This Persistent Winter

As many have experienced, Springtime has been slow to arrive in the Northern Hemisphere this year. The data on snow and ice confirm what people are seeing for themselves.  The image above shows how Spring snow cover has been increasing lately on day 98 (April 7-8) 2008 to 2018.

At Rutgers snow lab, such images are digitized into statistics suitable for graphical analysis.  The graph below shows how March snow cover has varied over the decades of satellite observations

The first two decades averaged ~41.5M km2 snow cover in March.  The next two decades averaged about 2M kn2 less, 39.5M.  Since 2008, there was a rise to 2011, a drop to 2016, recovering the last two years.

As for ice extent, the 2018 picture in Barents Sea is exceptional, holding onto ~800k km2 of ice extent, 26% above the 11 year average.

Elsewhere the Arctic ice core is unchanging, the only deficit mostly being in Bering and, somewhat in Okhotsk, the other Pacific basin.

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Gender Optioning Runs Amok

NYC recognizes 31 different gender choices. Details at end.

First a thoughtful reflection by Margaret Wente in the Globe and Mail The brave new age of gender-neutral kids, followed later by the Brave New World of New York City. Excerpts with my bolds.

When Storm was born seven years ago in Toronto, he or she became the most famous baby in the city. That’s because Storm’s parents announced that they were going to raise the baby as gender neutral. “If you really want to get to know someone, you don’t ask what’s between their legs,” Storm’s father, David Stocker, told The Toronto Star. In an e-mail, Storm’s parents told their friends, “We’ve decided not to share Storm’s sex for now – a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation.”

Storm’s parents, it turns out, weren’t oddballs. They were pioneers. More and more progressive parents have decided to liberate their children from the chains of gender. They give their children gender-neutral names such as Zoomer or Scout. They refer to them using gender-neutral pronouns. They buy them gender-neutral toys and scrupulously avoid pink and blue. They tell people that it’s up to the child theirself to decide what gender they identify with.

These parents don’t like the term gender-neutral, explains New York magazine. They prefer gender-open, gender-creative or gender-affirming. For them, the gender binary is a trap constructed by society to imprison their children and restrict their human potential. Gender is a spectrum, not a binary, they argue. They hope that freeing our children from the shackles of arbitrarily imposed gender norms will be the first steps in a sweeping cultural change to create a better, fairer, more egalitarian society.

Progressive parents are not alone in this Utopian project. Sweden is also engaged in a deliberate experiment in social engineering. Instead of “boys” and “girls,” teachers are urged to call the children “friends.” Many Swedish preschools have dropped gendered pronouns in favour of the newly invented gender-neutral term “hen.”

As The New York Times reports, Swedish teachers encourage boys to play in the kitchen and girls to shout “no.” Some boys show up in dresses; no one cares. Sweden’s national curriculum requires preschools to “counteract traditional gender roles and gender patterns” and encourage children to explore “outside the limitations of stereotyped gender roles.” In one pilot project, boys and girls were split up and coached to behave in gender-non-conforming ways. Boys were instructed to massage each other’s feet. Girls were taken on on barefoot walks in the snow.

More and more progressive parents have decided to liberate their children from the chains of gender. They give their children gender-neutral names such as Zoomer or Scout. They refer to them using gender-neutral pronouns.

Will all these efforts create a more egalitarian, less gendered world? I’m skeptical. Gender-neutral parenting is the latest example of blank-slatism run amok. The blank-slate theory is the romantic belief that environment and culture are wholly responsible for human behaviour. If only we stopped stereotyping little people as girls or boys, they’d stop behaving in stereotypical ways.

This is not to say that it’s useless to try to socialize kids. But we also need to admit that human beings are also profoundly shaped by their genes. Gender is far more influential than many people are willing to acknowledge. Men and women exhibit significant behavioural differences not (or not only) because they’re socialized differently, but because they’re wired differently. Give a girl a pot and she’ll play house. Give a boy a pot and he’ll beat it like a drum. And forget about the gender “spectrum.” Although there are lots of tender boys and lots of aggressive girls, more than 99 per cent of people identify with their birth sex.

Large-scale studies show that men and women differ not only in size and strength but also in personality traits. Across dozens of diverse cultures, women consistently rate themselves as warmer, friendlier, more anxious, and more sensitive to feelings than men. Men rate themselves as more assertive and more open to new ideas.

For most of human evolution – when the differentiation in gender roles was extreme – these differences made sense. (They also help explain the dominance of men in the corridors of power, although you’re not supposed to say that.)

I do feel a bit uneasy for children such as Storm (who, for the record, is now identifying as a girl). Most kids like a bit of structure in their lives, especially, I imagine, on the existential question of whether they’re a boy or a girl. It seems like a lot to ask them to sort it out for themselves. Is it really fair to make your kid the subject of a social experiment, no matter how righteous you think it is? And do you really think they’ll thank you for it? I have my doubts.

The Brave New World of New York City Where Anything Goes

According to NYC Commission on Human Rights, Gender Identity is one’s internal, deeply-held sense of one’s gender as male, female,or something else entirely.

primer for business owners and employees on how to respectfully treat all the gender expressions includes prescribed behavior and punishments.  They may encounter a list of 31 identities and expressions that the city officially recognizes.

  1. Bi-Gendered
  2. Cross-Dresser
  3. Drag-King
  4. Drag-Queen
  5. Femme Queen
  6. Female-to-Male
  7. FTM
  8. Gender Bender
  9. Genderqueer
  10. Male-To-Female
  11. MTF
  12. Non-Op
  13. Hijra
  14. Pangender
  15. Transexual/Transsexual
  16. Trans Person
  17. Woman
  18. Man
  19. Butch
  20. Two-Spirit
  21. Trans
  22. Agender
  23. Third Sex
  24. Gender Fluid
  25. Non-Binary Transgender
  26. Androgyne
  27. Gender-Gifted
  28. Gender Bender
  29. Femme
  30. Person of Transgender Experience
  31. Androgynous

Summary

So it goes with the intense modern preoccupation to achieve distinction (recognition and maximum friends) by acquiring a set of diversity options, then claiming to belong to various categories. Adding value to society is not a consideration.

 

2018 Hurricane Prediction – Strongest Cycle in 70 Years

Monday, Sept. 18, 2017, GOES East satellite image provided by NASA shows the eye of Hurricane Maria as it nears Dominica and before it struck Puerto Rico. NASA /AP

This prediction comes from Global Weather Oscillations, the only hurricane forecaster to predict the 2017 season accurately.  The story is from 721News 2018 Hurricane Prediction – Strongest Cycle in 70 Years

Links at the end provide more explanation of GWO’s unique model based upon ocean water pulses linked to solar/lunar activities, nothing to do with CO2.  Text below from 712News with my bolds.

Global Weather Oscillations (GWO) was cited by news media as the only major hurricane prediction organization that correctly predicted the hyperactive 2017 Atlantic hurricane season from beginning to end, and the destructive United States hurricane landfalls.

