Archive for the ‘Geophysics’ Category

Non-Linear Cold Blob Rising Over North Atlantic

October 9, 2015

The reason life survived on Earth for so long, and blossomed into animals, and now mind, is that the planet is equipped with homeostatic mechanisms (homeo means similar in Greek, and stasis, standing still). However, those mechanisms tend to be geological.

Human civilization is now having an impact on the biosphere of a violence probably never seen before. The changes are faster than what geology, or even life, can accommodate.

Some will brandish the impact of the Yucatan asteroid, and claim that was worse; however that’s just a theory: the biosphere was clearly under stress at the time from the Deccan Traps eruptions, and had been under that stress for hundreds of thousands of years, if not millions. At its worst, the Asteroid was just the straw which broke the Camel’s back.

2015 will be the warmest year since the end of the Eemian, 115,000 years ago. So why are record low temperatures appearing just south of Iceland? Yes, record lows, lower than ever recorded.

While The Rest Of Planet Is At Record Warmth, Off Iceland, Record Colds Are Achieved!

While The Rest Of Planet Is At Record Warmth, Off Iceland, Record Colds Are Achieved!

That was fully expected, and a demonstration of Non-Linearity of the incipient global warming. A phenomenon is linear when it looks like a line. Global warming is not going up like a line, as some places are warming at a rate ten times higher than the average, and some regions are cooling (and some are cooling spectacularly, off Iceland and some seas around Antarctica, for reasons related to warming).

The Dryas events were extremely fast and pronounced cooling events which happened several times during the period 10,000 years to 15,000 Before Present. Some lasted around a millennium, others, just a century. They vanished as fast as they came. They are named after a tundra flower, the Dryas. In Scandinavia forests were replaced by tundra graced with Dryas (hence the name). In Britain, average temperature collapsed to minus 5 degree Celsius, and glaciers formed at elevation.

These spastic events of drastic cooling, while, overall, de-glaciation was going on, long remained a mystery. Overall, the great glaciation which had brought glaciers down to New York, was on its way out, the planet was globally, irresistibly warming. So why would temperatures collapse in some places around Greenland by 15 degrees Celsius? The solution to the Dryas events’ spastic glaciation riddle? The same as always! Warming is non-linear.

What’s the theory? The details are uncertain, but we know that the Gulf Stream (aka the North Atlantic “Conveyor”) shorted, literally: analyses of deep sea sediments have shown this. The conveyor sends an enormous current of warm tropical waters northward.

When the warm tropical waters become very cold between Iceland and Spitzbergen, they sink to the bottom of the sea, and head south. This sinking, plus the pushing by trade winds in the tropics, is what provides the energy of the Gulf Stream.

However, if the warm tropical waters are capped by a very cold, but light sweet(er) water lid, they will get cold early, and sink before Iceland. This is what happened in the Dryas events.

 And It Is Happening Again, Albeit On A Smaller Scale

And It Is Happening Again, Albeit On A Smaller Scale

Was it in response to a sudden influx of fresh water from Lake Agassiz and deglaciation in North America, and Greenland? Sudden freezing there would have removed the freshwater lid, hence the brutal switchback to warming after the brutal cooling. By the way, the sea level rising speed responded quickly, by a factor of three. After the typical Dryas cooling, oceanic rise rebounded to 18 millimeter per year right away (this shows that those who expect a slow rise of sea level rise are deluding themselves, or, more to the point, are trying to delude us!)

Nowadays a Dryas-like mechanism would have to rest on the melting of Greenland alone (that’s the only place with significant ice). This is, of course, insufficient, but summer 2015, cool and rainy over the northern North Atlantic is evidence that the effect is on. Scientific analysis confirms it. See: “Exceptional Twentieth Century Slow Down of Atlantic Ocean Overturning Circulation” (Nature, 23 March, 2015).

The exact nature of what is going on at this point is a matter of debate among experts. What is sure is that something is going on.

