Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Changing Times

During the 3 days that followed 9/11, all the planes were grounded in this country. During those 3 days, scientists analyzed the effect of the absence of contrails from airplanes in the climate, and realized the effect was not only measurable, but beyond anything expected. The temperature difference between days and nights, a value that is normally fairly stable, increased during those 3 days, and decreased back after.
Pollution particles (such as in contrails) decrease daytime temperature by reflecting the Sun heat, and increase nighttime temperature by reflecting heat loss (infrared) back to Earth.
We can expect that over a longer time, we would also see an increase in Summer temperatures, as well as a decrease in Winter temperatures.

Since September, we are experiencing an unprecedented reduction in World oil consumption (and consequently a reduction in particles emission) due to the financial crisis, as can be seen in the dramatic drop in oil prices (from $140 to $40 a barrel).

Is is a coincidence, then, that while we are experiencing one of our coldest winter, Australia is struggling with an unusually hot summer, experiencing one-in-a-century forest fires?

We can expect hot summers and cold winters in the coming years. Summer heat could become a real problem for many parts of this country, as it was in Europe in 2003 (50,000 deaths). If the electric grid cannot keep up with increased demand from air conditioners, we can expect the worse.

Temperate coastal areas such as the PNW would fare a lot better than the rest of the Nation, and could see an influx in population in the coming years.

It could take up to 20 years to see a reduction of greenhouse gases in the upper atmosphere, finally reducing the greenhouse effect. During those 20 years, a lot of changes may occur that could be irreversible.

Monday, April 6, 2009

What will I tell my Grandson?

Essay I wrote in mid 2007 on an older website:

I will be grandpa in 3 months.
As this event finds its way into my mind, some memories of my childhood, memories of my gransparents I didn't even know I had, are resurfacing from my subconscious.

My grandpa had a small homestead farm. I loved it when my parents would take me to visit him. He had ducks, chickens, goats (they were smart and fun) and a pig, a big fat dirty pig (our favorite of course). The farm animals were fun and dociles, but I prefered going in the fields full of wild weeds, hearing the bees buzzing around. There was an incredible amount of different kinds of bees, going from one flower to the other. And there was a pond (from a WWII bomb) where I could watch the frogs. At night, they would sing, and it was really nice to see the stars, watch the bats, and listen to the frogs. These are fond moments of my early childhood (I was less than 10) that still bring tears to my eyes.

I don't have ducks and goats and pigs to show my Grandson, so I hope he will like the frogs and the bees that visit my yard.
I hope they will still visit my yard. Will they?

Instead, I may find myself pollinating my fruit trees by hand, with a small brush, flower by flower. My grandson may want to help me. So I will have to explain to him that the trees make flowers first, then the flowers become apples, cherries and peers. But for that to happen, we must mix the pollen from one flower to the other. The tree can't do it himself, we have to help him.
If my granson is curious, and I am sure he will be, he may ask "How come the tree can't do it himself?".
So I will have to tell him that the fruit trees developped a companionship with small insects we called bees. The bees would feed on the nectar at the center of the flowers, and in return, they would mix the pollen between the flowers, so that the flowers would become fruits. The bees pollinated millions of trees, allowing them to produce billions of apples, cherries, and other fruits that we would eat. The trees made their flowers colorfull so that the bees new where the nectar was.
The bees were very good to the trees and to us, but one day, they started to disappear. Hundreds, thousands, then millions of bees disappeared. Now they are gone, and we have to help the trees make the fruits.

[ Colonie Collapse Disorder ]

If my grandson comes to visit me on a Spring night, we would see the stars and watch the bats. But I would miss the frogs singing. So I would have to tell him that we used to hear the frogs singing in the spring nights. Now watching the stars and the bats without hearing the frogs singing, it's like watching a movie without the sound.
The frogs were very good to us. We even used them to make medication for sick people. Every region had its own kind of frog, they were very different, their songs were different too.
I will have to tell him that one day, the frogs started to get sick, and disappear all around the world.
Now most of them are gone, and when Spring comes, we miss the songs of the frogs.

[ Chytrid Fungus ]

So my Grandson may eventually ask:

"So Grandpa, if the bees and the frogs were so good to us, why did they go, why didn't we help them?"


Update April 2009: My Grandson is now almost 2 and a joy in my life.

Regarding bats, well, they may be gone soon as well:


Now if frogs and bats populations crash, we will have an explosion of the insect populations, since bats and frogs are their biggest predators. Worrysome!