The media also noted that when the hurricane season began last year, “nearly every major weather agency predicted a normal 2017 hurricane season – but only Global Weather Oscillations Inc. (GWO) had an accurate forecast” – with a prediction for a destructive hurricane season with 16 named storms, eight hurricanes, four major hurricanes – and 2 major impact hurricanes for the United States.

GWO also predicted the United States would have 6 named storms and 3 hurricanes making landfall in 2017 – and where they would occur. Just as predicted, the U.S. ended up with six named storms and 3 hurricanes. GWO predicted that the Florida Peninsula would break out of their 12-year hurricane drought with a major category 3-4 hurricane making landfall on the south tip of Florida. GWO also predicted that Texas could break out of their 8-year hurricane drought with a landfalling hurricane just above Corpus Christi – and a Category 1 hurricane striking the upper Gulf Coast. The 2017 landfalling hurricanes ended up being – Harvey, Irma and Nate.

Professor David Dilley – senior research and prediction scientist for Global Weather Oscillations – prepares hurricane and tropical storm predictions for 11 zones stretching from New England to Texas. By using Climate Pulse Technology developed by Mr. Dilley, GWO can issue accurate zone predictions for release in January – well before the beginning of the hurricane season.

Professor David Dilley, states that the “Climate Pulse Technology Model” is based on natural rhythm cycles that control hurricane landfall cycles and the position of the Bermuda High Pressure Center. By utilizing this technology, GWO has issued the most accurate predictions by any organization during the past 10 years. The preseason zone predictions are so accurate – updates to the forecasts are not required during the hurricane season. Although GWO does offer special weekly hurricane outlook webinars and tracking webinars when a storm may threaten the United States. GWO is a working partner with the International Hurricane Protection Association – INHPA.

Prediction: 2018 Atlantic Basin Hurricane Season — (includes the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico)

As predicted by Mr. Dilley and GWO – last year (2017) was the costliest year on record for the United States, and one of the most destructive. Mr. Dilley says that “some United States zones are currently in their strongest hurricane landfall cycle in 40 to 70-years.” This is a Natural Climate Pulse Cycle that produced extremely active and dangerous hurricane conditions in some zones back in the 1930s and 1940s – and is now repeating.

Mr. Dilley predicts that 2018 will be somewhat of a repeat of 2017 – and possibly another record breaker. Although it will be strikingly similar to last year- some hurricane landfalls will occur in different locations this year. You can expect 16 named storms, 8 hurricanes, 4 major hurricanes, potential for 4 United States hurricane landfalls – 2 of which will likely be major impact storms. There is the potential for 6 named storms making United States landfalls. On the average, the entire Atlantic Basin has 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 2.7 major hurricanes.

The reason for another destructive hurricane season is 3-fold. The ocean water temperatures continue to run warmer than normal across most of the Atlantic Basin (red and orange in the graphic), and especially in the Caribbean region and the Atlantic near the United States. This is very similar to the ocean temperatures of last year, and this will again be conducive for tropical storms and/or hurricanes forming and/or strengthening close to the United States. Mr. Dilley also expects the Bermuda-Azores High Pressure Center will again be in a favorable location – thus allowing more named storms to maintain strength – or strengthen as they move from east to west across the Atlantic toward the United States.

Source: Global Weather Oscillations

Then we come to the last item – El Niño. GWO’s Climate Pulse Technology model indicates that the Tropical South Pacific Ocean temperatures where El Niño events typically form – will warm significantly during late winter and approach weak El Niño conditions during the spring- much like the El Niño scare of last year. However, all years are not the same – therefore it could mature enough to form a very weak El Niño, but not strong enough to dampen the hurricane season. Historical records indicate that moderate to strong El Nino events dampen hurricane activity – whereas years with very weak El Niño conditions can be associated with active hurricane seasons if a Climate Pulse Hurricane Enhancement Cycle is in place – and it is.

Background

Global Weather Oscillations

AMO: Atlantic Climate Pulse

Hurricane Science, not Fiction

Game Changer? Brewing Fuel

There’s been a lot of crazy talk regarding energy coming from the Golden State, but there are also serious scientists in California, especially at Cal Tech, where Steven Koonin studied, taught and served as Provost.  This recent announcement caught my eye: Scientists breed bacteria that make tiny high-energy carbon rings.  Text below with my bolds

Caltech scientists have created a strain of bacteria that can make small but energy-packed carbon rings that are useful starting materials for creating other chemicals and materials. These rings, which are otherwise particularly difficult to prepare, now can be “brewed” in much the same way as beer.

Brewing equipment. Pike Microbrewery, Seattle. Source: Lonely Planet

The bacteria were created by researchers in the lab of Frances Arnold, Caltech’s Linus Pauling Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering and Biochemistry, using directed evolution, a technique Arnold developed in the 1990s. The technique allows scientists to quickly and easily breed bacteria with the traits that they desire. It has previously been used by Arnold’s lab to evolve bacteria that create carbon-silicon and carbon-boron bonds, neither of which is found among organisms in the natural world. Using this same technique, they set out to build the tiny carbon rings rarely seen in nature.

Familiar energetic organic compounds found in nature.

“Bacteria can now churn out these versatile, energy-rich organic structures,” Arnold says. “With new lab-evolved enzymes, the microbes make precisely configured strained rings that chemists struggle to make.”

In a paper published this month in the journal Science, the researchers describe how they have now coaxed Escherichia coli bacteria into creating bicyclobutanes, a group of chemicals that contain four carbon atoms arranged so they form two triangles that share a side. To visualize its shape, imagine a square piece of paper that’s lightly creased along a diagonal.

Source: Wikipedia

Bicyclobutanes are difficult to make because the bonds between the carbon atoms are bent at angles that put them under a great deal of strain. Bending these bonds away from their natural shape takes a lot of energy and can result in unwanted byproducts if the conditions for their synthesis aren’t just right. But it’s the strain that makes bicyclobutanes so useful. The bent bonds act like tightly wound springs: they pack a lot of energy that can be used to drive chemical reactions, making bicyclobutanes useful precursors to a variety of chemical products, such as pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, and materials. When strained rings, like bicyclobutanes, are incorporated into larger molecules, they can imbue those molecules with interesting properties—for example, the ability to conduct electricity but only when an external force is applied—making them potentially useful for creating smart materials that are responsive to their environments.

Unlike other carbon rings, such as cyclohexanes and cyclopentanes, bicyclobutanes are rarely found in nature. This could be due to their inherit instability or the lack of suitable biological machineries for their assembly. But now, Arnold and her team have shown that bacteria can be genetically reprogrammed to produce bicyclobutanes from simple commercial starting materials. As the E. coli cells go about their bacterial business, they churn out bicyclobutanes. The setup is kind of like putting sugar and letting it ferment into alcohol.

“To our surprise, the enzymes can be engineered to efficiently make such crazy carbon rings under ambient conditions,” says graduate student Kai Chen, lead author on the paper. “This is the first time anyone has introduced a non-native pathway for bacteria to forge these high-energy structures.”

