Solar cycle linked to global climate

July 16, 2009,
Scientists find link between solar cycle and global climate similar to El Nino/La Nina. Credit: NCAR

Establishing a key link between the solar cycle and global climate, research led by scientists at the National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo., shows that maximum solar activity and its aftermath have impacts on Earth that resemble La Niña and El Niño events in the tropical Pacific Ocean.

The research may pave the way toward predictions of temperature and precipitation patterns at certain times during the approximately 11-year solar cycle.

"These results are striking in that they point to a scientifically feasible series of events that link the 11-year solar cycle with ENSO, the tropical Pacific phenomenon that so strongly influences climate variability around the world," says Jay Fein, program director in NSF's Division of Atmospheric Sciences. "The next step is to confirm or dispute these intriguing model results with observational data analyses and targeted new observations."

The total energy reaching Earth from the sun varies by only 0.1 percent across the solar cycle. Scientists have sought for decades to link these ups and downs to natural weather and climate variations and distinguish their subtle effects from the larger pattern of human-caused global warming.

Building on previous work, the NCAR researchers used computer models of global climate and more than a century of to answer longstanding questions about the connection between solar activity and global climate.

The research, published this month in a paper in the Journal of Climate, was funded by NSF, NCAR's sponsor, and by the U.S. Department of Energy.

"We have fleshed out the effects of a new mechanism to understand what happens in the tropical Pacific when there is a maximum of solar activity," says NCAR scientist Gerald Meehl, the paper's lead author. "When the sun's output peaks, it has far-ranging and often subtle impacts on tropical precipitation and on weather systems around much of the world."

The new paper, along with an earlier one by Meehl and colleagues, shows that as the Sun reaches maximum activity, it heats cloud-free parts of the Pacific Ocean enough to increase evaporation, intensify tropical rainfall and the trade winds, and cool the eastern tropical Pacific.

The result of this chain of events is similar to a La Niña event, although the cooling of about 1-2 degrees Fahrenheit is focused further east and is only about half as strong as for a typical La Niña.

Over the following year or two, the La Niña-like pattern triggered by the solar maximum tends to evolve into an El Niño-like pattern, as slow-moving currents replace the cool water over the eastern tropical Pacific with warmer-than-usual water.

Again, the ocean response is only about half as strong as with El Niño.

True La Niña and El Niño events are associated with changes in the temperatures of surface waters of the eastern . They can affect weather patterns worldwide.

The paper does not analyze the weather impacts of the solar-driven events. But Meehl and his co-author, Julie Arblaster of both NCAR and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, found that the solar-driven La Niña tends to cause relatively warm and dry conditions across parts of western North America.

More research will be needed to determine the additional impacts of these events on weather across the world.

"Building on our understanding of the solar cycle, we may be able to connect its influences with weather probabilities in a way that can feed into longer-term predictions, a decade at a time," Meehl says.

Scientists have known for years that long-term solar variations affect certain weather patterns, including droughts and regional temperatures.

But establishing a physical connection between the decadal and global climate patterns has proven elusive.

One reason is that only in recent years have computer models been able to realistically simulate the processes associated with tropical Pacific warming and cooling associated with El Niño and La Niña.

With those models now in hand, scientists can reproduce the last century's solar behavior and see how it affects the Pacific.

To tease out these sometimes subtle connections between the sun and Earth, Meehl and his colleagues analyzed sea surface temperatures from 1890 to 2006. They then used two computer models based at NCAR to simulate the response of the oceans to changes in solar output.

They found that, as the sun's output reaches a peak, the small amount of extra sunshine over several years causes a slight increase in local atmospheric heating, especially across parts of the tropical and subtropical Pacific where Sun-blocking clouds are normally scarce.

That small amount of extra heat leads to more evaporation, producing extra water vapor. In turn, the moisture is carried by trade winds to the normally rainy areas of the western tropical Pacific, fueling heavier rains.

As this climatic loop intensifies, the trade winds strengthen. That keeps the eastern Pacific even cooler and drier than usual, producing La Niña-like conditions.

Although this Pacific pattern is produced by the solar maximum, the authors found that its switch to an El Niño-like state is likely triggered by the same kind of processes that normally lead from La Niña to El Niño.

The transition starts when the changes of the strength of the trade winds produce slow-moving off-equatorial pulses known as Rossby waves in the upper ocean, which take about a year to travel back west across the Pacific.

The energy then reflects from the western boundary of the tropical Pacific and ricochets eastward along the equator, deepening the upper layer of water and warming the ocean surface.

As a result, the Pacific experiences an El Niño-like event about two years after solar maximum. The event settles down after about a year, and the system returns to a neutral state.

"El Niño and La Niña seem to have their own separate mechanisms," says Meehl, "but the solar maximum can come along and tilt the probabilities toward a weak La Niña. If the system was heading toward a La Niña anyway," he adds, "it would presumably be a larger one."

Source: National Science Foundation (news : web)

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2.9 / 5 (19) Jul 16, 2009
Imagine a fusing sphere of hydrogen, 1.4 mega/km in diameter, massing 2 x 10^30 kg; it impacts the Earth's weather! And we didn't know it.

