Thursday, November 30, 2006

Orbiting Vaporizer Joe

____________________________________________ Ocean

Throughout history (indeed long before it) humans and animals and all of nature prospered in the relatively infrequent periods of global warming. The present Holocene warm period has enabled the rise of civilization -- and the evolution of climate scientists who are allowed to spend gobs of public money on global warming studies.

For millions of years the normal Earth climate has been an ice-age, with brief respites during interglacial periods. The temperatures of the ~100,000 year cold periods have typically been ~5C, while the warm periods of ~10,000 years duration had peak temperatures ~15C. During the cold periods glaciers covered much of the Earth and nature suffered dreadfully. Left to itself, it is hard to see how anything internal to the Earth could ever break the stable grip of the multimillion year ice-age.

Today we are doubly blessed due to the additional warming we are receiving from the solar activity. The important question is: how long will this nice warm period last?

The fragile-Earth theory has been floating around fertilizing research grants since publication of Silent Spring (1962) and The Population Bomb (1968). The Gaia genius (James Lovelock) is back in the news predicting “We are not all doomed. An awful lot of people will die, but I don't see the species dying out. A hot earth couldn't support much over 500 million.” Never mind that the earth has not been hot enough to be so dangerous for millions of years or that the UN climate guys are only predicting 3C rise over the next century. Never mind that what mankind really needs to fear is ice, not fire.

On the time scale of centuries, the best predictor of the future climate is the past climate. Before Christ was born there was a 500 year period of cold weather (BC700-200) when the Romans wrote of a frozen Tiber River, the Egyptians built dams to deal with the declining level of the Nile and glaciers advanced in Northern Europe. Then during the Roman Warming from 200BC to 600AD, Ptolmey wrote of year round precipitation, North Africa was wet enough to grow vast amounts of grain and central Asia experienced strong population growth. Christ was born, Christianity grew and the Roman Empire flourished. Warm = Good.

A major climate catastrophe ushered in the Dark Ages around AD440. Snow fell during the summer in Southern Europe and the trees stopped growing. John of Ephesus wrote the sun became dark and the darkness lasted for 19 months. In AD800 the Black Sea froze. Savage storms swept the world. Following the climate driven famines, plague devastated Europe. The bubonic plague killed 25 million people. Barbarian tribes from the East attacked Western Europe. Cold = bad.

During the Medieval Warming from AD900 to 1300, the Vikings colonized Greenland, wheat was grown on the Scandinavian Peninsula and wine grapes were grown in England and Newfoundland. Europe’s population grew 50% as food production increased. Overseas trade flourished. Chinese wealth peaked around AD1100 and then declined. Churches and castles were built in Europe by laborers who were not needed on the farms and thousands of temples were built in Southeast Asia. Warm = good.

During the Little Ice Age from 1300 to 1850, the winter temperature variability was as much as 50% more than during the 20th century. The climate was unpredictable. Storm surges drowned 300 thousand people in Holland and Germany. Glaciers advanced into Europe. In 1315, grain failed to ripen across Europe and there was widespread starvation. And then it got worse. Epidemics of typhoid, tuberculosis and diphtheria broke out. The Norse settlements in Greenland died. Food shortages killed millions in Europe and in China. Cold = bad.

Since 1850 we have lived in the warm phase of the 1500 year climate cycle. The global temperature now is about 1C warmer than in 1850 and about 3C warmer than the coldest time of the last cold phase (around 1650). Judging by the oft repeated history, we will warm another degree or so before starting to cool again in a couple hundred years. We need to enjoy the warmth while it lasts.

Increased sunlight and moisture, a longer growing season, and increased CO2 fertilization have meant substantially greater food production that will continue as the warming continues. We will have to export some of the increased Siberian and Canadian wheat crop to sub-Saharan Africa but that is easily doable in a global economy. Severe weather, driven globally by differentials between Polar and Equatorial temperatures, will decline. Storm surges, however, need to be managed better as sea levels rise. Hint to the New Orleans city planners.

Thus, whether you want to believe the IPCC predictions (3C temperature rise and 1-3 feet sea level rise by 2100) or the historical record (1C and 3-6 inches) mankind in the 21st century will benefit greatly from the climate change, with the proviso that we will need to manage food distribution and storm surges better.

Many generations from now the cold will return and those descendents of ours will have to deal with reduced crop yields and more severe weather. By then technology advances will make those challenges tractable. And so it will go, on a 1500 year cycle, until some few thousand years in the future when the ice age returns. Global temperatures will plummet by ~15C, with high latitudes getting ~40C colder. Canada and the Northern US (as well as Northern Europe, Russia, Argentina, etc) will be covered by ice sheets. People and food production will be squeezed closer to the equator. California and the Great plains will suffer centuries-long drought. Keeping warm will be one critical issue, getting enough food and water for 6 billion people to live will be another.