Chen and his colleagues, postdocs Xiongyi Huang, Jennifer Kan, and graduate student Ruijie Zhang, did this by giving the bacteria a copy of a gene that encodes an enzyme called cytochrome P450. The enzyme had previously been modified through directed evolution by the Arnold lab and others to create molecules containing small rings of three carbon atoms—essentially half of a bicyclobutane group.

“The beauty is that a well-defined active-site environment was crafted in the enzyme to greatly facilitate formation of these high-energy molecules,” Huang says.

The precision with which the bacterial enzymes do their work also allows the researchers to efficiently make the exact strained rings they want, with a precise configuration and in a single chiral form. Chirality is a property of molecules in which they can be “right-handed” or “left-handed,” with each form being the mirror image of the other. It matters because living things are selective about which “handedness” of a molecule they use or produce. For instance, all living things exclusively use the right-handed form of the sugar ribose (the backbone of DNA), and many chiral pharmaceutical chemicals are only effective in one handedness; in the other, they can be toxic.

Chiral forms of a molecule are difficult to separate from one another, but by changing the genetic code of the bacteria, the researchers can ensure the enzymes favor one chiral product over another. Mutation in the genes tuned the enzymes to forge a broad range of bicyclobutanes with high precision.

Kan says advancements like theirs are pushing chemistry in a greener direction.

“In the future, instead of building chemical plants for making the products we need to improve lives, wouldn’t it be great if we could just program bacteria to make what we want?” Kan says.

The paper, titled “Enzymatic Construction of Highly Strained Carbocycles,” appears in the April 5 issue of Science.

 

In California Everything Causes Cancer, So Labels Say

Best attempt at a scary cup of coffee.

An update on left coasters freaking out about cancerous items is provided by Sara Chodosh in Popular Science California needs to stop saying everything causes cancer

Unsurprisingly, it is the nanny state doing the fear mongering. Excerpts below with my bolds.

You may have heard that coffee gives you cancer. Or that everything gives you cancer—if you live in California.

The reason: Proposition 65. It’s a California state law that requires businesses with 10 or more employees to provide reasonable warning about the use of any chemicals the state has decided could cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm. One of these chemicals is acrylamide, which a rodent study pinned as a possible carcinogen. It’s found in almost everything that’s cooked at a high temperature. And because a particularly litigious law firm recently sued the state for not properly warning residents about acrylamide in coffee, California is now on the verge of requiring all coffee shops and manufacturers to include a warning on the beverage that it may cause cancer.

The problem, of course, is that coffee doesn’t cause cancer. Acrylamide might cause cancer at very high doses, but the amount that you’ll find in your food is harmless. You’ve actually been unintentionally eating it for your whole life, because it’s in everything from potato chips to roasted asparagus.. .No human studies suggest it’s carcinogenic at any realistic dose.

But coffee is only the beginning.

By California’s logic, all sorts of things should have warning labels. We wanted to make a joking list of ridiculous items that would need a cautionary sign according to Prop 65—but then we did our research. Turns out the state of California already slaps a warning on just about everything. Here’s just a small sample of things that could kill you out west:

Tiffany lamps
In order to abide by Prop 65’s rule on lead in furniture, Tiffany-style lamps have to have a warning label. The ornate lampshades have lead in them, and since lead is carcinogenic (weakly, but still!), they have to get a label. We do worry about lead paint in houses, because the flakes can get onto the floor and babies love putting stuff on the floor into their mouths, but lead in a lamp is usually encased or otherwise pretty solid. All the same, don’t let your kid (or your spouse) lick a lampshade or an electrical wire.

Amusement parks
The metal dust and diesel fumes given off by your favorite amusement park rides could give you cancer, and the state of California needs you to know. Also, the food you eat there might be fried, which could give you more cancer, and you might drink a beer there which also could give you cancer. The whole park is basically a death trap. Spending a day in Disneyland isn’t likely to expose you to enough of any of the worrisome chemicals to cause harm, but the warning does make one wonder why, if amusement parks are so hazardous, Californians aren’t jumping to protect the people who work there every day.

Hotels
Sometimes people smoke in hotels. They also drink alcoholic beverages. Both of these things can give you cancer, and so whenever you enter a hotel (or “other lodging establishment”) you must be warned. California hotels now often carry an actual warning label advising you about these dangers (yes, seriously), lest you wander into one unwittingly.

Boats
Engine exhaust from your “recreational vehicle”—along with the carbon monoxide and other engine-related chemicals—poses you a threat. Therefore, your boat must carry a warning label that advises you to avoid exposure to everything the boat does. If you’re thinking “but cars do that too,” don’t worry: passenger vehicles also carry the warning.

Wooden furniture and flooring
When wooden furniture is made, from sofas to bed frames there tends to be some wood dust. You know, because it’s made of wood. But wood dust is dangerous, and it doesn’t matter that it’s really only a problem if you regularly inhale the levels of wood dust that sawmill workers are exposed to. Furniture that might still contain wood dust has to carry a label all the same.

Tuna
Mercury can cause birth defects, and therefore all fish high in mercury (like tuna, but also swordfish, marlin, king mackerel, and tilefish) falls under the Prop 65 guidelines. You definitely shouldn’t be eating a ton of fish while pregnant, but most of us should be more worried about mercury poisoning, which anyone can get from consuming too much fish—not that Prop 65 warns you about that.

Pumpkin puree
Apparently there’s acrylamide in your pumpkin pie and you’ve been eating it for years. California’s got your back.

Potatoes
According to the state of California, we should all be soaking our potatoes in water for 15 to 30 minutes before cooking them, and we should never fry or roast them to a deep golden brown. We should carefully make them a light brown so as to avoid the acrylamide produced in the cooking process. So… have fun with that.

All alcohol
It’s well-known that consuming lots of alcohol on a regular basis increases your risk of cancer. Alcohol doesn’t give you cancer, but it can make you more likely to get it. A few beers a week—or maybe even a glass of wine a day—isn’t going to do you in, but high daily consumption can certainly push a person’s risk of getting cancer higher. Studies suggest that increased alcohol consumption might even be (partly) to blame for the rise in colorectal cancer in young people. So if we’re going to applaud California for any of their labels, it’ll be for this one. Licking lamps and driving boats probably won’t give you cancer, but a life of alcoholism might. Will a label on alcohol do more than teach people to tune out cancer risk warnings? Unclear. But it’s true we should all try to keep our drinking in moderation.

Look: no lifestyle can protect you from every kind of cancer. Genetic mutations are an inevitability, and cancer can strike anyone. You can certainly decrease your risk, mainly by not smoking or being overweight, since those two factors contribute to many cancer cases. You can exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet, and try not to drink too much. But at the end of the day, you shouldn’t be making every tiny decision based on whether it might contribute to your cancer risk—because simply being alive and having cells that continue to replicate puts you at risk of developing the disease. So sit back, relax, and do the best you can with the body you’ve got. And have a nice cup of coffee while you’re at it.

Courtroom Climate Science

atmprofile

This is an update to a previous post on the climate science brief submitted to Judge Alsup’s tutorial.  In a recent article, Dr. Fred Singer draws some implications from one of the many points in the brief written by Happer, Koonin and Lindzen.  The Singer essay is Does the Greenhouse Gas CO2 cool the climate? in the American Thinker.

