accurate information about how the relatively tiny forcing, and that’s that little guy right there [CO2], will affect the climate of the future.
“The weather we really care about isn’t changing, and Mother Nature has many ways on her own to cause her climate to experience considerable variations in cycles. If you think about how many degrees of freedom are in the climate system, what a chaotic nonlinear, dynamical system can do with all those degrees of freedom, you will always have record highs, record lows, tremendous storms and so on. That’s the way that system is.
“And lastly, carbon is the world’s dominant source of energy today, because it is affordable and directly leads to poverty eradication as well as the lengthening and quality enhancement of human life. Because of these massive benefits, usage is rising around the world, despite calls for its limitation.”
See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.
Changing Climate: A CNN broadcast covered a study in Nature, Climate Change, claiming that “Climate change threatens nearly 40% of the world’s primates.” Certainly, humans do threaten primates, but probably not from global warming. According to Science Daily:
“New biogeographic evidence supports the origin of primates in the Jurassic and the evolution of the modern primate groups — prosimians, tarsiers, and anthropoids — by the early Cretaceous,”
Yet, estimates of temperatures during the Jurassic and Cretaceous are up to 15ºC warmer than today. Why would a warming threaten primates? This brings up a concern expressed by Richard Lindzen, MIT Professor emeritus of Meteorology. He asserts that the major issue of climate change is not global warming or cooling of average global temperatures, because the temperatures in the tropics do not change much. The issue is changing temperature difference between the tropics and the polar regions, which change profoundly.
Lindzen has brought up that hippopotamus-like and crocodile-like fossils have been found in Svalbard (Spitsbergen), about 75 degrees North. Similar findings are being made in Ellesmere Island, Canada, 80 degrees North, northwest of Greenland.
As H.H. Lamb described in “Climate, History and the Modern World,” intense weather events are driven by temperature differences. A reduction in temperature differences between the tropics and the polar regions should lead to a reduction in intensity of storms. See links under Defending the Orthodoxy and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AW8PQOw3jNg, and https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0012821X10003791?via%3Dihub]
Extreme Calm? In his Saturday Summary on June 22, Joe Bastardi of WeatherBELL Analytics LLC., discussed the extreme calm of the tropics. Thus far this year, for the first time since 1969, there have been no tropical depressions or storms in the eastern Pacific; since March, there have been no significant tropical storms in the western Pacific; and the Atlantic is “dead.” Of course, storms will return. But, should this calm be called extreme weather? See https://www.weatherbell.com/
Real Population Bomb: The Pew Research Center has announced that the UN’s projects the world’s population will nearly stop growing by the end of the century.
“For the first time in modern history, the world’s population is expected to virtually stop growing by the end of this century, due in large part to falling global fertility rates, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of new data from the United Nations.
“By 2100, the world’s population is projected to reach approximately 10.9 billion, with annual growth of less than 0.1% – a steep decline from the current rate. Between 1950 and today, the world’s population grew between 1% and 2% each year, with the number of people rising from 2.5 billion to more than 7.7 billion.”
“The global fertility rate is expected to be 1.9 births per woman by 2100, down from 2.5 today.”
The decline in fertility rates is not particularly surprising. During the “Population Bomb” scares of the 1970s, fertility rates were falling in Westernized countries that were prosperous. Apparently, as people become more prosperous and become healthy, the perceived need for children declines. Generally, the world’s population has become more prosperous and healthier over the past several decades. See links under Other News that May Be of Interest
Number of the Week: 1ºC. Using completely different approaches and working with totally different datasets, both John Christy and William van Wijngaarden came to the same conclusion: a doubling of CO2 would cause an increase in temperatures of about 1ºC, assuming no significant natural variation such as solar warming or cooling. This increase is about one-third of the estimates of 3ºC plus or minus 1.5ºC made in the 1979 Charney Report, based on assumptions now contradicted by evidence. Yet, the estimates remain in the five IPCC Assessment Reports (AR 1 to 5) and, apparently, will remain in the upcoming Assessment Report.
John Christy bases his estimates on 37.5 years of atmospheric temperature trends starting in 1979, adjusted for volcanoes and El Niños, but not for solar variation. The results are similar to what he and his colleague, Richard McNider, published 25 years before, with 25 years less data. There is an upward trend of 0.09 ºC per decade which, when compared with increases in CO2, he calculates to imply an increase in temperatures of 1.1 ºC from a doubling of CO2.
In a contrasting approach, William van Wijngaarden and his colleagues estimate that doubling the greenhouse gases in troposphere (CO2, methane, N2O) and increasing water vapor by about 6% will result in an increase in temperatures about 1 to 1.5 ºC. (It is estimated that an increase of 1ºC will increase water vapor by about 6%.) This result is remarkably similar to that of Christy and McNider.
It is clear that the IPCC, and the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), are on the wrong path and are misinforming the public as to the effects of increasing CO2. One wonders whether, in their new look, the US National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine will recognize that observational data trumps assumptions and models, or whether they will continue the path of bureaucratic science leading to erroneous policies and poor decisions. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.
1. EPA Overturns Obama-Era Clean Air Rules for Power Plants
New plan, aimed at boosting coal-fired plants, would limit the agency’s ability to mandate tougher greenhouse-gas-emissions regulations
By Timothy Puko, WSJ, June 19, 2019
SUMMARY: The journalist writes:
“The Trump administration moved to try to revive the coal-power industry Wednesday, overturning Obama administration policies aimed at stemming climate change and adopting rules that could allow older power plants to continue operating.
