Posts Tagged ‘volcano’

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James Delingpole, please correct this mistake

November 23, 2013

The only thing that bugs me more than when climate alarmists get things wrong is when skeptics get it wrong.

A case in point is the assertion by James Delingpole that a recent volcano in Iceland put more CO2 into the atmosphere that all of human activity since 1950.

Delingpole is a vocal supporter of the skeptic community, and the fact the he has a widely viewed blog , writes for several publications and authored several books, all give his words wide dissemination.  The problem is that when a fence-sitter who is trying to make up his mind about the global warming issue realizes that somebody like Delingpole is asserting and defending an indefensible claim, well, that fence-sitter is likely to fall off the fence to the side of the alarmists.  This will happen even if Delingpole is correct on other points.  Fence-sitters don’t necessarily have the time or inclination to sort out and weigh all the arguments, and something like this can easily tip their judgement scales one way or the other.

Delingpole appeared as a guest on the Mike Rosen Show on Denver’s AM station KOA.  This is a 50,000 Watt station and tens of thousands of people probably heard this exchange.  Rosen is a pretty smart guy and usually nobody’s fool, but he let this bogus assertion slide by…

Audio version: Rosen/Delingpole 11/20/13 MP3

Rosen: 713-8585 our telephone number in Castle Rock. Cliff, you’re on 850 KOA. James Delingpole our guest. Hi Cliff.

Cliff: Mike and James, good morning.

Rosen: Morning

Delingpole: Hi Cliff.

Cliff: Hey, I finally think I have somebody who can actually answer this question.

Rosen: Alright.

Cliff: Ah, you know we’ve got, the greenies are all against cars and the exhaust, and you know, all this pollution that we put in the air. Ah, whats the equivalency of a volcano that’s erupting and spewing stuff into the air thirty miles high.

Delingpole: That’s a good question. You remember that volcano that erupted in Iceland a couple of years ago?

Cliff: Yep, that’s the one that made me start thinking about it

Delingpole: Yeah, I think that, I think that that – that volcano produced more CO2 than I think humans have produced in the last, in the last fifty years.

Cliff: Watta we gonna do about that? (…unintelligible…)

Delingpole: We should ban volcanoes.

You  can hear the entire interview (Wednesday, 10AM, 11/20/13) on KOA’s podcast

What are the facts?

The facts are well know, easily accessible, and have been presented to Delingpole before now.  Here it is summed up by the USGS…

Do the Earth’s volcanoes emit more CO2 than human activities? Research findings indicate that the answer to this frequently asked question is a clear and unequivocal, “No.” Human activities, responsible for a projected 35 billion metric tons (gigatons) of CO2 emissions in 2010 (Friedlingstein et al., 2010), release an amount of CO2 that dwarfs the annual CO2 emissions of all the world’s degassing subaerial and submarine volcanoes (Gerlach, 2011).

The published estimates of the global CO2 emission rate for all degassing subaerial (on land) and submarine volcanoes lie in a range from 0.13 gigaton to 0.44 gigaton per year (Gerlach, 1991; Varekamp et al., 1992; Allard, 1992; Sano and Williams, 1996; Marty and Tolstikhin, 1998). The preferred global estimates of the authors of these studies range from about 0.15 to 0.26 gigaton per year. The 35-gigaton projected anthropogenic CO2 emission for 2010 is about 80 to 270 times larger than the respective maximum and minimum annual global volcanic CO2 emission estimates. It is 135 times larger than the highest preferred global volcanic CO2 estimate of 0.26 gigaton per year (Marty and Tolstikhin, 1998). 

It is an embarrassment to me, as a skeptic, that the alarmist site “Skeptical Science” gets it right while Delingpole, a well know mouthpiece for skepticism, gets it wildly wrong.  This meme has been around for years and was long ago thoroughly debunked.  

I would forgive an acquaintance at a coffee shop or around the water cooler for making this mistake.  Then I would gently try to set him straight with the facts  But if you are going to put yourself forth as some kind of expert, then you need to get your facts straight.  This type of mistake may win converts to your side in the short run, but when people realize how wrong you have were, then they will not believe you even when you are right.  Worse yet, they will also be less inclined to believe other skeptics when they are right.

