Total Pageviews

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Interglacials and Phosphine

As usual in my blogs, this theory is a bit of speculation; a hypothesis or if you like brainstorming so read it as such.  

First let's get the terminology right.  We are in the middle of an ice age which started some 2.5million years ago. It is called the pleistocene although some define the Plistocene as having started 1.8m years ago.   Within this ice age have been approximately 30 glacials and an equal number of interglacials.  At present we are in the Holocene interglacial and the previous one, centered about 125,000 years ago, was the Eemian (given different names by various scientists).  The Holocene started about 20,000 years ago by definition, at the peak of the recent glacial but melting really got underway about 11,500 years ago.

Not to get too precious about this but we have to decide what words we are going to use for which periods. It is confusing to the layman and doesn't aid in informing the general public.  Above is the way I learned it but any terminology would be fine with me as long as we all agree on what we mean when we say 'ice age".

What is problematic is to explain is why Carbon dioxide rises steeply as the ice melts and oddly enough seems to follow the ice melting rather than leading it.  The most accepted theory today has to do with the ocean circulation powered by the production of heavy, cold salty water at both ends of the earth and the relationship between the temperature of the surface of the sea and the amount and speed it can take up Carbon dioxide (or release it) from/to the atmosphere.  The basic physics is pretty simple and undeniable.  Cold water can hold more Carbon dioxide than warmer water.  The chain of cause and effect after this is a tad more tenuous.

The following hypothesis in no way negates the ocean current/water-temperature theory.  It is just  suggesting another source of Carbon dioxide as the ice melts.

Regardless of the source, what seems to happen is that as the ice begins to melt, Carbon dioxide rises a little later and  the released Carbon dioxide then accelerates the melt.

Previously, I  hypothesized that over the approximately 100,000 years that ice covered large parts of the continents, a huge amount of methane clathrate would have accumulated under the ice.  Methane clathrate forms when methane is in contact with water under a pressure equivalent to about 300m of water or more.  The cooler the temperature the less pressure is needed but under sufficient pressure a clathrate can exist even up to 30 degrees C.  This higher temperature clathrate is not really relevant to our discussion since the bottom of deep ice sheets tends to be around zero degrees C so clathrates will begin to form when the ice reaches, say 400m or so.  The extra depth is necessary since the top 70m or so of the ice tends to be firn (porous snow which is turning into ice due to the weight of snow above it) which is lighter that ice.  All above figures are approximate.

Incidentally, there is also a carbon dioxide clathrate so any Carbon dioxide coming out of the ground to meet the bottom of a deep glacier would likely form a clathrate as well.  The formula for Carbon dioxide clathrate is thought to be CO2.6H2O*

* In a Carbon dioxide saturated clathrate, there is a sixth of a mole (gram mollecular weight) of Carbon dioxide for every mole of water.  So a mole of water (18g) could contain 7.3g of carbon dioxide(a sixth of 44g)  In a liter of saturated CO2 clathrate you would have 407g of CO2.  This is 9.26 moles of Carbon dioxide.  Since one mole of any gas occupies 22.4liters at STP, then one liter of methane clathrate at STP would release 207 liters of the gas if it disintegrated.  Pretty amazing, no? The formula for saturated methane hydrate is CH 4 · 5.7H 2O.  Work out what volume of methane could be released from one kg of water ice saturated methane  to form methane hydrate.

The source of the methane includes organic material buried by the ice, which when deprived of oxygen decays by methanogenesis.  Other sources are deposits of coal, oil, tar sands, natural gas and shales.  Since an accumulation of ice tends to push down the land  approximately a third of the height of the ice (ie a km of ice will depress the land a third of a km) a sort of natural fracking may occur.  In other words,  cracks could well be opened up which would release gas that had been capped by layers of impermeable rock. In addition there are methane seeps all around the world which would create clathrates under ice without any need to invoke the cracking of the earth under the weight of ice.