First the pertinent paragraph from the legal brief.  In responding to Judge Alsup’s eighth question the scientists said this (my bolds):

On average, the absorption rate of solar radiation by the Earth’s surface and atmosphere is equal to emission rate of thermal infrared radiation to space. Much of the radiation to space does not come from the surface but from greenhouse gases and clouds in the lower atmosphere, where the temperature is usually colder than the surface temperature, as shown in the figure on the previous page. The thermal radiation originates from an “escape altitude” where there is so little absorption from the overlying atmosphere that most (say half) of the radiation can escape to space with no further absorption or scattering. Adding greenhouse gases can warm the Earth’s surface by increasing the escape altitude. To maintain the same cooling rate to space, the temperature of the entire troposphere, and the surface, would have to increase to make the effective temperature at the new escape altitude the same as at the original escape altitude. For greenhouse warming to occur, a temperature profile that cools with increasing altitude is required.

Over most of the CO2 absorption band (between about 580 cm-1 and 750 cm-1 ) the escape altitude is the nearly isothermal lower stratosphere shown in the first figure. The narrow spike of radiation at about 667 cm-1 in the center of the CO2 band escapes from an altitude of around 40 km (upper stratosphere), where it is considerably warmer than the lower stratosphere due heating by solar ultraviolet light which is absorbed by ozone, O3. Only at the edges of the CO2 band (near 580 cm-1 and 750 cm-1 ) is the escape altitude in the troposphere where it could have some effect on the surface temperature. Water vapor, H2O, has emission altitudes in the troposphere over most of its absorption bands. This is mainly because water vapor, unlike CO2, is not well mixed but mostly confined to the troposphere.

Dr. Singer picks up on this and comments (my bolds):

“Greenhouse gas” only means that CO2 absorbs some infrared (IR) radiation; it does not guarantee climate warming.

In fact, the outcome depends mostly on atmospheric structure, measured by balloon-borne radiosondes. It is expressed by the so-called atmospheric lapse rate (ALR), defined as change in atmospheric temperature with altitude.[ii] [Note that “lapse rate” has nothing to do with back-sliding alcoholics and smokers.]

Physicists who have examined our counter-intuitive hypothesis, all agree with the science — albeit somewhat reluctantly. Such is the power of group-think that even experts, with some exception, find the idea that CO2 might cool the climate difficult to accept.

STRATOSPHERE ALR is positive Temperature increases
with altitude
TROPOPAUSE ALR is zero Temperature is constant
TROPOSPHERE ALR is negative Temperature decreases
with altitude

The ALR is generally negative in the troposphere[iii] as much as [minus] -6.5 degree C per km of altitude. [The troposphere is the lowest atmospheric layer, from zero up to about 50,000 foot altitude.]

ALR goes through zero in the tropopause region, the layer that separates the troposphere from the overlying stratosphere. The ALR turns positive in the stratosphere, just above [see schematic nearby.[iv] [The warming of the stratosphere is produced by absorption of energy by stratospheric ozone.]

The key result

Adding a tiny increment of CO2 raises slightly the “effective” altitude for emitting Outgoing Long-wave (OLR), the Radiation (IR), going out to space from a CO2 molecule.

Because of the reversal in the atmospheric temperature structure, OLR is:

1. of lower energy than normal if the effective altitude remains in the troposphere; and

2. a bit higher than normal if this effective altitude is in the stratosphere.

In case 2., the stratospheric CO2 emission “borrows” some energy from the surface emission — hence “cooling” the surface.

The previous post Cal Climate Tutorial: The Meat appears below as background.

An overview of a submission by Professors Happer, Koonin and Lindzen was in Climate Tutorial for Judge Alsup

This post goes into the meat and potatoes of that submission with excerpts from Section II: Answers to specific questions (my bolds)

Question 1: What caused the various ice ages (including the “little ice age” and prolonged cool periods) and what caused the ice to melt? When they melted, by how much did sea level rise?

The discussion of the major ice ages of the past 700 thousand years is distinct from the discussion of the “little ice age.” The former refers to the growth of massive ice sheets (a mile or two thick) where periods of immense ice growth occurred, lasting approximately eighty thousand years, followed by warm interglacials lasting on the order of twenty thousand years. By contrast, the “little ice age” was a relatively brief period (about four hundred years) of relatively cool temperatures accompanied by the growth of alpine glaciers over much of the earth.

Tutorial 1

The last glacial episode ended somewhat irregularly. Ice coverage reached its maximum extent about eighteen thousand years ago. Melting occurred between about twenty thousand years ago and thirteen thousand years ago, and then there was a strong cooling (Younger Dryas) which ended about 11,700 years ago. Between twenty thousand years ago and six thousand years ago, there was a dramatic increase in sea level of about 120 meters followed by more gradual increase over the following several thousand years. Since the end of the “little ice age,” there has been steady increase in sea-level of about 6 inches per century.

slide12

As to the cause of the “little ice age,” this is still a matter of uncertainty. There was a long hiatus in solar activity that may have played a role, but on these relatively short time scales one can’t exclude natural internal variability. It must be emphasized that the surface of the earth is never in equilibrium with net incident solar radiation because the oceans are always carrying heat to and from the surface, and the motion systems responsible have time scales ranging from years (for example ENSO) to millennia.

The claim that orbital variability requires a boost from CO2 to drive ice ages comes from the implausible notion that what matters is the orbital variations in the global average insolation (which are, in fact, quite small) rather than the large forcing represented by the Milankovitch parameter. This situation is very different than in the recent and more modest shorter-term warming, where natural variability makes the role of CO2 much more difficult to determine.

Question 2: What is the molecular difference by which CO2 absorbs infrared radiation but oxygen and nitrogen do not?

Molecules like CO2, H2O, CO or NO are called a greenhouse-gas molecules, because they can efficiently absorb or emit infrared radiation, but they are nearly transparent to sunlight. Molecules like O2 and N2 are also nearly transparent to sunlight, but since they do not absorb or emit thermal infrared radiation very well, they are not greenhouse gases. The most important greenhouse gas, by far, is water vapor. Water molecules, H2O, are permanently bent and have large electric dipole moments.

Question 3: What is mechanism by which infrared radiation trapped by CO2 in the atmosphere is turned into heat and finds its way back to sea level?

Unscattered infrared radiation is very good at transmitting energy because it moves at the speed of light. But the energy per unit volume stored by the thermal radiation in the Earth’s atmosphere is completely negligible compared to the internal energy of the air molecules.

Although CO2 molecules radiate very slowly, there are so many CO2 molecules that they produce lots of radiation, and some of this radiation reaches sea level. The figure following shows downwelling radiation measured at the island of Nauru in the Tropical Western Pacific Ocean, and at colder Point Barrow, Alaska, on the shore of the Arctic Ocean.

