Starving Plant Life

rockstrees

In my last post, Boogie-man Gas, I talked about CO2 and the controversies surrounding this trace gas.  I also pointed out to evidence that CO2 has been a beneficial gas, and not the pollutant that most people think it is.

Still, with headlines such as these (Scientists call for action to tackle CO2 levels,[1] and New Milestone for CO2 Levels: Mauna Loa Observatory Records 400 PPM [2]), it makes me wonder if the scientific process has somehow broken down when one group of scientists state unequivocally that CO2 will cause a runaway greenhouse effect, killing all living things with excessive heat, while another group states, also just as vehemently, that a lack of CO2 will cause plants (and therefore, animals) to die, and usher in a new ice age which will freeze everything for hundreds of thousands of years.

Do these scientists even bother to read each others’ hypotheses and studies, or do they all just argue for the sake of argument’s sake?  Is CO2 really bad for us, or is it crucial for our existence?

As a Taoist, I have a feeling it’s somewhere in between the two extremes, but although I may stake my claim as a Taoist, I certainly cannot stake my claim as a scientist because I have not yet earned my lab coat.  So I did the next best thing.  I donned on my Questioning Hat and transformed myself into my alter-ego, the mystical, all-knowing, Blonde Tao Witch.

witchhat

I do this, not because I am strange (OK, I am a little strange, but not as strange as you think), but because I have found out something important about my mental processes.  By temporarily donning on this hat, I suspend my normal daily rational thinking brain for awhile as I explore other ideas and options without the urge to shoot them down and stomp them into the ground for daring to challenge what I hold as the shining truth.

So then, to my alter-ego, I posed the following two questions having to do with CO2’s properties:

  • What is the controversy surrounding the heat absorbency property of CO2?  Why is it not tracking properly with temperature changes of Earth?
  • What is the controversy behind CO2’s role in photosynthesis?  Is there too much CO2 in there air, or is there a lack of CO2 in the air?

I’m going to tackle the heat absorbency property of CO2 first, as that is basic high school chemistry and fairly straightforward to describe.  Most of the energy from the sun is emitted in wavelengths shorter than 4,000 nanometers (.000004 meters).  Earth absorbs some of the heat from the Sun and then reflects some of it back as light and the rest as heat.

Even though CO2 doesn’t absorb heat energy from the sun because solar wavelengths are too short for it to absorb, it does absorb some of the heat energy released from Earth.  It can do so because once Earth has absorbed the Sun’s energy, in the process of internalizing the energy, she changes its wavelength.  The heat energy released from the earth is discharged in wavelengths longer than 4,000 nanometers, which allows CO2 to absorb energy that falls within that mid-infrared range of 10,600 nanometers.

When a molecule of carbon dioxide absorbs Earth heat energy, it goes into an excited unstable state and can only become stable again by releasing its absorbed energy.  Some of this released energy returns to Earth and some is expelled out into space.  Unfortunately, carbon dioxide allows the entire range of Solar wavelengths into Earth’s atmosphere, but only allows the range of Earth wavelengths that it can absorb (10,600 nm), back out again.  This causes a build-up of the infrared wavelengths that are less than 10,600 nm, thereby causing the Earth to retain more and more of the sun’s warmth.  At some point, this warmth is expected to exceed that temperature which is able to support life.

I’m going to pause at this point and continue onward with photosynthesis.

photosynthesis

The process of photosynthesis is fairly straight forward.  Plants get their food from sunlight by chemically altering carbon dioxide and water to convert that sunlight to storable chemical energies.  They give off oxygen as a waste product, and with good reason—oxygen is a highly toxic mutagenic gas that causes oxidation of various metals.  Interestingly enough, animals have evolved to utilize this waste product, and even to require it to maintain the combustion engine that make up all animal life, both above and below the water.  (As an aside, even as I ponder over this simple chemical loop, I can’t help but notice that we use this flammable gas to burn away our brief existence, cell by cell, until we can no longer keep up the pace of cell-burn versus cell-production.  Once we can no longer keep apace with the burn-rate, we simply die).