I'm not sure what the composition of "swamp gas" is but when you operate a biogas generator, the composition of the gas is approximately 70% methane and 30% Carbon dioxide.  If this is similar for organic material breaking down under an ice sheet then both CH4 and CO2 clathrate would accumulate.

I also hypothesized that since the ice at the height of a glacial would be pushing  into areas too warm for ice to form, it would only need a nudge from the Milankovitch cycle to start the melt.  If sufficient melting occurred then enough  methane would be released to produce a negative feed back and accelerate the process.  Hence the transition into an interglacial.

Note that the greater the ice sheet, the more unstable which may explain why every Milankovitch nudge didn't cause an interglacial in the latter half of the present ice age. Apparently it was necessary for the ice sheet to be really big and hence really unstable.

When I suggested the methane theory to a number of scientists, they assured me that such an outpouring of the very powerful greenhouse gas, methane, would appear in the ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica.  Further they said that there is no evidence that methane converts to Carbon dioxide within ice bubbles.  When the analysis was done and no methane signature was found.  I argued that methane has a half life of about 7 years and so would disappear rather rapidly and the Firn layer is some 70m deep and so gas exchange would occur through this layer, softening the edges of the signature.  I was assured that there still would be a methane signature and none was found.

So,,, what if the methane ignited as it was released from under the ice.  One could suggest lightening as an igniter but this seems rather unlikely and once the methane is sufficiently diluted in the air, it is no longer ignitable.  Methane will ignite when it is between 5 and 15 percent of the air.  Of course pure methane will ignite at the edges where it is mixing with the air, just like happens in your gas hob.   If it came out in sufficient quantities and with sufficient velocity, it would produce its own mini lightening and ignite but this too seems to be somewhat far fetched to explain the ignition of all this methane from all sources.

No, the methane, if it is ignited and thus is responsible for the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, it has to be ignited as it enters the air before it has been diluted too much to burn and it needs a source of ignition that it carries with it.

Then I remembered phosphine (PH3)  It is also produced by the rotting of organic material in swamps along with diphosphane (P2H4) which is the main component of swamp gas. This is observed around the world in swampy areas. A common name for this in English is Will o' the Wisps.

From Wikipedia (Sorry, links don't work.  They work in the original article)
In modern science, it is generally accepted that most ignis fatuus are caused by the oxidation of phosphine (PH3), diphosphane (P2H4), and methane (CH4). These compounds, produced by organic decay, can cause photon emissions. Since phosphine and diphosphane mixtures spontaneously ignite on contact with the oxygen in air, only small quantities of it would be needed to ignite the much more abundant methane to create ephemeral fires.[32] Furthermore, phosphine produces phosphorus pentoxide as a by-product, which forms phosphoric acid upon contact with water vapor. This might explain the "viscous moisture" described by Blesson.

All this is great but leaves a huge number of questions unanswered.  Since two ice sheets are in the process of disintegrating at present (West Antarctic and Greenland) we may see evidence for or against this hypothesis as the ice melts.

1/ Are there indeed large amounts of methane (and Carbon dioxide) stored under the ice sheets as  clathrates.

2/ Do these deposits contain phosphine and diphosphane.

3/  Has anyone observed a  Methane coming from under an ice sheet, say, when a river appears from under the ice and which therefore exposes part of the bottom of the ice sheet to atmospheric pressure. (low pressure allows clathrates to break down)

4/  Has anyone ever observed the spontaneous ignition  of methane (other than above swamps where it regularly occurs).  Note that in daylight, a methane flame is almost invisible.

5/  If there is phosphine and diphosphane in such methane deposits, what happens to it as methane plumes rise through ocean water.  Is it scrubbed out or does it rise with the methane.  The composition of the gas could be quite different from an outpouring of gas on land and a gas plume rising from the ocean bottom. For instance, if a mixture of methane and Carbon dioxide bubbles were rising through a column of water, likely the Carbon dioxide would be scrubbed out.  It would, though, show up as a decreased alkalinity of the surrounding sea water.  I don't know what the relationship is between water and phosphine and diphospane.

