July 28, 2014
Posts will be thinning out in coming days. I’ll be flying tomorrow to meet Dr. Jason Box, Dark Snow Project Chief Scientist, in Copenhagen. From there, we’ll hop to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, and up to the ice sheet for the following 2 weeks or so. I’ll be checking in and posting till we jump to the ice.
Dr Box just sent me his latest blog post, something he had to look into that’s been keeping him awake nights. The methane studies covered in the video above relate mainly to methane from thawing permafrost on land. Dr. Box’s piece below looks into some more recent developments in the study of undersea methane deposits – the sleeping dragon of climate change. Note this is territory fraught with controversy, as the data from these remote areas is thin. But the stakes are very, very high.
Using a vast and credible set of climate data and physics, James Hansen’s Storms of My Grandchildren makes the case that humans are on track to allow oceanic and atmospheric heating to reach a level triggering the release of vast additional carbon stores locked in shallow sea gas hydrates and/or from the ground in the Arctic.
In my professional opinion as a climatologist with more than 70 externally reviewed scientific publications, after 12 years of university education focused on atmospheric and oceanic science, and followed by 10 years of university lecturing, eventually tenured, on micro and mesoscale meteorology and instrumentation, Hansen’s warnings should be met with an aggressive atmospheric decarbonization program. We have been too long now on a trajectory pointed at an unmanageable climate calamity. If we don’t get atmospheric carbon down, we will probably trigger the release of these vast carbon stores, dooming our kids’ futures to a hothouse Earth. That’s a tough statement to read when your worry budget is already full.
December 2013, I found myself in a packed room at the world’s largest science meeting [the AGU fall meeting]. The session: “Cutting-Edge Challenges in Climate”. Invited speaker Dr. Lori Bruhwiler presented ”Arctic Permafrost and Carbon Climate Feedbacks” – a cautious, objective, and science only survey of the problem and what data we have. Also invited, Dr. Peter Wadhams pitched ”The cost to society of a methane outbreak from the East Siberian shelf”, completely off the fence, citing costs to humanity measured in trillions of $. The take home from the session was well paraphrased by Bruhwiler, citing a sparse observational network, concluding ‘we just can’t say much yet’.
That was then…
Maher holds up the new National Review cover, which explains it all.
Reminds me of recent remarks by Jeb Bush that scientists and those that believe in what science says, are “sanctimonious”. (video link hat tip to D.R. Tucker)
Maher tries to steer the conversation into an atheist vs theist frame, and Tyson backs him off, noting that an appreciation of the largeness and complexity of the universe, and our connection to it, is an “..almost spiritual revelation..”.
Wow. The existential angst of the modestly literate “conservative” (Hell, I’m a conservative – real conservatives are no longer welcome in the anti-science crowd) – who looks around him and sees that Sara Palin, Michelle Bachman, and Louie Gohmert are all wearing the same lanyards as he is.
One part insecure hipsterism, one part unwarranted condescension, the two defining characteristics of self-professed nerds are (a) the belief that one can discover all of the secrets of human experience through differential equations and (b) the unlovely tendency to presume themselves to be smarter than everybody else in the world. Prominent examples include MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry, Rachel Maddow, Steve Kornacki, and Chris Hayes; Vox’s Ezra Klein, Dylan Matthews, and Matt Yglesias; the sabermetrician Nate Silver; the economist Paul Krugman; the atheist Richard Dawkins; former vice president Al Gore; celebrity scientist Bill Nye; and, really, anybody who conforms to the Left’s social and moral precepts while wearing glasses and babbling about statistics.
July 25, 2014
Brewster McCracken and the Amazing Pecan Street Project sounds like a great name for a movie, – with a marvelous electric flying vehicle, maybe.
Brewster McCracken is CEO of the Pecan Street Project – an Austin, Texas based research outfit that has been following the experiences of early adopter households who have upgraded to solar panels, electric cars, and smart meters.
The longitudinal study is revealing a number of surprising insights into how real people use new energy technology – which I’ll be covering in future posts. I had a wide ranging Skype conversation with Brewster not long ago, much of which will make its way into new video projects – but I wanted to share a sample now. This is one whipsmart guy and one cool, informative initiative.
Dan McAtee and Laura Spoor’s utility bill last year came to $631. That’s not bad considering the average annual electric bill in Austin, the Texas capital, is more than $1,000, largely because air-conditioning may be the only thing locals love more than barbecue. But it’s even more impressive once you realize the bill actually came to negative $631. The solar panels on their roof mean McAtee and Spoor produce more electricity than they consume. “We got the biggest system we could get,” says McAtee, pointing to the array of panels laid atop their one-story home like domino tiles. “Now we’ve got what you might call overgeneration.”
But while the solar panels stand out–such arrays are rare in Texas–what really sets McAtee and Spoor’s home apart can’t be seen at all. Smart circuits are tracking their electricity use on a minute-by-minute and appliance-by-appliance basis, providing a running record of how power flows through their home. On his computer, McAtee opens a website that shows in near real time the rise and fall of their electricity use over the months. When Spoor opens the refrigerator to get a pitcher of lemonade, the readings spike for a moment, reflecting the extra watts consumed as the appliance compensates for the rush of warmer air. “You can literally see when a lightbulb is turned on,” says McAtee, 73, who spent years as an engineer at IBM before his retirement.