In essence, animals (including humans) complete the loop of life, taking in the poisonous oxygen, converting it, and then releasing the life-giving carbon dioxide so that plants can live.  Plants need us to live just as much as we need them to breathe.  Without carbon dioxide, plants cannot continue their process of photosynthesis.

Why then, is there so much discrepancy and divergency of opinion in something as basic as the effects of CO2 on the Earth and its denizens?  Isn’t there solid evidence that green plants need CO2 for the processing of photosynthesis?  Shouldn’t we at least try to figure out how much CO2 plants really need before we try to remove what we think are unnecessary and excessive amounts of CO2 from the air?  That just seems to me to be prudent, but who am I to suggest something this obvious?

Lucky for me, I don’t have to figure this part out.  There are already studies that have been done by several groups of researchers, and they found that there are three most likely causes of plant death:  insect-infestations and disease, lack of water, and carbon-dioxide starvation. [3]

This is my opinion on these three causes of plant death.

Insect attacks and disease are natural occurrences that have been going on for as long as there has been life on Earth.  It is part of the cycle of life and cannot, therefore, be considered a tragic occurrence in any way shape or form.  It is one of the ways that evolution is able to work its magic, picking and choosing the life forms that can best adapt to its ever-changing environment.

The lack of water occurs in cyclical fashion throughout Earth’s billions of years of existence due to the cyclical nature of ice ages.  Simply put—when it is cold, all the water is locked up in the polar caps and the glaciers, causing a lack of water everywhere else.  During these dry cold spells, there is more land which is exposed to dry air because there is less water to cover it.

When the relatively short interglacials come around again, everything warms back up and the ice melts, releasing its cache of water and causing low-lying areas that had previously been above water to become submerged.  It also allows for arid, dessert areas to become green and wet and fertile (ergo parts of north east Africa and Mesopotamia).  This is also a normal Earth cycle and not some horrible tragedy that is about to befall humanity.  Over and over again, Earth’s message has always been clear.  Don’t live on sand bars and don’t live near coastlines as those are the areas in flux each time she goes through her cycles.

Last on that list is carbon-dioxide starvation.

Say what?

saywhat?

Did I read that right?  Are our trees starving for CO2?   If the amount of CO2 that we humans have been recklessly spewing into the air all these decades is not enough for trees to grow, what then is enough?

Interestingly enough, botanists already have the answer to this question.

co2

Below 200 PPM, plants do not have enough CO2 to carry on the photosynthesis process and essentially stop growing. Because 300 PPM is the atmospheric CO content, this amount is chosen as the 100% growth point. You can see from the chart that increased CO can double or more the growth rate on most normal plants. Above 2,000 PPM, CO2 starts to become toxic to plants and above 4,000 PPM it becomes toxic to people. [4]

At this point, we don’t really have to worry about reaching that toxic 2,000 ppm.  As of May 2013, CO2 levels almost reached the 400 ppm (parts per million) mark [2].  That’s higher than it has been in a very long time, but from the plant’s perspective, it’s nothing to write home about.  In fact, according to H. Leighton Steward, plant life on Earth is actually close to starving.

At Current CO2 Concentrations, Plants are Close to Starving.  Acting in concert, the several phenomena described in the preceding subsections, as well as other phenomena possibly yet unknown, typically allow the growth-enhancing effects of atmospheric CO2 enrichment to be expressed in the face of severe resource deficiencies.  But what happens in the case of “carbon starvation,” when the air is deficient in CO2?