To increase the credibility of the above hypothesis for the source of at least some of the carbon dioxide that is seen in the atmosphere as the ice sheets melt, we would have to see a similar phenomenon with the presently disintegrating ice sheets.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Freezing the Arctic with Wind Turbines

I have just read the most abysmally stupid idea for combating climate change.  Some 'professor' proposes to put some 10 million wind pumps all over the arctic ocean at a cost of trillions of dollars to pump sea water onto the ice where it will freeze and thicken the ice.

Leaving aside the difficulty of building and maintaining anything which is floating amongst the ship crushing ice flows in the Arctic, how about putting all these wind turbines on land and off shore all over the world to generate electricity and replace fossil fuel use.  Use some of these trillions for energy storage systems as well and promote electric cars.  Attack the source of the problem, not the symptoms.

Besides, when surface sea water freezes naturally, it produces fresh water ice.  The salt is rejected, forms brine which sinks to the bottom of the ocean.  As heat conducts through the ice into the atmosphere, more fresh water ice is frozen to the bottom of the existing ice and more brine is produced.  This fresh water ice is strong and melts...well at the freezing point of ice.

If you pump sea water on to the ice where it freezes, it will be full of salt.  That slushy weak ice will melt out rapidly when spring comes and will likely melt out the underlying fresh water ice just like when you put salt on an icy sidewalk.

Add to that, even if this hair brained idea did work, what the effect would be when we are up to 500 or 600 ppm CO2 and the funds run out at the next economic crisis (none of the fundamentals were changed by the Obama presidency) and the first item cut from the budget is maintaining all these wind pumps in one of the harshest environments in the world.

This whole idea reminds me of the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff type policy that we use with our refugees.  Instead of eliminating the source of the refugees, we spend huge amounts of money trying to care for them.  They don't want to be in our strange (to them) land.  They want to be in their homes amongst their friends.

To stop the creation of refugees, the next time someone decides to start a completely unjustified war in someone else's country,  the whole world should put full sanctions on them.  Yes America and the UK, I am talking about you.

Even worse, when you refuse to come to the party and reduce your carbon pollution, once again sanctions should be imposed until you wake up.  Here I am only addressing the US.  The UK is making a pretty reasonable fist of it.

This ridiculous idea of trying to artificially create more ice is  philosophically, practically and scientifically fought.  Get real and address the cause.  Use these trillions to get us free from fossil fuels.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Australian Air Conditioning

This blog was triggered by an item on our National Radio when they crossed to Kerry-Anne Walsh in Australia.  She reported that there is a heat wave in Aus with temperatures reaching and even exceeding 45C.  At the same time, she reported that the Ausi electrical generation network can't cope with the load so they are instituting rolling load shedding* just when the people most need their air conditioning.

*Power grids are set up to shut down sectors when demand exceeds the power they can generate. Not pleasant if you are in the sacrificed sector when the temperatures are lethally hot and your air conditioner no longer works.

This is not just a matter of convenience or comfort.  When the wet-bulb* temperature rises above about 33C, a human can't cool off any more and such temperatures become fatal.

* A wet bulb temperature is a combination of temperature and humidity.  At 100% humidity and a temperature of 33C, you can no longer cool the body by sweating or radiation.  As the air gets drier and drier, you can tolerate higher temperatures because your sweating mechanism becomes more effective.  It has been suggested that with Climate Change, areas of the earth will become uninhabitable unless the people have air conditioning.  

Kerry-Anne also mentioned that part of the problem is the emphasis in Aus on Wind power as part of the grid generation and when you depend on wind, it doesn't always blow when you need it most.  ie - during one of these heat waves.  This got me to thinking.  Let me make a side step for a moment.

