Climate clippings 71b

This post was written in October 2012 trialling the site. I’ve decided to leave it in time sequence and fiddle the numbering.

1. Did climate change shape human evolution?

There’s no evidence yet that it did according to Richard Leakey.

I’m not sure about his four key questions, though. Yes, bipedalism seems to be important as does using tools to make tools. But I can’t see the importance of migration out of Africa as important to our evolution. Apart from picking up some Neanderthal genes presumably in a palm grove somewhere in the Middle East, which did boost our immune system, those of us who left Africa are much the same genetically as those who stayed behind.

I’d say the development of language was important. If you want a fourth I’d suggest our patterns of social organisation – how we interact and how we co-operate within groups. But I don’t know how much of that is in our genes.

2. Aid for climate refugees

Speaking of climate and migration, displacement by extreme weather events does not qualify you as a refugee under present UN arrangements. The International Organisation of Migration (IOM) hopes this will change at the annual United Nations climate change summit to be held in Qatar later this year, gaining access to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and other sources. It seems that 42 million people were displaced by storms, floods and droughts in Asia and the Pacific during 2010 and 2011.

3. Ocean heat content update

Skeptical Science recently posted on an update by Levitus et al on ocean heat content, which increases apace. Around 93% of additional warming goes into the ocean which is truly vast with, for example, an average depth of around 3,790 metres. This graph indicates the changing heat content within bands of the upper 2000m:

4. Southern Ocean research shows decrease in dense Antarctic bottom water

Antarctic Bottom Water is a massive current of super dense salty water which used to be which used to occupy the bottom mile of the Great Southern Ocean. Used to. Researchers are now able to report that the current is diminished by 60% compared to what it was in 1970.

Antarctic Bottom Water is colder than the normal freezing point and is a vast store of CO2. Understanding changes in this deep ocean current are crucial to understanding the likely future of global climate patterns as the planet warms. The researchers have not only been able to make direct observations, they have distributed buoys which should be able to provide data at times of the year when field work is impossible.

5. Plants flower faster than climate change models predict

For years scientists have been doing experiments to find out how much earlier plants will flower and leaf with global warming. A new study using field observations has found that plants are responding much faster than they had thought. Their research suggests that that spring flowering and leafing will continue to advance at the rate of 5 to 6 days per year for every degree celsius of warming.

What surprises me is that they thought they could model natural conditions in the lab.

It seems they will have to rethink the impacts of global warming on ecosystems and food production.

See also Science Daily.

6. Climate change experimentation goes bush

Another approach is to manipulate the environment on a large scale and monitor what happens. Researchers are using to control the amount of CO2 available to plants.

The idea is explore the role of “Australia’s large tracts of undeveloped land, known as bush” in storing carbon. They will be able to add carbon or take it away.

I’m not sure it doesn’t suffer from the same problems as experiments with plants, where only one variable was controlled, neglecting changes in precipitation patterns and cloudiness, for example.

7. Wind farms do not cause global warming

There has been a raft of articles in the MSM suggesting that wind farms cause global warming, mainly in the headlines, it seems.

In fact a study of some large wind farms in remote areas of Texas found local warming. The authors don’t know what’s going on but the suggestion is that thermal energy is being redistributed, perhaps by pulling down warmer air from higher altitudes during the nights.

For the spinning blades of wind turbines to increase the overall temperature of the planet some basic laws of physics would need to be rewritten.

Climate clippings 71

1. State of the climate 2012

BOM amd the CSIRO have produced the State of the Climate – 2012 report. BOM has a handy summary summary and link to the brochure. The CSIRO site has some added interviews. I’ve extracted two images. First is the relentless increase in ocean heat content:

Ocean heat content

Second is the rainfall pattern for April to September from 1997 to 2011:

Rainfall April to September, 1997-2011

According to the report we can expect the same only more so in the future.

See also The Conversation. Continue reading Climate clippings 71

Climate clippings 70

Stuff happens. We have a household of three with separate access to our online service and last week the youngest member blew our monthly usage budget downloading games, 11 days out from when it renews automatically on 17 March. So the speed became truly painful. Bigpond have given us a once only ‘goodwill’ 2 gigs to go on with. Trouble is, by he time I found out what was going on we’d already used a third of it.

Trouble also is that when the speed slows my email connection just doesn’t happen.

Anyway I’ve prepared a CC for this week from material to hand, then I’m going to disappear to preserve my email.

1. You’ve been told

When a link came through on a feed about a conference on what the planet would be like with 4C warming it looked a bit familiar. Then I noticed the date – October 2009. The link is now broken, but the conference is here. There’s a lot of good material in the presentation downloads, mostly depressing, some of which I looked at before things gummed up.

In the article it said that Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, who advise Angela Merkel on climate change, had dropped in President Obama’s top people, who told him that the political system couldn’t cope with what he was saying about the science. He wasn’t impressed. Continue reading Climate clippings 70

Climate clippings 69

1. Electric cars

you have about 750 million cars in the world today; you’re going to have about 1.3 billion cars in about 25, 30 years; and you can’t expect them all to be running on gasoline. There isn’t that much gasoline around.

Stan Correy has a look at the future of the car industry and our potential place in it on ABC RN’s Background Briefing.

