Skeptical Thoughts on Energy, Science and Global Warming

The Case of the Alternating Ice Sheets

There has been a wave of triumphal announcements by climate change proponents recently, almost giddy over the summer shrinkage of the Arctic ice sheet. “Lowest level ever!” they proclaim, thought that is not quite true. Nonetheless, The Arctic pack ice has been receding over the last decade or so, but that is only natural. You see, there is a well known, if poorly understood, linkage between the ice at the north pole and the ice in and around Antarctica—and the ice around Antarctica is doing quite well. Satellite radar altimetry measurements indicate that the East Antarctic ice sheet interior increased in mass by 45±7 billion metric tons per year from 1992 to 2003. This trend continues today, reinforcing recent scientific investigations into this millennial scale oscillation between the poles. According to studies, this is how things have been for hundreds of thousands of years.

We're Still Standing

A study of ancient volcanic ash found at key archaeological sites across Europe suggests that early modern humans were more resilient to climate change and natural disasters than commonly thought. The study, which appeared in PNAS, analyzed volcanic ash from a major eruption that occurred in Europe around 40,000 years ago. The volcano spewed so much ash that the event probably created winter-like conditions and a sudden colder shift in climate. Scientists have generally suggested that the spread of modern humans, and the decline of our cousins the Neanderthals, was primarily due to ancient volcanic eruptions and deteriorating climate conditions, but this study shows that stone-age man rolled with the punches and shrugged off the sudden shifts in climate. This new evidence flies in the face of modern predictions that a shift of a few degrees in average yearly temperature will decimate human populations world wide.

Sense and Sensitivity

One of the main problems with the “theory” of anthropogenic global warming is its reliance on rising atmospheric CO2 levels to force a global rise in temperature. This is predicted by climate change proponents by running large, complex computer models that imperfectly simulate the physics of Earths biosphere: ocean, land and atmosphere. Central to tuning these general circulation models (GCM) is a parameter called climate sensitivity, a value that purports to capture in a single number the response of global climate to a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide. But it has long been known that the Earth system is constantly changing—interactions shifting and factors waxing and waning—so how can a simple linear approximation capture the response of nature? The answer is, it can not, as a new perspective article in the journal Science reports.

Crank of the Week – September 3, 2012 – Barack Obama

In his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention (DNC), sitting US President Barack Obama has evidently extended the powers of the executive branch to include acts of nature. According to the Democrat candidate, he will not only stop the heating of the planet but voting for his reelection will “do something” about droughts, floods and wildfires. Looks like Barack has progressed from narcissism to megalomania—talk about moving forward!

WSJ Poll On Solar and Wind Power Subsidies

Should solar and wind power be subsidized? That is the question being asked by a current Wall Street Journal (WSJ) public poll. Generous funding from the federal government has led to explosive growth in US wind and solar power installations. Lost among the election year hoopla is the fact that many of those subsidies are set to expire soon unless Congress acts. Here is an opportunity for you to express your preference by voting online.

Where Did All The CO2 Go?

The subject of human carbon dioxide emissions and their build up in Earth's atmosphere is at the center of the anthropogenic global warming controversy. It cannot be denied that humans produce CO2 in large amounts, both from burning fossil fuels and from land use changes. This has led to much gnashing of teeth and renting of garments by excitable ecological doomsayers, but there is something they do not mention: at the same time humanity is spewing forth carbon, nature is busily sucking up that carbon and storing it away. A new analysis of the carbon cycle has produced an unexpected result—not only is the absorption of carbon continuing unabated it has actually expanded. The latest scientific tally indicates that since 1959, approximately 350 billion tons of carbon have been emitted by humans to the atmosphere, of which about 55% has been reabsorbed by the land and oceans.

Guest Editorial – An Interview With Energy Economist James Hamilton

Nowadays the energy picture is confusing at best as the more information we are shown the more blurred our vision seems to become. Mixed messages, poor reporting and a media hungry to sensationalize anything it thinks can grab a headline have led to many wondering what the true energy situation is. We hear numerous reports on how the shale revolution will transform the energy sector, why alternatives are just around the corner, why advances in oilfield extraction techniques and new finds will help to lower oil prices. Yet no sooner have we read these rosy reports than we are bombarded with negative news on the Middle East, on why alternatives will never compete, on peak oil and declining oil production.

The Mysterious Oxidant X

With the IPCC getting ready to churn out yet another frightening report based on consensus science in 2013, it is interesting to note that many things have changed since the previous report (AR4). For example, oxidation is a major factor in atmospheric chemistry and can impact many environmental issues: stratospheric ozone loss, acidification of water and soil, air quality, cloud formation and, naturally, climate change. In the AR4 report the only atmospheric oxidation factors included were ozone (O3), the hydroxyl radical (OH) and the nitrate radical (NO3). In a recent scientific report, measurements from a Finnish forest revealed a previously unknown atmospheric oxidant that promotes production of sulfuric acid—one of the main precursors for the formation and growth of aerosol particles and clouds. Scientists are still unsure what this mysterious chemical compound is, they refer to it as oxidant X.

