Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

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Barack Obama: Glaciologist

September 6, 2015

The avid outdoors-man and eminent scientist, Barack Obama, has been trekking through Alaska lately.  He is lamenting the demise of the great glaciers of the North.  He is surely grieving over the harm that man is inflicting on the planet by spewing his toxic CO2.  The Washington Post reports

Standing near the foot of the Exit Glacier, which has receded 1.25 miles since 1815 and 187 feet last year alone, Obama said “this is as good of a signpost of what we’re dealing with it comes to climate change as just about anything.”

The man certainly has a way with words – a true poet.

I guess we are supposed to be alarmed because 187 feet per year is a lot faster than 1.25 miles per 200 years.  After all, 1.25 miles in 200 years averages out to only 33 feet per year.  The message we are supposed to get is that the Exit Glacier is receding about 6 times faster now than its average over the last 200 years.  This, of course, is due to the CO2 that vile humans use to poison the atmosphere and it means endless and escalating disaster unless we socialize the economy of the world.

But what does the National Park service say about the retreat rate of Exit Glacier? The following table of retreat distances and rates comes from the National Park Service’s “The Retreat of Exit Glacier.” Annotation in red was added by me.

Exit glacier retreat annotatedSo, this data confirms Obama’s assertion that the Exit Glacier has retreated 1.25 miles in the last 200 years.  But it also makes it quite clear that it was retreating as fast, or faster, 100 years ago.

If CO2 is the culprit today, what was the culprit 100 years ago?  The following graph shows the amount of anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere as a function of time going back to 1750.  The data comes from Oak Ridge National Laboratory.  I made the plot and added the annotation. It’s kind of hard to explain why the retreat rate was so much greater in the past when there was less than 10% of the anthropogenic atmospheric CO2 than there is today.  Perhaps Professor Obama will elucidate.

anthro atmos carbonMy wife and I were up in Alaska a few years ago, and we also visited some some of those receding glaciers.  At Glacier Bay National Park, which is several hundred miles southeast of Exit Glacier, I happened to pick up a park pamphlet that had the following series of illustrations showing the glacier extents in the park going back to 1680.

glacier bay extents v3The first thing that jumps out at you is the rapid ice advance between 1680 and 1750 and the subsequent retreat between 1750 and 1880.  The pamphlet said

“The Little Ice Age came and went quickly by geologic measures.  By 1750 the glacier reached its maximum, jutting into Icy Strait.  But when Capt. George Vancouver sailed here 45 years later, the glacier had melted back five miles into Glacier Bay – which it had gouged out.”

As an aside, a co-worker once told me that the Little Ice Age was not a global phenomenon, but rather, local to Europe.  He cited the Union of Concerned Scientists as the source of this insight.  But there it is, in Alaska!

It is hard to argue with the Union of Concerned Scientists because they’re, well, scientists.  Not just anybody can be a Concerned Scientist.  You have to send a check first.  My wife used to send a check years ago, but it was from our joint account so I figure I was only half a Concerned Scientist then.  Now I guess I am just a wholly unconcerned scientist.

IMG_1546 v2Anyway, Obama was getting excited about 1.25 miles of glacier recession since 1815, and a whopping 187 feet in the last year.  That pamphlet that I mentioned also had a large map of the Glacier Bay area marking the location of the various glaciers back to 1760. It’s easy to string the locations together and calculate the recession rate of these glaciers.  The image at the left  shows the map as I marked it out for Grand Pacific Glacier. (Click to enlarge.)

I have plotted the distance as a function of time for three glacier routes using this crude method.   As you can see below, these glaciers have receded at a much faster rate than Exit Glacier.  But Exit Glacier and the Glacier Bay National Park glaciers have one thing common:  they all retreated at their maximum rate back when anthropogenic atmospheric CO2 levels were very low compared to today.