So the answer to the last part of the question, “What is the mechanism by which … heat … finds its way back to sea level?” is that the heat is radiated to the ground by molecules at various altitudes, where there is usually a range of different temperatures. The emission altitude is the height from which radiation could reach the surface without much absorption, say 50% absorption. For strongly absorbed frequencies, the radiation reaching the ground comes from low-altitude molecules, only a few meters above ground level for the 667 cm-1 frequency at the center of the CO2 band. More weakly absorbed frequencies are radiated from higher altitudes where the temperature is usually colder than that of the surface. But occasionally, as the data from Point Barrow show, higher-altitude air can be warmer than the surface.

Closely related to Question 3 is how heat from the absorption of sunlight by the surface gets back to space to avoid a steadily increasing surface temperature. As one might surmise from the figure, at Narau there is so much absorption from CO2 and by water vapor, H2O, that most daytime heat transfer near the surface is by convection, not by radiation. Especially important is moist convection, where the water vapor in rising moist air releases its latent heat to form clouds. The clouds have a major effect on radiative heat transfer. Cooled, drier, subsiding air completes the convection circuit. Minor changes of convection and cloudiness can have a bigger effect on the surface temperature than large changes in CO2 concentrations.

Question 4: Does CO2 in the atmosphere reflect any sunlight back into space, such that the reflected sunlight never penetrates the atmosphere in the first place?

The short answer to this question is “No”, but it raises some interesting issues that we discuss below.

Molecules can either scatter or absorb radiation. CO2 molecules are good absorbers of thermal infrared radiation, but they scatter almost none. Infrared radiant energy absorbed by a CO2 molecule is converted to internal vibrational and rotational energy. This internal energy is quickly lost in collisions with the N2 and O2 molecules that make up most of the atmosphere. The collision rates, billions per second, are much too fast to allow the CO2 molecules to reradiate the absorbed energy, which takes about a second. CO2 molecules in the atmosphere do emit thermal infrared radiation continuously, but the energy is almost always provided by collisions with N2 and O2 molecules, not by previously absorbed radiation. The molecules “glow in the dark” with thermal infrared radiation.

H2O CO2 absorption spectrums

The figure shows that water vapor is by far the most important absorber. It can absorb both thermal infrared radiation from the Earth and shorter-wave radiation from the Sun. Water vapor and its condensates, clouds of liquid or solid water (ice), dominate radiative heat transfer in the Earth’s atmosphere; CO2 is of secondary importance.

If Question 4 were “Do clouds in the atmosphere reflect any sunlight back into space, such that the reflected sunlight never penetrates the atmosphere in the first place?” the answer would be “Yes”. It is common knowledge that low clouds on a sunny day shade and cool the surface of the Earth by scattering the sunlight back to space before it can be absorbed and converted to heat at the surface.

The figure shows that very little thermal radiation from the surface can reach the top of the atmosphere without absorption, even if there are no clouds. But some of the surface radiation is replaced by molecular radiation emitted by greenhouse molecules or cloud tops at sufficiently high altitudes that the there are no longer enough higher-altitude greenhouse molecules or clouds to appreciably attenuate the radiation before it escapes to space. Since the replacement radiation comes from colder, higher altitudes, it is less intense and does not reject as much heat to space as the warmer surface could have without greenhousegas absorption.

As implied by the figure, sunlight contains some thermal infrared energy that can be absorbed by CO2. But only about 5% of sunlight has wavelengths longer than 3 micrometers where the strongest absorption bands of CO2 are located. The Sun is so hot, that most of its radiation is at visible and near-visible wavelengths, where CO2 has no absorption bands.

Question 5: Apart from CO2, what happens to the collective heat from tail pipe exhausts, engine radiators, and all other heat from combustion of fossil fuels? How, if at all, does this collective heat contribute to warming of the atmosphere?

After that energy is used for heat, mobility, and electricity, the Second Law of Thermodynamics guarantees that virtually all of it ends up as heat in the climate system, ultimately to be radiated into space along with the earth’s natural IR emissions. [A very small fraction winds up as visible light that escapes directly to space through the transparent atmosphere, but even that ultimately winds up as heat somewhere “out there.”]

How much does this anthropogenic heat affect the climate? There are local effects where energy use is concentrated, for example in cities and near power plants. But globally, the effects are very small. To see that, convert the global annual energy consumption of 13.3 Gtoe (Gigatons of oil equivalent) to 5.6 × 1020 joules. Dividing that by the 3.2 × 107 seconds in a year gives a global power consumption of 1.75 × 1013 Watts. Spreading that over the earth’s surface area of 5.1 × 1014 m2 results in an anthropogenic heat flux of 0.03 W/m2 . This is some four orders of magnitude smaller than the natural heat fluxes of the climate system, and some two orders of magnitude smaller than the anthropogenic radiative forcing.

Question 6: In grade school many of us were taught that humans exhale CO2 but plants absorb CO2 and return oxygen to the air (keeping the carbon fiber). Is this still valid? If so why hasn’t plant life turned the higher levels of CO2 back into oxygen? Given the increase in population on earth (four billion), is human respiration a contributing factor to the buildup of CO2?

If all of the CO2 produced by current combustion of fossil fuels remained in the atmosphere, the level would increase by about 4 ppm per year, substantially more than the observed rate of around 2.5 ppm per year, as seen in the figure above. Some of the anthropogenic CO2 emissions are being sequestered on land or in the oceans.

high_resolution1

There is evidence that primary photosynthetic productivity has increased somewhat over the past half century, perhaps due to more CO2 in the atmosphere. For example, the summerwinter swings like those in the figure above are increasing in amplitude. Other evidence for modestly increasing primary productivity includes the pronounced “greening” of the Earth that has been observe by satellites. An example is the map above, which shows a general increase in vegetation cover over the past three decades.

The primary productivity estimate mentioned above would also correspond to an increase of the oxygen fraction of the air by 50 ppm, but since the oxygen fraction of the air is very high (209,500 ppm), the relative increase would be small and hard to detect. Also much of the oxygen is used up by respiration.

The average human exhales about 1 kg of CO2 per day, so the 7 billion humans that populate the Earth today exhale about 2.5 x 109 tons of CO2 per year, a little less than 1% of that is needed to support the primary productivity of photosynthesis and only about 6% of the CO2 “pollution” resulting from the burning of fossil fuels. However, unlike fossil fuel emissions, these human (or more generally, biological) emissions do not accumulate in the atmosphere, since the carbon in food ultimately comes from the atmosphere in the first place.

Question 7: What are the main sources of CO2 that account for the incremental buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere?

The CO2 in the atmosphere is but one reservoir within the global carbon cycle, whose stocks and flows are illustrated by Figure 6.1 from IPCC AR5 WG1:

There is a nearly-balanced annual exchange of some 200 PgC between the atmosphere and the earth’s surface (~80 Pg land and ~120 Pg ocean); the atmospheric stock of 829 Pg therefore “turns over” in about four years.

Human activities currently add 8.9 PgC each year to these closely coupled reservoirs (7.8 from fossil fuels and cement production, 1.1 from land use changes such as deforestation). About half of that is absorbed into the surface, while the balance (airborne fraction) accumulates in the atmosphere because of its multicentury lifetime there. Other reservoirs such as the intermediate and deep ocean are less closely coupled to the surface-atmosphere system.

