Lindzen, Soon and Spencer debunked?

By Andy May

On Bret Stephens facebook page, I complimented Mr. Stephens on what I thought was a very good column. I also noted that the eminent climate scientist Dr. Richard Lindzen had said similar things. To this a George Smith replied, in part, as follows:

“Few “skeptics” have been debunked as much as Lindzen and Spencer.”

Link to comment here.

If you follow the link you will see it is followed with a google search for “Lindzen debunked.” No support, no data, no peer reviewed references, just anything that says “Lindzen debunked.” This is “internet slime” at its worst. We see a lot of this sort of reprehensible behavior around climate science, often by people who have no scientific background at all. But, I am a scientist with 42 years’ experience and have been studying and writing about climate science for years, so I do want to address some of the scurrilous attacks found in this google search.

The first reference in my search led to desmogblog, here. This post is by an anonymous author who calls himself “climate nexus.” The climate nexus group, including Jeff Nesbit and Robert Tanner, does not include anyone with scientific training that I could find. They seem to be a team of professional writers and political hacks.

Their arguments appear to be as vacuous as their resumes. First they claim that climate models are accurate. This has been disproven by Dr. John Christy for the recent past and by Liu, et al. for the entire Holocene epoch. In the figure below (source Javier, here) proxy global average temperatures for the whole Holocene (last 11,500 years) are shown in black. Computer model temperatures calculated by Liu, et al. (2014) are shown in green, carbon dioxide and methane concentrations from ice cores are also shown. For the Neoglacial Period, temperatures go down, but the computer model temperatures go up, so does the carbon dioxide level. Quite obviously, for the Holocene, neither CO2 nor the computer models are predictive of temperature. This has been called the Holocene Temperature Conundrum.

Figure 1 (source here)

Below we see Dr. Christy’s graph comparing computer model temperatures with satellite and weather balloon measurements. I should mention that the satellite and weather balloon measurements are completely independent of one another and support each other:

Figure 2 (source here)

All of this “hottest year on record” nonsense is absurd, we are talking about very small changes in the average temperature. The surface temperature records are only accurate to +-0.2°C at best and almost all of the last 35 years of satellite and weather balloon data fit between -.2°C and +.2°C. The exceptions are the 1998 and 2015 El Ninos and a few other anomalies. Also, see the discussion of temperature accuracy by Lindzen here and especially his figure 1. See below:

Figure 3 (Data sources here and here)

There is a secular warming trend that has persisted since the end of the Little Ice Age in the 19th century. But the Little Ice Age was a very cold period where multiple solar and ocean cycles hit their lows all at once. This is a period of cold that is unlikely to occur again for a very long time, except in a major glacial episode. We should be grateful we are coming out of it. In the Little Ice Age the cold was devastating, glaciers advanced and destroyed villages. The Little Ice Age cold was blamed, in part, for plagues. The public at the time often blamed the cold on Jews and witches and murdered supposed witches by the tens of thousands because they thought the witches were controlling the climate and causing the cold, see the story here. The figure below is a 1486 woodcut of a supposed sorceress conjuring up a hailstorm. It is from Professor Wolfgang Behringer’s excellent book A Cultural History of Climate.

Figure 4, “Anthropogenic Climate Change” (source here)

Then, as now, the public chose to blame people for climate change without proof. We really have not advanced very far in the last 500 years.

For more details about the cause of the Little Ice Age, see the post by Javier here, especially the top frame of figure 6. We can easily see the minimums of the Eddy cycle and the Bray cycle occurring in the Little Ice Age, along with the Wolf, Sporer, Maunder and Dalton solar minima. Coming out of such a cold period we would expect dramatic natural warming.

Desmogblog posts the following comparison of supposed projections by Lindzen and Hansen to an unnamed observation record of global temperatures. Their reference is a blog post at Skeptical Science. Below is the graphic, showing the supposed “comparison.”

Figure 5, the misleading graph in Desmogblog here.

