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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Rehashing a Rehash of Basic Thermodynamics

Heat reservoir versus heat sink - A heat reservoir is bi-directional and a heat sink is one way.  Most heat sinks aren't even close to ideal but they never reverse direction during normal operation.  For climate science the oceans are a good reservoir the atmosphere is a poor reservoir and the poles are heat sinks.

Zeroth Law of Thermodynamics - A "Thermodynamic Temperature", source temperature or sink temperature, has to accurately describe the energy available in the source and sink.  "Average" temperature of a process is pretty much meaningless.  "The zeroth law of thermodynamics states that if two thermodynamic systems are each in thermal equilibrium with a third, then they are in thermal equilibrium with each other."   Since energy varies with the forth power of temperature, a "half way" temperature would indicate different energy flows to source and sink so it would not be in equilibrium or steady state relative to both source and sink.  It is an invalid frame of reference.  For example, 0K (0 Wm-2) to 288K(390 Wm-2) would have an average temperature of 144K and an average energy of 195 Wm-2 which has an equivalent temperature of 242 K degrees.  If you use 242 K degrees as a frame of reference with respect to 288K degrees or 0K degrees there is a huge error.  The 33 C "greenhouse effect" temperature and energy range is meaningless by itself.

Latent and Convective Heat in an open system is a bitch.  Since latent heat and convection are inter-related, higher surface convection increases the rate of evaporation, and the flow of the latent heat is driven by more than just temperature differential, plus there is phase change in the stream that varies with turbulent mixing which can change the flow rate, you have a marvelously complex fluid dynamics problem without a reliable solution.  You may be able to approximate a range of possible solutions, but the problem is essentially chaotic.

All this makes for a wonderful puzzle with no perfectly correct solution.  You can "ASSUME" any number of sources and sinks which is nothing more than varying your frames of reference.  You can pigeonhole each frame with some neat sciency sounding name, like maximum entropy production, minimum entropy production, construction theory, dissipation theory and probably a few dozen others and it is pretty likely that no two independent methods will agree "exactly".  If the methods are done correctly and the data valid, you will end up with a range of possible "answers" which should define a range or region of probability.

If you consider the thoughts of S. Manabe, THE greenhouse effect should produce about 60 C of "surface" warming.  Convection which is intertwined with latent heat should produce about -30C of negative feedback to the GHE from that "surface" reference.  If the GHE and the Convective feedback are not perfectly linear, very likely, you have the potential for regime changes The trick is to find the likely range of temperatures AND the offset that may be produced by man cause CO2e "forcing".

You can reduce all this down to a simplified partial differential equation that includes all of the inter-dependencies of the known variables, but that gets you right back to the fluid dynamics problem which is essentially chaotic.  You can "complex model" the system various ways, but the results will always be depend on initial conditions resulting in hopefully the same range or region of probabilities you get with a suite of simple models.

The Climate Illuminati despise chaos but thrive on uncertainty which is a bit bizarre. A range is a range regardless of how you get there.  Since all you will ever get is a range, you need to embrace it and make decisions based on the highest probability, which is currently about 0.8 C more from our current conditions.  

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Not Really Physics - Climate Changing Botany

So much of Climate Change is just accounting and just about every thing NOT physics that it is frustrating for many.  I started this blog because I found an accounting problem with the Earth Energy Budget.  There are also problems with the Carbon Budget so large they make the surface temperature squabble irrelevant.  I hit on one potential biological situation that could pretty much erase fossil fuel emissions, termites and wood destroying organisms.  This one is more in line with Dyson's carbon eating trees.

Trees and forests in general are a favorite because it is obvious they have huge amounts of mass above ground.  Most trees though aren't that great at building below ground carbon.  Since trees rule the roost so to speak, they are first in line for water and nutrients so tropical forests have extremely poor soil.  The trees in the tropics may have only 10% of their total mass underground and since insects thrive in the tropics, leaf litter is pretty quickly consumed.  A tropical forest can reason a carbon neutral state just because of a weak drought or shift in wind patterns that reduce wind blown nutrients, like Saharan dust fertilizing the Amazon.

Plants that are extremely drought tolerant tend to have huge root systems that allow them to survive drought and heavy grazing.  On the US great plains, original homesteaders build crude houses with sod that was extremely stable because of drought tolerant grass root systems.  The Sahel is greening because native shrubs and trees had extensive root systems which only required a little rain or a little less grazing to string back to life. For whatever reason, soil carbon estimates do not include deeper rooted (> 1 meter) plants that where likely native prior to industrialization.  Because of that, soil carbon estimates are between 10% to 50% low (lateral carbon runoff is particularly difficult to estimate).

Botanists, didn't miss that error.  "Breeding crop plants with deep roots: their role in sustainable carbon, nutrient and water sequestration" specifically addresses the issue of breeding or genetically engineering deeper rooted drought tolerant plants.  The advantages of more drought tolerant plants is obvious but the carbon sequestration isn't discussed often.  In fact, if you mention how conservation farming stores soil carbon, even most of the experts underestimate the potential impact.  For example, replanting tropical deforestation is consider to be worth 100 tons of carbon per hectare at a maximum.  Starting the reforestation with drought tolerant plants could increase that by 40% and more likely recreate the original start of the tropical forests.

A number of grand tropical plantation plans died because the soil just wasn't ready for the trees, especially in monoculture. Bananas may be on the way to extinction because of monoculture planting and a mutating fungus.  The fungus remains in the soil so once infected that acreage will never produce bananas again without expensive soil fumigation. So rebuilding soils without causing some future damage isn't easy.  Some of the better results came from giving up and just letting "nature" take over.  Helping nature along with a variety of deep rooting native species seems to be worth a shot.

