Monday, 3 August 2020

Joined up government - a waitress speaks.

Her Indoors and I ventured out for breakfast yesterday.

The waitress asked us to download their chain's app so that we place our orders online, and returned a few minutes later to take our orders anyway. Which was a good start.

She also asked one of us to do the track-and-trace nonsense. Her Indoors duly did it (and entered her real name and address, duh), but that was pointless too because the waitress didn't actually ask for confirmation that either of us had.

I showed the waitress the other apps which Playstore recommended after I'd downloaded the restaurant's app, which were all stuff like "how to count your calories", "fitness tracker" and so on, which I found quite chucklesome.

She said that nothing made sense any more. Her restaurant was doing the "eat out to help out" offer, starting today (i.e. tomorrow at the time this happened) but at the same time, the government was telling people not to socialise too much and doing the usual anti-obesity propaganda, the latest iteration being telling fat people that they are more likely to die if they catch covid-19.

I agreed of course, and gave her the counter example of long distance flyers being hit with higher Air Passenger Duty but getting money off alcohol and tobacco in the duty free shops before they board.

(I then deleted their app again, seeing as I didn't need it.)

A survivor from a parallel apocalyptic universe speaks...

From the BBC:

A new campaign called "Badvertising" is demanding an immediate end to adverts for large polluting cars...

Andrew Simms, one author, said: "We ended tobacco advertising when we understood the threat from smoking to public health. Now that we know the human health and climate damage done by car pollution, it’s time to stop adverts making the problem worse. There’s adverts, and then there’s badverts, promoting the biggest, worst emitting SUVs is like up-selling pollution, and we need to stop."

I've no sympathy with people who drive unnecessarily large vehicles (whether gas guzzler or SUV, it's all just conspicuous consumption and a pain in the arse for pedestrians and people in sensibly sized cars), but I doubt that an advertising ban is going to make the slightest bit of difference.

The car manufacturers probably won't care too much. The main purpose of advertising is to retain market share and not increase the size of the overall market. So it's an arms race and an advertising ban is a straight cost-saving.

But it gets funnier. The Stigler, on Twitter, asked:

Andrew Simms? The bloke from NEF who was saying we only have 100 months to save the planet from irreversible climate change back in 2008?


Sunday, 2 August 2020

More climate-related fun

1. Those experiments with a container filled with CO2

These date back to Eunice Foote and later John Tyndall in the 19th century. There are plenty of videos on YouTube. They fill one container with normal air and one with CO2 and expose them to sunlight or some other bright light. Inevitably, the one filled with CO2 warms considerably more.

Their conclusion: CO2 causes global warming, and it does this by absorbing radiation.

[Most of these experiments are fundamentally flawed;
- even if they prove that a 100% CO2 atmosphere (or air with 1% or 10% CO2) would be warmer than normal air, that is not relevant, what is relevant is whether an increase from 0.04% to 0.06% would make a measurable difference.
- apparently, it only requires a small amount of CO2 to block all the infra red anyway, and we are way past that point. Any more than that makes no difference. But he does a lot of stuff for the BBC, so he draws the opposite conclusion.
but let's gloss over those flaws. There is clearly a difference.]

There are actually four effects here, all pretty much undisputed:

1. CO2 absorbs and re-emits more infra red that N2 or O2*.

2. CO2 has a lower specific heat capacity that N2 or O2, so for a given amount of energy coming in, CO2 will warm up more than normal air.

3. CO2 has lower conductivity than N2 or O2, so once warmed up, won't cool down as fast.

4. On a very large scale, the lapse rate would be higher if we had a significant amount of CO2 in the atmosphere (let's say more than 10% CO2) because a its lower specific heat capacity means a higher lapse rate. But this effect is irrelevant in the laboratory.

So what is the relative importance of the first three effects in these laboratory experiments?

I stumbled across a write-up of a cool classroom experiment. Instead of filling one container with CO2 and one with normal air, they filled one with CO2 and one with argon.