When I lived in Gazankulu in South Africa, I set up a fish farm  for one of the local sub tribes.  It was fed water from a near by lake and the water was pumped by a MonoPump powered by an array of solar panels.  A mono pump is a positive displacement pump* so if it turns a little it pumps a little water and if it turns a lot it pumps a lot.  (unlike centrifugal pumps that need full speed to pump their water).  It had a DC motor. DC motors can be set up to turn in proportion to the amount of power they receive.  Note that AC motors must have their full power or they tend to burn out.

*A piston pump is one example of a positive displacement pump.  It's output is proportional to the number of rotations it makes.  Centrifugal pumps which are the ones most used and which are powered by Alternating Current (AC) must operate at their rated speed to be effective.

When the sun came up in the morning and touched the panels the pump started to operate slowly and as the sun rose, it pumped more and more.  Why do I mention this.

The two things you have to take from this story is that with suitable electronics, the rpm of a DC motor is in proportion to the amount of power you feed it and a positive displacement pump will pump in proportion to it's rate of rotation.

An air conditioner, in essence,  is nothing more than a gas pump and two fans.  Let me divert again and explain a touch of physics.  I hope no physicist are reading this.  They would have a conniption fit at my explanation.  I apologize right at the beginning but if you are not into physics, the explanation makes more sense this way.

When you compress a gas it heats up and if you have somewhere cooler that the gas, the heat will flow to this cooler location.  Think of it as if you are squeezing the heat out of the gas.  If you compress it more and more, at some point it will condense into a liquid and a lot of heat will be squeezed out as the molecules come much closer together in the liquid.  When you let off the pressure and let the liquid evaporate and in addition, let the resulting gas expand, it cools and can absorb heat from its environment.  This is an air conditioner.

You have the compression outside the house and have a fan blowing outside air across the radiator which contains the condensed, hot liquid (or compressed gas).   You then pipe the liquid into the house in a pipe and let it expand in a second radiator with a fan blowing across it. The expanded gas cools and cools the air in the house.  The pump takes the gas and once more compresses it.  Now let's pull this together.

All you need is a few solar panels on your roof pointing North*.  They are connected directly to an air conditioner with  3 DC motors (to power the gas compressor and the two fans).

I live in the southern hemisphere

For the most part, it is hot when the sun shines.  Yes I know there are some hot cloudy days but at a 95%+ level, Sunny = Hot.  So now you have an air conditioner that works harder and harder the higher the sun is both on a daily and a seasonal basis.  You can even slant the panels a little toward the West to take care of the continuing heating of the air even after the sun has reached it's zenith. 

Better still, you are not putting extra strain on the grid when it is under its greatest strain.  I would actually state this a little differently.  You become independent of "The Man" and take care of your own needs without dependence on a central power source.

Have a well insulated house and you can forget about your air conditioning.  It works automatically and works hardest when you most need it.

Incidentally, most air conditioners can work in reverse.  That is to say, heating the house.  If you are in the central plains of America where there are lots of sunny days in the winter but it is very very cold, you can switch your air conditioner to heat the house.  It won't work very well on cloudy days but you will have to cut less wood to get you through the winter.

Apropos, no one would ever suggest that only one source of renewable power is the answer to weaning ourselves off fossil fuel.  Each has it's advantages and together they are much more effective than any single source.  And single technologies are more effective  if they are geographically distributed.  That is the advantage of our existing national grids.  They can bring power from areas where the wind blows or the sun shines to where the wind  is not blowing or the sun is not shining at the moment.

If there is one country in the world with abundant renewable energy it is Australia.  I don't know why they burn coal at all.  Must be political.  It certainly isn't technical. 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Vetting check list for rich immigrants

The rich from America and other Northern Hemisphere countries see the chaos coming and want a bolt-hole to run to if the situation in their own country gets too hot.  New Zealand is a prime target for the rich and 'famous'.  If they have been instrumental in the creation of the coming chaos, they should be left in their own country to enjoy the fruits of their labor.   The source of their fear is three fold. 

