Question 1

What is the proper chronological order for the images?

A. Image 5, 1, 4, 3, 2
B. Image 4, 2, 5, 3, 1
C. Image 2, 4, 5, 1, 3
D. Image 3, 4, 2, 5, 1

If you chose A, you may have been based your choice on ordering the area of the melted ice in the Kara Sea/Laptev Sea area north of Siberia. Unfortunately, the assumption that the ice extent north of Siberia has been decreasing at a steady rate over the last 20 years is not true.

If you chose B, You are correct.  This was not an easy question. There does not seem to be a monotonic decrease in sea ice extent in any region. Like the rain in Spain or the sleet in Crete, patterns vary from year to year. Several rainy years in Spain do not mean that it will be rainy in Spain forever, or that the sleet in Crete will fall more neatly in the street. Likewise, low sea ice extent north of Siberia for several years does not mean the ice will be low there forever.

If you chose C, you may have been based your choice on ordering the area of the melted ice in the Baffin/Newfoundland sea area between Canada and Greenland. Unfortunately, the assumption that the ice extent between Canada and Greenland has been decreasing at a steady rate over the last 20 years is not true.

If you chose D, you may have been based your choice on ordering the area of the melted ice in the Beaufort Sea/Chukchi Sea area north of Alaska and Canada. Unfortunately, the assumption that the ice extent north of Alaska and Canada has been decreasing at a steady rate over the last 20 years is not true.

Question 2

If a chunk of ice the size of Manhattan and one kilometer thick were to slide off of Antarctica into the ocean, about how much would the global sea level rise?

A. 2.5 meters (about 8 feet)
B. 2.5 centimeters (about 1 inch)
C. 2.5 millimeters (about one tenth of an inch)
D. 0.25 millimeters (about one hundredth of an inch)

Moving one cubic kilometer of ice from the land to the ocean will raise the sea level by less than 3 microns (3 millionths of a meter). Moving a chunk of ice the size of Manhattan (87 square kilometers) and one kilometer thick will raise the oceans less than 270 microns, or about one hundredth of an inch.  Keep this in mind the next time you hear a breathless reporter tell you something like “Greenland is losing ice equivalent to an area the size or Timbuktu every year.”

Question 3

In the fall of 2007, after the northern summer melt season, the Arctic sea ice extent anomaly reached its lowest level since satellite monitoring began in 1979. This was followed by warnings that the Arctic ice could be completely gone by the summer of 2012.

Two months later in the middle of the southern melt season, the Antarctic region…

A …reached its highest sea ice extent anomaly since satellite monitoring began in 1979.
B …reached its third lowest sea ice extent anomaly since satellite monitoring began in 1979.
C …reached its second lowest sea ice extent anomaly since satellite monitoring began in 1979.
D …reached its lowest sea ice extent anomally since satellite monitoring began in 1979.

The correct answer is A, “The Antarctic region reached its highest sea ice extent anomaly since satellite monitoring began in 1979.” While much was written about the “unprecedented” loss of sea ice in the Arctic in 2007 in the popular press, the “unprecedented” gain in sea ice  in the Antarctic was largely ignored.

Question 4

In 1979 the worst nuclear accident in US history happened at Three Mile Island nuclear power plant near Middletown, Pennsylvania.
The accumulated death count due to the radiation that was released at Three Mile Island is…

A …about 400, according to a statistical epidemiological analysis of cancer rates.
B …252 confirmed rare cancers.
C …zero
D … 17, due to the initial explosion and subsequent fire.

The correct answer is C, “zero.” There were no fatalities during the events at Three Mile Island in March 1979, there was no fire or explosion, and long term health effects have been essentially non-existent.  The Nuclear Regulation Commission concludes:

“The average dose to about 2 million people in the area was only about 1 millirem. To put this into context, exposure from a full set of chest x-rays is about 6 millirem. Compared to the natural radioactive background dose of about 100-125 millirem per year for the area, the collective dose to the community from the accident was very small. The maximum dose to a person at the site boundary would have been less than 100 millirem.”