Because CO2 is the basic “food” of essentially all plants, the more of it there is in the air, the bigger and better they grow; and as the air’s CO2 content declines, so too do plant growth rates decline.  And when a critically-low CO2 concentration is ultimately reached, starving plants lacking sufficient CO2 – like starving people lacking sufficient food – actually die, as indicated in the figure below, where plant death occurs when dry weight production falls to zero. [5]

I wasn’t sure I read him correctly because I have been told all my life that CO2 was TOO ABUNDANT in the atmosphere.  And yet, here is this scientist saying that the plants growing on Earth are dying because they are starving for CO2.  Indeed, it is also the reason why people add extra CO2 into commercial greenhouses—because they know that plants need more CO2 for maximum production.  There is even a term for it.  It’s called CO2 fertilization. [6]

rice

Picture on the right: Empirical Data. Growth of 21-day-old rice and S. viridis seedlings at different ambient CO2 concentrations ranging from 30 to 800 parts per million. NOTE: The very last set of pots on the extreme right is out of sequence. They are for 390 ppm, while the next to last pots are for 800 ppm.

Graph on the left:  Modeled Data:  Modeled changes in CO2 assimilation rate in response to changes in leaf intercellular CO2partial pressure for C3 and C4 photosynthesis and for a hypothetical C4 rice. Curves 1, 2, and 4 have Rubisco levels typically found in a C4 leaf (10 μmol m−2 catalytic Rubisco sites). Curve 3 shows a typical response for C3 leaves with three times the Rubisco level of C4 leaves. Curve 1 shows the response of a C4 leaf with C4 Rubisco kinetic properties. Curve 2 models how a C4 leaf with C3 Rubisco kinetic properties would respond (a hypothetical C4 rice with C3 Rubisco kinetics). The comparison of these two curves shows the increase in CO2 assimilation rate achieved with C4 compared with C3 Rubisco kinetic properties within a functional C4 mechanism. Arrows to curves 1 and 3 show intercellular CO2 partial pressures typical at current ambient CO2 partial pressures for C4 and C3photosynthesis. To generate the curves, model equations were taken from (11) and comparative Rubisco kinetic constants from (12). (B) [Reference numbers per source.]

Source: Susanne von Caemmerer, W. Paul Quick, and Robert T. Furbank (2012). The Development of C4 Rice: Current Progress and Future Challenges. Science 336 (6089): 1671-1672.

While I do appreciate the serious efforts of all scientists to find ways of maintaining the Earth in liveable conditions for its seven-plus billion denizens, I am not convinced that CO2 is the driving factor behind global climate change because, unfortunately for us, historical data regarding global temperatures that scientists were able to extract from tree rings and ice cores doesn’t match up with computer model predictions.  I say ‘unfortunate’ because if it was as simple as removing CO2, we would be able to figure out how to fix the situation sooner rather than later.  Sadly, from everything that I have read, including all the data points that I have been able to gather from scientists of all fields, I am starting to believe that global climate change it is NOT something that is fixable by human intervention and it is NOT tied to the rise and fall of CO2 at all.

Global climate change, from what I am able to gather, is directly affected by several great heavenly cycles of the solar system.  Some of these cycles are Earth-related and others are Solar cycles which impact Earth due to her dependence on the Sun for radiant energy.  When these cycles overlap, we get major global climate change.  I wrote about one of those cycles in a previous post, Winter In July.  That post talked about Earth’s precession, and although it is an important cycle, it is not the only one that Earth has.  There are other cycles, and they all impact global climate and temperature in varying degrees.  I will go into the other Earth cycles in my next few postings, and then I will get into the Solar cycles and how that affects us.

1.  Scientists call for action to tackle CO2 levels

2.  New Milestone for CO2 Levels: Mauna Loa Observatory Records 400 PPM

3.  New Studies Point to ‘Carbon Starvation’ as a Cause for Tree Mortality

4.  Carbon Dioxide Enrichment Methods

5.  Plantsneedco2.org

6.  Growing Greener Tomatoes:  First US Greenhouse with Onsite CO2 Fertilization

2030 And The New Me

touchmoon

For those of you who think that living forever is as out of reach as the Moon, you might want to rethink that thought.  It’s not as far away as you think.

Physically, the moon is only 238,900 miles (384,400 km) from Earth.  That’s not very far when we consider that we have been there and back many times within the last five decades.  But how many times have we been able to reverse ageing?  Or extend life beyond the average years that humans have been able to live?