Evan Thornley, who is behind Better Place, thinks our niche in the electric car future is in the larger powerful muscle car, where we have always been. Continue reading Climate clippings 69

Climate clippings 68

1. Planning for storm surges

It seems the trickiest bit of planning for sea level rise is dealing with the increased risk of storm surges. Scientists have been taking a look at New York City.

The biggest they know about was a 3.2 metre surge in 1821, a one in 500 year event. Most buildings have a 60 to 120-year usable lifespan. With a 3-foot rise a once a century surge of 5.7 feet above tide level could occur every three to 20 years. Continue reading Climate clippings 68

Climate clippings 67

I’ve used a random image for the featured image of this post. I was going to use the one that once was my gravatar (to the left) but the original is quite small and it came up fuzzy. Continue reading Climate clippings 67

Climate clippings 66

New solar PV nanotechnology

There have been so many developments in PV technology it’s hard to know which will be significant.

Gizmag tells us about new material consisting of tiny hollow spheres, made out of nanocrystalline-silicon.

The new material is efficient, light, flexible, should be easy and cheap to make and their efficiency is less affected by the angle of the sun.

No downsides are mentioned. Continue reading Climate clippings 66

Climate clippings 65

I’m still stressing out over the project I’m working on and various health matters that are annoying, time-consuming but OK-ish. John D has helped as always, but don’t blame him for the fourth one, the one on Rupert’s WSJ.

Australian solar project to be the world’s tallest building

Hyperion solar chimney

Hyperion believes their so-called “solar updraft tower” would provide much needed power to mining operations in Western Australia, and could also connect to the grid. It hopes to go live by 2014. The company is currently seeking approval for the $1.7 billion plan.

Unlike many solar projects, this one would keep the generators humming day and night, as the ground continues to give off captured heat from dusk to dawn. Continue reading Climate clippings 65

Climate clippings 64

I’m currently working on another project, which is taking up much of my time. This week we had about 200mm of rain in one day. That could have been why my cable connection to the internet disappeared for 36 hours. I’m grateful to John D who sent me the links for each item in the following except the last.

Zero-emissions engine that runs on liquid air

A new zero-emissions engine capable of competing commercially with hydrogen fuel cells and battery electric systems appeared on the radar when respected British engineering consultancy Ricardo validated Dearman engine technology and its commercial potential.

The Dearman engine operates by injecting cryogenic (liquid) air into ambient heat inside the engine to produce high pressure gas that drives the engine – the exhaust emits cold air. It’s cheaper to build than battery electric or fuel cell technology, with excellent energy density, fast refuelling and no range anxiety. It just might be a third alternative.

Among the advantages are that it doesn’t catch fire or explode and doesn’t require rare materials. Continue reading Climate clippings 64

Climate clippings 63

China report on climate change

China's economicChina's advance will be hampered by climate change, a government report finds

(Photo from Reuters, via The Age.)

From Reuters we hear about the Second National Assessment Report on Climate Change which sums up advancing scientific knowledge about the consequences and costs of global warming for China:

Global warming fed by greenhouse gases from industry, transport and shifting land-use poses a long-term threat to China’s prosperity, health and food output, says the report.

In 2010 China’s emissions grew by 10.4%. This rate is expected to slow, but for reductions we will have to wait until about 2030, “with big falls only after mid-century”.

Here’s the Executive Summary. Continue reading Climate clippings 63

Climate clippings 62

Energy savings work!

It had passed me by, but an outfit called the Breakthrough Institute (BTI) has been suggesting that energy savings don’t work, according to a guest post at Climate Progress. They say there is a “rebound effect” which causes 60 to 100% or more of energy savings to be lost. For example, if you save on your power bill you will spend that money on a thing or activity that uses energy. The contention has been amplified in the MSM in the US.

A thorough examination of this theory has found that the rebound effect exists, but it’s 10 to 30%. So 70 to 90% of savings are permanent. This is important because, they say, 25-40% of GHG abatement could be achieved through energy savings. Continue reading Climate clippings 62

Remembering the floods

As I write we have brutal heat in Brisbane, with a dry west wind. On 11 January last year Robert Merkel put up a post, Queensland floods get worse. Later that day Mark put up a post, Brisbane flood maps and up to date flood information and slaved mightily for a time passing on information gleaned from twitter and other sources, until he went quiet. By the 12th he was a refugee at my place. His place was high and dry, but the power went off. By the 14th the Brisbane floods were in retreat.

Earlier on the 10th there had been what we used to call a ‘cloudburst’ on the Toowoomba Range, when 150mm (6 inches in the old money) fell in about half an hour. I posted some Toowoomba flood pics taken by my cousin’s brother-in-law. Yesterday I heard Anna Bligh tell the story of a year ago, how she was addressing the umpteenth, by that time, press briefing on the Queensland floods. From September 2010 there had been many cities and towns flooded across Queensland, some of them totally evacuated several times. As she fronted the media a minder handed her a sheet with breaking news. She found herself talking about swift water rescues in the main street of Toowoomba. “This can’t be right”, she thought. “It’s impossible.” It wasn’t. This is what was going on in Toowoomba:

Toowoomba flooding
Raging floods_Toowoomba

Continue reading Remembering the floods

Climate change, sustainability, plus sundry other stuff