The renewal of ice-age conditions would render a large fraction of the world's major food-growing areas inoperable, and so would inevitably lead to the extinction of most of the present human population. If we hope to avert this icy death, “we must look to a sustained greenhouse effect to maintain the present advantageous world climate. This implies the ability to inject effective greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the opposite of what environmentalists are erroneously advocating.” (Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe, “On the Cause of Ice-Ages,” 1999)

The most effective greenhouse gas is water vapor and we have plenty of water in the oceans. What we need is a mechanism to get the water into the upper atmosphere in vapor form. The picture at the top shows an admittedly simplified solution consisting of a vaporizer in synchronous Earth orbit connected by a longish hose (not shown) to the ocean surface. The Orbiting Vaporizers will need to be equipped with husky pumps to draw the water up to the reservoirs.

Fred Hoyle estimates we will need on the order of 10 to the 17th power kilograms of water in the stratosphere to create a powerful greenhouse effect that would last for many months. Roughly we need to pump that much water vapor over a year in order to delay the ice age. The amount of water per hour per Orbiting Vaporizer is easy to calculate. What do you think about that? (Ps. My Orbiting Vaporizer is called Joe, after the vaporizer we used with the children. Calling it Joe made it kid friendly.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Helloooo Billy,

Sounds like you were earth and kid friendly long before the environmentalists who would lead us to believe they are the only ones who ever thought of such things. My family was earth and kid friendly also. We are also part of the group that knows better regarding 'global warming' without the deep understanding that you bring to it. (I bet there are millions out there thinking just like us.)



3:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Helloooooo Judy,

Oh, so it's the Christian conservatives that are the REAL environmentalists? "Earth and kid friendly" huh? And those evil scientists who conspire to make us believe in "global warming" don't really care about the earth or children. And you know better about global warming than the scientists? You don't know better than the scientists Judy. You're part of a group of people who will believe anything people in "authority" tell you. Stop with the diatribes about your "group" being so superior to actual climate scientists and the people who trust in them.


3:43 PM  
Blogger Bill Lama said...

Hey Ein'y,
You're accusing Judy of believing anything people in "authority" tell her? Sounds like the pot calling the kettle black. You believe in Algore - like believing in the bad tooth fairy - simply because he was a Clintonista.

4:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm investing in the orbiting vaporizer. However, my improved version overcomes a fatal flaw in your design. My system puts the pump at the bottom. Not only because of the weight saving, but, because it won't work if placed at the top. You may wire transfer my royalty payments.


4:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

More from the Max Planck Institute:These scientific results therefore bring the influence of the Sun on the terrestrial climate, and in particular its contribution to the global warming of the 20th century, into the forefront of current interest. However, researchers at the MPS have shown that the Sun can be responsible for, at most, only a small part of the warming over the last 20-30 years. They took the measured and calculated variations in the solar brightness over the last 150 years and compared them to the temperature of the Earth. Although the changes in the two values tend to follow each other for roughly the first 120 years, the Earth's temperature has risen dramatically in the last 30 years while the solar brightness has not appreciably increased in this time.

7:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The assertion about the so called dark ages is challenged with a very reasonable look at what actually went on during that time. See "The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success" by Rodney Stark.

Back to Bill's point. I have been in Switzerland at Mountain passes thatare now blocked by ice that were open during Roman times. In fact theRoman army used these passes to march over,some thing that would beclose to impossible these days. There were Global volcanic explosions that can be traced to these periods of no summers and sudden freezing. Bill's chronology agrees with
what I have read. There are the three cycles he mentions but there seems to be a geographical factor involved.

One thing I haven't seen is that the moving continents seem to play a major role in the occurrence of Ice ages. If the continents are jammed together and the Oceans circulate freely the Earth is warm and Ice Ages don't occur. Around 2 million years ago Central America arose cutting off the Pacific from the Atlantic. This factor aligned with the a fore mentioned cycles seem to set us up for the last series of ice Ages.

I note that the latest DNA evidence shows that during the last Ice Age humans were able to survive in only three small regions in Europe. Once thing started warming up human rapidly spread out from those regions. In
fact only in the last 20,00 years have human had the technology to
survive in very cold areas. So in Bill's words, it would appear the as far as humans go, Ice Age = bad.


11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Climate change skepticism, it seems to me, has a number of different sources. Firstly, there are what one might call arguments from common sense. It seems obvious that if meteorologists have trouble forecasting the weather three weeks from now, how on Earth can they claim to predict it three decades hence?

The answer to this, of course, is that scientists are forecasting not weather but average weather (i.e., climate). It is much easier to predict averages than individual values. The casino owners have no more knowledge than the gambler where the ball will fall on any particular turn of the wheel. But the owners know the averages are in their favor and can predict with mathematical precision the monthly take from each roulette table.

