More on cosmic rays and clouds

You will recall that we recently had a look at work done by Dr Jasper Kirkby and others in the CERN/CLOUD project.

The possible story in my words from cosmic rays to temperature change is this.

The earth is constantly being bombarded with galactic cosmic rays (GCR), high-energy particles from exploding stars. These act on tiny particles (aerosols) of sulphuric acid and ammonia molecules which cluster together to forms “seeds” called cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) from which clouds grow. Clouds are assumed to have a net cooling effect on surface temperature.

An active sun protects the Earth from GCRs to some extent. Conversely with a less active sun more cosmic rays get through. More cosmic rays mean more clouds and the cooler global temperatures.

It’s important to understand that CCNs can and do form without the assistance of GCRs, and that it is the change in GCRs operating at the margin which may or may not cause a significant change in temperature.

Every step of the way must be scientifically examined and proven. The mechanism must work, and in quantities large enough to make a difference. Continue reading More on cosmic rays and clouds

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EV motor racing is about to begin

The article is behind the paywall, but New Scientist reports Federation Internationale d’Automobile (FIA), is calling for proposals for a “Formula E”, an electric vehicle championship it hopes will kick off in 2013. They claim the series will drive EV technology, but hey, let’s have some fun along the way.

Meanwhile at the Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca, California on 26 November, we will have the EV Cup. In this race all drivers will have the same vehicle, the iRacer (above), built by UK firm Westfield Sportscars. Each car will have 340 kilograms of lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries that, for safety, are distributed around the car in eight 50-volt units. That should keep them screaming around the track for 15 to 20 minutes.

And screaming is the operative word. EV cars at speed do make a noise, but the acoustics are being designed to sound like the Pod Racers in Star Wars. Continue reading Climate clippings 47

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Herr Doktor Hüttlin’s magical Kugelmotor

From Gizmag via John D comes an invention from the Black Forest area of a spherical engine that can drive directly, generate electricity or store energy from braking in the motor itself. There seems to be considerable potential for it as a range extender in plug-in electrics.

“Pre-production prototypes of 1.18 liter capacity have been in testing for some months and power output at present is 74kW (100hp) at 3000rpm with torque up to 290Nm (213ft-lb). Dr Hüttlin expects efficiency to increase by another 40% with reduced bearing friction and optimization of the combustion. The engine weighs 62 kg and consists of only 62 parts, while a conventional engine has at least 240.” Continue reading Climate clippings 46

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Arctic ice

Let’s get this one over with. Arctic ice seems to have bottomed out on 9 September, about two weeks earlier than usual. 2011 was the second lowest on record by a thin margin. I’ll freeze the graph here for the record:

Arctic ice extent

Here’s the important bit:

The last five years (2007 to 2011) have been the five lowest extents in the continuous satellite record, which extends back to 1979. While the record low year of 2007 was marked by a combination of weather conditions that favored ice loss (including clearer skies, favorable wind patterns, and warm temperatures), this year has shown more typical weather patterns but continued warmth over the Arctic. This supports the idea that the Arctic sea ice cover is continuing to thin. (Emphasis added)

Continue reading Climate clippings 45

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Giant red crabs invade the Antarctic abyss

From the New Scientist via Huffington Post “Huge crabs more than a metre across have invaded the Antarctic abyss, wiped out the local wildlife and now threaten to ruin ecosystems that have evolved over 14 million years.”

These critters occupy a layer between 1400 and 950 metres deep, where the water is a little warmer. Further up the water is cooled by melting ice.

Global warming seems to be the culprit. Back in 1982 the minimum temperature there was 1.2°C, too cold for king crabs. Last year it had risen to a balmy 1.47°C, enough for the crabs to thrive.

The temperature rise at 0.27°C is not large, but I suspect it takes a lot of energy to produce it. Continue reading Climate clippings 44

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Clouds

The Scientific American reports on a paper by Andrew Dessler refuting a paper by Spencer and Braswell. Dessler’s analysis shows:

Clouds change in response to temperature changes. There is no evidence clouds can cause meaningful climate change… “Suggestions that significant revisions to mainstream climate science are required are therefore not supported,” he wrote.

In my words, the story goes Like this. Additional CO2 in the atmosphere traps additional heat from the sun, about 90% of which ends up in the ocean. The ocean is the prime driver of the world’s climate, including changes in cloud cover. There are other lesser drivers but that’s the main story.

In the alternative reality, decreased solar activity lets through more galactic cosmic rays, which increase cloud nucleation, which increase cloud cover, which changes (cools) surface temperature.

OR changes are simply due to internal variability. In any case CO2 has a minor effect and is basically irrelevant.

Skeptical Science looks at the issue here and here. In short Dessler:

found that the heating of the climate system through ocean heat transport was 20 times larger than TOA [top of the atmosphere] energy flux changes due to cloud cover over the period in question.