When we go to the source article at skepticalscience here, we find that Dr. Lindzen did not make any temperature predictions in 1989 or in any other year. The line shown above is the author’s (Dana Nuccitelli’s) interpretation of someone’s (Eugene Mallove’s) notes of a lecture given by Dr. Lindzen in 1989. We do not even have Dr. Lindzen’s own notes of the lecture! Below is the actual comparison of Hansen’s 1988 projections to the GISTEMP dataset of surface temperatures.

Figure 6 (source)

Ignore the Lindzen lines, they are made up. Hansen et al., 1988 provided three scenarios. His scenario A is way off, scenario B isn’t bad until the pause (see here) begins about 2000, then it overshoots actual temperatures by quite a bit. They stop the GISTEMP graph in 2008, so we don’t see how bad it actually gets. See figure 2 for a better picture against more accurate measurements. Scenario C is probably the best, but it is not a problem for mankind. Either way, the graph in DeSmogblog is misleading. I would accuse the team of scientific malpractice if they were scientists, but they are not.

They go on to say Lindzen’s Iris effect from tropical clouds has been debunked, which is nonsense. Lindzen’s idea (see here) is alive and well and the subject of vigorous debate, as are all good ideas in science. No one knows whether clouds are a net positive feedback or a net negative feedback on global temperatures, evidence goes both ways. For interesting discussions of clouds and their effects on climate see here and here. I favor Lindzen’s idea personally, as do many scientists, but others disagree. For more on this interesting idea see these posts by Judith Curry and Rud Istvan.  Only time will tell.

Then they go on to my friend Dr. Willie Soon, who was viciously attacked in the New York Times by a Greenpeace written slander piece published on the front page of the paper, disguised as reporting by Justin Gillis and John Schwartz, for more details see here and here.

As for Dr. Roy Spencer, one of the inventors of satellite atmospheric temperature measurements, the idea that he has been debunked is absurd. He is the team leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer for NASA’s Aqua satellite. His landmark original algorithm for measuring temperature, in the early 1990’s, did not properly take into account satellite orbital decay for sure. But, this was fixed 20 years ago! Why beat a 20-year-old drum! Dr. Spencer is an evangelical Christian, but in the United States we are not supposed to discriminate based on religion, one is free to have their own beliefs. So far as I know, and I’ve read most of what Dr. Spencer has written on climate, his views are very mainstream. None have been debunked, although not everyone agrees with him on all issues.

I write for blogs, including my own, but I try and document what I do and keep it as accurate as possible. Doing google searches for a phrase like “Lindzen debunked” and then picking out headlines that agree with your preconceived ideas and posting them without checking them is disgusting.  Just my opinion.

Drone flights from the Miss Kitty in the Virgin Islands

My lovely wife Aurelia and I just returned from a wonderful charter of the Miss Kitty in the British Virgin Islands. I took my DJI Phantom 3 drone and shot video at several stops, both from the yacht and from shore. The videos can be seen here. While snorkeling in the islands Captain Pat Little caught these great shots of a spotted eagle ray.

Spotted Eagle Ray

Spotted Eagle Ray and shark sucker

In addition to the drone videos in the link above, here is a link to a video, taken by Captain Pat Little, of the eagle ray in the pictures above.  Click here.

Take-aways from the Washington, D.C. Heartland Climate Change Conference

By Andy May

This was my first climate change conference and I had a great time. So, here is a quick note sharing my most memorable take-aways from the conference. Most of the comments below are paraphrased, but if they are exact quotes, I’ve put them in quotation marks. To hear the full talk by any of the speakers go to the Heartland.Org site here.

The most memorable statement is from Myron Ebell. Three U.S. elections “have turned on climate issues.” These are 2000, 2010, and 2016. In 2000 Al Gore lost because he lost West Virginia. This “was due entirely because someone named Buck Harless put,” in every voter’s mailbox a study he commissioned showing the effect on West Virginia’s coal industry and economy of Al Gore’s proposed policies. The 2010 election was turned by the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill, which caused the House Democrats to lose 20 seats and making the House of Representatives Republican. Finally, in 2016, climate change and the fossil fuel industry were explicit issues and Clinton and Trump were on opposite sides. The pro-fossil fuel side won the key fossil fuel states of West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky.