But human caused warming via CO2, the "scientists" have no proof and no doubt. Liars, thieves and scoundrels, all.
3.1 / 5 (15) Jul 16, 2009
WHAT! Computer models that global warming is based on didn't already take the most important weather drivers into consideration? Water and sunshine are so basic how can any prediction of climate change be credible without their accurate representation in modeling them!?
3 / 5 (16) Jul 16, 2009
This explains soo much, clearly this "sun" thingy affects the earth. and while they are quick to say the variation is only 0.1% what they don't point out is the quantity that 0.1% actually is. 128 petawatts is a lot of energy, even if it is only "0.1%" think that might cause something to happen? Next they're going to tell us something crazy like the agle of the Earth's rotation could cause seasonal variation? that's crazy.
3.8 / 5 (13) Jul 16, 2009
The title of this article, and the issue in general, is kind of like saying "Sun Light Linked to Being Able to See" ... it's like, duh.

But human caused warming via CO2, the "scientists" have no proof and no doubt. Liars, thieves and scoundrels, all.

But to think that what mankind does has no impact is complete ignorance and flat out incorrect. It is guaranteed that our emissions do SOMETHING, this is indisputable just by virtue of the fact that we are removing and inputting chemicals and energy into the system, we are altering the system therefore we are altering the system, obviously the significance is up for debate.

But f*** that debate, I would like to put out there that the significance itself is insignificant (we're not gonna kill the planet, we are only a danger to ourselves), what is significant is keeping mankind from killing itself ... how? A good place to start is implementing an energy supply (we have found plenty of potential ones) for our global-society that won't create the potential for instability (economic, social, power) that fossil fuels does and will cause as supply wanes.
2.8 / 5 (9) Jul 16, 2009
Again, one up to defunctdiety. Right on.

Interesting to me is the mechanism by which the sun's radiation might vary on an 11 year cycle. It is obviously related to sunspot cycle, but peak output happens when more of the sun is blotched up with dark spots... ? Surely that big fusion reactor cannot be substantially changing its energy production on that short a cycle, it would go unstable. The only mechanism I can think of which could increase solar output as percieved on earth even by 0.1 percent in so short a time frame is if the sun varies the ratio of radiation from the plane of its equator, seen by earth, to areas radiated to from its higher latitudes. I suppose one could hypothesize that the huge solar flares which typically accompany sunspots could increase the radius of the sun in its polar directions but not in its equatorial directions, which would increase the apparent diameter of the sun as seen from the equator. Presuming the flare corona would radiate at approximately the same temperature as the surface, that would re-direct a larger proportion of radiated energy along the plane of the sun's equator, toward earth, and reduce the proportion radiated toward it's polar axes, away from earth. That would alter the proportion of energy radiated reaching earth....
4.9 / 5 (7) Jul 16, 2009
I would disagree that anti-nuclear lobbying is a "Green" initiative. To me, the ignorance and fear surrounding nuclear is stoked and driven by both a need for political control and special interest of the fossil fuel lobbies.

100% QFT (quoted for truth, not quantum field theory :P)

The political control aspect borders on conspiracy theory, and has absolutely terrifying implications, but personally I agree it's a part. Republicans, democrats, whoever, they all want you to need them.

Most realistically and significant and alterable though, is that oil is still too big, the infrastructure is too ingrained and readily available for anyone (businesses or consumers) to want to change. Plus oil is still cheap, due in large part to this infrastructure.
4.4 / 5 (8) Jul 16, 2009
The Sun actually releases more energy when it has more sunspots. The spots are accompanied by brighter regions, which more than compensate for the cool spots. Prolonged periods of low sunspot counts in the past have been linked to cool periods on Earth in previous studies.
4.8 / 5 (5) Jul 16, 2009
Some theorists have also hypothesized that lower sunspot numbers may be related to general cooling trends overall (the "Maunder Minimum" phenomenon). Although I have seen some dispute about the mechanisms, apparently at least some theorists believe that lower sunspots are associated with higher incidence of cosmic radiation, which they say increases high altitude cloud cover and hence slightly increases terrestrial albedo. They point to the delay in the solar magnetic polarity reversal for the current sunspot cycle as indication that we may be beginning a weak sunspot cycle now. (Note that these are lower sunspot numbers AT CYCLE MAXIMUMA, not the 11-year cyclic differences, that are under discussion for this phenomenon.)
4.8 / 5 (5) Jul 17, 2009
Modeling the effects of a variation of just 0.1% in solar energy input is actually quite good. Just a few years ago, the computer models were far too crude to see this kind of detail.....
When predicting weather at the scale of the coming season, and taking precautions for increased risks of storms, drought etc., knowing about an El Nino analogue in advance will help a lot. For some third world countries, this kind of advance warning could mean the difference between a manageable drought and famine.
2.2 / 5 (10) Jul 17, 2009
We simply do not know what causes variations in Earth's overall temperature. Alarmists say they know, but they are lying, as this article demonstates. Alarmists use UN climate models which omit the sun and the oceanic cycles. Because they already KNOW how things really work. (Now bow down in awe of the computer model. Arise.)

Fortunately, science requires that predictions be made, and we can see if their predictions come true. So far, they are 11 years wrong on continued warming. Are you going to believe the alarmists, or your stinking thermomoeter?

In the meantime, our dirt-stupid media does not tell us that increasing CO2 has doubled world food production in the last 150 years, and the effect will continue to increase food production as CO2 doubles from 1850 levels, and doubles again. Plants love CO2.

The monetary value of that increased food productivity is on the order of $5 trillion per year. The value in human life and health is incalculable. Gee, why can't we talk India and China into going hungry, or dying? They are so petulant.
1.7 / 5 (7) Jul 17, 2009

original point:

A good place to start is implementing an energy supply (we have found plenty of potential ones) for our global-society that won't create the potential for instability (economic, social, power) that fossil fuels does and will cause as supply wanes.