Oil Depletion will accelerate Global Warming

Essay I wrote in early 2007 on an older website:

During the 2 days following September 11th, the absence of air traffic allowed scientists to analyze the effect of pollution from airplanes (or lack thereof) on the US climate. They found that the absence of particules usually released by airplanes actually increased US temperature variations during these two days (day-night variations).

While air pollution increases temperatures (greenhouse effect, producing global warming), the release of particules consequent to that pollution tempers that increase (this is also known at global dimming).

[ Global Dimming on Wikipedia ]

In other words, we are not seeing the effect of golbal warming today, we are only seeing the difference between global warming and global dimming. Once global dimming receeds, global warming will go into high gear.

September 11 showed us that it takes less than 3 days for global dimming to take effect (particules released in the air will reduce sun light on Earth in the following days).
We also know that it takes ~ 20 years for global warming to take effect (the time the greenhouse gases go into the upper atmosphere) and even about 50 years for the ocean temperature to be affected (due to its mass).

What we have today is the warming from pollution 20 years ago, tempered by the dimming from today's much higher pollution.

During the beginning of the oil depletion phase, while the consequences of a frantic consumption of oil and coal at the peak will be slowly accelerating warming (20 to 50 years lag), the progressive reduction of particules in the atmosphere (due to oil depletion - we will be using less fossil fuels) will also increase warming.

During the 20 first years of the energy descent, we will have two events compounding their effects on the climate.

If you are already living in a hot place, MOVE!!!


Global Warming is a lost cause

Essay I wrote in late 2006 on an older website:

Global Warming has being announced more than 100 years ago.

1904: Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius was, according to NASA, "the first person to investigate the effect that doubling atmospheric carbon dioxide would have on global climate."

Before that, it was said that if we continue using fossil fuel, we will experience temperatures "never experienced by humans before". I think it was said in the late 1800, but can't find reference to it.

So despite a very long prediction, and documented increase is CO2 - as predicted, a sound scientific analysis, and a worldwide consensus, it is still debated and explained through most unreal ways today. While it is now happening in the most obvious ways, it is still denied, sometimes forcefully.

The astonishing oblivion of people, at all levels of education, is the real mystery, one that future generations will likely look back at with awe and disbelief.

So, why is there so much resistance to what should have long ago been accepted and taken care of? Al Gore puts it in a way that I believe explains it very accurately. The title of his movie is the best that could have being found to explain global warming, and how people react to it: An Inconvenient Truth.

If we want to address global warming, we will have to drastically change our way of life. A lot of things will have to go. The more you look at it, the scarier it becomes. So most people will at some point plunge their head in the sand, so as to continue living the so indispensable indulgences that modern life (or more accurately, cheap oil) has brought to us, because it is simply too inconvenient to think otherwise.

The most unreal explanations will be acceptable, so that the inevitable can be ignored.

Where one starts to understand that global warming is a lost cause is by looking at another issue that should also have raised red flags long ago: Peak Oil. Here too, an incredible oblivion seems to have contaminated the mind of most people, whatever their education. Those educated enough to understand the issue will quickly raise the cornucopian solution of an imminent scientific breakthrough solving our energy problems. Fusion being the most cited "solution".

Even geologists that have spent their lives working for oil companies (the most famous being Hubbert) are ignored when they tell us we have a big problem. Here too the most unreal explainations are accepted against the warnings of professionals so as to continue the instant gratification dream.

So what is the point of this?

My point is that fighting for global warming is a lost cause. Global warming will be stopped by oil depletion. Of course it will be too late, the climate will already be affected, and will continue to change for some time after oil has depleted. Peak oil will also be taken care of by oil depletion. I mean by that that we will continue to use (and fight and die for) oil until there isn't enough. And then we won't be ready for what will happen. Then the changes that could have being voluntarily made, will be painfully forced on us.
We will not get ready for oil depletion, until it has hit us in the face, in a cold winter, or a summer heat wave killing millions (I say millions because the 15000 deaths in France in the 2003 heat wave were still not enough, so I guess millions deaths are what people are waiting for).

I have finally accepted that nothing will be done until we are forced to by events. I am preparing myself and my family as best as I can (I made my action plan, you should make yours). There are many things I can do nothing about, so I focus on what I can. Every little action is a step in the right direction.

It doesn't matter how much one can contribute. I just want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.