Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Little Inconvenient Truth

It is early morning and the first light of dawn is stretching westward slowly pushing as it does the dark blanket of night. The brilliant dewdrops shimmering perched delicately on the spider’s web hold court to the spikes of golden rich hue of the rising sun. The stillness of the air, the coolness of the surroundings and the glory of nature all encompassing delight to behold. These vistas proclaim the wonders of the planet. Like the Snoqualmie falls in the northwest spilling their content into a fine mist and the rugged mountains of the affably known Rockies covered with the fairy snow dust of grandeur to the cascading waves rollicking over the sandy beaches of the Eastern Sea Board all enchant us, call us to vacation, remind us of times spent and hold us in their locket, forever yearning for more. It is another beautiful day for a walk through the woods and muse upon the wonders of this elegant planet.

The planet is a wonder a huge collective of stardust that made its elliptical circuit just far enough from the sun not to get scorched and just near enough for the warmth to grow an intelligence that lives and breeds and breathes and lives. This intelligence sometimes arrogant, and sometimes humble, sometimes cautious and sometimes reckless continues to enjoy the vast beauty.

Man is in equal parts lonely in thought and collective in spirit. He is enjoined by the fears of his limited knowledge and grazes at the outskirts of understanding. He is forever employing the world as it appears to him through his eyes and ears. His arrogance of self-worth seems prodigious and can easily surmount the greatest of all obstacles. His delight in his limited conquests gives him the rigor to question the health and well being of the beautifully self-sufficient planet called Earth.

Reductionism to the point of closeted intelligence that deciphers the meaning of little may not encompass the meaning of the large. Man nor his adjunct mechanical mind of computers cannot correlate the varying forces that conspire, cajole, breed, breathe, broil, boil and bubble the wealth of the daily day.

The dark clouds that form in the afternoon and then dissipate may very well climb to thirty-thousand feet and create a nasty thunder cell if but for the lift, the heat, the terrain, the surroundings, the mountains or hills or the adjoining lakes. It is indeed the butterfly wings that flutter and move the air that may initiate the cascade that would be a pleasant breeze or the sudden emergence of a rollicking tempestuous thunderstorm. In the winter the gliding fronts may conspire to reach an accord of whether the day would open its eyes with a beauteous covering of snow or the cold soggy rain drenched earth. This little understood cat and mouse drives the meteorologists crazy to the point of them looking out side their window and predicting the weather. This is the earth in its entire splendor and we humans are a small part of it. We are a species that have survived thus far through the raw innate civility of limited knowledge-based intelligence that we in our daily dialog fathom to decipher. It is this intelligence combined with that arrogance that brought us to the present and may lead us to extinction as the earth loses 3 species every hour based on fossil data. The vast landscape of 1.5 billion species lost through the intergalactic flight of mother earth.

It was one of these crisp cloudless, motionless mornings when it is good to be alive. A chance meeting as he sat on the recumbent log straddling the sides. His right leg in a cast from his recent fall and his left leg in a brace from his affliction with poliomyelitis, never one to complain about his health’s misadventures he quietly but rhythmically hit the log with a stone eliciting the echo within. Looking at him one would not know that the head that was covered with the fur-lined hat of a hunter covering his ears had received an MD, a double PhD in biology and atmospheric physics. He was the recipient of many awards from the scientific community, but sitting there, knocking on the wooden log for some answers that would never come, he looked like a forty-something homeless person.

                                               Beautiful and Rugged Antarctica

“I love this time of the year and day. It is rejuvenating.”
“Uh huh.”
“This earth is a living breathing being like us. It burps, and shakes and stills itself to survive as we do. What a magnificent collection of star-dust!” His eyes wide with wonder.
“So you don’t think we are all going to die because of hurricanes and floods and greenhouse gases we are creating as they all say on television?”
“The unlucky ones might get trapped in a hurricane or the tornado or a flood but that has nothing to do with us.”
“What about Global Warming?”
“What about it?”
“Aren’t we creating the warming with our barbequing, our SUVs, our jet planes?”
“What about the rhetoric?”
“It is exactly that.”
“But they say they have the proof.”

                                          Global Warmth and the known sources

“There are several reasons for earth's warmth and there are beautiful and elegant theories but the little ugly truth gets in the way. They use facts but lend a little distortion to them, they exaggerate the findings to suit their cause and then use selective data to bind the same book.” He stopped the knocking on the wooden log and after a brief moment he resumed, “I am not denying that the world is not hotter by 0.6 degrees Fahrenheit in the past 100 years. No, I am not. But did we cause it? The answer is probably not. That is the truth. However and here is where it gets a little testy for the rest of the cubicle scientists. When you stretch the observation to thousands of years before that time period of 100 years, from ancillary ice data the real fluctuations of the temperature becomes normalized. In fact if you saw the pictures from 1950 you would see a frozen River Thames in London and in 1973 you would see virtually no ice cap on the Mt. Kilimanjaro.”

“Really and how does a stretching time change result?”