The answer, of course, is a big fat ZERO.

At this time, we are unable to reverse ageing (more on that later).  We can extend lifespans, but we can’t prevent ourselves from getting old.  This is part of the natural cycle of life.  We are born, we live, and then we die.

Some people would argue that we should not eliminate death because that would disrupt the cycle of life and cause an imbalance which could disrupt everything, from the environment, to the safety of the planet, to the integrity of the eternal soul.  We might even turn into vampires, sucking the life out of others just to maintain our own worthless existences—etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

haruhi01The arguments against indefinite life extension is abundant and compelling…until those who argue against death must face it, up close and personal, either for themselves or for their spouses and children.

Then, it changes.

It changes into—‘well, it’s ok for me and mine.  In fact, it’s necessary because we are valued and important members of society that can contribute greatly to the advancement of humanity,’ (never mind the fact that when pressed to describe the manner with which the contributions will aid humanity, these very same people proffer responses that are often—not always, but quite often—vague and nebulous).

But indefinite life extension for the great unwashed multitude?  Oh no.  The horrors of that possibility is too great to bear.  How will we keep them in line?  How will we feed them all? (never mind the fact that the vast majority of the world’s population exists on far, far less—and has far less body mass—than the typical overweight American.)  The question is actually closer to, how will we be able to maintain our FAT bodies if we can’t have all the food to ourselves?  I say this with a big grin, as I am stuffing a slice of pepperoni pizza into my face.

Well, regardless of what our opinions are, the wheels of science grinds onward.  Just as a moving sidewalk propels us forward, we continue to advance, even though we may not be moving our legs.  For those who are adamantly opposed to scientific advancement, they can try to run backwards, but as the Red Queen says, ‘Good luck with that’.  They will have to move twice as fast to go backwards at all.  Simply moving at the same pace will only result in standing still.  Like it or not, we will reach immortality, probably later rather than sooner, but it will happen.

But don’t take my word for it.  There are folks whose day jobs are narrowly focused in this endeavour, for the sole purpose of creating an immortal humankind.  “I am working on immortality,” says UC Irvine’s Michael Rose, who has achieved breakthrough results extending the lives of fruit flies.[1]

People—don’t laugh.  Today, it’s fruit flies.  Tomorrow, it will be chimpanzees.  And the next day, it’s our turn.

“There are many components of aging and we are chipping away at all of them,” added Robert Freitas at the Institute for Molecular Manufacturing. “In the future,” Freitas claims, “aging will be cured.”[2]

Ha!  Cured…as if ageing is a dreaded disease that must be eradicated.

But that is exactly what ageing is viewed as, by scientists in the field of health care.  Author Ray Kurzweil, in Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever, states that we are in the early stages of an anti-aging revolution. “By 2020,” he says, “biotech upgrades will add more than one year of life expectancy to our lives each year.”[3]

Hello!  We are at the tail end of 2013.  That’s only seven years away, a mere blink of an eye in the grand scheme of things.  In fact, between now and 2030, all the various technologies will have converged to the point where it is technically possible that stem cell therapies, 3-D bioprinter techniques, and genetic engineering procedures will be able to cure most of ​today’s diseases—or at least make them more manageable to the point where life can be extended enough to take advantage of new breakthroughs as they become available.

Just don’t do anything stupid.  Stay alive long enough to take advantage of what’s about to come.

haruhi23

1.  https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2011/04/the-work-of-michael-rose.php

2.  http://www.wfs.org/Dec09-Jan10/freitas.htm

3.  http://www.fantastic-voyage.net/

The Sun’s About to Flip!

girleyes

OK, so I’ve been a bit of a nut case lately, constantly harping on about the sun and its magnetic situation and how unstable it is.  Well, there’s a reason for this.  NASA is confirming my recent suspicions on the Sun’s volatility.  This is what they are saying:

Something big is about to happen on the sun.  According to measurements from NASA-supported observatories, the sun’s vast magnetic field is about to flip.