Walter Cunningham, the famous Apollo astronaut, who also has a physics degree from UCLA, stated he had “never seen any evidence supporting the [climate] alarmist view” or “supporting man changing climate.” He, Pat Michaels, Steve Milloy, Jay Lehr and Myron Ebell all strongly support eliminating the EPA CO2endangerment finding.” The endangerment finding states that CO2 is dangerous to mankind.  For more on this see Penny Starr’s article here. This clearly unscientific finding was upheld by the Supreme Court even though CO2 is essential for life on Earth and is a vital food for plants. Walt Cunningham noted that the alarm for excess CO2, in the Apollo spacecraft, was set at 3,000 ppm and on the space station it is set at 5,000 to 10,000 ppm. These levels will likely never be reached on Earth again, although the atmosphere has reached these levels in the very distant past (prior to 200,000,000 years ago). The current level is about 400 ppm, people can become dizzy if the CO2 level in a sealed room exceeds 40,000 ppm. Most plants die when the level goes below 150 ppm.

The endangerment finding will be used to destroy the fossil fuel industry, our economy and millions of jobs, if it is not eliminated, according to Michaels and Ebell.

Fred Singer is now 92 years old, but what a trooper. Everyone at the conference was inspired when he gave his outstanding presentation. He clearly explained why the evolving surface weather station network, which has been dominated by airport stations since 1990, has affected our temperature record. Airports are notorious for spurious high temperature readings for obvious reasons. They have too much pavement and too many hot airplane engines. He also explained how “correcting” ocean buoy temperature readings to ship water intake temperatures, as NOAA has done, is erroneous.

Willie Soon presented a paper he wrote with Ronan Connolly and Michael Connolly. They showed that arctic sea ice retreat since the 1970s was preceded by an arctic sea ice advance from the 1940s to the 1970s. This suggests that the current sea ice retreat may be a natural cycle and not due to man-made global warming, particularly when one considers that the Antarctic sea ice extent is at a record level.

Indur Goklany noted that, due to fossil fuels and modern farming technology, crop failures are a thing of the past. 70% of the recent greening of the planet is due to more CO2 and we are now “living in the best of times.” How true.

Roger Bezdek noted that “Fossil fuels are the driver of economic growth and jobs.” He added that “fossil fuels will continue to provide more than 80% of world energy for the foreseeable future.”

Craig Idso analyzed the effect of CO2 on the 45 most important food crops in the world and concluded that the recent increase in CO2 has provided trillions of dollars of additional food to the world’s population. This increase in food production has amounted to a $5/ton CO2 benefit to mankind. This $5 benefit should be subtracted from any calculation of the so-called “social cost of carbon,” but this has not been done. He noted that Norman Borlock has shown that if all known fossil fuels on the planet were burned, the level of CO2 in the atmosphere would increase to 1000 ppm to 2000 ppm. The data in Dr. Idso’s database shows that plant growth continues to increase in a linear fashion to, at least, 2000 ppm.

Dr. Pat Michaels made an impassioned plea to reverse the CO2 endangerment finding and quoted Eisenhower’s final speech from January 17, 1961:

“Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

I have added the emphasis. It is clear, at least to me, that what President Eisenhower predicted in 1961 has already occurred. Those of us, and there were many at the conference, who are “solitary inventors” or “independent researchers” struggling to understand climate change without using the assumption that man is causing it, are facing a public that has become the “captive of a [self-serving] scientific-technological elite.” The elite is publicly funded with our tax dollars by government bureaucrats with an anti-fossil fuel agenda. The bureaucrats are aided by environmental organizations that create pseudo-scientific nonsense to support the crusade and line their pockets.

Lamar Smith has fought this “pseudo-science” by attempting to require the EPA and other agencies publish the scientific studies used to create government regulations. This seems very reasonable, our taxes paid for these studies, the studies add costs to our factory production and they increase the cost of goods we buy. Why shouldn’t the science behind the regulations be fully published as Representative Smith’s “HONEST” act requires? His previous “secret science” act, which was very similar, was threatened with a veto by President Obama. Why would Obama want to keep scientific work, paid for by taxpayers, secret?