The Atlantic Conveyor Is A Subtle Thing, Yet Dominates Glaciation In The Arctic

The Atlantic Conveyor Is A Subtle Thing, Yet Dominates Glaciation In The Arctic

A similar situation beckons in Antarctica, where ice shield melting creates a freshwater lid all around which in turn freeze, extending the ice cap in the Austral winter.

When considering nonlinearity, subtlety and surprises are of the essence. This is true in physics, as it is in psychology, history, or politics.

And the morality in all this? The USA has played god. The European Union made a honest to goodness effort to reduce CO2 emission, while the USA, paying lip service to the opposite of what it was doing went right ahead, with its factory, the Plutocratic Republic of China, to use and abuse fossil fuels as never before.

So now what? Is god still American, as usual? At first it seems so: the USA started to frack massively and massive amounts of fossil fuels were extracted from the USA’s generous soil. When American companies tried the same in Poland, it failed: the underground god (Pluto?) did not cooperate: Polish soil is adverse to fracking.

Here comes the punchline: sea level has been rising fast along the Eastern seashore of the USA.  Actually, three to four times faster than the world average. That’s more than one centimeter per year.

Why? Imagine a traffic jam. Or rather a crash ahead: things come to a halt, cars, water piles up behind. Maybe the Washington politicians will soon have to learn to swim, and not just against the tide of world public opinion.

The USA is going to be punished with its own instruments. Meanwhile 20 countries formed the V20, a group of twenty countries whose existence is immediately threatened by global warming, although they caused it not.

A Two Degree Celsius rise of temperature is indeed way too much: nonlinearity is upon us. Evil is always nonlinear.

Patrice Ayme’

Science Too Mighty For Its Own Good?

June 16, 2015

The science section of the NYT has its cover article lauding a full professor at Harvard for spending her time demonstrating that the fossil fuel industry has influenced prestigious scientists who have “become merchants of doubt”. In other words, paid liars.

That the fossil fuel industry tells Americans how to think is an obvious, and therefore uninteresting, fact. The USA is completely in the grip of plutocracy, which spent handsomely to influence minds (although even Exxon admits human guilt on climate change). Saint Bill Gates can invest in the dirtiest things, including $1.4 billion in fossil fuels, and it does not make a dent in the reverence Bill gates’ gets. Worrying about Gates of hell does not put bacon on the table, indeed.

Shale Fracking Revolution: Sky The Limit, Watch Those Poles Melt

Shale Fracking Revolution: Sky The Limit, Watch Those Poles Melt

[This graph is pretty, but a bit old: 2006. If anything, thanks to the USA’s Shale Revolution, the production of fossil fuels has augmented, although the USA is now lowering its CO2, thanks to… CH4… from fracking. The graph above ought to be interpreted RELATIVELY: the true CO2 emissions according to Wikipedia are four times greater (34 Gt), and according to me, even the CO2 EQUIVALENT TOTAL is six times greater, up to 50 Gigatons per year.]

However the fossil fuel industry in Europe has admitted that fossil fuels are slowly cooking the biosphere. Some of these European companies which admits human guilt about fossil fuel are major investors in carbon free energy generation. France is scrambling to finish by September the world’s largest Solar PhotoVoltaic plant. Machines install 7,000 panels, each day. In the end the plant will have one million panels, on 250 hectares, and produce 300 Megawatts (a third of a big nuclear reactor). The real cost is as cheap as the (subsidized) fossil fuel industry.

On the way to a nuclear future, Solar PhotoVoltaic happened…Polls show 69% of Americans are worried about climate change, a rise. Maybe people are more anxious doing away with the threat of climate change, now that a clean, cheap solution is at hand. Thus they allow themselves to get more worried about it.

