Archive for the ‘Climate’ Category

Robert Grumbine examines them in many of his recent posts. This might be good for engineers and physicists from other fields trying to get the basics.

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I just updated the blog title and again just watched the page and the blurb.

It’s when we start working together that the real healing takes place, … It’s when we start spilling our sweat, and not our blood.

It’s a quote of David Hume, my favorite philosopher. I haven’t read his books though. I was reading a Finnish translation of one but it seemed so tedious with the language that I couldn’t bother. So me favouring him is based on the works of others about him.

The quote reminded me of the conflicts that I’m witnessing. The subject line matter needs to be done. At the moment many parts of climate software seem to be science software – written by people in a hurry with little planning, and code that has seen different people adding bits and pieces here and there, making it a big mess. Fortran and supercomputers and all that. Well, most software is a mess. Twenty man years, said MT. That’s a small amount of money considering how much is at stake and even compared to the amount of huffing and puffing efforts around the subject. I am available.

What else needs healing and sweat spilling? Well, quite many things. Including stuff in my personal life.

There are lots of old (sometimes Fortran) code packages hanging around. Nuclear stuff, rocket trajectory calculations, rocket engine chemical/thermodynamics performance… You name it, anything a young man is interested in seems to depend on these archaic pieces of software. So there’s a lot of potential work here but it seems so big for just a lone person to do much on their own free time.

The blog title picture is just some hinge flapped NACA foils simulated with the vortex lattice method in QFLR5. That actually IS a free software project, mostly by Andre Deperrois and uses Mark Drela’s XFOIL for 2D calcs. In the picture, the front wing has NACA 4415 with 6 m span, 1 m chord, 25% chord 15 degree full span flap, and the tail is a NACA 0012 with 2 m span 0.5 m chord, 40% flap or elevator at -15 degrees. Flying at 5 degrees AoA (plus 4 deg to the front wing) and 18.9 m/s, lifting about 2000 N. Absolutely no guarantees about the results.

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However, the oft quoted the Himalayan glacier may be gone by 2035 is still not a realistic conclusion based on the recent ongoing significant retreat of the many still large Himalayan glaciers.

Glaciologist Mauri Pelto commenting in November 2009. What’s ironic is that the main subject of Nature’s Climate Feedback’s blog post was some random offhand claim of no global warming glacier melt from an Indian geologist that made headlines. And Mauri was complaining why something like that gets the headlines and not real methodically prepared papers.

So why is this non-peer reviewed Himalayan report by another worth commenting upon, when many very important peer reviewed papers on glacier change are ignored? A read of this Ramesh report indicates the widespread and significant glacier retreat. The report also notes that all the glaciers observed have negative mass balance. After observing the significant and widespread retreat and mass loss the author deems it to slow to be due to global warming, without any real analysis of the climate data or what could be causing the loss. This simply does not warrant our attention. However, the oft quoted the Himalayan glacier may be gone by 2035 is still not a realistic conclusion based on the recent ongoing significant retreat of the many still large Himalayan glaciers. Can we stick to covering better material?

He was proven not only doubly but triply right. IPCC, the Indian geologist and the media representative – all three could be observed not holding the ball at that instant in time and subject by the astute commenter. I remember reading that.

There are probably more mistakes in the IPCC reports that are yet to be found, that’s how it is. This one was pretty bad though. Though no matter the exact subject, there will be a gate on every possible subject in rapid succession for months until people are numbed to the whole word. It brings hits. 2035 Gate. Himalayagate. Glaciergate. Pachaurigate. Sad.

Also, William has more on how it is, or could be.

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Nuclear plants operate at only a few hundred degrees Celsius, so they don’t have very high thermal efficiencies. Thus only a small part of the nuclear energy is changed into electricity and most is lost with the coolant fluid, about two thirds. Could it be used for something?

Traditional coal plants have long given their waste heat for district heating (and some cooling in the summer too!). This “free” energy is distributed as hot high pressure water in large pipes. It works great, especially in dense areas. This reduces coal usage quite a bit if you compare it to heating with coal electricity, or oil usage if you compare it with heating with heating oil.

In Russia special nuclear power plants, especially for isolated cities included provisions for large amounts of district heating. Though this means that the plant needs to be quite close to the city for it to be effective. It’s not done in the west. Could it work in Finland?

The power company Fortum is probably building a third unit to the Loviisa power plant complex some 100 km east of Helsinki, and it’s proposing to Helsinki that the new unit could provide a gigawatt of cheap district heating for the city. But Helsinki at the moment owns its own power generation company, Helsingin Energia (Helen), and is sceptical of the idea. Helen’s coal plants provide the current district heating and there are rules about the maximum size of a plant in the grid – if over 40% of the district heat would be provided by one plant, when it went down for some reason., there could be a catastrophe.

A 100 km long very large hot water tube system might also be very expensive. There exists a roughly 100 km long  fresh water tunnel carved in rock, providing water to Helsinki from lake Päijänne, so there is some expertise regarding such large scale subterranean building.

Another way of thinking about nuclear heating is to generate normal electricity but use it to power a heat pump at the heating location. This can increase the heating power as much as five fold – ie 5 kW of heating for 1 kW of electricity. This requires no district heating pipe infrastructure but the heat pumps are expensive. They are becoming more common in less dense living areas though and are a good way to reduce electricity use if they replace direct electric heating. They also increase peaks since the five multiplier can drop to two when it gets much colder outside – because the temperature difference that the pump works against is larger.