“It looks like we’re no more than 3 to 4 months away from a complete field reversal,” says solar physicist Todd Hoeksema of Stanford University. “This change will have ripple effects throughout the solar system.” [1]

But before everyone panics, let me hasten to add that we’ve lived through many of these already.  In fact, it is a normal cycle for the sun.  We would be worried if it didn’t reverse itself.

The sun’s magnetic field changes polarity approximately every 11 years.  It happens at the peak of each solar cycle as the sun’s inner magnetic dynamo re-organizes itself.  The coming reversal will mark the midpoint of Solar Cycle 24. Half of ‘Solar Max’ will be behind us, with half yet to come. [1]

After the reversal, we should see less and less activity until it reaches its solar minimum, which does affect the Earth, but again, there’s no need to panic.  We went through the last one in 2002 and hardly anybody even noticed that it happened at all.

1.  The Sun’s Magnetic Field Is About to Flip

 

My Arms Are Short Because I Am Vertically Challenged

fightinggirl

When one is born with short arms, it is rather difficult to tackle problems that are larger than oneself.

I am 5’3″.  My arms, (and legs) are proportionate to my body, which is to say, they’re rather on the stumpy side.  It is hard to shout down a tall person, especially if that tall person is male and has longer arms.  Of course, since I am a singer, I do have a louder voice, but a louder voice can only gain so much traction.  At the end of the day, in order to hold your own, it comes down to sheer size.

Just imagine if my parents had known about the HMGA2 gene back before I was born, and theoretically had a way to express it for their children, I’d be tall! [1]  This is not such a far-fetched idea.  There are already murmurings of genetically altered Chinese athletes [2], as well as proposals by DARPA to add a 47th chromosome to the human genome. [3]

Geez…I wonder what a human would look like with 47 chromosomes…probably like Thor or Superman.

Thor

Of course, meddling with some genetic code which makes a random unique individual (like me) might also accidentally change some key component of myself which I really like.  For example, I might not be able to sing as well as I do now due to some unforeseen change in the makeup of my vocal cords (it might have been lengthened to accommodate a longer neck which comes with a longer body?  I don’t know, I’m just guessing here).  It would also be injurious if my ability to sculpt or paint would also be affected since bigger hands might change the muscles required to sculpt or paint (??? again, I’m just conjecturing wildly here).

The idea is fascinating, but a bit horrifying in certain aspects.  In a world where all babies are genetically altered as a matter of course, everyone is a superhuman.  The child who is naturally conceived without any genetic interference would then be denigrated to second-class citizen and most likely be picked on and treated badly because he or she would not have the signature designer look that designer babies would have.

anime girl 115

That child would be classified as a stunted weakling, possessing of all the various maladies that, in today’s world, would be quite normal.  Maladies such as being covered with freckles and having red hair (I actually think redheads are quite cute myself, but hey, what do I know?) or being a bit on the chubby side, or having crooked teeth, or being a bit on the stumpy side, would all be ‘fixed’.  Everyone would look perfect.  Everyone would be perfect.  It would also look as if some sort of eugenics (forced selective breeding) was happening.

Hmmm.  I’m not sure that’s such a good thing either.  Natural selection has had millions of years to perfect its products, all of which are still undergoing genetic evolution.  It has been quite merciless in rooting out features that might have looked good on paper but really couldn’t stand the test of time and tide.  I don’t know if tampering with it would improve upon humanity’s genetic stock or if we might inadvertently introduce something which could cause serious issues later down the line.

Still, the idea of being taller, or better looking, or more robust and free of all health defects is quite compelling.  I would love to get just a few more inches on me—5’6″ would be soooo nice.  I’m not asking for too much, am I?

1.  British Scientists Discover Height Gene

2.  Genetically Modified Athletes

3.  DARPA to Genetically Engineer Humans by Adding a 47th Chromosome

 

144 Billion Bottles of Beer on the Wall

bottomsup

144 billion bottles of beer on the wall, 144 billion bottles of beer.
Take one down and pass it around, one hundred forty-three billion nine hundred ninety-nine million nine hundred ninety-nine thousand nine hundred ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall.