CO2 and argon have a similar molecular/atomic mass, higher than normal air (44 and 40, compared to 29). At room temperature, they have a lower specific heat capacity than normal air (0.846 J/g/K and 0.5203 at constant pressure, compared to 1.010); similar conductivity, lower than normal air (16.8 mW/m K and 17.9, compared to 26.2). The only major difference is that argon is mon-atomic, so completely unaffected by infra red and CO2 can absorb/re-emit some infra red wavelengths.

The results were that the two gases warmed more or less identically under a bright light, thus ruling out effect 1 (infra red absorption) as relevant. But the experimenters didn't want to lose their jobs, so they softened the conclusion by saying that the increase in atmospheric CO2 since the 19th might have caused a 0.3C surface temperature rise (i.e. 1% of the claimed Greenhouse Effect of 33C).

* Effect 1 is probably nonsense, or at least wildly overstated. For sure, CO2 can absorb and re-emit infra red, half of it downwards, by definition. But normal air warms up, and in turn it warms up things above or beneath it. Take a tray of ice cubes out of the freezer and put it on some polystyrene, what do you think will happen? It's all just "warmth" as far as the ice is concerned.

2. Climate sensitivity

From The Conversation:

The study, which was organised by the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) looks at a measure called “equilibrium climate sensitivity”. This refers to how much global average temperatures will increase by in the long-term following a doubling of carbon dioxide concentrations. It can be estimated using three main lines of evidence:

1. Temperature measurements made with thermometers from 1850 (when enough global coverage began) to the near present. By comparing temperatures, CO₂ levels and the effect of other climate drivers in the past and present, we can estimate the longer-term changes.

2. Evidence from paleoclimate records from the peak of the last ice age 20,000 years ago, when CO₂ was lower than now, and a warm period around 4 million years ago when CO₂ was more comparable to today. We can tell how warm the climate was and how much CO₂ there was in the atmosphere based on the make-up of gases trapped in air bubbles in ancient ice cores.

3. Present-day observations – for instance from satellite data – and evidence from climate models, theory and detailed process models that examine the physics of interactions within the climate system.

That's not three lines of evidence, it's one at most!

Line 1 just assumes that CO2 drives temperatures, and skips the whole causation-correlation question.

Line 2 is cherry picking random dates and extrapolating from them and also has same weakness as Line 1.

Line 3 is partly just providing more accurate measurements for Line 1. The climate models and theories are in turn based on the same foregone conclusion, so this is just extrapolation based on questionably logic.

Extrapolations are always dodgy anyway. If you were 5' tall at age 10 and are 6' tall at age 20, it would be stupid to assume that you will be 7' by the age of 30. Interpolation is much safer, you can reasonably assume that you were about 5'6'" at age 15, give or take a bit for growth spurts etc.

Saturday, 1 August 2020

Once more unto the motherlode...

From Skeptical Science, another failed debunking which is so piss-poor that it makes whatever it is they are trying to debunk seem more plausible:

Over the last half million years, our climate has experienced long ice ages regularly punctuated by brief warm periods called inter-glacials. Atmospheric carbon dioxide closely matches the cycle, increasing by around 80 to 100 parts per million as Antarctic temperatures warm up to 10°C.

Undisputed so far.

Why do we have Ice Ages? To cut a long story short, the most likely explanation is that seemingly minor changes in Earth's orbit keep summers a bit cooler, so glaciers don't melt back in summer as much as they advance in winter. Glaciers reflect more sunlight back to space, which cools thing down further, and so on. Brrr, shit, Snowball Earth, half of everything dies.

Ice Ages end for the equal and opposite reason. From the mother lode:

Inter-glacials come along approximately every 100,000 years. This is called the Milankovitch cycle, brought on by changes in the Earth's orbit... The combined effect of these orbital cycles cause long term changes in the amount of sunlight hitting the earth at different seasons, particularly at high latitudes.