Velanarris response:

Personally, and you may agree, nuclear is one of the few present options with ample enough ability and supply to power the world today, and for the foreseeable future.

So we already have that supply. The question is, why aren't we using it?

First of all, we ARE using that "supply". Some countries (France...) more than others.

Secondly, how exactly do you see world-wide dissemination of nuclear technology as having no "potential for instability -- economic, social, power"? Quite aside from all-but-assured proliferation nightmares, I might point out that not every country sports Uranium deposits...

Thirdly, we can't find a reasonable way to store the immensely dangerous nuclear waste we generate right now. You propose increasing nuclear generation worldwide by many hundreds of percent. That means the waste problem grows commensurately. Never mind policing and accounting all that waste to make sure it doesn't end up in dirty bombs, but after decades of R&D, there is still no accepted solution to the lingering problem of disposing it.

Fourthly, nuclear power plants are centralized solutions. Centralization makes the entire grid more fragile, introducing single points of failure. Distributed generation would be more robust. Nuclear plants are also hugely expensive, lumbering mega-projects that might not be appropriate for third-world towns and villages.

Lastly, there's only so much uranium ore in the world; if consumption accelerates, depletion of resources will only occur sooner. This technology is a stop-gap measure at best, and will eventually hit the same wall as fossil fuels -- even as world-wide demand for energy continues to grow exponentially for centuries to come.
3.8 / 5 (5) Jul 17, 2009
Arguing at this point is pointless. A lot more research than this needs to go into determining the correct proportion of man-made vs non-man-made causes of this trend of global warming we are seeing "right now".

It may be that the climate will shift on it's axis and do a 180 turn and go cooler in 5 or 10 years and then every will be like WTF I thought we were onto something.

I, as a person, not a researcher, do not consider that I have enough facts on either side to make a call. I'm sorry if that ruffles feathers, but that's just the cold cut way it is.

Being a radical ecologist is trendy, just as being a rebel and denying global warming is trendy.

Research and fact however is not about being trendy, it's about gathering sufficient data and posting a theory to match that data and explain it all, which we don't yet have.
2.3 / 5 (6) Jul 17, 2009
First, no one is powering their grid off current reactor designs.

No? Not China, per chance? Not Japan? Not France?

Second, Nuclear can be based on Thorium, one of the Earth's most abundant metals.

You need a radiation source to make Thorium fission, which typically is Uranium. Here's a fascinating little tidbit, courtesy of Wikipedia:

"The thorium fuel cycle creates mainly Uranium-233 which can be used for making nuclear weapons, and since there are no neutrons from spontaneous fission of U-233, U-233 can be used easily in a gun-type nuclear bomb[10]"

Just lovely.

Third, Breeder reactors generate no physical or chemical waste. Only waste heat.

Not only waste heat, but waste money. Huge amounts of money. They're unable to compete economically against either traditional nukes, or fossil fuel power plants. The only fast breeders in operation are MASSIVELY subsidized -- so we have the exact same rap against them as nuclear advocates spew with regard to any other alternative tech, from wind to solar to wave to whatever.

Breeder nuclear reactors can theoretically be made small enough to power mobile phones and are currently made small enough to power ships.


Do you even know what "breeder" means? They emit neutrons like there's no tomorrow. They need massive containment, lest they irradiate and make radioactive everything around them for miles.

They also generate extremely complex and messy waste spanning practically the entire periodic table, and most of it in radioactive isotopes. This mess is incredibly difficult and exorbitantly expensive to reprocess so it can be fed back into the generator; but without the reprocessing you're only using a few percent of the fuel, while throwing more than 90% of the energy away as nuclear waste.

Don't knock a technology until you understand it.

Please, try to follow your own advice.
3 / 5 (2) Jul 17, 2009
In the meantime, our dirt-stupid media does not tell us that increasing CO2 has doubled world food production in the last 150 years, and the effect will continue to increase food production as CO2 doubles from 1850 levels, and doubles again. Plants love CO2.

"However, while experiments on natural ecosystems have also found initial elevations in the rate of plant growth, these have tended to level off within a few years. In most cases this has been found to be the result of some other limiting factor, such as the availability of nitrogen or water."

3 / 5 (4) Jul 18, 2009
No, none of them.

Quoth Wikipedia:

"The first generation III reactors were built in Japan, while several others have been approved for construction in Europe."


Sorry, you're wrong, and you misread your source. Thorium is radioactive.

One more trip to Wikipedia reveals:

"Although not fissile itself, 232Th will absorb slow neutrons to produce 233U, which is fissile."


It CREATES Uranium which releases its increased energy to decay back to.... Thorium.

Thereby producing energy from nothing, and amounting to a perpetual motion machine. Nice physics you have there in your alternate universe.

Fast breeder tech is not necessary.

It is the only tech that has any potential for completely breaking down heavy radionuclides. Slow neutrons just don't do the trick.

And here's another tidbit from Wikipedia:

"When using thorium in modified light water reactor (LWR) problems include: the undeveloped technology for fuel fabrication; in traditional, once-through LWR designs potential problems in recycling thorium due to highly radioactive 228Th; some weapons proliferation risk of 233U; and the technical problems (not yet satisfactorily solved) in reprocessing. Much development work is still required before the thorium fuel cycle can be commercialized for use in LWR, and the effort required seems unlikely while (or where) abundant uranium is available."

