Examining Global Warming’s Best Friend, N2O

29 08 2009

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s) are out of the way – a major success story in the fight against ozone depletion but a new menace is quickly becoming the top dog in the crowd of global warming fugitives. It took more than 20 years, but CFC’s are finally down and still sinking but nitrous oxide is hastily becoming our new arch-enemy. Nitrous oxide is now, according to a new report from NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory (NSRL), the most destructive and abundant man-derived greenhouse gas in our atmosphere. Where CFC’s were in our minds and in the environment now lies Nitrous Oxide.

“The dramatic reduction in CFCs over the last 20 years is an environmental success story. But manmade nitrous oxide is now the elephant in the room among ozone-depleting substances,” said Ravishankara, lead author of the study and director of the ESRL Chemical Sciences Division in Boulder, CO.

The gas is quite common, even it’s natural occurrences, but never in this quantity. The gas is derived from the fertilization of agriculture, mainly, but can also be found in animal dung, dentists’ offices (“Laughing Gas”), sewage treatment, combustion engines, and the rearing of livestock.

CFC’s were abundant in use, especially in aerosol cans in the 70’s and 80’s but scientists soon found that it’s effects on the environment were to harmful to be allowed to continue. In an international agreement, the Montreal Protocol was established in 1987 to reduce the CFC input into the environment world-wide. The plan was a huge success, now 22 years later, as we can see the incredible reduction of it’s concentration in the atmosphere. Although this is true, even the scars left behind are still mending; in particular the gaping hole in the ozone layer situated above the South Pole. Will nitrous oxide be as dangerous to the environment as the CFC’s were? In short, yes.

Examination of Atmospheric Layers

If left unchecked, the concentration of nitrous oxide in the atmosphere would continue to climb exponentially. We still have time to correct the problem before it gets out of control but it would take control to do it. The main target would certainly have to be the control of agricultural fertilization – fertilizers highly concentrated in the chemical. Although it does help the soil to produce more abundant (and vivacious) plants, it destroys the ozone layer – thinning it more and more.

What happens when the atmosphere gets thinner? More radiation enters the earth’s lower atmosphere which in turn actually harms the plants (and us). Imagine the worst sunburn you ever had. Multiply it. No one really wants to deal with the effects of global warming. “I don’t believe in it”. I guess it really doesn’t matter if you believe or not. It’s a decision that you’d have to make. A) Live with the changes you have to make today and be a little less “wasteful” or B) Ignore the warnings and live in a hotter, more naturally violent world potentially full of disease and famine. It’s up to you really….

Information derived from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Image derived from ScienceDaily.com
All information retrieved Saturday, August 29th, 2009

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Walk to 350 – Huntsville, AL

28 08 2009

Walk to 350

I am trying to organize a group to attend a walk in correlation with many around the world as we strive to reduce CO2 levels back down to 350. Thousands of people around the world are joining in the cause and I’m trying to help bring it home – bringing it here to Huntsville, AL. Consisting of a short walk around downtown and Big Spring Park and leading into food, drinks and entertainment as well as a visit to the museum of art, I want this to be a success! The tentative time is at 3pm on October 24th (the global ‘350’ day). I am looking for attendees or supporters – maybe a vendor or two or whatever you can help with. Email me if you’re interested in participating or helping!

dwales@hunspot.org





Hot Sea Running

17 08 2009

Guest Post from Dan Satterfield

A lot of tropical news this week. The 2009 hurricane season in the Atlantic has stirred to life quickly with two (Update Sunday: 3 !) tropical storms forming on Saturday. It’s not at all unusual to have little hurricane activity until August. The season runs from June 1st to November 30, but the prime season is from Aug, 1st to mid September. American forecasters have an old saying that there will almost always be a hurricane on the weather maps when Labour Day arrives.

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From NOAA/NCDC. The bigger the dot the more the temperature was warmer or colder than normal.

These storms form in very warm ocean. The National Climate Data Center (NOAA) released the July global land and ocean temperatures on Saturday. Ocean temps were the warmest on record for July. The land and ocean temps were the 5th warmest on the instrumental record. This follows June 2009 which also came in as warmest.

Another interesting bit of tropical news this week is a new paper published in Nature on hurricanes of the past. One of the great debates in science right now is the question of whether climate change will bring more hurricanes or fewer. The debate has raged between two opposing groups. Kerry Emanuel of MIT has produced interesting evidence that we have seen an increase in hurricanes already due to the warming of the past 50 years.

Chris Landsea of NOAA has produced evidence that we are just detecting more tropical storms, and that there has not been an increase. I had a chance a couple of years ago to hear both of them present at the AMS meeting in San Antonio. I left with the firm conviction that the question remains open. Understand here, that this debate is not about climate change in general.Despite what you read on the Internet, science has moved on from that.