Question 5

A rising sea level is one of the feared symptoms of global warming. According to the Jason and Topax satellite tracking of ocean levels, the average sea level rise rate for the last 10 years has been about 3.2 mm per year. This is interpreted by some to indicate an accelerating sea level rise rate. IPCC expert Simon Holgate’s 2004 data (Holgate, S.J., and P.L. Woodworth, 2004: Evidence for enhanced coastal sea level rise during the 1990s. Geophys. Res. Lett., 31, L07305, doi:10.1029/2004GL019626.) was prominently featured in the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report (AR4, Working Group 1: The Physical Science Basis of Climate change, Chapter 5). In a more recent 2007 paper (S.J. Holgate, “On decadalratesof sea level change during the twentieth century”, Geophysical Research Letters34: GL019626 (2007)., Holgate reconstructed sea level rise rates from high quality tidal gauge data going back to about 1900.

According Holgate’s more recent 2007 paper, sea level rise rates first exceeded 3mm per year around what year?

A. 1911
B. 1994
C. 1955
D. 1963

The correct answer is 1911.  The image below shows Holgate’s reconstruction of the sea level rise rate for the 20th century from the highest quality tide gauge data.

Sea level rise rates from highest quality tide gauge data from Holgate's 2007 paper

As you can see, the sea level rise rate widely varied during the 20th century.  It reached about 4 mm/year around 1911, and again in the 1930s, 1950s and around 1980.   It was much lower in the 1920s, 1940s, 1960s and and mid-1980s.

Oddly, the IPCC’s 4th assessment report only mentioned Holgate’s 2004 data, ignoring his 2007 data (shown in the above graph).  In the 2007 paper, Holgate says…

“…the two highest decadal ratesof change were recorded in the decades centered on 1980 (5.31 mm/yr) and 1939 (4.68 mm/yr) with the most negative decadal rates of change over the past 100 years during the decades centered on 1964 (-1.49 mm/yr) and 1987 (-1.33 mm/yr).  There were also significant high decadal rates of change during the late 1910s, 1950s and 1990s.  Negative decadal rates of change are seen in the early 1920s and early 1970s.”

In this light, 3.2 mm/year since the 1990s does not seem like such an ominous milestone for sea level rise rate.

Question 6

NASA Scientist James Hansen estimated a sea level rise of 15 feet for the 21st century.

The average rise rate for the next 90 years must be how much greater than the rise rate of the last 10 years to achieve Hansen’s estimate of a 15 foot rise?

The average sea level rise rate for the next 90 years must increase by about a factor of 16 from its present 10 year average of 3.2 mm/year.  That is, the sea level would have to rise an average of about 51 mm/year, or about 2 inches/per year

15 feet is about 4572 mm.   In the last 10 years the sea level has risen about 32 mm (10 years X 3.2 mm/year).  That leaves about 4540 mm to go in the next 90 years to achieve Hansen’s estimate.  Therefore we must have an average sea level rise rate of 51 mm/year (4540 mm divided by 90 years) from now until the end of the century to get that extra 15 feet.

When the graph sea level rise rate in the 20th century is considered (see answer to question 4, above), a sustained 90 year period with an average rise rate of 51 mm/yr does not seem very likely.  It doesn’t seem like we are going to see this dramatic increase in sea level rise rate anytime soon, since  the most recent satellite data indicates the the sea level rise rate for the last two years is about zero, or possibly negative.

Question 7

The northern coast of Greenland is at 83.5 degrees north latitude. It is the closest land to the North Pole. Satellite data since 1979 has always shown this region locked in sea ice. If global warming were to result in an ice free arctic sometime during this century, it is believed that this area would be the last place to lose its summer ice.

Recent evidence shows that the last time the northern coast of Greenland was ice free and considerably warmer than the present was…

A …in the Pliocene, 4.2 million years ago
B …in the Pleistocene, 1.2 million years ago
C …in the current interglacial, the Holocene, about 7000 years ago
D …in the previous interglacial, the Eemian, 120,000 years ago

If you chose C, “…in the current interglacial, the Holocene, about 7000 years ago,” you are correct.  According to Science Daily, Astrid Lysa and colleagues have studied shore features, driftwood samples, microfossils and shore sediments.  Science Daily reports:

“The architecture of a sandy shore depends partly on whether wave activity or pack ice has influenced its formation. Beach ridges, which are generally distinct, very long, broad features running parallel to the shoreline, form when there is wave activity and occasional storms. This requires periodically open water,” Astrid Lyså explains.

Pack-ice ridges which form when drift ice is pressed onto the seashore piling up shore sediments that lie in its path, have a completely different character. They are generally shorter, narrower and more irregular in shape.

”The beach ridges which we have had dated to about 6000-7000 years ago were shaped by wave activity,” says Astrid Lyså. They are located at the mouth of Independence Fjord in North Greenland, on an open, flat plain facing directly onto the Arctic Ocean. Today, drift ice forms a continuous cover from the land here.