Breeder reactors require high containment to prevent leakage of neutron within the reaction chamber so the enrichment of nuclear fuel doesn't cease.

You can't contain neutrons. You can only absorb them. So, the choice is between either building heavy enclosures that slowly become radioactive by absorbing those neutrons, or turning the reactor into a slow-motion neutron bomb (which is exactly what your notion of nuclear-powered cell phones would amount to.)

As for why they're called breeder reactors it's because they generate more fuel than they can consume...

This "generated" fuel comes about by firing neutrons at heavy nuclei, which causes those nuclei to become radioactive. Those nuclei produce lighter (and frequently, still radioactive) elements when they fission. And so on. That's where the mess in breeder waste comes from, and that's why breeders always have "difficulties" with reprocessing.

Want to give a reference for this?




etc, etc, etc.
5 / 5 (2) Jul 18, 2009
Secondly, how exactly do you see world-wide dissemination of nuclear technology as having no "potential for instability -- economic, social, power"?

I can't answer this without knowing what kinds of problems you are imagining.

Quite aside from all-but-assured proliferation nightmares...

Nightmare is correct. The definition of a nightmare is a dream, a figment of the imagination, which causes a strong emotional response.

Firstly, the assumption that you can dictate what a sovereign nation can and can't do is extremely presumptious. If history is any guide, no nation will accept being dictated to short of overt threats of military intervention and treaties like the NPT is barely worth the paper it is printed on. If history is any guide, no nation develops nuclear weapons unless it is under an external pressure to do so; it is a very costly venture.

The plutonium that goes into nuclear weapons is well over 90% Pu-239. If you have too much Pu-240 and Pu-241 the spontaneous fission of these elements will emit a high background level of neutrons. These neutrons will initiate the reaction early with a high degree of likelyhood, giving a significantly reduced yield or insignificant yield as the weapon blows apart before the critical assembly fully comes toghether. Tritium boosting, an advanced technique developed to slightly increase yields and give some degree of protection from background neutrons caused by other nuclear weapons that were detonated just prior, can possibly circumvent this. The other reason you want high-quality plutonium for weapons is that Pu-240 and Pu-241 give of a lot more decay-heat than Pu-239; the reason decay heat is a problem is that you're going to insulate the plutonium core with a thick layer of precisely crafted high explosives and that's true whether it's the flying plate design or explosive lens design.

Civilian nuclear reactors have their fuel in the core for far too long, so a significant fraction of the Pu-239 is transmuted to Pu-240 and Pu-241. Reactor-grade plutonium is poor quality for weapons. A reactor designed to produce weapons is designed for online refueling so that you can frequently refuel without stopping the reactor for weeks at a time.

There are two common choices for weapons-grade plutonium producing reactors. One is the air-cooled graphite reactor; it's very simple, fueled by unenriched natural uranium(the US designed, built, tested and started operating the X-10 graphite reactor that made the plutonium for the fatman bomb used on Nagasaki in under a year). The other is a heavy water research reactor with good neutron economy(typically 20% or greater enriched fuel) into which rods of natural or depleted uranium can be inserted or removed without shutting down the reactor so that they can irradiated. It doesn't need to be bigger than a few tens of megawatts and it doesn't have a great big steam cloud comming out of a cooling tower that tells you the power-level of the reactor(this is a dead give-away for a civilian nuclear reactor; they're not supposed to shut down and refuel every few weeks or months).

Another method to produce nuclear weapons that is even more discrete is through uranium enrichment. Again, this is within the technical expertise of all moderately developed nations.

...I might point out that not every country sports Uranium deposits...

That's quite irrelevant. Uranium is not like oil or coal; it is trivial to stockpile decades worth of reactor fuel on-site if desired.

The assumption that uranium(or thorium) isn't widespread breaks down as soon as you consider the breeder regime. Whether molten salt breeder reactors working in the thermal spectrum like the LFTR or fast reactors like the IFR. The cost of uranium for a light-water reactor that uses ~1% of the energy contents of natural uranium is $1-2 per barrel of oil equivalent. For breeder reactors is a few cents per barrel of oil equivalent and it is no great obstacle to mine uranium or thorium anywhere in the world if desired.

Your average crust contains 3 ppm U and 10 ppm Th. That's 3 grams of uranium per tonne of crust and 10 grams of thorium. This corresponds to as much energy as over a 100 barrels of oil. Most countries have some shale, phosphate rock or volcanic desposits with ~100 ppm uranium or thorium and it is relatively easy to heap leach uranium or thorium from crushed rock that were mined for other purposes(such as mining copper or phospate). In the worst case, uranium is accessible from sea water for a few hundred dollars per kg with proven technology.

There are only a handful of millions of tonnes of uranium and thorium in proven reserves at a few dollars per BoE in light water reactors. But with breeder reactors there is trillions(!) of tonnes of uranium and thorium accessible at a reasonable cost. Fuel is a non-issue.

If you were to actively try and starve the world of energy by preventing the development of nuclear energy(with military force, because that's the only way you can do it long term). What you're actually doing is creating a percieved need for nuclear weapons.

There are so many people involved in a nuclear weapons programme that you cannot do so in secret without near unanimous agreement that developing nuclear weapons is essential for national security(even then it is difficult to keep the secret). Depriving the world of nuclear energy by military means is exactly the sort of thing that could cause nuclear proliferation.
5 / 5 (3) Jul 18, 2009
PinkElephant. Fission products are only more radioactive than uranium ore for approximately 300 years. It is extremely trivial to vitrify fission products to imobilize them for a mere 300 years.