One thing that does seem very certain now is that hurricanes in the warmer world of late this century, will be wetter. Perhaps considerably wetter. The kind of catastrophic flooding we saw in Taiwan this past week, will likely be more common in the future.

Why you ask? Water vapour.

GOES Image of Tropical Storm Bill Early Sunday. from NASA MSFC
GOES Image of Tropical Storm Bill Early Sunday. from NASA MSFC

If the average temperature of the air over the oceans rises 1 degree F, the air can hold 4% more water. (This is one reason why more snow is likely in Antarctica as it warms, not less. A 3C rise in temp. by late this century would bring an increase of around 22% in the amount of water held in the atmosphere! (You won’t see that bit of science on these junk science sites)

Sea surface temperatures are a major factor in hurricane formation. If the sea surface temperature is below about 27C then hurricanes are not likely. Upper level wind shear and atmospheric water vapour are other important ingredients.

Other factors like wind shear in the upper atmosphere act to inhibit hurricanes. The El Nino that develops every 4-7 years in the Pacific, increases the wind shear over the Atlantic, and we usually see fewer storms. Will there be more wind shear in a warmer world? Possibly. Conditions could combine to produce about the same number of storms in the future. (Much wetter ones though)

Micheal Mann of Penn State University is the lead author of a fascinating paper in this weeks NATURE. His team used soil/silt cores in a series of locations to estimate past hurricanes. If a hurricane hits a coastline, the overwash of sea water will leave a deposit that can be identified in the cores. They used these sediment cores to estimate hurricane activity over the last 1500 years. In addition, they used a statistical model that factored in variables like sea surface temperature to estimate storms as well.

Reconstruction of landfalling Atlantic hurricanes. Nature 460, 880-883 (13 August 2009) | doi:10.1038/nature08219;   Atlantic hurricanes and climate over the past 1,500 years  Michael E. Mann, Jonathan D. Woodruff2 et al
Reconstruction of landfalling Atlantic hurricanes. Nature 460, 880-883 (13 August 2009) | doi:10.1038/nature08219; Atlantic hurricanes and climate over the past 1,500 years Michael E. Mann, Jonathan D. Woodruff2 et al

They found that during a period of rather warm Atlantic Ocean water around 1000 years ago, we saw as many hurricanes as we have over the past 15 years. This is a good confirmation that warmer seas, do give more hurricanes and perhaps more intense ones.

Chris Landsea of NOAA argues that the increase in storms over the past century is just an artifact of spotting them more easily with satellites and aircraft. One thing seems likely here, the hurricanes did increase in the past during a period of warmer oceans.

Whether or not a warmer world caused by human means, instead of natural ones, will do the same is still open for debate. The science, however, might just be beginning to tilt in favor of Mann and Emanuel.

Either way, with sea level now rising 3mm per year, and increasing, future hurricanes, will be wetter and cause more destruction. The current thinking is the IPCC will be adjusting their forecast of sea level rise up considerably in the next report.

This back and forth in the peer reviewed literature is how science advances. When we can answer the question of hurricanes in a warmer world, we will have gleamed another piece of fundamental knowledge of how are planet works.

I end with a book recommendation. Kerry Emanuel of MIT is one of the leading experts on hurricanes. He has written a fabulous book called Divine Wind. It combines poetry and science. It’s one of the best general audience  science books ever written.

Note this is a dual post- I wrote it as a guest post on Skywarn 256’s Weather Blog as well.





A Synopsis on Climate Change

15 08 2009

There has been skepticism during the entire lifetime of the theoretical atmospheric anomaly called “Global Warming”. Global Warming is a term coined to describe the unnatural rise of the mean low-level atmosphere temperature over a period of time called climate. Global Warming has also been described as Climate Change although it is not a deserved alias as the earth’s climate often changes in temperature over long periods of time (see ice ages and medieval warming). As such, Global Warming should have been coined as the 21st century Global Warming Trend instead of its current names.

Cycle of Greenhouse Gases

The evidence of Global Warming has seemed to pile-up over the time span of its coined existence. This could be due to the fact that more investigations into the global climate heating has resulted in both expected and unexpected evidence and it could be a result of ongoing changes that take place in real time such as the breaking off and thinning of glaciers. Some of the evidence already observed include a research study by various scientists and reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) include a global mean temperature increase of 0.74 ± 0.18 °C (1.33 ± 0.32 °F) over the period of the last century although it seems variations in solar radiation and volcanic activity was the primary contributors before the pre-industrial times before 1950.

