This blog started 28th September 2008 as a quick communication tool for exchanging information, comments, thoughts, admonitions, compliments etc… related to http://meteo.lcd.lu , the Global Warming Sceptic pages and environmental policy subjects.
I continue the discussion on natural disasters using the handy graphing feature of the em-dat website of the UCL (Université Catholique de Louvain).
First the graph of floods (the left axis shows the yearly numbers):
If we look for the total number of deaths caused by these floods, there clearly is a case for optimism (left axis = deaths in thousands):
The post 2000 casualties are not higher than those of 1960, where the reported number of floods was much lower!
The droughts statistics show much more variability:
Here one can not see a spectacular rise, but a lot of inter-annual variability. The exceptional high peak corresponds to 1981, the last maximum from the right to the year 2000. Since that year, the global number of droughts is decreasing (which does not signify that several regions, as parts of California, do not suffer from an ongoing severe drought).
The number of deaths are astonishing small, and show no tendency:
What is the conclusion of this little exercise? It is not correct to state that natural catastrophes of floods and droughts are continuously increasing thanks to an ongoing global warming. This litany is dear to many environmentalists and politicians, whose agenda is impervious to real data.
Discussions on climate change always come to the argument that natural disasters like flood, drought, heatwaves etc. are on the rise, due to (anthropogenic) climate change. It is often difficult to have correct numbers at hand, so the Belgian EM-DAT (the International Disaster Database, a work of the Université Catholique de Louvain, UCL)) is a tremendous help to deliver correct data. EM-DAT considers natural as well as technological disasters. The former are those that will be of interest here.
As the discussion on climate mostly considers the global impact, let us just look how floods, droughts, heat- and cold-waves have changed since 1960. The Annual Disaster Statistical Review 2013 begins its summary with: “In 2013, 330 natural triggered disasters were registered. This was both less than the average annual disaster frequency observed from 2013 to 2012 (388) and represented a decreased in associated human impacts of disasters which were, in 2013, at their lowest level since 16 years.”
I added to fig.1 of this report the trend line (in red) which shows an average decrease of 5.3 occurrences per year since 2000.
Climatological disasters (extreme temperatures, drought and wildfires) went down from a percentage of 15.5 per year (2003-2012) to 10% in 2013.
I will continue these comments in the next days, time permitting. Meanwhile, go to this excellent website (http://www.emdat.be) and look for yourself at the trends under the “Disaster Trends” label.
In my previous blog “Climate modelling nonsense” I urged the hopefully existent visitor to read the excellent article of Serge Galam “Global Warming: the Sacrificial Temptation” which is available at arXiv and was published in 2007.
Firstly, Serge Galam is a physicist, with 2 PhD’s received in 1975 and 1981 at the universities Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris and the university of Tel Aviv. After some time spent in New York and the French CNRS, he joined the CREA of the famous Ecole Polytechnique. CREA stands for “Centre de Recherche en Epistémiologie Appliquée”, which means that Serge Galam has moved over to more philosophical problems, and may now correctly be called a philosopher. He firmly opposes the scientists who becoming politicized have abandoned the scientific method (in his book “Les Scientifiques ont perdu le Nord”, Plon, 2008) and remains very skeptical about man-made global warming or climate change.
So for those of you who never have time to read an article from start to end, let me just give here seven of what I find the most remarkable sentences in the cited article.
1. The debate about global warming has taken emotional tones driven by passion and irrationality while it should be a scientific debate.
2. In the past of human history, the identification of a single responsible of all the difficulties and hardships of a society has always produced huge human destructions.
3. The unanimity exhibited everywhere is indeed obtained by the exclusion of any person who dares to cast a doubt about the man guilt truth.
4. … science has nothing to do with neither unanimity nor the number of voters.
5. It is not the duty of the sceptics to have to brig a proof of whatever it is about which they are sceptical… Rather, it is up to the scientists making the new assertion who must bring the corresponding proog, in this case of human guilt.