Much of the natural emission of CO2 stems from the decay of organic matter on land, a process that depends strongly on temperature and moisture. And much CO2 is absorbed and released from the oceans, which are estimated to contain about 50 times as much CO2 as the atmosphere. In the oceans CO2 is stored mostly as bicarbonate (HCO3 – ) and carbonate (CO3 – – ) ions. Without the dissolved CO2, the mildly alkaline ocean with a pH of about 8 would be very alkaline with a pH of about 11.3 (like deadly household ammonia) because of the strong natural alkalinity.

Only once in the geological past, the Permian period about 300 million years ago, have atmospheric CO2 levels been as low as now. Life flourished abundantly during the geological past when CO2 levels were five or ten times higher than those today.

Question 8: What are the main sources of heat that account for the incremental rise in temperature on earth?

The only important primary heat source for the Earth’s surface is the Sun. But the heat can be stored in the oceans for long periods of time, even centuries. Variable ocean currents can release more or less of this stored heat episodically, leading to episodic rises (and falls) of the Earth’s surface temperature.

Incremental changes of the surface temperature anomaly can be traced back to two causes: (1) changes in the surface heating rate; (2) changes in the resistance of heat flow to space. Quasi periodic El Nino episodes are examples of the former. During an El Nino year, easterly trade winds weaken and very warm deep water, normally blown toward the coasts of Indonesia and Australia, floats to the surface and spreads eastward to replace previously cool surface waters off of South America. The average temperature anomaly can increase by 1 C or more because of the increased release of heat from the ocean. The heat source for the El Nino is solar energy that has accumulated beneath the ocean surface for several years before being released.

On average, the absorption rate of solar radiation by the Earth’s surface and atmosphere is equal to emission rate of thermal infrared radiation to space. Much of the radiation to space does not come from the surface but from greenhouse gases and clouds in the lower atmosphere, where the temperature is usually colder than the surface temperature, as shown in the figure on the previous page. The thermal radiation originates from an “escape altitude” where there is so little absorption from the overlying atmosphere that most (say half) of the radiation can escape to space with no further absorption or scattering. Adding greenhouse gases can warm the Earth’s surface by increasing the escape altitude. To maintain the same cooling rate to space, the temperature of the entire troposphere, and the surface, would have to increase to make the effective temperature at the new escape altitude the same as at the original escape altitude. For greenhouse warming to occur, a temperature profile that cools with increasing altitude is required.

Over most of the CO2 absorption band (between about 580 cm-1 and 750 cm-1 ) the escape altitude is the nearly isothermal lower stratosphere shown in the first figure. The narrow spike of radiation at about 667 cm-1 in the center of the CO2 band escapes from an altitude of around 40 km (upper stratosphere), where it is considerably warmer than the lower stratosphere due heating by solar ultraviolet light which is absorbed by ozone, O3. Only at the edges of the CO2 band (near 580 cm-1 and 750 cm-1 ) is the escape altitude in the troposphere where it could have some effect on the surface temperature. Water vapor, H2O, has emission altitudes in the troposphere over most of its absorption bands. This is mainly because water vapor, unlike CO2, is not well mixed but mostly confined to the troposphere.

Summary

To summarize this overview, the historical and geological record suggests recent changes in the climate over the past century are within the bounds of natural variability. Human influences on the climate (largely the accumulation of CO2 from fossil fuel combustion) are a physically small (1%) effect on a complex, chaotic, multicomponent and multiscale system. Unfortunately, the data and our understanding are insufficient to usefully quantify the climate’s response to human influences. However, even as human influences have quadrupled since 1950, severe weather phenomena and sea level rise show no significant trends attributable to them. Projections of future climate and weather events rely on models demonstrably unfit for the purpose. As a result, rising levels of CO2 do not obviously pose an immediate, let alone imminent, threat to the earth’s climate.

Full text of submission is here

Our Goldilocks Climate

haze_archean_2_cropped_2In the fairy tale, Goldilocks entered the three bears’ house to find one bowl of soup too hot, another too cold, and one just right for her to eat. A new study of our planetary history suggests that since its beginning our climate has been self-regulating to avoid extremes, with much less variability in temperature and oceanic pH than previously thought.

An overview of the finding comes from an article in Phys.org and is followed by excerpts from the paper itself published in PNAS.

Introductory Comments from Phys.org article Earth’s stable temperature past suggests other planets could also sustain life  April 2, 2018, University of Washington. Excerpts with my bolds.

Theories about the early days of our planet’s history vary wildly. Some studies have painted the picture of a snowball Earth, when much of its surface was frozen. Other theories have included periods that would be inhospitably hot for most current lifeforms to survive.

New research from the University of Washington suggests a milder youth for our planet. An analysis of temperature through early Earth’s history, published the week of April 2 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, supports more moderate average temperatures throughout the billions of years when life slowly emerged on Earth.

“Our results show that Earth has had a moderate temperature through virtually all of its history, and that is attributable to weathering feedbacks—they do a good job at maintaining a habitable climate,” said first author Joshua Krissansen-Totton, a UW doctoral student in Earth and space sciences.

To create their estimate, the researchers took the most recent understanding for how rocks, oceans, and air temperature interact, and put that into a computer simulation of Earth’s temperature over the past 4 billion years. Their calculations included the most recent information for how seafloor weathering occurs on geologic timescales, and under different conditions.

Seafloor weathering was more important for regulating temperature of the early Earth because there was less continental landmass at that time, the Earth’s interior was even hotter, and the seafloor crust was spreading faster, so that was providing more crust to be weathered,” Krissansen-Totton said.

The paper is by Joshua Krissansen-Totton el al., Constraining the climate and ocean pH of the early Earth with a geological carbon cycle model PNAS (2018). Excerpts with my bolds.

The existence of a negative feedback to balance the carbon cycle on million-year timescales is undisputed. Without it, atmospheric CO2 would be depleted, leading to a runaway icehouse, or would accumulate to excessive levels (34). However, the relative importance of continental and seafloor weathering in providing this negative feedback, and the overall effectiveness of these climate-stabilizing and pH-buffering feedbacks on the early Earth are unknown.

In this study, we apply a geological carbon cycle model with ocean chemistry to the entirety of Earth history. The inclusion of ocean carbon chemistry enables us to model the evolution of ocean pH and realistically capture the pH-dependent and temperature-dependent kinetics of seafloor weathering. This is a significant improvement on previous geological carbon cycle models (e.g., refs. 12 and 35) that omit ocean chemistry and instead adopt an arbitrary power-law dependence on pCO2 for seafloor weathering which, as we show, overestimates CO2 drawdown on the early Earth. By coupling seafloor weathering to Earth’s climate and the geological carbon cycle, we calculate self-consistent histories of Earth’s climate and pH evolution, and evaluate the relative importance of continental and seafloor weathering through time. The pH evolution we calculate is therefore more robust than that of Halevy and Bachan (29) because, unlike their model, we do not prescribe pCO2 and temperature histories.