For example, around 18,000 years ago, there was an increase in the amount of sunlight hitting the Southern Hemisphere during the southern spring. This lead to retreating Antarctic sea ice and melting glaciers in the Southern Hemisphere.(Shemesh 2002). The ice loss had a positive feedback effect with less ice reflecting sunlight back into space (decreased albedo). This enhanced the warming.

That's all you need to know, really. [Something] has an effect, the opposite of [something] has the opposite effect.
What does this have to do with atmospheric CO2?

CO2 actually lags temperature by around 1,000 years. While this result was predicted two decades ago (Lorius 1990), it still surprises and confuses many. Does warming cause CO2 rise or the other way around?

As the Southern Ocean warms, the solubility of CO2 in water falls (Martin 2005). This causes the oceans to give up more CO2, emitting it into the atmosphere. The exact mechanism of how the deep ocean gives up its CO2 is not fully understood but believed to be related to vertical ocean mixing (Toggweiler 1999).

The process takes around 800 to 1000 years, so CO2 levels are observed to rise around 1,000 years after the initial warming (Monnin 2001, Mudelsee 2001).

So warming increases the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, and cooling reduces it for the equal and opposite reason. There's a significant time lag either way (also appears to be undisputed).

The answer to their question is therefore obviously that warming causes CO2 levels in atmosphere to rise, and cooling causes it to fall. That explains everything, job done, you'd think.
However, they answer their own question with "In actuality, the answer is both."

What? How?

The outgassing of CO2 from the ocean has several effects. The increased CO2 in the atmosphere amplifies the original warming. The relatively weak forcing from Milankovitch cycles is insufficient to cause the dramatic temperature change taking our climate out of an ice age (this period is called a deglaciation). However, the amplifying effect of CO2 is consistent with the observed warming.

It's strange that orbital changes are sufficient to trigger an ice-age (which is a feedback thin), but not strong enough to trigger the reverse (the feedbacks work in reverse). If you are going to do propaganda, then at least be consistent. They (whoever 'they' are) will have to add "falling atmospheric CO2 levels"' to the list of generally accepted reasons of why Ice Ages are as cold as they are and rewrite a lot of text books.

Which isn't beyond them, of course, but it all takes time to falsify.

Friday, 31 July 2020

Why a bit more CO2 won't make any measurable* difference to anything

From the motherlode:

The greenhouse effect works like this: Energy arrives from the sun in the form of visible light and ultraviolet radiation. The Earth then emits some of this energy as infrared radiation. Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere 'capture' some of this heat, then re-emit it in all directions - including back to the Earth's surface. Through this process, CO2 and other greenhouse gases keep the Earth’s surface 33°Celsius (59.4°F) warmer than it would be without them.

(This also means that the upper layers will be cooler than they would have been, they only mention that as an aside).

Proper physics is beyond them, but they don't even have a grasp of the weather forecasters' concept of Potential Temperature. That article is recommended reading. They show it diagrammatically as follows:

Remember - if the lapse rate is 6.6 C/km, then air which 1 km up and has an actual temperature of 25C has a potential temperature of 31.6C. If air at ground level has an actual temperature of 31.6C, then the two layers are in a neutral situation.


If the air has the following pressure-altitude profile, where the absolute temperature falls by 6.6C for each km of altitude (the observed lapse rate), it is in a neutral situation. Each layer of air is the 'right' temperature for that altitude, and no layer particular wants to move up or down:


If the air higher up is warmer and the air lower down is cooler (relative to the neutral situation), this is a stable situation. The warmer air is quite happy where it is, the cooler air is quite happy where it is. But this situation does not hold for long, because the lower layers will warm up and the higher layers will cool down (see article), re-establishing the neutral situation:


If the air higher up is cooler and the air lower down is warmer (relative to the neutral situation), this is an unstable situation. The cooler air will sink and the warmer air will rise until it is all mixed and the neutral position is re-established:

Why we can pretty much ignore CO2

We know that CO2 in an enclosed glass container in sunlight will warm up a bit more than normal air. This is because CO2 absorbs slightly more of the infra red, and more importantly, because it has a lower specific heat capacity, i.e. it takes less energy to warm CO2 by 1C.