My brother lives in the Methow Valley of Washington, where fires have raged in recent weeks.
Despite power outages, he was able, with a neighbor, to rig pumps and keep a water sprayer on his ranch, while digging firebreaks – sufficient to avoid significant losses. As more and more Americans have these experiences first hand, Climate denial is more and more on the ropes.
The President’s recent aggressive stand on climate science is the best evidence of what pollsters know – climate denial is withering under the relentless pounding of a changing natural world. Moreover, the Sierra Club’s Michael Brune notes here, that 70 percent of renewable energy is being produced in Republican congressional districts, and the messages from home on the benefits of new energy are filtering through to all but the more thick headed politicians.
July 25, 2014
The Heartland Institute, famous for misinforming on the Health effects of cigarettes, and the bogus science of climate denial, now promotes the views of the creationist Discovery Institute, in attacking Science education as “propaganda”.
Not a surprise to me, as, when I attended the Heartland “science” Conference in 2012, I sat thru a lecture where former astronaut “Jack” Schmitt expressed support for education bills passed in Tennessee and Louisiana, which essentially allow schools to teach religious tracts as part of the science curriculum – see above.
The Heartland Institute, a prominent, Chicago-based organization opposing climate science, has teamed up with the creationist Discovery Institute to launch a smear campaign against a group promoting the nationwide adoption of updated science education guidelines.
The guidelines in question are the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), adopted so far by 11 states and the District of Columbia. The National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science—working with 26 state governments—developed the NGSS to update K-12 science education in schools for the first time since 1998.
But, because the NGSS includes material on evolution and how humans are causing climate change, it has faced opposition in some states. Most recently, the Wyoming legislature became the first in the U.S. to reject the NGSS. Lessons on climate change, lawmakers said, would brainwash kids against the state’s coal and oil industries.
The non-profit National Center for Science Education (NCSE)—whose members include thousands of teachers and scientists—provides information and advice to defend quality science education at local, state, and national levels. And its advocacy on behalf of the NGSS has made it a target for both young-earth creationists and climate change deniers.
And thus, a partnership is blossoming. Yesterday, the main article on the Heartland Institute website is written by the Discovery Institute’s Casey Luskin, whose ignorance of science is the stuff of legends.
His article is the first in a two-part column on “how the National Center for Science Education is targeting the nation’s schools to enforce a mythical consensus on global warming alarmism.”
The column trots out the popular young-earth creationist tropes, such as claims of censorship:
Critics believe that, by seeking to put a lid on scientific controversies, NCSE actually serves as an impediment to science education—such that many school systems and individual teachers refrain from teaching about the topics extensively, or avoid the topics entirely, in order to avoid the wrath of “consensus” enforcers. As a result, the nation’s schoolchildren learn neither the facts underlying the theories and counter-theories, nor the reasoning processes by which real science separates fact from fiction….NCSE has attempted not to promote good science education but to censor views with which it disagrees.
And, Luskin characterizes this as “propagandizing kids,” comparing the new education standards to racist beliefs:
July 25, 2014
News about water shortages in the American West are usually illustrated with pictures like that above, showing the decline in surface reservoirs. Now, a science team has looked below the surface.
Turns out the news is worse than we thought.
A new study by NASA and University of California, Irvine, scientists finds more than 75 percent of the water loss in the drought-stricken Colorado River Basin since late 2004 came from underground resources. The extent of groundwater loss may pose a greater threat to the water supply of the western United States than previously thought.
This study is the first to quantify the amount that groundwater contributes to the water needs of western states. According to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the federal water management agency, the basin has been suffering from prolonged, severe drought since 2000 and has experienced the driest 14-year period in the last hundred years.
The research team used data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite mission to track changes in the mass of the Colorado River Basin, which are related to changes in water amount on and below the surface. Monthly measurements in the change in water mass from December 2004 to November 2013 revealed the basin lost nearly 53 million acre feet (65 cubic kilometers) of freshwater. That’s almost double the volume of the nation’s largest reservoir, Nevada’s Lake Mead. More than three-quarters of the total — about 41 million acre feet (50 cubic kilometers) — was from groundwater. Read the rest of this entry »
July 24, 2014
The impacts are increasingly being felt everywhere – bigger storms in the Midwest, soggy summers in England, drought in Colorado. But nowhere on the planet are the impacts as dramatic as the Arctic, and the ice cap is a prime example.
If you’re sweltering in New York or Miami or Los Angeles, the only ice you’re probably thinking about is the stuff melting fast in your drink.
But up in the Arctic, the ice pack is on pace for another record low. Scientists won’t know for sure until mid-September, the end of the North’s melt season. But two snapshots, one from July 21, 1979, the other from July 21, 2014, show the change.
Below, time lapse of Antarctic September Sea ice extent from 1979.
And here, changes in Arctic (northern) sea ice during the same 1979 to 2012 period.
NSIDC graph current as of 07/24/14
During the second half of June, the rate of sea ice loss in the Arctic was the second fastest in the satellite data record. As a result, by the beginning of July extent fell very close to two standard deviations below the long-term (1981 to 2010) average.
Below, Danish maps of Arctic Ice from observations, which date from the turn of the 1900s.