Glacier retreatLet’s take a closer look at the Grand Pacific Glacier.  John J. Clague and S. G. Evans (J. of Glaciology)  used various data sources to plot the retreat of the Grand Pacific Glacier.  I have converted their data to miles and overlaid it with my coarser data from the map. The Clague data and the map data agree nicely, but the Clague data fills in some of the gaps.  The most interesting point is that like Exit Glacier, the retreat rate for the Grand Pacific Glacier was greatest around the last part of the 19th century. In fact, the Clague data may indicate that the Grand Pacific Glacier was slightly progressing, not retreating, during most of the 20th century.

Grand Pacific Glacier retreatIt is pretty clear that the Grand Pacific Glacier was retreating fastest around 1860.  Where is that on the anthropogenic atmospheric CO2 timeline?  The graph below shows that the anthropogenic atmospheric CO2 level was only about 2% of today’s level when the Grand Pacific Glacier was retreating at its fastest by far!

CO2 and Grand PacificHow is that possible???????  I thought it was high CO2 levels that caused the glaciers to recede.

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Obama just plain wrong about North Dakota floods.

March 29, 2009

Scientific American continues to embarrass itself with its online reporting of President Obama’s insights concerning flooding of the Red River in North Dakota.  They report “President Obama says potentially historic flood levels in North Dakota are a clear example of why steps need to be taken to stop global warming….” and quote the President as saying in his usual articulate way:

“If you look at the flooding that’s going on right now in North Dakota and you say to yourself, ‘If you see an increase of two degrees, what does that do, in terms of the situation there?'”

Scientific American has made it pretty clear in the past where their scientific political leanings are, but this may be a new low, even for them.  It is sad to see this once great magazine so severely dumbed down in the last few years.  In their haste to continue to cash in on the global warming hysteria they forgot to decided not to include a few salient facts. 

 Take a look at this very nice poster, “A History of Flooding in the Red River Basin,” from the USGS.  Click on the image to enlarge it (the enlarged image is about 5 MB).  Read the box along the right side of the poster.

A History of Flooding in the Red River Basin by the USGS

"A History of Flooding in the Red River Basin" by the USGS

The box is titled “Factors contributing to flooding in the Red River Basin” and it lists “Landform Factors” and “Weather Factors.”  I have reproduced the list below with the text from the poster in brown and the evidence, in black, supporting each factor in the case of the current flooding.

Factors contributing to flooding in the Red River Basin

Landform factors:

  • A relatively shallow and meandering river channel…  This is essentially an unchanging fact of life and is no different this year than other years.
  • A gentle slope (averaging 0.5 to 1.5 feet per mile) that inhibits channel flow and encourages overland flooding or water “ponding” (especially on even, saturated ground) in the basin.  The slope of the ground is unchanged from year to year.  But the ground was saturated by heavy rains all through the fall.  Look at the monthly weather summaries from the North Dakota State Climate Office (NDSCO) for September, October, November and December.  Look at the National Weather Service Reports for Grand Forks for September, October  and November of 2008. 
  • The northerly direction of flow-flow in the Red River travels from south (upstream) to north (downstream). The direction of flow becomes a critical factor in the spring when the southern (upstream) part of the Red River has thawed and the northern (downstream) part of the channel is still frozen. As water moves north toward the still frozen river channel, ice jams and substantial backwater flow and flooding can occur.  This is exactly what happened all along the Red River.  It also has happened along other rivers in North Dakota.  Along the Missouri River in Bismarck explosives were used to break flood causing ice jams.

Weather factors:

  • Above-normal amounts of precipitation in the fall of the year that produce high levels of soil moisture, particularly in flat surface areas, in the basin. Again, look at the monthly weather summeries from the North Dakota State Climate office for September, October, November and December.
  • Freezing of saturated ground in late fall or early winter, before significant snowfall occurs, that produces a hard, deep frost that limits infiltration of runoff during snowmelt. Starting in December temperatures have been very low in North Dakota.  The North Dakota State Climate Office (NDSCO) reported for December that “The average monthly temperatures were below normal across the State. The departure from normal temperature ranged from -10 in the north central to -6 in the south central part of the State.  Mohall, Bottineau, Huffland, Harvey, Crosby and Karlsruhe all saw temperatures in the -30s.  For January the NDSCO  reported “extreme arctic cold temperatures. The National Weather Service (NWS) recorded a record -44°F on January 15th at Bismarck.”
  • Above-normal winter snowfall in the basin. The December report of the NDSCO said “Fargo, Grand Forks, and Bismarck received record December snowfall.”  For January they said “Heavy snow fell across the State during the first half of January setting National Weather Service (NWS) daily precipitation records at Williston, Bismarck, Fargo, and Grand Forks…The monthly total percent of normal precipitation was 150% to 300% of normal in the northwest, central, and parts of the south central regions.”  Just as bad or worse for February according to the NDSCO; “All areas across the State had above normal precipitation. The East half of the state had primarily between 150% and 300% of normal precipitation. The West half of the state had between 150% to 500% plus, percent of normal precipitation.”
  • Above-normal precipitation during snowmelt.  This was irrelevant because of the huge amount of rain in the spring and snowfall during the previous three months
  • Above normal temperatures during snow melt.  The flooding started when daily high temperatures went from a much below average regime to a much above average regime around March 12th, as shown in this graph.

The Red River finally crested at about 40.8 feet, slightly higher than the previous record of 40.1 feet in 1897.  I think that even Barack Obama and Scientific American would agree that the 1897 flood was not due to global warming.  So where is it between 40.1 feet and 40.8 feet that global warming becomes obviously responsible? 

Remember the old Mark Twain saying, “Everybody is talking about the weather, but nobody is doing anything about it?”  That was back in the good old days.  I wouldn’t mind so much if the president were just talking about the weather, because then we could just chalk it up to a political hack.  But I’m afraid he is going to actually try to do something about it, like getting people panicked about global warming, and then using the issue to socialize the economy of the country.

As for Scientific American, they have no excuse.  It was totally irresponsible of them to be completely credulous when Obama linked this flood to global warming.  The conditions that lead to flooding in North Dakota have been known for years, as evidenced by the USGS poster.  The folks at Scietific American could have done their homework and figured it out just as easily as I did.

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Hypocrites, or simply confused?

March 14, 2009

It should be no surprise that President Obama is pushing for higher fuel economy standards.  I assume if you support Obama then you support government mandated higher fuel standards.   

I believe in voluntary adoption of higher fuel economy standards.  That is why I have driven a Honda Civic for 20 years.  Rising oil prices will insure that others will also opt for better mileage vehicles at time goes on.   And if you are worried about CO2, higher fuel economy standards won’t make any difference.  Because every drop of oil that you don’t burn helps keep the price low enough for somebody in India or China to burn it. 

So, are the owners of these vehicles hypocrites or just confused? 

cadillac-dts-2
Cadillac Deville DTS. 15 mpg city

Ford Exposition
Ford Expedition.   11 MPG city.

Cadillac Escalade
Cadillac Escalade.  About 14 mpg city.

Ford Yukon FlexFuel
GMC Yukon 11 mpg city. (Don’t worry about the terrible mileage, the owners have a dispensation directly from Gaia because it is a “flexfuel” vehicle.)

Chevy Trailblazer.  12 mpg city.
Chevy Trailblazer 12 mpg city.

Chevy Silverado.  14 mpg city.
Chevy Silverado 14 mpg city.

Lexus SUV
Lexus SUV. About 17 mpg city.  This picture is my favorite.  It was taken by my son on a school field trip to the Colorado state capitol.  I have not blocked out the license plate because I do not think that senate district 28 State Senator Suzanne Williams should enjoy an expectation of privacy. I would think that a state senator who resides on the Transportation Legislative Regulatory Commission (TLRC), is the vice-chair of the state Transportation Committee, and who supports a president that wants to have government mandated higher fuel standards would find something other than a Lexus SUV to drive around town.

 

Hummer

Hummer H1. About 10 mpg. This picture is from the Hummer Guy website.