The climate and ocean pH of the early Earth are important for understanding the origin and early evolution of life. However, estimates of early climate range from below freezing to over 70 °C, and ocean pH estimates span from strongly acidic to alkaline. To better constrain environmental conditions, we applied a self-consistent geological carbon cycle model to the last 4 billion years. The model predicts a temperate (0–50 °C) climate and circumneutral ocean pH throughout the Precambrian due to stabilizing feedbacks from continental and seafloor weathering. These environmental conditions under which life emerged and diversified were akin to the modern Earth. Similar stabilizing feedbacks on climate and ocean pH may operate on earthlike exoplanets, implying life elsewhere could emerge in comparable environments.

Schematic of carbon cycle model used in this study. Carbon fluxes (Tmol C y−1) are denoted by solid green arrows, and alkalinity fluxes (Tmol eq y−1) are denoted by red dashed arrows. The fluxes into/out of the atmosphere–ocean system are outgassing, Fout, silicate weathering, Fsil, carbonate weathering, Fcarb, and marine carbonate precipitation, Pocean. The fluxes into/out of the pore space are basalt dissolution, Fdiss, and pore-space carbonate precipitation, Ppore. Alkalinity fluxes are multiplied by 2 because the uptake or release of one mole of carbon as carbonate is balanced by a cation with a 2+ charge (typically Ca2+). A constant mixing flux, J (kg y−1), exchanges carbon and alkalinity between the atmosphere–ocean system and pore space.

The dissolution of basalt in the seafloor is dependent on the spreading rate, pore-space pH, and pore-space temperature (SI Appendix A). This formulation is based on the validated parameterization in ref. 36. Pore-space temperatures are a function of climate and geothermal heat flow. Empirical data and fully coupled global climate models reveal a linear relationship between deep ocean temperature and surface climate (36). Equations relating pore-space temperature, deep ocean temperature, and sediment thickness are provided in SI Appendix A.

Carbon leaves the atmosphere–ocean system through carbonate precipitation in the ocean and pore space of the oceanic crust. At each time step, the carbon abundances and alkalinities are used to calculate the carbon speciation, atmospheric pCO2, and saturation state assuming chemical equilibrium. Saturation states are then used to calculate carbonate precipitation fluxes (SI Appendix A). We allow calcium (Ca) abundance to evolve with alkalinity, effectively assuming no processes are affecting Ca abundances other than carbonate and silicate weathering, seafloor dissolution, and carbonate precipitation. The consequences of this simplification are explored in the sensitivity analysis in SI Appendix C. We do not track organic carbon burial because organic burial only constitutes 10–30% of total carbon burial for the vast majority of Earth history (40), and so the inorganic carbon cycle is the primary control.

We conclude that current best knowledge of Earth’s geologic carbon cycle precludes a hot Archean. Our results are insensitive to assumptions about ocean chemistry, internal evolution, and weathering parameterizations, so a hot early Earth would require some fundamental error in current understanding of the carbon cycle. Increasing the biotic enhancement of weathering by several orders of magnitude as proposed by Schwartzman (60) does not produce a hot Archean because this is mathematically equivalent to zeroing out the continental weathering flux (Fig. 4). In this case the temperature-dependent seafloor weathering feedback buffers the climate of the Earth to moderate temperatures (SI Appendix, Fig. S14). Dramatic temperature increases (or decreases) due to albedo changes also do not change our conclusions due to the buffering effect of the carbon cycle (see above). If both continental and seafloor weathering become supply limited (e.g., refs. 49 and 61), then temperatures could easily exceed 50 °C. However, in this case the carbon cycle would be out of balance, leading to excessive pCO2 accumulation within a few hundred million years unless buffered by some other, unknown feedback.

The only way to produce Archean climates below 0 °C in our model is to assume the Archean outgassing flux was 1–5× lower than the modern flux (SI Appendix, Fig. S12). However, dramatically lowered Archean outgassing fluxes contradict known outgassing proxies and probably require both a stagnant lid tectonic regime and a mantle more reduced than zircon data suggest, which lowers the portion of outgassed CO2 (SI Appendix C). Moreover, even when outgassing is low, frozen climates are not guaranteed (SI Appendix, Fig. S12).

We observe that modeled temperatures are relatively constant throughout Earth history, with Archean temperatures ranging from 271 to 314 K. The combination of continental and seafloor weathering efficiently buffers climate against changes in luminosity, outgassing, and biological evolution. This temperature history is broadly consistent with glacial constraints and recent isotope proxies (Fig. 3D). The continental weathering buffer dominates over the seafloor weathering buffer for most of Earth history, but in the Archean the two carbon sinks are comparable (SI Appendix, Fig. S1). Indeed, if seafloor weathering were artificially held constant, then continental weathering alone may be unable to efficiently buffer the climate of the early Earth—the temperature distribution at 4.0 Ga extends to 370 K, and the atmospheric pCO2 distribution extends to 7 bar (SI Appendix, Fig. S3).

In our nominal model, the median Archean surface temperature is slightly higher than modern surface temperatures. If solar evolution were the only driver of the carbon cycle, then Archean temperatures would necessarily be cooler than modern temperatures; weathering feedbacks can mitigate this cooling but not produce warming. Warmer Archean climates are possible because elevated internal heat flow, lower continental land fraction, and lessened biological enhancement of weathering all act to warm to Precambrian climate. These three factors produce a comparable warming effect (SI Appendix, Fig. S17A and Appendix C), although the magnitude of each is highly uncertain and so temperate Archean temperatures cannot be uniquely attributed to any one variable.

Conclusions

The early Earth was probably temperate. Continental and seafloor weathering buffer Archean surface temperatures to 0–50 °C. This result holds for a broad range of assumptions about the evolution of internal heat flow, crustal production, spreading rates, and the biotic enhancement of continental weathering. Even in extreme scenarios with negligible subaerial Archean land and high methane abundances, a hot Archean (>50 °C) is unlikely. Sub-0 °C climates are also unlikely unless the Archean outgassing flux was unrealistically lower than the modern flux.

The seafloor weathering feedback is important, but less dominant than previously assumed. Consequently, the early Earth would not have been in a snowball state due to pCO2 drawdown from seafloor weathering. In principle, little to no methane is required to maintain a habitable surface climate, although methane should be expected in the anoxic Archean atmosphere once methanogenesis evolved (ref. 62, chap. 11).

Ignoring transient excursions, the pH of Earth’s ocean has evolved monotonically from 6.6+0.6−0.4 at 4.0 Ga (2σ) to 7.0+0.7−0.5 at 2.5 Ga (2σ), and 8.2 in the modern ocean. This evolution is robust to assumptions about ocean chemistry, internal heat flow, and other carbon cycle parameterizations. Consequently, similar feedbacks may control ocean pH and climate on other Earthlike planets with basaltic seafloors and silicate continents, suggesting that life elsewhere could emerge in comparable environments to those on our early planet.

Fools, Idealists and Cynics

As recent posts have shown, the climate movement is mounting a cynical legal maneuver modeled after the tobacco lawsuit strategy decades ago.  This post on April 1 provides some quotations for insight into the linkage between foolishness, idealism and the endpoint of cynicism.