Temperature Changes
It is forecasted by the IPCC that the global mean temperature could increase yet another 1.1 to 6.4 °C (2.0 to 11.5 °F) by 2100. The uncertainty in the predicted temperature increases is partially due to the fact that different models have forecasted different amounts of chemicals such as Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere during varying spans of time. The prediction of 2 °F is a conservative guess but the 11.5 °F increase is also quite possible and would be, of course, the worst case scenario.

Temperature History

The NASA Goddard Space Institute estimated that 2005 was the warmest year globally since dependable and accurate modern satellite temperature monitoring began, exceeding the previous record established in 1998 by only a few hundredths of a degree. The high temperatures recorded in 1998 is thought to be a result of an unusually strong El Niño event – the strongest in over a century.

Since global temperatures have been monitored and recorded, various global locations seem to heat faster than others such as the difference in ocean temperatures relative to land-based atmosphere temperatures. Ocean temperatures rise approximately 0.13 °C relative to land-based atmosphere temperatures which rise an average of 0.25 °C during the course of a decade. Many factors contribute to the difference in temperature increases including the ocean having a vast depth and spread in which temperature is required to increase as well as the effect of evaporation on the air above the ocean. Liquids warm and cool much slower than the air, being more dense, thus the difference in temperature fluctuations. Also, the north hemisphere would warm much faster than the southern hemisphere mainly due to the fact that the northern hemisphere has more land area than does the south. With upper air currents in combination with the difference in temperature, the polar regions would heat much faster than regions closer to the equator, thus the rapid warming and thinning of the polar ice caps in the Arctic and Antarctic Circles. Due to the heat-retaining capacity of the oceans as well as the lifespan of Carbon Dioxide, even if all emissions were to cease the global temperature would continue to rise well after 2100.

Global Warming Projections

Another area which affects the global mean temperature is the effects of “Greenhouse Gases” originally discovered and coined by Joseph Fourier in 1824 and was first investigated quantitatively by Svante Arrhenius in 1896. “Greenhouse Gases” are gases which emit and absorb infrared radiation in the planets atmosphere and enhance the atmosphere’s ability to withhold heat energy. “Greenhouse Gases” include but are not limited to: Water Vapor, Methane, Carbon Dioxide, Nitrous Oxide and Tropospheric Ozone. Higher concentrations of these gases lead to the planet’s atmosphere retaining more heat than it exerts thus raising the global mean temperature. Since the industrial revolution, global carbon dioxide levels have increased by 36% – ¾ of the increase is suspected to be a direct result of the burning of fossil fuels. Evidence extracted from deep ice pockets suggest that carbon dioxide levels are higher than they have been in the last 650,000 years – additional evidence is believed to indicate that levels are actually higher than they have been in the last 20 million years. Although most of the gases mentioned enhance the planets ability to retain heat, some chemicals known as aerosols which are either released naturally, as is the case with volcanoes, or by human sowing as is the case with some CFCs. These chemicals reflect radiation back into space from the upper atmosphere countering the effects of “Greenhouse Gases”. Although this may have been the case up until now, it seems as if the amount of “Greenhouse Gases” such as carbon dioxide and methane are well exceeding the amount of aerosol in the atmosphere. This may have been the reason that extreme global mean temperature increase was delayed during the latter half of the 20th century and only become urgent from the beginning of the new millennium onward. Methods have also been used by scientists to combat global warming indirectly and directly including the use of Biochar, Geoengineering and the like.

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Combating Global Warming One Pile at a Time

12 08 2009

So what has the world come to? All of a sudden, desperate people clinging to climate change destruction found a new way to combat global warming – burning poop. Aven manure to be exact. A conference was recently held in Boulder, CO on the topic of Biochar – a charcoal formed from burning organic materials in a low-oxygen environment. It is said to be like a “sponge” for atmospheric carbon dioxide. Not only does it soak it up and store it for up to a thousand years, it’s burning in a low-oxygen environment prevents the creation of carbon dioxide when it is burned.

The Infamous Chicken - The Infinite Possibilities

I fully understand every little effort helps against global warming but I don’t think I would ever be too large of a fan of spreading burnt poop all around the world. It’s a great and large endeavor to take on a project of this size and, although it’s impact on the climate would be minimal, those who wish to spread the poop can say that they assisted in the combat against climate change.

As a reminder, every little effort helps. Carpooling, riding a bike instead of driving, driving a hybrid, stopping smoking, planting more trees and other CO2 consuming plants as well as abstaining from burning fossil fuels can all add up when performed on a global scale.





Debunking 2012 Doomsday

10 08 2009

2012 – that’s probably the most famous date in history of conspiracies and doomsday dates. We’ve got sources all over predicting cataclysmic events including the “ending” of the Mayan calendar, the predictions of “prophets” such as Nostradomus and Hopi, the chinese and the I Ching as well as others. Oh, let’s not forget the abominable Planet X, Nibiru. Seriously? Thats a lot of evidence. Even Hollywood has become fortune tellers: Armageddon? Knowing? Doomsday? The Day the Earth Stood Still? They’ve gotta be telling the truth, I mean, it’s Hollywood.