Susan Crockford showed that polar bears were classified as a threatened species, even though their numbers were increasing, because of a computer model. Unfortunately, for the modelers, the conditions they predicted for 2050 occurred early, in 2009, and the polar bear population still increased! Hmmm, it seems that legislation or rules based on computer models can be in error. Imagine that?

Scott Armstrong appropriately noted one of the iron laws of political economics:

“There is no form of market failure, however egregious, which is not eventually made worse by the political interventions intended to fix it.”

He also said:

“Government has no business in research.”

Jay Lehr was one of the five people who helped design and create the EPA from 1968 to 1971. He believes that they did some good work for the first eight years or so and improved the environment in the US. But, he also believes they have not done anything useful since 1980 and should be eliminated today. All 50 states now have their own environmental organizations (not true in 1971) and work like this should be done at the state level, in his opinion. What coordination between states is required could be handled by a commission composed of state appointed commissioners. The current US EPA is “a wholly owned subsidiary of the green movement” and its green agenda is harmful to the USA.

According to Ben Zycher the Ivanpah solar power plant in the Mohavi Desert of California is a huge failure. It only produces 65% of the power promised because “the sun didn’t shine as much as we predicted.” The power produced costs $180/mWh, versus natural gas costs of $60. And this doesn’t include substantial subsidies and a $1.6 billion loan from the U.S. government. Ivanpah has now requested U.S. grant money to use to pay back the U.S. loan.

James Taylor has calculated that renewable mandates cost electricity customers $130/year in Kansas, $190/year in Ohio, and $400/year in New Mexico. Obama said renewable energy would necessarily cause electricity prices to skyrocket. Obama got that one right. He should have added that wind and solar will kill 1.5 million birds and bats every year and that biofuels (especially algal biofuels) are an environmental nightmare.

Mary Hutzler computed a new levelized cost of electricity that corrects the serious errors made by the EIA and IEA. She includes the cost of backup and buffering required for solar and wind. She uses natural gas combined cycle backup systems because they were the cheapest. For a discussion of non-fossil fuel backup systems see here.

Steve Milloy notes that “Government has perverted science.” Like many other speakers, he thinks it is imperative that the CO2 endangerment finding be reversed. Steve Milloy was one of the members of Myron Ebell’s EPA transition team, created by Donald Trump when he was still a candidate.

The famous Professor Will Happer gave an excellent speech where he noted the following points:

  1. Climate models do not work.
  2. Climate changes regardless of CO2 levels.
  3. More CO2 leads to more benefits for mankind.
  4. It is immoral to deprive the world of fossil fuels.
  5. The social cost of carbon is negative.

As a special treat, I highly recommend that you listen to the wonderful speeches given by Lord Christopher Monckton and EU Parliament member Roger Helmer. The speeches are wonderfully worded and presented, as only they can. The speeches cannot be properly summarized and must be heard in full to be appreciated. Highly recommended.

I will conclude this conference summary here. It was a wonderful conference and I am very grateful to Joe Bast and his wonderful team for putting it on. The organization, the food and venue were excellent. It was very nice to meet the people whose papers and posts I’ve been reading for years, face to face. I realize everyone doesn’t have the resources or the time to attend a conference like this, but if you get the chance it is well worth it.

Moving to Texas

By Andy May

“You may all go to hell and I will go to Texas” Davy Crockett, 1835

According to the Texas Tribune in 2016, Texas has become the top destination for people moving from other states and leading the way are people from California. Beginning in 2005, Texas has outpaced all other states in population growth. Half of the growth is due to people moving to Texas. From 2005 to 2013, 5.9 million people moved to Texas and 4.8 million of those came from other states. In 2013, net migration to Texas was 126,230, that is the difference between those moving to Texas and those moving away.

Further, Pew Research reports that Texas is the stickiest state. Meaning that more than 75% of those born in Texas are still here. Why is this? Davy Crockett also wrote the following to his children in 1836 after moving to Texas:

“I must say as to what I have seen of Texas, it is the garden spot of the world.”