A second kind of skepticism arises, I believe, from a deep-seated psychological attitude towards the natural world. For most of human history, our ancestors knew themselves to be highly vulnerable to natural disasters and setbacks—floods, famines, plagues of locusts, and the like. The sense that Nature is big and powerful, and that we are puny by comparison, is rooted deep in the human psyche. So it is genuinely difficult for most people to believe that something they do as individuals—driving their SUV or turning up the air con—could possibly be having an effect on something as vast as the world's climate.
Yet this attitude, that humanity is dwarfed by its environment, is several thousand years out of date. Ever since the development of agriculture, we have been progressively adapting the global environment to our own ends, to the point now where it is estimated that human beings co-opt between 20 and 40 percent of the entire planet's net primary productivity.

There is a third reason why people reject the idea of man-made climate change. It is my observation that on the whole people tend to believe what is convenient to them. Faced with a choice between an awkward fact and a comforting fiction, most people will take the fiction any day. And global warming is certainly inconvenient. Just when we have finally freed ourselves from the tedium of tilling the earth and gotten nice and comfortable with a big TV, central heating, cheap flights to exotic destinations, and an armor-plated all-terrain vehicle for nipping down to the mall, along come some bloody scientists to tell us that we can't go on as we are and as we like doing.

I have a sneaking sympathy for those conservatives who seem to regard the greenhouse effect as an unwarranted interference with the workings of the free-market economy. But as a bit of a political conservative myself, I have always thought that the guiding spirit of conservatism was the determination to see the world as it really is, to cast away the rose-tinted spectacles. Global warming is nothing less than a fact, and it has to be faced.

In my experience, these skeptics of the third kind are much more prevalent in the USA than in Europe. I think this may be partly to do with a particularly American attitude to money. American rhetoric tends to present prosperity as the natural consequence of political freedom. Like democracy, it becomes a moral good in its own right. Anyone who seems to question the wisdom of unconstrained economic growth risks appearing un-American, if not downright immoral.
Taking the lead

But in my view, tackling global warming is extremely unlikely to damage the American economy. What's required is another industrial revolution. America is rather good at these. Britain led the first (coal and steam), but America has pioneered the rest (the internal combustion engine, telecommunications, computers). Each one only adds to our prosperity, and it will be the same once again.

But there is an important difference from previous industrial revolutions. This one requires political leadership; the market on its own won't do it. As an Englishman I am often impatient with the notion of America as "the indispensable nation," but on this occasion I think that it is. To combat global warming, the world desperately needs U.S. leadership.

7:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Bill!

Help me out here - I'm trying to sell this idea to a group of neighbors who are not really into the metric system of measurements, but they already own this type of vaporizer - and I want them to see how doable this really is. So I just basically say that, every year, we'll be pumping about 1.1 Million Billion Tons of Seawater up a head of 20 miles against a static pressure of about 45, 825 pounds per square inch. Okay, so a 20 mile long pipe and, - say, are these those hypersonic vaporizers? Because they generally loft any dissolved salts into the air while they are vaporizing the water - and given that this is Seawater with about 3% dissolved salts, won't that mean we are raining down 33,000 BILLION tons of salt on the planet every year? Oh! Oh! -- most of that............. yeah, most of that lands in the oceans, right? Okay. Okay! Now what else? Oh! Oh! -- I'm thinking extension cords - 20 mile long extension cords! Or do those come with the vaporizers?


8:58 PM  
Blogger Bill Lama said...

Details, details... I'm a big concept guy and you ask me for details. It's like when I was managing and the engineers wanted to know how my latest idea could possibly work. I'd say that it was my job to have the big idea, theirs to make it work. If that did not suffice, I'd fall back on "Assume non-conservation of energy." That always got 'em. So I'll leave it to you guys to figure out the tiny details. On the matter of the power cords, we'll just power the orbiting vaporizers with orbiting nuclear engines.

8:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In all I've read about the fall of the Roman Empire and the onset of the dark ages, I've never seen climate cited as a major factor. Of course, the freezing of the Tiber allowed the barbarians the swarm into Rome, but this freezing was evidently a regular event. The barbarians camped by the river and waited for it to freeze.

While the end of Roman technology, plagues, (and even weather) may have all contributed, the dark ages are usually attributed to the end of education.


9:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Norm you are right about the Dark ages.

During the 17th and 18th century, in the Age of Enlightenment, religion was seen as antithetical to reason. Because the Middle Ages (dark ages) was an "Age of Faith" when religion reigned, it was seen as a period contrary to reason, and thus contrary to the Enlightenment. Immanuel Kant and Voltaire were two Enlightenment writers who were vocal in attacking the religiously dominated Middle Ages as a period of social decline. Many modern negative conceptions of the age come from Enlightenment authors.

8:11 AM  

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