Sunday, January 4, 2009

Saturday Pick Points

Well this is another week where time has run away from me. Last week I had decided that Saturday Pick Points would be a quick run around some of the major sites that deal with the Climate Change issue just to keep up to date with some of the issues that pop up in that debate.

However I’m running late again, so we’re going to have to pretend that this is still Saturday, and here we go.

Let’s start off with Real Climate which only had a couple of posts this week. The first of these was a list of some of the major issues that cropped up in 2008. Perhaps the most intriguing refers back to a post in January 2006, where scientists found that living plants give off methane – which you may remember is a more ferocious greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Other than that, and the news of the demise of the video “Frosty the Coal Man”, there wasn’t really much constructive in the list.

The more recent post seeks to define the difference between what is weather and what is climate, in regard to a story on bird and butterfly species in The Independent. It points out, quite responsibly, that extrapolating single year events and personal experiences is not really a true measure of the nature of climate change.

Over at Climate Audit the season has also cut back on the number of posts.

For those unaware of the site, it examines the data that provide some of the underpinning to the predictions of global warming. In doing so it has had varying degrees of difficulty in laying hold of the original data from a number of the forecasters. This week has been no different with comments on the relative ease in getting data from papers in the Royal Society Philosophical Transactions, as opposed to the difficulty in getting data from the International Journal of Climatology articles.

Not that the Phil Trans data is totally transparent, but one of the fascinations of this site is the detective work that goes into analyzing the data that is obtained. And here there is a little puzzle solved on data from the beams of a church, built in 1689, which thus provides ring tree data from earlier times.

There is also an underlying debate in what initially appears to be an innocuous story about the Big Red Dog, but which actually goes into the true meaning of temperature measurements in 2008, and how the long term trends in temperatures in different places and layers are evolving, as one goes into the back story. A small warning, however, to understand the logic of the discussion you should know at least a little about statistics.

Moving to the Gristmill whose headline today is that Bill Richardson is out as Commerce Secretary, but which also notes that Edward Markey may take over the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which would be a significant change.

They have a story about the upcoming opening of a solar tower in Spain. This is where an array of mirrors focuses the sun’s rays to superheat water in the tower, and that is used to drive a generator. It is planned to generate 20 MW of energy at peak, and a smaller plant has now been in operation for two years. The overall program is designed to provide Seville with 300 MW of power (which is about what it uses) and to use molten salt as the “battery” to store power for night time.

They too have a “top ten”set of stories for 2008, leading off with the choice of personnel in the new Administration. And there are predictions from the JPL that it is going to rain more as a result of global warming (given that they are in Southern California where history is against them, I’m sure they’re hoping they are going to be proved right).

There is a significant amount of coverage of the failure of the ash dam in Tennessee, and the fall out from it, and they do have supportive coverage of Robert Rapier’s Top Ten Energy stories, which are posted to The Oil Drum.

And finally a quick trip to Anthony Watt’s site where today’s story is on the ominous quiet of the sun, relative to sunspots and a current rise in Neutron counts.

The site has been nominated as one of the Best Science Blogs of 2008. They have an interesting story from the Huffington Post that challenges Al Gore’s statements on Climate Change. The one key quote in it that I want to pull is one that I have been told by reputable scientists for a while
Carbon dioxide cannot absorb an unlimited amount of infrared radiation. Why not? Because it only absorbs heat along limited bandwidths, and is already absorbing just about everything it can. That is why plotted on a graph, C02's ability to capture heat follows a logarithmic curve. We are already very near the maximum absorption level. . . . . . . . Water vapor's absorption spectrum also overlays that of carbon dioxide. They cannot both absorb the same energy!
I expect that this is a precursor of the sort of coverage that will now come more frequently as the Obama Administration imposes their policies.

The site also provides some information from CO2 Science on recent studies in New Zealand which confirm the presence of a Medieval Warming period down there, based on the evidence from speleotherms (stalactites and stalagmites) . It finds another weather station, improperly sited because of nearby buildings, and notes the likely onset of another La Nina.

A peer reviewed paper is cited that shows that the Greenland ice cap is also getting thicker.

In other words folks there is a fair bit of evidence out there to suggest that the scientific basis for global warming is not yet settled, despite the election.

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