Friday, November 01, 2013

Am I OK?


The short answer is, "No!"  The longer answer is that nobody is Ok!

Last spring, I made the SSA Master Death List.  Easy enough, but getting off it is harder.  About the same time, I had some thefts from the Etsy site, and I became acutely aware of some problems with the climate models used to calculate the effects and impacts of global warming. The issues with the global warming models affect everyone (7 billion people) as a life and death issue, so the issue of global warming popped to the top of my list.  

Traditionally I did science by walking around the garage waving my arms and shouting.  At Bechtel, I did it in the stairways. Spinning and weaving are sort of automatic activities and are a good substitute for walking around the garage waving my arms and shouting.  So I could see that there were problems with the IPCC models, but finding the errors was harder.  After all, a lot of very smart guys had gone over this work many, many times.  But smart guys do not make mistakes with the complex details, the errors are usually in unstated basic assumptions.  Errors in unstated basic assumption are the hardest to find.

In one case, a group of US DOE computer geeks, tried to express a discontinuous curve as a differential equation.  It was hard to find.  The work was based on a great pile of peer reviewed literature, but nowhere in the literature was there any hint that the curve was discontinuous.  The assumption of continuity is one of the most basic assumptions.  This is a big deal because it means that sea level can rise much faster than climate science community had considered plausible in the last 10 years. The problem is that the ice can undergo progressive structural collapse.  This results in large flows of broken ice into the ocean.  See Chasing Ice minutes 14 and 64 for video of ice already floating to under go progressive structural collapse. If there is as little as a 2% grade, the same thing can happen on land if there is a slightly higher Gibbs Energy.   (The boys at DOE seem not to have been chemistry or math majors, or mine engineers in Alaska.)

In the second case, carbon feedback and methane clathrate from sea floor has still not been included to the climate models used for the IPCC AR5 report.  Sea floor clathrates were deposited over the last 30 million years and more rapidly in the last 5 million years as the Earth tended toward cooling.  Clathrate was in equilibrium at a temperature near the 1800 global temperature with a partial pressure of methane near 700 ppbv. As the Earth warms, the vapor pressure of those clathrates increases and we can expect the partial pressure of methane in the atmosphere to increase.  These sinks and sources are large and likely to overwhlem all other sources and sinks. The bottom line is that as the Earth warms from anthropogenic CO2, very large amounts of methane will be released in a highly non-linear fashion.

Carbon feedback is a huge and imminent issue.

Today, I see the most pessimistic of the climate science community like priests in the middle of a Cholera epidemic telling everyone that they will be OK if they just keep their fast days and pray to God.  No! The priest should be telling them to boil their water, wash their hands, and cook their food.

I think people can survive 410 ppmv of CO2 in the atmosphere, but I expect that level of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere to trigger carbon feedbacks that will destroy modern society and technology.  Within a hundred years, I expect 95% of the textile mill capacity in the world to be flooded by sea level rise.

I say that then people will have to develop supplies of textiles with short supply chains.  And people laugh at me saying that there are lots of extra clothes around.  That is ok for the first hundred years, but CO2 and sea level rise are long term issues.  What are folks going to do for textiles a hundred years after Shanghai floods?  How are you going to rebuild organic chemical and fiber production facilities when the steel mills also flooded?  I have no doubt that we will see large, rapid sea level rise and the climate science community will say, "Wow, we sure did not see that coming!"


Anyway, they have been warned.  I do not think it will help, but I like to be able to say, "I told you so!"

6 comments:

Avery said...

Global warming is not happening at the rates you are describing. Even climate scientists have backed off their claims that the earth is warming as rapidly as they first thought. In fact, they have changed the phrasing from 'global warming' to 'climate change'. The simple facts are that the earth goes through warm and cool cycles, and there is no real proof that we are in imminent danger. They don't even have reliable data for a long enough period of time to make a sound determination. I am a biologist. I can read the data. You are taking an alarmist view just as the current administration has in order to push green initiatives. Green is an industry. It has precious little true impact on the larger picture.

Lynda said...

Ohh! I'm sorry to hear about the etsy thefts!

Thanks for talking about the models, it's very interesting. I will have to go over it a couple times to understand all of it, but it's very interesting.

Aaron said...

Avery,
When I started chemical engineering back in 1970, we understood AGW with substantial detail. In those days, most organic analytic chemical problems included spectrophotometry. Chemistry majors spent much of much of our lives understanding the interactions of electromagnetic radiation with matter. The concepts of AGW have been understood for a long time. This is old science.

Name names. Every real climate scientist that I know is getting more and more worried. The tell me about insomnia, hypertension, diarrhea, vomiting, and other symptoms of stress. If you do not have these symptoms, you do not understand the problem.

You are a biologist, so tell me how many species of mammals have gone extinct in Yosemite and why? If large numbers of species are going extinct, should people worry? Have you read the Limits to Growth, and done the numbers for people? Recently?

There are 3,000 gigatonnes of methane clathrate at the bottom of the ocean that were deposited at equlibrium temperatures within 3C of the 1800 CE temperature. The temperature of the deep water in the Greenland Sea has risen 0.3C in the last 60 years and the temperature of the deep water in the Pacific has risen 0.18C. At some point the warming water will trigger decomposition of clathrates. I do not see any way around this. I am not sure if that makes me an alarmist or a good chemist.

I know Gavin Schmidt. In 2002, I told him that the Arctic Sea ice would have a major melt back within 10 years. He called me an Alarmist. In 2007, we had the sea ice melt, and by 2010, Gavin stopped calling me an Alarmist.

In 2004, I circulated a note on the formation of moulins in ice sheets. The whole group called me an alarmist and told me that nothing like that had been seen and told me to go read the literature. Sure, enough, a couple of years later one of those guys on distribution published an eye witness account of moulin formation (in Science) and I was vindicated.

Lots of guys have called me alarmist. Hell, my undergrad adviser called me alarmist for my work on Club of Rome/Limits to Growth.

Lisa said...

How did you have thefts from etsy? I can't imagine how it would be possible, unless you're sending goods before payment is made. Curious.

Aaron said...

My policy was that if there was a problem, let me know and I would refund the money, and I expected the goods to be returned.

People ordered, wanted their money back, and did not return the goods.

Lisa said...

So did you refund the money when they didn't send the items back?