6. In case the current climate changes have natural causes, focusing our entire efforts on a drastic reduction of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions, implying a suppression of advanced technologies, could leave us defenceless in the face of a newly hostile nature.
7. Most caution should be taken to prevent opportunistic politicians, more and more numerous, to subscribe to the proposed temptation of a sacrifice frame in order to reinforce their power by canalizing these archaic fears that are reemerging.
What a marvelous last sentence! The German physicist Dr. Gert Weber from the Max Planck Institut gave in 1993 in his book “Der Treibhauseffekt” a similar conclusion: “Heute werden auf eine Weise Forschungsgelder verteilt und Berichte geschrieben, dass sich daraus eine positive Rückkopplungsschleife bildet, die allen Beteiligten Gewinne abwirft. Die Wissenschaftler bekommen mehr Forschungsgelder, die Medien neue Empörungsgeschichten…, den Politikern erschliesst sich ihr Stimmenpotential.”
This said, I wish you happy, sunny and warm Eastern holidays!
I’m restructuring my workplace at home, by moving from one room to another, that was heavily modified and recabled. In doing this, one has to glance to all these many collected items and articles, and decide: trash it or keep it? These heroic decisions are sometimes made more easy, when one stumbles on one of these very outstanding articles, that shine like a beacon amid the stormy waves of platitudes, nonsense and boring pomposity.
John Reid’s “Climate Modelling Nonsense” published by Quadrant Online in 2009 is such a gem.
John Reid is a PhD physicist from Tasmania, who worked in atmospheric physics and fluid dynamic modelling: so this guy really knows about what he writes! Let me cite some of the most memorable sentences of his article:
1. “(Climatologist) do not seek to invalidate their models; they only seek supporting evidence”
2. “Water vapour positive feedback is only an assumption: but, importantly for the modellers, it is an assumption which makes the models work.”
3. “…climate prediction, as it is carried out by those organizations which come under the aegis of the IPCC, is not science. It is a superstition, similar to astrology or homeopathy.”
4. “Over the last few years, with remarkable rapidity, AGW theory has gone from a scientific curiosity to a politically correct catechism… it seems to fulfill a human need for sacrifice…It is the ancient myth about guilt and sin and redemption in a new guise”.
This last point rings bells with me (I have been educated in a catholic environment, where these notions of guilt, sin and redemption were ubiquitous). The great French philosopher Serge Galam has written an article “Global Warming: The Sacrificial Temptation” which is a must-read, and further dwells down into this problem of human psychology, which makes an honest and intelligent climate debate so difficult.
I was a bit excited to watch this rare event of a regrettably not total, but nevertheless heavy partial solar eclipse. In 1999 we had a total eclipse in parts of Luxembourg, and I made some measurements and wrote a small comment on the meteorological impacts. So today I built up a telescope with a small projection screen and a datalogger with T/H sensor and an old pyranometer (which had its output amplified by an instrumentation amplifier I assembled a couple of years ago). The following picture shows this material, and also gives an impression of the heavy fog covering the whole valley of the river Sauer where Diekirch is located.
The next picture is a close-up on the datalogger (a vintage faithful German 12bit Mikromec logger from 1990), with the instrumentation amplifier and the Kip and Zonen gray pyranometer; the Rotronic T/H sensor lies below the table, visible at the lower border of the picture. The white sensor at the rear is our Solarlight UVA sensor.
Alas, the fog was very persistent, so that the sun became visible only during the last part of the eclipse.
The next close-up shows the big sunspot AR2303 close to the moon’s border:
So despite the disappointing viewing conditions, we nevertheless had at least the beautiful view of a big and nearly circular sunspot close to the vanishing moon shadow.