So, James, please fess up on this issue.  Admitting this mistake will only improve your credibility in the long run.

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By the way, this reminds me of another misinformed claim:that underwater volcanoes in the Gakkel ridge were causing reduced sea ice in the Arctic.

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Volcanos in Gakkel Ridge NOT responsible melting the Arctic ice

July 10, 2008

I am not only a global warming skeptic, but a skeptic in general.  I call ’em as I see ’em.

There have been some attempts to link the arctic sea ice loss of the last several years to reports of volcanoes under thousands of feet of water in the Gakkel Ridge,

The truth is that all the energy from a volcano the size of Mount St. Helens could only melt 100 square kilometers of three meter thick ice.  This is a trivial amount of ice for the arctic region, which typically oscillates between about 4 million and 14 million square kilometers every year.  100 square kilometers is only one hundred thousandth of the yearly change in Arctic sea ice extent

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Arctic region showing the location of the Gekkal ridge.  This Google Earthimage, with annotation by Moriarty, obviously does not show the arctic sea ice.

Let’s do some simple math to work this out:

First, how much energy is released by a volcano?  Of course, if varies greatly, but we just need an order of magnitude approximation for now.  A common estimate  for the energy released by the Mount St. Helens explosion is 24 megatons, where a megaton is supposed to be equivalent to the energy released by a million tons of TNT.  A joule is the basic SI unit for energy, and one megaton is equal to 4.2 million billion joules (4.2e+15 joules).  Therefore the 24 megatons released by Mount St. Helens translates into about 100 million billion joules (1.0E+17 joules).  That is:

(4.2E+15 joules/megaton  X  24 megatons  = 1.0E+17 joules).

So now the question is: how much ice could be melted by 100 million billion joules of energy?  It takes about 4 joules to heat one gram of water by 1 degree C.  But it takes many more joules to melt a gram of ice.  The amount of energy needed to melt a gram of a solid to a liquid is called the “heat of fusion.”  The heat of fusion for water is 334 joules per gram.   If we divide the total energy of the volcano by the heat off fusion of water, we will get the number of grams of ice that could be melted.  Doing the math:

1.0E+17 joules   /   334 joules per gram   =   3.0E+14 grams

OK, the energy released by Mount St. Helens would melt about 3.0E+14 (three hundred million million) grams of ice.  A gram of ice is about 1.1 cubic centimeters (1.1 cc), so we can round it to 1 cc just to make things simple.  That means that Mount St Helens released enough energy to melt 3.0E+14 cubic centimeters of ice. 

Let’s get a handle on what “3.0E+14 cubic centimeters of ice” means.  A cubic meter of ice is the same as 1,000,000 cubic centimeters of ice.   So, 3.0E+14 cubic centimeters of ice are the same as 3.0E+8 cubic meters of ice.  Still a pretty big number to grasp.  A sheet of ice that is one meter thick and one square kilometer would have a volume of 1 million cubic meters (1.0E+6 m3).  In this case, 3.0E+8 cubic meters of ice would be the same as 300 square kilometers of ice that is 1 meter thick.

Now we have a number that is easier to deal with.  That is, the energy of Mount St. Helens would be enough to melt 300 square kilometers or ice that is 1 meter thick.  Finally, we’ll make the estimate that the ice is about 3 meters thick in the arctic.  (Of course, it is much thicker some places and much thinner in others.)  Then the energy of Mount St. Helens would melt about 100 square kilometers of ice in the Arctic.

The bottom line

The Arctic goes through some serious changes in sea ice extent every year as the season change.  The sea ice extent changes by about 10 million square kilometers every year.  100 square kilometers is about one hundred thousandth of that.  It would take a thousand volcanos the size of Mount St. Helens every year to account for just 1% of the yearly Arctic ice loss.

I am not only a global warming sceptic, but a skeptic in general.  I call ’em as I see ’em.

Mount St Helens explosion, May 18th, 1980.