Texas is my adopted state, I wasn’t born here, but I do agree with Mr. Crockett. It is a beautiful place and it is marvelously easy to live well here. John Steinbeck wrote in Travels with Charley:

“I have said that Texas is a state of mind, but I think it is more than that. It is a mystique closely approximating a religion. And this is true to the extent that people either passionately love Texas or passionately hate it and, as in other religions, few people dare to inspect it for fear of losing their bearings in mystery or paradox. But I think there will be little quarrel with my feeling that Texas is one thing. For all its enormous range of space, climate, and physical appearance, and for all the internal squabbles, contentions, and strivings, Texas has a tight cohesiveness perhaps stronger than any other section of America. Rich, poor, Panhandle, Gulf, city, country, Texas is the obsession, the proper study and the passionate possession of all Texans.”

How very true, we are all very proud of our state. Texas is also very welcoming of visitors and immigrants and well known for being friendly. This is a point of pride in the state and it shows. But, there are other reasons why people flock to our state.

The late Molly Ivins was not born in Texas either, but she was raised in the affluent River Oaks neighborhood of Houston, Texas, by her father “General Jim.” She graduated from St. John’s independent school, one of the top prep schools in the country. She has often been a critic of our state. She once said:

“I dearly love the state of Texas, but I consider that a harmless perversion on my part, and discuss it only with consenting adults.”

Texas politics is famous, and rightly so. Texans acknowledge that some sort of government is required, but we keep it on a very short leash. Our Legislature is only allowed to meet once every two years to minimize the damage they can do. It also means all the legislators have “real” jobs and don’t rely solely on the government (in Texan that’s “gov’ment”). They are only allowed to meet for a maximum of 140 days, another rule meant to limit potential damage. About politics in Texas, Molly Ivins once said:

“Good thing we’ve still got politics in Texas – finest form of free entertainment ever invented.”

Another famous Texan is Kinky Friedman. He was born in Chicago, but his parents moved to a ranch near Austin when he was very young. He graduated from Austin High School in 1962 and the University of Texas at Austin in 1966. His nickname comes from his very curly hair. Friedman is Jewish, so naturally his band was called Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys. Friedman’s father hated the name of the band, which was a big part of the motivation for Kinky to keep it. The band produced 16 albums and several singles. Friedman was also a columnist for the Texas Monthly and has written several books. He was also a candidate for governor of Texas, receiving 13% of the vote. His campaign slogan was “Why the hell not?” Kinky once said:

“How can you look at the Texas legislature and still believe in intelligent design?”

Kinky was for decriminalizing marijuana, his reasoning was:

“We’ve got to clear some of the room out of the prisons so we can put the bad guys in there, like the pedophiles and the politicians”

Texas has had its share of colorful governors, one of my favorites is Ann Richards, who was born in Texas.  The photos below make that very clear.

Willie Nelson is a rare breed in Texas today, he was born here, in Abbot, Texas. His parents left him with his grandparents who raised him. The grandparents taught singing and music and started Willie on the guitar when he was only six. When he was young he and the family picked cotton along with the other citizens of Abbot, but Willie hated it. So, he earned extra money by singing in dance halls, taverns and honky-tonks from the age of 13. He graduated from Abbot High School and his first band, formed by his brother-in-law, was called The Texans. Willie once said:

“I’m from Texas and one of the reasons I like Texas is because there’s no one in control.”

Think about that when you consider Richard Daley and his son running Chicago, Tom Pendergast running Kansas City, Tammany Hall in New York. Corruption like that is not likely to happen in Texas, we never let anyone get that much control. Texas is the fifth most libertarian state in the country and the only major state with a large libertarian population. This is one of the few states where libertarians have someone on the ballot for almost every local and state office.

Government is not very important in Texas, this gives us a great advantage over our sister states.  We are not kind to politicians who want to “run” things. This goes back to our early days, Sam Houston once said (figure1):

Figure 1

OK, we’ve discussed the natural beauty of the state, the nice people and our so-called government. Another important reason people and businesses move to Texas is the business-friendly atmosphere and the robust economy. Texas is #1 in combined foreign and domestic business investment (link). It has also been the country’s top exporter for 14 years running, with $251 billion in exports, 16% of all US exports. Texas also outpaced California for high-tech exports ($6.3 billion) for the last 3 years. Texas was ranked #1 as a place to do business by U.S. CEO’s in 2016. Texas is also #1 in job creation, adding more than 1.8 million jobs since 2007.