I wonder how long it’s going to take to sing this song until we get to ‘one bottle of beer’.  It’s an academic question, certainly, since nobody would be crazy enough to try and sing the whole blasted song.  But that’s my point exactly.  We have no idea how absolutely huge 144 billion is until we are forced to think of it as a single bottle of beer for each count.

Now, expand the mind and think of each bottle of beer as an Earth-size, Earth-like planet.  This means that all Earth-sized planets that do not have an atmosphere, or with an atmosphere that cannot support carbon life forms, have been rejected.  Likewise for planets that are too large or too small, or too close to the sun, or too far from the sun, or are single roving wanderers without a solar system to call their own.

This list is so exclusive that if I, a single frail human being, cannot walk around on that planet without suffering undue physical ailments, it is summarily struck from being included as part of that 144 billion exoplanets that can support life within the Milky Way galaxy.

The rejection list must have numbered in the hundreds and thousands of billions of planets, I’m sure, with the end result being that there are estimates upwards of around 144 billion (> 1011) habitable Earth-like exoplanets (FYI:  an exoplanet is a planet outside of our own solar system) just in our galaxy alone.

stars

We’re not even talking about the other (in far excess of) 100 billion galaxies in the Universe THAT WE CAN SEE, each with their own hundreds of billions of suns and planets.  Obviously, there are many more that we just don’t have the capability to see yet with our poor limited telescopes.

This is the gist of what Dr. Kopparapu, expert with the Kepler Mission, estimates [1] :

  • Stars in the Galaxy : 400 billion
  • The number of habitable earth-like exoplanets in our Milky Way Galaxy : 144 billion (> 1011).
  • The OORT Cloud around our Sun (it is also hypothesized by some astronomers that most suns have OORT clouds) is estimated :
    • to contain : several trillion individual asteroids (objects) larger than 1 km (0.62 mi).
    • to reach 1 light year towards the next closest star just 4 light years away – Proxima Centauri.

animealien

I’m not a mathematician, but this kind of number boggles my brain and makes me want to know:

What is the chance that at least ONE of these planets would be harboring intelligent life?  Is it that far-fetched to think there is intelligent life out there?  After all, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

But even then…I’m not too sure about that so-called ‘lack of evidence’.  I’m sure evidence turns up everywhere we look.  Many of the world’s leaders are just not admitting publicly at this time, but I have a very strong feeling that there is probably much more out there than they are willing to admit.

People around me laugh when they hear someone talk about aliens from outer space.  They think that folks who believe there might be intelligent life outside of Earth can’t have all their marbles in the correct order, but does having the ability to line up marbles in matching rows indicate mental stability, or does it just indicate an obsessive compulsive nature?

Furthermore, once we intellectually grasp the sheer volume—the mind-boggling number of possible Earth-like planets out there, can we even consider ourselves mentally stable if we DON’T believe or CAN’T contemplate the possibility of intelligent life outside of Earth?

My point in belaboring this is, if even just ONE of these planets harbor intelligent life, that means we are not alone and that everything we think we know about life has just instantly vanished to be replaced by a new paradigm of thought.  This new inclusive though process is one that will demolish and then replace every single philosophical ideology we currently hold dear.  If we think it is difficult to love our fellow human beings, we will find the next step to be herculean.  But it would be an ultimate labor of love, a hurdle that we must overcome and embrace, or we will find ourselves sliding backwards into barbarism and eventually, into oblivion.

But I have great hopes for humankind.  We simply need enough critical mass to hit that tipping point.  It would be a new chapter in the book of Humanity.  We would have to learn how to view all the different races of sentient beings as being part of the Universe that we are also a part of.  We would have to begin to grasp the concept of true Universal love and then apply it towards living entities that may or may not even look remotely human.