The last figure shows the variations of air temperature and solar irradiance during the eclipse; at the moment of maximum cover the solar disc was still completely invisible, but nevertheless the dip in solar irradiance is clearly visible:
Air temperature also goes down by about 0.5 °C with a possible small delay. This is similar to the observations made in 1999 (see 3rd figure).
added 21 March 2015:
Here is the graph of German solar electricity production; the sharp dip of 7 GW was filled by conventional fossil producers. As great parts of the country were covered by fog, the ramp up was not so spectacular as feared (it took a bit more than an hour from trough to peak), and the electrical grid remained stable (graph from here). Be careful with the left axis: the numbers do not seem correct, as DW gives those inserted in the graph.:
The HTW (Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft, Berlin) has published (prior to the eclipse) an interesting study with several simulations of the effect on German solar electricity production.
The GWPF (the Global Warming Policy Foundation) has a very interesting new report (they call it a “briefing”) answering a report by the Royal Society on climate change (A short guide to climate science). The RS report falls squarely into the usual “consensus” category, and suggest the human driver (and guilt) behind nearly all changes observed.
The list of contributors to the “Small Print” paper is impressive:
Prof Robert Carter
Prof Vincent Courtillot
Prof Freeman Dyson
Prof Christopher Essex
Dr Indur Goklany
Prof Will Happer
Prof Richard Lindzen
Prof Ross McKitrick
Prof Ian Plimer
Dr Matt Ridley
Sir Alan Rudge
Prof Nir Shaviv
Prof Fritz Vahrenholt
So this briefing should not simply be brushed away, but makes a careful reading mandatory. The style is easy, giving clear and no-frills answers titled “The fuller picture” to 20 important questions (the questions that are always asked…).
For instance, the Royal Society is impervious to the failing of climate models during the last 15-18 years. The”Small Print” briefing correctly explains that “The Royal Society guide claims that models fail to explain recent warming unless they incorporate anthropogenic forcing. This assertion depends on the readily falsifiable claim that models correctly replicate natural variability. Models fail on natural variability, therefore the Royal Society’s claim fails in the real world”.
Now that the preparations for the Paris climate conference are slowly coming into steam, everybody should ask the politicians and green climate warriors what they know about natural climate swings… A good question would be “if you are so ignorant about natural causes for climate change, how can you plan horribly expensive policies to mitigate a natural behavior, instead of planning adaptive measures when and where they are needed”.
Please read this briefing!
The German national television ZDF broadcasted a (mostly!) remarkable two part series (Part 1, Part II) on the impact of climate change on human history and development. Part I starts with the Neanderthals and ends with the beginning of the Roman Empire. Part II (which I prefer) starts with the warm Roman period and ends with the modern warm period. What is remarkable is that over the whole series, the authors insist that the recurring great climate changes are due to natural phenomena, mostly Milankovitch cycles with their changing solar irradiance and volcanic activity. For instance it is said that “die Sonne ist der Hauptakteur”, or “jede Klimaveränderung wird vom Weltall aus gesteuert”. A recurrent leitmotiv is that warmer (and more humid) periods are good for development, colder are bad.
The most interesting second part tells the stories of the last 3 warm periods (Roman, Medieval and today) and shows how a warmer climate fostered cultural, scientific and political development. And vastly increasing populations are not described as a parasitic illness destroying the planet, but as a welcome and “natural” development thriving in good climatic conditions.
Why did I start with the quantifier “mostly” ? Because the excellence of the 2 times 43 minutes is spoiled by the last 60 seconds, where Mark Maslin (University College London) closes with this sentence: “We are at a point where we can decide how the future climate will be.” This is blatant silliness, probably forced upon the professor to include at least a sentence seen to be politically correct and Zeitgeist aware. This last conclusion is the more silly, as all previous examples clearly have shown that the changes of the climate were not caused by human activity. And today, never mind our technological achievements, we are still unable to change the tilt of the axis of the globe, modify solar activity or put a lid on volcanoes to avoid their eruptions.
Nevertheless, this broadcast makes me more optimistic: could it be that the fashionable hysteria regarding an anthropogenic climate change is loosing steam, and starting to go the way typical for all fads and Zeitgeist exaggerations, i.e. dissolving into oblivion?