More immigrants move to Texas from California than any other state, so contrasting the two states is instructive. Why has California become a state to escape from rather than a place to move to? Simply put, it has too much government, too many regulations and the taxes are too high (link).

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) says that California has the fourth-highest tax burden in the country. The state’s top marginal income tax rate is the worst in the country, and its top marginal corporate rate is not much better (40th). Its personal income tax progressivity is in last place.

ALEC also reports that California’s civil court system (law suits) is among the worst and the state ranks 44th in economic outlook. This is very demoralizing for businesses.

Only New York has higher net domestic out-migration than California from 2004 to 2013, when 1,394,911 abandoned California.

Last year, business location consultant Joseph Vranich wrote that

“in California, costs to run a business are higher than in other states and nations — largely due to the state’s tax and regulatory policies — and the business climate shows little chance of improving.”

Recently Jamba Juice, Toyota, Occidental, Carl’s Jr, Jacob’s Engineering and Kubota have all moved to Texas from California. In all, from 2008 to 2014, 219 businesses moved or moved operations from California to Texas. In the same period, California lost 1,510 businesses. Texas gained 37,553 jobs and $6.5 billion in investment, just from California. Texas has cheap energy, an educated work force, low taxes, minimal red tape and great universities. These are all very attractive to business.

From other areas, JP Morgan, Fannie Mae, and the German company Siemen’s Oil and Gas have also moved to Texas. The Austrian steel maker Voestalpine moved a large operation to Texas, as did the Chinese company Tianjin Pipe Group.

Figure 2 compares migration from Texas to several states and migration from the same states for 2013. In all cases, except for Oklahoma and Colorado, the net population movement is to Texas.


Figure 2 (source)

Regarding foreign immigration, the top three receiving states, in order, are California, Texas and Florida. 83% of immigrants to Texas are Asian or Latino, see figure 3.


Figure 3 (source)

Many foreign-born immigrants move to Texas from California, see figure 4.


Figure 4 (source)

From the Texas publication Origins of Immigrants to Texas:

“Since 2005, Texas has outpaced all other states in annual population growth. Almost half of this growth occurred because of people moving to Texas. Close to one in six of these movers immigrated to Texas from another country. Texas, with the nation’s second largest population, attracted the second highest number of immigrants between 2005 and 2013. Although immigration to Texas experienced a strong decline during the 2007-2009 recession, it has been on the rise since 2010. This rebound occurred even as Mexican immigration to Texas fell sharply. The recent decline in Mexican immigration has been partially offset by an increase in the number of non-Latin American immigrants, particularly those of Asian-origin. As a consequence, total [net] immigration to Texas in 2013 reached 126,230, the second highest level during the 2005-2013 time period. Given the state’s high rate of natural increase, a continuation of recent immigration trends will ensure strong population growth into the foreseeable future.”

Texas maintains a welcoming and friendly atmosphere and is very pro-business. We keep regulations to the minimum and taxes low. Our government does its best to stay out of the way and let people run their own lives. This seems to work; the people just keep moving here.

Exergy and Power Plants

By Andy May

Key question: Can renewables ever replace fossil fuels and nuclear?

Understanding the value of renewables, vis-à-vis fossil fuels and nuclear power, requires that we consider that all energy is not equal in value. In fact, the quantity we call energy can be misleading and many experts prefer the quantity called “exergy,” which is defined in economics as (source Exergy Economics):

The maximum useful work which can be extracted from a system as it reversibly comes into equilibrium with its environment.”