The same Science section has an article on scientific fraud: it’s on the rise. Or, at least observation of it as on the rise. Science, Now Under Scrutiny Itself:

“The crimes and misdemeanors of science used to be handled mostly in-house, with a private word at the faculty club, barbed questions at a conference, maybe a quiet dismissal. On the rare occasion when a journal publicly retracted a study, it typically did so in a cryptic footnote. Few were the wiser; many retracted studies have been cited as legitimate evidence by others years after the fact…”

So scientific fraud, as I have long said, is a problem with science itself. That Copernic, rather than Buridan, is attributed the heliocentric revolution, is a problem with how we think that the mind works. Buridan’s main insight, impetus, was attributed to Newton, thus messing up what is the proper epistemology.

“…an increase in retractions that has alarmed many journal editors and authors. Scientists in fields as diverse as neurobiology, anesthesia and economics are debating how to reduce misconduct, without creating a police-state mentality that undermines creativity and collaboration.

“It’s an extraordinary time,” said Brian Nosek, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, and a founder of the Center for Open Science, which provides a free service through which labs can share data and protocols. “We are now seeing a number of efforts to push for data repositories to facilitate direct replications of findings.”

But that push is not universally welcomed. Some senior scientists have argued that replication often wastes resources. “Isn’t reproducibility the bedrock of science? Yes, up to a point,” the cancer biologist Mina Bissell wrote in a widely circulated blog post. “But it is sometimes much easier not to replicate than to replicate studies,” especially when the group trying to replicate does not have the specialized knowledge or skill to do so.”

Indeed. It’s the difference between correcting an already written text, and starting from scratch.

What we believe to be really true, and demonstrably so, is science. However that’s now very important, so important that it gets polluted by politics, big time. And it did not start yesterday. As the “New Horizon” probe is approaching Pluto, it does this thank to… Plutonium, naturally enough. However, space exploration is stalling in part because such Plutonium generators are not made anymore (the last one was used by the Franco-American Curiosity rover). Just because of Plutonium-phobia (not to be confused by highly desirable plutophobia).

Meanwhile, probably what is the USA’s most prominent characteristic that made it the world’s richest nation is again revealed: the USA is (again!) the world’s greatest oil producer, surpassing both Russia and Saudi Arabia. The graph is striking: the old oil production peaked at 9.1 million barrels a day, and now it has barreled through the old record, to average 11 million barrels a day in 2015. Is Pluto generous with its servants?

Patrice Ayme’

Geography Is Destiny

January 21, 2014

Abstract: The vastly different geographies of the USA and Europe explain many things, and seem to require greater variety of behaviors than observed. Or how geographic destiny can lead both to exploitative ecstasy and conservative futility.

***

Many highly educated Europeans who migrate to the USA affect contempt for the old continent. That alleviates their remorse. Indeed they earn higher incomes in the USA’s jungle, most hospitable to the most educated (as long as said education can be sold!).

This weekend the New York Times revealed that the salary of Medical Doctors in some medical specialties average above 900,000 dollars, nearly twenty times the average family income in the USA. It’s of course just the tip of the iceberg. One of the insurance executive Obama has put in charge of covering the uninsured with his “philanthropy” earned more than 100 million dollar last year. That makes him of great counsel at the White House.

This is of course inconceivable in Europe. Something also inconceivable in Europe is the richness of North America.

Oil & Gas Shales Everywhere, That’s Smart!

Oil & Gas Shales Everywhere, That’s Smart!

But then so is the fact that one citizen of the USA out of six has no health insurance. That means one out of six citizens show up to the emergency room only when the cancer has grown too big, or the heart has failed too much.

Both facts are related. Abusive exploitation brings elation to the exploiters, desperation to the exploited. If the elation can leverage more power than the desperation, the exploitation goes on.

Sometimes, it’s the land that gets exploited. Fracking is devastating giant regions of the USA, but it does not matter, because the USA is giant. The USA is nearly the same surface area as Canada, the world’s second largest country (much of Canada is hopelessly frozen wastes, though). Nobody cares about what is going on in remote places of the Dakotas, Wyoming or Texas.

Fracking Near Riffle In The Rockies, Colorado: Where Is Everybody?