There is the threat of another crash but one that won't have an Obama to save the day.  Obama succeeded in avoiding the worst consequences (at least for the rich - the common people suffered) but he didn't manage to get reforms passed the way FDR did.  Before FDR the American economy crashed on about a 14 year cycle.  Post FDR there was half a century of economic stability.  Clinton and others deregulated and we had 2008.  In the natural course of events one would expect the next crash about 2022 (14 years after 2008).  I doubt it will take that long.

Climate Change
There is the threat of climate change and some indications that it will hit the Northern Hemisphere very hard.  The chaos, climate change will cause will make the nastiness caused by America's never ending wars look like a minor inconvenience.

Third there is the threat of insurrection in America.  Trump has appealed to a population that wants change and who wouldn't.  They could have had Bernie but a hugely corrupt DNC shafted that possibility.  Now we have Trump and if there was ever a divisive president he is it.  I don't think most American politicians realize why  the second amendment was put in the Constitution (right to bear arms).  It was put in place so that no government could ever abuse their population as was the norm in the 1700s.  The American population is heavily armed and many many of them have been sent to war after war.  They are battle trained.

Therefore, below, I present a vetting list for the "rich and famous" when they want to buy  a bolt hole in New Zealand to escape to.  Some of the following would automatically eliminate a candidate, some would trigger what our friend Trump calls extreme vetting.  Unfortunately some of our politician and civil servants are all-a-flutter at the prospect of catering to the rich.  I'm not saying by any means that they are receiving favors from these people.  Just that they are a little starry eyed.  Think - An innocent 16year old girl who has just got a date with a rock star.  All a twitter.

                         Vetting List 

*Anyone who doesn't pass the normal criteria of language, time spent in New Zealand, police checks and so forth that any other immigrant must pass.  You have to ask yourself, why would someone who is well established in their own country want citizenship in a country they don't live in. Why should we allow them to purchase a bolt hole in New Zealand to avoid the results of their actions.

*Any member of a Northern Hemisphere political establishment. Especially the GOP.

*Anyone in the Trump administration.

*Any American super delegate.

*Any CEO on an obscene salary.

*Anyone who works or worked for Goldman Sachs, Merril Lynch or any of the other companies who were implicated in the crash of 2008

*Anyone who works or worked for a bank. Especially if they hold or held high office.

*Anyone who was in the Bush administration. 

*Anyone in the Military.  The higher up, the more extreme the vetting.

*Any lobbyists.

*Anyone in the pharmaceutical industry.  The higher up, the more extreme the vetting.  

Climate change deniers
If the scientists are even half right, the present gradual climate change we are experiencing  will suddenly (within a few years) flip to a new state.  Some call this a light switch phenomenon.  You push against the spring until the light switch clicks and you have a new state (light to dark).  You have to push  hard in the other direction until the previous state is restored.  No need to detail the chaos that will occur if the scientists are correct.  Any climate change denier would attract extreme vetting, anyone who's actions had hindered the adoption of measures to mitigate climate change would be summarily rejected.

Economic reform deniers
Following the crash of 2008 there was a crying need to re-introduce the measures that were so successful in FDR's administration.  His reforms stopped the boom and crash cycle and led to half a century of economic stability.  Anyone who fought against the re-institution of these measures would be automatically rejected. Anyone who was for deregulation, likewise.

You may like to add to this list and I will be happy to entertain any suggestions.  The principle is clear.  We don't want people here who have contributed to the coming CF.  Why should they get a get-out-of-jail card and leave behind the situation they have created.

Of course, if you reverse this list, you see the type of people who could be admitted to lifeboat New Zealand

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Letter to Barak Obama

Dear Professor Obama

I am very glad you are not going to observe common custom of American presidents and desist from commenting on the present presidency. You are a voice of calm, reason and right thinking which is much needed today.