Whether you chose to let them sit above ground for a few hundred years and then go in and grab the goodies(e.g. platinum group metals) or if you just want to discard the fission products as soon as it has cooled down enough for final storage has no impact on safety and is just a business decision. A reasonable final storage area would be a salt dome. The fact that it contains salt means that it is located in a geologically stable area and has kept water out for many millions of years(ever since it was the bottom of an ocean).

What necessitates the storage of spent LWR fuel for millenia is a combination of two silly things. The first silly thing is the throwing away of actinides like plutonium and americium(fuel!), the second silly thing is the insistance that the radiation level at the surface of the repository may never increase by more than a few thousanths of the natural background radiation.

This second folly is caused by a kind of myopia. First it is assumed that the LNT hypothesis is true(this might be a reasonable regulatory assumption if coal plants and other kinds of powerplants were treated with a similar level of precaution. As far as it's truth value it is doubtful and hard to reconsile with what is known about carcinogenesis and DNA repair mechanisms). Secondly it is assumed that tens of thousands of years into the future cancer will be as untreatable as it is today and if a lot of people happened to live out in the middle of nowhere, above the repository, and if the LNT model is true this should be treated as if actual deaths were occuring today. This is almost a Monty Pythonesque level of sillyness when you allow coal power, a primary contributor to AGW, the deaths of some 30 000 per year from particulate pollution in the US(you couldn't kill this many with spent nuclear fuel if you disolved it in nitric acid and dumped it straight into the ocean and waited tens of thousands of years), the vast quantities of mercury and other heavy metals that get into the ocean food web(unlike spent nuclear fuel, this stuff never just decays away by itself) and the corrosion of infrastructure by NOx and SOx.

I think future generations will dig up whatever you manage to burry at Yucca mountain or other deep geological depositories and laugh at the fact that you considered this valuable resource a form of waste so dangerous that you had to burry it in some of the most inhospitable places on Earth.
1 / 5 (1) Jul 19, 2009

A few details. If a .1% sun output can cause a measurable climate difference what would the 1% greenhouse effect cause?

Jet ice crystals exhaust changed the temp 3F over 3 days so likely CO2 can have such an effect.

But even if oil, coal cause no climate effect from CO2 we need to stop importing oil because it supports Iran, Russia, oil dictators and terrorists giving them $500B/yr. Then add the Persian Gulf military and oil war costs and by becaning oil independent we save $1T/yr plus make millions of US jobs, etc.

Coal poisons our land so bad in 15 yrs we won't be able to eat fish from mercury poisoning not to mention damage from SOx, NOx, soot, etc. Then there is mining damage ruining thousands of sq miles of the US.

If these costs were in them as they should, even PV would be cost effective and wind, CSP, river/tidal will be far cheaper.

Nuke has one problem as far as I see, it costs 2-3x's as much as most RE. They are raise local utility rates 29% and the nuke plant is still 10 yrs. And all nukes have come in 50-100% over budget for the last 2 decades or more.

By far better is most homes, businesses have wind and/or solar thermal which once when in real mass production will cost under $4k/kw vs nukes just priced at $9k/kw before overruns. That way after a $4k-10k investment, even get a check back instead of paying utilities.
1 / 5 (1) Jul 19, 2009
This explains soo much, clearly this "sun" thingy affects the earth.

Do we need a "sun" thingy that can be inserted nasally?
3 / 5 (2) Jul 19, 2009
In the discussion between Velanarris and PinkElephant:
1) Somewhere around 50%-60% of France's generating capacity is nuclear:
2) Th232->protactinium233->uranium233->U232->Th228->Ra224->Rn220->Po216->Pb212->Bi212->Tl208-Pb208
3) Thorium232 can be used in either fast neutron or thermal neutron breeder reactors.
4) India seems to be the only major user of thorium breeder reactors.
1 / 5 (1) Jul 20, 2009
We could always do away with the need for energy... Wouldnt that be crazy.
5 / 5 (1) Jul 20, 2009
"And all nukes have come in 50-100% over budget for the last 2 decades or more." -- Not true. In 2002 and 2003, AECL completed 2 new CANDU 6 reactors in China on time (average 50 months) and ON BUDGET. Google "AECL QUINSHAN"
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 20, 2009
To think our orbit changes the amount of energy the earth receives by more then 0.1% and what about the perturbations of the sun its self? Surely three factors together resonate into some larger cycle, say of a few hundred years? Maybe a few thousand year cycle? Oh my, could it be that Al (count them dimples) Gore was only after the cash in selling carbon credits?
2.3 / 5 (3) Jul 22, 2009
The researchers don't fully understand solar influence on the earth's climate, but they are certain that human caused global warming dwarfs its influence? What justifies their certainty? They already admit lack of knowledge and an incomplete model, but expect us to accept their assertations based from them?

AGW is portrayed as a linear progression, but the real data suggests cycles over time. How can a linear model accurately describe a periodic system?

More climate politicking for social change.
5 / 5 (1) Jul 22, 2009
...they are certain that human caused global warming dwarfs its influence

I haven't heard of any actual researches expressing such nonsensical "certainties". Of course, over the last several decades we have quite a detailed record of solar activity, so we can definitely constrain how much it could have possibly influenced _recent_ climate trends. Turns out it *might* account for roughly half the warming observed so far, at best; but for none of the warming projected into the future.

AGW is portrayed as a linear progression

Exponential, actually. Mostly due to the fact that our emissions are growing exponentially.