Karakoram Rising

Another group of researchers has weighed in on the continuing scientific scuffle over whether the Himalayan glaciers are melting. A letter to Nature Geoscience reports that the Karakoram glaciers, a part of the greater Himalaya north of the actual Himalaya Range, are actually gaining mass. Outside the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, the Karakoram is the most heavily glaciated part of the world, containing nearly 3% of the planet's total ice area. But because they are so large, difficult to get to and dangerous to travel on, they have not been measured by conventional survey methods. Scientists have instead, been relying on satellite measurements, whose accuracy is now called into question. This impressive new study says that the Karakoram glaciers are not only not shrinking, they are accumulating enough ice each year to cause a slight decrease in ocean sea-level.

America's Corn Hole

Most Americans have noticed that the price of gasoline at the pump has started to rise again. Gasoline prices have surged 30 cents since mid-July and now average $3.70 a gallon, higher than year-ago levels in 39 states. While some sources have blamed the recent refinery fire in California and others a rise in crude oil prices there is one hidden source of increasing fuel costs few are willing to mention—ethanol. Mandated by Congress to make up 10% of automotive gasoline, ethanol made from corn accounts for a quarter of recent fuel price increases while at the same time contributing to rising food costs and shortages world wide. Not satisfied with this astounding government largess, an unnatural alliance of eco-activists and big agribusiness is lobbying to raise the mandate to 15%. It is time for this blatant government kickback to end.

Earth's Climate Follows The Sun's UV Groove

That large changes in solar radiation can affect Earth's climate is widely accepted. However, the hypothesis of solar-induced centennial to decadal climate changes, which suggests feedback mechanisms in the climate system amplifying even small solar variations, has not found acceptance among orthodox climate scientists. The climate change clique would rather place their money on greenhouse gasses—human generated CO2 in particular. It is true that satellite-based measurements of total solar irradiance show that mean variations during solar cycles do not exceed 0.2 W m−2 (~ 0.1% of the Sun's energy output). It has also been noted that relatively large variations of 5–8% in the ultraviolet (UV) frequencies can occur, though how this could change global climate remained a puzzlement—but perhaps no longer. From studying a significant climate shift 2,800 years ago, a group of scientists have concluded that large changes in solar UV radiation can, indeed, affect climate by inducing atmospheric changes.

Rethinking Polar Bear Evolution

A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Early Edition on-line), is shaking up science's view of polar bear evolution. Previously, it had been suggested that the white bear of the north was a relatively young species that diverged from brown bears during the last glacial period. That glaciation started after the Eemian epoch (~125,000 years ago), peaking around 25,000 years ago. New genetic analysis pushes that estimated divergence back to 4-5 million years ago, though there seems to have been a significant level of interbreeding between the two species over time. Another important finding is that the polar bear population underwent a significant contraction around 500,000 years ago. According to this new information the polar bear has been around for much longer than previously thought, implying that it has survived many interglacial warm periods. In other words, those who think the polar bear cannot survive the shrinking of Arctic ice packs are dead wrong.

Crank of the Week – July 30, 2012 – John Kerry

Proving that he is the most consistently irrational member of the US Senate, John Kerry went to the podium on Wednesday to denounce anthropogenic global warming. Likening climate change to another 9/11 the liberal lemming of the Senate droned on, causing the American public to count their blessings that he was never elected president. Now the senior senator from Massachusetts, the state that gave us Teddy Kennedy and Barney Frank, has reaffirmed his claim to being the wackiest wingnut in American government.

Greenland's Oscillating Glaciers

Melting glaciers are once again in the news, along with the associated threat of rising sea levels. NASA satellites have reported wide spread melting across Greenland which has the climate change alarmists all atwitter. But the NASA satellites are providing data never before available, so it is hard to say if the summer melting pattern is unusual. Meanwhile, some 80 year old scientific data has revealed that this is not the first time that there has been a period of glacial retreat in Greenland. This formerly lost data shows that many land-terminating glaciers underwent a more rapid retreat in the 1930s than in the 2000s. Even more interesting is that the two periods of retreat were interrupted by a period of widespread advance from 1943 to 1972. Greenland's glaciers seem to be oscillating with a period of around a century.

Wolf In Coyote's Clothing

The coyote, also known as the American jackal or the prairie wolf, is a canine predator found throughout North and Central America. Ranging from Panama in the south, north through Mexico, the United States and into Canada the wily Canis latrans has been spreading into new territory in the Eastern US, filling a void left at the top of the food chain by the virtual extinction of the gray wolf. But these new coyotes are not the little dog sized creatures from the South West—the new coyote is larger, stronger and more aggressive than his ancestors. Well known as a master of adaptation, new studies over the past few years are now revealing how these relatives of wolves and dogs are evolving into a new top predator thanks to humans. They have expanded their diet to include squirrels, household pets and even deer. Supposedly, coyotes killed a 19-year-old female hiker in Nova Scotia in 2009. It seems that this new breed of predator is actually a wolf in coyote's clothing.

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