The Alarmists say that having 'trapped' the warmth near the surface, the air lower down will be warmer and the air higher up will be cooler than it otherwise would be (loft insulation makes your home warmer and the loft space cooler).

OK, that's superficially plausible. But to believe that, you must also believe that air is locked in position, and that the warmer air near the surface (and the cooler air higher up) will just stay where it is.

You have to believe that infra red energy can bounce around in a certain volume of space and influence temperature regardless of how the medium which 'trapped' it behaves. This is supposed to be about Global Warming, i.e. temperature changes, so why don't we look at actual temperatures of actual things and see where they go, what they do?

Well of course the warmer air won't stay just hovering above the surface and the colder air higher up won't stay higher up. We now have an unstable situation. The warmer air will rise and the cooler air will fall, it all gets mixed until we are back in the neutral situation again. This will happen at the same time and at the same rate as any 'surface warming' and the two processes constantly cancel each other out, with no overall effect on surface temperatures.

* Clearly, if there is more CO2 in the air, the lapse rate will increase slightly (lapse rate = gravity ÷ specific heat capacity), warming the air at the surface and cooling the air higher up. But bearing in mind we are talking about an increases in CO2 levels of about 0.01% per century, the increase in the weighted average lapse rate is going to be immeasurably small. And we know that water and water vapour will moderate that even further.

Thursday, 30 July 2020

"Couple injured after being attacked by cow in the Yorkshire Dales"

Via @AmbushPredator, from The Yorkshire* Post:

The man and woman, aged in their 50s, were walking near Starbotton in Upper Wharfedale when the incident happened at 3pm on Wednesday. The Yorkshire Air Ambulance landed but was not needed and the couple were taken to hospital by road ambulance with cuts and bruises...

In May, an 82-year-old man from Lancashire was killed by cows when he and his wife, 78, were attacked by the herd while they were walking their dogs near Ribblehead Viaduct in the Dales. The woman was not seriously injured. The cattle had calves with them.

On July 19, a couple were 'trampled' by cows while walking through a field near Huggate in the Yorkshire Wolds. One had to be airlifted to hospital.

* Southerners please note, it is not pronounced York-sheer or York-shire, it is pronounced York-shuh, the emphasis in on the first syllable.

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Coronavirus - daily new cases v daily new deaths


There are lots of ways you can interpret that. I'm quite sure that some countries under-report and others over-report, but let's assume it cancels out and charts are a good guide to actual trends. There's a pessimistic and and optimistic way of interpreting anything, even something as grim as this.

1. Is the number of new cases really rising, as you would expect if R is greater than 1, or is the number of infections fairly stable, and the apparent increase is because they are testing more people?

2. Is this the start of the 'second wave' of deaths, or just the inevitable result of lockdowns being eased?

My slightly rosier view is to observe that the number of deaths in any week, while fairly stable, is falling as a fraction of new cases reported three weeks previously*. This might be because the virus is becoming less virulent, which is what such viruses tend to do (some faster than others); or it might be because hospitals are getting better at treating people; or it might be a bit of both. Whichever way, that's got to be A Good Thing.

* Assuming three weeks to be a typical lag between diagnosis and death. For example:

New cases March 28 - 51,000; deaths April 18 - 7,000; death rate = 13.7%

New cases June 20 - 180,000; deaths July 27 - 5,600; death rate = 3.1%

Weekly deaths - all causes - E&W - up to week 29

Data from the ONS.

I assume/hope that this will be pretty much the picture for the rest of the year i.e. a slight undershoot.

Sunday, 26 July 2020

Eunice Foote - 19th century Climatologist

From Wikipedia

Foote conducted a series of experiments that demonstrated the interactions of the sun's rays on different gases. She used an air pump, four mercury thermometers, and two glass cylinders...

Her own two-page write is up here.