“The new plan, signed by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler, replaces rules that sought to mandate a national shift away from coal to cleaner sources of power, including natural gas, wind and solar. The EPA move faced an immediate pushback from environmental groups and some state and city governments.
“The Obama-era rules had been blocked by legal challenges from 26 states, industry groups and others that cited concerns including the costs of compliance and the EPA’s authority to enact such a sweeping change. Mr. Wheeler said the new Affordable Clean Energy rules will restore authority to states, but require some power plants to adopt newer technology to remain in operation.
“‘These provisions will give states and the private sector the regulatory certainty they need to invest in new technologies that are more efficient and reduce emissions,” Mr. Wheeler said. “We are trying to address climate change. But we are trying to do it within the authority Congress has given us.’”
The articles continues with objections from environmentalist claiming the new rules don’t go far enough citing UN reports of catastrophic climate change.
2. The Future Isn’t What It Used to Be
There’s one trend you can count on: Most predictions turn out to be wrong.
By Andy Kessler, WSJ, June 16, 2019
SUMMARY: The investor / columnist Kessler writes:
“Founded in 1867, the Keuffel & Esser Co. commissioned a study of the future for its 100th anniversary. If you’re of a certain vintage, you might have used a K&E slide rule. Their ‘visionary’ study was a huge dud, missing completely the electronic-calculator boom that came a few years later. They shut down their slide-rule engravers in 1976. As Mark Twain said, ‘It’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.’ Or was it Niels Bohr? Maybe Yogi Berra?
“My father was a proud member of the Book of the Month Club. Bored on a visit home in 1989, I devoured that month’s selection, ‘Megamistakes’ by Baruch College professor Steven Schnaars, where I read about K&E’s study. The book’s message was simple: Don’t be fooled by prevailing opinion, and don’t extend trend lines into the future. Mr. Schnaars chronicles how 1950s jet-age thinking morphed into ’60s dreams of a space-age utopia. A 1966 study by conglomerate TRW forecast manned lunar bases by 1977, autonomous vehicles by 1979 and intelligent robot soldiers by the ’90s. AT&T ’s Picturephone service, ultrasonically cleaned dishes, cheap energy forever, future shock everywhere—all wrong.
“Of course, the 1973 oil embargo changed everything. But by the end of the ’70s, expensive oil was considered permanent and the future was about scarcity and energy saving and we’d all be driving small cars with CB radios and living in R. Buckminster Fuller-inspired geodesic domes. General Electric even ramped up production of small refrigerators. Mistakes!
“Then the ’80s came along. A bull market and cheap oil lifted the ’70s fog, but everyone believed the Japanese would soon rule the world since they were kicking our butts in manufacturing and the Imperial Palace in Tokyo was worth more than all the real estate in California. Personal computers were mere toys. Oh, and the Soviet Union was a world superpower. Megamistakes!
“After the ’87 crash and first Iraq war, the prospects for economic growth in the ’90s were dim. Then Netscape and its browser went public in 1995 and we were off to the races again. By 1999 techno-utopia was in full swing, and all you needed was a good name like burnmoney.com to raise millions and be worth kazillions. Gigamistake!
“The Nasdaq’s dot-bomb implosion and 9/11 changed the mood quickly. In 2003 I tried to pitch a book about Silicon Valley and Wall Street and was told nobody would care about them ever again and asked if I knew anything about bioterrorism or Islamic fundamentalism. Uh, no. But I wish I knew about house or derivative flipping—that’s what the aughts were about, until the Great Recession. The 2010s were about holding cash, maybe in your mattress, vs. owning stocks. Oops— Apple , Amazon and Microsoft would soon flirt with trillion-dollar valuations. Teramistake?
“Mr. Schnaars advised discounting extrapolations, playing down historical precedent, challenging assumptions, and distinguishing fads from growth markets. Easier said than done. The future happens, just not the way most people think. How you pick your investments, your job and even where you live can end up a dead end or the most vibrant upside imaginable. Choose carefully, but as Mr. Schnaars suggested, think for yourself.
“Today low interest rates mean risk is on and caution is old-fashioned. Companies sell at 20 times revenues instead of earnings.”
After a discussion about electric cars and current fads he continues:
“My experience is that people tend to overestimate the absurd, like Elon Musk’s dreams of building a hyperloop and colonizing Mars, and underestimate the mundane, like improvements in messaging and shopping. I’m usually bullish until dreams become hallucinations. Technology develops in S curves: Things start slow, go into hyperbolic growth, and then roll over. That’s why ‘the singularity’—self-improving, unrestrained artificial intelligence—probably won’t happen. Don’t extend the trend.
“The tempests of change blow hard. Reading the prevailing winds, we’re all about to become robot-replaced, drone-delivered-synthetic-meat-eating, augmented-reality-helmet-wearing, bitcoin-spending, fruit-flavored-vaping, neutered democratic socialists chirping ‘Comrade’ and streaming ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 10, ‘Dystopia’s Discontents,’ on our watches while collecting universal basic income. You don’t need a slide rule to calculate the megamistakes.”