Or it can be thought of as the measure of potential work embodied in a material or device. As Ayres, et al. (1998) argue exergy is a more natural choice as a measure of resource quantity than either mass or energy. Even today it seems BTU’s, a measure of heat of combustion, or MToe, million tonnes of oil equivalent, are commonly used and mislabeled energy (see the Exxon Outlook, 2017 or the BP Energy Outlook, 2017). In a previous post (here) I discussed EROI, or energy returned from energy invested. I complained in that post about the inconsistency and inaccuracy in current EROI and LCOE (Levelized cost of electricity) calculations. The problems mostly stemmed from comparing energy or electricity output from different sources (solar, wind, natural gas, coal, nuclear) as if all produced energy was equally valuable, which it isn’t. While comparing the heat of combustion or million tonnes of oil equivalent is clearly incorrect, Rud Istvan and Planning Engineer show that comparing the cost of producing megawatts of electricity, like the IEA and EIA do, is also incorrect, see here and here. Since exergy is a measure of useful work, it helps get around that problem. In a comment to that post, Captain Ike Kiefer posted a reference to Weißbach, et al. (2013) which has a much more valid EROI comparison (see figure 2) of conventional and renewable electricity sources in Germany. Since Germany is, in many ways, a testbed of renewable energy sources for the world; this is very helpful.

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Renewable Energy, what is the cost?

By Andy May

What are the costs of using renewable energy? The sun and wind are free, does that make wind and solar power free? Biofuels require power to plant crops, make fertilizer and spread it, harvest the plants, make and transport the ethanol. Solar and wind require power to produce, transport and install the equipment. All renewable energy sources require lots of land per megawatt of electricity produced. We will not be able to determine a cost for renewable power in this essay, but we can discuss the components of the calculation and provide some context.  A key question to think about, do renewable fuels decrease fossil fuel use, or do they increase it?

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The timing of Interglacials

By Andy May

P. C. Tzedakis and co-authors have just published a new paper in the February 23, 2017 issue of Nature entitled “A simple rule to determine which insolation cycles lead to interglacials.” The paper introduces new rules for defining interglacial periods in the geological record. They come up with the same interglacial periods that Javier identified in his post Nature Unbound I: The Glacial Cycle.

The Earth has been in an ice age for the last 2.6 million years, Javier defined an ice age as:

“… any period when there are extensive ice sheets over vast land regions, as we see now.”

Tzedakis, et al. note that

“The fundamental property that underlies the concept of an interglacial is high sea-level.”

The higher sea-level is a result of melting a significant amount of land-ice during the interglacial. We are currently in the “Quaternary Ice Age,” which is either the coldest or the second coldest period in the last 500 million years as can be seen in figures 1 and 2. These are the most popular temperature reconstructions of the past 540 million years. Ice ages (or a collection of closely spaced continental glacial periods) have occurred in the geological record roughly every 150 million years in the Phanerozoic. The cause of these cold periods is not known, but we are clearly in one now.

Figure 1, source Veizer, et al., 1999 and Wikipedia

Figure 2, Phanerozoic temperatures, source Geocraft

The current (Quaternary) ice age is punctuated by warm periods, called interglacials. These warm periods are identified in the geological record by rising sea level. They persist for about 15,000 years on average and are typically 4° to 5°C warmer than the preceding glacial period, with the difference much larger at the poles than at the equator. Glacial periods are much longer than interglacials, and are the norm for the Quaternary, the warm interglacials are the anomaly. As discussed in Nature Unbound I and in Tzedakis, et al., 2017, we have had 13 interglacial periods in the past one million years. These are identified with red bars in Figure 3 (Javier’s figure 12).

Figure 3, Orbital obliquity increases, which correlate to July insolation peaks at 65°N, are colored. Red identifies successful interglacials and blue identifies a failure. The labels are MIS numbers. Low late-glacial temperatures (red circles below the blue dashed line) stimulate interglacials. High insolation at 65°N, the green circles above the green dashed line also stimulate interglacials. MIS 13 is an anomaly. Source Nature Unbound I.

The same interglacials are identified, with slightly different nomenclature, in figure 2 (our figure 4) of Tzedakis et al. The numbers in figure 3 and across the top of figure 4 are the Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) number, the odd numbers refer to “interstadials” which are warmer periods, separating the even numbered “stadials” or cooler periods. Notice that both Tzedakis et al. and Javier find more than one interglacial in MIS 7 and 15. We are currently living in MIS 1. Some interstadials are significant enough (as judged by the rise in sea level) to be labeled interglacials and some are not. One of the problems in Quaternary geology is how to objectively tell a true interglacial period from a common interstadial. Javier and Tzedakis, et al. have different criteria, but come to very similar conclusions.