For the sake of humanity’s future, I sincerely hope we are able to find enough love within our hearts to cross that great divide and find a common ground with those who are very different from us—those whose only connection to us is the fact that they are created from the same star-stuff that we are also composed of.

Ultimately, we are all children of the stars.

alienface

1.  www.bcmeteors.net

Runaway Laughter

haruhilaughing

Hahaha!!!

I just read something hilarious today.  It was so funny that I absolutely had to share it.

At first glance, and from the title alone, I have to admit, it worried me for a bit.  When the words trigger, runaway, and greenhouse are all emblazoned at the top on the title, it does bring a bit of a panic-sounding name to the article, attracting far more attention due mostly to all the populace’s fear porn addiction than anything of substance.

But then I read the very last sentence and nearly choked on my coffee.  It was the funniest thing I had seen all day, and it came from a place that is not really known for the hilarity of its content, namely that rather stuffy rag, Nature Geoscience.  In fact, as far as science journals go, it’s normally quite dry reading.

But not today!

Here is the entirety of the article as shown in an online magazine named Message to Eagle: [1]

Easier To Trigger A Runaway Of Greenhouse Effect On Earth Than Previously Thought

A new study conducted by researchers at University of Victoria indicates that it may be easier to trigger a runaway greenhouse effect on Earth than initially thought.  The runaway greenhouse effect happens when a planet absorbs more energy from the Sun than it can radiate back into space.  The so-called runaway greenhouse is a very dangerous process that can cause oceans to entirely evaporate.

If a planet absorbs more energy than it can emit, it will heat uncontrollably and evaporate all of the oceans – the runaway greenhouse effect. Previously, it was thought that this would require more energy from the Sun than Earth receives.  Now, scientists know that it can happen, in theory, with the amount of solar energy that Earth now receives.

“What we’ve shown here is that a runaway greenhouse atmosphere that would sterilize the planet is actually possible for Earth, with the amount of sunlight it receives now,” says Colin Goldblatt, an assistant professor in UVic’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences.  His research is the most complete look at the runaway greenhouse effect in 25 years.

“Fortunately, it would need 10 times more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to trigger this than burning all of Earth’s fossil fuels – every bit of coal, oil and gas that exists – would give,” Goldblatt added.

The research is published in Nature Geoscience.[2]

And with that, all the greenhouse, runaway, carbon dioxide buzz words went wee, wee, wee, all the way home.

1.  Message to Eagle

2.  Low simulated radiation limit for runaway greenhouse climates.  Nature Geoscience 

Winter in July

beachgirl

These are the very last days of July, 2013.  If we don’t stop and capture the sunshine and the gentle trade winds, the scented leaves and the birdsong, it will be over in a matter of hours and we will be neck-deep in the warm beach sands of August.  But that is true only until it is no longer true.  In fact, the clock is ticking towards that day when the warmth of July will be a thing of the past.

In fact, if we fast forward 11,000 years, it will be winter in July.  And it won’t happen because of anything anyone has ever done or will ever do.  It will happen because of something called General Precession.

windowgirl3

Ah, the sound of sleigh bells jingling in the bright cold air of a summer that has come once again to the denizens of a beautiful Earth, celebrating yet another summer vacation indoors while the snow plows work mercilessly, clearing away the streets so that folks can go out and visit with friends while enjoying their favorite things, such as crisp apple strudels and warm woolen mittens.

So what is this general precession thing that causes winter to occur in July?  Well, it’s not really a thing but rather, more like an action.  Wikipedia describes it as the change in the orientation of the rotational axis of a rotational body (the Earth) in which the second Euloer angle is constant. ~ Wikipedia [1]

Now, I don’t know about you, but that’s just nonsensical blathering to me.  However, since it is rather important to me to understand why my favorite time of the year is going to eventually become cold and unappealing, I am going to try to figure this out using my less-than-stellar Taobabe brains.  So let’s break it down into its components.

This is the WHAT and the HOW:

Gyroscope_precession

So what the heck is a Euloer angle?  How do you even pronounce that?  Is it someone who delivers eulogies?