Your legacy is being dismantled step by step and this is a tragedy. I was going to say that you have no one to blame but yourself but that is manifestly untrue. Also to blame are Hillary and Debbie in cahoots with each other and Elizabeth Warren.

Not only are you a constitutional lawyer but you swore to uphold the constitution of the United States. The core of that constitution is the part saying that the government is ‘by and for’ the people. The rest is window dressing. Just keep that part and you would still have the best founding document that the world has ever known.

Therefore, if you were going to endorse someone as the Dem candidate it should have been the peoples choice. It was abundantly clear who that was. To support anyone else was unconstitutional.

What really gets me is the stupidity of the decision. Why on earth would you, the DNC and Warren support a candidate with at best, a 50:50 chance of beating Trump instead of the candidate that would have left Trump as a minor foot note in American history. Professor Warren is particularly disappointing.  She was by a long shot my all time hero and her fall from grace, pandering to her own ambitions to be on the team is shocking.  And it is not as if she didn't know who Hillary is.

You certainly have your work cut out for you trying to influence the course of the next 4 or 8 years but in my opinion, your first job is to reform the badly misnamed Democratic party. There is nothing democratic about it.

Go back to the choosing of Truman as FDR's running mate and work your way forward in time to this recent CF resulting in Trump being elected and you will see what I mean.

If Bernie had been elected, he would have taken your legacy, preserved and enhanced it.

What I am going to say now will sound bombastic but work your way through the implications of the situation we find ourselves in and you may come to the same conclusion.

Your support of Hillary combined with the support of the DNC and  Warren may just possibly have doomed our civilization. It certainly will have led to a huge amount of chaos and suffering in the world. Arguably we are just on the brink of tipping points that will send our climate to a new state. We have  adapted our civilization to the climate state we have had since the end of the most recent glacial period and any new state will result in much suffering. The more closely you have adapted to a situation, the greater the disruption under a new situation.

Looking at the strange weather now (2016-17) it could be that even Bernie would have been too late but at least he would have taken the necessary measures and we might just possibly have a chance.  Under Trump, especially if he is in for 8 years, we are deep in the brown stuff.

With respect to the economy,  under your administration, FDR-type reforms to the economy were not put in place. The next crash is inevitable.
Note that the economy boomed and crashed pre FDR on about a 14 year cycle.  After FDR put in much needed reforms, we had half a century of economic stability. Clinton and others deregulated and we had 2008.
You managed to pull us out of that one without the complete disaster that could have occurred.  However you failed to re-instate much needed reforms and the next crash is inevitable. 

So we are facing both economic chaos and Environmental chaos.

I hope that in the book you are working on, you will tell us ‘what happened’. In fact that might be a good title for the book. What Happened.  It could be an instruction manual for the next president, (after Trump)  telling him how difficult it is to get things done, and the pressures he is under to betray his beliefs. It could give future presidents a heads up on how to work the system.

A big advantage that Bernie would have had is that he has been a mayor, a representative and a senator. He had the experience. You, like Kennedy, didn’t have the depth of experience to know how to work the system. Johnson, the much maligned, got more of Kennedy’s measures through than Kennedy ever did. He knew how it all works

On that note, look what Trump is doing. He is doing what he promised and however you (and I) disdain what he is doing, he is proving himself to be an effective president and a man of his word. That is what the American people want and he is very likely to win a second term.  Looking at other things he has promised I can only say God Help Us.  The people he has surrounded himself with have an agenda which is past abuses of the American people on steroids

I believe that if you had moved on things such as Guantanamo during your first two years with a majority, you would not have lost at the mid terms.

It is not certain that Bernie could have pulled us out of our rush to destruction.  We may have actually gone too far already and the coming results are already in the pipeline.  But at least, he would have taken the much needed measures and given us a chance.  After 8 years of Trump, if he does what he has said he will do: and so far he has shown us that he is a man of his word: then it will almost certainly be too late.