Figure 4, Obliquity peaks are shaded in gray, the black line is the caloric summer half-year insolation at 65°N, the red circles are insolation maxima nearest the onset of interglacials, black diamonds are continued interglacials, light blue triangles are failed interstadials. The orange line is the δ18O stack representing temperature. The upper numbers are MIS numbers for interglacials and the lower are kyrs (thousands of years) before present or the number of a continued interglacial or a failed interstadial. The “Mid-Pleistocene Transition” toward lower-frequency higher-amplitude glacial cycles is apparent near MIS 38/37. Source Tzedakis, et al., Nature, 2017.

Javier’s methodology for identifying interglacials begins with locating every period of rising obliquity which creates a window that can initiate an interglacial. Fewer than half of these periods results in an interglacial. Next, he looks for the periods where summer insolation at 65°N exceeds 550 W/m2 and where the temperature of the preceding glacial period is below 4.55 0/00 δ18O. δ18O is a common proxy for atmospheric temperature because the colder it gets, the less 18O is found in glacier ice . The boundaries and the resulting classification are shown in figure 3.

Tzedakis (2017) uses a different methodology that results in the same set of interglacials for the past one million years. The methodology is summarized in figure 5.

Figure 5: Temperature peaks for the last 2.6 million years separated into successful interglacials (red dots), failed interglacials (blue diamonds), continued interglacials (black diamonds) and uncertain assignments (open symbols). The dashed black line separates successful interglacials from unsuccessful interstadials with only two misclassifications (59 and 63). The ramp in the dashed line is the “mid-Pleistocene transition.” Source: Tzedakis, et al., 2017.

Figure 5 plots effective energy required to cause an interglacial versus time. As can be seen more effective energy is required to initiate an interglacial over the past 600,000 years than before 1.5 million years. In figure 4, interglacials (red dots) were more frequent and more regular before 1.5 million years ago, when they corresponded to the obliquity cycle of 41,000 years. Peak summer solstice insolation at 65°N is a function of the 21,000-year precession cycle. But, rising obliquity enhances the “caloric half-year insolation at 65°N” which is more relevant to ice loss. Prior to 1.5 million years ago, every other insolation peak at 65°N was boosted by increasing obliquity and an interglacial would occur. The idea of “caloric summer half-year insolation” originated with Milanković.

More recent interglacials occur about 100,000 years apart, meaning more insolation peaks are skipped now than before 1.5 million years ago. Thus, recent glacial periods are longer now and average ice volume is larger today than in the past. The ramp between the two horizontal lines is the mid-Pleistocene transition (MPT). Effective energy is computed using equation one from Tzedakis, et al., 2017. It is computed using the caloric summer half-year insolation peak at 65°N in (GJ/m2) and the time since the previous interglacial period. Tzedakis, et al. explain including the time since the previous interglacial in terms of ice stability. That is, the longer the ice has existed and the thicker it is the more unstable it is.

Why current interglacials require more effective energy to initiate is not known. Tzedakis, et al. list several possible reasons, but do not offer a preferred theory. Why current glacial periods are more severe today than prior to 1.5 million years ago, is also not known.

Clark, et al. 2006 have noted that the severity of glacial periods and the total land-ice volume increased dramatically after the mid-Pleistocene transition. The additional land-ice present now, versus before the MPT, represents a decrease of 50 meters of sea-level equivalent. While land-ice volume increased after the MPT, the area covered with ice did not, suggesting that average land-ice thickness increased. Clark, et al. (2006) also estimate a decrease in in global deep-water ocean temperature of 1.2°C currently, relative to the pre-MPT period of 41,000 year glaciations. Thus, we are not only in a major ice-age, we are also in the coldest part of the current ice age.

So, although Javier and Tzedakis, et al. used different criteria they did identify the same interglacials for the past million years. Tzedakis et al.’s method is able to classify all but two interglacials correctly for the past 2.6 million years and their method only uses orbital forcing and elapsed time as input. This last point is important as they found no need to incorporate either CO2 concentration or δ18O records. This suggests that glaciations are caused solely by astronomical forcing, although the reason for the MPT is unclear. Tzedakis, et al. is also important because they seem to have resolved most, if not all, outstanding problems with the original Milanković theory.