Fracking Near Riffle Rockies, Colorado: Where Is Everybody?

Wyoming is actually slightly larger in area than Great Britain (253 K square kilometers versus 243 K) however its population, about 550,000 people , is less than 1% of Britain’s 64 millions. Thus fracking in Kent does not compare with making a lot of pollution roughly anywhere in Wyoming.

The European Union, with a bit more than half a billion inhabitants, is not even half of the area of the USA, with roughly 320 million. Even more strikingly, the population of the USA is actually concentrated in less than half of the country. Many states in the USA are mostly empty, although many of these have a wonderfully temperate climate.

India, with more than three times the population of the USA, is a third the area. So about ten times the density. There again the density is not even at all, and the resources vastly inferior (but for… Thorium, hence the Indian Thorium program.).

At this point the economy of the USA is lifting up, because the energy production of the USA has been skyrocketing (both the energy used inside and the one sold outside, such as coal). This is deliberate. Any American business publication worth its salt, explains that the strategy of the USA is to render energy production cheaper, and more profitable, no holds barred. Obama’s EPA cracks down on coal’s pollution to better encourage its exports, pushed by fracking.

After all, as I have long explained, it’s the exploitation of oil in the USA, starting in the mid nineteenth century Pennsylvania,  that was perhaps the major advantage of the USA.

(Without Texas oil, generously provided by his plutocratic friends, Hitler would have been incapable of invading in Spain with Franco’s army, and his fascist helpers. That used to amuse Adolf a lot. He lost his sense of humor on September 3, 1939. Then he declared he would only wear a drab grey tunic until the war was won.)

Fracking brought the cost of natural gas in the USA down to one third of the world’s price (gas is dangerous to transport by ships, so it mostly stays in the USA). Displaced USA coal production is massively  sent to gullible Germany (and soon, China).

Of course, lots of methane leaks. Measurements show that the powerful greenhouse is smothering the southern USA, and thus, the planet. But there again, and that’s left unsaid, is that a mighty greenhouse would advantage the USA… Or at least that’s what USA strategists apparently think. In their stupidity, they see that most of frozen Alaska (more than a third of the EU’s area) will become balmy, and that war has always advantaged the USA. They forget little details, such as Florida under water, and California roasting (greatest drought ever unfolding there, second year in a row).

Last year, the USA added the equivalent of four nuclear reactors, in solar photovoltaic power alone.

All of this will have an effect. Meanwhile, propelled by all this energy, the population of the USA augments by three million a year. (Never mind if the death rate related to childbirth in the USA is nearly thrice that of the EU: pediatricians are the worst paid doctors in the USA.)

To not become completely irrelevant, powers such as the EU will have to use different energy strategies. However, at this point, it has just been all about conservation, and that maybe the main trouble of Europe’s economy.

Let me repeat slowly: the rise of man has been the rise of what I call AWE, Absolute Worth Energy, the energy at disposal to effect a worthy task. A related, but grosser notion, the energy at the disposal of any single human being has constantly augmented(The easiest way to do that is simply to produce more energy, overall; that proved difficult in the Late Roman empire, or 1300 CE Europe).

To diminish the AWE is just impoverishment. To augment the AWE without augmenting energy production is difficult, yet this is what Europe has chosen to do. It becomes outright impossible without new technology. The Photo Voltaic effect discovered around 1830 by a French physicist is new. But not wind and water mills, which were already central to the European economy in the Middle Ages.

Thus it is astounding that Europe does not have active research and development in, say, Thorium reactors. Just digging giant holes in Germany while scrapping Appalachian mountains to feed German power plants with coal is assuredly not the key to a better future.

Much of the German error in behavior from 1871 to 1945 CE had to do with forgetting that Europe was not the USA, thus not realizing that behaviors that had proven profitable in the New World would not prove so in the Old Continent. In a way the same sort of error is made to this day. This time, it’s not about killing the Indians, but, rather, about living like Indians. Squeezing one’s belt can go only that far.

Patrice Aymé