Archive for August, 2015

Cosmic Theories, Greenhouse Gases, Global Warming

August 27, 2015

Antero Ollila from the Aalto University (Finland) has published in the Journal of Earth Sciences and Geotechnical Engineering a very interesting paper titled “Cosmic Theories and Greenhouse Gases as Explanations of Global Warming” (link to PDF). His study concludes that “the greenhouse gases cannot explain the up’s and down’s of the Earth’s temperature trend since 1750 and the temperature pause since 1798”. I will comment briefly on this rather easy to read paper, which alas should have benefited from a more thorough proof-reading, as there are quite a few spelling errors and/or typos.

1. IPCC and competing theories.

The IPCC concludes in his AR’s that practical all observed warming since the start of the industrial age comes from human emissions of greenhouse gases; the cause of GW (global warming) clearly is inside the Earth/atmosphere system. Competing theories see (possibly exclusively) outside causes at work: solar irradiance, galactic cosmic rays (GCR), space dust, planetary positions… As the temperatures calculated by the IPCC climate models (or better, the mean of numerous GCM’s), deviate now markedly from observations, Ollila writes that the “dependence of the surface temperature solely on the GH gas concentration is not any more justified”.

fig1In this figure (fig.1 of the paper) the blue dots represent the temperature anomaly calculated using the IPCC climate sensitivity parameter, and the blue line the CO2 induced warming postulated by the Myhre et al. paper. The red wiggly curve are the observed temperatures (t. anomalies): the huge difference with the IPCC dot in 2010 is eye watering!

2. The outside, cosmic  models.

Ollila studies 4 cosmic models (which he blends into 3 combinations): variations of TSI and solar magnetic field, GCR, space dust and astronomical harmonics , as proposed by Nicola Scafetta. What many of these causes have in common, is that they could influence cloud coverage: the variations of cloud percentage is the elephant in the room! One percent variation in cloud cover is assumed to cause 0.1°C temperature change. Satellites shows that cloud coverage has varied up to 6% percent since 1983, which would explain a 0.6°C warming.

Combining space dust, solar variations and greenhouse gases together, he finds the following figure, extending to 2050 (fig.8 of the paper):

Here the red dot shows the average warming in 2010 given by the mean of 102 IPCC climate models; the black curve represents Ollila’s calculation. This figure shows, as many other authors predict, a (slight) cooling up to 2020, and then a 30 year period of practically no warming.

In another try, Ollila left out the putative influence of the increasing GH concentration. His justification are famous papers by Dr. Ferenc Miscolszi, a former NASA physicist, where this author proposes the theory that the impact of an increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gases will be cancelled out by a drying of the atmosphere (i.e. a decrease of absolute water vapour content). Miskolszi is able to reconstruct the past temperature variations beautifully, so this “outlandish”  theory about a saturated greenhouse effect should not simply be discarded or ignored (read comments here and here).

This gives the following figure (fig.9 in the paper), with the black curve corresponding to the output of the calculations including only the SDI (star dust index) and TSI (total solar irradiance).


Now look at this: Ollila’s prediction of a coming longer lasting cooling period is nearly identical to the predictions based on the current (and next) very weak solar cycles !!!

3. The crucial role of water vapour

This whole paper stretches again and again the importance of getting the vapour content of a future climate right: the IPCC still assumes a constant relative humidity, i.e. an increasing water content with rising temperatures, and as a conclusion a positive feedback of the CO2 induced warming. Observations show that this has not been the case: the total water content of the atmosphere has not increased, as shown on this graph from (upper blue curve):


4. Conclusion

This is a paper I urge you to read. It clearly shows that climate science is far from settled, and that the naive, drastic and hurting climate politics proposed by EOL (end-of-life) presidents or advocacy groups could well try to influence a parameter (CO2) which has only a minor influence: this means much pain for very little or no gain!

Your smartphone is radioactive!

August 17, 2015

Nuclear energy and all thinks related to radioactivity have nowadays a bad press in Europe; few people remember their high-school physics with experiments on radioactive decay, and hopefully some information on the ubiquitous radioactive radiations that are a part of nature since the beginning of our planet. Decades of scare stories. semi-truth and abysmal lies have fostered a generation in Germany that thinks nuclear emission-free energy is outdated, and that radioactivity, where it exists, must be avoided like hell (or forbidden by the government :-))

It may come as a surprise that your humble smartphone that you use so frequently is a radioactive gadget. I learned this after reading an excellent article by David Jones at the website Brave New Climate.

1. The ITO touchscreen

All smartphones and tablets use touchscreens, which are one of the principal causes for easy use.

This picture (adapted from shows that the principal element are the two ITO (indium tin oxide) sheets: these are transparent foils covered with a very thin layer of indium and tin oxide. Indium is element number 49, and the isotope used here is the most abundant I115. This isotope is a beta- emitter (it emits electrons from its nucleus, and converts to Sn115, which is tin.)

The energy of these electrons is rather small (495 keV), and the half-live of the indium is huge: 4.14*10^14 years! Indium is the 65th most frequent metal in the Earth crust, where it is found at a very small concentration of about 160 ppb (parts per billion). The minable world reserve is estimated at 6000 to. With steady increasing use in electronic devices and wind-mills, it may become a bottleneck for further development.

2. Measuring the radioactivity of an Iphone 4

Can the radioactivity of the Iphone touchscreen be detected? To answer this question, I put up a quick experiment, using a semi-professional Geiger counter, the INSPECTOR from S.E. International. This instrument has a very large pan-cake Geiger tube of about 48mm diameter; this means it is very sensitive even to small radioactivity levels. The picture shows the back-side of the INSPECTOR, with the wire mesh protecting the counter tube.


The experiment was done in two steps, each taking 10 minutes: first I ran the counter positioned left to the Iphone (which was switched on during the full experiment), and noted the minimum and maximum of the readings (there is about one reading every 2 seconds). Here is a picture, the counter showing a reading of 0.161 uSv/h, close to the maximum.


Secondly, I put the counter on top of the Iphone, so that the pancake Geiger tube covered the screen. The next picture also shows a reading, also close to the maximum of that part.


Here the results (all in uSv/h):

Background:        minimum = 0.065   Maximum = 0.167

On top of screen: minimum = 0.161  Maximum = 0.275

We note that the second range begins practically where the first one stops: the minimum radiation on the screen is equal to the maximum of the background, and the maximum of the screen exceeds the background maximum by 65%. If we use the mid-points between minima and maxima (116 and 218) as relevant indicators, we see that the touchscreen increases ambient radioactivity levels by 88% !

This means that the tip of your finger is exposed to about two times of what is the normal background radiation in Luxembourg.

Should you be afraid? Yes if you have been brainwashed to believe that all  radioactivity is dangerous! No if you remember your physics teacher and have kept a modicum of common sense!

PS1: When the Geiger counter is put on the backside of the Iphone, readings are similar to the background: the beta radiation does not cross the phone’s case. You may want to put your phone in the shirt pocket with the screen facing out :-))

PS2: There are alternatives to the use of indium in the laboratories: graphene, carbon nano-tubes etc. are some potential candidates. They will most certainly be used in the future, when demand makes Indium (now at ~800 US$/kg) too expensive. So, when will Apple launch with great fanfare the non-radioactive Iphone model?