        Evaluating time from a 1000 years and Tens of Thousands of years

“Take the data from the American Icebreaker vessel RV/1B in the Antarctica Ice Sheet for example. Some 14 thousand years ago, when the Holocene age began, the ice layered sediments varied from 0.7mm to 30mm per year. Followed by a glacial retreat some 10 thousand to 7 thousand years ago with warmth over the globe and little glacial cover some 5 thousand years ago. Interestingly this cooling and warming did not happen universally over the entire globe but was geographically desynchronized. Most climatologist believe that the earth was 8-15 degrees Fahrenheit   warmer than today. And then there were times when the glaciation spread all the way almost to the equator some 2 million years ago, and that was the Pleistocene Ice age period and then it retreated. Even as recent as 1500AD the temperatures cooled by 2 degrees F. So this is not a complex argument.”

                                              Ice Core Data from Antarctica

“The obvious question is what makes the variation in temps?”

                                                        Earth's Precession

“Several factors. Start with the earth’s rotation. It wiggles and tilts and goes from the elliptical route to the circular route. Then there is the Sun’s thermal activity which varies with the fuel being used for fission.” Seeing the quizzical eyes staring at him, he continued, “remember the sun spots those are indicators of variability. However there is more to the sun than solar flares. If you just consider the earth itself, it has a wide array of excuses for these variations such as, the volcanic activity which can shield the sun from its volcanic ash and lower the temps or the insidious tectonic activity with minor and major earthquakes that release sealed carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that creates the greenhouse effect by reflecting back the infrared warmth to the earth’s surface.”

                                                      Greenhouse Effect

“ So I can drive my SUV and barbeque on Sundays without feeling wretchedly guilty?”

“Go right ahead. And plant a tree here and there too so that the carbon dioxide can be scrubbed up a little. Deforestation may also have colluded to increase the CO2 in the atmosphere.” He reached over and pulled his weakened leg across the log and wiggled his feet for circulation. “When you fly in a commercial aircraft do you see cars below let alone humans?”

“So you see for all our shenanigans we are unable to change the earth. One big Mt. Pinatubo eruption or Mt. St. Helen eruption and the weather is affected for days if not for months.”

 View of the Gulf Stream from Space

“Oh and I forgot. The cold ocean temps absorb the CO2 and warm waters release it. This is a cyclical event. If anything that is going to raise the ocean temp is the particulate matter from soot from the newly industrial forces called China and India, not the US.  Coal is plentiful and is the driving force for the electricity in both those countries. Burning coal leads to CO2 increase in the atmosphere while the soot sedimentation can disrupt the gradient flow of the Atlantic Ocean water - the cold waters that migrate south via the Mariana Trench and the warm waters flow northerly on the surface back to the Artic to cool down. This constant migration of waters leads to global temperature stability. This is called the Gulf Stream. That is why the Kyoto Treaty was never ratified in the US. It restricts the US but allows developing countries to continue polluting. 2% increase from them will require us to decrease our emissions by more than 20%. That will shut down all industry here. Good for them and bad for us. In fact if coal burning continues in China at its current pace then CO2 will increase instead of the current 36% to 100% in this century alone, which will increase the greenhouse effect. But along that thread, warming of the earth surface will lead to water vapor loss and more cloud formation which will hinder solar heating and by the same consequence the snowfall over the Antarctica and the Arctic will increase the ice sheet. This paradoxical effect was suggested by the IPCC back in 2001. According to IPCC then, current loss of 36 cubic miles of ice sheet per year in the Antarctica is a reflection more of the cooler climate than otherwise stated. So you see there are inbred mechanisms that shield, mollify and modify earth’s temperature just as the human body increases sweating to rid of the high fevers.”

“But all these agencies keep harping about that we are the culprits.”

“That is political expediency. The Intergovernmental Agency on Climate Control (IPCC) itself states that there is 10% probability that the humans have nothing to do with it and a 66% chance that there might be a slight possibility. So there highest probability is predicated on a 66% Confidence Interval. Now equate that to medicine where strict methodology uses 95% Confidence Interval and there too a 5% probability of missing the target exists!”

                          Intergovernmental Agency on Climate Control Data

“Wow, I didn’t know that.”

“Interestingly enough some of  these experts review weather phenomena from months to millions of years and consider 30 years evaluation the norm. Pretty short term thinking in the scheme of long term history. Put that number in your head and consider that the earth is 3.9 billion years old and humans have existed only the past 150,000 years and the Industrial age is about 100 years old. Through that time there have been many meteor strikes. The recent historic one in 1908 in Tunguska province in Russia that purportedly destroyed more than 80 miles of vegetation flattening trees with an impact force of 10-15 Megatons of TNT and changing the weather patterns of that area for years. The more dramatic and devastating one was the meteor creating the Chicxulub Crater in the Yucatan Peninsula that eliminated most life on planet including the dinosaurs millions of years ago and committed it to lightless days for decades causing a bigger havoc on the weather pattern and life than your SUV. The IPCC itself states “Because of the uncertainties involved a probabilistic approach is required” in other words make up with statistics to tie any loose ends.”

  Tunguska Meteor Strike (top)                              Chicxulub Crater (bottom)

This was not a man shy about his strong convictions. Later in his small office lined with books and papers a small path created between piles of journals he dragged the copies of charts onto the small wooden table and gazed at the information confirming his statements.

“A Little Inconvenient Truth!” he said and winked.


  1. More about this later. But I'm wondering, when the PhD looked down from the plane, did he see, feel, hear, smell or touch anything that has been unaffected by man?

  2. He sees the vast stretches of hydrated land to feed the masses and juxtaposed large tracts of deforestations for timber. He feels the angst of impotence as an individual but smells the chance to educate so he can touch others' hearts and souls with his words of wisdom.