Biofuel advocates and land owners that consider productive land in the normal sense to be carbon "neutral" might need to consider carbon optimal from a more realistic perspective.  Coal use for power plants accounts for about 25% of emissions with the average coal power plant still only 36% efficient.  Adding secondary processes to coal power production like local heating or desalination/purification can increase efficiency to over 80% in ideal cases.  At the same time, using resources generated by the thermal power plants to restore depleted and abused soils would make the coal/soil interaction a net carbon sink.

While nuclear or renewables could be used to help restore soils, coal's carbon content and trace elements  Coal flyash for example  may not be recommended for food crops supplement, but in reforestation efforts the flora could make use of the trace elements and help filter out unwanted heavy metals.  Instead of attempting to sequester CO2, fertilizer production as a secondary process could be used to increase the growth rate of reforestation projects, which would also sequester carbon.  

There is a lot of interesting research in land reclamation being marginalized by advocates of urgent actions "they" approve of.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Forcing a Forcing Proxy

This is one of those "if only" kind of posts.  If only, climate science wasn't so set in its ways, this could be a great idea.  A Teleconnection, or a particular geographical location that has a high correlation with "global temperature anomaly" is a tool used and maybe abused by climate science.  For example if the wiggles in a group of tree rings from California happen to correlate well with what is assumed to be an accurate interpretation of what "global" temperature anomaly wiggles are likely to be, the California tree rings get more consideration than some place else.

Since we are currently in one of the large El Nino event influences and El Nino has a pretty good correlation with warming, the higher than normal rainfall you would expect in California should be a pretty good indication of past climate.  The real key isn't California, it is El Nino and the ENSO cycle.  So you could just blow off California trees and use any trees, sediments or anything else that is a proxy for ENSO.  Since the Indo-Pacific Warm Pool (IPWP) is the hot side of the El Nino region, it is just as good as anything else.  This is why Oppo et al. and team young guns devote so much time to the IPWP paleoclimate and even try to estimate "global" ocean heat uptake over the past few thousand years.

The young gun's data differs than some, i.e. Michael Mann and the old farts, most likely because ocean paleo has a more reliable range of temperature dependence than trees that prefer a Goldilocks range of temperature, moisture, nutrients and pests.  Mann though had a head start and proclaimed California trees the cat's ass before the young guns were out of diapers.

The much publicized "divergence" problem is the Goldilocks tendency of trees most likely.  That doesn't make tree ring useless, they were originally proxies for rainfall and that is a big part of the El Nino signal, so they have a reason to be included in the debate.

The neat thing about ocean paleo is that there is a real temperature involved.  Instead of just matching wiggles you have temperature and wiggles.  When you have temperature you have a rough idea of the effective radiant forcing.  There is more involved, but radiant forcing as used by Climate Science is a large percentage of the combined, latent, convective and radiant reality.  Since the ocean rate of heat uptake tends to control or regulate temperature, the young  guns can use absolute temperature below the surface which doesn't include latent and much convective to get a reasonable indication of heat uptake and the real energy involved.  Since SST and ocean heat uptake correlated extremely well, they would also correlate reasonably well with the forcing required to change the rate of heat uptake.  Since the biggest difference between the young guns and da Mann are "pre-industrial", there is a pretty good bit of money riding on the winners.

Neglecting uncertainty for the moment (hey, at least I admit it), the young guns IPWP reconstruction indicates there has been about 8 Wm-2 of radiant forcing change since 1700 AD.  Combined "global" forcing change is estimated to be in the 4 Wm-2 range or about half of what this rough proxy indicates.  There is a big kerfuffle over this half issue.  Some of the forcing has to be caused by man and since fossil fuels are easy to estimate, they are to no brainer "cause".

I happen to be a bit of a rebel and think there is more to the story, land abuse, which should mean that warming started well before fossil fuel abuse.  There are lots and lots of "potential" land abuse factors that are close to impossible to sort out. You just need one to provide a hook, but if you pick the wrong one, the hook will end up in your butt.  Use bunches of potential land abuse factors and the simplifying simpletons will eviscerate you - gut you like a fish. :)  That sucks, because the real world is complex, but there are a few hooks that are more interesting than others.  Formosan Subterranean Termites may be a pretty good hook.  More interesting meaning likely more significant and easier to sort out.

Subterranean termites are a new world invasive species.  Since they are biological, they have a nice exponential growth curve until they reach a population peak.  The termites eat woody stuff which releases CO2 and CH4 from what was a "natural" carbon sink, decreasing the efficiency of that sink.  If you are a bit anal about sinks and sources versus natural and anthro, you might have to consider that a natural mechanism in an unnatural environment for them would pretty much have to be unnatural.  "Globally" all the natural sinks would be still sinking but you have half a hemisphere that isn't hitting on all eight.

There are still a lot more anthro land abuse impacts that would have an exponential curve, but the termites might be testable.  A systematic invasive termite eradication program would at least stop the population growth of termites allowing the sink to to operate more efficiently.  There are also a number of invasive pests that contribute to more woody matter for the termites to munch on that could be targeted.  Of course none of this will be taken seriously as long as demon coal and fossil fuels get all the press, but increasing land carbon uptake by a fraction of a percent would offset nearly all of the fossil fuel emissions.  I may toy with this approach in the future.