Astrid Lyså says that such old beach formations require that the sea all the way to the North Pole was periodically ice free for a long time.

”This stands in sharp contrast to the present-day situation where only ridges piled up by pack ice are being formed,” she says.

Funder and Kjaer reported similar resultsat the 2007 fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union.  They point out that “Presently the North Greenland coastline is permanently beleaguered by pack ice…” but “that for a period in the Early Holocene, probably for a millennium or more, the Arctic Ocean was free of sea ice at least for shorter periods in the summer.”  They date this time period to sometime between 8500 and 6000 years ago.

The fact that the Arctic was ice free as recently as 7000 years ago does not fit the narrative of global warming alarmists who tell us that recent warm conditions are “unprecedented.”  However, to students of the Arctic climate during the Holocene these results are not surprising, and corroborate an abundance of evidence that the Arctic was warmer earlier in the Holocene than it is now.

Question 8

Compact flourescent light bulbs use only 25% of the energy of an incandescent light bulb to give the same number of lumens of light.

The approximate percentage of per capita energy use that would saved by switching 2/3 of all residential lighting to compact flourescents would be:

A. 0.065 %
B. 0.65 %
C. 6.5%
D. 65 %

First, some data:

1. In 2006, the average monthly residential electricity consumption was 920 kilowatthours (kWh).

3. Compact fluorescent lights use 25% of the energyof incandescent lights for the same number of lumens.  That is, they save 75% of the energy used by incandescents.

4. For every kilowatt-hour of energy consumed at a residence there are about 2 kilowatt-hours wasted  by various losses in generation and transmission.  (See “Distributed electricity” and “Electrical system energy losses” in this chart.)  Likewise, for each kilowatt-hour of energy saved by compact fluorescents in a residence, there are two less kilowatt-hours wasted by system energy losses, so a total of three kilowatt-hours are saved.

5. The average household population in the US in 2003 was 2.57.

6. Monthly per capita energy use in the US is about 7500 kilowatt hours.  (See note at bottom of this post for daily per capita energy use, and multiply by 30.)

Then the percent of per capita energy use that would saved by switching 2/3 of all residential lighting to compact fluorescents would be:

100%  x  (2/3)  x  920 kWh  x  0.09  x  0.75  x  3  /  2.57  /  7500 kWh  =  0.63%

The correct answer is B, 0.65 %.

Question 9

If every residential light in the United States were converted to compact flourescent, oil imports would be reduced by what percentage.

A. 0.01 %
B. 0.1 %
C. 1 %
D. 10 %

The 2000 US census indicates that residential useage of electricity in the US is about 3.5 quads per year.

For every kilowatt-hour of energy consumed at a residence there are about 2 kilowatt-hours wasted  by various losses in generation and transmission.  (See “Distributed electricity” and “Electrical system energy losses” in this chart, page 8)  Likewise, for each kilowatt-hour of energy saved by compact fluorescents in a residence, there are two less kilowatt-hours wasted by system energy losses, so a total of three kilowatt-hours are saved.  Therefore, the 3.5 quads of residential electrical energy usage translates into about 10 quads (3.5 quads x 3 = 10.5 quads) of total energy consumed.

Since only 9% of the residential electrical energy use is for lighting,  then about 1 quad (10.5 quads  x  0.09  =  0.945 quads) of total energy is consumed to provide all residential lighting.

Page 8 or Lawrence Livermore National Lab’s document “US Energy Flow Trends – 2002” indicates that a total of 38.2 quads of energy are consumed generating electricity each year in the US.   Therefore, only about 2.5% (0.945 quads for residential lighting  /  38.2 quads for all US electricity production  =  0.025, or 2.5%) of all the energy expended to generate electricity in the US is used to provide residential lighting.

So, since only 2.5%  of energy to produce electricity in the US is used to provide residential lighting, and only 0.9 quads of oil are used to generate electricity, then only about 0.023 quads (2.5% of 0.9 quads) of oil are used to provide for residential lighting.  The bulk of the energy for residential lighting comes from other sources, such as coal, natural gas and nuclear.

Finally, US imports of oil equal about 25 quads per year.  Consequently, less than 1/1000th  (0.023 quads / 25 quads), or 0.1% of imported oil is used for residential lighting.