There’s more, with links, at Deltoid and here. Skeptical Science also has a post on denialoshere reaction and an earlier post on the net feedback from clouds. Continue reading Climate clippings 43

Cosmic rays – again

Crab Nebula
There’s been a spate of articles claiming that a new CERN/CLOUD project paper shows that cosmic rays are the real cause of climate change:

A major scientific study is casting fresh doubt on the theory of man-made climate change. In fact, this latest research shows it may be something far beyond the control of humans.

Research by the prestigious European Organization of Nuclear Research supports the theory that periods of earth warming are caused by solar activity and so-called cosmic rays, rather than by human activity.

The findings of the landmark study, dubbed CLOUD, are rocking climate science.

Landmark study indeed! Continue reading Cosmic rays – again

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Climate sensitivity

James Wright at Skeptical Science has constructed a summary of some recent work done by James Hansen and colleagues. Climate sensitivity is the temperature change caused by a doubling of CO2. In this post I referred to a paper by Hansen et al, Earth’s energy imbalance and implications. Wright is working from a paper by Hansen and Sato entitled Paleoclimate implications for human-made climate change which contains much of the same material, including Table 1 on p16.

The bottom line goes like this:

The exact value of climate sensitivity depends on which feedbacks you include, the climate state you start with, and what timescale you’re interested in. While the Earth has ice sheets the total climate sensitivity to CO2 is up to 8°C: 1.2°C direct warming, 1.8°C from fast feedbacks, 1°C from greenhouse gas feedbacks, and nearly 4°C from ice albedo feedbacks. The slow feedbacks have historically occurred over centuries to millennia, but could become significant this century. Including CO2 itself as a feedback would make climate sensitivity even higher, except for the weathering feedback which operates on a geologic timescale. (Emphasis mine)

CO2 alone, not CO2e, of 450ppm is likely to give us an ice-free planet – eventually.

I take it that the stability we’ve had during the Holocene is unusual. Upset the balance with a bit of the trace gas CO2 and the system can go wild. Continue reading Climate clippings 42

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Antarctica’s glacial movements

Via Gizmodo researchers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena and the University of California, Irvine have made a map of every glacier on the continent, down to its individual shape and flow velocity, illustrating how water melting in the interior of the continent makes its way out to the coasts. Lead author Eric Rignot calls it a “game changer for glaciology.”

I think the implication may be that we will lose more ice than previously thought from East Antarctica with a temperature rise of 1 or 2C.

NASA press release here. Continue reading Climate clippings 41

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German electric vehicle goes 1,014 miles (1,631.5 kilometres) on a charge

That’s the Schluckspecht E developed at Offenburg University of Applied Sciences in collaboration with Frauenhofter Institute for Transportation and Infrastructure Systems.

The electric vehicle sports extremely aerodynamic bodywork, two hub-mounted electric motors and an optimized battery management system that evenly divides the load among 14 individual lithium-cobalt battery packs.

More vapourware from Germany? Perhaps, but something good will surely come from it. Continue reading Climate clippings 40

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Greenland ice

Predicting tipping points

Tim Lenton is now attempting to link the basic theory of climatic “tipping points” with observed early warning signals.

Problem is, these tipping points may not be sudden and dramatic but involve a steady but inevitable increase. When outbreaks of pine beetles first became obvious perhaps the eventual destruction of Canada’s boreal forests was inevitable. But Lenton is making an argument “from almost a mathematical point of view” that there are general properties of tipping points. Continue reading Climate clippings 39

Assumptions underlying the CEF package

In case the acronym hasn’t stuck yet, CEF means Clean Energy Future. If I’d said “carbon tax”, no problems.

In my 2009 submission to the Senate Select Committee on Climate Policy I ripped into the Rudd Government for commissioning Ross Garnaut

to analyse two specific stabilisation goals: one at which greenhouse gases are stabilised at 550 ppm CO2-e (strong global mitigation) and one at which they are stabilised at 450 ppm CO2-e (ambitious global mitigation).

I then castigated Garnaut for accepting the brief:

This is sad and actually outrageous. Garnaut, had he acted responsibly at this point, would have gone back to those who commissioned the report and asked for the reference to be changed so that he could develop a strategy for a safe climate.

When the 2050 target was changed from a 60% reduction in emissions relative to 2000 to 80% I wondered whether the assumptions about the science had changed. If you go to the Treasury Report on modelling a carbon price it becomes clear that nothing has changed.

Treasury modelled two scenarios, one called “medium” and the other “ambitious”. The medium scenario is then called “core”. If adopted worldwide, it aims to stabilise greenhouse gas concentration levels at 550 parts per million. The ambitious scenario aims at 450ppm.

Treasury then blithely tell us that 450ppm will give us a 50:50 chance of keeping the average global temperature at less than 2C above pre-industrial levels, while 550ppm raises that figure to 3C. Stabilisation at 2C, they say, is the threshold for “dangerous” climate change. They then calmly tell us the likely implications of a 3C rise: Continue reading Assumptions underlying the CEF package

Climate change, sustainability, plus sundry other stuff