Political ties

Helen is a very good business for the city and its profits lower the local tax rate quite a lot. Those fools in the neighbouring city of Espoo sold their own power company abroad, started playing in the stock market with the money and have lost quite a bit. (And that was before the recession!)

Helen is also a stakeholder in the Olkiluoto 3 nuclear plant that is being built in Eura, in Western Finland, they’ll use part of the electricity that will be generated there. The consortium leader, Teollisuuden Voima, is a competitor to Fortum.

There seems to be no love lost between Helen and Fortum.


Nuclear power plants have been proposed for city part heating, one was even in operation in Sweden. It was built securely inside rock, but it was shut down after a mishap. There were plans to put such a small nuclear plant in the Malmi northern suburb of Helsinki in the sixties or so, but that plan was cancelled. Also, in the past, the large Granö island in front of Helsinki’s east side neighbour Sipoo was charted for a nuclear power plant, but it was cancelled and in the end only Loviisa and Olkiluoto were built. Now that the western part of Sipoo has been grabbed by Helsinki, some have proposed to dust off the old plans and put a reactor on the island. 🙂 At one point when no plants had been built yet in the country, Inkoo, some 50 km west of Helsinki was also one of the possible plant locations. The pipes from there would have been easier. There already exist quite large power grid connections in Inkoo because an emergency coal plant is located there. It could be one compromise site for a small nuclear plant – far enough but not too far.

Sources: personal communications with various people, an article in Tekniikka and Talous (in Finnish) and Finnish Wikipedia on Finnish nuclear history and air heat pumps.

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Perhaps the biggest phenomenon from a western view has been the rise of China as a superpower.

Internet services and applications, terrorism and wars in the middle east, oil, global warming politics, are some of the big things as well.

What will 2010 see? Well, my bet is that energy will be a big part of it. Oil is limited and is getting more expensive, coal is not. But coal is bad in the global warming sense. The big coal powers USA, China, Germany, UK, Canada, Australia at least are probably just going to keep burning it and not care what it does to the rest of the world.

During the noughties, CO2 rose from about 365 to 385 ppm. If the decadal rate is constant at 20 ppm per decade, then 600 ppm, a doubling from 1950s levels will require 215 ppm more, or about 110 years. Of course, the decadal emissions rate is probably going to accelerate. Local climate change phenomena will come earlier than things like significant sea level rise but it’s harder to point out that greenhouse gases are responsible for them. A fascinating experiment, this atmosphere alteration.

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Richard Rood has a thoughtful piece written up on contrarianism, irrationality and disruption. It seems a bit naive for me but then again I don’t have much of the same experiences…

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A project you can partake here. Rewriting some NASA GISS temperature record code in Python at first.

I’d go further and say things like these should not be volunteer efforts… government codes for something important like this should be open (and GISS is) with people being paid to update and keep them in good shape. Hopefully they can take things like these as templates.

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Tim Lambert examines one of the specific fraud claims in the CRU code.

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And what it means in relation to tree ring proxies, by Hrynyshyn, reviewing a book.

That excerpt appears immediately above a graph that shows how temperatures inferred from tree-ring records since about 1850 (the “proxies”) are a pretty good match for actual temperature records derived from thermometers right up until the 1980s. After that, the tree-ring data begin to show lower temperatures than were actually recorded.

Just why tree rings no longer provide useful proxy data for temperatures is not known. There are several theories, many of which suggest that climate change itself is the problem. Trees no longer grow as they once did before the climate started changing so rapidly. But the point is, there is no question that tree-ring growth rates of the past — before we had thermometers — can serve as useful proxies for historical temperature data. They are much less useful now, but that doesn’t matter so much because we have actual temperature records. All of this was sorted out back in 1998. It’s not new, nor even particularly interesting, to anyone familiar with the science.

It makes sense but at the same time I’m a bit baffled by this – how do you calibrate then? If you assume the trees are behaving nowadays than before…

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Hack and get some climate researchers’ emails. Then point to some pretty reasonable stuff as evidence of a conspiracy if taken out of context.

It seems there are a few cases certain people latch onto.

There was a certain lousy paper pushed for publication in the journal called Climate Research. It was crap – the claims in the paper conclusions could not be justified by the data or methods presented in it. It was also written by known fossil industry funded frauds. It went through anyway because of a bad reviewer and editor, and actually was pushed as support for policy. Like pushing creation science somewhere in a weak journal so you can cite it as “peer reviewed”. Many other editors for the journal quit as a result. Read the story here, where “Clare Goodess explains the circumstances behind the resignation of half of the editorial board of the journal Climate Research”.

I do hope for more openness on the data and algorithms front. Of course if you’re a climate researcher and get your data only with personal agreements (from the data collecting scientists and institutions who might work under lots of constraints – these might not be the same people who make models or the temperature reconstructions from the data).

I don’t know about the FOIA (government information) requests… It seems bad that things have been withheld. On the other hand if you get so much FOIA requests just for posturing’s sake from certain people that you’re swamped by them, that’s unreasonable as well.

Then there’s the alleged “trick” to hide some cooling. AFAIK, this is just a known proxy issue where they are in error at some point and thus when you make some plots you don’t use that period but “hide” it.

Quite weird arguments.  The FOI one is the most serious looking to me, and others seem just fake.

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