Question 10

Since 1963 Africa’s Lake Chad has experienced severe shrinkage. While atmospheric CO2 levels have continuously increased since 1963, the surface area of the lake has dropped from about 25,000 square kilometers to about 1,500 square kilometers. This fact has been presented by Al Gore and others as a consequence of anthropogenically induced global warming. Of course, this evidence must be considered in comparison to how the lake was changing when CO2 levels were not increasing.

How did the condition of Lake Chad change during the previous half millenium, when CO2 levels were almost unchanged?

A. Lake level remained mostly constant until 1963.
B. Multiple droughts, similar to the late 20th century, caused the lake level to repeatedly drop to extremely low levels.
C. Monsoon rains kept the lake area at 25,000 square kilometers or higher at all times.

The correct answer is “B. Multiple droughts, similar to the late 20th century, caused the lake level to repeatedly drop to extremely low levels.”

Butzer, K.W., Paleo-Environmental Perspectives on the Sahel drought of 68-73, GeoJournal 7.4, 369-374 (1983) (Get copy here) did a comprehensive paleo-environmental review of Lake Chad and the entire Sahelto put the recent drought into historical perspective. He took into account stream deposits, fossil sands, lake beds, abandoned shorelines, paleosols, fossil pollen and lake microorganisms. He says the primary record has been “well fixed in temporal terms by an unusuallylarge number of radiocarbon dates.” The paper gives numerous examples of rapid rises and falls for Lake Chad over the last 20,000 years. Comparison of the Lake Chad data to data from the rest of the Sahel “shows that the history of Lake Chad is fully representative of hydrological changes across the Sahel.” He concludes with “The lake records discussed here are among the most detailed available for the Late Quaternary of Africa.” He points out that droughts like the most recent one “are verified on at least 6 occasions since 1400 AD, and may have a recurrence frequency of three times per century.” This drought, he says, “falls well within the range of short and medium variability directly documented for the last few centuries and indirectly shown for the last 12 millenia.”

Even more amazing, several thousand years ago Lake Chad and several other lakes that havenow totally disappeared were among the largest fresh water bodies in the world, known as “megalakes.”  Lake Chad was about 400,000 square kilometers just six or seven thousand years ago.

It should also be noted that human diversion of water from the rivers feeding Lake Chad during the last half century has as much or more to do with the lake’s current condition than changing climate conditions.

Get details and references here.

2. A very interesting exercise – one that could well be put into classroom text books.

3. “easy” may not be a good descriptor for this quiz…although I did enjoy it. I’m a college professor (Science and Math) and I can honestly say that most of my (Liberal Arts) college students would skip any question that requires mathematical calculations and back of the envelope calculations, especially those with % calculations required would be a mystery.
Your questions require thought–which I much appreciate–and some background knowledge–appreciate even more–and I’m going to have my Environmental Science class take this quiz in Lab this afternoon.

Thanks

4. Congratulations for being #7 fastest growing blog on WordPress!
-Meghan

5. So it is all just a conspiracy by Toyota, who seems to be behind Gory Al?

And whose sides are the eco warriors on? What’s their stake in this, they obviously aren’t with Toyota, given their strong anti-capitalist politics?

Those many people whose livelihoods have been destroyed already, in places around tropical glaciers in the Andes – people whose dried out communities I have been to and seen the fear and desperation in the eyes of – are they some sort of anomaly?

Are the melting glaciers a temporary thing? This weeks’ craze?

Have they melted it with a zippo lighter to attract attention?

Can we live without water?

How far can psycho-social mechanisms and media manipualtion displace reality?

Denial? Anyone?

6. http://colonos.wordpress.com/2008/11/14/the-asian-brown-cloud-global-climate-chaos-and-tropical-glaciers/

7. […] in the United states represents only 0.1% of the total energy usage in this country. (See the solution to question #8 in this energy quiz to see how I came to the 0.1% number.)  Is this 0.1% so […]

8. The fact that the Arctic was ice free as recently as 7000 years ago does not fit the narrative of global warming alarmists who tell us that recent warm conditions are “unprecedented.” However, to students of the Arctic climate during the Holocene these results are not surprising, and corroborate an abundance of evidence that the Arctic was warmer earlier in the Holocene than it is now.

This does not represent the best knowledge we have of ice coverage during the Holocene climate optimum. Dr. Funder, as I’ve pointed out to you elsewhere, made his initial claim in a non peer-reviewed setting and today does not personally believe that the Arctic Ocean was ice-free during the mid-Holocene. You may wish to correct this so that readers are not mislead.