Read also the excellent comments of Pierre Gosselin in his blog.
One of my favorite sentences from the great author Heinrich Spoerl’s book “Die Feuerzangenbowle” (1933) is the physics professor Bömmel. Explaining the working of the steam engine he begins with “Da stelle mer uns janz dumm” (approximate translation “Let’s start by assuming we are completely stupid”).
The primordial question about an eventual anthropogenic caused global warming is the temperature increase following rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations (or more correctly “mixing ratios”). The IPCC assumes that AGH (anthropogenic greenhouse gases) and predominantly CO2 are the principal driver of the last 150 years warming of about 0.7°C. We know from laboratory experiments that the radiative forcing F (in W/m-2) produced by CO2 is proportional to the (natural) logarithm of its concentration. Generally it is assumed that dF = 5.35*ln(CO2new/CO2old), and that global temperature increase dT is proportional to dF: dT = lambda* dF, where lambda is the much debated (equilibrium) climate sensitivity. Lambda is not only much debated, but the last 30 years of multi-billion officially fostered climate research has not lowered the “consensus” estimate range (about 1.5 to 4.5 °C). Now politicians eager to avoid planetary Armageddon and to show their environmental care have only one simple question: “by how much will the globe warm when our emissions increase atmospheric CO2 by so and so much?”. Alas, their only acceptable counselor (the IPCC) can only give an answer based on models (an answer the IPCC calls a scenario to avoid that satanic word “prediction”).
So we will follow professor Böhmer’s dictum and “da stelle mer uns janz dumm”. Let us look at the past data since 1850, and use the Hadcrut4 data set for global temperatures (this dataset is used by the IPCC) and also an officially accepted CO2 variation data set (the Mauna Loa series extended backwards to 1850). I will use Prof. Humlum’s excellent website www.climate4you.com (a website that shines like a rare true scientific beacon in midst global activism and hysterical enviro-angst). We will use two periods with much different CO2 increases: 1850 to 1945 where CO2 increases from 290 to 310 ppmV (let’s not object to these numbers, even if they are still open to debate), and 1945 to 2013, where the CO2 concentrations go from 310 to 397 ppmV. The global temperature increases by 0.3 K (or °C) during the first period, and by +0.4 K during the second.
Now let us take the simplistic model: dT = k* ln(dCO2) where the d means a delta: dT = temperature difference, same for dCO2. I know, this model differs from the expression given above; it is an “janz dumme” hypothesis which will be subjected to observational verification.
The first period allows to calculate the factor k which is equal to k = dT/ln(dCO2) = 0.3/ln(20) = 0.1.
Let us take this result to calculate the temperature increase that a CO2 swing from 310 to 397 ppm would yield: dTcalc = 0.1*ln(87) = 0.45 K. The observational data give dT = 0.40 K, very, very close to the simplistic calculation. Our zero-dollar model is more or less verified by the second period of nearly 70 years.
fig. Global temperature anomalies (Hadcrut4 series) for 1850 to present with CO2 increase.
Now we will look into the crystal ball and predict how much warming a CO2 doubling from the pre-industrial (1850) baseline will cause (if everything continues as it has during the last 163 years):
dT = 0.1*ln(580-397) = 0.52 K. This will be the warming from today on if CO2 levels rise to 580 ppmV. IPCC’s “business as usual” scenario A1TI predicts this mixing ratio for 2050, and about 1000 ppmV for 2100. Now 1000 ppmV seems ***BIG***, but our model shows that it will correspond to a warming of only dT = 0.1*ln(1000-397) = 0.64 K from today’s situation. This means a total warming of 0.7 + 0.64 = 1.34 °C in respect to the cold, end of little ice age pre-industrial times if we do nothing. Hardly anything to shudder and scream about!