How can a linear model accurately describe a periodic system?

The cycles to which you're referring have periods measured in thousands and hundreds of thousands of years. The AGW effect is far more rapid, and independent of those cycles.

More climate politicking for social change.

Speaking for yourself, naturally.
5 / 5 (1) Jul 23, 2009
A range of data of only a few decades is not sufficient to make any judgement on the role of the sun. Nor are our temperature records that only contain the past 3 or so decades.

That range is sufficient to detect the degree of correlation between solar activity and climate.

Also, we have more than just 3 decades of temperature records. From ice cores, lake sediment cores, tree rings, and other such indirect sources, we can reconstruct pretty reliably the temperature AND solar activity record for the last several centuries, and to a lesser degree of accuracy, for the last several hundred thousand years.

Once you hit a point of saturation there is no additional incomming IR so you've reached saturation.

That's a fallacious argument. CO2 is a relatively heavy gas, so it tends to sink to the bottom of the air column. But as more CO2 is added, progressively greater concentrations will be found higher up in the atmosphere, due to simple stochastic diffusion. That means there is no overall saturation, because even while the optical window blocked by CO2 indeed saturates at low altitudes, it continues to fill out at higher altitudes as more and more CO2 is added to the atmosphere.

According to the AGW theorists, CO2 has a incredibly long half life in the atmosphere, on the order of hundreds of years.

Sorry, but that's not just "according to AGW theorists". That's just a fact. No serious scientist disputes this.

This is advantageous to anyone trying to profit off global warming hypothesis through legislation...

Wow, and you don't think people fighting *against* that legislation have any profit motive? Why are you so myopically one-sided in your profiteering accusations? Which is the larger industry TODAY: the alt energy, or the fossil fuel? Which has more political clout? Which makes more money? Which stands the most to lose if legislation goes through? Which stands the most to gain if legislation fails?

And what does duration of CO2 in the atmosphere have to do with the fact that each year we're pumping gigatons of ADDITIONAL CO2 into the atmosphere? And that with each year, that additional amount continues to grow -- at an exponential pace, no less?

The climate has a lot of thermal inertia, and so we have already managed to front-load a couple of degrees in warming. Even if we completely stopped emitting today, that additional warming will occur. However, where's the logic in continuing to break all records on annual emissions for decades to come? Do we REALLY want to front-load another 3, 5, 10 degrees? At which point do we finally diagnose this as a self-destructive lunacy?
5 / 5 (1) Jul 23, 2009
That range is sufficient to detect the degree of correlation between solar activity and climate.

When compared to the wide range in climatary changes that have occured?

That wasn't the point. The point was, we can determine the degree of climate sensitivity to variation in solar input. We also know how much the solar input has varied over the recent time period. From this, we can isolate the contribution of the sun, and the remainder of the warming is due to greenhouse gas emission.

you have proxies which are only accurate if and only if the interpreter of the proxy has complete understanding of all involved variables. Which we don't by any stretch of the imagination.

When you have many _different_ proxies, each with its own variables and complexities, but when analyzed independently from each other they all converge on the same result, then you can have confidence in the result, and in concluding that the analyses were conducted correctly.

IR originates at the ground due to the transformation of the wave form of light post re-radiation.

It originates in the ground, gets absorbed by greenhouse gases, re-radiated at different wavelength(s) depending on the gas and vibration modes at given temperature/pressure, re-absorbed by other gases, re-radiated at yet different wavelength(s), and so on all the way up through the atmosphere and toward space. At each incident of absorption/re-radiation, the photon is emitted in a random direction: so it takes a random walk through the atmosphere, which further enhances the number of bounces and wavelength conversions that it undergoes. That's how come greenhouse gases high up in the air column still contribute to the greenhouse effect, even though the lower parts of the air column may already be "saturated" with respect to these gases. I know, it's not an intuitive phenomenon. That's why most people (particularly Americans, who perform notoriously badly on science literacy measures), are so easily deceived by the pseudoscientific anti-AGW propaganda put out by the fossil fuel industry.

Mathematically, the way this is usually calculated, is by setting up a distribution of gases in the air column, formulating the optical behavior of various molecules at various heights in the column, then integrating a pulse of radiation from the ground upward through the air column, and counting the total energy fraction of that pulse that ultimately gets reflected back into the ground. The math involves rather advanced Calculus and thermodynamical stochastics, which unfortunately is way over the head for most Americans. It's driven by empirical parameters, and the results are in good agreement with empirical measurements in the lab. There's really no controversy about this whole "saturation" red herring among people who actually KNOW the relevant science.

Actually there are quite a few who disagree with the approximation of CO2's atmospheric halflife.

Actually, thyere are "quite a few" who disagree with the third law of thermodynamics (you can find hundreds of their 'free-energy prototypes' all over the web, most of which you can obtain for only a nominal fee.) According to a recent survey, 18% of Americans believe the Sun revolves around the Earth. So what? There are always cranks out there; that's nothing new; you can even hear from lots of them on this very web site.

If you want to prove otherwise you'll have to define what makes alt energy and fossil fuels not part of the same ENERGY business.

Oh, according to that logic then there's no difference between "ENERGY" and "MARKETING", because they are both "BUSINESS". In fact, there's no difference between anything, because everything is a CONCEPT.

Fossil Fuels and alt energy are competitors in the Energy industry. One is successful, makes money, creates jobs. The other is heavily subsidized by your tax money, has destroyed wealth, lost jobs, and caused more environmental harm per project than fossil fuels ever have.