 

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Footnote:

This post was inspired by Pointman’s blog post THE SECOND GREAT EXTINCTION OF THE LIBERAL DREAM.

Some tidbits that resonated:

There was something which happened in the 1980s which was variously labeled the death of the liberal dream or the great extinction of the liberal dream. It was much discussed at the time, but you’ll rarely hear of it in any political discussion nowadays. In essence, it was a seismic and global shift away from the statist, left-wing ideas that had held sway in government circles through most of the 70s. The entire world seemed to be moving towards the right and any surviving liberal ideals became the exclusive province of raggedy assed hippies moving into middle-age or embittered politicians who were also products of the 60s, but were now severely out of touch with the modern Zeitgeist.

By the dawn of the 80s, the world was ready, if not desperate, for practical, effective politicians like Reagan and Thatcher, both of whom never sat well with their own political establishment, but would go on to do a job of societal re-engineering that brought back prosperity and culminated in the political grand slam of the Berlin wall coming down in 89, which marked the effective demise of the Soviet Union and a half century long ideological battle.

If any of that lot sounds familiar, then welcome to 2016 and the supposedly massive surprise of Trump being elected.

It’s a return to respecting traditional values which actually never went away, because without them, any civilisation would implode. Country, family, responsibility and common decency. There’s an old saying – comes the day, comes the man, and America in it’s relatively short history, has been inordinately fortunate in that respect. In its hour of need, it seems to cough up just the right man. Trump is smart, tough and always up for a scrap. I’ve no doubt he has his flaws, but his visceral support for those values and his intention to move them back into the centre of American life is the basis of his appeal to his electorate.

Barents Ice March

Barentsday60to90The month of March saw rapid ice growth in Barents Sea.   It is in a strategic location at the gateway where warm Atlantic water from the gulf stream flows into the Arctic, 90% of all incoming water. In 31 days, the extent went from 513k km2 to 790k km2, a gain of 278k km2, or 54%.  As the graph below shows, Barents ice today is unusual in the last 12 years.

Barents day090

March is the time of the annual Arctic ice maximum, as the graph below shows.  2018 started slow and peaked later than average, and has held on to March end.

NHday090

2018 is running about 200k km2 above both 2017 and 2007.  SII shows ~200k km2 less than MASIE.  The ten year average extent is almost 400k km2 higher, entirely due to 2018 lack of ice in Bering Sea. The table below shows ice extents in the various basins at day 90 or March 31.

Region 2018090 Day 90 
Average
2018-Ave. 2017090 2018-2017
 (0) Northern_Hemisphere 14456459 14842431 -385972 14228992 227467
 (1) Beaufort_Sea 1069836 1070178 -342 1070445 -609
 (2) Chukchi_Sea 964121 966000 -1879 966006 -1885
 (3) East_Siberian_Sea 1087137 1085933 1204 1086168 969
 (4) Laptev_Sea 897845 896562 1283 897845 0
 (5) Kara_Sea 934790 915735 19055 831189 103601
 (6) Barents_Sea 790204 652874 137329 525362 264841
 (7) Greenland_Sea 533694 669996 -136302 705581 -171886
 (8) Baffin_Bay_Gulf_of_St._Lawrence 1380945 1452576 -71631 1467334 -86390
 (9) Canadian_Archipelago 853109 852782 327 853214 -106
 (10) Hudson_Bay 1259857 1252696 7161 1260903 -1047
 (11) Central_Arctic 3202650 3236293 -33643 3247995 -45345
 (12) Bering_Sea 277469 849159 -571690 702504 -425035
 (13) Baltic_Sea 99317 68831 30486 29767 69550
 (14) Sea_of_Okhotsk 1097524 860025 237498 575084 522440

 

 

Climate Change Movement Retreats to California Courts

The title comes from this article by Richard O. Faulk in RealClearPolitics
March 30, 2018.  Text below with my bolds.

After failing in every American political forum since the Paris climate accord was reached two years ago, the climate change movement has once again retreated to the courts. Not surprisingly, these advocates selected California’s federal courts as the forum of choice, counting on their comparatively liberal dispositions to breathe new life into their agenda. Pursuant to this initiative, several California counties and cities have sued numerous defendants, including major oil and gas companies, for emitting and exacerbating emissions of greenhouse gases.

In doing so, the plaintiffs based their claims on the tort of public nuisance, the broadest and vaguest remedy available. Public nuisance has been condemned by legal scholars as “notoriously contingent and unsummarizable” and a “wilderness of law.” William Prosser, one of America’s most famous law professors, wrote that nuisance was an “impenetrable jungle” and a “legal garbage can” full of “vagueness, uncertainty and confusion.”

Richard Epstein, another noted legal authority, concluded that nuisance “does not work on a moral or deductive principle.” U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun famously remarked that “one searches in vain for anything resembling a principle in the law of nuisance,” and even the California Supreme Court has rejected the remedy when it threatened to impose “standardless liability.”

Given this history, it is especially alarming that the climate change movement now seeks legal judgments in the absence of objective standards derived from the legislative or regulatory process. Even more incredibly, this persistent excursion has already been rejected by not only the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals – the reviewing court that will decide any appeal from these judgments – but also by the Supreme Court of the United States.

Controversies such as climate change concern policy choices and value determinations that are constitutionally reserved to the executive branch or Congress and are especially ill-suited for judges. The Supreme Court has held that courts are fundamentally unequipped to formulate national polices or develop standards for matters, such as climate change, that are not legal in nature. As Justice Felix Frankfurter cautioned, “A court is likely to lose its way if it strays outside the modest bounds of its own special competency” and adjudicates only the legal phases of a broad social problem into an “opportunity for formulating judgments of social policy.” Although such “political questions” cannot be resolved constitutionally by judges, the climate movement seeks that precise result in California.

Even more curiously, the movement seeks monetary judgments for the California cities’ and counties’ own pockets – judgments supposedly intended to pay for adaptation and abatement of the alleged worldwide nuisance. Such money, if awarded as damages, would comprise gigantic windfalls allocated by unelected federal judges and spent at each plaintiff’s discretion. The judgments could never be implemented in a manner reasonably calculated to reverse global warming unless they were accompanied by a bureaucracy created, elected and funded to supervise the work internationally and ensure against waste and abuse. Since neither Congress, the California legislature, the county and city governments, nor any other elected bodies are willing to serve in these roles, the plundering of America’s energy enterprises is entirely unwarranted.

Under controlling Supreme Court authority, even when the political branches have not acted, common law courts are not necessarily free to “fill the void.” Irrespective of whether the executive or legislative branches have spoken, due respect for their constitutional responsibilities – combined with awareness of the judiciary’s own limitations – should motivate judicial restraint. Although the ancients concluded that “nature abhors a vacuum,” there are circumstances in the law, as here, where uncharted voids should be eschewed. In the absence of guiding principles, errors are as likely to fill the jurisprudential void as wisdom.

Richard Faulk is a lawyer at Davis Wright Tremaine in Washington, D.C.