1. She pumped air out of one container into the other and left them in the sun for a while. Result:

Decompressed air - 88 F
Compressed air - 110 F.

"This circumstance must affect the power of the sun's rays in different places, and contribute to produce their feeble action on the summits of lofty mountains."

Yes, that is a large part of the actual explanation for sea-level temperatures, which is the gravity-induced lapse rate. Also, common sense tells us, it is pretty hard to heat up a vacuum (there is nothing to heat up), so decompressed air must heat up less.

2. She filled one container with moist air and one with dried air and left them in the sun for a while. Result:

Dry air - 108 F
Moist air - 120 F

I'm not sure what to make of this, but in itself. The specific heat capacity of moist air is higher than for dry air, so this doesn't follow the pattern observed in 3. below. But this is pretty irrelevant in climate terms. What makes a big difference in real life is the latent heat of evaporation (which cools the surface) and the corresponding latent heat of condensation (which warms the air) and thus reduces the lapse rate and overall Greenhouse Effect (by about one-third). It would have been more realistic to have a container filled half with water and half with dry air.

3. She filled the containers with different gases and left them in the sun for a while. Result:

Hydrogen - 104 F
Common air - 106 F
Oxygen - 108 F
CO2 - 125 F

Well, yes, of course. What are the specific heat capacities of those gases (in the 275 - 300 K range)?

Hydrogen - 14,025 J/kg/K
Common Air - 1,006 J/kg/K (or possibly 1,014 J/kg/K)
Oxygen - 916 J/kg/K
CO2 - 832 J/kg/K

Rather unsurprisingly, her experiment shows that things which require less energy to warm up, warm up the most. As ever, 'back radiation' has nothing to do with it. We'd have to adjust this for the mass of the gas compared to the mass of the glass containers and the specific heat capacity of glass (assuming they warmed to the same temperature), but the overall picture is clear enough.

She goes off on a bit of a tangent: "An atmosphere of [CO2] would give to our earth a high temperature; and if as some suppose, at one period of its history the air had mixed with it a larger proportion than at present, an increased temperature from its own action as well as from increased weight must necessarily have resulted"

She is correct, but has the logic and magnitude wrong.

A lower specific heat capacity means a higher lapse rate. If our atmosphere were 100% CO2, the lapse rate would be approx. 2K/km higher (assuming relative humidity stays the same). The average temperature of the atmosphere can't increase as it is dictated by solar radiation. The average temperature is found half way up (approx. 5 km), so sea level temperatures would increase by approx. 10 K, and the temperature at the top of "lofty mountains" above 5 km altitude would fall.

But we would all have suffocated long before then.

In real life, we know that CO2 concentrations are likely to rise from pre-industrial 280 ppm to over 500 ppm this century, and quite possibly to over 600 ppm in the next.

If anybody can be bothered to work out the new average specific heat capacity of air will be when CO2 is 0.05% or 0.06% instead 0.028%, and then work out the new lapse rate (making some heroic assumptions as to whether and how much relative humidity would increase and moderate this) and the resulting impact on sea-level temperatures, then knock yourself out. Most calculators won't have enough decimal places to give a meaningful answer, and even if it does, the additional sea-level temperature will be within the margin of error of even the most accurate thermometers.


From this experiment, she stated “The receiver containing [CO2] became itself much heated — very sensibly more so than the other — and on being removed [from the Sun], it was many times as long in cooling.”

As a general rule, gases with a lower specific heat capacity are better insulators and cool down more slowly, so that's hardly surprising either.

"Runaway cow causes moo-hem"

From Birmingham Live:

A free-spirited cow brought trains on the busy Birmingham line to a sh-udder-ing [halt] during Friday morning's rush hour when it was spotted wandering along the tracks.

"Moo-hem" is one of the most appalling cow-related word plays I have seen for a long time. There's no shame in sticking to the safe ones like "moo-ve over".

I would have given them a bonus point for "sh-udder-ing halt", but they omitted the word "halt" from the opening paragraph.