What are you talking about? I thought there was no distinction between Fossil Fuels and alt energy; now there is all of a sudden? :-P

Let's talk about heavy subsidies. Who pays for oil wars, and by far the world's largest military-industrial complex? Who orchestrates the petrodollar? Who is forced to bear the costs of pollution from fossil fuel combustion? Who gets huge tax breaks and special regulatory loopholes?

Let's talk about wealth destruction. What's our trade balance been like over the last, oh, couple of decades? Where's all that wealth going? Apallachia is full of coal mines. Why is it the poorest region in America, outside of Indian reservations? When you buy fossil fuel, you are buying an expendable commodity, and you'll have to keep buying it over and over. It isn't renewable; where's your wealth going?

Let's talk about lost jobs. Wait.... come again?

As for environmental harm, now that's really funny. Quite a sense of humor you got on you, I'll give you that.

So everything will cost more, including running a business.

Never heard of Peak Oil, have you... Oh by the way, after decades of warnings, by all reports it is actually already happening, RIGHT NOW.

So all these businesses go out of business and lay off their employees because they can't afford their energy.

No, what happens is that we reprice energy to account for its other costs that until now had been externalized. All we are doing, is creating a less fraudulent accounting standard. If certain businesses exist today only because they are supported by financial fraud, then so be it: we'll be better off without them.

The UN has been known to lie about "exponential growth" in the past.

But industry has been totally truthful. From big tobacco, to big nuclear. From big agro, to big auto. From sea to shining sea, you can always depend on American industry to shine the light of truth on those darn scientists and their cocamaimie science.

Oh by the way, you can view the actual instrumental record of atmospheric CO2 here (after viewing, let's discuss how it's linear and not at all exponential):


Oh, and while we're at it, let's take into account the current emission trends (data comes from US Department of Energy):


Totally "linear", as you can see for yourself... (NOT!)
3 / 5 (2) Jul 24, 2009
We can't determine the climate sensitivity in relationship to anything until we know all relevant factors.

We can't determine it precisely, but we can certainly put upper limits on it. In other words, the record shows that climate response to a given change in insolation, cannot be in excess of certain temperature deltas.

No room for tectonic effect, UHIE, natural variation, PDO and ENSO, etc. It's either one or the other in your book, and that's fallacious.

"tectonic effect", whatever that is, sounds to me like something that even if real, might evolve over millions of years, not mere decades, or centuries, or even millennia. For the purposes of short-term modeling, such ultra-slow cycles (here you can also include Milankovich cycles) can be safely ignored because they produce no measurable change over brief time-frames (in a similar manner that surveyors can safely approximage the Earth's surface as flat for small-scale projects.)

UHIE is highly localized, and is of no consequence to global climate (which is an average over the entire planet's surface.)

"natural variation" does not happen without cause. Name the proposed cause(s), and we could discuss how significant it/they might be.

PDO is cyclical; any cyclical process has no bearing on long-term trends (it simply overlays on top of them, additively modulating but not fundamentally altering the trend.) Ditto for ENSO, etc.

Only through manipulation by a single scientists, Mann, has the data been considered accurate or correlary.

You need to expand your sources of information.

If that was the case, increasing CO2 would cause no increase in warming as after a set point all IR would be re-radiatied at an incompatible wavelength for CO2 absorption.

Keep in mind that our atmosphere (luckily) does not consist purely or even predominantly of CO2. It contains water in various configurations (liquid, vapor, ice crystals), of various dimensions, under varying temperatures and pressures, and thus varying optical resonant frequencies. It contains various aerosols. It contains other optically active gases (oxygen, ozone, NOx, methane, etc.) It contains dust particles. All of these things scatter and interact with photons in different ways.

Moreover, all atmospheric components absorb and re-radiate infrared photons by acting purely as blackbodies.

The molecules in the atmosphere constantly interact with each other. When a CO2 molecule absorbs an IR photon, it gains kinetic energy and thus gains temperature. Before it can re-emit that energy, it might bump into another molecule (e.g. nitrogen, or oxygen, or water, or...) and transfer some of that energy. This results in an overall heating of the atmosphere; of course eventually this heating translates into ambient blackbody radiation. Thus, these kinetic interactions, in addition to all the extra optical interactions I mentioned above, tend to wash away any "saturation" effects and renormalize the overall atmospheric emission toward that of a blackbody curve.

The upshot is that the greenhouse gases are always optically active and contribute to the overall greenhouse effect, regardless of altitude above the surface.

Re-radiation is at the same spectra...

It _can_ be, but on average it is not. Also see above regarding kinetic interactions and the effect they have on how energy is transformed. As a general rule of thumb, in any interaction involving matter, entropy tends to increase even while energy is conserved. That means even absent any collisions, a gas molecule might absorb 1 photon, but emit 2 or more different ones of lower energy.

You just keep digging on Americans don't you?

I notice that most anti-AGW crap is coming from Americans. Just like most anti-Evolution/"Intelligent Design"/young-Earth crap. Just like most paranormal crap. Yeah, Americans tend to be full of crap. It's not a dig; it's just a sad observation. I'm an American myself, by the way, and in this aspect not too proud of my nation...

Alternative energy giant General Electric would be the winner here.

You might as well have quoted Berkshire Hathaway. GE is a conglomerate that includes everything under the sun. Yeah, some part of it builds nuclear reactors and wind turbines, but that doesn't make it an "alternative energy giant".

...but all the military spending we've put into the middle east pales in comparison to the amount of money involved in the alternative energy business.