No?

I didn’t think it was that simple—but in this case, it really is simple.  Notice that this spinning top has one point (at the bottom) that does not move.  It’s dead stuck in one spot.  This is the Euloer angle, and it is constant because it never moves.

Now, take a look at its opposite end (at the top).  That one is moving all over the place.  The movement is so wide that it causes a serious wobble to the sphere.  That is what is meant by a change in the orientation of the rotational axis.

Now let’s get into the WHY:

If it was just the Earth, spinning by its lonesome, with only its gravitational weight to make it bulge here and there (see my previous post Lumpy Bumpy Humpty Dumpty), the effect of its planetary precession would be so small, we would barely notice it.  In truth, the Earth is part of a whole system of other bodies, weighing in and contributing to that gravitational pull, and this pull is ridiculously strong.

Consider that our very own Moon (aka Luna), is just about one of the biggest moons to be found in our solar system, and then consider that Earth is a rather small potato when compared to all the other giants orbiting the Sun, and we have a strange anomalous relationship between a rather small planet and a rather large satellite.

That lunar pull is so strong that it actually causes Earth to bulge out around its midsection.  Add the gravitational pull of the mighty Sun to this equation and the Earth’s equatorial region is completely squashed out of shape.

With both the Moon’s and the Sun’s combined gravities exerting their influence on the Earth, they collectively yank her chains, so to speak, and Earth’s spin becomes noticeably wobbled and teetered.

The action of Sun and Moon on poor Earth is what is known as the lunisolar precession and it is about 500 times greater than planetary precession alone.  And before you even have to ask, yes all the other planets exert their pull as well, but their influence is slight compared to the lunisolar precession’s pull so I have decided to leave them out of the mathematical equation.

Mathematical equation?  Did I just say that dreaded ‘M’ word?

Why, yes—yes I did, but only because I don’t have to do the hard work of calculating this horrid thing out to its bitter end.  I am simply going to let smarter people do the math and then point to it and say, “See?  That’s how it works.”

precessionequation

Gm = standard gravitational parameter of the perturbing body
r = geocentric distance to the perturbing body
C = moment of inertia around Earth’s axis of rotation
A = moment of inertia around any equatorial diameter of Earth
C − A = moment of inertia of Earth’s equatorial bulge (C > A)
δ = declination of the perturbing body (north or south of equator)
α = right ascension of the perturbing body (east from vernal equinox).

No need to look at the equation closely.  I swear, the numbers work out correctly. [1]  (I stole it from Wikipedia so it must be correct.  N’est ce pas?).  Anyhoo, onto bigger and better things.

This is the WHEN:

The Earth’s precession is very, very, slow.  How slow?  From start to finish, it is a 26,000 year cycle.  We have already passed the half-way point of this latest precession cycle, which happened two-thousand years ago (give or take a few years).  In other words, right around the time Jesus was born, we hit mid-cycle.

We are now moving into the second phase of the cycle, which means our summers will eventually get colder and colder until it becomes winter in July, 11,000 years from now.

Yes, this will happen.

No, this has nothing to do with CO2 or human-created global warming.  It does not matter what we do or don’t do, and it doesn’t matter if we’re even around to watch it happen.  It will simply happen when the time comes for it to happen because it is a natural and rhythmic cycle which exists outside of and beyond our sphere of influence.  It has been in existence since the world began and it will not end until Earth is subsumed by the Sun (or is otherwise destroyed due to some cataclysmic event beyond our imagination).

Of course, we’ll all be safely dead by then, so this won’t really have much of an impact on us—-except for a couple of OTHER things about Earth’s movement, which I am a bit more concerned with.  You see, general precession is just one of three Earth cycles that a gentleman by the name of Milutin Milankovitch has so very kindly mapped out for us back in 1920. [2]  Even though we won’t be around to witness the next precessional winter in July, the other two cycles will be interesting to live through, as they are coming ’round the bend in short order.

(…to be continued)

1.  General Precession

2.  Milankovitch cycles