The problem of how much wind turbines for electricity production decrease CO2 emissions when they replace existing fossil fuel power stations is a crucial one. Usually the political decision to push wind power electricity is the underlying assumption that climate hurting CO2 emissions will be diminished. Hubert Inhaber has published a paper in the Elsevier Journal “Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews”, vol 15, issue 6 (August 2011) with the title “Why wind power does not deliver the expected emissions reductions”. This paper is a meta-analysis of other papers on that subject, and also an analysis of existing wind power installations; here Denmark and Germany certainly are the principal players (in 2013 Danish wind power delivered 35% of its total electricity production, and the German percentage was 8%). Actually the findings seem valid for all intermittent electricity producers, including solar PV.
The media and lobbies usually tell that x kWh produced by a wind turbine correspond to an avoidance of the same number times the CO2 intensity, e.g. x*850 g CO2 when electricity is produced by a classical coal power station. This naive assumptions neglects the intermittency, clearly the Achilles heel of wind and solar power. Weather conditions may plunge these intermittent producers close to zero, as shown in the following picture (link).
The needed power at the end of the day was greater than 50000 MW, which means that fossil fuel (probably not nuclear generators) had to be ramped up to ensure grid reliability. This non-intermittent backups completely change the picture, as they must increase with a higher penetration of wind and solar power stations. Inhaber shows a nice curve (attention: left scale is logarithmic!) based on German and other countries data which gives the percentage in CO2 avoidance versus the penetration of wind power (penetration = percentage of wind power electricity w.r. to total electricity produced), assuming grid stability must be maintained.
Germany’s wind turbines produced 8% of a total of 634 TWh in 2013, i.e. 50.7 TWh. Let us assume that the electricity mix emits 552 g CO2 per kWh (see here). If no wind turbines had been installed, the 50.7 TWh produced by classical means would have emitted 50.7*1E9[kWh]*0.552*1E-3[ton] = 28 million metric tons of CO2. With the installed wind turbines, these emissions become 24 million tons of CO2, with an unspectacular avoidance of only 4 million tons (all numbers rounded). Should intermittent wind (and solar) power reach 20% penetration, the CO2 avoidance falls to an abysmal 2% !
Inhaber suggests (with caveats!) the following equation for the above curve:
CO2_avoidance% = 200/(1 + exp(0.2*penetration%))
which tends asymptotically to zero with increasing penetration.
A second effect of increasing intermittent renewables is a dramatic plunge in the capacity factors, as shown in this picture adapted from the Power Magazine:
Germany has an impressive 45% of combined wind and solar capacity installed, but has the lowest capacity factor ( = percentage of delivered versus theoretical maximum power) of the 10 countries (the capacity factors are given in the red boxes). These numbers simply tell us that if a certain volume of electricity must be produced, the number of renewable power stations must exceed more and more the number suggested by their name plate capacity.
These are truly gruesome numbers, which make a mockery of the (naive?) enthusiasm of those that think that intermittent emission free producers like wind and solar may de-carbonize a future non-nuclear electricity production.
A discussion from Australia on this problem can be found here and a very interesting report in Biospherica here. Read also this paper by Fred Udo using Eiregrid production data (not models!) show that “the introduction of wind energy without buffer storage leads to increased fossil fuel use and CO2 emissions and is a non-sustainable practice. ”
The Eiregrid engineers wrote in a 2004 report Impact of Wind Power Generation that “It is not sufficient to estimate the amount of energy which can be obtained from a given capacity of WPG, and to assume that the equivalent percentage of fossil fuel and therefore CO2 can be avoided. This ignores the impact of the increasing number of start-ups and lower capacity factor as WPG increases.” They give 2 scenarios: when wind capacity is 1500 MW, the CO2 reduction is 470 ton/MWh: with 3500 MW capacity, the reduction is only 331 ton/MWh ; there is a diminishing return of CO2 avoidance with increasing wind power penetration.
07 Dec 2014: original version
08 Dec 2014: added lines with links to the Fred Udo paper and Eiregrid report.