I wasn't aware that we've sunk several $Trillion, and full-time employed millions of people for decades on taxpayer's back, in alternative energy arena.

If you absorb solar energy and turn it into electricity that energy no longer strikes the ground as it did before, cooling an area beyond it's environmental norm.

That is just plain ignorant on two major accounts. First, elements of any reasonable efficiency that absorb solar energy tend to lower the area's albedo. That means overall more solar energy is captured at the surface, rather than being deflected back toward space. Second, the captured energy eventually is used to do work; in the end it all gets converted to heat, which ends up in the atmosphere. That's hardly a cooling process.

If you interfere with the tides you reduce the amount of energy in the ocean...

The amount of energy in the ocean is so vast (the bulk of it is solar energy being continuously collected over the ocean's entire surface), that a tiny fraction of it would satisfy all of the world's demands. A tiny fraction isn't going to make any difference. Moreover, landmass is already interfering with tides; only in this case the energy is converted directly to waste heat while contributing to shoreline erosion. If a tiny fraction of that energy is first captured and used to perform work before finally ending up as heat, the overall system doesn't loose anything.

...if you disturb wind currents you can have a greater effect on the weather than you'd ever get out of CO2

Wind currents close to the surface (which is where conventional wind turbines are located), are driven by the local heating and cooling of the ground. By "disturbing" these local currents, you produce absolutely no impact on the far greater circulation of air at altitudes above 300 feet or so. Indeed, the planting or removing of trees, construction of buildings, elevated overpasses and electricity transmission towers, etc. already interferes with low-altitude winds. The conversion of deserts to fields through irrigation; the conversion of fields and forests to suburban sprawl and roadways: these things alter the albedo of the surface and alter the moisture and particulate content of the air (never mind urban heat islands), thus having tremendous impacts on local wind patterns. So what's your point?

Renewable energy is a lie.


Ask Spain how their green initiative is going, especially after discovery that for each green job created they lost 2.2 regular jobs, in addition to affixing a price tag of 1 mil per green job created in costs.

And how is this assessed, exactly? And where did this "1 mil in costs" go: did it just magically vanish from the economy? AFAIK, Spain is still famous for its siestas and 4-day work weeks. Not exactly a nation that prizes hard work above good living, in the first place.

On the other hand, how is Germany's green initiative going?

Avian destruction

Larger, slower-moving turbines solve that

interruption of waterways and fresh water production

You mean, unlike agricultural usage?

earthquake responsibilities tied to geothermal

Quakes of such tremendous magnitude, they might even sway a leaf or two.

the copious amounts of Nitrogen trifluoride production released into the atmosphere for solar panel production and cleaning

Let's try not to pretend that all solar panels are and will forever be made with an identical process.

the intense maintenance cost in terms of freshwater for solar

I find it interesting that the solar-powered Mars rovers have been going on for years, on a planet with nary a drop of liquid water anywhere to be found...

the need for backup fossil fuel generation for wind turbines

Why not just power leveling through storage/release and long-distance distribution?

Need I go on?

Oh please do. It's immensely entertaining, watching you squirm like that.

I've heard of peak oil, and there's zero proof that it is occuring right now.

Have you never seen this:


Granted, it omits OPEC and the former Soviet Union. However, it's a badly kept secret that OPEC has been lying about its proven reserves and production capacity for many years already. And the former Soviet Union, which has been producing oil as long as U.S. has, is likely peaking in a similar manner. They're both oil-based economic blocks, and as such they treat the truth about their oil reserves as state secrets; however many insiders have produced revealing reports regarding the lies and exaggerations. They're all living on borrowed time.

Bottom line: easy-to-access, high-quality oil is running out world-wide. Much-ballyhooed new "discoveries" are yielding low-quality gunk that's increasingly expensive and desperately difficult to extract. Peak Oil is here.

So if the cost of food went up 5x because of shipping you'd be fine with that?

We'd be shipping a lot less then, wouldn't we. We'd go back to growing food locally, and consuming it locally.

It'd make it pretty difficult to own a house, car, pay for children's education, afford the 50% of my pay that goes to some form of tax, etc.

Yes, McMansions are impractical and unsustainable. But perhaps you could settle for owning a condo in a high-density urban area, taking more advantage of mass transit, and owning a non-pickup/non-SUV passenger car.

You have no idea what the economic rammification could potentially be if we run full steam into unsuitable energy generation.

We've been running full steam into unsustainable economics, on all kinds of fronts. Face it: typical Americans do not generate nearly enough tangible product to actually justify the lavishness of their lifestyles. They've all been living on debt and credit cards; they've been leveraging themselves up to their eyeballs, and that is a surefire path to bankruptcy. Regardless of any energy policies, the hard road back down to reality lies ahead. And the economic ramifications of that, are just about starting to hit us square on the button. Buckle up and put on your helmet; it's going to get real bumpy.

The UN politicians have final review and editorial rights on the released material.

Don't you ever read anything that was NOT put out by the UN? Don't you subscribe to any science magazines? Might I suggest Scientific American: my personal favorite monthly...

You can view the smoothed data, but feel free to try to request the raw data.

Oh, right. The Mauna Loa Observatory is in kahootz with Mann. I don't suppose NOAA is free from the tentacles of the sinister global conspiracy, either:

1 / 5 (1) Aug 27, 2009
Pink is correct on every point with which I am familiar in the previous. Velanarris is arguing from pre-conception, cherry picking items, and often getting the science and economics wrong.

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