Climate change – ugh, we can’t forget Climate Change. Global warming is a warning to us all. Not really a warning – more like a heads up…”enjoy it while you can” I guess. So, with all this evidence, I believe it should be posted scientifically. If it’s not analyzed thoroughly, then it’s not scientific. If it’s not scientific, then it’s just a belief (and we know where unfactuated beliefs get us).

The Mayan Calendar
First off, the Mayans did not come up with that calendar – they adopted it from their ancestors of the region as did the other like cultures of their time. Secondly, the Mayan calendar was one of the most “off” calendars in history. It wasn’t even as accurate as the Julius calendar (and that’s saying something). The Mayan months were 20 days long (sometimes called 20 day weeks) and a “solar” year consisted of 18 of them. Yes, solar is in quotations. It’s not really a solar year – their calendar days were integers. As we know, nothing on earth ticks in exact integers for the same reason there is never a perfect circle no where in existance. So, for this, a year to them was 365 days (seems right….right?). The day, in fact, is not 365 days (and if you know what a leap year is, you’ll know why it’s not 365. It’s more like 365.25 (approx). So in other words, with their days as long as they are, doomsday has already passed. But, lets say that their calendar WAS accurate and their calendar “ends” in 2012 – what “ends” is not their calendar. The Mayan calendar DOES NOT END IN 2012. Only a cycle of the calendar, the 13th cycle to be exact, ends. What happens when it does? Destruction? Calamity? 2013? Yep, 2013 will come around just like 2012 did, just like 2009 did and so on. Not quite proving it? The 14th Mayan cycle starts as soon as the 13th ends on December 21st, 2012.

Nostradamus
What a name. Perhaps one of the most famous “prophets” of all time (except for maybe Matthew, Mark, Luke and John…and eh, we’ll throw Muhammed in there too). Nostradamus 1) was a severe drug addict, 2) practiced visioning with “demons” and admitting himself and in his writings that we was surely going to hell for what he was doing, 3) wrote so damned funny that anything he said could be interpreted to mean anything and lastly, 4) predicting events that take place AFTER 2012. Now why the hell would he predict things that happen TO MANKIND if he predicted the world would end in 2012? I’ll let you talk to yourself about that one…..

Knowing
It was a movie. It was Hollywood and special effects. First off, if our Sun was going to explode or erupt with this gigantic solar flare, we would be seeing the same event in stars which are approximately the same size as our sun and around the same age. We don’t. And there are thousands of them. The chances? Do the math. 5 Billion Years, Thousands of Sun-like stars, 0 events like that in Knowing.

Pole Shift
So you think the poles are all of a sudden going to flip or shift or whatever? Get over yourself, this isn’t science fiction. Do you realize how much energy it would take to shift our poles? If a source of that much energy was upon us 1) we would already know and 2) we’d be gone long before the poles shifted. We’re talking enough energy to permanently warp our magnetosphere. That’s like having enough energy to shove the Earth into Mars. Anything with that much force would kill us all LONG before our poles moved. Yes, the poles move naturally – but slowly. It may take thousands if not hundreds of thousands of years for our poles to move, but they do move, only slowly.

Nibiru
And finally, we come to Nibiru, the tenth planet coined, Planet X. First off, Nibiru isn’t the tenth planet. Nibiru isn’t a star. Nibiru…..doesn’t exist. If anything were close enough to be able to collide with earth in 3 years (as Nibiru is supposably forecasted to do) and is massive enough to completely wipe the planet clean of life, then we would most definately know about it by now. Think the government is covering it up? Well, there’s one aspect of life the government CANT cover up and that’s astronomy. Some of the best astronomers in the world with some of the best equipment in the world are amateur astronomers, people like you and me sitting at home looking through a telescope. If there was something out there, with over a million amateur astronomers out there all over the world, we’d already know about it.

Climate Change
Climate change. Yeah, it’s bad. Most likely, it’ll kill 30% or so of all species on earth. Nothing will be the same. Humans will survive it though. As will the planet. Period.





Shared Beliefs

9 08 2009

I was just browsing around and came across a good post by a well known, albeit local, personality. Dan Satterfield is but a television meteorologist to some but an inspiration for others. Since 1995, I’ve been watching his forecasts and enjoying severe weather coverage with his excitable antics. The post I am mentioning here came from his blog, Wild Wild Weather Journal. It’s a good and startling read when you contrast today with tomorrow (figuratively).

Dan’s Wild Wild Weather Blog
Dan’s “Climate Change In Your Backyard” Blogpost